Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Oz: The Great and Powerful, a fantastic movie for families

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Oz: The Great and Powerful is a fantastic movie for families

I love films that take popular movies and brings the audience to the front story, or the pre-quel, if you will. This is exactly what Oz: The Great and Powerful is all about. It has a great lineup of talent:

Mila Kunis (Theodora)
Mila Kunis
Michelle Williams (Glinda the Good Witch)
Michelle Williams
Glinda the Good Witch
Rachel Weisz (Evanora)
Rachel Weisz

Mila Kunis has the toughest role playing a good witch with a black heart who is drawn into evil by her sister, Evanora, played by Rachel Weisz. Michelle Williams plays Glinda, the Good Witch and James Franco plays the Wizard of Oz, a magician and con man who finds his place in the world.

It has a fascinating parallel to the original Wizard of Oz. Like Dorothy, Franco is wisked up in a hot air balloon during a tornado and thrown into Oz where he first meets with with Theodora and later Evanora and then Glinda.

The people of Oz are being terrorized but it's not clear who the real evil is. That's where the Wizard of Oz finds his place in goodness.

It has many "call-backs" from the original film, including when the Wizard gives his friends what they have always wanted, commonsense gestures that can make important impressions on life.

I love this film. It was perfect for my son, who is 12. The 3D version was phenomenal with all the flying monkeys -- whoa re far more frightening than the original movie. And there is a new crop of "little people" who play the singing Munchins.

Ignore the professional movie critics who waste a lot of our time on things that don't matter, and are heavily lobbied and often bought-off by the movie industry that gives them the screeners, free movie passes and more.

This is a great film.

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Health club re-visited

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I joined a health club at the end of last summer, and I felt good. My waist even trimmed down. 
I'd be up at 5, out by 5:30 and workout for just over one hour. Back to the computer and back to work. Every day. Every week.

But then came Thanksgiving, Christmas and two vacations and I was AWOL from the early morning routines.

Yesterday, I returned to Lifetime partially out of guilt and partially out of economic sense. And mostly because my gut had returned.

But what struck me was that after being away from the health club for almost three months, I noticed that everyone I had left and now re-encountered all looked exactly the same. Seriously. It was like I never left. That I'd been there the morning before and was now back on the treadmill and everyone from the skinny blond to the heavy set old guy looked exactly the same
Did they all also take time off from exercise? Or maybe, the benefits of the health club are all internal.
The way I see it now, your weight depends on your age and how much you eat. The older you get the slower your metabolism and the food hangs around longer. You gain weight in segments. Weight gain has been a step process for me that directly equates to my age.
I never exercised but my health has always been great -- except when I had heart valve surgery, which had more to do with genetics than a poor unhealthy lifestyle.
Then I got older. And that's when the weight started to add on. Little by little. About 15 pounds for every 15 years of life starting with my 20s. It didn't matter how I ate. I could never gain weight. Then one day in my early 40s, it just started to happen.
The treadmill and the weight machines make me feel good, even if my weight only drops a little. And that must be the same for everyone else. They all looked exactly the same. No one changed. No one had any dramatic physical change int heir appearance between when I left in November and returned this week in March. Not one person.
Exercise is a lifestyle choice. It does help, especially if you are having physical problems beyond just weight gain. Weight gain can stress the system, for sure but exercise can help off-set the downside of weight gain. I've given up the idea of returning to my 32 inch waist. But I'll get close. Because exercise also creates a larger regiment of self-control including being more conscious of what I eat and how I eat.
Diets don't work well. But eating habit changes can make a difference. I don't eat after 6 pm any more. I eat a big breakfast and nice lunch.
So'll I'll keep going to the Health Club, but with more realistic goals. I'll do my best to stay healthy, but losing weight won't be the priority. Managing weight will.
-- Ray Hanania

Friday, March 1, 2013

Analysis: Why Larry Dominick won 3rd term

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Analysis: Why Larry Dominick won 3rd term
By Ray Hanania
(Dominick’s spokesman and media consultant)
There was an overwhelming and intentional push by the news media to disparage Larry Dominick, former 43-year Cicero policeman and town worker who won re-election on Feb. 26 to a third term as the Town’s President.
Cicero has always been the target of the media’s biased rage, usually by either ethically challenged reporters (many with personal ties to Cicero’s critics) or by journalists who have no time to do basic research of facts anymore.
Yet despite the doom and gloom predicted by the news media, and the often outrageous charges from Dominick’s two opponents that were often bull-horned by the biased news media, Dominick won re-election with in a massive 2 to 1 landslide.
Here’s how I believe Dominick won and his opponents, Juan Ochoa and Joe Pontarelli, lost.
The number one reason is that Larry Dominick had a clear message that showcased his accomplishments.
In contrast, Dominick’s opponents embraced a message of anger, hatred and vengeance pushed by the former Town President Betty Loren-Maltese, the former convicted felon who was sent to prison in January 2003 and served 7 years for stealing $12 million in taxpayer money in the early 1990s.
The critics focused on Dominick’s personal life, citing false reports in the Chicago Sun-Times and other media. Their message was a personal attack on Dominick rather than an explanation of what they would bring to Cicero
Critics also turned to racism and falsely accused Dominick of being anti-Mexican and anti-Hispanic because he is White and the Town is 80 percent Hispanic.
The vast majority of the 9,665 votes cast were from Hispanics. That means Dominick won the Hispanic vote, along with the small White ethnic vote in Cicero. During his 8 years in office, Cicero has hired Hispanics at a 75 percent job rate, higher than anyone before. It was a fact ignored by the mainstream news media and the equally biased Hispanic media that continued to chant that voters should elect a leader based on race, rather than performance.
Dominick, however, offered a stronger, clearer and more positive message that connected with voters of all races, White, Hispanic, Black and others.
In fact, Dominick, whose step-mother of 25 years is African American, launched Cicero’s first ever public commemoration of the birthday honoring the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., something no one would ever have thought could be done in Cicero. And, it is an event that the news media has never bothered to cover, either.
While publishing one negative and false story after another, the news media ignored covering the positive events and activities, events that the residents of Cicero could see but that the media ignored. That helped undermine the media’s campaign against Dominick, too.
Dominick’s message was built on a cornerstone of having waged a successful war against Street Gang related crimes since his first election in 2005. In 2004, before he was elected, Cicero had 14 street gang related murders. In the past 27 months, Cicero has had only two street gang related killings.
Dominick repeated that one street gang related killing was “one too much,” but residents could see a dramatic decline in Street Gang related activity.
Additionally, Dominick’s message built upon the message of safety, noting that safety in a community brings many benefits including: attracting 24 new businesses to relocate into Cicero; expanding public festivals and programs for families during summer months gang free; expanding town programs for seniors, families, youth and a new program to hire the disabled without increasing taxes or fees; building more parks and recreations like the Bobby Hull Community Ice Rink; building new capital projects such as the new Town Hall, new streets and lighting technology for residents, and unveiling the improved METRA Train station; and, eliminating the massive debt that Loren-Maltese and her handpicked successor, Ramiro Gonzalez, left on the town totaling more than $190 million.
Residents could easily see more new businesses coming to Cicero. Why would they come to Cicero is the Town had the problems being falsely claimed by the biased news media or Dominick’s critics.
The critic’s charges made no sense to residents and voters.
New businesses included Cloverhill Bakery, Sonic, Fuller, Wirtz Beverage Illinois and the groundbreaking for the new Walmart. These are just a few of the new businesses that in the long term not only bring more tax revenues to off-set increases on residents but also produce jobs.
Ochoa was beset with many problems. He was the former head of the controversy-plagued McPier Authority, appointed to that post by disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich.
Ochoa had lived in Chicago but when the time came to move to the suburbs, he had a chance to choose Cicero years ago. Instead, he chose Berwyn, playing into the racist fears that the media perpetuates falsely that somehow Berwyn is a better community than Cicero. It is not.
Only when he decided to run for office did Ochoa allegedly rent an apartment in Cicero.
Ochoa also did not have a natural Cicero voter base. Despite being Mexican American, Ochoa lost the Mexican American vote in Cicero overwhelmingly. He lost it because he openly allied himself with U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who is Puerto Rican and has failed to fully represent Mexican Americans in his congressional district during his 20 year failed reign as congressman.
The district is 70 percent Mexican American and 12 percent Puerto Rican with the remainder White, Black and other. Gutierrez and Ochoa undermined themselves when they argued that Dominick should not be re-elected because the majority of Cicero residents are Mexican and Dominick is White.
That racist attack could easily then apply to Ochoa and Gutierrez. Using the same racist argument that they used against Dominick, why would Ochoa then back a Puerto Rican in an 80 percent Mexican American district?
The reason is that race was only a factor to Ochoa and Gutierrez, but not to he vast majority of Cicero voters.
Gutierrez was Ochoa’s single largest campaign donor, which explains the congressman’s heavy-handed influence on issues and loss-factors. Gutierrez has a history of exploiting divisions in the Mexican American community, usually with little success.
Last year, Gutierrez backed four Mexican American candidates against four other Mexican candidates and all four were defeated in the election, including Rudy Lozano Jr., who lost to Silvana Tabares in the State representative race.
Gutierrez’s role in Ochoa’s defeat is significant. It was Gutierrez who brought in the “leaders” of the Latin Kings to help work Ochoa’s campaign. These street gang leaders created an obvious contrast that Dominick was able to exploit.
All of the gang leaders working for Ochoa are listed in the latest copy of the Chicago Crime Commission Street Gang Book, 350 pages of photographs and pictures of people who often claim they are no longer in gangs but authorities continue to identify as leaders and activists in the street gang crime organization.
Mainstream media ignored this important factor, or always referred to it by saying it was an accusation that Ochoa denied.
The role Gutierrez and Ochoa gave to Latin King street gang leaders handed Dominick an opportunity to showcase his own record on fighting crime and spotlighted Dominick’s success against street gangs.
The Chicago Sun-Times led the Ochoa campaign with a series of stories that falsely and inaccurately report the facts:
There never was $120,000 for hotdogs, but rather $120,000 spent over an 8 year period to purchase food, refreshments and condiments that were provided to residents at public festivals free of charge.
Cicero’s population does not enjoy the same economic benefits that many of the Sun-Times editors enjoy. Many are poor families.
Dominick also gave away thousands of turkeys purchased from his campaign fund and gave them to Cicero families at Thanksgiving and at Christmas.
Dominick donated tens of thousands of clothing items over the years including coats, hats, gloves to the children of these needy families, something they appreciated and needed.
The Sun-Times, and Ochoa, attacked those charitable programs and public activities.
Two years ago as a direct result of Dominick’s programs, the Houby Day Parade saw a dramatic increase in the number of attendees who came out to the annual Czech parade. More than 25,000 people attended and enjoyed the Fall event that marched down Cermak Road through Cicero. Although it was a Czech Parade, more than 75 percent of the public turnout was Hispanic.
Instead of noting that important fact, the Sun-Times chose to instead write a front page story that Cicero had purchased “rubber chickens” to give away to the crowd.
Yes, Cicero did purchase 250 rubber chickens, which were handed out by the parade grand marshall, Rick Koz who plays “Son of Svengooli” on TV. Koz is from Berwyn and rubber chickens are his handout gimmick.
Juan Ochoa lost because he bought into the lies, the exaggerations and the hatred of Loren-Maltese, the Chicago Sun-Times and the politically inept agenda of Congressman Gutierrez.
What Ochoa failed to buy into, though, were the needs of Cicero’s residents.
From seniors, to youth, and families to ethnic groups, Larry Dominick got his message of success to all of them, and especially to the Hispanic Community which is no different than any other community when it comes to needs. They, too, like everyone else, want safety for their kids and families, an economic environment that can help stimulate jobs at a time when the nation is in economic turmoil, and opportunity.
When it came down to the media’s failure, what was most important to voters was not the media’s exaggerated claim of “hot dogs and turkeys.” Rather, what resonated with voters was their concern for “safety and services.”
The disgruntled anger and vicious slander from disgraced former president Betty Loren-Maltese only made voters look more skeptically at Ochoa. After all, a judge ordered Betty to repay Cicero taxpayers her portion of the $12 million she helped steal, something she has failed to do.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall Reporter (1976-1992) and president of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting. President Larry Dominick is one of his clients. Reach him at http://www.UrbanStrategiesGroup.com.)