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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.

Friday, January 25, 2013

These 'bombs' put a little giggle into the inauguration

If you’ve never heard the term, I’m here to educate you.

If you’re new to it, I welcome you.

If you’re a photobomb fan, this has been a great week.

Heck, let’s be honest, Monday was the bomb!

Let me explain:

According to, a “photobomb” is when someone who’s not supposed to be in a photo suddenly appears on the scene and is included in the photo.

It can happen accidentally or on purpose. Either way, in some instances the results are hilarious.

In the past, I’ve seen some from weddings, where silly groomsmen or bridesmaids were making faces in the background of serious bridal couple shots, or others with pets who suddenly pop in front of the camera to make an appearance.

The average photobomb is pretty funny.

Other times, when the bomber is making a good face, they’re downright hysterical. This week we got two absolute classics from President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony.

Poor Kelly Clarkson was the victim of the first one I saw.

At some point during her performance of “America (My Country Tis of Thee),” a former president leaned over, probably to get a better look, and got caught taking a peek at the former “American Idol” winner.

The look on Bill Clinton's face is what makes it a classic. It’s almost a guarantee that he didn’t know he was going to be photographed, but he certainly looks as though he was caught red-handed performing some level of mischief.

As I’m writing this, I found a story asking whether Clinton is getting a bad rap for his photobomb.

The image has become one of the most popular of the day, simply for its comedic value.

The story, from, ponders whether people think Clinton was ogling Clarkson.

I think it’s more likely he leaned out to get a better look at someone who was performing such a fantastic rendition of a patriotic song.

Hillary was sitting right next to Bill, so it’s likely he wasn’t trying to be more romantic than that.

The second photobomb was more of the classic kind — the intentional photobomb.

If you didn’t see it, I hope you’ll seek to find it.

It’s a rare look at Obama’s daughters acting out in public.

And, it’s fabulous!

At one point during the inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington after the ceremony, the first family is sitting in the reviewing booth watching the parade. Younger daughter Sasha sees her mom and dad about to kiss, and decides to take a picture with her cell phone.

Before she has a chance to snap the picture, Sasha’s older sister Malia shoves her face in front of the camera, with her mouth agape, so her picture actually turns out to be the inside of Malia’s mouth.

But, the best part is it was all captured live on CNN.

Some alert media sort saw the moment, found it in CNN’s coverage and sent it out on Twitter and online, and it went viral.

It’s hysterical.

These two angels, who rarely speak or even look up in public, finally putting on a display of kid-dom for the world to see.

You knew it was in there someplace. One’s a teen and the other’s a pre-teen. Finally, we get to see that they have cell phones like every other young kid you see, and they play with them just like they do, too.

The day before the inauguration we had another hint of this lifestyle when Sasha, after her father took his official oath in the White House on Sunday, leaned in to Obama’s kiss and whispered, “You didn’t mess up.”

Of course, it was caught on his microphone for the whole world to hear.

All he could do was laugh as he walked back to his position in the family lineup to face the cameras.

In a day otherwise so full of pomp, circumstance and staid marching, it was a pleasure to see these moments of genuine levity take place on a national scale.

After a grueling, often bitter, presidential campaign, then the sadness that December brought, it was a delight to have something to just sit back and chuckle about.

I know it’s too much to hope that these moments will help us turn a corner to a time when politics is more fun.

But here’s hoping we might have turned a corner to a time when it’s not quite as painful as it’s been in the past few years.
Twitter: @Lauranh

Friday, January 18, 2013

Welcoming another group to the Lighten Up world

By the time you read this, it’s possible I will have 66 new friends.

If you’re an early riser like me, though, they’re still strangers.

At noon today, I’m going to embrace the participants in Lighten Up in 2013 as they start their journey to a healthier life.

This year marks our fifth Lighten Up outing.

Permit me to boast a little bit:

In the first four years, we’ve had 56 area residents join the contest, and only 10 have dropped out before the end.

The four-year weight loss total is 1,460.15 pounds.

You’re right when you notice that the figure isn’t quite what they put up on “The Biggest Loser.” But that’s OK, because that’s not what we’re trying to be.

There’s no yelling in Lighten Up.

There’s coaching. There are pats on the back. There’s cheering. There’s even a bit of razzing, once we’ve gotten to know each other better.

If someone’s struggling, we try to encourage them. If the struggling reaches what I call the danger zone, they get a little private counseling. Not even I get to hear what they talk about with the folks at LEAN Living or the Lake County General Health District.

Lighten Up is meant to be a nourishing environment, if you pardon my accidental pun.

Competition is nice, but in the end what we’re hoping is that people’s lives change.

Many have thrived during the competition. But once it’s ended, many have lost their drive to continue their path to complete their life change.

So, some familiar faces will be back tomorrow.

And, they’ll be joined by many, many others.

This year marks the first we haven’t turned anyone away. In previous years we’ve whittled the list down to about 10 to 15 people and followed their journey for six months.

Our 66 participants this year marks the highest number of competitors we’ve ever had, but it’s also the most people who said they wanted to join. The previous record for applications was three years ago with 45.

There’s pressure on them, though, because to make it to the second half of the contest, they’ll have to lose at least 5 percent of their starting weight before the April 27 weigh-in. In other words, a 300-pounder needs to lose 15 pounds to get to the second half of the contest.

If they’re serious, they’ll accomplish that goal. In the past, it’s taken about 20 percent weight loss to win.

The cast of characters is as varied as the reasons they want to lose weight. There are young ones (an 18-year-old woman and a 20-year-old man) and older ones (a woman in her 70s).

There are moms and dads who want to lose because they’re worried they’ll miss their kids’ futures.

There are athletes who long to compete again. There are sisters who want to fight the battle together.

There’s even a father and two daughters who are about to begin.

I wish them all luck and will tell you all the first thing I’ll tell them when our meeting begins today.

Congratulations and welcome to Lighten Up. You’re very brave and I’m proud of each of you.
Twitter: @Lauranh

Friday, January 11, 2013

A big 'Silver Lining' as award nominations arrive

It probably doesn’t seem like a lot of work. But this week, I found out just how much is ahead of me.

I thought I’d done a good job preparing for Academy Award season, seeing the movies “they” said would be among the favorites.

It turns out most of them were.

I should have paid more attention to the length of the list of movies “they” suggested.

Now, in order to accomplish my yearly goal of seeing all the Oscar-nominated movies before the Feb. 24 ceremony, I will have to do some serious cramming.

It feels like college.

Turns out that I still need to see six of the nine films nominated for Best Picture.

I’m good on “Argo,” “Les Miserables,” and “Lincoln.”

The meat of the lineup remains, though.

I never heard of one: “Amour.” It’s also nominated in the Best Foreign Film category.
That’s a signal to me that I might not, well, “amour it” very much.

Then there are the films I’ll try to resist because I don’t know enough about them. “Life of Pi” comes to mind.

I was under the impression it was a movie about animals, so when our movie reviewer Mark Meszoros pointed out it’s a tale of a young boy’s journey after a boat accident, it sort of soothed that concern. I’m not really that much of an animal person.

Then there’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Also sounds like an animal movie, doesn’t it? Apparently it’s not, either.

You learn so much from the Academy Award nominations!

Its basis in the Bayou reminds me of another movie I gave a chance because I felt I had to, “Eve’s Bayou.” That one also features a young girl who learns the ways of the world.

I’ve had “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Django Unchained” on my list since I saw the first previews, but they only recently opened here in Cleveland.

I’ll get there.

This weekend, though, will include a showing of the movie my husband has been trying to avoid for a couple of months.

When we saw the first previews for “Silver Linings Playbook,” I leaned over and whispered “yes” to my husband. That’s our shorthand discussion about whether we’ll see whatever movie is being promoted. He answered with “you can see that one.”

If you’re not familiar, it’s seemingly a romantic comedy about a mentally ill man who turns to dance to cope with life. He meets a girl, and they have adventures.

But, it’s got Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro on screen as father and son.

I would sit and watch Robert De Niro read the Lake County phone book for eight hours if it were offered. And, Bradley Cooper. Oh my. We really don’t have to engage in much more discussion about someone who’s been dubbed the “sexiest man alive.”

I see a silver lining right there.

After the nominations were announced Thursday morning, I emailed my husband with the subject line “Bad news.” Inside was a note that said “... we have to see ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ this weekend.”

His response: “Why?”

I sent a note back that explained that it’s because the film is the first in 32 years to be nominated in all four of the Oscars’ acting categories.

I’m sure he’ll demand we have dinner at his favorite restaurant in return for his pain at the theater.

If I want to really challenge myself this Oscar season, I can also try to fit in the “The” movie collection.

There are multiple acting nominations from “The Master,” “The Sessions,” and “The Impossible.”

That might be tricky, though, with what then would be nine movies and only seven weekends until the awards show.

So I think I’ll stick to the biggies and the sense of accomplishment it’ll bring.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s a meaningless goal. But if it means I’m successful in escaping from the stress of the day, then it’ll do just fine.
Twitter: @Lauranh

Friday, January 4, 2013

Death of a hero bring back bold memories of early days

It was July 1950, and I was having this dream:

The entire staff (eight people) of The News-Herald was sitting around the newsroom on West Spaulding Street in Downtown Willoughby, thinking things over. The paper came out five days a week in those days.

A light bulb went off in my head. I had this great idea.

“Sometimes,” I said, “there are stories in the paper with a bunch of names. It would be neat if those names were in bold face type (like this) so the names would jump off the page and readers could pick them out more easily.”

“That sounds great,” said the editor, Eddie Broderick. “Why don’t you go downstairs to the composing room and tell one of the Linotype operators we’d like to do that.”

Turns out Eddie was pulling my leg. I mentioned my idea to one of the Linotype guys and he looked at me as if I were crazy.

“Are you kidding, kid?” he said. “That’s almost impossible on a Linotype. Broderick is joshing you.”
That was then, of course, and this is now. On a computer in 2013 you can put anything you want in bold face. But in 1950, there were no computers in the newsroom. Heck, there were only a couple of TV programs in color in those days.

I was reminded of my dream the other day when I read a name in a sports section that jumped out at me. Chuck Cherundolo had died.

I think he was 96. How many of you remember Chuck? I remember him as vividly as I remember anyone who played for the Cleveland Rams back in 1937, ‘38 and ‘39.

The billionaire who bought the Browns last year probably never heard of him. He probably never heard of a lot of guys who played for the Rams before they left town for L.A. in 1946, to be replaced by the Browns, kicking off an unforgettable era in which the Browns dominated the All American Football Conference for four years before moving to the National Football League in 1950.

The Rams were the best team in football in 1945, beating the Washington Redskins in the championship game when Sammy Baugh threw a pass from his own end zone that bounced off the goal post, giving the Rams a two-point safety for their margin of victory.

It was bitterly cold that day. The goal posts were on the goal line then before they were moved back 10 yards. But I digress.

I liked players with great names, like Chuck Cherundolo. He had many teammates on the Rams with great names.

How about Phil Ragazzo, or Vic Spadaccini, or Corby Davis? Are those All-American names, or what?

I had many favorites on those Rams teams. I pored over the sports pages every day. Their names were as familiar to me as George Washington, or Thomas Jefferson, or Alexander Hamilton.

The News-Herald came out only on Tuesday and Friday in those halcyon days of the Rams. We got it, plus the Cleveland News. Neighbors saved the sports sections of the Cleveland Press and Plain Dealer for me. I virtually memorized all of them.

I had a lot of Rams favorites besides Cherundolo, who was an outstanding center and linebacker.
There was Jules Alfonse, Johnny Drake, and Riley (Rattlesnake) Matheson.

And Gaylon Smith, Chet Adams, Ollie Cordill and Dante Mangani. And don’t forget Fred Gehrke, Jim Gillette and Rudy Mucha.

Jim Benton was a terrific pass-receiver. An Arkansas graduate, I think he led the league in passing yard receptions a couple of times, and I recall one game in which he gathered in passes for a record 303 yards.

I will never forget when the Rams acquired Indian Jack Jacobs, and Parker Hall. They were star quality players.

At least three of the Rams – Chet Adams, Tom Collela and Don Greenwood, stayed in Cleveland when the Rams left in 1946 and played for the Browns. There may have been more. I don’t recall.
Too bad Cherundolo didn’t stick around. Paul Brown loved centers, because if it weren’t for them, a play would never start.

At the beginning, Brown had three great centers – Mike (Moe) Scarry, Mel Maceau (pronounced Macko) and Frank (Gunner) Gatski, a Hall of Famer and a ferocious man who used to go bear hunting with a bow and arrow in the woods of West Virginia. Or maybe it was with his bare hands.

At least, that’s the way I remember that stuff. But, as Dennis Miller says, I could be wrong.