Apes seem like hairier versions of ourselves—playful, inquisitive and quick to throw feces when angered. For decades, we’ve been dressing them as bellhops, teaching them to ride tricycles and making them hang out with Michael Jackson. Now, bonobos have been given iPads that control a water cannon, equipping them for their eventual takeover of Earth.
But while we’ve been teaching them our language, it seems these crafty apes have been speaking a secret language behind our backs the whole time. Now, we’re learning their language. Andrew Halloran, a Florida-based primatologist, explains what apes are discussing among themselves in his new book, The Song of the Ape.
WW: So everyone who has claimed to teach an ape English or sign language is lying?
Andrew Halloran: Well, I would put most of the language-trained-ape projects into the self-deception category. We create these lab-reared, talking super-apes and, no matter how intelligent they are, or how well they are trained, they are never going to be as good at being humans as humans are. Chimpanzees are good at being chimpanzees.
So how do apes communicate with each other?
Vocally, chimpanzees learn calls from their groups. If you were to encounter one group of chimps in the forest, they would be utilizing a different lexicon of calls than the next group you were to encounter. If you were to record these calls and create a picture of the sounds, you would see incredibly complex structures and patterns with each of these phrases carrying specific meanings, which you could discern from the situations and contexts of the calls.
So what the hell are they saying?
Well, each group is different, but I imagine most of it would be profane.
Bottom line: How do I get a chimp to be my friend? Will he bring me beers?
To be the best friend of an ape or monkey, you would have to let them lead a natural life where they are free to live as the species they are—in an ecosystem unobstructed by our species. Oh, and your beers would almost certainly arrive empty.
GO: See Andrew Halloran read from and discuss his new book, The Song of the Ape: Understanding the Languages of Chimpanzees, at the Belmont Library, 1038 SE Cesar E. Chavez Blvd., 988-5382, on Saturday, April 14. 3 pm. Free.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11KASABIAN
[MUSIC] Kasabian’s Velociraptor! is that rare major release that makes us sentimental for the era of major labels and major budgets: It’s a lovably bloated loop-and-groove-oriented collection that reminds as much of bands like Pop Will Eat Itself and Big Audio Dynamite as much as it does of the Blur/Oasis heyday. Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell St. 8 pm. $17 advance, $20 day of show. 21+.
THURSDAY, APRIL 12BRIDGETOWN COMEDY FESTIVAL
[COMEDY] Portland’s nationally renowned comedy festival is back, this time with more than 200 comedians in eight venues during four days. Don’t know where to start? Tonight’s Best of Boston showcase, featuring Shane Mauss and Dwayne Perkins, is as good a place as any. Bagdad Theater, 3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd., bridgetowncomedy.com. 8 pm. $20. 21+.
STAR WARS: ATTACK OF THE AUTHORS
[BOOKS AND BLASTERS] When two Star Wars fans fall in love and make their own little ones, they want to teach those nerdlings about the magic of the Star Wars universe. Here, young padawan will learn lessons from their collection of nonfiction Star Wars books. Powell’s at Cedar Crossing, 3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd., 228-4651, 7 pm. Free.
FRIDAY, APRIL 13TURKKUSEX CONTEST
[SEX] TurkkuSex, “northern Europe’s largest sex festival,” is hosting a local competition to find Portland’s most talented erotic performer with the TurkkuSex International Stripsearch. One lucky entertainer (ladies only!) will win a cash prize and a trip to Finland to perform at TurkkuSex 2012. Expect stiff competition. Dante’s, 350 W Burnside St., 226-6630. 9 pm. $10.
SUNDAY, APRIL 15DRAG BINGO FOR DOGS
[GAMBLING] OK, so maybe it’s bingo to benefit dogs. Cats, too. Multnomah County Animal Services throws a bingo fundraiser, hosted by drag performer Summer Seasons. Hamburger Mary’s, 19 NW 5th Ave. 7-9 pm. $20.
MONDAY, APRIL 16TOM RUSSELL, RAMBLIN’ JACK ELLIOTT
[MUSIC] The legendary Ramblin’ Jack Elliott returns to the Alberta Rose after proving there last year he has reached 80 without succumbing to any of the three A’s: arthritis, Alzheimer’s or apathy. Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta St. 8 pm. $30 advance, $35 day of show. All ages (minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian).