Wednesday, January 23, 2008

On Overcoming Stereotypes: A Tale of Two Movies

One nice thing about belonging to NetFlix is unearthing films which one has missed out on the first or second time around. Two such films surfaced recently. I had completely overlooked the 1976 film "The Shootist", but became aware of it recently through a trivia question posed on

"The Shootist" has an amazing set of famous stars for a supporting cast. It is said that many stars begged to be included after John Wayne committed to the project, with some even offering to work for free. Lauren Bacall, Jimmy Stewart, Ron Howard, Harry Morgan, Richard Boone, the list just goes on and on. I never cared much for John Wayne, but here he plays a sympathetic character, a famous gunfighter dying of cancer. He comes to the town seeking confirmation of his illness from a doctor he knows and trusts, played by Jimmy Stewart. Stewart tells him about a boarding house run by a widow, played by Bacall. He stays there while waiting to die. Highly recommended.

Then there is a movie starring one of my favorite actors, Paul Newman. It is the 1966 film "Harper". Newman plays, or rather, attempts to play, a hard-boiled detective in the tradition of Bogart in "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Big Sleep". I love these film noirs, so I figured I'd like this one. Was I ever disappointed! Newman just does not work in this role. He chews gum constantly, which is a distraction and adds nothing. He just doesn't have the persona to pull off the role, as Bogart did, and Mitchum did in "Farewell, My Lovely", and Nicholson in "Chinatown" and its surprisingly good sequel, "The Two Jakes". The plot of "Harper" is silly and rather hard to follow, and I definitely do *not* recommend this film.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"What Are You Going to do in your Retirement?"

I get asked this enough that it's time I thought through an answer. Assuming I stay in Wichita, my normal day might look like this:

When normally I would go into the office, I will go the Y and work out. (Experience has shown that when a workout is part of my day, I have a much healthier and more productive day.)

After ending my time at the Y with a leisurely sojourn in the hot tub, I will then venture back outside and have lunch at a (hopefully) place I've never been to before.

Then back home to write on this blog, do trivia stuff, and do chess study or playing.

Then I cook a good supper (at the moment I am quite excited about the split pea with ham soup I have planned for the crock pot tomorrow).

In the evening I attend a special event, or watch a Net Flix movie.

In bed I read a good book or work puzzles out of my old Games magazines that have been sitting around for a couple of decades now.

"Are You a Vegetarian?"

I was asked this yesterday by a clerk at Popeye's, after I had ordered 4 meatless side dishes for lunch. My honest response, "No, but I'm working on it."

Sunday, January 6, 2008

15 Things I Like about Portland

1. The Willamette River. It flows right through the heart of downtown, and is a wonderfully wide river, and also deep enough to allow for many types of boating activity. My first day there I got to see a drawbridge open and close.

2. A wonderfully vibrant and compact downtown, allowing one to get around nicely on foot, without need of a car.

3. A great public transportation system, including trains, buses, streetcars, and even an air tram.

4. A one-block wide park that runs North and South through much of downtown.

5. A farmer's market that has all kinds of great foods for sale. I got in on the last one of the year on 12/22, with the market scheduled to re-open on 4/5.

6. Forest Park, containing the largest natural woods within the city limits of a city.

7. Lush green grass, even in winter, which grows without need of artificial watering, due to the heavy natural rainfall.

8. Many public drinking fountains, which are on even in winter.

9. Portland Mennonite Church, a large and vibrant church with lots of kids, unlike churches in Wichita which seem to be heavily tilted toward the elderly, and lacking in young folks.

10. The Portland Beavers, a triple A minor league team which plays in a downtown stadium that is part and parcel of the community, rather than out in the boonies somewhere. Along with Sacramento, Portland is one of the two cities among the original franchises that still has a team in the Pacific Coast League.

11. Powell's Bookstore, reputed to be the world's largest. It takes up a whole city block and is fabulous.

12. Many fine restaurants. I was able to visit Huber's (family-owned since the 19th-century), Bangkok Palace, Mandarin Cove, and Tabla Mediterranean Bistro, all of which were great fun.

13. A very bike-friendly environment, with bike lanes in the streets, and many places to park one's bike.

14. No sales tax. This seems like such a good idea, it's hard to fathom why more States don't do it this way. It eliminates a huge layer of bureaucracy for the State, and a lot of headaches for the merchants of the State. The sales tax is notoriously regressive, hitting the poor harder than the rich, so it seems obvious that a better system is to have a somewhat higher income tax and property tax, to make up for the lack of a sales tax.

15. My son lives there, and I can go visit!