For The Record
Already time for Christmas decorations? – November 1, 2012
They are busy as elves, hanging wreaths and ornaments on the shelves and erecting artificial trees down the aisles.
Some customers roll their eyes in disbelief that Santa Claus’ red carpet is being rolled out onto the sales floor, before the Halloween costumes are put away. I’m not one of those customers.
I admit the music can grow tired, but I’m a fan of Christmas decorations. I like that the holiday stuff springs out early, because it allows me to budget and purchase decorations during a different time frame than gift shopping.
The key to any great holiday décor is theme. This year my wife and I are decorating our place around penguins and reindeer. She was also raised in a home where tinsel and snowy treasures exploded from boxes the day after Thanksgiving.
Here are some ways to prepare for the holiday season.
The simplest way to change the vibe of a room is to rotate the decorative accents. Items like throw pillows, the coffee table runner and other trinkets can be replaced with similar items featuring holiday patterns, characters or colors. Stick to a theme though, whether it’s the Nativity or “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”
Choosing the best scents for your room can also boost your holiday spirit. A lot of people are using Scentsy devices to create seasonal fragrances throughout their living space. The aroma of candy canes, pumpkin spice, sugar cookies or vanilla are perfect for the holidays.
I’ve invested in “jollying-up” our kitchen and bathroom, too. Decorative hand towels, soap dispensers and oven mitts are easy to rotate and add holiday flair to the rooms.
Winter can be cold, cruel and hard. We can combat it by embracing the holiday spirit and allowing the joy of cartoon penguins and Christmas elves to thaw away the frost.
Sean V. Lehosit
Dumping a bucket of blocks on the floor – September 26, 2012
When I was a kid, I remember dumping a bucket of red, blue, white and green blocks on the carpet and building ugly castles with my younger brother. The structures we built were crude to say the least.
Earlier this month my wife and I went grocery shopping and I wandered off to scope out the movie section, as I tend to do. That’s when the LEGOs caught my eyes. I was impressed by how the toy line has evolved.
The LEGO aisle was filled with dozens of themed sets, from Harry Potter to Star Wars. The pieces are beyond mere blocks, they are intricate set constructions from pivotal scenes from the films. Kids these days can build Hogwarts Castle or Jedi starfighters.
While my brother and I played with ambiguous LEGO people, these sets were accessorized with LEGO versions of popular characters from these movie franchises. I was impressed.
There are thousands of applications that can be downloaded on electronic devices, but I hope today’s youth don’t miss out on the joys of dumping blocks on the floor.
My great-grand uncle and the French Foreign Legion – August 30, 2012
Josef was 17 years old when World War I broke out. He had been living in America for three years.
According to documents from Ellis Island, he left the United States in 1917. Josef joined the French Foreign Legion.
In the book, “The Great Events of the Great War,” author Vladimir Nosek said Czecho-Slovaks throughout the world felt dutied to prove allegiance to the Triple Entente, which was a counterweight to the alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy.
A year after the war ended, Josef boarded the S.S. Chicago from Bordeaux, France with a few dozen volunteer soldiers. They made the trip back to America on the French government’s dime.
Three years later he and his wife, Mary Saliga, had their first daughter, Ann.
I interviewed Ann and her brother, Emory, a couple years ago. They said Josef chose to fight because he believed in America.
I was told his health suffered for years, due to mustard gas attacks. They retold stories of the front, how men were not given enough ammunition, and were forced into battle with only bayonets.
I admire the bravery of my great grand uncle. Cousins from that branch of the family moved to Idaho. They enjoyed the fresh air and open country.
Someday I hope to catch a glimpse of Josef’s legion uniform, which I’m told was donated to an Idaho museum.
In the 1920s, my great-grand uncle was seen as a teenage immigrant from a peculiar country.
I see him as a patriot.
Early bird v. the night owl – August 15, 2012
I was an early morning riser in my youth. There was no other choice, though. School began at the crack of dawn and I was a bus rider.
I’d wake up, eat some waffles and watch a few cartoons before heading out the door and walking four blocks to the bus stop.
My sleep patterns shifted during college. My courses started no earlier than noon and I was up all night writing papers. I remained a night owl after graduating, too.
About three weeks ago I changed my sleep habits, again. For the first time in years I made an effort to get in bed before midnight. Now I beat the birds out of bed, even when I can sleep late.
I’ve noticed positive changes since adopting an early bird lifestyle. My energy levels have risen, my mood is better and my place is cleaner. The stillness of the early morning helps focus chores and other errands.
I’m sure there is a scientific reason a morning person can complete in three hours what takes another person four or five.
It’s a combination of my metabolism getting a jumpstart, cortisol levels and brain hormones. These are all terms we’ve heard before.
I forgot what it felt like to be an early bird. While there’s better television on for the night owls, I’ll continue waking up at 5 a.m. and see how it treats me.
Sean V. Lehosit
How the 1930s radio phenomenon is replicated through podcasting – July 18, 2012
In Bruce Lenthall’s book, “Radio’s America,” he writes about how in the 1930s the popularity of household radios transformed the United States. Americans found a way to address the challenges of their changing culture.
Radio provided mass communication and entertainment. Its importance in the culture is noted by the fact the 1930 U.S. Census recorded whether or not each household owned a radio.
Listening to news programs, radio dramas and sports programs, families congregated around the talking box and plugged into a pulpit that reached the masses.
For many Americans the radio was a low cost distraction during the Great Depression that opened the world to those who could not afford a newspaper, tickets to the opera or baseball game.
It’s not hard to empathize with that generation. Issues of unemployment, the rise in living costs and price of a movie ticket have driven modern Americans to find new ways to get plugged in.
This phenomenon of the radio is reproduced in modern times through podcasts, which are episodic audio programs downloaded through digital means.
According to The Pew Research Center, approximately 70,000 podcasts were released in 2010.
The majority of programs fall under categories of music, technology and comedy. The statistics show listenership is around 23 percent of Americans, when only 45 percent of the population is aware of the existence of podcasts.
I enjoy podcasts and find them an alternative to television. Especially, during the summer when I’m waiting for programs to return in the fall.
I’ve created a list of five podcasts I recommend:
• The Mutant Season is an intriguing podcast hosted by Gil, a 9-year-old who talks with grown-ups about their jobs. He interviews celebrities like Kevin Eastman, co-creator of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” but also talks to representatives from organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council on topics like climate change and electric cars.
• Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend is a show about relationships. Topics range from the dos and don’ts of dating to dealing with social criticism. Rosen features guests who are actors, authors and in the entertainment industry.
• How Did This Get Made? reviews films scorned by critics and audiences and tears them apart. They tackle blockbuster flops, independently made train wrecks and movies that we love to hate. Occasionally they get cast or crew members from the movie to come on the show.
• Fat Man On Batman is the latest project by filmmaker, Kevin Smith. This is obviously for Batman fans. Each show runs around two hours long and showcases people who are involved with Batman franchises like the animated series, comic books and other properties.
• Nerdist Writers Panel is a panel style question and answer show. Writers from a similar genre or the same television show are interviewed about their writing process. The guests work on popular programs like “The Walking Dead” and “Community.”
All of these podcasts can be streamed online or downloaded through iTunes for free.
What happened to all the bookstores? – June 5, 2012
On the way back from Logan I stopped near River Valley Mall, because I was famished. I stared from a restaurant window and wondered if the shopping center had a bookstore. The answer was no.
In a few years I’ll be forced to purchase an electronic tablet or eReader. After Walden Books and Borders went bankrupt, its outlet locations dissapeared from the areas I frequent.
I now must drive 15-20 minutes out of the way to find a bookstore and deal with parking. I also like to shop like a sharpshooter. I walk in knowing what I want – grab it, buy it and leave.
I don’t feel the time and fuel spent on traveling is worth just a single purchase or two.
While places like Half Price Books and the Book Loft are wonderful stores, their lack of a records system means I could either find too many interesting books (and spend too much money) or spend hours looking for a title that’s not in stock.
When I was younger I was more open to browsing, but I never had to make a big trip out of it. There were places on the Westside with a large book selection – namely, you could drive down the road to Westland Mall or Media Play.
My resistance to new technologies is purely nostalgia, even though I’m quick to come around.
So much has changed since I was a kid, and I’m not even that old.
You no longer find comics on grocery store shelves, rent movies on the television, play board games on your phone miles away from friends, and vampires have empathy.
Like I said, I’m sure I’ll come around.
Divorced from nature too long – May 7, 2012
We’ve become divorced from nature and can forget how therapeutic it can be.
The other night it was storming. The pellets of rain tapped heavily against my windows and claps of thunder rolled over the skyline seen from my backyard.
Sadly, the storm ended before I went to bed. I was disappointed in losing out on the lullaby, as the soothing sound had already made my eyes droopy.
Then the thought occurred to me, why not create my own thunderstorm? I reasoned iTunes would have a selection of natural sounds.
I browsed pages of sounds, ranging from whale songs, to crashing waves and rainstorms. I previewed a half dozen various clips and bought my favorites for a dollar each.
I played the rainstorm on loop and fell asleep within 15 minutes. I had the best night sleep I’ve had in years. Even when I briefly woke, the calming sounds of rain helped cushion me back to sleep.
I’ve always heard people use nature sounds as sleep aids, but I never realized how well they work – better than any over the counter prescription.
You will wake up refreshed, revived and relaxed.
The following week I told all my friends about my new found discovery. To my surprise most of them said they already use natural sounds to help them sleep.
Perhaps I’m late with this discovery, but nonetheless, I’m happy to have finally figured it out. In fact, I’ve found myself looking forward to bedtime more - anxious to drift asleep to the sounds of thunder and rain.
Sean V. Lehosit
Avenger's Unite! Four years in the waiting – April 25, 2012
When I was young I had a weekly pull at a local comic book shop. At the time you could pick up a dozen comics for only 10 bucks.
I gave up the hobby right before high school, but not because I no longer enjoyed it or because it wasn’t yet popular to be a comic book nerd. Rather, comic book prices nearly doubled and crossover stories required you to purchase four or five titles just to follow along a single story arch.
Years later my passion for superheroes and dastardly villains was reinvented through the popularity of comic book movies.
Everyone I knew became caught up in seeing our favorite comic book characters brought to life on the big screen – so perhaps the collective circle of comic book nerds was larger than first imagined.
Few would argue the most anticipated comic book movie is “The Avengers,” which opens on May 4.
I’d be surprised if it doesn’t break some box office records, with fans of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Incredible Hulk combining their ticket buying power into a single film.
Fans have been anticipating the release of “The Avengers” since 2008 when “Iron Man” first hinted at the movie via a post-credits teaser.
Since then we’ve had four additional movies to serve as appetizers, and with more sequels in the can, there’s no end to the franchise in sight.
I’ll probably end up at the midnight showing for “The Avengers,” since I’ve invested around four years waiting for its release.
I’m not the biggest fan of midnight showings, mainly for two reasons – the first is teenagers who act obnoxious because they’re excited to be out past midnight.
Secondly, when the movie is finished the three or four auditoriums featuring the movie all let out at once, so hundreds of people are trying to leave the parking lot at once.
However, I’m so stoked for this movie that I’m not even worried about any of that.
There will be plenty of time to stew when I’m sitting in my car at 2:30 a.m. wondering why the theatre hasn’t employed a person to direct traffic.
One million plastic bags every minute – April 11, 2012
A friend of mine recommended an Earth Day documentary to me, but I couldn’t find it on Netflix Instant. I did find a fascinating film called “Bag It,” which follows a man named Jeb Berrier.
Berrier was inspired to learn how plastic product affect the environment after his town in Colorado competed with another town to see who could reduce their plastic footprint. What he discovered was persuasive.
I was most surprised by learning the building blocks for plastic are either natural gas or oil, and the U.S. uses 1 million plastic bags every minute – 500 billion per year.
In one year the U.S. uses 17 million barrels of oil to manufacture plastic bottles, which generates 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide. Also, an average American contributes 800 pounds of plastic packaging to the waste stream annually.
Eric Goldstein from the Natural Resource Defense Council, said while plastic bags are convenient for a couple minutes or hours, they remain an environmental burden for hundreds of years.
Elizabeth Griffin, a senior scientist for Oceana, said an estimated 6 million pieces of litter enter the ocean every day, the majority of that litter being plastic. This is possible because 80 percent of that litter comes from land-based sources and affects more than 260 species of wildlife.
Many countries have already banned or placed heavy taxes on plastic bags or products. After Ireland placed a 22-cent tax on plastic bags in grocery stores the use of those products dropped by 90 percent, Berrier said.
The reason countries such as Ireland or Australia are taking action is because plastic is clogging up waterways and wrecking havoc on infrastructure – clogging up storm drains and damaging sanitation.
Several states and territories in the U.S. have tried to model bans or taxes after European legislation. Alaska has been successful, but many places like California or the District of Columbia had initiatives blocked by the American plastic industry and its lobbyists.
I don’t think the average person can reasonably avoid all plastic products. The documentary did challenge me to take a step back and evaluate if I could reduce the amount of plastic ending up in my ecosystem.
Don't be fooled by the spaghetti trees – March 28, 2012
One of the funniest pranks I ever read about was pulled by the BBC in 1957, when the news organization reported farmers in Switzerland had harvested record breaking amounts of crops from their spaghetti trees.
Viewers were fooled by the segment, not questioning it for a second, since the piece was narrated by broadcaster Richard Dimbleby.
The audience had no reason to think the man who covered numerous royal ceremonies and world events – like the erection of the Berlin Wall – would pull a fast one on a respected television program.
Close to 8 million people watched the broadcast and hundreds of them reportedly rang the BBC to inquire about how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. That may sound bonkers, but at the time pasta was an uncommon dish to find in England in the 1950s and the public wasn’t well educated on where the noodles came from.
About 10 years later the BBC launched another gag against their viewers. This time they aired a special interview that showcased a technology called “Smell-o-vision,” which allowed the television to “broadcast” aromas.
According to BBC executives, viewers called in and confirmed they successfully smelled the chopped onions and brewed coffee featured on the program.
It just goes to show you should be cautious what you believe on April 1. Undoubtedly, it’s not a day to make big announcements or release new information to people. I don’t have any gags planned for my friends or family, but I wonder if any of them have a ruse planned for me.
I’ll be on my toes. Especially when browsing the world news reported by the BBC.
What clues hide within the 1940 U.S. Census? – March 12, 2012
Genealogy is one of my favorite pastimes, so I’m excited that in less than a month the 1940 U.S. Census will be released to the public.
(The law requires 72 years to pass before census documents can become open to the public.)
The census is a powerful tool for uncovering family history. My family emigrated to the U.S. from Austria-Hungary, in the area of present day northern Slovakia, just a little over a century ago.
The census enables me to reconstruct the lives of my ancestors, from how they worked in the coal mines of West Virginia, to what language they spoke at the dinner table and who were the members of their community.
In 1940, the second generation of Slovak Americans had reached adulthood and through the hard lives of the first generation, made it out of the mining industry and were able to obtain work in the factories – jobs that were difficult, but much less fatal.
Having access to the 1940 census allows me to piece together the second chapter of my ancestors. One such example is that of Christine Voytusak, my first cousin twice removed. She was the second child of my great-aunt Genevieve Lehosit and Stephen Vojtusak.
Christine married Nicholas Lucas – whose parents emigrated from Romania and settled in Cuyahoga, Ohio. Nicholas was living in Wyatt, W.Va. when he and Christine exchanged nuptials.
According to the 1930 U.S. Census, Christine and Nicholas moved to Columbus to a neighborhood known now as Hungarian Village. The document shows Nicholas working at a glass factory, while Christine worked as a roller at a local cigar factory.
Thanks to the Social Security death records, I know Christine passed away as a widow in 1989 at a long term care facility. However, in 1930 there are no children listed in their household. When I get my hands on the 1940 records, a full 10 years later, that could change.
Christine was one of the few relatives of mine to move to Columbus, most of my family remained in West Virginia. I keep wondering if they had children, and if those children had children. I grew up in Columbus, so how many times might I have crossed paths with a cousin without even knowing it?
In April I’ll find the answer to that question and possibly uncover local cousins I did not know existed. If you knew Christine Lucas (Voytusak) or Nicholas Lucas, feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Boring design chosen for 2013 Ohio quarter – February 28, 2012 (Updated Feb. 29)
In early 2013, the U.S. Mint will release five more “America the Beautiful” (ATB) quarters, which includes Ohio’s Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial in Put-in-Bay.
It will be the 17th of 56 designs in the series.
This site was one of the six finalist designs to represent Ohio during the Statehood Quarter program in 2002. The ATB series was launched in 2010 to recognize national parks or memorials around the U.S. The legislation was passed in 2008, right around the time the state quarters were wrapping up.
Collecting the state quarters was a popular family pastime when I was younger. It’s no surprise the U.S. Mint followed up with another series – according to a report released by the mint they received billions of dollars in revenue for state quarter products.
They estimated around 50 percent of the country’s population was actively collecting the coins, sometimes at a premium.
Perry’s Victory commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. The memorial is named after Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, who commanded the U.S. Navy into battle. The monument is a 352 foot Doric column, the tallest in the country, which symbolizes the long-lasting peace achieved between the U.S., Britain and Canada.
Some other possible candidates for the Ohio quarter were the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the David Berger National Memorial, Dayton’s Aviation Heritage National Historic Park, the First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton, and the William Howard Taft National Historic Site in Cincinnati.
On Feb. 16, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) reviewed eight designs for the Ohio quarter. The CFA already rejected three proposed designs, commenting they were too intricate for the quarter’s scale.
Out of the second set of designs, the CFA approved only one that featured the Doric column from afar and with a blank background. Interestingly, the artists reportedly said it was the most boring design of the eight, but the only one they could unanimously support to move forward with.
I am dissapointed in the lack of creativity in this design. After reviewing all eight designs myself, they chose the most unimpressive design. The column is so far off, and on an island, it looks more like a lighthouse. However, I can see myself getting behind the recommendation made by the Citizens Advisory Committee (CCAC) on Feb. 28.
They recommended an alternative design, with a statue of Perry in the foreground and the column in the background. I feel like it gives the coin reverse more character.
Once the CFA and CCAC finalize their recommendations, the mint will consult with Governor John Kasich and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar about the design. However, the Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner will make the final decision.
The Perry’s Victory quarter will enter into circulation the first half of next year.
What do you think of the design CFA recommended? Email your opinions to email@example.com.
Surfing the Westside from my phone – February 1, 2012
Our phones are powerful tools when connecting with our friends, family and colleagues. As the years pass these items will become increasingly useful helping us explore our surroundings and escape our comfort zones.
Last summer my fiancé and I used applications designed for the Dublin Irish Festival and Six Flags to enhance our visits with virtual maps, schedules and activities. Those types of customized mobile applications are becoming more common as organizations evolve with how society receives information.
Cities realize they can distribute more information on a phone screen than a bulletin board (remember those?) Last year the city of Columbus launched its own application – MyColumbus – that allows residents to find city resources, recreations and public information at the slide of a finger.
Some cities take advantage of mobile applications even further by engaging residents through the mobile application Foursquare – a location-based app that’s meant to recommend new restaurants, museums, parks and more through user generated tips, photos and guides.
Foursquare lured users in by rewarding active lifestyles with virtual badges. Go to the gym a lot? Love visiting parks? Obsessed with pizza? There are badges for all those and the list is growing.
Most recently Foursquare launched their city badge program – New Orleans, Atlanta and a number of foreign cities were the first to receive their own badge. Earlier this year the team behind Foursquare announced they would sponsor a contest where users could create tourist guides through the application and recruit followers.
The three cities with the most participation will be awarded their own badges.
More than 500,000 of these lists or guides have been created.
After learning about all this, I searched through the lists created for Columbus. The majority of Columbus-oriented guides mainly focus on parks, sports pubs and sporting events recommended by users. However, the majority of these deal with downtown/campus oriented venues.
I found nothing tagged or oriented toward the Westside – at least nothing easy to discover, which is pretty much the purpose of all this – and this surprised me. The Westside has so many proud communities, family run small businesses and hidden gems that certainly one or more Westside organizations could think of some clever guides to create.
City officials expect tens of thousands of tourists to visit the Westside by the end of 2012, with the completion of the casino and other projects. Where can these visitors find a bite to eat on Sullivant Avenue or the West Broad Street corridor, get an oil change, find a haircut, etc.? They’ll be more likely to check their phones than ask a human being – what sort of city lists or guides might they find for the Westside when they palm their phones?
The contest to earn a city badge ended Feb. 3. That doesn’t mean these technologies can’t still be used to paint a picture for motorists, visitors and tourists to see – with tips and pictures and clever guides that will bring them in to invest in the image of the Westside we all can create.
Sean V. Lehosit
We don't need no stinkin' groundhogs – January 26, 2012
Every morning on Feb. 2, people look to the groundhog to determine whether or not we’ll see an early spring.
Once Punxsutawney Phil or Buckeye Chuck pokes its head out, the rodent’s announcement will spread across Facebook and Twitter like wildfire.
In some elementary classrooms, teachers may turn it into an activity. The children learn about the tradition all week long. The kids then eagerly watch a television screen to see whether or not the animal sees its shadow.
For those on the check-in based mobile application Foursquare, there’s even a badge you can earn if you “shout out” Groundhog Day.
This year I don’t feel the groundhog spirit. For one thing - has winter even started yet? If the weather stays this moderate, I have no issues with six more months of it.
If the groundhog doesn’t see its shadow that’s good news, too. I don’t see how we can lose here. This holiday holds more weight when we’re summoning the sun.
Besides, for the past couple years I recall Chuck saying it would be an early spring - but I don’t recall they were.
My one hope to salvage Groundhog Day this year is that the epic 1993 film “Groundhog Day” will be playing twice that evening on television.
Sean V. Lehosit
Snowmen were not always three balls of ice – December 7, 2011
Everyone loves snowmen. They’re on our wrapping paper, postcards and in our favorite holiday films. However, snowmen weren’t always so jolly and they have been around for thousands of years.
In 2007, a researcher named Bob Eckstein published the book, “The History of the Snowman: From the Ice Age to the Flea Market.”
Eckstein spent years studying historical documents, art and literature to trace the origins of the snowman. He was able to trace the art form back to the year 1380 in the Netherlands.
According to Eckstein, snowmen are split into two historical eras: modern and Renaissance. Eckstein says the modern snowman isn’t necessarily identified by a specific date, but by its appearance, which is different from earlier eras.
The snowmen of the Renaissance resembled the realistic silhouettes that you see in a topiary garden. These snowmen reflected a personal or political significance.
The turning point came in the 19th century when postcards became a rage, writes Eckstein, and political commentary disappeared from the depiction of snowmen.
The familiar round forms, with carrots for noses and buttons for a mouth slowly emerged – tipping its top hat to seasonal greetings.
With neither political or religious attachments, the modern snowman became a secular safe zone for holiday décor, with a broad commercial base.
I prefer the modern snowmen against versions that resemble human form. It would be hard to find people who are anti-snowmen. What else can be cold and icy, while warm and fuzzy, at the same time?
My brother and I loved the first fall of snow that stuck to the ground. We’d consult our parents whether or not the snow was the perfect consistency to clump together – like good rice.
I remember rolling that first snowball, pushing it along the ground and being amused at how the expanding sphere peeled the blanket of snow off the grass.
The snowman would guard the lawn, until eventually becoming a countdown for spring as it slowly melted away.
For information on Eckstein and his book, visit www.historyofthesnowman.com.
Christmas time at Westland Mall – November 29, 2011
I have fond memories from my childhood of Westland Mall during Christmas time.
It was far from the empty shell it is today. I remember my mother taking me on the weekend to get my photo with Santa Claus. He sat on his holiday throne and fake snow surrounded him. It’s funny to think of the Polaroid pictures that Santa’s helper would hand over – I imagine these days they take photos digitally and print them on site.
I also recall adults towering over me clutching brightly colored shopping bags. The smell of chocolate chip cookies and the fantastical entrance to K.B. Toys, with dozens of children drooling over the wall of action figures, also comes to mind.
The parking lots were full and the small mall seemed enormous in my young perspective. For a child, at least in the early 90’s, I think malls and Christmas went hand-in-hand. The bright colors, jolly sounds, long lines and toy stores fleshed out the excitement of Christmas.
The old cinema that sits behind the mall was where I first saw the Christmas classic, “The Santa Clause.” It was an era before the giant screens at AMC Lennox or Easton. That simple theatre, which didn’t even have stadium seating, was the highlight of my weekend.
I remember the box office always smelled like popcorn and my brother and I would play the arcade games inside the lobby for a good half hour before seating.
Today, when the city or community activists speak about revitalizing the Westside, it’s those memories that I hope can be re-imagined.
Do you remember what it was like to have a mall bustling with activity, fresh shopping strips and a cinema in our own backyard? A time when people from neighboring townships or communities traveled to the Westside and not just through it?
As a journalist I don’t report on speculation, especially without documentation.
However, over the last couple of years there’s been plenty of discussion and actions taken toward building back up the Westside. The revitalization efforts aren’t just about building a casino or improving West Broad Street, I feel it’s about revitalizing our past so our children can have the same fond memories we find so nostalgic.
'Tis the time of year again – November 21, 2011
The holidays are just around the corner and, if you’re like me, you’ve already begun shopping for presents and picking out the seasonal cards you’ll mail to friends and family members.
I always feel a rush of anxiety when choosing a package of Christmas cards.
There are dozens of designs to choose from, but I grow nervous that I’ll pick the same design as everyone else. Like in high school when you wore a witty t-shirt the first day of school, but so did three other people. That sort of diluted the wittiness.
Christmas cards fall into several categories.
You have the Nativity scene, depicting the religious backdrop of Christmas. Then you have Santa Claus cards – Santa and his reindeer, Santa at a fireplace, Santa underneath the tree, etc. Another design is the secular imagery of children sledding, a puppy in the snow or ribbons floating in the air.
Once you have the cards picked out comes the time for writing a message. There is always the danger, after a dozen or so inscriptions, of becoming monotonous. I try and keep them short and personal, instead of a long drawn-out list of seasonal greetings.
Technology can really help in this department. Some family members you see only once or twice a year, so how do you make the card personal? My suggestion is to be aware of the obvious. Most of us exist on Facebook, and even with limited communication through social media, are unaware of the current events happening with in the lives of our family.
After a simple click of the mouse, you’ll remember they were recently engaged, promoted at their job, graduated school, and so on.
Once the cards are chosen and messages written, the last step to this holiday tradition is stopping by the post office.
For some of us this is the only time of year we visit the post office. While not the best news for the mail industry, it can heighten the Christmas spirit in the person sending off the cards. You peel off a seasonal stamp and stick it to the envelope.
The one phase I always wrestle with is when the cards should be sent out. Do you send them the first or second week of December? Wait for the first fall of snow? Or closer to Christmas? I guess I’ll figure it out.
As adults the holiday season can sneak up on us or become a fleeting moment. Sending and receiving cards in the mail and setting them out on display can force us to stop and remember, even for a simple few moments, the magic we all felt as children every December.
Rules to living with a satyr – November 2, 2011
A few years ago I purchased a volume of Aesop’s fables. Whenever I have spare time I enjoy thumbing through the pages.
The brilliance of Aesop is he used animals to represent the vast spectrum of human instincts. It reinforces the nature being portrayed, but also allows us to compare the animal’s behavior to our own.
I’ve not found a fable I couldn’t take away a lesson from, nor can I find an event in my life that has not been illustrated through Aesop.
We all grew up with “The Lion and the Mouse” and “The Tortoise and the Hare,” but my favorite fable is “The Man and the Satyr.”
That fable tells the story of a man who is lost on a cold winter night and is welcomed into the home of a satyr.
While walking back to the satyr’s cabin the man blows into his hand. The satyr asks the man why he does that and the man replies, “My hands are numb with the cold and my breath warms them.”
Later, while eating supper the man then blows onto his soup. This time when asked why he does that, the man says the soup is too hot and his breath will cool it.
Abruptly, the satyr stands up and demands the man to leave. He will have nothing to do with a man who can blow hot and cold with the same breath.
I remember when werewolves walked on two legs – October 24, 2011
One of my favorite Halloween activities is watching scary movies, but when did the monsters from my childhood become so lame?
Among all monsters, the three most beloved are probably the vampire, werewolf and zombie. Of those three, I’m disappointed in what has become of the first two.
I remember vampires as outsiders. They prowled the darkness and had no human emotion. If you survived a vampire bite, you would disappear into the shadows yourself. However, today’s vampire is a member of the in-crowd and tries to survive on deer blood. What’s scary about that?
Werewolves are the most terrifying monster you could ever stumble across. Standing on two legs, covered in knotty hair and snarling from an elongated snout – death would be slow as you’re eaten alive. I’m a huge fan of werewolf mythology and it infuriates me that the transformation in films and television has been reduced to a man turning into a timber wolf.
Zombies, originating as slow trolling corpses brought back by supernatural forces are now fast paced, shrieking, plague victims that cannot be stopped. Zombies are more fierce, stronger and harder to snuff out these days.
I miss the bloodthirsty versions of vampires and werewolves. Monsters are not supposed to date you, teach you, take you on a spiritual journey or protect you. They are meant to eat you.
It would seem zombies are the only monster that understands this. Let’s just hope the day doesn’t come that we start seeing “good zombies.”
Demons, witches and alien abductions – October 12, 2011
According to Stanford University, about 50 percent of the population experiences this phenomenon, known as sleep paralysis, at least once in their lifetime.
Sleep paralysis is a normal function of the brain called REM atonia. It shuts down motor functions during REM sleep so the individual doesn’t act out their dream. When the person wakes from sleep state, but the atonia function is still working, they find they cannot move their arms, legs, body or speak.
However, they can open their eyes and one in five times the sleep paralysis is accompanied by extreme hallucinations. The cause for this “malfunction” is a mystery to doctors and researchers. This sleeping disorder has been around for centuries.
Many myths and legends from history can now be attributed to sleep paralysis.
The most modern example is that of alien abductions. Individuals find themselves awakened in the middle of the night, not able to move their bodies. They open their eyes and feel a harmful presence in the room. A figure peers at them from behind a window pane or at the foot of their bed. Over the years they report similar encounters and feel they’re being “checked-in on.”
In ancient times this experience was explained away by the visitation of demons. One would wake to find a demon, known as an incubus, sitting on their chest not allowing them to move. In Asian countries it was a ghost or witch that tormented the paralyzed sleeper. In every culture there is a supernatural explanation to sleep paralysis.
What is interesting is the consistency between cultures. Whether it’s a werewolf, demon or aliens, the stories reported by those who experience sleep paralysis on a regular basis stays uniform within a particular society.
For those who suffer from regular bouts of sleep paralysis, researchers recommend sleeping on your side, going to bed sober and decreasing the stress level in one’s life.
Death to the dollar bill! – September 27, 2011
In 2007 the U.S. Mint began the Presidential $1 Coin Program releasing four coins per year featuring the faces of American presidents, in the order of their presidency.
Some entities, like the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), believe discontinuing the dollar note and using dollar coins instead would save the government almost $5.5 billion over 30 years.
The GAO reported earlier this year the government would see a net loss the first four years, derived from the initial coin production.
They cite the reason the $1 coin has not been a success is because the dollar note is still in circulation. Many countries, like Canada, have already converted. Canada discontinued their paper note for the loonie in the late ‘80’s and it is a reported success.
If the U.S. was to ever discontinue the dollar note, the biggest obstacle to success would be the American tendency to hoard. This is the reason the $1 coin has been a virtual failure. While the dollar note exists in tender, the coins are pulled out of circulation by customers and stockpiled as souvenirs.
The government would need to press upon consumers the transition is permanent through media outreach. The coins need to be channeled directly into the veins of the economy through stores. Only putting the coins in select vending machines and parking garages cannot spark adoption.
I am curious how an adoption of the coin would influence our society.
How comfortable would Americans be with losing a note that is a the focus of present day practices, like the high school tradition of pinning dollars to somebody’s shirt on their birthday? Would the dollar tree game change when Easter rolled around? Would business owners frame their first dollar coin earned or would bars staple coins to the wall as decoration?
The internal operation at stores would change too, how long would it take for cash register to need to be changed out due to overflowing coin dollars? Would depositing a day’s profit be more of a hassle for the small restaurant or movie theater?
On the other hand, we wouldn’t have to worry about soda machines not taking a wrinkled dollar bill. Guys wouldn’t have to cram so many ones into their wallets, making them sit lopsided. There’s also the obvious advantage a coin has on a beach or waterpark.
Our lingo would change as well. Today, when somebody asks if you can break a bill of larger denomination we respond with, “Sorry, I only got singles.” Maybe someday we’ll be saying, “Nope, I only got presidents.”
Keeping up a hobby – September 8, 2011
I think hobbies are the most interesting thing about a person. When I take stock of my friends and acquaintances it’s their hobbies that round out their character.
Many of my friends have a wide spectrum of hobbies, from collecting comic books to photography to dance to board games. These are unique ongoing activities that make them more interesting and engaging people.
Sometimes I fear that, in an era of OnDemand television, the idea of keeping a hobby is lost. Don’t get me wrong, I myself have a love affair with my favorite television programs, but it shouldn’t result in anyone’s coin collection being pushed under the bed or crochet hooks collecting dust in junk drawers.
When I was in college it seemed easier for the people around me to have fun with their hobbies. In recent years I’ve seen their cameras retired, 10-sided dice lost, books put down and canvases shoved in closets. The reality of bank loans, living costs and other debt can erode at the time spent on hobbies, but I think that’s when it’s most important to enjoy them.
Hobbies can effectively attain the sense of wonder we felt in youth. The picture that came out perfectly, the wheat penny you found in your change at the gas station, the dance routine you finally mastered, your undefeated streak playing “Trouble” or “Clue,” the cousin you discovered on a family tree – these things speak to our personalities and deserve just as much investment as anything else in our lives.
The poisoning at my so called barbeque – August 10, 2011
I didn’t plan on poisoning myself based on principle last weekend, but it just sort of happened.
After a long day in the sun I had a few of my fiance’s friends over for what I thought would be a barbeque.
Turns out I’m not much of a grill master. First I burn the hot dogs - correction - charred the hot dogs. However, that didn’t stop me from bringing a plate in and hoping nobody noticed. They did and said, with disgusted looks on their faces, they’d wait on the hamburgers.
Okay, so I burnt the hot dogs, I thought to myself. Big deal, they’ll love my hamburgers.
I didn’t have a thermometer or anything fancy like that. I have always been the guy going to barbeques, not hosting them. So, I poke the patties a few times and figure they smelled done.
Before I could put the tray of hamburger patties down all the guests were declaring them undercooked.
“You haven’t even looked inside the center yet,” I said, but apparently the fact I only had them on the grill for 5-10 minutes was enough evidence for them all.
They all had a good point, but they were so abrasive and accusatory and rotten in their tones that I argued my case further.
“Well, these are not undercooked. They are just not overcooked,” I said.
Even though I knew they probably were undercooked I became hard headed. To prove my point I decided to make myself a hamburger and eat it.
Two hours later I had food poisioning.
Next time I should probably just swallow my pride instead of a belly full of E Coli.
Snailmail – July 25, 2011
Over the last five or 10 years the mailbox has become more or less grandfathered in when it comes to living somewhere.
Everything from news to bills to letters travels by email these days. There are very few things that still come through the old metal box hanging outside the front door - perhaps only court summons, but I’m sure they’ll find a way to text those soon.
The one thing that will always require physical mail service is the delivery of packages. Even if you order something on the Internet, it can’t be emailed.
I’m not that much of an online shopper. In fact, over the last year I’ve only made three purchases over the Internet.
However, my most recent online purchase has made me wonder if the declining use of postal mail has caused those service providers to grow rusty and out of shape.
Especially when compared to the prior two experiences.
Last October I ordered a pair of costume contact lenses from a Chinese company. It took seven days for my package to be delivered from Hong Kong.
This past February I bought a plush toy from England for a Valentine’s Day present - it took four days to travel from England to my welcome mat.
Now fast forward to last week. I made a purchase on Amazon and it took 24 hours to ship from West Virginia to Ohio - so far so good.
The problem arose when one morning I checked the tracking number and found that at 4 a.m. it was received at a FedEx station only 3 miles from my house. I expected I’d recieve the box that evening, but when it never arrived I was surprised and made a phone call.
I learned it could be Monday - five more days - until I potentially received my package. I was in disbelief. I could get a package from England faster than a building 3 miles from my home?
What was even stranger was I realized how worked up I was about something that wasn’t an emergency. Then I realized it’s becoming our instinct.
In an age where everything from renting a movie, to getting a loan, or checking into a hotel hundreds of miles away is a mere mouseclick away - anything that takes more than a day seems preposterous.
Oh, by the way, my package ended up only taking two days to arrive.
Or as I like to think of it - 16 hours per mile.
Stumbling upon the Stonewalls – July 8, 2011
This past weekend I took a trip down to Clarksburg, W.Va to visit family for Fourth of July weekend.
I saw my grandmother, ate at family restaurants, and ran into family members I hadn’t seen in a long time.
However, the one person I could have never forseen myself stumbling across was the father of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
It was early Sunday morning and my fiance and I were driving along East Pike Street, near the old Slavic church when my she spotted the cemetery.
We had time, so we drove a few old suburban blocks, took a right on Linden Street, and quickly found a parking space.
My GPS device called the site “Jackson Cemetery.” Since the grounds were very small, and surrounded by playgrounds and old homes I assumed it might be an old family plot.
The first thing I noticed as I climbed the bulky cement steps, up the steep hill, was that most of the headstones were in disrepair. Not by vandalism though, but by age. The writing on the stone had long faded away. The headstones were chipped and had been pushed around by tree roots.
The stones that were vaguely visible dated back to the 1700s. Then I pointed towards a plot of headstones surrounded by tall, black, steel gates. I was curious as to why those graves had been so protected... and why signage lay next to each gravestone.
Upon approach I saw the name. In this little cemetery, tucked away in an old neighborhood, in the middle of Clarksburg was the resting place of Stonewall Jackson’s family members.
You never know what you may find when you’re not even looking.
Too spoiled to wait a week – June 27, 2011
I believe that DVD box sets of television shows have spoiled me.
I’m a huge fan of television shows as a form of entertainment and I’m also a fan of saving money.
A couple years ago I discovered I could experience both of these through box sets - which can supply 12-22 hours of entertainment (depending if it’s HBO or USA) for the low price of $29.99.
These days we pay half that just to watch a two hour movie at the theatre.
However, box sets have spoiled me. It’s not that I buy them all the time - I use Netflix for standard cable shows - but Netflix doesn’t run series originals on HBO, Showtime, etc.
The reason they’ve spoiled me is I’ve become conditioned to getting all my cake at once.
I’ll hear about a hit Showtime show, pick up the box set, get enthralled by it, and devour the entire series in a week.
Later, I hear the new season is premiering and watch it with enthusiasm. When the episode ends my first instinct is to pop in the next episode - to only remember it’s a new season... and I must watch it episode by episode.
Oh, cruel world.
I must admit though, there is something exciting about the anticipation. Also, it’s a way to have fun discussions with friends. Something that can be harder to do when watching box sets - apparently in 2011 nobody wants to have a conversation about how awesome the series premier of “Sopranos” was.
As a parting gift, allow me to bestow a piece of advice to those interested about purchasing box sets for yourselves or others - wait until the first few days after a holiday.
Several times I’ve been bitten by that one. You go and buy your friend or loved one a box set of their favorite telly program just to find a month later its been marked down to $15.99.
Oh, cruel world.
Fetch the butter – June 13, 2011
Boy was I in a pickle this time.
I was around seven years old and, while playing in my backyard, somehow jammed my knee between two planks of wood on our fort.
Do you remember the old wooden forts you purchased out of a Sears catalogue? The ones with blue tarp rooftops, short yellow slides, and climbing rope that smelled funny after a hard rain?
My knee, therefore my leg, wouldn’t budge. No matter how hard I pulled, twisted, or groaned, there was no budging. It was time for reinforcements – urgently, I called out for my friend, Wesley, to fetch my father to assist me.
Within minutes my father strolled from around the house, slightly amused that I had gotten myself stuck. After a few failed attempts at freeing my knee, he turned to Wesley and instructed him to run into the house and grab the butter bowl from the kitchen.
Wesley dashed into the house to find the butter. The plan was to use it to more easily slip my knee from the clutches of the fort. My younger brother quickly ran alongside him.
We waited until we saw Wesley run into the backyard, holding the bowl of butter. Running shortly behind him was my younger brother – holding a sack of bread.
My father was confused and so was I. When my father asked my brother why he brought the bread, my brother replied:
“Aren’t we making sandwiches?”
My four hour stroll – June 2, 2011
Columbus is a widely diverse place to live. There are so many communities, so close to each other. As I found out one day in 2007.
That morning I woke on a friend’s couch around 8 a.m. and decided to walk to my car. I fail to remember why I thought walking from Obetz Road to Clintonville would be a simple task.
Perhaps my brain was tired, but I reasoned it would take - an hour tops - to venture from Obetz Road to Clintonville, if I took High Street the whole way.
It was a sunny day and I felt like a walk might be nice.
I began my journey up South High Street and the Obetz area. After walking north for 45 minutes and not yet spotting the downtown skyline - I began to question my quest. The area was run down and worn; bare on this early morning, except for a lone COTA that passed me and groups of grade schoolers hanging around outside fast food chains.
An hour later I passed through German Village, my cellphone dead and my legs dragging tiredly across the old sidewalks. Folks, wearing ironic t-shirts and drinking Italian steamers, watched me from coffee house windows and outside patios.
By the time two hours passed, I understood my plan was greatly flawed. When I reached Downtown, I staggered through the crowds of businessmen and power suits. Unlike the barren path behind me, I was towered over by shiny corporate buildings, bank headquarters, and perfectly landscaped government buildings.
Soon, I neared the Arena District. I detoured through the Convention Center and soaked in the sweet, sweet, air conditioning. Unlike Downtown, this area was not for business, but pleasure - neon signs and entertainment posters hung from buildings and every street marquee. Out-of-towners ran around to eat at loud restaraunts or catch a matinee movie.
It had been around three hours since I first stepped off the front porch of my friend’s house. However, it seemed much longer - it’s not like I had time to train or prepare for such a walk.
The next destination - on the way to my car - was the Short North. An archway ran down the road and the bulbs revolved in colors and shades. The shops were small and joined together on both sides of the street. The corridor of small shops were just beginning to come alive, as people walked their Beagles and Boston Terriers up and down the sidewalks.
Around 10 blocks later, I was famished, thirsty, and exhausted. I was also suddenly surrounded by nothing but bright red and poisonous nuts - I was in the University District.
Being a game day, my exhausted and disheveled appearance was in great juxtaposition with the high spirited, excited, collegeians who screamed battle crys in my ear as I passed them by - but my mouth too dry to reply.
The sun beat down like a two ton mallet, and I’d been abused for nearly four hours when I reached the perimeter of Clintonville.
When I stood outside my car I felt triumphant. I imagined the feeling was similiar to the early pioneers who walked everywhere. However, on my drive home I reflected on what I’d seen.
The contrast between each neighborhood was so stark, so distinct, that I was shocked I’d never saw it so clearly. When you only take one step at a time, you see everything - instead of zooming by in a car - only passing by.
What’s amazing is I found so much diversity just on one stretch of road, but the entire Columbus area is like this.
From the Hilltop, to Southwest Columbus, to Galloway, Franklinton, etc., etc. - the Westside is richly diverse.
Yet we sometimes forget that diversity, many times, is within walking distance.
The grasshopper garage sale - May 24, 2011
When I was very young, I remember southwest Columbus being less dense in some areas. Many neighborhoods we see today were just starting development.
Blame it on the sock-puppets, cowbells & train whistles - May 11, 2011
Right after college, I did a stretch as a substitute teacher.
Most of the time I would sub for an elementary school class and I found the most challenging part of the job was actually a big surprise - I had to become a magician.
Allow me to elaborate on what I mean by that. Something I quickly learned when visiting the various schools and their districts was that there’s no universal way to quiet down a class of first-graders. In fact, there’s no normal way to quiet first-graders.
After visiting half-dozen different classrooms from various districts, I found that to summon the class’ attention and calm the room – you must uncover the “secret trick.”
Secret, of course, because while the students think the trick is common knowledge, it’s usually obscure.
The more common “secret tricks” were usually a combination or modification of: flashing the lights, raising your hand, counting to three, or holding up the peace sign.
Then you had your more uncommon “secret tricks” like ringing a cowbell, blowing a train whistle, or reciting a specific rhyme.
However, the thing that always troubled me was the fact that these “tricks” were necessary. I would tell a class:
“Since you’re alerting me to the fact, that, if I want you all to listen, I need to say it via the sock-puppet, that tells me you understand you should be quiet right now. I shouldn’t need the sock-puppet.”
The children would then inform me they understood I wanted them quiet and they wanted to obey, but they were waiting for the sock-puppet.
It dawned on me this may not be the most healthy habit to instill in children - that they must only obey particular (sometimes obscure) social cues that happen at the peak of an escalating situation.
I began seeing the same learned behavior all around me in the adult world.
Behaviors like, motorists driving dangerously only because they had not seen any patrol cars, or restaurant patrons neglecting to wash their hands because the sign only calls for employees to do so.
Instead of doing what we know we should, we wait for something - for the clock to run out or the arrival of an official letter - before it’s taken seriously.
I’ve heard many people say today’s society is not as productive as it could be - many times blaming technology.
Maybe it’s not technology. Maybe it’s because our bosses don’t flash the lights when we get too loud at work, or buy a company hamster that co-workers alternate taking home on the weekends.
Maybe the world knows it should be more productive, and wants to, but nobody’s given the signal that we have to yet?
Or maybe we should just stop making excuses, and blaming our non-compliance on cowbells and sock-puppets.
Angry Birds - May 4, 2011
I do not often play games on my smartphone, but I must admit I have become quite addicted to one called “Angry Birds.”
For those not familiar with this application, it is a strategy game where the user must tactically sling various birds at a target to knock it down – and obliterate little green pigs.
Perhaps my infatuation with the application has something to do with my childhood – where I encountered my own batch of angry birds.
As many youths tend to do, I often refused to eat my vegetables. As a remedy to the situation my parents would convince me that, if I did not eat my veggies, the birds would get me.
Was their story from an obscure adage, or did it spawn from the time a crow found its way into our first apartment when I was a toddler, entering through an old stove vent and terrorizing the household right before dinner? I do not know.
Nonetheless, my parents’ threat worked for several years. That was until, one afternoon at the dinner table, I challenged their claim. I spouted off that their tale was false and I no longer believed a word of it.
Promptly, a bird then slammed into our window.
An introduction of sorts - April 29, 2011
As a guy who grew up on the Hilltop, it’s exciting to be named the new Westside editor. As a teenager, I remember reading the Westside Messenger on the weekends and aspiring to become a journalist.
That was when I was a student at Briggs High School, and of course, those memories were some of the motivating factors which caused me to apply to this paper after graduating from The Ohio State University in June 2010.
I attended The Ohio State University between 2007 and 2010, majoring in English. During that time I worked as a freelance art and culture writer for a downtown alternative paper and a part-time writer for Columbus State Community College’s Institutional Advancement.
Previous to that, while still a student at Columbus State, prior to transferring to The Ohio State University, I served as editor-in-chief of their student newspaper, Cougar News. That is my background in a nutshell.
Over the last year I have become even better acquainted with the neighborhoods – especially the Greater Hilltop, along with Franklin and Prairie Township – which became my regular news beats at the Messenger.
From growing up in the area and reporting on the local news I have learned one certainty – the Westside is a vast and diverse territory, but with one constant – a rich history and the communities’ interest in the future. Therefore, it is my aim to continue our paper’s tradition of reporting on local matters and events in our Westside community.
To best achieve this goal, I invite the Westside to continue their active role in corresponding with us and to always feel free to throw me an email or reach me by phone. Also, I invite you to join us on Facebook and Twitter where we often will post news items between publications.
See you on the Westside,
Sean V. Lehosit