Forget skeletons in the closet. If you’ve ever fancied yourself a ‘computer enthusiast,’ you’re dealing with far greater beasts. They lurk behind closet doors, in basements and attics. They may even be right beneath your feet. As the years go by and you accumulate more, you just can’t escape them. Or can you?
Computer equipment is the equivalent of old love letters in terms of sentimentality and monetary value but tend to take up a lot more space. It’s a common trap for technophiles to fall in—as newer technology is released, you buy it to replace outdated models and hang on to the old machines with fair justification. Who knows when you’ll need spare parts, right? But as the older models collect more dust and new machines are released at a faster rate, we’re quickly running out of room. What’s a geek to do?
These days it’s impossible to think of just tossing out old computers with yesterday’s soda cans and pork rind wrappers and it's almost illegal to do so. There is growing concern that the disposal of “end of life” electronics poses risks to the environment because of the presence of lead, mercury, and other volatile substances. The primary concern is that the growth of this electronic waste stream and the potential for the hazardous materials to cause disposal problems in the future. Many state legislatures are focusing on the issue and writing bills to handle the e-waste better, to ban landfill disposal of electronics, and to further encourage manufacturers to do more to make the “end of life” easier for consumers and the environment.
•More than 20 million PCs become obsolete each year in the United States.
•Computers, TVs, and other electronics account for 220 million tons of waste each year in the U.S.; more than 10% of that goes into landfills.
•As much as 80% of PCs and other e-waste collected for recycling in the U.S. ends up in Asia—where it is unsafely disposed.
•40% of the lead found in landfills, as well as other toxic materials such as cadmium, barium, and mercury, are all found in PC components.
Can’t live with ’em, can’t toss ’em out. Looks like recycling is the best option. But within that option lays several sub-options. We’ll discuss a few of them in the hopes that you’ll be inspired to pursue one or devise new ways of disposing of the useless equipment.
First, let’s take a look at what you can do with those fully functioning machines that you’ve simply outgrown.
There’s no need to haul your current machine out to the dumpster merely because you upgraded. Just because your needs have surpassed the old computer, doesn’t mean everyone has, so if you’ve got relatives who are sans-computer, simply pass it along to them. Sure, it means you’ll be their personal help desk, but as a computer-owner you’ve probably already earned the reputation of being the family geek.
Already hooked up the fam with choice equipment? Schools are always in need of better computers and it’s possible that they could use your cast-offs. However, some school districts can be discriminating in selecting old computers as they may want the whole package (keyboard, mouse, software, etc.) instead of just a tower or a monitor. If you’re interested in donating to an educational facility, call up your local school district for their computer donation guidelines. Failing that, you could check into donating your goods to an individual teacher for professional or personal use.
Charities and churches are also good homes for old computers. These groups can either put your machine to use in office or find a new home for it through their connections. Check local bulletin boards and weekly papers for notices of local groups in need of computer equipment. Some charity groups may be able to provide a receipt for your donation, an added incentive for taxpayers clinging to ancient computers.
If you do manage to find someone to take your old unit, don’t forget to use disk-cleaning software to remove all residues of you and your files from the hard drive. Include any software required for the OS and write the license number on the back of the computer. Some groups will use the original software with your letter of permission.
Most technophiles don’t have just one complete unit to hand off to some unsuspecting schlub and we keep them with the intention of putting them to use in the future. But still they pile up in the middle of the floor, menacing any non-computer user and their feet. It’s time to sort through the pile to determine what’s still useful and what has become obsolete.
Anything past its usefulness should be set aside for shipping off to a computer salvage company. They can pull out any materials that can be reused and destroy the rest of the materials in an environmentally safe manner. This is also where dead peripherals and monitors should be sent. Empty out that dead mice drawer and send them off to a proper burial.
Parts less than five years old can probably be sold off for a minimal profit, depending on the size and quality. Try listing spare parts on eBay. Or, if you have an exorbitant amount of spare parts, take them down to your local flea market.
With the lower costs of technology, you could easily build a new, low-end PC using your own spare parts. In a matter of hours, you’d have an extra computer for folding, testing out fishy software, or learning a new operating system. It would also be a great learning tool for novice geeks who have never tinkered with computer innards.
Whatever you decide to do, there are dozens of computer recycling programs to give you ideas or assist you in the ultimate removal of your equipment. For example, Share the Technology gives donors and potential recipients a way to connect regardless of their metaspace location. The non-profit corporation’s mission is to help salvage retired computers before “end of life” and place them in schools or with other non-profit organizations. To do this, Share the Technology provides a searchable national computer donation database.
In February 2004, it was reported on GreenBiz.com that U.S. electronics industry representatives “endorsed a resolution with state governments and environmental groups to develop flexible and fair recycling efforts.” The report also states that the electronics industry will create a proposal for legislation to finance nationwide recycling programs through a fee at point of sale or allow companies to create alternative plans to manage costs without a fee on their products.
Some manufacturers already have recycling programs in place. Gateway, HP, and Dell each claim to offer programs and incentives for recycling through them, but you’ll have to put in some dedicated search time to find out whether the programs still exist.
Even if you can’t find a way to recycle through the manufacturers, you may be encouraged to see that some of them are taking the initiative to aid in future recycling efforts. While a few companies are implementing end-of-life programs, others are trying to cut back on the amount of toxic materials used in new devices.
It is far too easy to get wrapped up in the new toys that allow us to forget not only about the old electronics but also about the environment and the world around us. Put your devices to work for the global good by encouraging fellow technophiles to reuse and recycle spare computer parts. Encourage your local legislation to support e-waste bills and to open more computer recycling and salvaging centers in more areas.
originally published in the May-June 2004 issue of Orlando Life magazine.
Look here kittens and cats; unhook your ears while I lay it down for you. The last resurgence in the swing craze has temporarily lost its intoxicating hold on the American public, but there’s one hepcat who continues to add his own twist to the nostalgia martini.
Michael Andrew embraced the big band sound at an early age. While his peers tripped out to The Doors and Pink Floyd, Andrew soaked in the stylings of The Four Freshmen and crooners like Mel Torme. The desire to perform consumed him around the same time. Young Michael combined his newfound passions into lip-synched productions for his parents’ friends.
As time went on, Andrew expanded beyond lip-synching and developed his own voice. He spent quality time learning about music- composing, arranging, band leading and modern recording techniques from an important mentors, Milwaukee band leader, Dave Kennedy. It was Kennedy who taught Michael not only how to play to the audience, regardless of whether they were dancing- a key element to Andrew's career success. While he enjoyed performing and entertaining, he decided to pursue a more practical line of work in college. Before he could get too far as a business major, an outing altered his path. “In my sophomore year of college, I attended a theatre picnic and met all these people who were like me and wanted to do the same things I wanted to do... eventually I became a theatre major,” recalls Andrew.
Andrew’s graduation from University of Wisconsin Eau Claire coincided with the early 1990s entertainment boom in Orlando. The Orlando hype lured Andrew out of his home state and down to the Sunshine State, where he would eventually set up his base of operations. Once in the City Beautiful, he explored all the opportunities available to him and successfully landed several small television gigs and a full-time job at Universal Studios. Shortly after he logged in time as Stan Laurel in the streets of Universal, Carnival Cruise Lines offered Andrew a chance to take his talent to the open seas as more than an actor or singer. Carnival Cruise allowed him to hone his skills as a bandleader and a character actor. By day he was an unwitting nerd running about the ship, but by nightfall he’s transformed into a suave bandleader- rolling the essences of bandleader/clarinetist Benny Goodman and Frank Sinatra into a handsome modern-day package.
When developing his dashing stage persona, Andrew drew inspiration from unlikely hipster Jerry Lewis and his Nutty Professor character Buddy Love. With his theatre training, he managed to interlace the debonair womanizer with bits of his own personality and wound up with the Michael Andrew we see on stage today. “It’s easy for me to think of myself as an actor playing the part of a singer.”
Just as Andrew was growing restless of ship life, he got his big break- a six-month stint as bandleader at the world famous Rainbow Room in New York. Through contract extensions, the gig went from six months to a 25-month job. Andrew reminisces, “The Rainbow Room gave me credibility as a singer and bandleader... It was a real romantic experience.” His experience afforded him many opportunities in later years to perform before live audiences with Merv Griffin and his celebrity friends who could fondly recall the golden days of big band music.
After his time in the Rainbow Room in 1996, Andrew took a short break from performing to concentrate on creating music. He penned and mounted his sci-fi musical comedy Mickey Swingerhead and the Earthgirls, finally meshed his passion for acting, singing, and retro-exotica music from the 1950's. The show, which ran with rave reviews, is parallel to Andrew's personal mission to keep swing music alive. At the same time, he also released his first solo album, I Guess I'm a Little Out of Date, a collection of classic swing standards and his own original songs.
Over the years, Michael Andrew attached his name to several bands including the Michael Andrew Orchestra and The Michael Andrew Retro-Swing Band, but his biggest band success Swingerhead. The band was formed by Andrew in 1998, when a certain Gap ad encouraged young hipsters to embrace swing music and the cocktail culture. Since the formation, Swingerhead has enjoyed modest success. As of 2002, they have received seven nominations and five wins from the Orlando Music Awards, released several albums—including the recent Destination Moon, and appeared briefly in the Sigourney Weaver/Jennifer Love Hewitt flick Heartbreakers. The band, comprised of talented musicians from around the country, continues to tour and record despite the current slump in swing popularity.
Michael Andrew continues to be involved in a variety of projects outside of performing with Swingerhead. In the past five years, he’s performed with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and Los Angeles based The Coconut Club Orchestra, composed incidental music for The Paper Route, a short film by Orlando production company Stars North, and returned to his acting roots in Mad Cow Theatre’s 2002 production of As Thousands Cheer.
Because his music career took off so quickly, Andrew hasn't had the chance to beef up his acting resume, but he chalks it up to sacrifice. "There is no nine-to-five when you're running your own career, there is no cutoff point, so sacrifices are a given. I've been very fortunate and don't have any regrets about my choices."
When it’s time to take a break from the spotlight, Andrew is content to return to his Orlando home. The coiffed pompadour and zoot suits are traded for jeans and t-shirts as he concentrates on remodeling the house he’s owned since his Carnival Cruise days or recording in his new home studio. During a much-needed break from touring, he is deciding which projects he’ll pursue next. One pursuit is the remount of his stage musical Mickey Swingerhead and the Earthgirls, which would reunite Andrew with local director Alan Bruun of Mad Cow during the Orlando Fringe Festival.
Through it all, Michael Andrew hasn’t lost sight of his intentions. “My ultimate goal is to entertain people, to make the audience happy.” After all these years, he remains dedicated to the swing scene and his style is as fresh as ever. For the trend-followers who want to get a running start on the next big band wagon, Michael Andrew and Swingerhead will steer you into instant fandom for one of America‘s first original music styles.
originally published in the show program for Michael Andrew Pays Tribute to Frank Sinatra, November 2003.
In 1999, ABC brought Regis and game shows back to prime time. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire became a cash cow complete with catch phrase, suspense, and interactivity. We watched until the hot seat cooled and endured the knock-offs and standouts that followed. By 2001, this century’s prime time game show gamut was run so deep into the ground, it should take the Game Show Network 20 years to dig them out. But it showed network executives what Fox and MTV have known for years, viewers like watching real people in extenuating circumstances. And thus reality programming was borne.
Or was it? Reality programs have been around since the early 1950s. Candid Camera originated in 1948 as Candid Microphone, a radio show taped by Allen Funt to broadcast complaints of servicemen in the Armed Forces. From there, the reality genre has gone through several incarnations, time slots, and formats. In the 1980s, networks tested the reality genre in prime time with America’s Most Wanted, Unsolved Mysteries, America’s Funniest Home Videos, and COPS. But for years reality was primarily a daytime mainstay with talk shows, courtroom dramas, and tabloid magazine shows. These days, the reality genre basically breaks down into six categories; strategy/game show, how-to, tabloid, documentary, dramatization, and hidden camera/prank. Depending on how you’ve programmed your DVR, you can find any type of reality show on at any time of day. Reality shows now dominate the airwaves and there is increasing worry that new fiction programs will be voted off.
Why is reality so appealing? Reality as we know it consists of daily minutiae and occasional life-rumbling events. It’s bill paying and traffic jams, picking an impossible piece of lint from your sweater, and dodging phone calls from nosy relatives. Televised reality eliminates the minutiae thanks to an expert team of editors, leaving plenty of non-commercial time for the big stuff.
By now, it’s no surprise that situations and scenes in most prime time reality shows are exaggerated for entertainment purposes. The first season of MTV’s The Real World threw seven strangers into a New York loft for three months. It was a sleepy little experiment with funny looking dogs, political graffiti, and toilet paper humor until they stumbled upon racial tension and a little bit of romance. It feels orchestrated and awkward, but the romance + tension formula works and MTV still holds a slot for the show twelve years later.
We tune in because we’re natural voyeurs. And it’s common knowledge that reality is more interesting when it isn’t your own; even if it is contrived and edited to fit your television screen. Reality television presents the camera-friendly everyman and everywoman to the general public, which was a refreshing change from the impossibly attractive actors living out impossibly perfect lives. In most series, there is an underdog, a villain, and the hero. I haven’t seen a reality game show yet that didn’t end with a winner. There’s always a happy ending for someone, at least for the final five minutes of the season finale.
The competition, the romance, and the drama are interesting for the duration of the series. Unfortunately, our media saturated culture kills the buzz on our fairytale endings with immediate follow-ups with former players. Shows like The Bachelor and American Idol are modern day fairy tales—someone’s dream comes true; the happy couple rides off into the sunset. They can leave you with a positive feeling about humanity and show that good things can happen—if you’re willing to turn it off at the end credits.
As some sitcoms wrap up their runs, we’re likely to see some awkward replacements and a dozen and a half more reality shows before the next big television trend rolls its opening credits. Perhaps Regis will play hero once again with his very own Irish cop drama, “Reege and the Hot Seat.”
originally published in the January-February 2004 issue of Orlando Life magazine.
An Artful Dedication
Mary Ann Dean, Executive Director OSF
Mary Ann Dean has been providing a strong business approach to Orlando’s theatre community for 30 years. After 12 years as Executive Director of Orlando Shakespeare Festival, Dean will be entering into a well-deserved retirement in June.
In 1973, Dean joined the Civic Theatre Guild as an effort to get involved in the community. By 1980 she was elected General Manager of the Civic Theatre. “I had no theatre background, except as an audience member and found my niche in concentrating on the business side,” says Dean.
Under Dean’s direction, from 1980 to 1994, the Civic grew into one of the largest community theatres in the country with a 3-theatre space (now home to Orlando Repertory), an active children’s series, and a larger staff. “I’m a prime example of on-the-job training!” Dean says.
Due to her tremendous success, Dean was brought in as Executive Director to the Shakespeare Festival in 1994. She, along with Artistic Director Jim Helsinger, pulled the company out of debt in 1996 and brought theatre back to Loch Haven Park in 2001 in a 50,000 sq. ft. indoor complex with three theatres and a nine-show season. “That’s phenomenal growth. It’s a sign of Mary Ann’s integrity and the belief in that integrity from the board, our patrons, and our donors,” boasts Helsinger. “She always brings a cheerful attitude and level head to everything she does.”
Thanks to Dean’s efforts, many Orlando theatre groups are thriving. “There’s not a theatre group in town that hasn’t been affected by Mary Ann’s positive, either by providing performance space or giving advice on how to grow their business,” says Helsinger.
“Mary Ann is well-known and respected throughout Orlando and the state of Florida. She is dedicated, loyal, and endlessly hardworking,” says Rita Lowndes, long-time friend. “While losing her presents a challenge, the new director will have the benefit of working from the solid foundation built by Mary Ann.”
“It has been gratifying to watch how the arts community matured over 30 years,” says Dean. Despite her retirement, Dean plans to remain involved in Orlando theatre as a consultant and patron.
originally published in the May-June 2006 issue of Orlando Arts magazine.
Anne McLean, PhD
Pianist, Music Advisory Committee Co-Chair for Festival of Orchestra
Dr. Anne McLean shows great dedication to her work. Even as she heads to her native Canada for a six-week vacation, she has scheduled performance dates. Amazingly, she finds some time to discuss music, her career, and her work with the Festival of Orchestras. “It’s not difficult to talk about a subject you love,” says McLean.
Since her arrival to Orlando in 1995, Dr. McLean felt drawn to the Festival of Orchestras. “I think we took out subscriptions for the Festival, the Opera, and the Orlando Philharmonic all at once.” In August 2001, Whit Cotten, the Festival’s vice president invited her to join Dave Glerum on WMFE-FM. Shortly after, Festival CEO Joe Rizzo asked McLean to serve on the music advisory committee as co-chair.
Mr. Rizzo seems pleased with his decision. “Anne has been extremely helpful in [the] hour-long programs previewing each of our concerts... Her music expertise is outstanding.”
This is no surprise considering McLean’s background. Born to two pianists, McLean began her training on the piano with her mother. She moved on to study in Edmonton, and later in Austria and Switzerland. She completed her formal training with a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of British Columbia School of Music.
Dr. McLean maintains a dual career as a pianist, performing to critical acclaim around the world, and as a professor of piano at Stetson University‘s School of Music. She recorded “Contemporary Connections,” a CD compilation of 20th century piano music, a project she says is her greatest musical accomplishment.
McLean sums up her duty as Co-chair of the Festival of Orchestras, “Essentially, I advise the committee on musical matters such as helping with choices of programming and orchestras.” She goes on to say, “I am delighted to volunteer for the Festival of Orchestras because I have an opportunity to use my skills for a worthy cause.”
The Festival staff is buzzing with excitement over the first-ever performance in Central Florida by the New York Philharmonic in February 2003. McLean has also volunteered to organize Orlando’s first International Rachmaninoff Society conference on Rollins College campus October 25-27.
originally published in the September-October 2002 issue of Orlando Arts magazine.
Content on this site was originally written by Katharine Miller between 2000-2015. Many feature articles and interviews were published in print and on websites that no longer exist. Katharine is reproducing her written material here for portfolio and archival purposes only. Links and credits to clients and original publication will be included where possible.