Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, its, it’s… a falling drunken parrot?

As reported in today’s Ottawa Citizen, hundreds of parrots have fallen from trees in a northern Australian town over the past few days in a seemingly drunken condition. The drunken behaviour has baffled veterinarians, who say the birds exhibit all the classic symptoms of intoxication and alcoholic hangover.

The birds have been losing coordination, passing out and withdrawing into cages when their “hangovers” kick in.

In an effort to quell the birds’ hangover symptoms, vets are feeding them sweetened porridge and fresh fruit — a concoction veterinary surgeon Lisa Hansen compares to a human remedy: ice-cream and cans of Coke.

It isn’t yet known what is causing the bizarre outbreak of “drunkenness”, with theories ranging from ingestion of different plants to a viral outbreak in the birds.

This story caught my eye primarily because it underscores a strange mystery of the human condition. We often think that we are the only creatures on earth to feel certain physical and mental symptoms. But it isn’t the case. Many species of animal are susceptible to the same maladies that afflict us, even altered states brought on by either environmental factors or ingestion of plants or other substances.

I hope researchers figure the mystery of the drunken parrots out quickly. Nobody likes a party that goes on far too long.

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Is technology robbing us of our souls? Or, at the very least, is it feeding the worst human inclinations toward greed and shallow self-absorption?

The news that Apple’s iPad has been selling out across Canada since its introduction last week is hardly shocking considering the modern Western mentality toward consumption and love of all things new and shiny.

But what will the latest gizmo from Steve Jobs and company really do to improve lives? Anything tangible?

While Apple, as reported by David Wylie of Canwest on May 30, has survived a decade in which it almost went belly-up in the 1990s to become the biggest technology company in the world, one must ask if it is doing anything that really enhances the quality of our daily lives.

Or is it simply getting rich on our basest human tendency to gobble up whatever new technological innovation comes down the pike this week?

Debei Andrus, a marketing professor at the University of Calgary’s school of business notes that Apple’s innovations in the field of portable technology have allowed it to build a remarkably dedicated consumer base.

Okay, so Apple has loyal customers. Isn’t this just a case of “brand shopping” at its highest level?

Colour me thoroughly unimpressed with the launch of the iPad. I have a laptop, a cell phone and a good stereo in my car. What would I need with an iPad?

Truth is, I don’t need one. And neither does anybody else. In fact, the people who buy gizmos like this generally already have earlier generation versions of the same thing.

Sheep.

Call me behind the times, but I feel there is a limit to how far technology needs to go in the name of building new, shiny objects that do nothing to solve the real problems in the world.


Okay, it’s early and, yes, they got off to a hot start last year too.

But colour me surprised by the way the Toronto Blue Jays are playing right now. Two months and 30 wins into the young MLB season, the youthful Jays have very quietly compiled their best start since the last World Series season in 1993.

I predicted in this very space in April that the Blue Jays would come close to being a 100-loss team this season. While the year is still young and this team folded terribly last summer down the stretch, I think it’s safe to say the Blue Jays have every chance of avoiding that particularly embarrassing distinction.

The Jays are currently 30-22 and have compiled the record in part by running up virtually identical home and road records, as well as slugging a major league leading 88 home runs to date.

Who knew there would be such an outpouring of offence from this team?

Of course, there will be challenges for this team as the season wears on. The young pitching staff doesn’t exactly inspire fear in many teams, but it also won’t remain an unknown for long either. Scouts will get the book on relative no-names like Brett Cecil and Brandow Morrow after seeing them a few times.

I think the starting pitching is the key to the Blue Jays’ fate. If the young starters, in particular future ace Ricky Romero, can hold their own, the offence will give them enough support to vie for a “W” every night.

Maybe we’ll finally see competitive baseball in Toronto in August and beyond.


Justin Trudeau might very well be the next Chosen One within the Liberal Party of Canada.

His surname alone makes longtime Liberals swoon at the prospect of ending a particularly embarrassing stretch of uninspiring and downright dismal leadership from the likes of Paul Martin, Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff.

Yes, Justin Trudeau has the name and pedigree Liberals have been waiting for. All eyes have been on the young successor to father Pierre’s legacy since he was a young man in his 20s. Many Grits have high hopes for the young heir apparent.

But Trudeau’s promise won’t mean much if he can’t deliver, and until he shows he’s ready to assume the party mantle — which is a long way off yet for the rookie MP — the party must find a way to keep its head above water.

Angelo Persichilli argued these points in Friday’s Toronto Star. The Liberals, he said, need to stop focusing on the past and future and look at their current situation. Right now, things are as bad for the Grits as they’ve ever been in the history of this country. Saddled with a woefully uninspiring leader in Ignatieff, financially reeling from years of declining donations after the exodus of Chretien and other high-profile “stars” and still getting drubbed in national polls despite the Harper government’s continually awe-inspiring gaffes, the Liberals need to find a way to keep their engine running until Trudeau or another young successor can assume control.

How good are their chances of doing this? If Ignatieff’s embarrassingly low poll support is any indication, not so good.

The Grits either face the very real prospect of having to combine forces with the NDP and Bloq in a temporary coalition, which would buy them some time, or get the knives out for their leader. The party stands zero chance of beating Harper and the Tories on its own as long as Ignatieff is at the wheel.

Perhaps it’s time to visit the coalition idea that Bob Rae has been proposing. It could be just what the Liberals need to carry them through until a true leader emerges. And, yes, that may be Justin Trudeau.


Who says you can’t fight taxation?

According to today’s Globe and Mail, the groups fighting the implementation of the HST in British Columbia say they are only one riding short of the required number to get their petition presented to the provincial legislature.

Sound like a familiar scenario?

Here in Ontario, a similar movement has been afoot for the past several months with an entirely different result. The petition in Ontario has gained limited momentum and is in no danger of having any effect whatsoever. Come July 1, the new 13 per cent cash grab will be a reality, and Ontarians who’ve quietly grumbled about it will begrudgingly accept it.

The question is, why? Why is it that we in this province so easily accept a tax that the people of B.C. are effectively fighting tooth-and-nail?

I blame it on our business-first mentality. Sure, many Ontarians get their backs up over new taxation, but this is still a business-driven province; one where fighting the implementation of colossal tax hikes just doesn’t stand much chance.

Gordon Campbell’s government has announced it will follow the letter of the law in B.C with regard to the petition. One more riding and it will see the light of day in the legislature.

Why have we in Ontario not followed suit? What is happening in B.C. right now is proof that sometimes citizens can make a difference with respect to government decisions.

It’s a shame Ontarians haven’t been able to muster the same wherewithal.


Rock ‘n’ roll is alive and well in the Quinte area. Or is it?

As much as it heartens me to see the quality of the big, mainstream rock shows coming to Belleville this summer, it alarms me that nobody seems to be carrying the flag to promote local artists.

It’s great that 3 Doors Down, ZZ Top, Alice Cooper, Collective Soul and many other rock notables are hitting out city over the next couple months, but at the end of the day, what does their presence here mean? Does it mean Bel Vegans love our rock ‘n roll? Well, yes. The appetite is present.

But bringing in a bunch of established rock acts that appeal to a mostly 35-and-up demographic and charging reasonable ticket prices to do so makes earning a fistful of dollars as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.

What, though, does any of this have to do with promoting local talent in a city that has shown little regard for nurturing its musicians? In a word, nothing.

This city needs a group, club owner, or business that will fight to promote local rock musicians and give them good venues to play. Would it mean a financial bonanza for said persons?

Of course not.

But it would provide a much-needed boost to young musicians fighting to get noticed in a city so disjointed and disconnected from its “club scene” that it’s forgotten how to rock with purpose.


Question: What costs an estimated $930 million, requires 10,000 police officers of various stripes and necessitates the construction of hundreds-of-metres of three-metre high security fence?

Answer: The upcoming G20 summit, being held in Toronto and Huntsville next month.

Given the mind-boggling financial and manpower figures being thrown around in regard to the four-day conference, it’s not suprising to learn that many groups are questioning the cost of the whole affair and asking if the money involved could be more responsibly spent elsewhere.

Count me in with Jack Layton and the NDP on this one.

As reported in today’s Ottawa Citizen, Layton’s party is outraged by the costs associated with hosting the summit and has pointed out some better uses for the money, such as: EI benefits for 159,492 Canadians, tuition for 189,140 post-secondary students, 1,270 hybrid buses for public transit and health care for 167,569 people.

Take a minute to let those figures sink in and then ask yourself how important it is to spend that much money on a summit that could be done via video conference. To his credit, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has come out in favour of considering this option. Toews says the various countries themselves need to ask themselves whether they are getting value for their money.

Good question, Vic. In light of both this spending issue and the attempted burial of Sheila Fraser’s report on gross overspending by MPs, Canadians are in no mood to see even more hundreds-of-millions of dollars of their tax dollars spent in such reckless fashion.

Don’t get me wrong, the G20 summit will no doubt be an important meeting designed to strengthen trade ties and promote the economic well-being of the member states, but it could be held in a more responsible and less costly manner during a time in which colossal overspending is very much frowned upon by a public still reeling from a brief but nasty recession.