Friday, May 31, 2013

Flashback Friday: Logging on to 'Internet'

(In 1994, I blew readers' minds with the idea of easy access to a global information filing system by which anyone at a community college might be able to access info all over the planet in only a few minutes. I know, it's difficult to believe now, but about 20 years ago this whole "Internet" thing sounded like sci-fi. Here's the story from The News Herald's Dec. 14, 1994 edition.)


GCCC will offer students access to the information superhighway



From July 25, 1994
Gulf Coast Community College is not just "surfing the Internet," it's ready to hang-ten, according to one of the school's on-line professors.

For years, computers on campus have been integrated into a closed network. But recently they have joined the Florida Information Resource Network, creating a gateway onto the international Internet.

During a recent meeting of the District Board of Trustees, Professor Joe Howell described the highlights of the system and the advantages Internet access will give to faculty and students in the future. Howell demonstrated how easy it is for someone sitting at a terminal in Bay County to access information sources around the world.

 In less than a minute, he had at his fingertips computer files in Iowa, Sweden and Asia — including professional journals, research information, job listings, electronic mailboxes and computer bulletin boards.

There was even a file on "UFO and Alien Information" — although he quickly skipped past it.

Howell accessed the U.S. Department of Education database and found an excerpt from his own doctoral dissertation on file. He looked at job listings in the Chronicle of Higher Education by reading the expensive journal on-line.

"In the not-too-distant future, we want Gulf Coast Community College to be a server site on the Internet," Howell said. "If someone wants an academic calendar, a catalog, they can get it through the computer system."

The cost would be very small with the appropriate software in place, he said.

Now, 30 terminals on campus have access to the Internet. In the future, open terminals may be installed in public areas such as the college library, so students could use the available wealth of information throughout the world.

"The challenges are doing it faster and better and using it in the instructional process," Howell said.

Meteorology students, for instance, could reach into public-access NASA files for satellite photographs less than four minutes old. They could gather information on a city's weather patterns and create forecasts in class.

"We can do that today," Howell said. "This is not science fiction."

Another challenge may be blocking student access to objective or offensive materials that can be found through the Internet. But Howell said no matter what safeguards are put in place, "some enterprising young person" will no doubt find ways to bypass them.

The ramifications of having so much electronic information at one's fingertips could make facilities like libraries — which are expensive to build, equip and staff — anachronisms, college President Bob McSpadden said.

"What role will a facility with 80,000 hardback books play in the future? A museum?" he said.

The project was made possible by a $12,000 grant from the George G. Tapper Foundation.

Howell said he had always wondered just what was meant by the term "information superhighway." The Internet, he said, puts anyone in the information fast-lane.

McSpadden said he thought trustees "would be astounded by the information" now available to the college. He was right.

"It has created a world of excitement," McSpadden said. "And its capabilities will carry us well into the future."

Friday, May 24, 2013

Flashback Friday: Melissa Etheridge

(Once upon a time I did a telephone interview with Melissa Etheridge in advance of her Pensacola concert, which was opening for Sting in Feb. 1994. This is dated Feb. 19, 1994, though I believe it ran earlier than that.)
Melissa Etheridge affirms: `Yes I Am'
MelissaEtheridge.com
Melissa Etheridge is at it again, so smile when you read the title of her latest album release, Yes I Am.

Is she becoming more politically active while disclaiming any agenda? Is she echoing her own ``coming out'' statement regarding her sexual orientation? Is she still writing gender-neutral lyrics to raw rock'n'roll music?

Ask her and she would have to say, Yes I Am.

Etheridge, 32, earned a Grammy for Best Female Rock Performance in 1993 for the single Ain't It Heavy from her 1992 album, Never Enough. Her throaty delivery, backed by deep emotion and searing guitar, would make tracks from Yes I Am Grammy contenders as well, if they were being awarded to female rockers this year.

 ``Needless to say, it's frustrating. I feel there's a real movement of female rock music, and (the lack of nominations in the category) is an oversight,'' Etheridge said. ``It points out to me a lack of rock radio play, which these nominations are based on.''

Etheridge points to the rise of the punk rock ``riot grrls'' as one of female rock's new movements. She said she ``likes the extremes'' represented by the militant feminism and blatant anti-male stance taken by the groups, which often hold no-men-allowed concerts and as a rule exclude men from front row seating.

``When the extremes move, they push the middle and I don't look like such a `bad feminist' anymore,'' she said.

Etheridge's current gig is opening for Sting on the Southeastern leg of his 1994 American tour. They will perform at the Pensacola Civic Center on Feb. 19. On the day before rehearsals began on the West Coast, she spoke via telephone about music, religion, and sexual expression.

So much has been written recently regarding Etheridge's sexual preference and her friendship with country singer k.d. lang, that one might expect the songs on her latest release to reflect her newfound openness. Not necessarily so.

Her new disc opens with the driving guitars of I'm the Only One, a song that could be interpreted for either straight or lesbian singers: she is losing her lover to another woman — is the lover male or female? In Etheridge's case, the answer would be the latter, but the song could be just as meaningful coming from the throat of straight female performers.

Wikipedia.org
``I made a decision a while ago that I would write the songs truthfully but still try not to exclude anyone. The passions and desires and feelings cross all boundaries. That is the same for everyone,'' she said. ``A man can listen to my songs and say `I know that feeling.' A straight woman can listen and say `I have felt that way.' I don't want to limit myself or that experience,'' she said.

Etheridge — who once said she was the product of a stale, white-bread midwestern environment — shares a home in Hollywood with a passle of pets and her companion, filmmaker Julie Cypher, who shot Etheridge's earliest music video. Although Etheridge said her music was open to personal interpretations, ``self-examination'' is her catch phrase. Any political, social or sexual message comes out of ``peeling back the layers,'' opening her feelings and thoughts for ``total revelation'' to the audience.

``I believe there is a way to create from and write from a totally honest part of yourself and speak directly from that,'' Etheridge said. ``But sort of like eye witnesses to a crime, everyone will see something different in it.''

Etheridge had a religious upbringing and performed both in Catholic and Protestant churches during her youth. She said she's ``not a religious person per se,'' but the influence of those years appears in her music, particularly in the new song, Talking to my Angel.

``On each of my albums there is at least one song that refers to angels,'' she said. ``I grew up in many different churches, and was struck by their icons and symbols and religious knowledge, and realized the power they have in our society. So the terms `angels,' `devils,' `God,' are incorporated into much of my writing. I'm talking about spiritual forces, a muse, inspiration, the spirit and memory of loved ones I've lost. They take on a new form that I call `angels.' ''

There is also a hint of darkness in Etheridge's songs, the plaintive voice of the outcast seeking approval and love, yet reveling in her differences. Having been embraced both by straight and homosexual audiences, and having gained public recognition through her award, she can afford to do both.

``In my personal exploration, I've found that there really is a `dark side' to all of us. You find it in our religions, books, even movies. People try to exorcise it, but there comes a point when you can't get rid of it,'' she said. ``So much fear and intolerance comes from that darkness. We're afraid of so much that we don't understand.

``I try to overcome my past inheritance of ignoring that side of me, so I draw it out, write about it, talk about it — shed come light on it. That's my philosophy, how to find some inner peace.''

(The rest of the story: I drove with my wife to Pensacola to see the concert; Etheridge's manager said I would have two tickets waiting at will-call. Instead, there was a pass to photograph the first two songs of Sting's performance, but no tickets. The show was sold out. We turned and walked away. Monday, the manager called to thank me for the article, and was apologetic when I told her about the ticket problem.)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Undercurrents: Getting there one word at a time

Kayla and Nick at Writers Gallery
PANAMA CITY — One word at a time.

That seemed to be the lesson at Tuesday night’s gathering of the Writers Gallery.

On the third Tuesday of each month, local writers meet at Chez Amavida in the historic St. Andrews neighborhood to read something they’ve been working on, or to share a passage from their published work. The readings range from poetry to prose, and within those areas are encompassed true stories, dark fictions, regional farce, religious testimonials and philosophies. You might not like all of it, but chances are you’ll love some of it.

It can be a boisterous crowd, as some others in the coffee shop discovered Tuesday. We applaud each reader when they finish, and when those applause coincide with someone entering the shop, they can be taken aback.

Of course, a few of the regulars are lurkers. That is, they listen, they watch, they applaud when appropriate, but they don’t enter the spotlight to expose themselves (metaphorically).

One word at a time was how one of the readers progressed through his effort. Upon making acquaintance with the microphone after several invitations from our emcee, Kayla May, the man explained how he drew letters on a page until they made words, then grouped words on the page until they made sentences. However, he wasn’t sure if the sentences made sense, even as he began to read them.

I can relate. I suppose you, dear readers, can too.

(I flashed back a couple of days, to a morning when I stopped alongside Delwood Road to remove a small turtle from the street. I watched it plod, one step at a time toward the trees, and wondered how long it would take for it to reach its destination. I was reminded that life’s about the journey, the steps, rather than the goal, which is ever changing.)

One word at a time also was how Kayla bravely made her way through reading the story of a Gallery regular who prefers not to read his own work aloud. Her willingness to proceed through the pronunciation of unfamiliar words lent a new level of enjoyment to the experience.

The monthly event, beginning its third year, was organized by Nick May, Kayla’s husband, the author of “Megabelt” and “MinuteMen,” and a worship arts leader at Northstar Church in Panama City. On Tuesday, he read from a blog about his creative process and the importance of prayer. (You can see the whole thing at his site, HeyNickMay.com.)

Like most writers of any discernment, Nick gives himself a hard time. It’s no easy thing to find a balance between real-world obligation and the desire for creative expression, between family and fiction, between words and the Word.

His blog ends with a self-admonition we could all embrace: “So here goes … one word at a time.”

Peace.

(This is my Undercurrents column for PanamaCity.com and The News Herald this week.)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fan Trailer: Kingdom Come



I have a friend and former coworker, Brian Parsley, who is pretty great at making superhero costumes. Great enough that he does that full-time now. He appears in this as "Magog."

From Wikipedia
It's based on a groundbreaking graphic novel (originally a four-part prestige format series) from 1996 that explored a near-future in the DC Comics world that saw Superman coming out of retirement to try to reign in the out-of-control super-powered folks and fight a cabal of bad guys. There's much more to it than that — there kind of would need to be for it to remain a fan-favorite storyline nearly 20 years later — and if you want to read it, just hit this link.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Flashback Friday: Garibaldi on the Firing Line

(Once upon a time, I did a telephone interview with Jerry Doyle, who was at that time playing Security Chief Michael Garibaldi on the sydicated sci-fi series Babylon 5. The following originally published in the Sept. 8, 1995 edition of the News Herald.)


Jerry Doyle shares many of the character traits — and flaws — of Security Chief Michael Garibaldi, the role he portrays on the syndicated sci-fi drama Babylon 5.

Both men have high standards, are outspoken and audacious, and both have a murky past. Both men sometimes take a side door to reach their targets, and neither man is above a little scheming if it produces the right results.

"I think a lot of acting is just life experiences, reality brought into a situation and interpreted," Doyle said.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Doyle received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautics from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona. His first job was marketing and selling corporate jets in New Jersey, but he never really wanted to leave college.

"I was having too much fun," he said. "It was a surprise when it happened. My wife and I have fond memories of the (Fort) Lauderdale area, and a dream of when we can get this great big ol' sprawling place on the water and just go sailing."

Doyle left a nine-year Wall Street career in 1990 to try his luck in Hollywood. He had endured the October market crash, company problems, daily pressure and what he termed an ambush from 60 Minutes. The place just wasn't fun any more.

"When 60 Minutes walks into your office, you know the day isn't going to go the way you expected," he said.

To get an acting job in L.A., Doyle needed a performance resume. But he had never acted before and "stocks, bonds and hostile takeovers" just wouldn't look good to casting directors. So he fudged a bit on his resume, creating a fictitious credit with the Harlem Dance Theatre.

"I didn't bend the rules — they snapped. I put a lie in there so blatant that I thought people would get the joke. If anybody had ever 'seen' them, there was a real good possibility that I wasn't touring with that group," Doyle said.

"In 4-1/2 years, nobody's ever questioned it," he said. "It's still on there, as my tribute to absurdity."

That side-door route landed him roles on The Bold and the Beautiful, Homefront, Reasonable Doubt, and Duckman.

Then came Babylon 5.

A COP'S LIFE

Garibaldi is a man with flaws. A recovering alcoholic who's lost more jobs than he can recall; who's lost at love more often than not; who's burned all his bridges and has nowhere to turn if things go wrong on B-5.

"We're all trying to overcome our demons," Doyle said. "We may conquer technology, cure diseases, but we're always working on ourselves. It's what the audience hopefully can relate to."

As Garibaldi, Doyle has turned a supporting role into the show's most popular character. A recent three-issue story in the B-5 comics adaptation focused entirely on Garibaldi, as did two recent novels. Doyle has also gained an international fan following, thanks to the show's popularity overseas.

In an integral first-season episode, Garibaldi has a vision of a future battle in which he and the station commander are trying to hold off unseen attackers while civilians evacuate B-5. Garibaldi volunteers to cover the retreat, yelling that this is the moment for which he was born.

"Yeah, a lot of people have said that they know what happens to me in the future," Doyle said. "But they're talking about a spin-off series (if B-5 lasts through its projected five-year mission). I was given the option of wrapping up my storyline or going on to the new show. I'm not going to tell you what I decided."

The role of space cop comes easily to Doyle, whose father was a career police officer in New York (his mother worked at home). His father provided a good life for the family, and put off his own joys for later in life. But he died at 41, having never done the things he dreamed of doing.

"I didn't want that to happen to me," Doyle said.

And yet, foremost in Doyle's thoughts are his family and the future he can provide for them. He said L.A. isn't the kind of place to raise kids, so he wants to "grab as much as I can as fast as I can, punch out and go where the air's nice."

He would like nothing better than to be able to "wear shorts, drink beer and take people fishing," activities he said defines the Florida vacation/retirement lifestyle.

But until then, he won't be waiting for projects to come his way. He's co-written two scripts, is developing a feature film, a TV movie-of-the-week and an old-fashioned Christmas special.

"I would love to be involved in a product that lives on ... something that's timeless, like a Casablanca," he said. "And I'd like to do a pirate movie. I think that would be way cool."
-----
(NOTE: The interview was accompanied by this sidebar that included more comments from Doyle:)
-----
Babylon 5 Info Guide

The Babylon Project was our last, best hope for peace. It was the dawn of the Third Age of Mankind, the year the Great War came upon us all. The year is 2259. The name of the place is Babylon 5.

Two years before Paramount launched its space station-based Trek spinoff, television veteran J. Michael Straczinsky had tried to sell a network on his vision of just such a series:

--The space station Babylon 5 would be a hotbed of mystery, suspense and intrigue, where humans and aliens would scheme and struggle and join together in unexpected alliances.

--As forces behind the scenes plotted to seize control of the Earth government, a dark presence from a forgotten time would rise to challenge the champions of all things good and just.

--And in the third year of the series, a war of intergalactic proportions would erupt, and humankind would face its darkest hour.

No network nibbled, but Warner Brothers gave the concept a greenlight for first-run syndication.

In the ensuing years, B-5 has opened new frontiers in TV sci-fi. That pivotal third year is now upon us, when the galaxy's "last, best hope for peace" becomes its "last, best hope for victory."

In the meantime, B-5 has garnered an Emmy award for visual effects and Emmy nominations for make-up, hair and cinematography. It was nominated for a Hugo award from the World Science Fiction Association and received The Space Frontier Foundation Award for Best Vision of the Future from the National Association of Space Scientists, Astronauts and Engineers.

Though syndicated in the U.S., B-5 is carried on TV networks in other countries. In Great Britain, for instance, the show has developed a cult following similar to the Star Trek phenomenon.

"It's huge, like the No. 2 or No. 3 show in England, Ireland, France and Italy," said Jerry Doyle, who plays B-5 Security Chief Michael Garibaldi. "I'm going to Bristol in August and Dublin in September (for fan conventions)."

But unlike most television series, Straczynski saw B-5 as a complete story with a definite ending five years after the premiere. Each episode would be like a chapter of a book, each season would be a volume in the continuing story.

The show has also done something few series have accomplished: B-5 lost its hero and most integral character at the close of the first season.

Commander Jeffrey Sinclair (Michael O'Hare) appeared only as a face on a recorded message in season two, although a first-season episode revealed him to be "The One" who, in the future (or the distant past), will lead the forces of light against the Shadows.

The future Sinclair, in fact, was responsible for the mysterious disappearance of B-5's predecessor, Babylon 4 — snatching it out of the past via a time travel device for use as a base of operations against the dark enemy.

"I don't know what they're going to do with that character. We just try to play the beats as they're written out," Doyle said. "There's a strong possibility that (Sinclair) will resurface this season -- but whether it will be to start a new storyline, to finish a storyline, or as another recorded message, I really don't know."

To put it mildly, the show is complex and multi-layered. Characters change over time, literally evolving into new forms and revealing new facets of their personalities. Subplots that seemed minor grow into major plot points.

Psy-Corps telepaths jockey for political control; Home Guard bigots beat up aliens and want Earth out of space; the assassination of the Earth president is covered up; the mysterious Shadows aid a race war as another alien power grooms the new B-5 commander (Bruce Boxleitner) to battle the Shadows; and, behind the scenes, Sinclair gathers a secret army of "Rangers."

The Great War is upon us. And all eyes turn to Babylon 5.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Undercurrents: You gotta love it


Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas
PANAMA CITY BEACH — I was wading in the shallows of a cove on a private island in the Bahamas on Thursday of last week, and thinking of home. The water was cool, the sand grainy, spongy, full of rocks. And I thought, St. Andrews State Park is nicer than this.

When you live where we do, there really is no place like home.

You’ll find that theme running through the responses people gave to two simple questions I asked them this week (Link to the article coming soon.). But you’ll also find some very personal connections.

Folks agree on many of the same things to love about this area, like the beaches, lakes and creeks, the arts and entertainment events, historic places, and the basic kindness and helpfulness of the people. They’ve also found individual niches that enrich their lives — art groups, writing/reading groups, dance groups, theater groups and so forth.

One of these folks is Bunnie Hibbard, whom you may have seen on stage or working behind the scenes of productions at The Martin Theatre downtown or Kaleidoscope Theatre in Lynn Haven. I caught up to her early this week on what she described as a “spectacular day,” enjoying the sunny, 60-degree day on her porch — birds chirping in the trees, and Harley Pummil (who often co-directs plays with her) on the radio.

“I’ve never been good at picking my favorite thing about anything,” she said. “And I think that’s why I love this area so much — the variety it offers.”

Bunnie said she will re-route her regular drive if she’s had a rough day just so she can drive past the beach.
“I can be in a wooded section with birds in a second, or take a weekend at the springs. If you’re not in an outdoor mood, then we have theater (of course) anything from kids, community, to off-Broadway. I love the music festivals in the parks — many talented musicians in this area — or catching a 3-D movie at the IMAX.”

She said the allure of the area boils down to this: “Panama City has the class and elegance of big cities, but with a small town, homey feel. I’ve not lived in any other place like it.”

Her particular niche is in the theaters, and she wanted to talk about the upcoming Kids Kamp at Kaleidoscope, the 11th annual. There are many summer camps in the area, including several that focus on theater, but she pointed out the Kaleidoscope camp is an all-volunteer effort.

“None of us at KT are lining our pockets with it,” she said. “I take my vacation to volunteer to direct and teach the kids every June. Harley, Lois (Carter) and I and several others have watched a lot of these kids grow up, and there’s nothing more I look forward to. Not even Christmas. Harley writes the shows for my group, and many times, since he knows the kids so well, will incorporate their personalities into the show.”

In a week’s time, these kids form bonds that last over the years. Some of them have even stayed with a local friend so they can attend the camp after their families moved to other states.

“One recently enlisted (in the military), and he ‘dropped in’ to hang with the group, even though he’s too old to attend,” she said. “Harley wrote him into the show at my request.”

Peace .

Friday, May 10, 2013

Flashback Friday: Jurasik's Spark

(Once upon a time, I interviewed actor Peter Jurasik about his role on Babylon 5 as the alien ambassador from Centaruri Prime, Londo Molari. He was at times jovial and introspective, but mostly it was apparent he enjoyed his work and the people with whom he worked. This was published Oct. 18, 1996, as B-5 was ending its third season of syndication and Jurasik was already working on Season 4.)

Get past the gravity-defying hair and the thick Bela Lugosi accent, and the essence of Londo Molari, Centauri Prime's ambassador to space station Babylon 5, is really quite human.

On a recent October morning, actor Peter Jurasik — who breathes life into Londo for fans of B-5 — talked with The News Herald from his California home, commenting on the autumnal weather, the evolution of his TV character and an upcoming book release.

As the interview began, Jurasik was interrupted by a phone call from fellow B-5 cast member Bill Mumy (formerly Will Robinson of Lost in Space). Mumy wanted to play a round of racquetball, but Jurasik had tickets to the Dodgers-Braves game.

The exchange brings home the fact that these guys are just regular folks. And yet, for the entertainment of thousands of fans world-wide, they're seen as enemies on a galactic scale, their actions determining the fate of worlds.

Babylon 5 follows the activities aboard a massive space station in the 23rd century, located in deep space where a quarter-million aliens and humans mingle to work out their differences. But earth's government is reeling from civil war, corruption at the highest levels, and the return of an ancient Shadow race that seeks conquest among the stars.

Londo, long considered a washed-up politician in a backwater assignment, has emerged as a major player in the conflict — and on the wrong side.

Jurasik says the role was a perfect fit for his needs as a character actor.

"Initially, when I went in to read for the part, we had a short chat and I asked (B-5 creator Joe Straczinski what he'd like for these people to sound like. He said, 'These guys are from outer space. They can sound any way you want them to.' Which is great for a character actor. Character actors will inevitably put on a wig or an accent or a costume, and I've done all of that."

Jurasik has appeared in numerous TV incarnations over the past 20 years, including a memorable turn as sleazy "Sid the Snitch" on Hill Street Blues. He's also appeared on Dear John, L.A. Law, MASH, Taxi and Dave's World.

Picking up the theme of change, Jurasik says circumstances have either "conspired or inspired" Londo to great personal changes. His drive to restore the lost glory of his homeworld led him to bargain with a shadowy alien race for greater power and influence.

"I hate to go '90s on you, but his priorities have changed. Four years ago, when we first met Londo, he was pretty buffoonish, pretty much a drunk. But there was an underlying bitterness, almost an anger, black and biley. He's always been very concerned about his people. So the change, for me, tracks very well."

If that sounds like the kind of evolution that real people experience, then B-5 has accomplished something few other sci-fi shows attempt: to allow characters to grow. Similar shows generally present self-contained stories that always leave the characters pretty much at status quo. Miss an episode or two and you'll still recognize the characters. Not B-5.

"With Babylon, you will get some satisfaction by watching one episode. We have great special effects, exciting storylines. But the real hook is the big story arc. I think that's what has really grabbed the imagination of English fans, the Dickensian tradition. It's something that's just not emphasized on American television."

Meanwhile, Jurasik has recently completed his first sci-fi novel, Diplomatic Act, (from Simon & Schuster//Baen Books, spring 1997) which takes a sardonic look at Hollywood and contains more than a few veiled references to the set of B-5.

"What do I know more about than that? It's about an actor working on a science fiction show playing a diplomat, who is abducted by aliens because he reminds them of somebody. They are from this `watcher' society, and are intrigued by TV."

Regular B-5 viewers (and alien watchers) will know that Londo has had a vision of his death — and a time travel episode last season reinforced this vision. But Jurasik hints that the future is malleable.

"It's not really a cop-out, but it's the out all the actors use, at least on our show. Joe Straczynski is really The Great Maker, and he indicates to us that these dreams and prophecies are just that — it doesn't necessarily mean they will come true."

Now beginning its fourth season, B-5 was plotted as a five-year storyline. But Jurasik, dangling a bit of intrigue, said his character may not even survive to the series finale.

"I have always taken the line that I think audiences like to have happy endings. I don't know that Joe will subscribe to that, at least in Londo's case. I mean, he's made some heavy mistakes and will have to pay for those. He's in a fight for his people in the fourth season, and he'll have to come to terms with the `deal with the devil' he made. Those things will have to be straightened out."

Friday, May 03, 2013

Free on Kindle Saturday

My first novel, Welcome to the Dawning of a New Century, will be FREE from Amazon's kindle store tomorrow, Saturday, May 4.

This is not part of Free Comic Book Day.

This is in recognition of the annual Sawmill Day celebration in Century, Florida, where the tale is set. The novel focuses on fictitious events leading up to the town's centennial celebration in 2001 (a party that never happened, at least not to the extent shown here). It's comical, weird, satirical, touching, sexy, and violent. It takes the form of several interconnected short stories and essays, leading to the climactic events of Sawmill Day.

And for one day, as Century celebrates its history in the real world, you can get this story for your Kindle device or Kindle app on your phone — for FREE.

>>Click here to check it out<<

And May the Fourth be with you.

Flashback Friday: Robin Curtis beams down

(Once upon a time, I interviewed actress Robin Curtis prior to her visit for a small sci-fi convention in Panama City. The actress was best known to me as the second "Lt. Saavik," having taken the role over in Star Trek movies 3 and 4. She was fun to talk to, very open and uninhibited, the polar opposite of her half-Vulcan character. This article is dated Friday, Feb. 24, 1995, meaning it went to press on Feb. 23.)

'Trek' star to appear at local Trek-O-Rama

Her face may not be familiar at first — minus the characteristic pointed ears and arching eyebrows — and her effervescent personality would embarrass her repressed Vulcan counterpart.

But Bay County Star Trek fans will be pleased by the person beneath the makeup as they get the chance to mind-meld with Robin Curtis — "Saavik" from the third and fourth Trek films — at the Trek-O-Rama convention.

"I enjoy (conventions) so much, but I haven't done one in a while, so I'm a little rusty," Curtis said in a telephone interview from her California home Tuesday evening.

Self-described as "effusive, expressive and full-of-life," it wasn't easy for someone like Curtis to play a coldly logical Vulcan.

"I spill all over everybody, excitement leaks from every pore," Curtis said. "(The fans) realize how difficult that must have been for me."

Curtis took over the role of Saavik after Kirstie Alley (of Cheers) had played the part in Star Trek II. Curtis said her status as a replacement was never an issue among the cast or the fans.

"It's interesting how, in life, the obvious problems are the ones that never materialize," she said. "The fans appreciate me for me."

Her role was pared down in the fourth Trek to give more screen time to the ensemble of original players. She said that was fine with her because that group of actors deserved the attention.

"My association with Star Trek has been nothing but beneficial, really. To think I'm still generating income from a job 11 years ago is astonishing," she said.

According to Curtis, her body of work could only be considered "a career" if it were put together with "some paste and Duco cement." Star Trek conventions — she appeared at 17 of them last year — have helped pay the rent.

"I've kind of let fans in on the fact that actors spend most of their time unemployed or looking for work," she said. "And they have let me in on what I have become a small part of."

The positive message behind Trek — that the future is bright and full of adventure — took Curtis a while to comprehend. She had never been a real Trek fan before landing the Saavik role, but has since immersed herself in the lore of future history.

"Who knows why the hell these things come to us? I'm just pleased to be part of something I consider to be a good thing," Curtis said. "I like what I've learned and how these people think. I hate to stereotype, but on the whole, I find the fans to be interesting, thoughtful, fun-loving people."

Curtis compares favorably her experiences on the movie sets with those on the set of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which she guest-starred as a Romulan spy.

"It's viscerally very much the same," she said. "Star Trek is very stylized. The pace is slower and more thoughtful than most TV. There's that upright, military stance, straight as a beam right up your butt."

Curtis catches some good-natured ribbing for her stint hosting an infomercial for the Braun Handblender, but she doesn't apologize for blatant hucksterism. After all, in some ways, that's what conventions cater to.

"As long as it doesn't go up an orifice, we'll sell it," she said. "Actually, I wish I had a nickel for every one they sold (through the infomercial). Sales quadrupled and they renewed my contract for another year."

Curtis also has made a few commercials recently, but she hopes infomercials don't become her bread and butter.

"I'm hoping I haven't found my niche. That's not the goal, here, but I do thank God I'm capable of doing these kinds of things and maintaining a modicum of integrity," she said. "Work begets work."

During the interview, her new agent interrupted to tell her Dove Books wants her to do another science fiction book-on-tape reading for them — a job that no doubt came her way because of her Star Trek recognition value.

"It never stops. It never ceases to amaze me," she said. "Star Trek is like this monster machine that just won't stop."

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

American~Indian




PANAMA CITY BEACH — Ford Seeuws is a surfer, a violinist, a filmmaker, a seeker. A Bay County native, he’s husband to Melissa and father to Satya and Rohan, and they all recently returned from a two-year stay in India.

Ford’s feature-length documentary on their time there is called “American~Indian.” It’s now for sale online, as a way to help Ford finance future film work upon their return to India, and it will be available to view on YouTube soon.


“We had always been interested in India, but we wanted to see if we could really make it home,” Ford said, explaining the process that led to the film. “At first we started taking Hindi classes. I landed a job with a tourism/travel company to make short videos that could be used to show clients famous cities and destinations.”

All the while, the camera rolled on just about everything the family did, and Ford used these as video blogs on YouTube. (You can link to these videos in the online version of this column at PanamaCity.com.)

“In January of this year, I met with some of the good people who manage Kunzum Travel Cafe in Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village,” he said. “They were hosting a film series and after seeing one of my YouTube videos, wondered if there was anything I wanted to show. As much as I believe in YouTube and the power of vlogs, I felt a bit self-conscious showing these low-production value vlogs on a larger screen.”

He edited together footage from the vlogs with higher-definition travel videos for a feature length presentation shown at the cafĂ© on Jan. 25, but he wasn’t satisfied with the result.

“People really liked the first half, but the frenetic pace of vlogs was too annoying to sustain for a full 75 minutes,” he said. He decided to make some changes, slow the pace, add some narration and extra content, and: “What you will see is the new and improved final version incorporating some of the feedback I got from viewers of the first film.”

Ford’s past travels have been partially financed by family, friends and churches, as well as his corporate work, but he’s hoping to transition into a business model that will allow him to focus on filmmaking alone. He wants to further his immersion into India and open the minds of people on both sides of the world.

“It has been a great experience. Every time I travel overseas I learn something new,” Ford said. “Getting down on the ground, the immersion process is something I really resonate with. … It made me realize so many preconceived notions we have are not fair.”

India is a diverse place, he said, with 18 major languages and 1,000 dialects. And yet, there are only three official religions (Christian, Hindu and Muslim) and you have to register with the government as belonging to one of them.

“You can’t be an atheist,” he said.

 Tensions are often high in the country, with people breaking into factions along religious, ethnic or geographical lines. But it’s also a time that seems on the threshold of bright changes, with start-ups and NGOs opening up new forms of business and revenue.

Ford plans to return to India in about six months.

“I see myself more as a non-governmental ambassador,” he said. “I try to get these cultures to understand each other, to show them that not all Westerners are colonial jerks. … I hope to be a peacemaker, I guess.”

Peace.