Corrections or additions?
These articles by Peter J. Mladineo and Barbara Fox were published in
U.S. 1 Newspaper on July 29, 1998. All rights reserved.
How to Survive Vampires and Fiction
Okay, so this is the big fiction issue. For many writers
featured on U.S. 1’s pages this week, it’s the first time their
fiction has been published. For the talented few, the next step may be
getting the right agent or publisher, and having plenty of
perseverance to handle the tsunami of rejections awaiting them.
But when it comes to selling millions of books, an author’s concerns
change. For writers who have accomplished this feat, it means knowing
what’s swirling in the consciousness of the American reading public
and staying in touch with this changing mosaic, says Katherine
Ramsland has published more than a dozen titles, and is most noted
for her biographies of Anne Rice and Dean Koontz —
two writers who have been members of the publishing elite for years.
She speaks at the Princeton Chamber on Thursday, August 6, at 11:30
a.m. at the Forrestal. Call 609-520-1776.
"The ones who sell in the millions are always trying to anticipate
what trends are possibly affecting their readers," says Ramsland.
"Both Anne Rice and Dean Koontz are always trying to find ways
to be relevant to readers as far as to help them grow as people, so
you have to be aware of the social trends.
"Dean Koontz reads everything he can get his hands on —
economics, political science — to find what’s at the cutting edge,
what people are thinking about, what people are afraid of. He’s
how he can inform them and help them overcome these fears."
Ramsland’s newest book, "Piercing the Darkness: Undercover with
Vampires in America Today," takes up where Rice left off.
Scheduled to be published by Harper Collins in September, this is
Ramsland’s first attempt to do vampires independently of Rice’s
immensely popular series, "The Vampire Chronicles."
The research for this book entailed infiltrating strange vampire clubs
and organizations all over the country so that she could detail the
growing vampire subculture in the United States, however preternatural
it really is. "I went to a vampire fetish ball, which was wild
to say the least," she says.
The vampire support industry has been a lucrative niche as well.
Ramsland tells of a former dental technician-turned-fangmaker whose
wares cost more than $100 apiece. Last year, she estimates, he made
more than 5,000 fang sets. You do the math.
On a more profound level, Ramsland’s research has also led her to
make several compelling social observations about what she calls the
expanding "shadow side of American culture." "What’s the
state of this now as we reach the millennium?" she asks. "In
10 years it has grown from just a handful of alienated kids who slept
in coffins to the tens of thousands. That’s a vast jump, so you have
to ask yourself what’s going on in our culture to make this subculture
grow like that? Personally I think there’s a lot of denial in our
She feels that this society promotes "vampiric sorts of
attitudes" steeped in denial, corporate avarice, and an illusion
of family values. And there is generational strife too. "Mostly
this is kids in their teens, 20s and 30s and they’re saying, `Look we
get the message,’" says Ramsland. "I talked to a number of
psychologists, theologians, and vampirologists to check out my
perspective. One psychologist called the Babyboomer generation a
generation of vampires. She has a lot of young clients who are into
the goth look and their perspective is their parents are just taking
all their resources."
Ramsland, a Babyboomer herself at 45, might end up joining the fiction
coven along with Rice. But from her latest extracurricular interest
— forensic psychology — it looks like this phase of her career
might take her down a path similar to John Grisham. Currently,
Ramsland is studying at the John Jay School of Justice in Manhattan.
This work could re-direct her writing, which is all for the better
as far as she’s concerned. "Personally I think people are wanting
more of the gritty realism than fantasy, and certainly there’s nothing
grittier than what goes on in the court."
— Peter J. Mladineo
See the classroom of the future and the living room
of tomorrow on the campus of the Sarnoff Corporation from Monday to
Thursday, August 10 to 14. Sarnoff and New Jersey Network are
a stop on the national tour of the Harris/PBS DTV Express truck.
television, they say, will change our schools, train our workforce,
revamp the way we get information, and revolutionize our leisure
Visitors will see a 66-foot, 18-wheel traveling road show that comes
equipped with a working digital television station with the latest
broadcasting equipment plus the model classroom and living room. NJN
and Sarnoff offer daily tours of the truck, the Sarnoff Library and
Museum, plus trade courses, demonstrations, and special events. If
you are an advertising or broadcasting executive or technician, you
can sign up for one of the courses that will introduce you to the
world of High Definition Television (HDTV). Call Ronnie Weyl,
NJN director of communications, 609-777-5062, or go to
This tour is a partnership between Harris Corporation, which builds
transmission equipment, and the Public Broadcasting Corporation, which
is going to use that equipment when digital television finally gets
on the air.
NJN looks forward to when it will be able to broadcast four programs
simultaneously on one digital channel. Then, viewers will have what
Weyl terms a "dazzling theater experience, a "crystal-clear
picture on a wide screen and CD-quality `Surround Sound.’" Curriculum
materials, children’s learning activities, news items, and any other
data services would be delivered digitally to home schools, and
Technical seminars in business management and studio/transmission
— classroom theory with live demonstrations — will be offered
for a minimal fee. Register by calling 888-SEE DTVE. The one-day $200
business management track on Tuesday, August 11, is for broadcasting,
advertising, and production executives and managers to learn about
the conversion from analog to digital television. The course will
include new service opportunities and transition issues.
Broadcast engineers, technical directors, technicians, audio
production personnel and consultants can take a 2 1/2 day technical
course on the issues involved in planning an air-chain for digital
television, from the camera or network feed through the antenna. The
transmission session is on Tuesday, and the studio course is on
Thursday will feature hands-on workshops on the truck.
The technical course will address such questions as where to put a
DTV antenna, how to choose a transmitter, how to test a digital
and how to control interference. The studio course reviews the basic
technologies and presents possible system designs.
None of the other 29 stops on the tour have a commercial co-host such
as Sarnoff. But then — it was at Sarnoff that many of the major
advances in television and HDTV were pioneered.
The plain old telephone has an ally in the Internet,
and the fruits of this alliance could become commonplace by this time
next year. First, surfing the Web and checking E-mail with a regular
old telephone could become a reality before 1998 is over. Second,
the same Internet that lets you surf the Web could also become the
carrier of ultra-cheap long-distance calls as well.
These two concepts were proposed by experts Mary Evslin of ITXC
and Michael Wynblatt of Siemens Corporate Research at the U.S.
1 Computer Showcase last week. The panel was moderated by Mark
Meara of Princeton Internet Group.
The technology, Wynblatt explains, would enable a user to access World
Wide Web documents and E-mail using regular or cellular phone. It
would be as simple to use as a car radio, and as strange to listen
to as the melancholic computer featured on "OK Computer,"
the Grammy award-winning album by Radiohead. But, Wynblatt points
out, most users would become accustomed to it. "It’s a lot like
listening to somebody with a foreign accent," he said.
Here’s how this system works: The user dials into a computer from
the road, then issues touchtone commands to the computer running
software. The computer gathers the documents or the sections of
requested and converts them into an audio stream, and sends them back
to the user. Also, Siemens is working on a system that would allow
commands to be given by voice instead of by touchtone bleeps.
For Web documents, the read-back would have a lot more
since it would have to anticipate the different visual contexts used
on a Web page. Spacing and format, hyperlinks, and other navigation
clues would all have to somehow be conveyed with distinctions.
"We look for different semantic regions in the document,"
Wynblatt explains. "The software analyzes the regions, identifies
each different section, and then associates different sections with
titles." Also the system would announce different navigation
links, and the end of a document.
Different voices, or "speech fonts," could be used for
functions. This could help break up the monotony of hearing that one
dreadful voice. Alternatively, hyperlink anchors could be delineated
through the use of chimes.
The bottom line for Siemens is making this easy to use — so it
could be manipulated safely and easily by someone zooming on the
at 65 miles per hour. "One of the goals in designing this was
to avoid a call center mentality," says Wynblatt. "The style
we chose for the interface was basically like a CD player. It’s a
very passive interface." A prototype of this technology was
at CeBit 98, a German tradeshow, in March, and a commercial roll-out
should happen "shortly," Wynblatt predicts.
What’s holding it back? Security issues. "Security in our system
is like security for E-mail," he says. "This is the reason
it will be available in three months as opposed to now. We’re working
very hard to make sure that that’s ironclad."
How much of a gamble is Siemens’ systems (called DICE, for
of information in a cellular environment")? Not much. Siemens
has $600 million in its research coffers.
With far less of a research endowment and only 42
ITXC is treading far-riskier ground as a middleman in the nascent
world of Internet telephony. "We are the service that unites the
various vendors all across the globe," says Evslin. The system
it is pushing uses the Internet as the carrier of voice, and Evslin
touts the dramatic cost savings that it could achieve. Currently,
she explains, ITXC is selling its wares to call sellers across the
globe on a system that would allow calls to anywhere in the U.S. to
be made for 10 cents a minute.
To achieve this, Internet telephony relies on a new concept —
packet switching — as an alternative to the traditional method
of circuit switching. With circuit switching, Evslin explains, a voice
fills the entire channel. With packetized switching a voice is broken
into bits. Thus there is room for more than one transmission per phone
She points to a wall-sized mirror to illustrate how this works.
can’t fit that in the trunk of your car. But if you took it to the
roof of this building and dropped it, you could."
Evslin maintains that this system will also allow small businesses
to rely on one phone line and one network; also, a user could browse
the Internet and take phone calls at the same time, all on one
line. "I can be online all the time," says Evslin.
However, she doesn’t foresee packet switching to become ubiquitous
any time soon. "Not for the next four to five years," she
says. However, in eight or nine years, Internet telephony could
circuit switching. The obstacles include building an infrastructure
with a large enough bandwidth to support this.
Why isn’t every corporation doing Internet telephony today? "They
don’t all know about it," says Evslin. But global corporations
stand to benefit the most. Calls that don’t need to be of the highest
quality — inter-office calls and calls to vendors — would
be virtually free. As for now, immigrant groups selling prepaid phone
calls are the ones making a profit from price-sensitive, "quality
insensitive" Internet calls.
Would there be a difference in charging for using the phone line for
voice and data or just for data? Evslin isn’t sure of the business
model. It could either be by-the-bit or by-the-minute, or another
model that hasn’t yet been developed, she says.
What are the "killer apps" for Internet telephony? Wynblatt
says that telephone access to E-mail is the short-term use. For the
long-term, it is Internet terminals in automobiles.
What about taxation? "Right now the government says things
be taxed on the Internet. Internet telephony falls into that
says Evslin. Across-the-board Internet taxation, she maintains, could
wreak havoc on the industry. For fair taxes to be eventually levied,
"all the rules need to be changed," she says. "A lot of
these companies aren’t making a lot of money right now. Taxing us
is sort of silly."
— Peter J. Mladineo
If you looked in a crystal ball and saw yourself doing
the same thing in 2003 you are doing now, with maybe a little bit
more money, would you be happy? Probably not, says David
a career counselor who has asked this question in numerous workshops.
"Nobody says yes. But have they planned? Are they asking, `How
do I make the future happen on my terms?’ Most people have not done
Madison speaks at a meeting of the Professional Service Alumni
(PSAA) on "Career Insurance: How to Survive and Thrive in a
World." Set for Wednesday, August 5, at 7:30 p.m. at the East
Brunswick Public Library (off Ryders Lane between Dunhan’s Corner
and Cranbury roads), the meeting also includes a resume exchange and
business swap. A $3 donation is requested. Call Murray Meiseles
at 609-655-3804 for information.
PSAA has its origins in the Professional Service Group (732-418-3304),
a state-funded, volunteer-run cooperative for job hunters on Jersey
Avenue in New Brunswick. PSAA now opens its rolls to non-PSG graduates
and to those who are still employed but realize they need to prepare
to find new or better jobs. Dues are $50.
Madison is associated with the Five O’Clock Club (212-286-4500), a
nondenominational organization, based on traditional religious ethics,
that offers affordable job search training to the consumer. The club’s
strategy is based on three $15 books by the founder, Kate Wendleton:
"Targeting the Job You Want," "Job Search Secrets,"
and "Building a Great Resume," available at bookstores. Based
in New York, it has branches in New Jersey. National membership is
$35 and 10 counseling sessions are $400.
Madison has had his own career ups and downs. The son of a small town
doctor, he graduated from Indiana University in 1964 and went to
University School of Theology for his doctor’s degree, meanwhile
two small Methodist churches. But academic jobs were hard to come
by in the early ’70s, so he ended up selling insurance and calls that
experience "my most miserable year." Still it was a
by fire," to use a theological term, and he did learn how to do
He worked for a personnel agency for 10 years, and then owned a bank
personnel firm that cratered during the ’90s mergers. "The banks
were less inclined to use expensive sources when there was a glut
on the market," he says. Two years ago he opened David Madison
Career Counseling on the Upper West Side (212-582-2024; fa
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