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An Actor for All Epics: Film icon passes, the danger of blogging 

A couple of cowboysHe was Moses, Ben-Hur, Michelangelo, El Cid, Andrew Jackson and John the Baptist, not to mention about a hundred other less-well-known historic

click to enlarge A couple of cowboys
  • A couple of cowboys
A couple of cowboysHe was Moses, Ben-Hur, Michelangelo, El Cid, Andrew Jackson and John the Baptist, not to mention about a hundred other less-well-known historic and fictional figures. But on the screen, Charlton Heston was always Charlton Heston.

Born Charlton Carter in Evanston, IL in 1923, Heston began his acting career on the stage and in TV and appeared in his first movie in 1950. His big break came two years later, when Cecil B. DeMille cast him in the circus movie The Greatest Show on Earth. But it was his performance as Moses in DeMille's 1959 epic The Ten Commandments that turned him into a Hollywood icon.

Other larger-than-life roles followed - notably as the title character in Ben-Hur, where Heston thrilled the kids with the famous chariot race scene (still considered one of the greatest action sequences ever filmed) and made their moms go weak in the knees by displaying his well-sculpted torso as a galley slave in a loincloth.


In an appraisal headlined "A Persona Carved in Stone," Washington Post critic Stephen Hunter called Heston "the last of the ramrod-straight, flinty, squinty, tough-as-old-hickory movie guys." (Not exactly true - Clint Eastwood is still around.)

The rap on Heston was that he was The Great Stone Face, a one-dimensional actor who brought an imposing presence to the screen and not much more. But that wasn't quite true either. Besides the kitschy sword-and-sandal spectacles for which he's best known, he turned in solid, if not exactly memorable, performances in such movies as Major Dundee, Will Penny and Touch of Evil, directed by Orson Welles.

Heston's political principles were not one-dimensional either. He was a staunch liberal in the 1950s and '60s, campaigning for Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy and getting involved in the fight against racism before it was fashionable in Hollywood. But later in life he backed Republican candidates like Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes and championed right-wing causes and organizations - notably the National Rifle Association, which he served as president from 1998 to 2003.

One of Heston's most memorable lines of this decade came when he held up a rifle at an NRA convention in 2000 and proclaimed: "From my cold, dead hands" - echoing the NRA slogan, "You'll take my gun when you pry it out of my cold, dead fingers."

Charlton Heston died Saturday at age 84 from complications of Alzheimer's disease. We don't know who was assigned to pry the gun out of his hands, but from what we know about Heston we bet that person had a hell of a hard time doing it.

Death by Blogging

A blogger's life is not an easy one. Endless hours hunched over a keyboard staring at a screen, the constant fear that some other blogger will beat you on a story, surviving on a diet of Cheetos and Red Bull - it all takes its toll.

It can even be fatal. Anyway, a story in the New York Times last week raised that possibility.

According to the Times, the blogger community has been alarmed by the recent, sudden deaths of two of its prominent members. Russell Shaw, 50, and Marc Orchant, 60, both of whom blogged about technology issues, dropped dead with heart attacks. A third blogger, Om Malik, recently had a heart attack at age 41, but survived.

"To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic," the Times wrote. "There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style."

Blogging has become the sweatshop industry of the 21st century. The Times said, because the incomes of paid bloggers often depend on how many posts they write and/or how many people click on what they post. Workplace stress is especially intense for tech bloggers, who are in constant 24/7 competition to get breaking news on their sites before other bloggers do.

Some bloggers say they thrive on the fast pace and the pressure. One of them is 22-year-old Matt Buchanan, who blogs for GizModo, a popular site about gadgets. He said he gets by on five hours of sleep a day and a diet of a protein drink stirred into his coffee.

"The fact I have a few thousand people a day reading what I write - that's kind of cool," he said.

Check back with us in 20 years, kid.

The Cruelest Retail Month

Well, they've done it again.

It's early April and the temperature is in the mid-30s, but if you look at the merchandise being offered in Bend stores you'd think it was the middle of July.

Swimsuits, pool toys and beach towels. Shorts, tank tops and flip-flops. Patio furniture and gas barbecues. Petunias and hanging fuchsia baskets.

It happens every year: As soon as the calendar says it's spring, our local retailers start pushing the summer merchandise. Which might not be such a bad thing in itself, except it painfully reminds us that we have another month and a half of cold, dreary winter to endure before things finally start to warm up around here.

Here's a tip for local retailers: This is not Portland, Salem or Ashland; and it sure as hell is not San Francisco, Los Angeles nor Santa Barbara. This is BEND, OREGON. It is NOT spring here, no matter what the calendar says. Spring will not get here until late May - if we're lucky.

So, please, have a little compassion. Do not torment us by showing us clothes and other summer stuff that we won't be able to enjoy until Memorial Day. Give us a chance to put away our fleece vests and Sorel boots before bringing out the Hawaiian shirts and Tevas.

And one other thing: Don't start putting out the snow blowers and tire chains in August either.

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