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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sadly turning the page after Borders’ decision

Meg Ryan’s been on my mind a lot.

No, not because she’s seemingly disappeared from movies in the past 10 years.

Rather, I’ve been thinking of her because she gets it. She knows what I’m feeling.

OK, maybe not Meg Ryan. But her Kathleen Kelly certainly gets it.

Kelly was the heroine of a 1998 big screen romantic comedy called “You’ve Got Mail.”

She falls in love with a guy she encountered in an Internet chatroom and through a series of adventures comes to realize he owns a supersized bookstore that is just about to put her little children’s book shop out of business.

The book store, called Fox Books, is set to open around the corner from her little shop, which has been in Manhattan for years, since her mother started it.

When she realizes Joe Fox, played by Tom Hanks, owns her new nemesis, she unloads on him. He picked the wrong moment to let her in on the secret, because she’s just realized her Internet friend (also Hanks) isn’t going to show up for their blind date at a neighborhood coffee shop.

“But I wouldn’t expect you to understand anybody like that. You with your theme park, multi-level, homogenize-the-world mochaccino land. You’ve deluded yourself into thinking that you’re some sort of benefactor, bringing books to the masses,” Kelly tells Fox, referring to her no-show date, in a fit of frustration.

It’s a moment filled with hostility, but because it’s a romantic comedy, you know there’ll be happy ending.

As you watch the construction of the cinematic Fox Books, you realize it’s supposed to be Borders.

It’s big, stuffed with books, filled with distracting signs and other displays and features a coffee shop with a place to sit and read a book.

The key feature of the book store is that you don’t have to buy the book to be able to read it.

And that’s why Borders’ ending isn’t all that happy.

How many of us have pulled up a chair in Borders, cracked open a book, realized we liked it and gone home to buy it on


It seemed so innocent. There’s always a line. That means people are buying, right?

Just not enough did.

I get it.

But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Borders’ announcement Feb. 16 that it was seeking bankruptcy protection sent shockwaves as the retailer decided it was time to admit it couldn’t keep up with Amazon anymore.

I keep telling people that my disappointment lies in the fact that those in eastern Lake County will lose their bookstore. They’ll be forced to drive all the way to Great Lakes Mall to find Barnes and Noble and its books, distracting signs and coffee shop.

But it also lies in the fact that I’m as much to blame for Borders’ failure as the company itself.

While company officials failed to keep pace with the growing Internet presence of Amazon and its other competitors, I didn’t spend enough at Borders.

Sure, I used my coupons at Christmastime, purchasing books and other items for those I love.

But I spent too much time perusing the shelves and not enough time buying. Oh, sure, I always bought a cup of coffee from the stand on the store’s eastern side.

But, it’s all but certain that it’s too late for the Mentor store now.

And, pretty soon, if I want to buy something from Borders, I’ll have to hike on over to Cedar Road for the shop at La Place and Cuyahoga County’s higher sales tax rate.

It’s my own fault.

And now I’ll have to find another mochacchino land.

Monday, February 21, 2011

As Oscars change, so too does interest level

Oscar, I’ve just about given up.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think you’re handsome, standing guard with your sword.

But the award you represent is growing so frustrating that I’m about to turn on you.

As we enter the final week before the presentation of filmmaking’s biggest honor, the Academy Award, it becomes more and more clear that you don’t know what you want to be.

And, because of that, as a film fan, it’s difficult to know just what I need to see.

Over the years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has made efforts to keep up as the movie industry has changed.

First came foreign films, then independent film, then animated film.

Now, in an age when everyone’s a winner and everything seems to be “great,” the list of “Best Picture” nominees numbers 10.

It started last year, as a way to honor the films that show up in other categories, but which never make it onto the big list.

Arguably, it has cheapened the top award. Anyone who calls himself or herself a film fan knows “Toy Story 3” has no chance to beat “The King’s Speech,” but they both find themselves up for the same award.

Yes, “Toy Story 3” made me cry. Yes, it was highly entertaining. But, good enough to be considered in the same league as the Colin Firth saga of royalty dealing with the very real problem of stuttering as he takes his place in the public eye?


So, the more the Oscars change, the more movie fans need to.

The new girth in the “Best Picture” ticket has also increased the work of the film buffs among us.

That month between the day the nominees are announced and when the statuettes are handed out used to be just right for catching up on the films you might have missed but are deemed good enough not to miss.

Going into the nominations, I felt pretty good. Then, when the list came out, I realized I was only halfway there.

And, after illness and obligations kept me busy, I’m still there a week before the ceremony.
I know I shouldn’t care what “The Academy” thinks — that I should judge a movie based on my experience and my own feelings. But hearing reviewers’ opinions and how my views stack up against the voters is important, too.

So I attempt each year to see all the “Best Picture” nominees before the show. Then I can honestly say which one I think should win, and show my disappointment when my favorites don’t.

Last week, feeling the pressure of the looming show, I checked out which of the movies I could quickly accomplish. There aren’t many.

I haven’t seen “True Grit,” “127 Hours,” “Winter’s Bone,” “Inception” or “The Kids Are All Right.”
Only one of them is still in theaters, and it’s the one I least want to see. I’m not a big western fan, so I was hopeful that “True Grit” would miss the final list. No luck. So, I probably will check it out this weekend.
As for the rest, I’ve been directed to try Netflix.

Even that’s problematic anymore because of its increased fees and the time it would take to receive them in the mail.

Sure, I could sit and watch them at home on my computer. But after spending the entire day staring at my computer screen, that somehow isn’t as fun as going to the theater, grabbing a jumbo box of overpriced popcorn and sitting back to enjoy a movie.

But, if the Oscars continue the way they’re going, I’ll have to do something if I’m going to accomplish my goal of being a fan in the know.

Or, maybe I should just give up and become the average movie fan.

But that won’t be fun until The Academy starts rewarding fans with an Oscar.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Minus-35: Getting it right, for Karin's sake

Now I know what Barb Karol was talking about.

Well, I shouldn’t say that, because I’ve always gotten the point. But, when you see the human side of it, it’s even more clear that my first newswriting teacher at Kent State had it right when she took 35 points off if you happened to spell a name wrong.

“Most people’s names are only in the newspaper twice — when they’re born and when they die,” Karol would say.

She would use different ways to describe the other appearances of their names, saying it could happen if they’re in trouble or they’ve done something spectacular.

She said our names, as reporters, writers or even editors, are in the paper all the time. After a while, we get used to seeing our names.

But when most people see their name in the paper, it’s a big deal. They cut it out. They show their friends. They call their families. They post links on Facebook and Twitter.

If the names are spelled right.

If it’s spelled wrong, they hide it, or talk to their friends, family — even Facebook and Twitter — about how dumb you are.

Karol’s constant admonition — combined with the fact that she should know, because her last name is spelled K-a-r-o-l — has always caused me to be really careful.

You never know how people’s names are spelled. Creative parents can cause mistakes simply by adjusting the end of the name Mary to be Maree, or John to be Jon.

You always ask. Then, when you know, you spell it the way they spell it.

That’s the key part.

That came to mind this week when Karin told me I got her name wrong.

Yes, it’s K-a-r-i-n.

And I knew it. She’s Karin on all my lists. She’s Karin on the blog I set up for her in our weight-loss contest, Lighten Up in 2011.

The only place she wasn’t Karin was in the story introducing Karin to News-Herald readers.


Even worse was that I also got her weight wrong.

Though a couple of e-mails made me feel the guilt, it took typing the correction to understand the true scope of the error:

Karin Ostroske of Euclid weighs 244 pounds. Incorrect information appeared in Sunday’s edition.


Because it’s the third year of Lighten Up, I know how important it is. I know what these brave people are putting on the line when they say they want to go on a diet — in public — and have their weight charted — in the newspaper and online — for six months.

Karin showed great humor in her notes to me on Sunday morning after she saw the errors, saying she and her husband shared a laugh over the fact that she hadn’t noticed the 30-pound weight loss I’d said she had undergone.

But, as she pointed out, her real concern was that on Feb. 26, when we meet up for the second weigh-in of the contest, that she’ll post a 30-pound gain.

She said she would be embarrassed. Thirty pounds in a month? Yeah, I’d be embarrassed, too.

I immediately fixed it online, while sitting at home in my jammies, head in my hands as I worried about how angry Karin was. But, unless I headed out with a black magic marker and made stops at about 45,000 homes around three or four counties, there was no way to quickly fix the printed version.

The next day, when I got to work, I filed the correction. That’s when I thought of Karol.

Her minus-35 would have meant an instant F on the project. Which is as it should be.

A factual error

Luckily, I’ll have five more months to make it right. In the meantime, look out for K-A-R-I-N O-S-T-R-O-S-K-E.

I have a feeling she’s going to be giving me plenty of reasons to type her name.

Friday, February 4, 2011

New Marine dazzles his former classmates

Melanie Domzalski didn’t know Christopher Jaworski well when they were students at Nordonia High School in Macedonia.

But her eyes told the story of how much she thinks he’s changed since he completed boot camp Jan. 28 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina.

“He was laid back before,” she said. “Now he seems, like, more strict — better.”

The redshirt catcher on the Lakeland Community College women’s softball team looked Jaworski over Thursday when the new private led Domzalski and her teammates through a workout on campus.
“I can tell he grew up.”

When her coach, Judy Sargent, told Jaworski that Domzalski thinks he’s grown up, he nodded.
“I have. I have a lot,” he said. “Go to boot camp. It will work ... a lot.”

The June 2010 graduates didn’t take much time to reminisce as Jaworski and Staff Sgt. Robert Fertal led the team through a series of exercises designed to show the similarities between the life of a Marine and players on a sports team.

Fertal, in charge of the Mentor recruiting station on Mentor Avenue, took the lead, introduced Jaworski to the team and let him charge ahead with a list of warm-ups that recruiters use as training tools designed to get recruits ready for life at Parris Island.

Jaworski had them winded after a few exercises, leading them through 60 jumping jacks, 60 mountain climbers, 60 flutter kicks and 40 pushups before a one-mile run.

“I’m not used to being the one in the middle of the circle,” he said with a laugh when Fertal took over and explained a drill that would follow.

Jaworski met Sargent over lunch at Parris Island. Recruits were paired during the recent Educators Workshop with teachers from around Northeast Ohio who made the trip to see just what boot camp is like.
When Sargent learned Jaworski attended Nordonia, she asked him to work out her team when he returned home after basic training. Three Lakeland softball players are Nordonia graduates.

The soft-spoken Jaworski let Fertal take the lead, stepping in as a demonstration tool when necessary.
He wasn’t shy about his experiences in boot camp, however.

“It’s not as physically draining as I expected,” Jaworski said. “It was a lot of time in the classroom. We had more than 200 hours of class time.”

Jaworski said the time away from family and friends also wasn’t as hard as he expected.

“You do so much in the time you’re up that you don’t have time to think about being away,” he said.
Jaworski said he enlisted on Feb. 1, 2010, but didn’t leave for basic training until Halloween.

He was part of the delayed entry program, which helps the Marine Corps keep the number of active-duty participants to a steady 212,000 people.

He said he weighed the U.S. Army against the Marine Corps when he was ready to enlist, and opted for the Marines because he thinks they’re better trained and are more of a brotherhood.

“Everything you do, you do as a team,” he said.

Before he left for basic training, Jaworski said he stuck close to home.

“I did as much of nothing as I could,” he said. “I worked out Thursdays and Saturdays with the recruiters. I didn’t have a job, so once in a while I hung out with friends, and I just tried to stay out of trouble.”

Toward the end of Thursday’s practice, Lakeland’s players got a lesson in the Marine Corps way — accidentally.

Jaworski and Fertal took part in an intricate exercise called the Star Drill, in which the players take positions around the gym, simulating standing at home plate, first base, second base, shortstop and third base. They proceeded to move the ball around the “diamond” while running from station to station to complete an entire circle of the positions on the field.

The object is for no one to drop the ball, or disrupt the flow of the action. On the second to last throw, from third base to first base, Jaworski bobbled it, losing control.

Similar to Marines taking part in the grueling completion of boot camp known as The Crucible, the entire group had to start over after completing a lap around the gym as punishment.

Jaworski and Fertal joined them for the lap, then for the second try at the exercise, which the group successfully completed.

“Softball isn’t much different than that Marine mentality,” Sargent said. “It’s just a little less intense.”

Fertal then played a word game with the players, as he discussed winning, losing and what you can learn from both while respecting your opponent.

Jaworski said he’ll spend the rest of his 10 days off with family and taking part in non-required workouts with Marine recruiters in Akron.

He ships out Monday morning with seven other new Marines, bound for Camp LeJeune, N.C., for the 29-day Marine Corps Training during which he’ll “live in the field.”

“It’s ‘stay alive combat training,’ ” he said, describing it as 25 days of life in the field, sleeping in sleeping bags. After that, he reports to Fort Lee, Va., to begin training in his MOS, or military occupational specialty — armory.

But he expects to head to Afghanistan soon.

“The job I have, most of the time you end up going,” he said. “If you get stationed with an infantry unit, you go pretty quick.”

Physically strong, mentally tough and psyched for a life in the Marines, Jaworski shows how ready he is.
Asked by Sargent if he can have a cell phone now that he’s out of basic training, he shrugs his shoulders.
“I’m only going for 29 days,” he said. “It’s not like I need to spend all day on the phone.”

Yeah, Domzalski was right. Jaworski has grown up.

“I don’t know if my friends would recognize him now.”