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Weekly Columns!

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

 Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
A friendship between this editor and Harry Huge, a former Superior resident now living in Charleston, S.C., has resulted in this newspaper having a foreign correspondent sending an ocassional dispatch from Estonia. Generally Jaak Lippmaa's "Reports from the Russian Front" give a disburing view of world events as seen through the eyes of an Estonian. One of those reports is published elsewhere in this edition. But today in this space we publish a lighter piece.
I'll confess. I had never heard of the small country of Estonia prior to meeting Harry at a Superior High School Alumni Banquet. Harry played an important role in Estonia's bid for independence from Russia and continues to use his considerable resources to benfit the country and promote a close relationship between Estonia and the United States. In turn he has been honored by that Eastern European country. And by the way the correct pronunciation for Huge is if were spelled Hu-gee.
In an email recived at The Express on Monday, Jaak Lippmaa, a Huge associate, wrote, "This could have been (the story which follows) the actual report from your field correspondent in Estonia on the occasion of new rector elected to the Tallinn Technical University. This is a personal account on how I started to report more than just my personal views to the good readers of the Superior Express." His story follows.
It was a hectic day and I decided to catch the uncatchable at the press conference I knew would start at 2 p.m at Tallinn Technical University, TUT in short. I needed to set up a meeting between the incoming rector and The Harry and Reba Huge Foundation.
As rectors go, especially if they are members of the parliament, an ex-minister and what-not, they are really a hard catch.
To my astonishment the most important event in the life of an university was not happening in the main hall. Fine, I had to run to the rector's office. I found just a secretary there, sitting with a gloomy face, clearly not happy with the turn in the events. But kind enough to point me to the library, where in the farthest corner, in a small room the press conference took place.
Little did I know that this was an event meant strictly for the press. I barged in and had to duck immediately as the heavy air of stagnant scandal threw itself at me. I decided in a split second to blend in, grabbed my phone and started to talk into it like it was a dictophone. And while taking pictures, of course, I grasped the situation when a number of people trying to get in the room were turned back at the door by the security.
So, how to get to the target? By queuing up with the journalists of course. I was the only one alone and without a cameraman. There I stood, thinking how to play this one. The journalists around me (I recognized most of them and some of them obviously knew me) were in total confusion when I queued up with my trusty dictophone (AKA cell phone) in my hand. And suddenly it was my turn.
I can swear Aaviksoo did not recognize me at first when I said in clear loud voice "Jaak Lippmaa, The Superior Express, Superior, Nebraska, United States of America. Congratulations on your election. The good people of Nebraska are interested in knowing whether the student exchange between the U.S. universities and Estonian universities you helped start with the Harry and Reba Huge Foundation while you were the rector of Tartu University, could be extended also to the Tallinn Tech?"
(You have to know we are good friends and have known each other well since 1980).
A moment later it must have dawned on him that he was actually looking at his old friend and he asked, "Jaak have you joined the press now?"
I said "Yes," and this was a real and valid question. And I got my answer, which as you may expect was welcomingly positive.
And that's how I became an occasional reporter for The Superior Express and eventually a credential carrying member of the Nebraska Press Association reporters' pool. A position I am honored to hold.
This is my report of the meeting for your newspaper:
Tallinn, Estonia ­ Finally, in a few moments the Board of Governors of the Tallinn Technical University will announce the person who has been elected the new rector. This culminates the campaign that has been as heated as it has been controversial. A campaign that brought some say, all the dirt of political campaigning to the academia.
The choice is not unimportant since Tallinn Technical University is one of the biggest universities in Estonia and is the only university offering a comprehensive set of technical disciplines covering engineering, computer science, machine building, architecture, landscaping, food industry, etc.
Jaak Aaviksoo, the winner, is certainly taller than the rest of the competition. An established scientist, ex-rector of Tartu University, member of the parliament and twice a government minister serving as minister of defense and minister of education. A clear preference ahead of the competition in terms of experience and leadership.
The slanderous campaign, however, was not carried by the only politician in the race. It was carried by the professors who felt winds of change approaching, a change not to their liking. Professors, who chose to stay in the shadows. Professors, who in their short sightedness failed to see the benefits of having a rector who has the experience of being a rector of their biggest and hardest competitor ­ University of Tartu.
It is good the wait is over, because every day prolonging the shameful campaign would further damage the image of the university aspiring to be the flagship of Estonian academic thought.
I approached the fresh winner and asked how would the new rector view the co-operation between Tallinn Technical University and the Harry and Reba Huge Foundation, having been the one who signed the first co-operation agreement between the foundation and Tartu University to facilitate student exchange between universities in Estonia and the U.S. The response was positively welcoming.
Said Aaviksoo "The success of the foundation exchange programs in Tartu will most certainly gain by offering the students new options in Tallinn Technical University. I most certainly support extending the co-operation agreement opening this university for the students of Nebraska Wesleyan and College of Charleston."
Wind of change is necessary. Not sometimes, but always. In this case the winds are blowing in exciting new directions.


A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

Crowdfunding is a fairly recent invention brought about by the internet and social media, based on the fact that you can reach a great many people ­­ potential investors ­­ without ever getting up from your chair. Whether you're raising money to publish a coffee table book of your kitten photographs, a CD of original music by your alternative rock band or your next independent film, crowdfunding has at its very soul the following philosophy: It is easier to get 5,000 people to invest $1 each than to get one person to invest $5,000. Providing you can reach 5,000 people.
Two of the biggest names in crowdfunding are IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, both established in 2008. IndieGoGo allows anyone to set up a campaign for free, however a fee is charged on money raised. Writers, musicians, filmmakers and visual artists often use this platform to fund projects, but anyone can post any type of campaign. A recent IndieGoGo campaign soliciting money to send a bullied school bus monitor on vacation amassed enough money to fund her retirement. Kickstarter is a platform exclusively for funding creative projects. Campaigns include music, film, publishing, theater and video game projects. Contributions are pledged and only charged when and if the target figure has been reached.
Crowdfunding has never been utilized on any of the short film projects I've produced; rather, we just have bitten the bullet and paid for the things that needed paying for, which on a short film set can include food and drink for the cast and crew, costume or vehicle rental, camera and lighting equipment rental, gas money, hotel rooms or anything necessary to complete the project. Until now, I'd never even been involved with a project utilizing crowdfunding.
The filmmaker responsible for "My Friend Max," a short I co-wrote that is scheduled to shoot in September, has used crowdfunding to great success as a partial means of funding his previous two films. I say partial because I know he also puts a great deal of his own money into his films. I occasionally contribute to fundraising campaigns for films ­­ if I know the filmmaker or can see the project will raise awareness of a cause I care about.
In this case, I know the money being raised is absolutely necessary to pay for the Hollywood actor he cast in the title role. And to provide the actor transportation to and from Mount Vernon, Iowa, where he plans to shoot. Working with Doug Jones will be a huge deal for me; he's been in some of my favorite science fiction and horror films.