Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Remembering Mosquito spraying in the 1960s

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Many suburban communities through Cook and DuPage Counties will be spraying for mosquitoes because of fears stemming from the West Nile Virus outbreaks.

Dozens of people have become infected with West Nile Virus, and several have died. The virus is carried by mosquitoes. The virus was first associated with Africa, the Middle East and Asia and first appeared in the United States in New York in 1999. It's been an annual health threat ever since.

Local governments have arranged to have their communities sprayed to kill mosquitoes that might be carrying the virus. This year has been particularly deadly with more than 66 fatalities nationally. Incidents of the virus are increasing exponentially, up 40 percent from last week and expanding.

It's become of particular concern in Cook and DuPage Counties following the death of some noted celebrities including the Village President of Lombard, Bill Mueller.

When I was a child, we had never heard of West Nile Virus. People did die from the flu virus and other infections, many thought to have been spread by mosquitoes during rainy summer months. Although this year in Chicagoland has been dry, with a drought across the country, the last few weeks have brought rains, pooling water and a sudden increase in mosquitoes.

Government efforts to combat the virus include driving trucks spraying a "fog" consisting of chemicals including Envion, which is most commonly used to kill mosquito larvae and mosquitoes with carry the virus. Envion is not considered dangerous. As a child, the county used DDT and sprayed it twice a summer at the start and at the end driving the truck through neighborhoods up and down streets until the entire city was covered.

The truck was large and white, and it had a tube that extended from the back that spray the heavy gray-white fog into the air as it drove down the street. As children, we used to drive out bikes next to the truck, grabbing on to the truck and to the other kids on their bikes who were holding on to the truck as the DDT saturated our faces, hair and noses.

It wasn't healthy but back then, no one really cared. Never mind that riding a bike while holding on to the side of a big truck driving down a street was considered pretty dangerous, too, and still is.

Nowadays, the idea of having the chemical sprayed in the air has raised fears among parents. So local officials from government and schools have been doing "robo-calls" to alert parents that spraying will take place in suburban communities, usually after 8 pm and closer to the curfews to minimize contact with humans who presumably are in their homes.

Hopefully, it will work.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Unique pictures of Chicago's Black Squirrel

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One of my absolute favorite animals by far is a special Black Squirrel which is unique to Chicago. So far in my lifetime, I have only seen one on the north side of Chicago near where I do my Sunday morning radio show.

Squirrels can be annoying. And given that the vast majority that I have seen are an ugly, boring gray, they are not very popular. The urban legends, which may or may not be true, is that if a squirrel bites you, you'll have to get that series of painful rabies shots. Of course, most squirrels run when approached by humans, but will fight with rabbits and crows, so the odds of knowing whether that is true or not are pretty high.

But a Black squirrel is a beautiful sight. Amazing fur and deep black. It stands out. You can't miss it.

The Black color makes the squirrel look a lot less like a "rat," and more of a potential pet.. Maybe that's why over the past 300 years, the population of black squirrels has diminished to the point where they are so rare. People either killed them for the fur or trying to capture them. Squirrels do not like to be caged at all and will go berserk and screech like a demon until released.

A few years back, I had two squirrels in the throes of matrimony apparently chew their way through the sofit and facia to get into the roof of my home. They seemed to love to prance around during the day collecting nuts and acting nutty but at night they were raising a real noisy ruckus. So I had to try to flush them out of the house and back into their usual nest of browned leaves twined together by sticks and string they collect. (And maybe so squirrel spit, too.)

They just refused to leave.

So, I checked to make sure there were no babies in the roof and waited until I could confirm they were both inside. When they were, I closed the opening, and stuck my hand into the roof with two cans of insect fogger and filled it up. Within a minute, outside, the stuffing in the whole pushed out and the squirrels jumped out of the hole onto the roof screaming like hyenas. One after the other.

They were mad. But as soon as I knew they were out, I permanently closed the opening to keep them out using "Stuff," the foaming junk that sprays and grows and hardens. Then I had to spend $3,500 to re-do the gutters, sofit and facia around the entire house.

Here are some pictures of the Black Squirrel to which I have rededicated this column to reflect my Chicagoland upbringing.


Saturday, August 04, 2012

Total recall, the remake is a fantastic SciFi feature film

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Don't listen to the movie critics who are trashing the new remake film "Total Recall" starring Colin Farrell. The movie critics are much like the journalists and media types who have been trashing the HBO TV series "The Newsroom." People in creative industries often don't like the successes of others because they didn't do them. It's the downside of creativity. Envy. HBO's "The Newsroom" is a realistic look at the hypocrisies of today's media and "Total Recall" is a reflection of how a great idea can be converted into another great idea.

There are three ways to make a movie that has already been made. The first is to remake it precisely to the story line, adding only the advancements of our new technologies. The second is to make a sequel, which is what I always prefer, a follow through of a great movie. The third one is to take a great movie, use the same concept and story line and adapt it and the story and that is exactly what Producer Toby Jaffe has done. 

Total Recall with Colin Farrell is a different version of the 1990 Total Recall starring Arnold Schwarzenegger

The story lines are similar but the facts of the story have changed dramatically. The digital technology advances have made this new version a spectacular film worth seeing. Kate Beckinsale plays Lori Quaid the "wife" of unsuspecting secret agent Douglas Quaid whose memories and skills come alive after visiting Total Rekall (spelled with a K), a place where people of the future can go to get the "memories" of an exciting vacation, past life or experience they have never had but always wanted. Jessica Biel plays his partner who is working with the resistance. Beckinsale plays a much tighter sinister role than Sharon Stone, although Biel is easily matched by Rachel Ticotin's original 1990 role.

Missing is the exploding "fat" woman, the talking robot Johnny Cab, and the mini-Siamese little face that is conjoined and comes out of the revolutionary's stomach. The three-breasted woman is there and they made her far better looking than the old role. 

But Doug Quaid is already a secret agent with a mind control plant suppressing his memories and his visit to Total Rekall brings out his secret agent skills through 118 minutes of non-stop excitement and film energy.

You know where the film is going if you saw the original Schwarzenegger film of 1990, but the details are as different as night and day. Even the story location between the Federation and the "Colony" are significantly different. 

This is a far better film than "The Dark Knight Rises," the Batman follow-through.

I know you will enjoy it.

-- Ray Hanania