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Reka Forgach

Oz the Great and Powerful hits theatres

The latest Disney prequel is actually good!

Oz the Great and Powerful is Disney’s prequel to the classic 1939 gem, and foregoes the story of Dorothy Gale to reveal more about the pre-Oz life of Oscar Diggs (James Franco).  In the midst of a dazzling display of CGI and visual thrills, Oz the Great and Powerful also delivers a pretty good story to viewers, young and old alike. 

The star studded cast of Oz the Great and Powerful is, in this case, a marker of how wonderful this Disney original actually is.  As someone who trusts neither in the name-caliber of a movie, nor the ability of Disney to actually not ruin a modern childhood favorite of mine, I must admit that Oz the Great and Powerful, along with James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Zach Braff fully live up to the hype.

The Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow are replaced by a porcelain “China girl,” flying monkey bellhop and a munchkin herald, through which Oz the Great and Powerful actually manages to create a new generation of what will soon be classic Disney characters.  No doubt, we will see them popping up in Disney stores and McDonald’s toys the world over soon enough.

As for the story itself, Oz the Great and Powerful isn’t just some bland oatmeal and raisins weak offering to the altar of prequels, and certainly does a much better job of getting smiles and interest in the plot than the miserable resuscitation of Alice in Wonderland.  Oz the Great and Powerful is intriguing and even a little adult—parents will certainly appreciate the con-man struggling magician ladies man character of James Franco and the absolutely evil and masterful role of Rachel Weisz as the wicked witch.

Google celebrates Douglas Adams’ birthday with an honorary Google doodle

The brilliant comedian and sci-fi writer would have turned 61 today

Douglas Adams would have turned 61 today, an occasion the super search tool has honored in the only way it seems to know how, the boring yet sweet, personalized Google doodle.  The gift to Douglas Adams is fitting, as he is the mind behind the Googleplex Star Thinker.  That’s right, Douglas Adams appropriated that magic word first, and coined the Googleplex Star Thinker, a super-computer from the Seventh Galaxy of Light and Ingenuity that has the ability to calculate the trajectory of every single dust particle during a five-week Dangrabad Beta sand blizzard.

The Douglas Adams Google doodle is interactive, with many snippets from the Hitchhikers series that will certainly delight fans.  Tapping the elevator doors will reveal Douglas Adams’ famous paranoid android, Marvin.  The calculator/iPad looking thing plays scenes from the book any reader will immediately recognize, and the controls on the right take you to an automatic search of Douglas Adams on Google.

Little beknownst to many Douglas Adams readers who fell on the wagon post-movie, the Hitchhikers five-piece trilogy started off as a BBC comedy radio show, and was afterwards adapted to best-selling book form.  The move was not natural by the reluctant author, but much celebrated by his fans worldwide.  One famous Douglas Adams quote reads, “I love deadlines.  I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.”

Douglas Adams a huge number of best sellers, including “Restaurant at the End of the Universe,” “So Long and Thanks for All the Fish” and “Life, the Universe and Everything.”

Jim Valvano continues to move the world with his words after 20 years

The first ESPY saw the last public moments of a legend

Jim Valvano delivered one of the most iconic speeches in sports history 20 years ago today, summoning ethereal strength at the stage of the first ESPY awards in Madison Square Garden to inspire the world to continue the fight against cancer.  Even as cancer racked Jim Valvano and he was unsure he could even make it to the awards ceremony, he presented himself as strong and passionate in his 12 minute acceptance speech.

Jim Valvano became a sports icon as an North Carolina State basketball coach that made waves in the college sports community upset Houston’s Phi Slama Jama to win the national championship.

Less than a year before Jim Valvano took the ESPY stage in 1993 to accept the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award he was diagnosed with bone cancer.  Dick Vitale, a friend of Jim Valvano that encouraged and convinced him to make it to the awards show, thinks back, “I remember how sick Jimmy was that evening.  I honestly did not know how he was going to make it up to the stage, and I remember standing next to him, in total awe as he spoke.”

Jim Valvano overcame the immediate symptoms of his illness to inspire the sports community, cancer victims, and anyone that would listen to continue to live with positivity and passion.

“I just got one last thing, I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have,” Valvano said. “To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get your emotions going. To be enthusiastic every day and as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘Nothing great could be accomplished without enthusiasm,’ to keep your dreams alive in spite of problems whatever you have. The ability to be able to work hard for your dreams to come true, to become a reality.”

Jim Valvano started the V Foundation, which has raised over $120 million with the legacy and memory of the sports legend as its soaring inspiration.  Eight weeks after his speech, Jim Valvano passed away at age 47, but his resonating words, “Don’t give up.  Don’t ever give up!” live on to inspire the battle against cancer. 

Interested parties should call 1-800-4-JIMMY V to learn more and contribute.

Carlos Slim wins a little contest by Forbes called “The Richest Man in the Universe”

Carlos Slim tops the annual list of billionaires for the fourth year in a row

Carlos Slim is the king of Business Bros and CEOs for the fourth time in a row—unseating Bill Gates and the Microsoft machine in 2010 with his Mexican Telecom Empire.  Carlos Slim is settling into a somewhat traditional position on the Forbes list, this being his fourth year, however turnover happens and it happens fast.  One time Big 3 winner Warren Buffet has been bumped down to a still-incredibly-enviable fourth place, by Zara owner Amancio Ortega, proving the global obsession with endless basics is still incredibly acute.

Carlos Slim is worth $73 billion, and has a good lead in the game.  His gross earnings thus exceed Gates’ $67 billion by a comfortable margin, and have grown $4 billion since last year’s rankings.  Carlos Slim is notable for his venerable philanthropic endeavors.  The Mexican billionaire donates millions to education nonprofits and towards efforts to fight world hunger with Bill Gates.  Carlos Slim is most notably the CEO of America Movil, worth $36.3 billion.

Carlos Slim reigns supreme over a record 1,426 dollar billionaires—of which 210 are newbies, and 138 are women.  Despite horrific economic news, Carlos Slim and co. seem to have only gotten richer over the past year.  In a stunning display of satisfying karma, Facebook’s spot dropped notably this year (31 spots) as Mark Zuckerburg’s net worth declined by $4.2 billion.

Carlos Slim is a benefactor in many ways—he has taken the struggling Spanish soccer team Real Oviedo under his wing by buying a majority in the franchise.

Forecastle Festival is one of those third party candidates throughout festival season

The 11th annual Forecastle Festival lineup is announced– think about it

Forecastle Festival 2013’s line-up has been released, and for those of you raising your eyebrows like, “fore-what?,” you would do well to keep in mind the immediate “sold-out” response or lottery systems instituted by the elite of music festivals and take what you  can get.  Forecastle Festival was curated by Louisville native and My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James in 2013, and his new solo project will feature on this year’s bill.

The 11th annual three-day festival at Louisville’s Waterfront Park runs from July 12-14, the perfect mid-summer weekender for one time partiers or festie-followers alike.  Headliners of this years Forecastle Festival include Grammy Award winners The Black Keys, along with The String Cheese Incident and the Avett Brothers.  This writer is personally juiced for Forecastle Festival bringing together Animal Collective, The Flaming Lips, Old Crow Medicine Show and Big Boi under one roof—a feat that should have everyone scrambling for tickets regardless of name recognition.

Speaking of tickets selling out—what’s with the insane knee-jerk ticket buying going on worldwide?  Coachella’s first weekend sold out in, count ‘em, minutes, and that was with a, ahem, weaker line-up showing than the music giant is accustomed to.  Sasquatch wiped clean within short days after general tickets went on sale, and who knows how many Bonnaroo 2013 tickets abound for the taking.  Forecastle Festival tickets go on sale in April, so honestly, add it to your calendar, buy a ticket and assure yourself of at least one festival this year.

Dennis Rodman has a new franchise: US foreign relations

The retired NBA player dribbles his way into international relations history

Dennis Rodman, commonly referred to as “The Worm,” has actually met the suckling piglet of a threatening dictator Kim Jong Un in a whirlwind 2-day vacation to North Korea.  In a fit of eccentricity that would make his dear late father proud, Kim Jong Un partied with Dennis Rodman, retired NBA player, three other Harlem globetrotters, and a crew of Vice news reporters for two days, becoming the first Americans to ever personally meet the tyrant.  Dennis Rodman left the country with words of praise for Kim, smilingly reporting “I love the guy.  He’s awesome. He’s so honest.”  His human rights records do indicate that Dennis Rodman is right, Kim is brutally honest when it comes to his personal opinions and actions.

Despite the fact that 3.5 million North Koreans have starved to death in Kim’s country since 1995, there was more than enough libation and entertainment to go around to Dennis Rodman and crew.  The weekend was spent ice skating, watching basketball, watching North Koreans hula-hoop, and getting wasted. 

The U.S. State Department, in the meantime, is none too pleased with Dennis Rodman and his amazingly naïve review of whom they presently consider to be one of the biggest threats to homeland security.  The extent of Dennis Rodman diplomacy that went down over the weekend was a message that he passed along from Kim to President Obama, where the Korean chubster expressed a single desire: “he wants Obama to do one thing, call him.” 

That’s pretty much where the political dialogue between Kim and Dennis Rodman ended, giving evidence of the hyperbolic application of the phrase “basketball diplomacy” that has been attributed to this pretty much stunt news trip produced by Vice.  Vice itself has disclaimed that politics and foreign relations was never a priority in sending Dennis Rodman and co. to the geographic Fort Knox.  Michael Lombardo, executive producer for the HBO/Vice engineered expose explained, “This was always intended to be, ‘You know what, let’s get our camera into an isolated country that we hear about, we read about and yet is hard for us to even picture.’ ”

At this point, it’s unclear who is benefiting more from the positive propaganda of the trip: Dennis Rodman or Kim Jong Un.

Casimir Pulaski Day, aka world’s most indie holiday, in food, freedom and fun

266th Birthday of Casimir Pulaski is actually a big deal when you’re surrounded by Polish

Casimir Pulaski Day is not just a Sufjan Stevens song, it’s a real holiday, that comes with some work closings, deliciously exquisite Eastern European treats, and a horde of hardcore Chicago Polish being excited about being Polish.  Not that they ever really need an excuse.  Casimir Pulaski was a Polish soldier, who, back in the day, exhibited incredible military strategy during the Revolutionary War, helping your average American free themselves of the oppressive British yoke.  As of recently, Casimir Pulaski is an honorary United States citizen, thanks to Barack Obama signing a resolution 230 years after his death.

Like all Eastern European holidays, Casimir Pulaski Day has boiled down to a feeding frenzy, complete with its own gastronomic culture that entire restaurants devote special Casimir Pulaski Day menus too.  Casimir Pulaski Day delicacies include mince-meat stuffed cabbage rolls, ruby-red beet borscht, cucumber salad, sauerkraut, and the holiest of Polish holy, tender, doughy perogi.  I pray that my post-mortem birthday anniversary goes down in history surrounded by extravagant dining practices as well.  In the meantime, Happy 266th Casimir Pulaski!

In honor of the desires of the second largest Polish population in the United States, Casimir Pulaski Day sponsors a generous amount of closings throughout the city.  All Chicago public libraries and Chicago and Cook County government offices are closed.  Presumably so that employees can braise their cabbage rolls with the care that only a free 24-hour day period can afford them.

Suffering from a food coma? Tune in to Sufjan Stevens’ demo track of “Casimir Pulaski Day” to aid the digestion.

Sea Lamprey is New Jersey’s latest offertory monster to the world

The toothed terror of New Jersey shores debuts on Reddit

Sea Lamprey photos were not a trailer for the next revivalist Sci-Fi pulp movie, but instead terminology for that eyeless many-toothed wunder-monster a poor soul hooked while innocently fishing in New Jersey.  Reddit user jlitch posted pictures of the unidentified sea lamprey to an appreciative community of millions of viewers by now.  The sea lamprey is shown in all it’s teethed combined genitalia looking beauty with the beautifully succinct caption, “Friend…caught this fishing in NJ.”

This photo specimen of the sea lamprey beautifully displays the monster’s rows of predator’s teeth, with which the sea lamprey latches onto its prey and secretes digestive fluids to slowly eat away and break down their victims.  A typical sea lamprey is 2.5 to 3 feet in length, and apparently only one out of seven fish or humans are likely to survive a meeting with this gruesome gurgitator.  The sea lamprey is a native parasite in the waters of the northern Atlantic Ocean.

A spokesman of New York Department of Environmental Conservation was quoted as saying, “The photo doesn’t allow counting of gill openings (seven per side for sea lampreys), but based on size alone, this does appear to be a sea lamprey”.  The spokesmen also lamented Cutler’s (jlitch) rash dash for fame on Reddit, remarking that perhaps the New Jersey resident should have alerted authorities about the presence of this monstrous creature in neighborhood waters, rather than pandering to a community in which, let’s face it, you’ll be old sea who-sey news tomorrow.  Stay tuned for the sea lamprey revenge campaign, and please take heed and avoid New Jersey waters.

Melissa King is Delaware’s Fallen Angel

Beauty Pageant star resigns after [alleged] sex-tape is released

Melissa King seemed to have it all going for, in the Beauty Pageant sense of the term at least.  The (former) Miss Delaware answered all the questions right, and all the judges and even E! critics agree that she embodies all the poise and perfection fitting a Beauty Queen.  Melissa King is was in the National Society of High School Scholars, a gymnast and cheerleader, and “fell in love with giving back!” a long time ago.  Melissa King hopes to someday work for a big fashion magazine in New York.  Alas, Melissa King was the best cliché to win Ms. Delaware Teen USA.

Thus, her resignation through a lawyer could have been caused only by cataclysmic circumstances, and an alleged Melissa King sex tape seems to fit the bill.  Comments in a porn video containing a starring Melissa King look-alike allege that the beauty queen is the star, and the film is loosely based around a pageant star that “likes being on top.” 

In the clip from the video Melissa King, or her unfortunate doppelganger, answers her partner’s questioning why she decided to make a porno, with “I thought it’d be fun and it sounded like I needed the money.  So I just decided to do it.”  Hm.  Not very smart, giving back, or cheerleader-y.  Or at least that first part.

Melissa King, obviously panicked, has not released extended explanations after her resignation.  Melissa King’s Lawyer, J. Gregory Hannigan promised that “A statement will be issued, but not today.” 

If, perchance, a Melissa King opponent amazingly planted this video to undermine the competition – umm, more subtle Tanya Harding style – all this writer can say is, that’s cold.  As for Melissa King possibly having a porn star twin-status look-alike… Maybe a beauty queen shouldn’t have “one of those faces” that “everyone thinks they recognize.”

Mediterranean Diet could be an all-you-can-eat lifesaver

A new study gives olive oil and nuts a new place in the fight against heart disease

Mediterranean diet traditionally includes large amounts of olive oil, nuts, fish, fresh fruits and veggies that all pack an incredibly positive punch to your life span (25+ years is an exaggeration of course) by helping your body build up against heart disease and strokes.  A new large study from Spain has shown that the Omega-3 heavy Mediterranean diet of the sea basin’s residents have given them the gift of healthier hearts than the rest of the world.  Olive lovers and hummus eaters rejoice!

The latest study rounded of thousands of older adults with diabetes or at high heart risks and assigned two to a Mediterranean diet and one to a control diet centered around low-fat dairy products, grains and fruits and vegetables.  The study found a 30% correlation between a Mediterranean diet and longer heart health, as that many more members of the control group dropped off, while the nuts and olive oil guzzling Mediterraneans lived to drink another bottle of red wine (also for heart health of course).

Some drawbacks of the study admit that participants already lived in a Mediterranean country, and thus have been eating a Mediterranean diet to some extent for their entire lives.  Furthermore, all participants were already at a sufficient risk for a major cardiovascular event, which begs the question, how will a Mediterranean diet affect the non-Italian with average heart health?

The biggest difference in this study was its focus on certain types of food, instead of on calorie cutting.  Participants were allowed to consume as many calories of Mediterranean diet deliciousness as their diabetes suffering bodies desired, however olive oil or nuts were to be a major contender in most of their meals. Says Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. “One of the advantages of the Mediterranean diet is that most people find it is easy to stay with for the long run, because it offers great variety, satiety and enjoyment.”

The miracle element? Omega-3 fatty acids that are found in high concentrations in salmon and walnuts.  Unlike saturated nasty fats from fried dough and meats, Omega-3 fatty acids give your heart a shiny gloss of protection, boosting its life and tenacity.  Given that most people fighting heart disease have a hard time cutting back on their daily food intake, Mediterranean diet could be an incredibly effective player in fighting cardiovascular trauma in the global heart disease population.  Bon appetit!