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West Side Story– NOT just a teen movie:

Hi, everybody:

This is a post that has been percolating in my mind for sometime now, and, having experienced scorn on other boards for talking about West Side Story, both explicit and implicit, because many people still consider West Side Story only for adolescents, yet have attended screenings of the movie and productions of the play where audiences of almost  all ages are present, I have come more and more to believe otherwise. It could be that many people feel that way, because most people, when they pick favorite films, they find something in it that speaks to them right directly, or that they directly identify with for some reason or other, and West Side Story is something that teens supposedly identify with. Having first seen the film when I was still in high school, I can understand why such assumptions are made by so many people, but, when I reached my adulthood, I began to believe more and more that West Side Story is a classic for people of virtually all ages and all walks of life.  

Memoir to McGee:


My beautiful, beloved pet Noble Macaw, McGee, passed over into Bird Heaven on Sunday night, February 7th, 2010, at the age of about 20.  I found him dead, at around 10:30 p. m., on the bottom of his cage.  It was very much of a shock, which has gradually been wearing off, with time, and a new pet bird, about who I’ve written below, as an update and sort of continuation with my love and experience with exotic birds.  So saying, I’ve decided to start off by  writing a memoir to my Noble Macaw, McGee.  Here goes:

I had been wanting a pet bird for quite a long time.  After doing some research and looking in various pet stores, we hit upon one in Boston’s Back Bay area called Back Bay Aquarium & Pet Shop, which is no longer in business.  After looking at some Noble Macaws, I decided I wanted a Noble Macaw as a pet.   After going on vacation for a couple of weeks, I picked out one of the young, green macaws, with a blonde beak, red under the wings, and olive yellow underneath closer to the body.   Accompanied by my parents, I picked out the bird,  selected a cage, reserved the bird and, then my parents and I went to lunch at Chang-Sho, a popular Chinese restaurant in Cambridge’s Porter Square.  All during lunch, we kept throwing out names for the bird, and my mother finally asked me  “What’s the name that Ian (my younger brother) constantly calls you out of affection?”  “McGee”, I replied.  So, the name stuck, and we all agreed that the name “McGee” was a good name for the bird.  

The next day, Sunday, was a rainy, cold day, and I picked up McGee from the Pet Shop.  The pet shop manager put McGee in a cardboard carrier, and I drove him home and put him in his cage, gave him food and water, and allowed him to become acclimated to me and his new surroundings.  McGee squawked happily, and enjoyed himself.  However, the euphoria was relatively short-lived, when a now ex- neighbor who worked nights and slept during the day, complained about the noise.  The guy who lived with her was more amiable, and said that he’d prefer not to be woken up before 7:30 a. m. by McGee’s noise, so I purchased a dark brown cover for the bird’s cage, and made a point of closing my Venetian blinds with the slats facing outward to keep the early-morning sun out of the apartment.  It worked, and that part of the problem was solved.  Since I  then had a fulltime job, I ended up confining McGee to my studio, which was an OK compromise.  At the manager’s suggestion, I took him up to my loft to meet McGee, who immediately won him over.  

The Homecoming of Aziza:

Today, I will be posting something different;  I’ll be going back to Aziza, but here is the longer essay on her that I promised to write about.

This is a photograph of Aziza, where she looks like she’s doing a dance.  She’s in one of her favorite poses, on her favorite outside-her-cage height and place:

Homecoming of Aziza

Here’s yet another photo of  Aziza,

Homecoming of Aziza

playing in her cage, looking curiously down at something while she’s on her bong rope swing, which is a favorite inside-her-cage perch of hers.

Here’s another more exuberant photo of Aziza.

Homecoming of Aziza

She certainly reveals her beauty, exuberance and gracefulness when she’s in that position.  It’s great!

This is a photo of Aziza perched on my forearm/hand.  You now have a close-up view of her, and you can see her beauty on a somewhat larger scale.


Here’s yet another photo of Aziza, in one of her most pensive modes:

Aziza my baby Congo African Grey Parrot.

This photo, too, reveals how beautiful she really is!  One of my favorite photos of Aziza.Now that I have presented afew (albeit familiar) pictures of Aziza, many of them taken when she was even younger than she is right now, I will proceed with the essay itself.

After the unfortunate passing of my (almost) 20-year-old Noble Macaw, McGee in early February of this year due to unknown and natural causes, I knew in my heart that I wanted another exotic bird.  Yet, going out and getting another bird right away didn’t make sense.  I needed time to mourn and do research as to what kind of bird that I wanted.  It was at about ten-thirty on a Sunday night, when I went to cover McGee’s cage.  Seeing McGee lying still on the bottom of his cage, I called his name, and caressed him, hoping to wake him up.  There was no response forthcoming, so I immediately knew the worst;  McGee had passed over the pet rainbow to bird heaven.  Not thinking what to do, I wrapped his little body in two coats of foil, put it in two plastic bags, put it in my kitchen trashcan which was full of shredded old documents, and then put the whole trash bag out in the dumpster.  Probably not the best thing to do, but, being in shock, I was just thinking on my feet, so to speak.  The next morning, I called my sister and told her the sad news, and then I got a call from my brother a few minutes later, after my sister had called him and given him a message.  I received much condolences from my family, friends and some of my neighbors who I told.  I knew that I  wouldn’t be getting another bird until the spring, and, although it was a fairly short time, I began to feel the emotional pain of  not having a pet to greet me when I walked in the door, and I often found myself looking over at McGee’s old cage in the corner of the living room, expecting him to be there, but finding an empty cage instead.

A week later was my birthday, and one of my birthday presents was a couple of books about parrots;  One was called Parrots for Dummies, and the other was a complete book on African Greys, because I was leaning towards getting an African Grey Parrot.  I did much research on African Greys and other parrots both on and offline.  I asked around about a reputable pet store in our area, talking to the veterinarian that I’d taken McGee to, a couple of her assistants, and a neighbor who’d purchased a Red-Lored Amazon at that same place ten  years before.  All roads pointed to a pet store down in East Walpole, MA, called Bird and Reptile Connection.  After I explained about the passing of my Noble Macaw,  I went down and visited the place, and looked at a not-quite-a year-old Goffins Cockatoo, which is one of the smaller cockatoos.  It was a beautiful bird–all white with a sort of orangey-pink coral color underneath.  The Goffins and I got along splendidly, but after doing much on and offline research, I decided against getting the Goffins cockatoo, and I concentrated on the African Grey instead.  I asked about the baby Timneh African Greys that were due to arrive in April, which were a little cheaper than the Congo African Greys and were reputed to be somewhat more easygoing.  I decided to look at the Timneh, being set on that.  I bided my time, doing as much research as I could, on the Greys, housing for them, care, and food for them.  I kept in touch with the people at Bird and Reptile Connection via telephone and email.  April finally came.  

The Meaning(s) of Music:

There’s music and there’s music.  I started out being a big fan of classical music as a preteen, most notably Mozart’s  Symphony No. #41, and Brahm’s First Symphony, both of which I’d listen to over and over again, whenever I had the opportunity.  Another favorite record of mine was The Red Army, which were a whole bunch of sad songs, sung in Russian, which I’ve never understood, but I loved the tunes and voices nonetheless, while failing to understand the meaning of the songs. That record, too, was another record that I’d play over and over again.  When my mom and I would drive somewhere, I’d always want her to put on the car radio, so that I could listen to the classical music coming over the radio.  Another record, called “Absolute Nonsense” by Oscar Brand, was another favorite of mine, which I brought to school one day in the third grade and played it for my class, evoking much laughter from most of my classmates.   My dad was always a big fan of jazz, especially Dixieland, and the likes of Gene Krupa and Benny Goodman, which  he’d put on full blast on Sunday mornings.  Since I never liked jazz, I could never, ever get into it.  

Then came the late 1950’s and the early to mid 1960’s, when the rock-n-roll scene began to grip the country.  The first rock-n-roll I heard was back in the summer of 1962, when I attended day camp out west for six weeks.  The Four Season’s  “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, and the songs “Davy Crocket”,  “Johnny get Angry”, and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence”, all of which I found moving.  In 1963,  folk singers such as Peter, Paul & Mary, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, along with Pete Seeger and the Weavers were also on the  general music scene, although the Weavers were a favorite thing to listen to in our household even before the other afore-mentioned folksingers came along.  Since the early to mid 1960’s also issued in the heyday of the Civil Rights Movement,  much of the folk music back then also had special meaning.  Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in  the Wind” also had an intense meaning–it was about the civil rights movement, which meant  “The answer is coming”.   I ‘ve always loved Peter, Paul & Mary’s rendition of that song, and still do.  The Weaver’s rendition of “Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd”, also has a special meaning, as it is about African slaves attempting  escape to the North for freedom via t he Underground railroad.  This particular song tells a story about how slaves traveled by night en route tNorth, and the Drinking Gourd was the Big Dipper.  The phrase

“for the old man is awaiting’ for to carry you to freedom”

, meant the North Star, which was at top of the Big Dipper, or the drinking gourd, as it was slangily called, was pointing to the direction of freedom–North.  It was a fitting name–and necessary to protect the escaping slaves from torture by sadistic  Southern white plantation masters,  who, fortunately for the slaves,  were not aware of what they were singing.  Although I was still too young to really understand the meaning of much of this music when it was first out, I became more aware of it when I got older.

Fast forward to the spring of 1964, when my sister and I were visiting relatives  then residing in a neighboring town from the initial  skepticism as a young seventh-grader, I watched the Beatles along with everybody else, and was charmed and impressed by the music.  The Beatles were in vogue during those years, and everybody had Beatles Albums, wrote “The Beatles” on notebooks and clipboards, and sang their songs on the buses to and from school every day.   Despite warnings by my mom that the Beatles would corrupt my taste in music, I listened to the Beatles and other rock-n-roll anyway.  For a time, she may have been right, but when I was well into adulthood, I began to understand the meaning of songs and to expand my tastes a bit more. At the height of Beatlemania, there were even Beatles cards, Beatles wallpaper, and Beatle sneakers, but my younger sister created her own on a pair of white sneakers.  Beatlemania continued throughout the mid-1960’s, although other rock groups, such as Herman’s Hermits, Dave Clark Five, and many other rock groups began to edge their way in.  Elvis Presley, long a big 1950’s icon for teens during that period, began to evolve with a new style during the rock-n-roll era.    Then came t he late 1960’s, with the advent of more psychedelic music, often, though not always, related to LSD trips and experimenting with other drugs, and t he Flower Children era.  Scott McKenzie’s famous song “San Francisco” was a good example of what was beginning, and was clearly about the Summer of Love in San Francisco’s Height-Ashbury section in 1967.  Aretha Franklin also became prominent with her song,  “Respect”, which demanded, as the song said., respect.  The Seeker’s “Georgy Girl”, a theme song from the movie, was about an ugly, gawky-looking girl who  is constantly excluded from parties and datings, while her beautiful-looking roommate is always partying, dating and having an active social life.  Later, Georgie’s turn comes, after she shyly and slowly makes changes in her dress and appearance.

West Side Story: My Own Synopsis:

   Loosely based on the renowned Shakespeare play, “Romeo & Juliet”, West Side Story is set on the pulsating, finger-snapping  West Side of 1950’s/1960’s New York City.  It is a beautiful movie-musical involving love and romance that develops amid conflict between two warring NYC street gangs:  the white ethnic American Jets and the newly-arrived Puerto Rican Sharks.  Determined to drive the Sharks off of their turf, the Jets claim and stake out their territory with a tough, macho bravado, especially with the Prologue and the Jet Song.  The Sharks, on the other hand, are also determined to have a piece of the small piece of turf that both  gangs have to share.  A melee between the Sharks and the Jets erupts on the playground, only to be broken up by Lt. Schrank and Ofcr.  Krupke.  Meanwhile, Tony, who was once the Jets gang leader, who is looking for something other than gang life and the streets but doesn’t know what he’s looking for, has been hired to work full time at Doc’s Candy Store.  Although the elderly, kindly Doc  attempts to be a mentor to the kids, there’s no avail.  

The Jets, now back on their turf, are now debating what to do,, and  ultimately decide to challenge Bernardo, the Shark gang leader, to a rumble.    When the subject comes up about taking a lieutenant, Riff decides to call on his old friend and ex-Jets leader Tony, to  help out.  Riff then goes to the Doc’s Candy Store to try to enlist Tony’s help.  After Tony has turned Riff down several times,  Riff suggests that Tony come to the dance that they’re holding that night, pursuading him with  “Who knows?  Maybe what you’re waiting’ for will be twitchin’ at the dance tonight. ”  Reluctantly, Tony agrees to meet Riff and the rest of the Jets at the Gym  at ten.  At the dance, Tony and Maria meet and fall in love., and the sparks really  begin to fly.  Tensions and hostilities between the Jets & Sharks, which have been steadily rising, now escalate sharply.

Maria, the sister of the Shark gang leader, Bernardo, is an attractive 17-year-old girl who has been brought to America in order to marry Bernardo’s friend and right-hand man, Chino, who works as an assistant.   At the bridal shop where Maria and her girlfriend, Anita, (who’s also Bernardo’s girlfriend, btw) work as seamstresses, Anita  has been altering an old white communion dress for Maria to wear to the dance.   Despite Maria’s demands that the neck be lowered, and her complaints that she’ll be the only one in a white dress,  Anita stands fast and continues with her work, despite Maria’s attempts to distract her by talking about other things.  Despite the small dispute, Maria tries on the white dress, loves it, and is enthused about coming to the dance, and the Sharks finally come to call.

That night, at the dance,  Glad Hand, the social worker attempts to have the Jets and Sharks do a “get-together” dance.  It fails miserably.  The Sharks and Jets each go off with their own kind, and the Dance ultimately becomes a fierce competition between the Jets and the Sharks.  Later, Tony, who has arrived and been greeted and embraced by his old friend Riff and his girlfriend, Graziella, sees Bernardo’s sister, Maria from across the room.   Tony and Maria ultimately meet, fall in love, and begin dancing together.  They are broken up by an enraged Bernardo, who orders Chino to take Maria home despite protests that it is her first dance.  At this point,  Tony’s old friend, Riff intervenes and  insists that he, the Jets and Bernardo and the Sharks meet at Doc’s Candy Store at midnight for a war council, to which Bernardo agrees.

Gun Control; Why it’s important:


Here is an essay about an equally important issue that has been debated for several decades, and is still being debated to this day.  Here goes:

There has been much debate (albeit often shrill, and often heated) between Gun Rights Advocates and Gun Control Advocates. As a Gun-Control advocate, however, here are my reasons for being in favor of Gun Control. The Gun Control Advocates are not trying to deprive hunters and target shooters of their sports, nor are they trying to deprive people who simply collect guns like others collect stamps, or whatever, of their collection, nor am I referring to security personnel, police officers, or those serving in the military who are authorized to carry guns.

I  generally favor an all-out ban on snub-nosed handguns, but, as time went on, I realized that the NRA and the Gun Lobby in general, are too well-organized, too well-funded and too powerful for an all-out ban on these guns to be realistically possible. Unfortunately , however, for the past several decades, the NRA has bullied various lawmakers (i. e. State Reps, Senators, and Congress members, for example) out of passing stronger, more affective firearms laws. Contrary to what many gun rights advocates point out, the slogan “Guns don’t kill, people do”, is a slogan that I have refused to buy into. Whether it’s realized or not in many circles, a gun is designed to kill people. It is a weapon of war, and a whole way of life is either abruptly ended or irrevocably and adversely altered by the squeeze of the trigger and the crack of a pistol. Most murders are crimes of passion that occur among people who know each other; in the home, in barrooms, on street corners or even in parking lots, among family, friends and/or acquaintances. When heated situations arise, the presence of a firearm or firearms makes a murder or permanent maiming far more likely. Another frequent occurrence is when young kids get access to guns, not realizing that they’re actually loaded, play the typical kids’ “bang-bang” game, where one pretends to shoot the other dead, and actually ends up killing a sibling, relative or friend, because they don’t realize that the gun is actually loaded.

Meanness in America:

After reading an extremely interesting essay by another poster on, I got the idea for another Thursday Open Thoughts column.   Since I’ve recently had problems with not only comments, but long posts disappearing as well, I decided to take the suggestions of yet another poster on firefly-dreaning to heart and write it on a blank e-mail first, which I’m presently doing.  

The essay in question, which was called “Main Street and Fox Avenue”, told about the nasty, vicious and ignorant rightwing people who were clearly Republicans, who wanted to “cleanse” America to make it the way it supposedly was when Ronald Reagan took office, and burn all the books, including and especially Korans, that they could.   It sounded like a rough, raucous and nasty-spirited crowd, not to mention clearly uneducated, who “seemed” to be infected with some sort of a virus”, and he decided to run from them when one of them offered him an American flag jacket to try on in order to “prove his patriotism and Americanism”.    These people certainly were aggressive and seemed to be the type of people who, with the viciousness of blind, brainless beasts, could/would fall upon anything or anybody that crossed their path, and often won’t hesitate to resort to the nastiest, most mean-spirited baiting, or even physically assaulting their victim(s).   Whether it be fellow Conservative Republicans or even fellow liberal/Democrats who differs with the Republican or Democratic orthodoxy, a left-winger,  anybody of color,  or any ordinary person who they’d been friendly with just the day before, or  they’d joked with or even conversed with moments or even hours earlier, nobody, whoever s/he may be, who inadvertently crosses their path is safe.  

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