Author Archives: wilsonca

Moana would make Walt Disney proud.

With nothing better to do on Black Friday (I don’t do Christmas), I treated my child self to a kidmoana flick – Moana. It would have made Walt Disney, the master of animation, proud as punch. The vibrant, saturated colors were all there. The fluid motion characteristic of masterpieces like Cinderella and Fantasia made you feel like you were on a magic carpet ride.  The music by Lin- Manuel Miranda of “Hamilton” fame was memorably beautiful.  With a story line that truly projected girl power, this feature-film-length movie made a powerful point of letting little girls know their potential is limitless.

Moana is a two-Kleenex movie. One is for some of the poignant scenes that will bring a tear to all but the hardest of hearts. The other is for the laugh-out-loud comedic scenes that had me rolling in the aisle. Although a good deal of the story line, the pathos and the humor might certainly be lost on the youngest audiences, it certainly is enjoyable fare for the child-like adult.

With so many adult films to choose from this holiday season, one might wonder why I chose an animated feature. In my day they were called cartoons  and I have always loved Disney cartoons. They had a simple premises — good triumphs over evil — someone gets lost then gets found — hardships are always overcome — love conquers all. They are beautiful to watch, sort of like watching fish in an aquarium. There is never any need to search for deeper meaning. They envelop me like a warm, fuzzy blanket.

Moana embraces Disney’s best, more so that any other modern-day animated feature I have seen. It is a treat for all the senses. There is need to wast your money on the 3D version. Disney films of old did not rely on 3D for effect, and it cannot add anything more to this magnificently created masterpiece. 

If nostalgia beckons you during the holidays and you want a taste of things past and your childhood memories included Disney’s Bambi, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Alice in Wonderland among others, then by all means go and see Moana. You will not be disappointed.




Donald Trump – A Sad Commentary on American Politics

anti donald trumpNearly one week after the cataclysmic upset of Hillary Clinton by Donald Trump in the national election, my stomach is still churning. I can’t look at photos of her without breaking into tears. I feel the earth shaking under my feet and the sky feels like it’s tumbling down. Oh Carol King would you have been a better candidate?

I know it’s fruitless to waste time worrying about what is to befall our country and ourselves. It is what it is. Nothing is going to change — unless, of course, the electors of the Electoral College decide to cast their ballots for Hillary on December 19th. I can only pray for a miracle, but I won’t be holding my breath. In the meantime, I just hope I’m not developing an ulcer.

We did not need Donald Trump as President at such a fragile time in our history. It seems the entire world is being upended beginning with the Brexit vote as a major protectionist movement and followed by the current upheaval on the French political scene. With Germany taking in over 1 million refugees, is Angela Merkel’s chancellery in jeopardy? Trump’s chuminess with Vladimir Putin has emboldened Russia to send a flotilla of warships to the Mediterranean off the coast of Syria. I doubt this would have happened if Hillary had been our President-elect.

And this is just the beginning. We now have a self-proclaimed racist, Stephen Bannon,  as Trump’s chief strategist sanctioning bigotry, hatred and dangerously widening the racial  and social divide.  Black Lives Matter may well become the calling card for more than just blacks as all but white, Christian conservatives are fair game for attack. Could we be on the verge of civil war? It will be interesting to see if gun sales begin to increase dramatically in the next number of months.

I sincerely hope my fears are unfounded, but six nights of demonstrations across the country don’t give me a lot of hope. I can fully understand the disappointment of all those middle-class Americans that voted for Trump. Their voices have been drowned out for too long. Good-paying jobs have disappeared. Their quality of life has diminished. The rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. Our unemployment rate may be at a record low level, but a great many of those that are employed are, in fact, under employed.  It is not their fault that they have been left in the dust of a changing world. Government has done little to alleviate their woes rolling merrily along with the tides of change.

Sadly, government didn’t even hear or recognize their plight, and I am as guilty as government. Ensconced in my own little world with very little rocking my boat, I go from day to day disturbed most by a serious homeless problem in Portland, OR and surrounds and not realizing that many more millions of people are also hurting. Out of sight, out of earshot, out of mind.

Yet, I take issue with those 50 or so million people that voted for Donald Trump. Government did not take their jobs away. Many of the high-paying middle-class jobs have been in decline for decades. Jobs did not go overseas. Production went overseas because companies had to find a way to manufacture their products cheaper than they could do at home so the Americans could afford to buy them. Many items that we take for granted today would be unaffordable if they were still manufactured in the U.S.A. If migrant workers from south of the border weren’t being used to build houses, home ownership would be unattainable for a majority of households.

Many if not all of the jobs that no longer exist are never coming back, but other jobs have grown to take their place. The problem is a lack of training for the new economy. It is government and industry to see that training is provided. This is where government fell down, and the tidal wave of votes for a man that should never have gotten past the Republican primaries now sits at the doorstep of the most powerful position in the world.

Do I trust him? Absolutely not. I see doom and gloom and so do millions of others. I hope we are wrong and that we can survive four years of a Trump presidency. Actually, I hope we can survive the first 100 days.

Living Room Theaters – Just Like Home

There’s nothing like sitting down in a comfy chair with a big bowl of popcorn and a cold beer, throwing your feet up onto an ottoman, and relaxing to watch a movie. At Living Room Theaters you can do just that. Even better, you can order a full meal if you prefer or a glass of wine or a cocktail – whatever is on their menu. They have particularly good sweet potato fries.

I love the movies, and I love to go to the cinema where somehow the experience is a whole lot better than watching on my 50″ TV screen. Living Room Theaters is one of my favorite movie houses. The price is right – a big savings over Regal Cinemas. The movie offerings are more often indie and foreign films that you won’t ever get to see at the big chain theaters. The food is moderately priced and quite tasty and the drinks won’t break the bank either.

Six very intimate theaters provide comfortable seating where you can enjoy  top-rated films. Some seats even have those ottomans to put your feet upon. It’s about as close to home as you can get without paying an arm and a leg. The movie screens aren’t as large as at the major movie houses, but they befit the size of the venue. All of the auditoriums feature 5.1 sound and either 2K or 1080p HD digital projection.

A large part Living Room Theaters’ appeal is the bar/lounge where you can relax before or afterliving room theater bar-lounge a movie. Friday and Saturday evenings beginning at 8pm until midnight, there are live music performances. How perfect can it be? Have a bite to eat and a glass of wine during the movie. Enjoy a liqueur or Irish coffee and live music afterward.

There is another Living Room Theater in Boca Raton, FL. I don’t quite understand the two disparate locations, but I’m forever grateful that the owners chose Portland as well.


Fantastic Captain Fantastic

Thumbs Up For Captain FantasticViggo Mortensen isn’t the first person that comes to mind to play the character of Captain Fantastic until you realize that Captain Fantastic isn’t a Marvel Comics super hero. In fact, the somber, brooding Danish actor is every bit the perfect part for Ben, the patriarch of a brood of six siblings being raised in the Pacific Northwest wilderness. (Much of the movie was filmed in the State of Washington.)

The three boys and three girls, ranging in ages from about five to eighteen, are all adept at, among other things, hunting, rock climbing, spear fishing, languages, literature, science, history, and above all, fending for themselves. Although the plot is somewhat predictable, the acting is outstanding, especially that of the youngsters. I am always amazed that a six-year-old cannot only memorize many lines of a film script but also have such remarkable camera presence.

Truth be known, I can’t remember a film that starred a child actor/actress that wasn’t entertaining. Perhaps it is the sheer innocence of children that is reflected on the screen as a certain purity that fades with age, a freshness that one’s inner self connects with, sort of like the first time you made a snow angel or rode on a merry-go-round.

Some critics have called Captain Fantastic a comedy. Some have called it a drama. For my part, it is a dramedy. I laughed. I cried. I felt angst. I felt fear. The movie engaged all of my emotions, and when a movie can do that, I give it a thumbs up. And thought-provoking as it is, above all it is entertaining.

If you can still find it in a theater, do see Captain Fantastic. If is already gone, keep an eye out for it on DVD, Netflix, Amazon or in a secondary theater, and see it. You will not be disappointed.

What does it take to have a beautiful yard?

Very simple. A beautiful yard takes hard work or money!

Front YardI just came in from toiling in my yard. Obviously, I don’t have the money or somebody else would be toiling away in my place. When I bought my little house (854 sq. ft.), I had no idea how much yard work it would entail. Whereas it takes me little more than 2 hours to thoroughly clean my house, it takes days and weeks to maintain my yard even though it probably isn’t more than 2000 sq. ft. with about 850 sq. ft. of that being grass.

This year I laid down about an inch of compost. With a warm and wet spring, everything grew gigantic. Thus, there was and is still a significant amount clipping, pruning, replanting, mowing, weeding and everything else you having to do with gardening. Somehow when I bought my place I thought: “Small house, small lot, little work.”  Yeah, right. The only way to avoid the yard work is to move into a hi-rise condo.

Last year I was literally tied to my house. With persistently hot weather, everything in the Shade Gardengarden needed watering literally on a daily basis. Even so, a lot of things didn’t make it through the near month of 90-degree+ days. If I left the house for more than two days, I had to pay someone to come and water everything.  That didn’t set particularly well with me, so I installed a drip irrigation system that solved the problem, and it was a whole lot cheaper than an underground sprinkler system. Now I can leave for weeks and not have to worry about plants dying from thirst. Of course the grass still needs mowing, but fortunately it only takes 15 minutes from start to finish. I can afford to hire than out.

Is the sometimes back-breaking work worth it? Today I think it is. Tomorrow when my bones are aching I may feel different. But as I look out on my petite domain on a picture perfect summer day, I can’t imagine what I’d do without it. The beautiful bouquets of flowers on my table, the abundance of lettuce all summer long, the hummingbirds and mourning doves greeting me in the morning, the peace and serenity of nature — yes, it’s worth it.

Bongo, Bongo, Mofongo Supreme at Boriken Restaurant

Mofongo is a dish native to Puerto Rico. I didn’t know what in the world it was until I read a review of Boriken Restaurant in Beaverton. Nearly every review raved about their mofongos. Never shirking away from trying something new, I ordered the mofongo with chicken.

mofongo at Boriken RestaurantAs it turns out, mofongo can be made in different ways, but the way Boriken serves theirs is probably a step above  even restaurants in Puerto Rico. They start with cooked and mashed plantains which are a kind of banana. Then they line a bowl with the mashed plantains and fill the cavity with chicken, beef, vegetables or seafood in individual sauces.  This is a presentation that you don’t see everywhere.  OMG, just writing about it makes my mouth water!!

My sister, who I drag along with me on my food adventures, spotted potato balls stuffed with ground beef. Somehow, coming from good Polish stock, we can’t seem to pass on anything potato. This was a delightful little appetizer, especially if you happen to absolutely love potatoes.  As a main dish she had stuffed avocado with chicken. It was quite good, but not nearly as delicious as my mofongo.

It’s unfortunate that there were only two of us at the table. There were so many dishes that looked so tasty I wanted to try each and every one. Of course, I didn’t have the budget or the appetite for that. Needless to say, I will be coming back for more.

If you decide to try Boriken — and I recommend that you do if you live in the area — don’t be put off by appearance. Located is a tacky little strip mall on Canyon Road, this gem of a restaurant is a pleasant surprise inside with a decor somewhere between industrial and rustic.  Nothing, however, detracts from the food.

D Is For Depp

mad hatterD is for Depp and it’s the letter grade critics have been giving Johnny Depp’s movies for way too many years now. Whatever has this man done that critics love to hate him. In my opinion, Johnny Depp is one of most talented character actors in the past two decades. He gave an unforgettable performance as Tonto in The Lone Ranger. What did he get for it? A “D.” His Mad Hatter in Alice Through The Looking Glass was a fantasy masterpiece. What did he get for it? A “D.” OK, Mortdecai wasn’t an award-winning film, but Depp’s performance as a character actor was still a cut above.

Johnny Depp will never be an American heartthrob. He may never play Hamlet, but I could easily see him as a mischievous Puck in an exceptional performance. He, in fact, makes the movies he performs in. In fact, I can’t imagine any of his “D-rated” films without him.  The originality that Depp brings to all of his characters deserves no less than a B+.  Maybe what we really need is a new group of critics.

Why health insurance is so expensive in America.

Today I had to call my health insurance carrier to get an explanation on a statement I received from one of my providers.  I had already talked to the provider and was told the problem was with my insurer.  Between the two, I finally discovered why health insurance is so expensive in America.

It all began with a charge of $114.00 for what I was told was a deductible. I really can’t tell you exactly why I have to pay that amount because, after spending nearly 30 minutes on the phone with customer service, I still don’t understand why I am being billed for this amount.

health insuranceAnd therein lies the answer to why health insurance in America is so expensive. Between a billing system that is more confusing than a Rubik’s Cube, a system of what’s covered and what isn’t covered that isn’t understood by any customer service rep I’ve ever spoken to, and providers to include doctors and facilities with no sense of what is meant by fair and just compensation, the entire healthcare system, including health insurance, is quite simply a conspiracy to bilk each and everyone of us out of billions and billions of dollars each year. Confound and confuse is obviously their modus operendi. Why else can you never receive a straight answer. Even worse, are the conflicting answers often proffered.

A health insurance policy should be able to be understood by the lowest common denominator.  By confusing and confounding us, our health insurance system collects more than their fair share from all of us with impunity. We ask no questions because we don’t know what to ask. And when we do ask — well, we might as well be listening to a politician orate. They say a lot but tell us nothing.

It’s no wander that we have become apathetic over health care and health insurance. But this is also the reason the entire system has burgeoned out of control. We have allowed it to happen, and that’s exactly what the system is counting on in the future. Their financial well being depends on it.

Nothing So Rare As A Day In May

When temperatures in Portland soar into the mid-eighties, and in some places in even 90; when we have a record number of 80-degree days (which we no doubt will have); when the snow pack starts melting before it’s due; when there is no rain in the forecast for the foreseeable future, are we still in Oregon, folks?

Only 7 days into the month of May and already things are becoming problematic. Hot, dry weather so early in the year melts the snow pack long before it’s due to melt making way for potential drought conditions later in the summer.  It plays havoc with utility bills when lawns and gardens need to be watered through a meter and people rush to turn on their air conditioners which we don’t usually have to do until after the 4th of July. Yes, we are having rare days in May.

I’ve lived here nearly  40 years and I don’t remember a spring quite like this. Is it the mega-El Nino causing this strange affect? Certainly, it doesn’t help. Is it climate change? More likely than not it is.  Will Portland become the weather equivalent of San Francisco or Los Angeles? Who knows. What I do know is that I may have to move to Alaska someday to get relief from the incessant heat. How do you Arizonans do it?

I guess I shouldn’t complain too much. We haven’t been ravaged by floods, buried in 6 feet of snow or been ripped apart by tornadoes.  Spring came to us almost one month early and every bloomin’ thing took on gigantic proportions.  But I hear the Devil calling from afar inviting us to another summer in Hell with all those 90-degree days just around the corner. I hope I’m wrong.


And the winner is…………

trumpWho would have guessed almost one year ago that, above all odds, Donald Trump would come out on top of the heap of Republican presidential hopefuls.  I can’t say I was surprised. If you stayed on top of the news (and I don’t mean campaign news, but news in general), it wasn’t difficult to correlate Trump’s rhetoric with many of the national headlines. As bombastic as he was, he spoke to a largely disenfranchised middle and lower middle class –  those that have lost jobs to technology, failed to save for retirement, failed to see that the world was changing faster than they were, and blamed their demise on anybody but themselves.

Illegal immigrants got much of the blame. It’s unfortunate that it’s the same 20% of illegals that spoil it for the rest, because it’s just about that many that are criminals and drug dealers. The other 80% are simply trying to achieve a better life fleeing abject poverty, war and persecution.  They do not live off of government handouts. They work harder than most Americans can even imagine. Without them, there are many things that would quickly become unaffordable like housing. If builders had to pay union carpenters to frame homes at roughly $36/hr. instead of the $15-17/hr. they pay an illegal immigrant worker,  only the well-off could buy a home.

Why do you think so many things are made in foreign countries, not just China? It’s so Americans can afford to buy them. Many things that take manual labor to construct – shoes, clothing, electronics, and much of which you have in your home – is just too expensive to be “made in America.” And it won’t be until technology figures out how to automate those kinds of jobs that apparel manufacturing and the like will return to our shores.

And let’s not overlook retirement savings. For years, people have been told they should save for retirement. For those that worked for an organization that offered a good pension plan, you probably fared much better than those that didn’t. Of course, if you weren’t blessed with a company pension plan, you may have had a 401K plan available to you, and IRA’s have been around for many years now. And, of course, there’s the old bank savings account. But somehow a larger and larger TV set was more important, or that SUV with its $400/mo. payment was a necessity. Self-gratification was always more important than saving for a rainy day.

Trump speaks to his minions from perhaps the lowest level we have ever seen in a presidential candidate. He has captured the minds of those that have a very hard time thinking for themselves.  If he told them what to eat for dinner tonight, no doubt they would oblige him.

Not I. Eight years ago, I wanted Hillary to win the nomination. This year I will get my with, and I can’t wait to have the first woman president, something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. But then I never thought I’d see a black president either. Glory be!!