Feature Contributors Archives for 2023-06

Column: Got Milk

Dear readers,

To quote Roseanne Roseannadanna, “it’s always something.”  This week it’s milk.

For those of you who aren’t well versed in 1970s pop culture, Roseanne Roseannadanna was a character played by the late, great Gilda Radner on the TV show Saturday Night Live. A time in history when the show was actually funny.

My problem with milk started this week when I had a meeting at the State Office Building in downtown Indianapolis. I always arrive early to find a parking space. I then make my way to the cafeteria in the basement of the building for breakfast. In past years, the cafeteria always featured a giant pot of oatmeal and a giant pot of cream of wheat simmering on the stove. I noticed that cream of wheat was no longer offered, but the oatmeal was just as I remembered. 



I stirred the oatmeal and ladled up a large portion in a bowl. After topping it off with a few raisins, I looked around for the milk. The last time I ate in the cafeteria there was a nice selection of half pints of milk. All the favorites were available, including whole, two percent, one percent, skim, chocolate, and low-fat chocolate. I didn’t see any milk at all.

Thinking that the milk must have been moved to a new location, I asked one of the cafeteria workers. Nope, the milk wasn’t moved to a new location. Milk just isn’t offered as a beverage choice any longer.

I was shocked. Indiana is the heartland of America. Not only do Hoosier children all sport milk mustaches, so does the winner of the Indy 500. 

Milk was the beverage of choice by iconic Hoosier actor James Dean. Dean even drank milk when playing Jim Stark in the movie “Rebel Without a Cause.” Of course, as a rebel, he didn’t pour it in a glass, but drank the milk directly from the bottle.

I couldn’t believe among all the soft drink selections, there was no room to also offer milk for sale. Besides, I really believed all the dairy advertisements from the past, “Milk, it does a body good!” or “it builds strong bodies twelve ways.” 

Real and TV moms always said, “finish your milk.”

Wait a minute, my wife Sandy says, “it builds strong bodies twelve ways,” is from a Wonder Bread commercial. Ok, so maybe I’m wrong about that example, but Jimmie Dean drank milk. Milk should be available in the government cafeteria. 

The cafeteria is also frequented by statehouse employees who have convenient access by way of a tunnel. I don’t know who made the decision to stop serving milk but I’m certain they didn’t get approval from our State Senator Jean Leising.

In 2012, when Senator Leising found out that our schools no longer were teaching cursive writing, she famously said, “I still have a pad of yellow Sticky Notes, and if I write out something neatly in cursive, I expect an intern at the Senate to be able to read it.” 

I’m guessing that Senator Leising also expects Senate interns to have milk as a choice when eating in the cafeteria. A carton of milk with their meal would be good for the health of the intern and promote Indiana’s dairy farmers.

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.


Letters Home: Popular sports in Japan

A reader of this column asked if sports are popular in Japan.  The answer is YES! 

Japan is a very sports-friendly country that has developed culturally over the millennia and into modern times, including its traditional sports and more modern Western-imported sports. 

Sumo can be regarded as Japan’s national sport, but baseball would come in at a close second due to its wide popularity in terms of spectators and television ratings. Not only does Japan boast many professional baseball teams, but also high school baseball tournaments are closely followed every year with people tuning in to watch them on TV and even attending as spectators to cheer on their favorite teams.

What makes Sumo so unique and special in Japan is that it is not only considered to be a traditional sport, but can also be categorized as a quasi-religious practice due to its elaborate and sacred rituals that are directly connected to Shinto beliefs and practices. In fact, during ancient times, it was believed that sumo matches were largely religious in nature divinely performed for the benefit of kami — Shinto gods. 

Certain matches were even considered to foretell the future with regards to agricultural harvests and fishing catches for the community.

Every year, my prefecture — Fukuoka — hosts a grand sumo tournament called a “basho.” Ever since I moved to Fukuoka in 2010, I make it a point to attend at least one day a year which is always in November. 

I absolutely love attending and cheering on my favorite wrestlers. It is such an exciting experience as fans get very animated and vocal in the cheering on of their favorite rikishi (sumo wrestler). Of course, hometown favorites receive the most cheers.

While each match lasts only a matter of seconds, it is so engaging and exciting as the two wrestlers battle each other to win. There are very strict rules concerning how the wrestlers can battle their opponents. For example, it is strictly prohibited for wrestlers to pull hair, poke eyes, hit with a closed fist (open hand slaps are OK), or to kick the other wrestler in the stomach or chest. The ultimate goal is to push the other wrestler out of the sacred ring or cause him to touch any part of his body to the ground other than the soles of his feet.



One common technique is for a wrestler to try to grab his opponent’s “mawashi,” which is the thick, elaborately-tied loincloth that they wear during a match. It is a huge advantage for a wrestler if he can grab and hold onto the other wrestler’s mawashi.

There are no weight divisions in sumo, so wrestlers try to get as chubby as they can. This is not to say they aren’t strong and solid under the blubber. Sumo wrestlers train constantly and have great strength in their toned muscles underneath all that flab. However, bigger isn’t always better … good balance is crucial during a match so wrestlers must learn how to carry their weight to use it to their advantage.  Some smaller, more toned and muscular wrestlers have been very successful in sumo.

Japan is also world-renowned for its martial arts, with the most familiar ones for the majority of people around the world being judo and karate. Other martial arts’ traditions in Japan are Aikido (which literally is translated as “the way to harmony with ki”).

Kendo is quite popular in Japanese high schools and universities as club activities. This sport uses a bamboo sword as well as thick, protective clothing (like armor) to soften the blow of the opponent’s sword during a match. Kendo means “the way of the sword.” 

Another traditional martial art in Japan is Jujutsu which means “soft skills” and its primary purpose is for self-defense without the use of weapons.

Judo is now an Olympic sport because it is so widespread around the world. Judo is translated as “the way of softness or gentleness” and is a type of competitive wrestling where the players’ jackets play an important role in the matches. 

Karate is made up of a series of linear punching and kicking from stationary standing positions for self-defense. The word itself means “empty hand.” It is also an unarmed martial art that uses kicking, striking, and defensive blocking with one’s arms and legs. A Karate match begins and ends with the players exhibiting courtesy and respect to one another, emphasizing the act of moving forward, never backward, which is symbolic of the players pushing themselves to be better skilled in the martial art.

Kyudo is the martial art of archery and it means “the way of the bow.” It is a highly-skilled sport that demonstrates sophisticated, elegant, and elaborate shooting techniques. 

Aikido, meaning “the way of harmonizing energy” is another traditional self-defense system that resembles vaguely Judo and jujitsu in its throwing techniques, with the intention of turning the opponent’s strength and momentum back against him/herself. It also focuses on positive mental development, in addition to thwarting physical attacks.



As mentioned earlier, Japanese baseball is hugely popular and even though it was imported to Japan, it has become its own tour de force.

Probably the most powerful Japanese team over the decades would have to be the Yomiuri Giants, which would be on par with the New York Yankees in the USA — the Giants being the Yankees of Japan, in other words.

MLB is known as NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) in Japan, but more commonly called Puro Yakyu (Professional Baseball) by most people. There are only 12 teams in Japan compared to 30 MLB teams in the US. Japan divides its leagues into two — the Pacific league and Central League --   each with six teams. 

For decades, U.S. players who couldn’t make it in MLB would go to Japan to play professional baseball, but today, many top Japanese players have gone to MLB teams. 

Again, because I live in Fukuoka, I have the privilege of attending professional baseball games easily because our hometown team — the Softbank Hawks — consistently plays well, winning national championships.

Baseball games here are fun and exciting to attend and are wildly popular. Japanese people are loyal fans to their favorite teams, not too much unlike Americans who follow baseball regularly.

In addition to baseball, Japan has a very active and robust soccer league, as well as great interest in other Western sports like rugby, basketball, volleyball, golf, tennis, table tennis, and figure skating. Japanese athletes regularly perform well at world competitions and at the Olympics in a variety of sports that are revered around the world.

If you get to visit Japan, be sure to plan your trip around attending a sumo tournament or a professional baseball game. You won’t regret it!

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Column: Happy Father's Day

Dear readers,

Today is Father’s Day. If you forgot, hurry up and make a quick trip to the store.

My advice is to just stick with the traditional Father’s Day gift of aftershave lotion or pipe tobacco. He is your dad, so he knows you well.  He will be surprised that you even remembered, so the gift itself isn’t all that important.

Take some time today to remember all those moments in your life when dad was there for you. I have wonderful memories of growing up in the 1960s. Dad was always there to smooth out the rough spots in a kid’s life. He had the ability to solve both small and big problems with ease. 

A bad report card or being rescued by the fire department after falling into a giant coffee cup on a billboard resulted in the same even-handed treatment by dad.

It seemed like every father-son talk began the same way. Mom would say, “Your father is waiting in the den, and he would like a word with you.” 

I can almost smell the smoke from dad’s pipe, just thinking about those talks. Dad, always wearing his favorite cardigan sweater, had the ability to straighten out any problem. Dad’s little talk never took more than two or three minutes, always ending right before the music started and the credits began rolling.



Wait a minute. Come to think of it, I never fell into a giant coffee cup, and we didn’t even have a den in our house. It was TV dad, Ward Cleaver, played by Hugh Beaumont, who solved all of Beaver’s kid problems with that talk in the den, not mine. 

I remember now. My dad’s advice to me when Ward Cleaver was dispensing advice to the Beaver was, “Don’t sit so close to the TV.”

Real dads didn’t have a chance in the 1960s. Ward Cleaver was perfect, and he wasn’t alone.

On “The Donna Reed Show,” Jeff had no problem too difficult for Dr. Stone (Carl Betz) to solve when he arrived home. 

Laura Petrie would sometimes get flustered by little Richie’s shenanigans.

When Rob (Dick Van Dyke) came home, after tripping over the ottoman, he would always find a bit of humor in the situation. 

Several of the TV dads in the 1960s didn’t even need a mom to help them with their children. 

“The Rifleman,” Lucas McCain (Chuck Conners), not only had all the answers for Mark, but in an emergency, he could shoot the guns out of the hands of several bad guys at the same time.

Steve Douglas (Fred MacMurray) on “My Three Sons” didn’t need a mom around the house to raise Mike, Rob, and Chip. Although, Uncle Charlie, with his hair in greasy bangs and wearing an apron, was somewhat of a mother substitute for the boys. 

Similarly, Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) was raising Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe out on the Ponderosa without any help from mom. He did have Hop Sing to boil the dirt out of their clothes.

Real dads like mine had a tough go of it in the 1960s competing with all those perfect TV dads.  Lucky for the real dads it got easier when Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) became the most watched dad on TV in the 1970s.

By the time I became a dad, the bar had been lowered even further with TV dads Al Bundy and Homer Simpson. Even I looked good compared to those guys. 

On a personal note, I hope I get a bottle of aftershave lotion this year. The last few years my son, Trent, has given me pipe tobacco. I realize it is the thought that counts, but I’ve never smoked a pipe.

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

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Column: Future Shock

Dear readers,

Just like Billy Pilgrim, I’ve come unstuck in time. It happened last Saturday. The moment I opened the door at the local Knights of Columbus I noticed something in the air. 


I hadn’t smelled that sweet intoxicating scent in years. I instantly knew I was in the right place. It was my 50th high school reunion.  

I was transported back to 1973 as I caught a whiff of Hai Karate mixed with notes of Jade East. I think Brad Fix or Dennis Hirschauer were wearing the Hai Karate and Danny Greene had probably splashed on the Jade East.



Next, I smelled a fragrance with a top note of Hyacinth and base notes of Musk and Vanilla. It had to be Charlie.

“Charlie” perfume was introduced by Revlon in 1973. I still remember model Shelley Hack from the TV commercial. It was a fragrance advertised to empower women. 

I’m guessing it empowered women to repel the effect that Hai Karate had on them. I wasn’t sure who was wearing the Charlie. I think it might have been Linda Cordrey or Denise Hardin.

I then saw Melanie Gahimer and was jolted back to when we first met in 1964 at Morrison Park. I lived on Shelby St. in those days and Melanie lived on S. West St. I also spotted Karen Johnson who lived on 2nd St. 

I made it back to 1961 and saw several kids from St. Joe grade school including Kevin Zerr, Sue Thornburg, Patty Higdon, Terrie Weintraut, Tony Wilson, Robert Burns, and Steve Marcopulos. 

I felt like a character in that elegiac Twilight Zone episode “Kick the Can.” It seemed a little weird being young again, but it was nice seeing all my old friends.

When we were in high school, “Future Shock,” a novel by American futurist Alvin Toffler was a best seller. A popular assignment for students was to write what life would be like in the year 2000. Almost all the students in my class, including myself, predicted a future with robot maids and flying cars just like on the Jetsons Saturday morning cartoon. 

I predicted we would all be vacationing on the moon.

The turn of the century happened 23 years ago. My house and all the others on W. Mechanic St. still look about the same as they did 50 years ago. In fact, most of the houses on Mechanic St. don’t look much different than they did 100 years ago. 

During my high school years, 24 Americans visited the moon and 12 of them went for a walk. Everyone tuned in to watch Neil Armstrong take his “one giant leap for mankind.” 

Eugene Cernan was the last person to walk on the moon in 1972 and his name only appears in trivia games. It looks like it might be awhile before I vacation on the moon. 

I was suddenly jolted back to the present when I noticed a display with the photographs of the 71 deceased members of our class. Bill Towne was among them. Bill was in the same Cub Scout den as me in grade school. Our Den Mother was Mrs. Skogland. My fondest memories from Cub Scouts are being at her house and her playing music for us on a player piano. 

Her son, Mark Skogland, was also in our Cub Scout den and he was at the reunion. Mark said that not only is my Den Mother still alive, but she still has the player piano. He gave me her phone number. I think I’ll give her a call. 

I remember Sandy Talbert, a member of our class now deceased once said, “it’s all about the people.” 

I think she was right.

Note: A special thanks to those members of my class who took the time to plan the reunion: Sue Thornburg Berauer, Paula Phillips Chappelow, Denise Hardin Coffey, Dave Fagel, Brad Fix, Danny Greene, Linda Cordrey Hampton, Teresa Sprong Heffner, Dennis Hirschauer, Kathy Baughman Huffman, Karen Johnson Jackson, Elaine Mellis, Melanie Gahimer Meloche, Patty Higdon Schonfeld, Jane Neeb Shelton, Carol Wiley Showers, Mary Dile VanSickle, Debbie Hasecuster Westerman, Terrie Weintraut Young, and Kevin Zerr.

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

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Letters Home: Traditional Japanese Culture

Harmony, order, and self-development are three main pillars of traditional Japanese culture.  These three important values underscore Japanese traditional culture by offering a glimpse into societal norms, basic attitudes toward “self,” and social interactions with others. These have their roots in Japanese philosophical traditions that can be found in both Shinto and Buddhist religious traditions and customs, as well as in Confucian ideals.

When considering “harmony,” it is a well-known cultural character trait of Japanese that thinking of others is paramount to keeping “order” in everyday interactions, and in promoting one’s own “self-development” by learning how to work within a group context, respecting one’s superiors and elders, and in being aware of one’s own role in society. These concepts are ancient in origin and are actively taught to Japanese students from childhood, both formally and culturally.

Some obvious and important Japanese cultural traditions that are practiced by Japanese people on a daily basis include customs that reinforce the three pillars of Japanese culture. The custom of bowing 45 degrees to show respect to elders and teachers is a trait that is learned by Japanese children from early childhood, or removing one’s outside shoes before entering into someone’s home or personal space. The act of not shaking hands or hugging when meeting friends or family members is representative of traditional Japanese culture.

Well before the worldwide pandemic caused so much tragedy, and people around the world began to wear face masks to protect themselves and others from the rapidly spreading COVID-19 virus, Japanese people already had this custom of wearing face masks to protect others when they came down with the flu or a cold.

Personal hygiene is an important and necessary aspect of Japanese culture. Changing out of regular house slippers into special toilet slippers before entering the toilet is an entrenched custom in Japan, as is bathing in the evening instead of the morning to make sure one is clean before lying down in the futon to sleep at night. Having the toilet area separate from the bathing area is another aspect of hygiene that Japanese people observe.

Mixing the two things is considered to be unhygienic and normally avoided, except when the only option (due to space) is a unit bath where the toilet, face and hands washing sink, and bath tub are all in the same area.



Many religious-related customs and traditions make up a large part of traditional Japanese culture.  Most festivals and holiday celebrations are based on either Shinto or Buddhist traditions and customs. Most Japanese consider themselves to be both Shintoists and Buddhists, allowing both religions to coexist side by side, allowing Japanese people to glide easily from one religious tradition to the other without any spiritual or religious conflict. For example, the values of “purity” and “cleanliness” are found in Shinto traditions and the concepts of “perfectionism” and “minimalism” can be found in Buddhism. 

Confucianism has also influenced Japan greatly as an important aspect of Japanese traditional culture. Especially in the area of the traditional family unit, Confucian attitudes and customs have made a huge impact upon Japan. The idea of respecting one’s elders and teachers and living together following a strict moral code are Confucian in origin. Confucianism notably has no deity that is worshiped but is followed, instead, by a strict code of personal and moral conduct. 

As a religion (if it can even be categorized as a religion) Confucianism wasn’t originally formed or established as such to compete with other existing religions but it was developed more as a system or moral code to compliment religious practices and societal attitudes. Hence, there is no large church or group of priests that oversee it in the same way other world religions are institutionalized and practiced.

Five Confucian values that form the foundation for Confucian philosophy are humaneness, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and fidelity. As is apparent, these are all very human-centered virtues that promote a peaceful existence. Ancestral worship, reverence to one’s ancestors, is a hallmark of Confucianism, which mirrors Buddhism closely in this aspect.

Modesty and humility are two important characteristics of Japanese people and they play an important role in daily interactions with others to maintain order and harmony in society. Bowing lower shows one’s respect to the other person (i.e. “I am not above you and I respect you.”).  The longer and lower the bow, the higher level of respect the bowing person is demonstrating to the other person.

I remember when I was an exchange student in Tokyo back in 1979, my host family had invited a Buddhist priest to the house to pray for the souls of the family’s dead ancestors. When he arrived, my homestay mother’s bow was so deep that it almost seemed physically or humanly impossible to achieve. I tried to mimic her bow, but only was able to partially do what she did.

I spent much time that summer observing what she did because she was a stickler for proper protocol, regarding customs and traditions, so this gave me an opportunity to learn much from her good example. My observations paid off later when I came back to Japan to live long term. It was much easier to adjust to the culture having had that valuable experience as a 17-year-old. 

Because Japan was traditionally an agriculturally-based society, and due to the widespread influence of the Shinto religion, it is no wonder that an important part of traditional Japanese culture is centered around Shinto festivals (matsuri) that celebrate the planting and harvesting of the rice crops each year. These festivals are celebrated all over Japan and often represent nicely the local cultural traditions of the area or community. (See festival photo below)


Photo above: Hakozaki Gu Tamaseseri Festival for the New Year. Men in fundoshi loin cloths battle each other while ice cold water is thrown on them to wrangle a wooden ball to get it deposited into an opening of the door of a shrine. The two sides represent the mountain god and the ocean god. 

Main photo: Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival Float (Shinto Festival)


Proper etiquette plays an important role in traditional Japanese culture. Outsiders visiting Japan on holiday are sometimes left scratching their heads trying to decipher the finer nuances and subtleties of Japanese culture. The Japanese refer to it as “reading the air” (kuuki o yomu) (“reading the room,” in English) meaning that in high-context countries where communication can be quite vague or indirect, like in Japan, much of the communication is achieved through inference, surmising the situation, and then reacting accordingly.

People who grow up in the culture intuitively know how to react or behave when confronted with certain situations … for those who are new to the culture, they have to learn through trial and error. In the worst case, a mistake can cause a businessperson to lose out on a business deal or friendship due to the cultural miscommunication, but normally, for newcomers, Japanese people can be quite forgiving when such things happen. But after being here for a long period of time, one is expected to know how to behave and react in a culturally appropriate manner and cultural faux pas are less likely to be overlooked.

Todd Jay Leonard was born and raised in Shelbyville, but has called Japan home for over 34 years. He is currently a full-professor at the University of Teacher Education Fukuoka in Kyushu where he lives, writes, and teaches. He is the author of 26 books and can be reached at toddjayleonard@yahoo.com

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Column: I Got Mail

Dear readers,

My recent columns about John Mellencamp and Dylan Mulvaney brought lots and lots of reader mail.

The mail generated by my John Mellencamp review was mostly positive. The mail generated by the Dylan Mulvaney, Bud Light fandango, not so much.

Most of you who wrote wanted to know more about Mellencamp’s Shelbyville girlfriend, Myra Conner. Unfortunately, Myra passed away in 2017. However, I did interview Myra 30 years ago. Here are some fun facts gleaned from my notes taken at that time.

Myra met John Mellencamp at the Whiteland Barn, a teenage hangout in Johnson County that featured live rock n’ roll bands. She and John dated for about six months. 

Myra admitted to wearing Bobbie Brooks clothes, however she didn’t remember Mellencamp ever taking her to the Tastee Freez. She doubted that she was the inspiration for his song, “Jack and Diane.”  

Myra agreed that it would be a good story if her pet name for Mellencamp was “Johnny Cougar,” but unfortunately it wasn’t. If she had a pet name for him, she wasn’t sharing. 



Several readers asked me if I remembered the exact house on W. Franklin Street where Myra lived when Mellencamp visited. I do know the address. However, out of respect for those who live there now, I am keeping it a secret. If published, W. Franklin Street would be jammed with Mellencamp fans wanting a tour. More aggressive fans would probably start chipping away souvenirs. 

Now, let’s talk about the hate mail.

My column covering the Bud Light boycott wasn’t liked by either Kid Rock or Dylan Mulvaney fans. I’m sticking with the Willie Farkle’s rule on beer drinking, “he who pays the tab chooses the brand.”

Willie and I seem to be in the minority on this one. The Bud Light boycott not only hasn’t ended, it has created a new movement called “Bud Lighting.” 

It looks like Target and Chick-fil-A might be next. No company is safe. 

On the bright side maybe, these boycotts will lead to some great going out of business sales. I once picked up a 10-year supply of Billy Beer for 39 cents a 6-pack.

If you haven’t yet watched Kid Rock shoot up his stockpile of Bud Light or Dylan Mulvaney’s video, both are entertaining. Dylan is a very entertaining performance artist and comic who has made several videos.

My favorite is when Dylan takes a nature walk. My question to Dylan fans, is Dylan an actor or actress? 

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

WARNING: Possible side effects from reading Meltzer’s column include a rash, hiccups, or a case of the vapors. If you experience any of these side effects, immediately go back to your crocheting.

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