HDTV Show to Sarnoff

Internet Futures?

Motto: Be Prepared

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.

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 —

science,

economics, political science — to find what’s at the cutting edge,

what people are thinking about, what people are afraid of. He’s

thinking

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

culture."

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

Top Of Page
HDTV Show to Sarnoff

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

co-sponsoring

a stop on the national tour of the Harris/PBS DTV Express truck.

Digital

television, they say, will change our schools, train our workforce,

revamp the way we get information, and revolutionize our leisure

activities.

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

http://www.dtvexpress.org

for information.

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

workplaces.

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

engineers,

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

Wednesday.

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

system,

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.

Top Of Page
Internet Futures?

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

Siemens

software. The computer gathers the documents or the sections of

documents

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

differentiation,

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

sections,

links, and the end of a document.

Different voices, or "speech fonts," could be used for

different

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

turnpike

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

showcased

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

"delivery

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

employees,

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

line.

She points to a wall-sized mirror to illustrate how this works.

"You

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

always-open

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

surpass

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

shouldn’t

be taxed on the Internet. Internet telephony falls into that

category,"

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

Top Of Page
Motto: Be Prepared

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

Madison,

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

that."

Madison speaks at a meeting of the Professional Service Alumni

Association

(PSAA) on "Career Insurance: How to Survive and Thrive in a

Down-sizing

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

Boston

University School of Theology for his doctor’s degree, meanwhile

serving

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

"baptism

by fire," to use a theological term, and he did learn how to do

cold calls.

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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