Lehman Family Christmas Letter 2006

This morning, I spent 15 minutes shaving and showering and after I was almost all dried off realized I never put shampoo in my hair. It’s just been that kind of day.

This year, I spent most of my time doing various school-related extracurriculars and random odd jobs around town and now that it’s almost over I realize I don’t really have a direction in life. It’s just been that kind of year.

Luckily, I’ve always got this gig to fall back on. The ol’ Lehman family Christmas letter. An honor bestowed in the following manner: “Mark, would you write the Christmas letter again this year? It probably won’t go out until after Christmas, but your father and I are just too busy.”

And so let it begin.

It was a year of ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, so we turned to face the strain. Dad switched jobs, Daniel switched jobs more, I graduated and then switched jobs more than both of them combined, and mom switched from “getting up there in years” to “seriously old” by turning 50.

Spotlight on Dave. After 8 years of sipping coffee and “managing” the CENTURY 21 Select office, he finally said his goodbyes and joined up with Michelle to become team Lehman. Think Captain Planet: “With our powers combined…” and you’ll get the idea. As far as I can tell, though, this has meant spending a lot of time at home, doing “behind the scenes stuff.” Really, I think it’s just an excuse to hang out and practice guitar. Probably better that he stays home anyway, since we’re not sure how safe the road is after he totaled his Honda Civic in April. Fortunately, no one was hurt and he came away with a sweet new Honda Accord. Total chick magnet.

Also, a somewhat somber story. Dave found out in September that he had a tumor in his neck, and despite him yelling in his worst Ahnold impression “It’s not a tumah!” the doctor cut it out on Halloween and he’s doing six weeks of radiation starting the week before Christmas. We’re all hoping something will go awry and he’ll end up with superpowers. Well, maybe it’s just me hoping that, but I think the rest of the fam will come around to my way of thinking.

Spotlight on Daniel. At the beginning of the year, he quit his job at Washington Mutual to go to work in the doggy dog world of Beverly Hills real estate. He soon found out it was more of a dog eat dog world, so he got out as quickly as he could with most of his soul still intact. For a brief period he had a part-time gig in an actual doggy dog world, at a place called Doggy Day Care where rich people drop off their dogs for the day. Now he’s playing sports and jumping on trampolines with autistic kids and getting paid for it.

Not to be outdone by dad, Daniel totaled his Camaro in September and got another in October with the insurance money. I think he did it on purpose to add some spice to his life—after all, you can only run and surf so much before you start to forget which one you’re doing and end up drowning. Grad school and a new girlfriend might be on the horizon, but those subjects are taboo. Like pitching a perfect game, if you talk about it, it won’t actually happen.

Spotlight on Michelle. She’s still a workaholic like usual, but it’s more difficult now that she has dad bugging her to stop working. In between real estate craziness and 9:30 mass music group rock star status, mom found time to gamble and drink in Vegas for the CENTURY 21 convention and mostly just drink in Cabo San Lucas with dad and family friends the Reibolds. She did list her first million dollar home, but unfortunately hasn’t sold it yet, so it’s only a half victory, like running the 100m hurdles at world record pace but without ever crossing the finishing line.

In other news, mom’s having a blast bossing dad around as part team Lehman. For a fun activity, ask her about what it’s like working with her husband. Then ask dad about what it’s like working with his wife. Then compare notes.

Spotlight on me. I began the year in my last semester at Loyola Marymount holding down three jobs with the school newspaper, the yearbook and the priest residence, all while finishing my thesis and pretending to care about school and grades. Oh, and I went to England for spring break with some friends, one of which got into Oxford. Oh, and I went to New York City for a media convention. Oh, and I went to Mexico for an evening, most of which I don’t remember. Needless to say, it was a tough semester.

Now I’m in the real world, where it has been difficult finding a nice place to live that will leave me money for food, booze and Ellen, my girlfriend of over a year, and where it has been time-consuming and tedious finding a job that isn’t food service or real estate and pays more than $10 an hour. However, I’m finding that life is pretty easy with only one job (working as a customer service agent for SkyWest Airlines at LAX—woohoo free flights!), no school and no homework.

In other family news, Grandma Lehman broke her hip in March, dad has started buying the small bags of dog food since our deaf and dumb dog (stupid-dumb not no talking-dumb) is barely clinging to life in her old age, and Grandma and Grandpa David accompanied mom, dad, Daniel and I on our annual vacation. This year, that consisted of a cruise to the Mexican Riviera, where we drank, gambled and watched some spectacularly bad Reno-style shows in between calling out coded messages on our walkie talkies. Example: “Gizmo (Dave), this is Dragon (Mark). I’ll rendezvous with you and Irish (Grandma) on the Lido Deck at 1300 hours. Maintain radio silence on all channels, copy.”

So even though it has been one of those days, and one of those years, sometimes change is a good thing. Time may change us, but we can’t change time, so here’s hoping at least one thing will remain the same: that all of you, our friends and family, have a merry Christmas, joyous holidays and an amazing and prosperous new year to come.

Dave, Michelle, Daniel, Mark and Harley (unless she dies before we actually send this).

Les Shorts Les Plus Courts (The Shortest Shorts)

One of my only videos not created for a class project, this one was also one of the most enjoyable to make because of its downright silliness. Essentially, it's a collection of video puns, presented by James Malins and I.

Try not to hurt yourself with this, another markandjames production.

Hockey: Let the fights..ahem, games begin!

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Opinion articles.
Hockey: Let the fights..ahem, games begin!

Mark J. Lehman
Managing Editor

Originally Published: Wednesday, April 5, 2006


"What? Yeah, I'm at the hockey game!"




"Yeah, we have a hockey team, can you believe that?"

This was only one of probably countless phone conversations having to do with LMU's brand new ice hockey team overheard at Culver Ice Arena last Thursday night as the Lions beat the living daylights out of the USC Trojans in one of the most memorable and entertaining sporting events I've attended during my time at this university.

A brief explanation: for those who are unaware and who missed the article last week in the Loyolan sports section, LMU Ice Hockey has made a comeback this year after a more than 60-year hiatus. Although the season began back in November, all the hard work and dedication of the players culminated in one night of wild, nail-biting, splendidly violent glory -- a glory only hockey can provide.

Let me first add a disclaimer that I am not, nor have I ever been a die-hard ice hockey fan. Sure, I've played my share of ice hockey video games like "Blades of Steel" or any of the Wayne Gretzky games, and I'd be lying if I said I hadn't seen "D2: The Mighty Ducks" more than a couple of times, but I've never been to an actual ice hockey event, and I've never even watched a game in its entirety on television. That said, as of last Thursday, I'm a convert to the religion of the stick and puck.

While most official LMU sports see fans number in the high teens on a regular basis, Thursday's game against USC filled all of the stands at the small ice rink with screaming fans, forcing the rest to crowd around the plexi-glass wall and stand for the entire match, cheering for our boys and jeering at the players on the opposing squad. Maybe it was the SoCal matchup that drew such crowds, or perhaps it was the lack of an entrance fee, but I have my own theory: we like violence.

Think about it. The biggest turnouts at LMU where sporting events are concerned happen at the basketball games, and that's usually only against Pepperdine or when a game is televised, which shows not that we care about basketball, but that we hate Pepperdine and that we're starved for attention. This is nothing against our basketball team, but it's just the nature of the sport-it's not really brutal or violent, and the little bit of hostility that occurs usually is hidden, as to avoid getting called for a foul.

In fact, most sports at LMU are this way -- either they are not inherently filled with aggression and physical contact, such as baseball or volleyball, or the contact is purposely hidden, like in water polo or soccer.

This is why we love hockey. There is no pretense, no hidden agenda, no sneakiness. There is only hitting, and a lot of it. And unlike rugby, which is also violent, most everyone can understand the basic objective of hockey: hit the little round disc in the goal.

LMU Athletics should jump on the hockey bandwagon immediately, because this could be huge. Not only was it the most fun I've had at any sporting event all four years I've been here, but the team beat a supposedly much better USC squad 2-0, and the game ended in a fistfight, with hundreds of fans screaming, yelling and jumping around.

It really doesn't get any better than that.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/opinion/1.398315]

Sweet Considerations Considering Sweets

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my articles from the now-defunct humor section, Tangent.
Sweet Considerations Considering Sweets

Mark J. Lehman
Managing Editor

Originally Published: Tuesday, April 4, 2006

I remember it well. It was a Saturday. No, a Sunday. The sun was just setting over the horizon, its last rays unwilling to extinguish as they singed the edges of the impending night sky. This type of cosmic battle always stirs deep within my soul a desire to know the world more fully and to understand it more completely, and this desire drives me to ponder the deeper questions that man may never answer but will continually strive to understand.

What is my purpose? Is there life after death? What should I eat for dinner this evening?

But on this fine April evening, a more distressing thought kept me perplexed; nay, it gnawed at my very soul like some carnivorous hamsters on a spiritual feeding frenzy.

What is a Tootsie Roll?

This question did not involve the simple answer of identifying Tootsie Rolls as such. From living on this planet for a number of years and participating in my fair share of trick-or-treating events, I'm fairly certain I am able to differentiate between a Tootsie Roll and inferior candies such as Mr. Goodbar or Twix. Yes, despite the catchy 80s commercial jingle, I know that we live not in an ideal world and thus, "Whatever it is I think I see" most definitely does NOT "become a Tootsie Roll to me."

Rather, the mystifying question that plagued me dealt more with the consistency and genetic makeup of the Tootsie Roll.

Is it chocolate? Is it taffy? Is it both? Is it neither? What precisely is "tootsie," and what ingenious mastermind first opted to craft this strange blend into roll form?

These are the types of dilemmas that generate the existential crises which make up the very fabric of what compels social change and reform for the good of all humanity. And yet, these specific questions, it seems, can only be answered in the simple terms of the infamous ad campaign by Tootsie Roll's bastard cousin, Tootsie Pop-namely, "The world may never know."
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/2.4416/1.398347]
From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my articles from the now-defunct humor section, Tangent.
(non)Appliance of the Month
The Tangent Flips Off Microwave

Mark J. Lehman
Managing Editor

Originally Published: Tuesday, April 4, 2006

The movie has just started, but I can already smell your stench. How foolish was I to have pushed the "popcorn" button and trusted that you would know what to do and when to stop doing it. Now, half of the bag contains burnt brown kernels and I'm forced to eat healthier but less mentally nourishing snacks like carrots or sloe gin. For this reason and more, Microwave, I'm using this typically praising column to point out your failures as the antithesis of the appliance of the month.

Microwave, even when you don't burn my popcorn or you're not cooking day-old burritos, there is little about you that doesn't stink. When I asked you to reheat my pizza the other day, you only melted half the cheese, leaving the rest cold and clammy and making the bottom all soggy, like a wet sponge made of flour and ambition. Heck, despite its obvious inferiority to the Toaster, even the toaster oven can do a better job than that.

Microwave, you're so bad, I'm not only disqualifying you from being in the running for appliance of the month, I won't even let you be a write-in. (As if anyone would write you in, anyway, chump.)

Not only are you a poor excuse for an appliance, Microwave, but you're also a bigot. What have you got against metal, anyway? Why does it get you so fired up? Don't be exclusive, Microwave; after all, you don't see Stove or Oven kicking silverware out into the cold. Get with the times, Microwave. It's a different world than when you were born, so start acting like it.

Besides, think about this: if you suck, then you aren't allowed to be selective. That's like uglies only willing to hook up with devilishly attractive people like Brad Pitt or Keira Knightley -- it ain't gonna happen, folks.

Even meals created specifically to be cooked by you turn out nasty, usually in some combination of hardened and crusty or soupy and soggy. Sure, you can make food faster than any other appliance… you want a medal for it? If I gave you one, you'd just catch fire anyway, because it'd be made out of metal. And anyway, a 12 year old failing the third grade can probably make a finger painting pretty quick, but it doesn't mean it'll be any damn good. In fact, if he's failing third grade, chances are it will suck pretty bad. Just like you.

Microwave, it's time to shape up or ship out. Toaster, Blender, Garbage Disposal and I are sick of you always wanting to join our elite group. Why don't you "wave" goodbye to any hope of joining the appliance of the month club, because starting today, there's a new law in appliance land: no Microwaves.

Stick that in yourself and smoke it. Oh, wait, you can't do that either, ya useless bastard.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/2.4416/1.398345]

Playing hookie to 'educate the whole person'

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Opinion articles.
Playing hookie to 'educate the whole person'

Mark J. Lehman
Managing Editor

Originally Published: Wednesday, March 1, 2006

As the alarm on my computer soothingly serenaded me back from Dreamland with Edward Grieg's classic song "Morning," I checked my clock to make sure that it was time to get up.

9 a.m. Dang.

I rolled clumsily out of bed and stumbled to the bathroom to start my morning ritual, but five minutes later I found myself back under the covers, snoozing, and thinking to myself that 9 a.m. was far too early in the morning to actually begin learning things, particularly after a long night of working at the Loyolan to help put out our student newspaper that week.

Call this laziness if you want, but I think of it as knowing my priorities. Each semester, I usually have five classes, and inevitably two of those classes I don't care about and learn hardly anything from, yet must take in order to graduate. Each semester, I also have a slew of other activities outside of the classroom that encourage my personal and academic growth, despite not being part of the traditional "classroom learning" structure. Is it wrong to sacrifice a few class sessions in order to devote my time to activities that I am passionate about and that will help me become the person that I want to be?

If you're looking for the point of this rant, here it is: attendance policies in college are bogus. We've all heard the complaints from students about how now that we're independent and away from parents and most authority figures, we should be responsible enough to determine whether or not to attend the classes in which we have enrolled. While I agree with this mindset, I think the sham of having attendance policies in college extends beyond this -- it gives teachers an excuse not to try.

Before I go further, let me preface this by saying one thing about our professors here at LMU. In my four years here, I have had the privilege of learning from many amazing men and women in various fields of study, and I remain truly grateful for all that I have picked up and all knowledge that has stayed with me. Sadly, and perhaps expectedly, I have also had several teachers who, to put it bluntly, were not good. Every minute of every hour of each class session was spent hating myself for having ever decided to take such a class with such a teacher. Perhaps the worst part, though, is that the majority of these teachers were the very same that took attendance religiously and gave it the most weight in the grading process.

The truly great professors have shown an overwhelming passion for their subject matter and a keen interest for making their students feel this passion too. Whether they accomplished this through lectures and discussions, supplementary video tapes, field trips, or various other outside-the-box teaching methods, they made me want to roll out of bed in the morning (or afternoon) to attend their classes because I was actually excited to learn. This is one of the things that college is all about -- not forced learning, but opening students' eyes to a world of knowledge and showing them the excitement of obtaining such knowledge.

When bad professors force attendance on their students, it does nothing except leave a bad taste in the mouths of young people, stomping on their desire to learn. What's more, according to LMU's mission statement, "Loyola Marymount understands and declares its purpose to be the encouragement of learning, the education of the whole person and the service of faith and the promotion of justice." The mission statement goes on to speak about how the university encourages students to involve themselves in a variety of extracurricular activities that will provide "opportunities, experiences, and responsibilities that will assist and guide [students'] struggle to become fully human."

Part of being and becoming a responsible adult is understanding one's duties and obligations and learning to prioritize them. When there is a particular class or professor that does not stimulate one's mind or add to one's knowledge base at all, there is no reason that the student should not be able to discern between participating in an extracurricular activity that will assuredly encourage personal growth and attending a class that will not help at all to educate the whole person or encourage learning.

Next time I have a class that I've deemed unworthy of my time, I won't feel bad about skipping it in order to participate in activities that I am passionate about, such as the Loyolan or my service organization-activities that I have determined will do more to educate my whole person than any forced learning ever could.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/opinion/1.398748]

I Wish I Were Old

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my articles from the now-defunct humor section, Tangent.
I Wish I Were Old

Mark J. Lehman
Managing Editor

Originally Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I'm only going to say this once: I wish I were old.

I don't mean older, like when kids wish they could be 18 years old so they can legally smoke Marlboros and watch pornography. No, I mean old, old -- like, smell like mothballs and forget where I put my teeth, old. Sure, it doesn't sound glamorous now, but keep reading and I think you'll be surprised.

Have you ever gone to Denny's with only $5 to your name, and all you really wanted was a couple of eggs and a short stack? The day you stop in for breakfast, however, happens to be the day after their $1.99 Grand Slam special has finished, and you cannot find anything other than a side of hash browns for less than $6.49. But wait! Eureka! A secret menu, filled with items that sound the same, yet cost conspicuously less, has just poked its head out from behind the dessert menu. Interestingly, each entree is preceded by the word "senior," but you give it little thought, since, after all, you're a senior in high school/college/life.

Then, like a mallet to the face, you see the small print at the bottom "For patrons over 55."

I'm only going to say this once: I wish I were old.

Despite the Muesli breakfasts and the frequent and uncontrollable urination -- or perhaps because of them -- old people have it good. Being old is like having a "get out of jail free" card, only instead of jail, you can substitute pretty much any word or phrase you want -- like "bad situation" or "boring dinner party" or "work." The best part, though, is that you don't even have to fake anything. You can just say "I'm bored," or "This sucks," or even just a loud mumble and flatulence work well to illustrate your disgust with whatever situation in which you might be stuck.

Back to the Denny's example. One of the main differences between college students and old people is not how much they party, because I know quite a few oldsters who can really bust a groove, some even without busting their hips. No, the big difference is in disposable incomes. Once you're old and retired, you've put in your hours and now you've got a wealth of cash to throw around frivolously. Best of all, though, is that having a driver's license that says you were born more than 60 years ago is like having a discount card for the entire world. Old folks only pay about 70% of what non-olds pay on movies, dinners and even strip clubs.

I'm only going to say this once: I wish I were old.

From being able to drive like a maniac to getting the chance to say "In my day..." and follow it with a long story that nobody cares about but everybody has to listen to, there's nothing about being old that doesn't appeal to me. If it doesn't appeal to you, though, then I guess it just "Depends" on your point of view.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/2.4416/1.398777]
From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my articles from the now-defunct humor section, Tangent.
Appliance of the Month
The Tangent Salutes Blender

Mark J. Lehman
Managing Editor

Originally Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The smell of freshly cut strawberries and life invade my nasal cavity. I hear you working hard, rumbling and whirring and humming along, and I can't help but smile at how much fun you are having. Still, seeing you there, segregated from all of the other appliances, I can't help but think, especially this month, "Nobody puts Blender in a corner."

During these fractious times, Blender, you are like a beacon of light in this dark and troubled world. With so much discussion about diversity and unity, I've realized that we need you more than ever to come in and "mix things up." Though some people might disagree, I know that you aren't trying to rid us of our individuality, but rather blend us together into a sort of multicultural milkshake. I don't know about everyone else, but that sure sounds good to me.

Aside from your way of unifying all different types of food and people, Blender, you are also more versatile than I think most give you credit. From "grate" to "liquify" settings, you are like a speed skater who has won gold medals in both the 500m and the 10,000m events, and as star athletes like Apolo Anton Ohno know, this is no easy endeavor. What Ohno doesn't know, though, is the joy and satisfaction of creating a melon and pineapple smoothie that even a casual fruit eater can enjoy.

Blender, you are friendly, intelligent and sharp as a tack. How could anyone not love you?
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/2.4416/1.398775]

Board Editorial: Stop Talking and Start Doing

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Opinion articles.
Board Editorial: Stop Talking and Start Doing

Originally Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Yesterday, besides the abundance of PDA and over-consumption of chocolate, we witnessed a day devoted to love. No matter one's feelings about Valentine's Day, known to some as Singles' Awareness Day, there is something appealing about a day set aside for appreciating those who are important to us. Days like these are especially welcome when one bears in mind the considerable amount of discussion about love and acceptance that has been taking place on campus.

In recent weeks, diversity has been an especially common word in the vocabularies of both LMU students and staff. Debate over the passage of an amendment adding provisions for diversity to the job description of the V.P. for social justice was immediately followed by a heated discussion over whether or not to change the title of the position to "V.P. for social justice and diversity." The issue that began in an ASLMU senate meeting has ballooned into a campus-wide deliberation regarding the university's role in, as well as the definition of, diversity.

The Loyolan has been flooded with letters and opinion articles discussing diversity from all ends of the spectrum. But more important than words in a newspaper is action on campus. After the racial incidents of fall 2004, the school formed a task force that formed an ombuds network, which acts as a liaison between those who wish to file complaints and the appropriate authorities. The Coalition for Diverse Education has been sponsoring forums to discuss the departure of many professors of color. Tomorrow, Dr. Abbie Robinson-Armstrong is facilitating a discussion about the benefits of a more diverse university faculty.

We can talk about diversity until we're blue in the face. We can make rainbow stickers to try to rid this campus of homophobia, we can create t-shirts that say "Discrimination Affects Me," and we can even spend months amending the ASLMU constitution to include diversity in the responsibilities of the V.P. for social justice. But diversity isn't one person's responsibility, it's everyone's.

To really be diverse on campus, we need to open our minds and gain some new perspectives. Stop talking about diversity; instead, if you're Mexican, join the Black Student Union. If you're white, join Asian and Pacific Islander Association. If you're male, stop in on one of the meetings for Nuestra Alma Latina. No matter your sexual preference(s), join the Gay Straight Alliance.

One does not have to be a minority, homosexual, disabled or otherwise to support equality and diversity. The best way to do it is to learn about other people, other cultures and other perspectives on this campus and in this community.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/opinion/1.398891]

A Chilly 'Eight Below' Can't Pull Its Weight

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Arts & Entertainment articles.
A Chilly 'Eight Below' Can't Pull Its Weight
Movie Review: "Eight Below"

Mark J. Lehman
Managing Editor

Originally Published: Tuesday, February 14, 2006

It may be that Disney has finally figured out that it's possible to make a decent film about animals where the animals themselves don't talk. Of course, in the case of the new film "Eight Below," that means that Jason Biggs and Paul Walker have to fill some of the silence, so it's kind of a lose-lose situation all around.
"Eight Below" is a survival story about a pack of eight sled dogs in Antarctica that get left behind after an emergency evacuation. Paul Walker plays Gerry Shepherd, an explorer on a scientific expedition in Antarctica, and from the moment the film begins, director Frank Marshall shows the bond between Shepherd and his eight sled dogs -- Buck, Dewey, Max, Maya, Old Jack, Shadow, Shorty and Truman.

Shepherd takes an American geologist (Bruce Greenwood) out to look for a meteorite from Mercury in the cold vast expanse of Antarctica, but problems arise as a major storm sets in and the group of scientists has to evacuate their post immediately. To Walker's chagrin, there is not enough room on the plane to take his dogs, and when they arrive safely outside of the storm's reach, the conditions have worsened to the point of not being able to fly back for a second trip to rescue the dogs. Thus, the dogs must survive through more than half a year of unimaginably brutal winter.

This is the inspiring part of the story, and this is the part that should have consumed the majority of the film. Sadly, though, nearly half of the film focuses on Shepherd's nearly futile attempts to somehow go back to the bottom of the world to rescue his pups. Director Marshall and writer David DiGilio do not understand who their hero should be, focusing too much on the human characters -- which, for the most part, are fairly one-dimensional -- and leaving the amazing part of the story how eight dogs tried to survive for months by themselves in way below freezing conditions -- as wrap around footage.

Luckily for audiences, the footage of the dogs and their story is truly a spectacle. While cheesy and somewhat unrealistic at parts, such as when the director humanizes the dogs and makes them seem as though they are talking and giving orders, many of the moments seem so candid and natural that one might think this was a documentary rather than a big studio feature film. A rare moment of death in a Disney film is shot and performed by the dogs with such a natural quality that it is absolutely heartbreaking.

Still, there is just too much unnecessary and unremarkable plot to keep one entertained and interested throughout. Along with Walker's constant struggle to get back to his pups, which at least seems realistic because of the bond established between him and the dogs at the beginning, Marshall also threw in a love story between Walker and a woman from his past (Moon Bloodgood) who helps fly him out of Antarctica in the beginning. The whole romantic aspect of the film is a throwaway plot point that should have been, well, thrown away.

If Disney wanted to make a survival story about sled dogs in Antarctica, they should have done just that, and left the other dramatic stuff to other movies, where it might actually matter and people might actually care.

Starring Paul Walker, Jason Biggs, Bruce Greenwood Directed by Frank Marshall Written by David DiGilio

Grade: C+
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/entertainment/1.398861]

Board Editorial: Lion Pride Rides the Tide

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Opinion articles.
Board Editorial: Lion Pride Rides the Tide

Originally Published: Friday, February 10, 2006

Picture this: you step inside Gersten Pavilion and are greeted by a sea of bodies covered in burgundy and blue, and your ears are filled with the cacophonous sound of screaming, unruly college students. No, not college students-Lions!

Tomorrow night we face Pepperdine in the two most anticipated basketball games of the season. The women's game starts at 5 p.m. and the men go on at 7:30 p.m. We expect you to be there at no later than 5 p.m. with Lion merchandise, tireless vocal cords and painted bellies. All of you. Even you, kid who just plays X-Box all day.

Our school is comprised of students with a diverse range of opinions, political affiliations and religions. But there is one thing that unites the student body more than anything-and no, we're not talking about free food. We're talking about the extreme dislike of Pepperdine. We're talking about sheer, unadulterated hostility for the other team. Case in point: the largest group on Facebook is none other than the "Pepperdine sucks at everything" group, with 912 members.

We've got reason to be cocky-our women's team is first in conference, and men's is second. If Iggy met the Pepperdine mascot in a dark alley, there's no doubt he'd come out on top. Soggy, but on top. You know why? Their mascot is a freakin' wave.

This is our chance to show the kids from "The 'bu" what we're made of. So let's support LMU basketball, and bask in the unity that only a hot cross-town rivalry can bring. Do it for Hank. Do it for your mom. Or do it for that cute athlete you're trying to impress.

However, our duty extends beyond attendance to this one hyped-up night of basketball. In leaving the Pepperdine game tomorrow night, overflowing happily with nachos and cheer from our inevitable victory, take note of this feeling and think of all the games to come. Perhaps it's time to make school spirit a regular thing. Water polo, baseball, go crazy! Let's extend our infectious pep to all LMU sports, and our enmity for Pepperdine to all WCC schools.

So Lions, we are confident that we will see you at the games. Hopefully it'll be over by 10 p.m. so Pepperdine can make their curfew. Zing!
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/opinion/1.398950]

New password policy for students

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my News articles.
New password policy for students

Mark J. Lehman
Managing Editor

Originally Published: Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Information Technology Services (ITS) is implementing a new password policy to NetReg, which will require every student to change their ManeGate passwords one time each semester. NetReg is a network administrative tool that will help ITS locate and solve problems, such as viruses on the LMU network. The policy is one part of a host of advances in network technology and security on the LMU campus.

"It will go into effect later this semester and will recur every semester," said Residential Network (ResNet) Coordinator Nick Thompson. "It's based on standard best practices, because a lot of security breaches are based on weak passwords."

According to Thompson, students will not have to change any other passwords besides their ManeGate one because, "The campus is moving toward a single sign-on with ManeGate on a single directory." This means that PROWL, Blackboard, E-Time and other online resources for students will be accessible through ManeGate, and students will not have to login multiple times to many different programs.

Erin Griffin, assistant vice president for information technology, said, "We wanted to wait to implement the policy until we had an online password change capability, which was implemented in June with the ManeGate portal. We then delayed the password change until this semester so we could do it while faculty, staff and students are nearby, in case any problems are experienced."

There will also be requirements as to password length, type of characters and repetition. Passwords will have to be eight characters and composed of both letters and numbers.

"With a lot of the downloading programs right now-like Kazaa and LimeWire-a lot of computer viruses get through that way," Thompson said. "Students might not be aware that they are actually virus hosts. So now when we see something on the network causing a problem, we can track it down to the machine and link it to that user. That's what we've been able to do with the wireless for awhile, and now we'll be able to do more."

Though Thompson and ITS said that NetReg is an improvement to security, some students have expressed concern over various issues, including privacy and compatibility with the aforementioned download programs.

"[The network] has been slower," sophomore film production major Mike Litzenberg said. "I assumed it was to monitor those programs [like Kazaa, LimeWire, etc], but I don't know that for a fact."

Thompson assured that the download programs "stopped working before we employed NetReg; we didn't actively do anything. We're always going through our switches and routers to try to enable as much as possible, the use of the network for stuff like online gaming."

As far as using download programs, which can be used for illegal downloads, Thompson said, "We're proactive about allowing people great access [to the network]. We're not going to stop it, necessarily."

"Most campuses use NetReg," Thompson added. "It will give us a real-time look at what is happening on the network."
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/news/1.399042]

A Modern 'Dream' Prances Sweetly

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Arts & Entertainment articles.
A Modern 'Dream' Prances Sweetly
Theatre Review: "A Midsummer's Night Dream"

Mark J. Lehman
Managing Editor

Originally Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2006

As stage lighting pervades the Stella Adler Theater in Hollywood and Felix Mendelssohn's classical score bursts forth and drowns out the last remaining chit-chat of the audience, I tense up. Am I really at the ballet? Why am I here? What would mother think?

Social perceptions aside, I watch as people of all shapes and sizes, of both genders and varying states of undress prance across the stage, doing all different types of spins and leaps, some even standing with their full bodies' weight on pointed toes, and I can't help but get caught up in the frenetic energy of the Meh-Tropolis Dance Theatre's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

In the interest of full disclosure, before reviewing this performance, I will admit to three things: 1) I have never seen a ballet, 2) I have never seen any performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and 3) I have never read the play by "the Shakester" a.k.a. William Shakespeare. That said, let us continue with this highly professional and completely flawless analytical review.

The entire first act was a flurry of dancers and short interactions, introducing the audience to various characters and wordlessly setting up the action of what was to come.

We see the king proclaim the marriage of Demetrius (Joe Hedderich) and Hermia (Brenda Stevens) according to what Demetrius' mother wishes. Hermia, though, is actually in love with another man, Lysander (Nick Thompson), who also loves her back. Meanwhile, Demetrius is continually sought after by another woman, Helena (played by Erin Walsh), in whom he has absolutely no interest.

From there, the action unfolds as Puck (Kristi Kraemer), a mischievous fairy, gets hold of a love potion from her older and wiser cohort Oberon, the king of the fairies (Anthony Eisenhower). She then gives it mistakenly to Lysander, who in turn falls for Helena, which creates a lustful circle of Hermia chasing after Lysander, who is chasing after Helena, who is still chasing after Demetrius, who is still chasing after Hermia.

Confused yet?

Along the way, a few small subplots develop among the fairies and a group of actors, though only so much can be conveyed through dance. I was not able to figure out exactly what was happening other than that there was a child stolen back and forth and that a fairy turned one of the characters (Bottom, played by Atticus Batacan) into an ass.

The show itself has a few slow parts where a character breaks apart from the pack and performs a soliloquy, only instead of words, he or she dances and twirls and jumps. Aside from those few parts where the plot takes a timeout, the performance moves so quickly that one hardly realizes how much time has gone by.

Perhaps the most excellent aspect of the whole show was the dancers' emotive and expressive faces. My fear of going to the ballet was that I would be watching a group of dancers who-though talented-would not keep my interest for the whole two hours. They quickly proved me wrong, however, utilizing the small and intimate venue by imbuing humor and chemistry through perfectly over-the-top facial expressions and physical reactions.

They were truly able to tell the story with their movement, their bodies and their faces. It is an amazing discovery to see for the first time a group of people come together and create such a spectacle.

Erin Walsh played her role as the unrequited love-struck Helena with such amusing flirtatiousness coupled with heartbreaking sadness that she positively stole the show.

By the same token, Nick Thompson as Lysander scores big with a wonderfully playful and humorously mean spin on his character as he lusts after Helena and shrugs off the love that Hermia displays prominently for him, even going so far as to drag her across the stage while she is holding onto his leg.

When each of these actors are out onstage at the same time, it's hard to choose which to watch. And with artistic director Sarah Harkness infusing so much modern humor throughout, there is rarely a dull moment.

It would be fun to end this review with a line like "This isn't just another night at the ballet," but having no prior ballet-watching experience of my own, it just wouldn't be truthful. However, the Meh-Tropolis Dance Theatre Troupe has certainly made a convert out of me, and if you give it a chance, I'll bet it makes one out of you, too.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/entertainment/1.399150]
From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Arts & Entertainment articles.
Through The Portals of ManeGate
Web Review: LMU's e-mail service

Mark J. Lehman
A & E Editor

Originally Published: Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I sit staring transfixed, yet with no apparent focus, on the Featured Image of a white stone lion for about two and a half minutes before shaking off my trance and learning the meaning of the Word of the Day-"deride," meaning "to laugh at with contempt"-and scoping out the Netflix Top 100 rentals.

Wait, this is an e-mail program?

The easy answer is yes, but the real deal is that the new service, ManeGate, actually amalgamates almost every service for students into one somewhat easy-to-use "Campus Pipeline." On ManeGate, students can send and receive e-mails from their lion.lmu.edu accounts, as well as brush up on the weekly news from their award-winning Los Angeles Loyolan, submit homework assignments on Blackboard, browse on-campus job listings and do much more.

If it sounds like I'm a fan, I am. Then again, compared to the complete and utter wasteland that LMU passed off as an e-mail program last year, ManeGate is akin to a Royal Palace. Unfortunately, palace construction is not quite complete.

Most of the major problems are being slowly and systematically solved, such as fixing the load of hyperlinks leading to error messages. Blackboard is finally working after a brief time of darkness. There are some issues, though, that there are no visible plans to implement, but that there should be.

Let's begin with the e-mail system, which is at the core of ManeGate's purpose. As mentioned, e-mail this year is absolutely wonderful compared to last year, with import/export abilities for the address book, auto reply and auto forwarding (which makes it easy to maintain one's LMU e-mail account from an outside e-mail, like Gmail), address blocking capabilities (for when that teacher is nagging you about a paper that is two weeks late) and even POP access to check other e-mail accounts from ManeGate.

The downside is that the problem with spam--and it's quite a problem--has not been solved, or even attempted to be solved. ManeGate, like its predecessor, has no pre-installed spam filter, so one can still correspond with all of one's friends offering "Free Penis Enlargements" or "100% Guaranteed Hair Removal." Sure, there is a feature allowing the user to create one's own filters, making ManeGate automatically organize all of one's party invites or e-mails from mom into one folder. One could conceivably put in place enough filters to block out a good deal of spam, but we're students and we don't have time for that sort of thing.

Aside from the e-mail service, a few other small changes would help save students time and create more of an online community. While being able to search for library books and articles on ManeGate is a nice feature, being able to save searches would make it an even better feature. The new personal calendar also might help students get organized, especially with customizable e-mail reminders when events are about to take place. Students, however, don't spend all their time in front of the computer, so why not add an option to send a text message reminder as well? After all, The Facebook does it.

One last feature that, while a luxury, would be a nice addition to the online LMU community is some sort of easy-to-use Web development tool that would allow those students who are not as tech-savvy to be able to actually utilize their 50 megabytes of free webspace alotted to them by LMU to create their own personal Web site. As of now, there are instructions on ManeGate about how to FTP into one's personal site and create something--such as the ever-popular blog--but I'd bet that most students don't know what that means, much less how to do it.

With all its ups and downs, the main problem with ManeGate is its image. Since most students stopped using their LMU e-mail accounts last year because the e-mail program was so bad, ManeGate has received the brunt of the carry-over hostility. According to a great many students, the consensus seems to be that ManeGate is simply a fancier-looking version of the same e-mail program-last year's service with a cocktail dress and high heels. And while ManeGate is, according to some, "hot," it is also feature-packed and very useful. And, as the bugs get ironed out, it will continue to become a more comprehensive student resource.

Grade: B-
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/entertainment/1.400324]
From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Arts & Entertainment articles.
The Sweet Relief of Music
Preview of LMU's Music Department Gulf Coast Relief concert

Mark J. Lehman
A & E Editor

Originally Published: Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Room 120 in Burns Fine Arts Center is surprisingly well-kept, especially considering the activity it has seen in the past six days. The room belongs to Paul Holliday, the chair of the music department at LMU and the organizer of this Thursday's Gulf Coast Relief Benefit Concert, an event which he began planning one week before it was to be put on.

"We started planning it last Thursday, so that definitely has been stressful putting together a concert in less than a week," Holliday intones, with just a hint of exasperation. "That's why we're still figuring out the performers and what will be on the program and whatnot."

Though not everything is quite in place, a few things are for sure: the concert is happening at 8 p.m., the performers will all be current and past students and faculty, and there is a $10 suggested donation, from which all proceeds will benefit the relief efforts on the Gulf Coast.

"This was just a way for our department to help out," says Holliday. "It's so difficult when you're in a situation where you're not there so you can't physically help, but you still want to do something. So we just figured 'OK, we're musicians, what's something we can do to contribute to this situation.'

"We put on 30 to 40 concerts every year, so that's something we have down pat, so let's just get our students, faculty members and alumni, and hold a concert to raise money. It's a way we can use our hearts and talents to contribute."

Certainly it's an amazing feat to be able to organize something like this in such a short amount of time, but how good can the performers be for something so last minute?

"It will definitely be a top-notch performance." Holliday continues confidently and assuredly, "A lot of our faculty members are world-class musicians, and there will be a wide range of music types. Martha Masters, one of our faculty members, is a world-renowned classical guitarist who's always touring when school's out and who has come out with a few albums. We also have one of our piano professors, Dr. Wojciech Kocyan, who tours each summer and who has had a couple albums nominated for the equivalent of the Grammy awards in Europe for classical music."

For those students who are less than enthusiastic about an evening of orchestral-type music, Holliday feels that they needn't worry. "The performers are a collection of current students, past students, music faculty and alumni. It's going to be a collection of classical guitarists, vocalists, and possibly some percussionists. It's mainly going to be classical music, but there might be an a cappella singing group for those who enjoy more mainstream music."

With classical, a cappella, Spanish guitar and possibly many more styles represented, there's no doubt that the concert will be an interesting and eclectic blend guaranteed to have something for everyone. And with the amount of damage sustained by the southern states from Katrina, expect to see many more events of a similar nature.

"We (the music department) have talked with the Center for Service and Action and they've started a committee to organize several different types of programs to raise money, such as a dance and possibly a concert in Sunken Gardens." So, if you can't make it to this particular concert, keep an eye out for flyers and other announcements. "There are a lot of things in the works," Holliday said.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/entertainment/1.400322]

Reading for Fun: Book reviews of summer reading

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Arts & Entertainment articles.
Reading for Fun
Book reviews of summer reading

Mark J. Lehman
A & E Editor

Originally Published: Wednesday, January 4, 2006

When half of the movies at the local Cineplex are remakes and all that is on TV are the usual summer reality fodder, literature can often be the best place to escape after the afternoon grind at the office. Lord knows there is no shortage of good material out there, but to save Loyolan readers some trouble, here are some of the best-and some of the not-so-good-on my summer reading list. If there is time for "reading for fun" between classes, work, homework and drunken weekends, check out a few of the titles below.

"Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal" by Christopher Moore

Christopher Moore's instant classic was by far the best summer read. Infusing fact, speculation, and all-out ridiculousness, the Gospel according to Moore is entertaining every step of the way, and even that much better when one realizes that he did his homework and made sure everything added up according to all other writings about Jesus' life and teachings. If not for the sex jokes, this wouldn't be out of place at Sunday morning mass. Too bad, too-it could add a bit more fun to church.

"Matilda" by Roald Dahl

Yes, it's a children's book. Yes, I'm a college student. Now that we're clear on those two facts, allow me to explain to you naysayers. Though his style may seem directed at children, do not be fooled-Roald Dahl's ideas and sense of humor are oftentimes quite mature, subtle enough to float over the heads of the smallest children, yet funny enough to get the oldest of parents gasping with laughter. Don't believe it? Read this little gem and then try and say otherwise.

"Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" by J.K. Rowling

In the sixth and newest tale of the would-be wizard, Rowling doesn't disappoint, serving up a fresh batch of brooding darkness and magical secrets. Tight and gripping throughout, it's guaranteed to keep the reader flipping pages faster than Flipper can say "eee-ah!" or whatever that weird sound dolphins make. To top it off, the author gives us an ending that stirs up emotions like those that come after seeing the end of "The Empire Strikes Back." HP fans all over are gearing up for book seven-it's going to be a bloodbath.

"A Grief Observed" by C.S. Lewis

Not exactly light and simple summer reading fare, "Grief" provides an engaging look at losing a loved one and all of the losses that accompany that. Lewis systematically works through his loss of faith, love and even his own idea of himself. Reading more like a journal than a novel, "Grief" dashes all hope to the ground and shatters it before picking up the pieces to put it back together again. If one isn't convinced of Lewis' skill by the Chronicles of Narnia, this amazing work will finish the job.

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl

Having been raised on the '71 film adaptation with Gene Wilder, and having just seen the new Johnny Depp version, Dahl had to work pretty hard to impress me with his original story. Still, it is easy to see how the tale caught the attention of movie producers in the first place. Dahl's language and vivid imagery give this children's novel a charming quality that cannot be found anywhere in the creepy Tim Burton summer film. Skip the movie, read the book instead.

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon

The story of an autistic boy who spearheads an investigation into the mysterious death of his neighbor's poodle is a strangely intriguing yarn that remains complex in its simplicity. Haddon gives amazing voice to his narrator main character, helping his reader understand the way this young boy sees the world, without forcing any sentimentality down his or her throat. This author is definitely one to look out for in the future.

"A Certain Chemistry" by Mil Millington

Following up his hilarious "Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About," Millington tells a story not quite so autobiographical with an unorthodox structure. When he hits his stride, the pieces fall together beautifully like a choreographed game of Connect Four. At times, however, the narrative feels forced and jerky. Still, the humor remains constant throughout, and that alone makes it worth the read.

"Holidays on Ice" by David Sedaris

Sedaris sets off running from the get-go with the first story "Santaland Diaries," detailing several weeks in the life of a mall elf. Manically hilarious, the stories of elf-on-elf love affairs, along with elves going postal and elves having an unholy obsession with daytime television, "Diaries" is easily the best piece of short fiction in a long while. While the other four stories keep the pacing steady and elicit a few chuckles themselves, they pale in comparison. Read "Santaland" first, then return to the book six months later and read the rest.

"How To Be Good" by Nick Hornby

Much headier than the usual Hornby fare, "How To Be Good" often feels more awkward than entertaining. Abandoning the light and casual subjects found in "About A Boy" and "High Fidelity," Hornby tries, through his female main character, to ask some of the big questions about life, purpose, and, well, how to be good. What's left is a novel full of questions but no answers. Though this might have been the point all along, the reader winds up with an empty feeling and only one question-what was the point of that?

"War of the Worlds" by H.G. Wells

This classic work of science fiction falls into the dreaded category of being famous simply for being the first to do something. While it must have been ground-breaking to speak of aliens-Martians, in this case, in 19th century London-today, the story is both stale and boring. It's a wonder that Spielberg and Cruise wanted to make a movie out of such a bland novel, and even more of a wonder that they stuck so closely to the text when it is a perfect story to be used as a jumping-off point for the bigger and better. Unless you're a history buff, steer clear of both the novel and the film.
[via Los Angeles Loyolan: http://www.laloyolan.com/entertainment/1.400377]
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