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Weekly Columns!

All your favorite weekly columns and letters to the editor- online!

 Editor's Notebook by Bill Blauvelt A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli Life, Beyond the Ranch, by Tonya R. Pohlman

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
The Blauvelts were in Lincoln Friday and Saturday attending the annual meeting of the Nebraska Press Association. It was our first visit to Lincoln since 2004.
This week I suspect many Nebraska newspapers will publish stories tooting their own horns about the honors they won in the Better Newspaper contests. You won't read such a story in The Express. When we entered the contest we won our share of awards but I've concluded the time required to enter a contest is better spent producing a newspaper.
Times have changed and newspapers have changed. The newspaper produced today is different from the one produced when I started in this business. Hopefully, we are still producing one our readers enjoy. If we are missing stories you would like to read, we solicity your help in obtaining the information. We would like to have more local stories, particularly from our Nebraska coverage area.
Most of the those attending the meeting were optimistic. Like all businesses, the newspaper business runs in cycles of good and bad times. We've been through a bad cycle but it appears the corner has been turned and industry experts expect better times ahead.
The biggest challenge may be staffing shortages. I want to encourage this spring's high school graduates to consider a career in communications. The way information is delivered may change, but our need for information is not going away any time soon.
In recent years the press association's annual meeting has been rotating between Lincoln, Kearney and Grand Island. When the meeting is held in Kearney or Grand Island the Blauvelts have tried to attend but we seldom make the trip to either Lincoln or Omaha.
This week we didn't venture far into the city but we noticed many changes. The first came before we even left Superior. The meeting was slated for a downtown Holiday Inn. In past years I've attended Lincoln press meetings at the Lincoln Hotel, the Hilton Hotel and the Cornhusker Hotel and I knew how to find those three hotels. But where would I find the Holiday Inn? I went to the internet and asked Google Maps to route me from Superior to the hotel. I was given a choice of ways, The route via Highway 14 and the interstate was 4 minutes quicker than the route via Highway 81 and the interstate. I rejected both suggestions as we had printing orders to deliver in Clay Center and Geneva. And after learning the hotel was located north of O Street and on the first street east of the overpass over the Burlington rail yard, I settled on taking familiar Highway 6 east from 81.
When I was a youngster, Dad's brother, Leslie, operated a sale barn on West O and we generally stopped there whenever we had business in Lincoln. Highway 6 a familar way into Lincoln and with the interstate just over the hill, it has little traffic.
From a Google search, I concluded the Holiday Inn must be a new hotel constructed near where the Lincoln Hotel was once located. Over the years I've been to numerous meetings in the Lincoln and the Hilton hotel which replaced the Lincoln and was confident I could find the new hotel.
I asked co-workers who frequently visit Lincoln about the location of the Holiday Inn but they weren't familiar with it.
Arriving in Lincoln, I was surprised to learn the Holiday Inn is a new name for an old hotel. It is located in the former Hilton building. I don't think I have ever experienced a more courteous, eager to be helpful hotel crew.
While in Lincoln, we visited the nearby Haymarket development. Last time I was in what is now called the Haymarket, I went purposely to take pictures of the decaying Burlington facilities built to serve the passenger trains. This week we found the area to again be alive and vibrant. It was fun to watch the college age people dashing about.
Watching them I recalled the following story which crossed the newsdesk this week:
Eileen Mason, a 92-year-old grandmother and resident of the United Kingdom, thwarted the mugging of her friend, Margaret Seabrook, when she smashed her mobility scooter into a thief.
Mason, who has four children, 10 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, said: "I saw him look into my basket and I said 'oh no you don't', really loudly.
"I put my scooter into accelerate and turned really fast. The next thing I know he was on the floor. I thought 'my gosh.'
"Something in me just told me to turn so I squeezed the accelerator and turned and he went flying. He was so evil looking. We go to the lunch club every week on our scooters and nothing like this has ever happened before.
"We went through the war and all the bombings. We won't let a weasel like that hold us back. I would stand up for myself again if I needed to, but hopefully I won't need to. We will carry on as normal though ­ he hasn't put us off."


A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

Do you think Nebraska is poised to become a popular location for shooting big budget feature films? It's difficult to say, but there's a group of filmmakers in L.A. who are doing everything they can to make it happen.
One member of the group is a friend of mine. He's a Nebraska native who's been living out there quite awhile. We met several years ago at Lew Hunter's Superior Screenwriting Colony. Since then his career has really "taken off." They have an ambitious plan to produce five feature films here in Nebraska, taking advantage of new film incentives approved by the legislature as well as film incentives offered by his own hometown.
I hope they are successful. Knowing what I know about them, I'm confident. There are a lot of people working in the existing indie film community here in Nebraska that I'm sure will be able to get work on their projects. Another reason I want them to succeed is one of the five films they plan to produce may be written by me. The script I developed at the colony where I met my friend is a comedy and I believe my strongest script. It was the third of seven feature scripts I've written. He said at the colony, "I'd like to direct this some day." Now, four years later, we're talking about that very thing in real concrete terms.
We made plans to meet and discuss it further during this year's Omaha Film Festival because he was back visiting his mother, but he had to return to L.A. for a commercial job and wasn't able to be there. We plan to meet in the near future. Between scouting locations in Omaha for my next short film and getting my daughter, Molly, set up at UNO, we'll be up there a bunch from now until August.
Film incentives are a great way to entice production companies to shoot here and spend the money associated with making movies, which is a lot of money. State film incentives refund or rebate a qualified portion of the money spent in the state back to the production. If a production has $1 million in qualified spending and they shoot in a state with a 25 percent incentive, they will get $250,000 back from the state. In some cases, that money comes as a check. Every state is different, but when a production is finished spending money in the locale or when the entire production is done, an accounting is provided to the state. Then that is vetted internally before any check or voucher is released. In other cases the production will receive it as a tax credit that they will then have to go out and sell to a company that can use that credit.
In 1992 Louisiana became the first state to offer film incentives. Since then a lot of films have been shot there. A recent poll indicates the vast majority of Louisiana voters have seen firsthand what the incentives have done for the state and wholeheartedly approve of them.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

This is the time of year for proms, junior-senior banquets and after-prom parties. Many years ago, there were numerous high schools in Jewell County ­­ Burr Oak, Esbon, Ionia, Montrose, Formoso, Mankato, Jewell, Randall and Lovewell ­­ all with their own homecoming, prom, ball games and other activities. As I look back, I can remember most of those high schools. Can you imagine all those schools and students preparing for their own special prom night? All in the same county?
About 50 years ago, when it was a month or two before prom, junior and senior girls would begin dress shopping with their mothers. Some pulled out the J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward or Sears catalogs and checked out the women's and girl's dress section. There were also talented mothers who could sew a fashionable prom dress for their daughters, which meant a trip to the local fabric store ­­ Callie's of Jewell. Others traveled to dress shops. Those I remember being close-by were Hill's Style Shop in Superior, Dreiling's in Mankato and Geyerman's in Hastings. I'm sure there were also dress shops in Belleville, Beloit and Smith Center. Where I purchased the dress for my junior year was the Bon Ton in Concordia.
Prom dresses have changed throughout the years. In my Junior year, prom dresses were street length or had a "balloon" hem. They were colorful ­­ orange, hot pink or lime green. They were fancy and often had a satin skirt with a light weight material over the satin, and usually with a full skirt. By my senior year, Jackie Kennedy fashions had hit the area and prom dresses were of heavy satin, long straight skirt with a fitted top to the dress. Colors were more reserved and were usually pastels. High heels were like satin and dyed to match the dress. Hair styles were big! Teasing hair and using a lot of hair spray was called for. Much like today's teenage girls, a trip to the local hair stylist was called for on prom day. Long white gloves added to the style, because Jackie always wore those with her dresses.
Today's prom fashions are mostly strapless, dark and bright colored, somehave a mermaid skirt, real full skirt or a tighter fitted skirt. There was a wide variety of styles this year.
In years past, guys picked up the girls in their own cars or their parents' cars. No stretch limos were available back then. The guys didn't have to worry about their suit styles back in the 60s because ordinary Sunday dress suits were worn to the prom. Today, tuxedo rentals have made it easy for most guys, and besides black tuxedos there are white ones or other colors, all with vests and ties that match their date's dress.
Prom was and still is an event to cherish and remember. Recently, it was wonderful to view on social media those happy faced teens as they enjoyed this special event in their lives.

Life, Beyond the Ranch, by Tonya R. Pohlman

I attended an REO Speedwagon concert Saturday evening with three coworkers ­­ Kim Young, Clinton Christian and Sandra Foote. We unofficially refer to ourselves now as the "concert of the month club," as concert attendance has more and more become a regular outing and our original gang of three becomes four and so on.
I recall a woman who often took me and the neighbor boy to church in my grade school years when my mother was not able to take us. On the way to church one day, I recall an REO Speedwagon song came on the radio in the woman's car. She changed the radio station and proceeded to lecture me and the neighbor boy as to the evils of rock n' roll music, asking if we knew that the "speed" in REO Speedwagon referred to amphetamines, commonly known as the often illegally used drug, speed. The neighbor boy and I assured her we did not know this. We also chose not to add that we didn't care.
The neighbor boy and I liked REO Speedwagon music, and we weren't particularly concerned as to how they got the name for their band, though I doubt either of us was convinced of the accuracy of the church lady's story. In my teenage years, later on, it was of course confirmed for me the church lady's version of how REO Speedwagon got their name was inaccurate.
The official version of how REO Speedwagon named their band is (from an internet resource): "They named the band REO Speedwagon, from the REO Speed Wagon, a flatbed truck the band's keyboardist, Neal Doughty, had studied in transportation history as an electrical engineering student at the University of Illinois. The initials are those of company founder Ransom E. Olds. Rather than pronouncing REO as a single word as the motor company did, the band REO Speedwagon chose to spell out the name with the individual letters as R-E-O."
I've always paid more attention to the music that is played rather than the members of whatever band played it. I can recite lyrics from a well-deep memory of useless knowledge, but I couldn't name the lead singer, keyboard player or guitarist of most bands, whose music I proclaim to like, unless the band is named for the lead singer. What I can say about members of most of the bands my coworkers and I have viewed in concert recently is they're all a whole lot older than they used to be.
It's safe to say, also, the people who go to see these bands in concert nowadays are a whole lot older than they used to be. And aside from the fact that our fellow aged concert goers now dress more comfortably, are probably more well-behaved than they were 30 years ago, and many have regular work hours, early bedtimes and grandchildren; when the lights are turned down, the only thing apparent about the people standing, sitting, clapping, dancing and singing along to the concert music, is that their spirit has not aged from when this music first reached them 30, 40 or more years ago.
I must be honest though and admit I am convinced I was born an old person. I've always been rather opinionated and prone to cantankerous behavior. I don't normally like loud music. I rarely like music playing when I am in a vehicle, and certainly not loud enough for every other vehicle on the roadway to hear, though a Glen Campbell CD on occasion can be heard through my car windows if I am alone and it's a long drive. I cringe at the thought of a loud, screaming electric guitar and much prefer the soft subtlety of my six-string acoustic. People who praise the endless pounding of a drum solo are a mystery to me only solved by a dose of ibuprofen for the headache I imagine just thinking about it. I attended only one rock n' roll concert from birth to my mid-20s. And what I remember most about the one I did attend is how bad my feet hurt and smelled afterwards.
So, yes, when I attend these rock n' roll concerts now with "the gang," I at first notice how much my ears hurt. I think briefly about how much more advanced my hearing loss is going to be. But I would look ridiculous in headphone style ear protection at a concert (actually, I would look like a Teletubby), and I cannot tolerate ear plugs. I realize my ride home is sitting next to me thoroughly enjoying the concert. Walking down the concert venue stairs in the dark would be difficult and the music would still reach me even if I did decide to hide in the bathroom as one coworker mentioned, even the toilets vibrated from the sound at our latest event. And as I have told my ride home at two of these events now, "Once I stop worrying about the ringing in my ears, there is a certain surrender," before the ringing stops or I just stop worrying about it, and soon I am enjoying the inability to think, speak or hear anything but the experience of the music with all of the other "young" people there.
My husband, Marty, does not always like "the gang's" taste in music. My nights out with the gang have become his nights of peace, quiet and freedom to cook liver and onions without me home to complain about the smell. Marty has his own musical interests, however, and he didn't hesitate to purchase tickets for us to enjoy an upcoming evening with Jimmy Buffett. That will be my first "parrothead" experience in which cheeseburgers are apparently a mainstay in paradise. I imagine it can't be all bad if there are cheeseburgers involved.