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Off the beat: Nov. 17, 2007


Martial arts instructor: Fight me for sword

Who knows - maybe there will be some honor among thieves if Martin Miller gets his way.


Miller, an Elyria martial artist who reported that his $2,700 sword was stolen last week during a martial arts competition in Newark, said he`ll let the thief keep the sword only if the man - who thus far remains anonymous - can beat him in a sword fight.

Miller, 40, was at a martial arts competition in Newark on Nov. 10 when someone broke into a parked Ford Ranger pickup and stole his ninja sword, the same weapon he says was featured in the Quentin Tarantino movie "Kill Bill," which stars Uma Thurman as a ninja-like assassin.

Miller, a longtime martial artist interested in ninjitsu, hapkido and martial arts weaponry, reported the theft to Newark police but there was no witness and no security cameras around to observe the theft. That said, Miller is willing to win back his weapon, fair and square.

He said Wednesday that he has no idea who the thief is, but he`s willing to fight him in a true-to-life martial-arts sword fight.

"I want this person to prove to me that they have the right to wield a sword," Miller said. "If they can beat me, they can keep it."

And maybe Tarantino can film it.

- Shawn Foucher

Safety service prodigy putting in long hours

Lorain`s new safety service director, Andrew Winemiller, heard the guffaws when he was appointed to his post.


The day after he was given the job by outgoing Mayor John Romoser, television news made a mockery of the fact that a 21-year-old college junior was made the most important administrator in the city, in charge of all the safety forces as well as nearly every city function.

It wasn`t clear whether Winemiller had the experience for his new responsibilities, but in his first week and a half in charge, he has stayed at work until 10 p.m. or later almost every night and has come in on weekends and Veterans Day, when City Hall was closed.

Winemiller said he credits the people around him, including Chief Deputy Safety Service Director Jana Gerbocova and Deputy Safety Service Director Joe Arendt, for helping him keep the city moving.

"I couldn`t do it without them," he said. "Everyone`s been great."

- Adam Wright

Lorain law director runs into OSU great


Lorain City Law Director Mark Provenza recently went down to The Horseshoe at The Ohio State University to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his father`s 1957 national championship season, and nearly tackled the one player many couldn`t.

Well, almost.

Provenza was making his way through the entrance of the stadium when he bumped into Archie Griffin - the former Buckeye running back and two-time winner of the prestigious Heisman Trophy.

"(Griffin) was as wide as a redwood tree stump," Provenza said. "I ran into him and he didn`t even notice."

- Stephen Szucs

Fate of Big Dipper coaster still up in air

Fans of Geauga Lake`s classic wooden Big Dipper roller coaster shouldn`t get too pumped up just yet.

A fan-based group announced earlier this week that it wanted to try to save the 1925 ride by making it the main attraction of a ride-themed retail complex similar to successful ventures in California and Florida where vintage rides have been incorporated into shopping and entertainment venues. But that may not happen in time for the 2008 summer season.

"No decisions will be made until sealed bids are received and reviewed, and we`ve set a deadline of March 28 for that," Cedar Point spokesman Bryan Edwards said this week. Cedar Fair, parent company of Cedar Point and Geauga Lake, has contracted with the firm of Colliers International to act as a broker for possible sale of the 65-foot-tall, 32-mph ride originally built for $50,000. "Nothing will happen before then," Edwards said. If no suitable bids are received, Cedar Fair officials would consider working with a developer, according to Edwards.

The ride`s fate was left up in the air after the company announced in September it was closing the amusement park portion of Geauga Lake due in part to declining business, in favor of an all-water park attraction set to open in 2008. Officials said it was unlikely the Big Dipper would be relocated to any other Cedar Fair-owned park, as is being done with other rides for the 2008 season. The park`s 70-mph Steel Venom roller coaster will be moved to Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom in Pennsylvania and renamed VooDoo, while the 65-mph floorless roller coaster Dominator will keep its name at Virginia`s Kings Dominion.

- Steve Fogarty

JROTC students honor teacher in Iraq

Junior ROTC students form a message for Veterans Day. "SFC Wallace" is an Elyria High School teacher, John Wallace, an Army reservist in Iraq.

If you were traveling past Elyria High School on Wednesday afternoon, you might have wondered what a whole crew of students dressed in military uniforms was doing scrambling around the front lawn - each holding a piece of paper in their hands.

As it turns out, what you were seeing was a bit of levity added to the tail end of an otherwise serious event in honor of Veterans Day by the Junior ROTC.

Lt. Col. Roy T. Jenkins, who runs the high school program, had letters printed up on individual sheets of paper. They were doled out to the students, and once outside, they had to figure out what the sign said.

Soon, "Thank You SFC Wallace," was stretching across the lawn.

That`s for EHS teacher and coach John Wallace, an Army reservist on his second tour of duty in Iraq. The group had a picture taken of it (including the Go Army Beat Navy sign included in the display) and plan on sending it to him.

While the freshman class doesn`t know Wallace - he`s been in Iraq the entire time they`ve been in high school - the older cadets know him well, Jenkins said.

"It meant a little more to the older kids," he said.

I`m pretty familiar with Sgt. 1st Class Wallace myself. He`s my younger brother, and in a weird coincidence, I happened to be driving by EHS en route to work when the cadets were on the lawn.

- Julie Wallace

Richardson wins Oberlin convention

If Oberlin College students had their way, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico will be the Democratic nominee for president.

Known for their quirky approaches to politics, about 250 students gathered Sunday in their own political convention.

There was drama, substance and even comedy as the candidates - played by Oberlin College staff and other volunteers - made their pitches to the crowd and poked fun at other candidates.

Brian Royer of America Votes, portraying Sen. Joe Biden, thanked Dennis Kucinich for "beaming down for the debate" - referring to Kucinich`s claim that he saw a UFO, according to convention participant Namrata Kolachalam.

Kucinich, played by politics professor Ben Schiff, said the other candidates "treated truth like an unidentified flying object."

Marci Alegant, an associate dean at The Conservatory of Music and president of the Oberlin school board, portrayed Sen. Hillary Clinton and poked fun at her candidate by saying, "this is how I feel, right now, today."

The students narrowed their choices between Sen. Chris Dodd, played by assistant politics professor Michael Parkin, who arrived early with a security detail and campaign manager, and Richardson, portrayed by Steven Volk, history professor and chair of Latin American Studies.

"He (Volk) was hilarious," said Kolachalam, a politics and film student from West Bloomfield, Mich.

While the mini convention was fun, Kolachalam said she doesn`t think it is a harbinger of what is to come.

"My bet would be Hillary Clinton and if it`s a Clinton-(Rudolph) Giuliani match-up, I still think Clinton will win."

- Cindy Leise

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