Category Archives: On the Margins

Notebooks 1954-1961 by Ron Steinman

“Notebooks, 1954-1961” is my life in diary form from the journals, and notebooks I kept in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Starting with this synopsis, I will post these journals on the Digital Filmmaker Blog in serial form over the next year. The next entries will be the introduction to the book. Once the introduction is online, I will present my journal in the order I wrote it. First, please take a few minutes to read about my early life. And recognize, that as some things change, how we grow up never seems to change no matter the era.

When I started writing my notebooks The Korean War had all but ended. Vietnam, a blip on the horizon, had not yet invaded our consciousness. It is my personal story, but it is in some ways the story of my generation, or at least those of my generation who lived a similar life in the late 1950s and into the next decade.

Many of us then were confused and searching. Through our parents, we were taking a long breath that had started with the Great Depression, and lingered painfully through World War II, culminating with the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan. We came of age in the so-called Silent Generation when America sought solace in Levittown, freedom from war, and early, blissfully, innocent television. We did not know we were silent. We lived life as it happened, as others before us had, and these memories and experiences define that time for those who lived it with me.

We were similar to youth in any age. Our lives were our own. Our dreams were our own, but they were also universal. I believe my book speaks for a generation once derided as without a voice. It is for these reasons I believe my “Notebooks” will resonate especially with those of my generation and their children as they seek answers. Recall, the fifties were also the age of Dwight Eisenhower, his lean, comforting shadow still hovering over the memories of World War II, then only over ten years. The Korean War, undeclared, ugly and without end, ever a mystery to many why we were there having our youth killed, a floundering blot on our diplomatic and military history. These years were the preludes to the horror we would face after the promise of the disrupted, brief Kennedy era. By the mid-1960s, my life had changed, as had America’s, unsettled by forces beyond our control and dominated by runaway events we still suffer from today.

The book takes me from the relative safety of middle class Jewish life in Brooklyn, to WASP dominated Lafayette College, in Easton, Pennsylvania, then an all male school of less than 800 students. There, to my disbelief, I had a roommate who had never met a Jew before he met me. In the book, I tell about the difficulties I had in college as I tried to find a direction for my life other than the one laid out by the heavy handed influence and dominance of my father and mother. I eventually break some of their chains and become my own man. You will hurdle along with me through many youthful indiscretions, including heavy drinking, sexual adventure, long nights without sleep, and my many failed romances. I describe the hundreds of books I read that I still revere. I talk of my tastes in jazz and popular music, poetry and collecting words. After graduating Lafayette with a degree in history, I work many jobs before becoming a mail clerk at NBC two years later. That led to my becoming a copy boy at NBC News in an era now long gone once dominated by paper and film. It ends with me going to Washington in 1961 as David Brinkley’s assistant. Five years later, I am in Vietnam as bureau chief for NBC News.

The “Notebooks” is the story of how I came of age, but I was no Holden Caulfield. We may have been from the same time, but we lived in different neighborhoods, stood on different corners, and had different ethnic and religious backgrounds. My attack on life was frontal, direct, all encompassing. I often struggled in my quest. However, I survived to have a long and productive life.

I thought my original notebooks, scraps of paper with times and places and the many pages I typed and scribbled had disappeared. I thought those sleepless nights, and the many bottles of ale and shots of vodka had gone to waste. To my surprise, delight, and even some shock for the memories they jogged, I found more than 50 of the notebooks a few years ago, faded but still intact. With those, I wrote the “Notebooks, 1954-1961.”

Now, please watch the DVN Blog for the introduction to the “Notebooks” due here soon.

USC Launches Fellowship and Degree Program for Top Journalists

USC Launches Fellowship and Degree Program for Top Journalists Determined to Lead Profession

In response to a rapidly evolving industry, USC Annenberg`s School of Journalism will offer a unique 9-month M.A. degree In response to a rapidly evolving industry, USC Annenberg`s School of Journalism will offer a unique 9-month M.A. degree in specialized journalism beginning in August 2008. Top students will be nominated for the university`s prestigious new USC Annenberg Graduate Fellowships. These fellowships provide full tuition and stipends to 100
world-class scholars and practitioners in the fields of communications and digital media each year.

The new M.A. program will provide highly individualized courses of study in fields as diverse as science, religion, immigration and education. In addition to journalism classes taught at USC Annenberg, students will take courses with faculty from USC`s other highly regarded academic units, including the Rossier School of Education, School of Policy, Planning and Development, and College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

“Now more than ever, quality journalism requires subject-matter expertise, advanced reporting skills and knowledge of how new communication technologies are changing the ways that people learn, think and behave,” says Roberto Suro, the veteran journalist and researcher who directs the
Specialized Journalism M.A. degree program. “This program offers students a chance to move forward on all three fronts by putting the resources of a great university at their disposal.”

Outstanding applicants to the M.A. in Specialized Journalism will be nominated by the Annenberg School to receive significant financial assistance and be awarded particular distinction as USC Annenberg Fellows by the USC Annenberg Graduate Fellowship Program.

“The USC Annenberg Fellows will conduct communications and digital media research, advance bold new ideas in the communication arena and produce innovative creative works,” said USC vice provost Jean Morrison. “They will be drawn from a variety of academic programs in the Annenberg School for Communication, the School of Cinematic Arts and the Viterbi School of Engineering. The USC Annenberg Fellows will constitute an internationally recognized and highly regarded group of communications research scholars and creative practitioners. We are delighted to launch this program and to accelerate the university`s leadership role in cross-disciplinary communications-related graduate research and education.”

A report sponsored by the Knight Foundation revealed that the lack of training opportunities is a top professional concern of U.S. journalists, outranking even pay and benefits. In addition to basic skills, journalists and their managers desire training and education in specific topic areas to
enhance their coverage of beats such as health and business.

“Leaders of American journalism believe that there is a strong and increasing need for expertise in substantive areas covered by the U.S. news media and of great importance to the society that they serve ­ expertise that is lacking in the newsrooms of most newspapers, magazines, broadcast
outlets and news Web sites,” says Michael Parks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning former editor of the Los Angeles Times who directs USC Annenberg`s School of Journalism.

In addition to Professors Suro and Parks, other faculty in the program include award-winning science author and reporter K.C. Cole; author, journalist and holder of the Knight Chair in Media and Religion Diane Winston; Larry Pryor, a former environmental affairs reporter and editor
with the Los Angeles Times, Louisville Courier-Journal and former editor of USC Annenberg`s Online Journalism Review; and Bill Celis, the award-winning author and former New York Times education correspondent.

The program is designed for professionals with demonstrated abilities in journalism as well as recent undergraduate journalism students with strong academic records and internship experience. Individuals working in all forms of media and journalistic platforms are invited to apply. Students will be encouraged to produce journalism that can be published, broadcast or otherwise disseminated as part of their work in the program.

Applications will be accepted from February 1 to April 2, 2008, and candidates will be notified of an admission decision within 4 to 6 weeks of submitting a completed application. For details about the application process, visit http://annenberg.usc.edu/prospectivestudents.

“Almost more than any other profession, journalism depends on intellectually versatile practitioners ­ people skilled in the immediate tasks of the craft, to be sure, but also fluent in the purposes and function of civil society. Such nimbleness of mind and technique can only be achieved ­ with quality journalism as its result ­ through a process of continuous learning,” said Carroll D. Stevens, former director of the Knight Foundation Fellowships for Journalists in Law at Yale Law School.

Located in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California, the USC Annenberg School for Communication is among the nation`s leading institutions devoted to the study of journalism and communication, and their impact on politics, culture and society. With an enrollment of more than
1,900 graduate and undergraduate students, USC Annenberg offers degree programs in journalism, communication, public diplomacy and public relations. For more information, visit annenberg.usc.edu.

I Want My HDTV by E.N. Richards

We’re not far away from the date, 2/17/2009, for the switch to digital television (http://www.dtv.gov/); are you prepared? Before I speak about the process that, I believe, will satisfy your search for an HDTV you need to know that your analog CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) television will still be usable. Although you will not be able to receive the digital signal through the television’s analog tuner you will be able to receive it with a set top box specifically designed for that purpose. The federal government has a Converter Box Coupon Program that will allow each household to request two coupons worth $40 each. These coupons are to assist in the purchase of two digital-analog converter boxes between January 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009 (www.ntia.doc.gov/otiahome/dtv/dtvcoupon.html).

There are two caveats:
1. Prices and manufacturer names are not yet available.
2. Congress’ initial allocation of $990 million for the program will allow every household the opportunity to acquire two $40 coupons, but if the administrator (NTIA) requests the additional $510 million also allocated then the program will be restricted to only those households that receive their signal over-the-air, not by cable or satellite.

Before I purchased my first HDTV, the Sharp LC-46D62U, I pored over available information on the internet until my head hurt. My primary problem was a lack of knowledge of the internal functions of the television and how it produces a clean high resolution picture. Because I follow the principle “caveat emptor” (let the buyer beware) I trust no single source’s interpretation of the criteria for purchasing consumer goods so I always collect and analyze all the technical information I can find. There were innumerable times when I felt that I had a good grasp of the technology and choices related to the purchase of the television that satisfies my desires, but I found that there is always something new. CNET and AVSForum both have much of the information that you require along with lots of opinions, but I tend to ignore the overall ratings from cnet since their score usually places too much emphasis on cost.

There are many technical processes governing the input and output of an outstanding HDTV. It can drive you barmy if you attempt to understand them all so focus on the following:
1. Establish a top criterion. Mine was a magnificent picture with eye popping colors and sharpness.
2. Decide on the technology that suits you: Plasma, LCD or DLP (rear projection television).
3. Try to understand some of the most important issues affecting picture quality such as color, contrast/dynamic contrast, sharpness, refresh rate, resolution, interlacing, deinterlacing, progressive scan, 3:2 (2:3) pulldown and viewing angles.
4. Hopefully you will be able to establish some trust with one or more particular brands since the brand is an important consideration. The top tier brands will charge more because of marketing etc, but they will also use higher quality components.
5. Check for the particular model that appeals to you technically and financially. It’s best to research the Manufacturer’s internet sites to see the list of models they have available.
6. Decide on the place of purchase. Internet or bricks and mortar, that is the question. I use the internet to compare prices but with a Best Buy or Circuit City you can return defective products with much less hassles
Most persons transitioning from CRT will be looking primarily at LCD’s and Plasmas, therefore I will be focusing on these two technologies.

The general pros and cons of LCD’s and Plasmas are as follows.
• LCDs consume less power. For example the Panasonic TH-42PZ700U uses 580 watts while the Sharp LC-42D62U uses 247 watts. Both are 42 inch 1080p televisions, 720p televisions use less power.
• LCDs weigh less than plasma. The Panasonic is 99.3 lbs, the Sharp is 75 lbs.
• LCDs are brighter.
• LCDs are not as fragile as plasma.
• LCDs are not as vulnerable to burn-in, but some plasma TV’s now include anti-burn-in technology.
• LCDs do not have glass screens therefore they do not reflect light as plasma TV’s do, although some plasma TV’s are now incorporating anti-reflection coatings.
• Plasma TV’s have better black levels with Pioneer bringing out a new line with 80% better black levels than the preceding generation.

The appropriate size (diagonal measurement) and resolution measured in pixels (1920×1080 – 1080p/1080i/720p, 1366×768 – 1080i/720p, 1024×768 – 720p) are considered next. I definitely prefer a larger HDTV but I would go for a 1080p front projector for anything over 65”. The higher the resolution the better the quality of the picture, at least that is the goal. Unfortunately this is not always the case because the chipsets built into the panel will determine how well the television will take an interlaced HD signal, deinterlace it and present it on your screen as a progressive scan image. This process will diminish the progressive resolution if not done properly, therefore the antialiasing capability of the television is very important. The Geek box from cnet is very good for sourcing this type of technical information. There is another issue called response time which is the amount of time the pixels in an LCD take in going from active (black) to inactive (white), then back to active (black). The faster the response time, measured in milliseconds, the less chance there is for ghosting, some LCD’s are now down to 4ms.

Don’t expect HDTV’s to be as good as CRT’s in handling standard definition broadcasts, they are built for higher pixel content, and do not confuse EDTV (Enhanced Definition TV) with HDTV. EDTV (720×480 – 480p) falls between standard definition and high definition.

I believe that LCD’s are best for everyday viewing of television, playing video games, as monitors for computers, and are tougher which means they will last longer around kids. High end plasmas are for the connoisseur. Hooked up to either HD DVD or Blu-Ray in a room dedicated to the theater experience is where I believe top end plasmas will outshine LCD’s. LCD’s are definitely ready for prime time but the newer crop of plasmas from Pioneer (Elite PRO-110 & 150 FD’s) and Panasonic (TH-50 & 58 PZ750U’s) have raised the bar.

A considered purchase of an HDTV will provide you with a much better viewing experience over the long term. Avoid saving a dime and ultimately losing a dollar.

PS. There is a new kid on the block called SED (Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display). This is a new technology developed by Canon that has not yet been released to the consumer. There are plans to release this in the latter part of 2007 but because of legal issues between Canon and Toshiba and logistical issues relating to production for Canon I do not believe we will see consumer availability this year. SED’s have the best colors, the deepest blacks, contrast levels up to 100,000:1, a 1ms response time virtually eliminating ghosting to the naked eye, uses one-third less power than an equivalently sized LCD, and exceptional viewing angles. This technology gives us the best of all worlds which is why I am hoping it goes into production soon.

Look out for it.