The Strategies In IRS Debt Help

tsiirsdTax disputes should be settled as soon as possible so that the Internal Revenue Service will not file a lawsuit. However, doing this is quite challenging; that is why, an IRS debt help is necessary. Basically, this help can be obtained through a tax professional; whether a public accountant, tax lawyer or enrolled agent. All these individuals are allowed to practice because they have received their licenses and acquired the necessary experiences. However, the IRS debt help they provide require a fee. Hence, individuals who cannot afford to pay their services can do the process by their selves.

When doing the process without a tax professional, it is necessary for an individual to make an appointment with the Internal Revenue Service. This is to understand why such amount should be paid and the possible options that can be done. Bring the important documents you collected in the past and seek for clarifications in case some things are vague. It can also be helpful to ask recommendations from other individuals who are familiar in settling tax disputes but do not make actions that you are not sure about. Take time to understand the best strategies for IRS debt help so that this concern will be resolved as soon as possible.

Ending The IRS Problems – Is It Difficult?

Ending the IRS problems is not difficult as long as you commit to fix it right away. However, if you have no idea on how to start fixing this kind of problem, you should at least seek help from anyone who has encountered the same concern as yours. You can ask help from friends or family, or you can also avail the professional services of a Certified Public Accountant or a lawyer. But you should make sure to take note all the actions that are required from you. Keep a record on all your tax transactions or payments and be able to present it when asked.

If you do not want to spend money for your IRS concern, you can make an appointment to the office of Internal Revenue Service. Ask how much you owe to the government and know the possible actions or options you can do. If this is not possible, you can also seek help from the Taxpayer Advocate Service. They will help you assist in your IRS problems, especially if it is something difficult. Just make sure that you understand all the information that was given to you and be able to take some actions about it.

Detox – Useful For Emotional Pain And Depression

duaeThe scientists claim that magnesium can affect positively people suffering from depression and panic disorder. This means that if you do not have enough magnesium in your body, you should take supplements or eat foods that consist magnesium. It is one of the best home remedies for panic attacks and can be taken easily.

The researchers say that the results are surprising. Also, detoxification of your organism is necessary if you want to heal your depressed body in a natural way. You have probably been accumulating stress in your body and you need to clean it all. Prepare yourself a detoxification program. For five days, eat only raw food and drink fresh juices. Start the detoxification by fasting and do not eat anything on the first day of your detoxification period. Only drink water. On the second and third day, also do not eat anything, but only drink fresh juices made of fruit and veggies. Drink them any time you feel hungry and in between drink water and herbal teas. On the fourth and fifth day eat fruits and veggies but raw, not cooked. During detoxification, sleep when you feel like sleeping and don’t go to work. Take a break for these five days.

Stop Panic Attacks By Relaxing Your Mind In Nature

Many of us are not aware how strong the nature is and how good it can be to our body when we are ill. If we have a physical pain, we can use natural remedies like teas, tinctures or hydrotherapy to ease the pain. But if we have emotional problems, nature is also offering us help. For instance, people who are dealing with panic disorder may find the cure in nature. They can stop panic attacks by having walks in nature.

Often, when the attack is on its way, a person can stop it by changing the surrounding. And it is best to go in nature, to watch the sky or listen to the birds singing. If the weather is bad, it does not matter, because the person may listen the wind producing the sound or watch the rain drops how they fall down. The nature is full of soothing scenes, scents and sounds. Sun and air are giving our bodies the food as well as actual food. For instance, the sun gives us vitamin D that can’t be found anywhere else. So it is good to spend some time each day under the sun. Open space is good especially for those who suffer from claustrophobia. See what causes these panic attacks here.

What Ingredients To Avoid When Having Rheumatoid Arthritis

wtabraSome diseases cannot be cured but the symptoms can at least be reduced. For instance, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, you will probably get drugs prescribed by your doctor and they will ease your pain. In some cases, these drugs will have side effects so you will suffer from fatigue or some stomach problems. Some medication may cause heart disease. So it is good to include food into your diet that will remove side effects. A specific diet for rheumatoid arthritis should be followed for serious and if you notice that certain veggies do good to you, it is smart to eat these veggies as often as possible.

Besides eating healthy food, consider avoiding certain ingredients that can harm you. For example, fry food will not do good to your health. Even if you are completely healthy, you should avoid fried potatoes or fried chicken because frying is not a proper way for preparing the food. If you cannot eat the raw food, then cook it or grill it, but avoid frying. That is specifically valid if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis because fried food may cause inflammation in your body and you do not want that to happen but rather the opposite.

Eating Healthy Food May Help To Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

There are certain foods that may help to ease the pain in muscles and joints at people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Some people suggest switching on gluten-free diet, but before making that decision, each patient should talk to a physician or nutritionist to get advice. The gluten-free diet may be risky, so a patient should consider other foods in order to make rheumatoid arthritis diet plan. It is well known that some vitamins are helping the body to avoid side effects that may occur while taking certain drugs. For example, folic acid will help a body to make blood cells, so consuming B vitamin, which is actually a folic acid, will help a body.

Vitamin B can be found in certain food, but a person may use dietary supplements as well. Also, vitamin D will be of great importance for patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis because it will boost calcium in bones. Patients often take corticosteroids which can cause losing bones, so taking vitamin D and calcium will help with this specific problem. Vitamin D can be taken while laying or walking on the sun because the sunlight is the source for this vitamin. Calcium can be taken through some veggies as well.

Ulead: A Total Video Classic From The Fledgling Years

uvcThe nonlinear editing (NLE) system is an extremely sophisticated bit of computer software. It functions as an input device capturing and storing huge amounts of data. It must perform as a creative tool, with demands that push the limits of computer image manipulation. Finally, it must output that data in a variety of forms and formats, from digital DVDs and Web video to VHS tape.

While hardware is an essential component of any NLE, it is the software that is our gateway to the world of editing. We ask a lot of nonlinear editing software, and perhaps that is why the person purchasing an NLE system deliberates long and hard before making a buying decision. The relationship between an editor and his or her software is one developed over many hours of study and use. We invest a great deal of time and effort in learning the unique set of commands and controls that give us the ability to edit our own videos.

Ulead Systems’ Video Studio 5 is a powerful set of tools that deliver broad flexibility in project development. Batch capture video, arrange it on the Timeline, complete with titles, effects, narration and background music, then output to DV, DVD or Web formats, like Real Player and Windows Media Player. The person seeking sophistication or simplicity can jump into Video Studio ($99.95 MSRP) and assemble full-blown edited productions that can be watched and appreciated in a wide variety of ways.

It is important to remember that nonlinear editing software is but one part of the complete editing system. NLE software must have a video hardware counterpart, the internal or external video card. Capture and playback quality is also determined by hard disk speed. Composite, S-video, and IEEE1394 digital input/output, 7400 RPM drives, high-speed central processors–all of these work together to give you maximum performance. Skimp in any one direction and you may find yourself with a system that has limits to it its capabilities.

The Video Studio 5 workspace is designed to give you the feeling of a console, with your monitor in the center and relevant controls on either side. Familiar icons are used throughout the program. For example, speaker icons represent audio files, and familiar VCR-style controls work for playback and review of Library clips or the project Timeline.

The video Storyboard and project Timeline run across the bottom of the screen. The Timeline consists of a video track, a title track and two audio tracks, all layered one after the other. Linear time is indicated across the top edge from left to right. Captured clips are dragged and arranged on the Timeline. Audio tracks are labeled Voice or Music, to help the novice understand how the editing project is arranged.

You can also view your editing project in a Storyboard view. Here, large icons depict images representing your video clips, helping you to visualize your production and the desired order for the selected scenes along the Timeline.

Across the top of the screen are words representing the important elements of video production: Capture, Titier, Effects, and Finish, the final processing necessary for export to a distribution format. As you choose a heading, the console screen below changes to a command center for each element of production. It also gives you access to the appropriate tracks of the Timeline.

Capturing Video

One could say a nonlinear editing system can be judged by its video capture sophistication, both in the degree of control and in the format options available to the end user. Video Studio 5 meets the challenge with a broad range of options and features.

One of the unique aspects of Video Studio is that it allows you to capture directly to an MPEG format. Capture to MPEG-1 or even MPEG-2, suitable for DVD recording. Video Studio actually gives you a very long list of formats, resolutions, and compression types. By knowing the intended distribution format for your edited video, you can save time and effort by capturing at the proper resolution, image size and compression level, all at same time.

Digitize video through a dedicated video card installed inside your computer or from a USB video device such as Dazzle, from Dazzle Multimedia (www.dazzle.com). Video Studio 5 is DV-ready with direct capture through a digital 1394, or FireWire, interface. In older versions of Video Studio, you could capture up to 20 minutes (4GB) of continuous DV video. Now, with Video Studio 5, capture time is extended even longer. In technical terms, the digitized media is captured in 4MB segments, which are linked or stitched together so that, to the editor and in the clip library, the video appears as one continuous clip.

The 1394 signal permits direct time code control over your camcorder as a playback device. Batch Capture uses time code, so that you can go through your recorded material marking in and out points, then let Video Studio 5 capture and digitize while you do something else. With time code accuracy, you can rest assured that your digitized clips will be exactly as you instructed.

An additional feature of video capture is automatic Scene Detection. With the Mini DV format, when you press Record on your camcorder, the time of day is embedded into the tape. Return to Pause and the clock stops, at least on the tape. When you start recording again, a new time is stored. Video Studio 5 can detect these changes as it digitizes and will automatically split the captured video into separate clips. Your library of clips is generated with almost no effort.

Turn video into stills with the Freeze Frame video-capture button. Images are saved as either JPEGs or as Bitmaps. Still images can be used in your videos or attached to e-mails.

Remember, video capture is directly related to the quality and speed of your hardware, namely the capture/video card and your hard drives. This hardware is your pipeline, and unless it is rated for high volume, there will be some compromises that must be accepted. Video Studio 5 shows how many (if any) video frames are dropped in process of digitizing. When using standard-speed hard drives, it is simply not possible to capture and save the video fast enough, especially at full-screen dimensions. Consequently, you will notice that some frames are dropped and information is lost.

This may or may not present a problem. For example, with Web video, you shouldn’t expect full 30-frame-per-second playback anyway. Understand your capabilities and your limitations to insure satisfactory and realistic results.

Titles

Video Studio uses its own built-in titler, rather than a third-party plug-in. For the person looking for an easy way to get started, a number of pre-made titles are included in the supplied Library. However, a full titler–with extensive control over font style, point size and color–is at your service.

As you scroll through the font options, a display window shows you their appearance, helping you visually choose the best font for your title needs. Titles are anti-aliased for smooth lines and a professional appearance. Choose a font color from the basic color palette, or use the Ulead color picker to select a color, for an almost limitless choice in hue. Add shadows to give your titles dimension, with controls over shadow transparency, soft or hard edge, style and color.

Created titles can be static or made to move about the screen through 16 autoanimated motions that can be applied. Set the duration or length of time for the animation to have the title’s speed appropriately match your creative needs. Scroll (moving across the bottom) and title rolls (up or down the screen) are definitely included. Fade titles in or out as part of an animated transition.

Another unique way to increase your title options is to import video and animations into the Title track. Video Studio 5 will automatically recognize alpha channels and make them transparent, enabling you to overlay animations created in other programs on top of your video. For example, animations from Ulead’s Cool 3D can be inserted in the Title layer for quick-and-easy 3-D moving titles.

Video clips placed in this layer can be scaled to any size for Picture In Picture (PIP) effects. Apply motion effects, or use motion paths, to move the video overlay about the screen.

Effects

There are over 100 different wipes and transition effects, including the ever-important dissolve (called a CrossFade in Video Studio 5). This includes a decent selection of 3-D animated moves, converting the screen image to an object with dimension (like a cube) as it spins away. Many of the wipes and transitions allow you to modify their direction and other parameters, customizing their appearance. Adding a transition to the project Timeline is as simple as dragging an effect between two clips. Choose a duration, the length of time in frames or seconds it takes to transition from screen A to B, then watch a preview.

Video Filters

An impressive new addition to Video Studio 5 is the Video Filter section. Selecting one of the 30 different filters allows you to transform video clips, adjusting things like Color Balance, Hue and Saturation, or you can apply visual distortions, like Ripple or Kaleidoscope, Mirror or Mosaic.

With all Video Studio 5 effects, you are given six or more preset variations that can be applied by a click of a mouse. In addition, you can go into an advanced options menu and manually modify the effect for a custom setting. It is also worth noting that all effects are Pentium 4 optimized for faster rendering, helping to make your editing time more efficient.

The Video Project

Begin by creating a new project, giving it a name and saving to a location on your hard drive. When you first get started, each menu selection triggers a corresponding Help window (Visual Help Guide). It’s like the instruction manual turning to the right page for you, allowing you to learn as you go. Turn off this option after you get familiar with the program.

Capture video and audio to the Project Library, then drag the clips down to the Storyboard in the order that they will appear. To insert a new scene between two existing clips, all you do is drag the new video over the old. Everything moves aside to accommodate the new insertion.

In the Storyboard view, we see the scene icons strung together like links in a chain. A blank square between each clip is awaiting an effect or transition. Choose one and drag it to the Storyboard between the two clips you want to link.

The Storyboard mode lets you quickly assemble, arrange and preview your production. Once you are more or less satisfied with the order of things, switch to the Timeline view. Now, you can get more precise, trimming away excess and unnecessary video at the beginning or end of each clip, tightening up your edits into a polished production.

The Timeline shows your video clips from the Storyboard and their placement in the Video track. Below the Video track is the Title track. Titles you create are stored in their own library. Drag your title from the Library down to the Title track, sliding it up or down along the Timeline to the right spot.

You can also drag and drop audio clips from the Library directly to the Timeline. Choose Voice from the menu bar and the Voice Audio track becomes active. The Library now displays captured WAV files, which can only be inserted on the selected Audio track. Choose Music from the menu bar, and WAV files can be placed on the second Audio track. Again, control their placement along the Timeline by dragging the audio clip and letting go.

Technically, you have a third Audio track, audio linked to captured video. This means you can have narration, music and natural sound all in one project.

Audio track parameters can be modified and adjusted through a mixer control panel. Fade sound in or out, up or down. The mixer lets you boost audio volume up to 500 percent above the original record level or down to zero percent for total muted silence.

The Finish

Although it’s called The Finish, it helps to know what your end goal is as soon as you get started. Is this streaming video for a Web site or a full-screen MPEG-2 video for DVD? Because the Web has become such a popular medium for sharing video, Video Studio 5 gives you direct menu access for quick-and-easy creation of things like Video E-Mails and Electronic Greeting Cards.

Choosing Electronic Greeting Cards creates an executable file (EXE) that not only includes the video clip but also the necessary software for playback. All a person on the receiving end has to do is run the file, and the movie plays back for them. To complete the greeting card effect, Ulead places the movie in an attractive background (your choice).

DVD

One of the important new achievements for Video Studio 5 is its DVD plug-in. Available as $39.95 downloadable option, this authoring tool helps you assemble DVDs (complete with a menu), and it will even allow you to add a video intro that will play before the menu opens. Ulead provides a number of menu templates to make creation easy, as well as attractive.

The Ulead DVD software is one of the only systems that gives you the ability to record directly to DVD without using a separate program. It’s DVD creation to burning in one package. Of course, you’ll need a DVD burner to go with that, and it is expected that prices on these will probably drop into the truly affordable range ($500-$700) sometime this year. Although initially sold as an optional plug-in, Ulead will release a complete DVD version of Video Studio sometime this summer.

Video Studio 5 is a good choice for the digital camcorder owner or for anyone looking for a basic nonlinear editing system. It brings many of the important features of professional NLEs, like batch capture and MPEG-2 output, within reach of those editing as a hobby or semi-professionally. At the same time, its intuitive approach and its Web features make it a good match for the beginning home-video enthusiast. Affordable and effective, Video Studio 5 can take you there!

CGT Created Real Film Progress

ccrfpad319 (the room) was part of the college’s Center for Graphic Technology (CGT), “an interdisciplinary space where you can try new things and compare notes with the person next to you,” as Squier describes it. The existence of the CGT, and the room (recently abandoned for a larger space), is an example of the focus on applied technology that has characterized the school since its founding as an agricultural college in 1865. (In fact, UIUC has been the birthplace of two landmarks of computer technology. In the ’70s, HAL, the computer in 2001, was created here; in the ’90s, it was Mosaic, the graphical “browser” that started the explosion of the World Wide Web.) Though the curriculum at the art and design college is still very much based in traditional media and tools, the members of ad319, each of them drawn to technology for distinct reasons, say they were attracted to the school in part because it offered strong technological support for its faculty.

“The CGT provided us with a room and threw us in there. It took us about a year to figure out what was going on and make something of that,” says Squier. What was going on, they decided, was a fascinating amalgam of personalities, skills, and artistic interests that could be strengthened by collaboration. While their bond was founded in their attraction to, and need for help with, the technology, it went beyond that. “I wasn’t interested in fetishizing the technology. I just wanted to use it to make art, which in my case means dealing with things on an emotional level,” Squier explains. “I found Nan and Kathleen to be interested in a similar use of the tools–in making artwork that was transformational and emotional.”

“We all found each other because we didn’t fit into any particular media,” Goggin says. Chmelewski speaks for the group when she describes the appetite for variety all the members seem to share. “I enjoy so many things. I’m very eclectic, and that can be a curse,” she says.

Chmelewski took B.A. and M.F.A. degrees in photography, then worked in graphic design offices in Maine and Chicago before joining the faculty in 1990. Her work with computers came about by accident, she says, when she developed a blood disease that her doctor thought might be related to the photography chemicals she was working with. “My images were very collage-oriented, and I had spent hours in the darkroom messing around with them. When I saw that computers could do what I’d been doing in the darkroom, I was very excited,” she remembers.

Goggin, who studied printmaking (M.F.A.) and art history (M.A.), also worked as a professional designer, and then in the design departments at universities in Mississippi and Florida, before joining the UIUC faculty in 1991. “I had to learn computers when I began teaching,” she says. “I became more interested in them when multimedia and time-based media came along.”

Squier majored in psychology as an undergrad, with a minor in computer science, then went to the San Francisco Art Institute to study fine art photography. He showed his work at galleries in the Ray Area and taught photography at San Jose State University before coming to UIUC in 1991. His interest in working with computers is hard to define, he says. “It was about the art establishment and problems I had personally with what I saw as an ossified, incestuous clique. I wasn’t sure what it was about computers that intrigued me, but it was something about hopes I had for wider distribution of art–hopes that were realized when I saw the World Wide Web.”

Springfield is the CGT’s interface guru and resident expert in Macromedia Director, the multimedia authoring tool the group often works with for CD-ROM projects. His interest in computers began when he-was an undergrad design major in the early ’80s, he says, and his class was offered Apple IIs just to play around with. “I didn’t know they would become standard design tools, but that really sparked my interest,” he remembers. When the Mac SE and HyperCard appeared, he found his niche in interactive design.

Looking at the work the artists have done separately and together, one is struck by the similarity of the individuals’ esthetics. The imagery is always evocative, emotional, and poetic. Unidealized yet empathetically depicted nudes are central in the photography and prints of Squier and Chmelewski. Texts talk of personal searches and identity. The surfaces of Squier’s images look as etched as Chmelewski’s prints; all are in black-and-white, and tend toward classic type in sparse layouts. When asked whether it was the recognition of such similarities that attracted them to one another as collaborators, each of the members seemed surprised. Squier alone says he saw the likenesses, but that he only noticed them after the artists collaborated on their first interactive piece, putting their separate pieces together in one interface. “That’s when I started to realize that there were shared sensibilities,” he says. “The common use of the body imagery seems obvious now, but at the beginning, none of us realized it.”

Sharing ideas through conversation and collaborative projects also helped the group members to crystallize ideas they had developed individually about the role of technology in art and education. It was the impulse to explore these ideas that led to the founding of ad319. Specifically, their collaborative projects are designed to explore what they had come to see, says the manifesto, as digital art’s defining characteristics: It exists only in a transitory, non-physical form; it can be distributed instantly and in multiple, identical copies; and it is collaborative by nature.

The need for collaboration is, of course, illustrated by ad319 itself. “We didn’t start out learning to collaborate. We started sharing information,” says Squier. “Each of us has pockets of knowledge. In photography, I was very independent. I have a lot of understanding of those materials under my belt; I don’t need to go to somebody else to say ‘How does this work?’ with electronic tools, it’s not as easy.” “Electronic technology is creating a fusion across the formerly discrete disciplines of still images, video, text, and sound. Creative production no longer relies on expertise in one single area, but rather,the successful integration of multiple skills,” reads the manifesto. In working on the Body, Space, Memory CD-ROM, Chmelewski remembers getting lots of help with sound, a medium–and technology–that was completely new to her. And “when you deal with the Net, you’ve got to work with other people. You couldn’t do it yourself,” says Goggin. Certainly, the need for collaboration between providers of image, design, and technological production skills, as represented by the members of ad319, is a clearly emerging model in professional design offices dealing with new media.

For these artists, collaboration has to a greater or lesser extent been a skill to learn, just like the computer tools they work with. “As a fine artist, you don’t talk about your work till you’re done. When you’re collaborating, the person next to you will say, Why do you want to do that?,’ and you just want to slap them,” jokes Squier. It seems to come easiest to Goggin, who says it may be because of her background in graphic design and printmaking, which are collaborative arts. It could also have something to do, she admits, with the fact that she has an identical twin sister. “I thrive on discussion, opinion, and social contact,” she says.

In keeping with the group’s intent, per the manifesto, to embrace these attributes of digital media and turn them to their advantage, much of the work the members do is in the form of challenges to themselves. Chmelewski talks about her latest project, a book of “pictorial poems” called West West, published on the Web, as an experiment. “In the end, I might not be satisfied with the experience”–the non-physicality of it, she says. That digital art exists only in conceptual space is one of the qualities several of the artists seem still to have a bit of trouble with, though it is one they say their students are rapidly embracing. Springfield claims his enthusiasm for CD-ROM over the Web as a medium has partly to do with his preference for creating something that can be held in his hand. “I guess having a physical object is still important to me,” he says. “It’s not a book anymore, it’s a CD. Someone can turn off their Web site, but I can always have the CD.” (In his off-hours, he sculpts and paints–the old-fashioned way. “It’s off computers altogether,” he says. “I like the tactile experience.”) Chmelewski shares some of the same values. “I like objects. I like having them in my home, having them in my space with me,” she says. “But I don’t think it has to be mutually exclusive. I also enjoy the electronic experience of art.” Goggin and a graduate student recently meditated on some of the psychological stresses of the move from mechanical to electronic tools in a letterpress book called Manual Labor. (“Maybe if I use Courier everything will be OK,” reads one page, illustrated by the keys of an old Smith-Corona.)

Squier, whose background in fine art photography trained him to put great store in the quality of the “print,” was at first dismayed by the low-quality of the images he could post on his own Web site, the place. Because images on the Web must be transferred over relatively slow connections to readers’ computers, designers are forced to reduce the file size of images by reducing the number of colors, using just a few bits of color information per pixel, or using tiny images. “One of the lessons I’ve learned, painfully, is that the Web isn’t about digital photography,” he says. Yet he swears that the compromises he has to make in his image quality are more than made up for by the satisfaction of broad distribution. “When I was making these photographic paintings, one of the things I was getting frustrated with was that they weren’t very portable. When I would exhibit, not very many people would come to see them. Now, every morning I get a statistical summary of the activity at the place, and I see that people were logging on from Finland and from Russia. There’s something about that that’s really exciting.” The idea, he says, is to accept each medium for what it is, and work within it. “For the Web, the solution I’ve found is to think of myself less as a photographer and to put less weight on the images. My formula has begun to balance out the interplay more between image and text. I’m still interested in the same content, but I’ve learned to build the content around what’s possible on the Web.” It works: Squier’s text and image pieces are among the most beautiful and satisfying content on the Internet.

Everyone has his sticking point, it seems. Springfield, whose preferred medium is CD-ROM, confesses some discomfort with the Web. “The CD form has the ability to create more of a mood. I can control what someone looks at, and the speed at which they look at it, much more than with the Internet. With the Web, the users can leave really quickly. With CD-ROM, you have more time to build the communication, as you do with a book or magazine.”

The capabilities of the new media clearly excite these artists much more than the problems dismay them. The tools they work with and the art they produce fulfill individual goals for new forms of expression, information design, and distribution that can’t be achieved with traditional media. The fact that they’re educators and researchers just adds an interesting self-consciousness to their practice. “The reason this group has a name comes from our instincts as educators,” says Squier. “Students watch you very closely and care about what you do. ad319 becomes a model.” What the members of the group are proving, both in their own work and in the art they collected for the “Art as Signal” show, is that computer-based art has come into its own. Now past what they call the first generation, when it was centered on “self-reflexive analysis of the process itself,” computer-based art has entered a second stage, when it can simply take advantage of the specific characteristics of its medium–whatever that may be–to convey the artist’s message.

The Old Days: Real Vs. Quicktime? Really?

todThis month, I have been in all-too-common circle of network-user hell. Not the slap-on-the-wrist hell graced by pagan poets and late sleepers, mind you–Multimedia Hell, with all its phantasmagoric horrors. After upgrading to a “this century” system Windows 98 SE, 128MB RAM, and an 800mHz AMD Athlon processor attached to my 500Kbps-burstable DSL connection–I figured I was ready to conquer the online world. I figured wrong.

I started out by installing all the latest players. Finding and downloading player software today is no great shakes. Still, Real buries access to its free Real Player 8 Basic download on its Web page. (It’s a tiny link on the for-pay Real Player 8 Plus page, but it is there.) The Apple QuickTime download button is more easily found at top-left, albeit disguised as an ad for the QuickTime Pro for-pay player.

The Real Player 8 install went OK. However, the QuickTime install went from bad to worse. Even after repeated attempts, I could not achieve a complete install of QuickTime 5. The desktop icon appeared. The program files seemed to install. But when I ran my Netscape 4.76 browser, the QuickTime demos failed.

I tried the Apple support site. They recommended checking to see that the QuickTime plug-in had installed. I first looked at the program’s own plug-in install log file (plugins.log in the c:\program files\quicktime\plugins directory). The log file said that the QuickTime install program had indeed installed plug-ins for both Netscape and Internet Explorer 5.0.

As a long-time administrator, I never take the word of a log file as final. I checked each browser’s plug-in directory. No sign of any plug-in in either of them. So I decided to uninstall the program and reinstall it, but found no QuickTime entry in the Add/Delete Programs menu in Windows 98 Control Panel.

I tried the QuickTime menu; no uninstall there either. I then tried running QuickTime from the desktop icon. It launched, but no GUI appeared. I ran my trusty Wintop utility to see what was running on the workstation. (Pressing the three-finger salute of Ctrl-Alt-Del doesn’t always show all loaded programs. Nor does it show if the program is actually running–using CPU cycles–or just loaded into memory.) Wintop showed that QuickTime was loaded and using CPU cycles. So why no GUI?

Back at Apple’s Support site, I found little help–just Windows-bashing and buck-passing: “Try Microsoft.” I found just five QuickTime entries on Microsoft’s support pages, and none described my error condition. All of which left me with a player that wouldn’t run and which I couldn’t uninstall. I found a dozen or more references in the Windows registry for QuickTime, so I knew that merely deleting the QuickTime files wouldn’t be enough.

Next I tried my other trusty resource: Google’s new usenet search engine, http://groups.google.com.ezproxy.torontopubliclibrary.ca There, you can search through thousands of messages from other harried and perplexed users–hopefully with your problem. I didn’t find anyone with an exact solution, but I did find a half-dozen posts about QuickTime not installing plug-ins or failing to add itself to the Add/Delete Programs list in the Control Panel.

Somewhere in the various posts, I saw a mention of running the install in Windows Safe Mode. I never thought about doing such an install–Safe Mode is for uninstalling things. But I tried it anyway. I re-ran QuickTime’s install and this time, voila/The program succeeded with a full install, complete with an uninstall icon, too. QuickTime then attempted to run itself in Safe Mode and connect to the Internet. Since there’s no network/Web connection in Safe Mode, I simply closed the program and restarted Windows. QuickTime now ran fine, both from the desktop and from inside the browsers.

I then successfully tested Real Player 8 using the delightful video site www.liketelevision.com. Everything worked! I was in multimedia heaven … at least for a few days. Then, wham! I started getting an inexplicable “Out of Memory” error. This with 12 8MB RAM and no other programs running.

So I tried Real’s support site without success. (Why don’t vendors include error messages as a standard part of support knowledge bases?) No help on Google’s usenet search, either. In desperation, I emailed Real’s support staff. In a day, I got a pleasant enough response from a staffer asking for further details and suggesting some procedures to follow, which I took as exercises for beginners. After all, I had tried uninstalling and reinstalling the software already without success. So what was he telling me different? Still, I followed each step diligently. Lo and behold, it worked the way he suggested.

The key difference was that rather than using my default path of uninstalling using the Control Panel’s Add/Delete Programs menu, I had to run Real Player’s own uninstall. Then I had to delete the C:\Program Files\Real directory and reboot the system. I could then do a fresh install and awake to a functioning Real Player. I can only wonder how a typical user would have ever overcome these issues. None of it is intuitive, and most downright frustrating. And what is even more confusing is that Microsoft’s own Windows Media Player-WiMP–ran fine the whole time.

So, Apple and Real, a suggestion: If you want to stay in the game, please step up your support and make life simpler for us in finding and fixing problems. Otherwise, I simply will do all my network video in WiMP or MPEG format and be done with it. (Ugh!)

Tracy Moffatt’s Heaven Remains A Jewel

mcToronto-based painter David Morrow viewed Tracey Moffat’s Heaven for the first time at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney last winter. During that viewing – despite the tape’s seriously crafted construction and its dead-on address of many contemporary art issues – it was really Heaven’s surface charms that provided its immediate appeal, inspiring a fellow viewer to the pronouncement that provides the title below. But, as his reflections on Moffat’s most recent work make clear, art was never in question.

In Heaven, Tracey Moffat slyly shifts the line dividing polite voyeur and invasive provocateur. The videotape opens with the image of shimmering ocean surf off Sydney’s Manly and Bondi beaches. It then cuts to an interior view of a beachside cabin. The shot moves in on the window, revealing a balcony, the ocean view and a seaside parking lot below where surfers are changing out of (or into) speedos, wet-suits and jams. From the borrowed vantage point of a friend’s cabin, Moffat’s looking seems innocent-enough fun – an innocence echoed in the towels that these well-built men modestly wrap about their waists while changing. Strangely delicate colours and somewhat absurd motifs seem to indicate that some, if not all, of these existential heros still get their towels from mom. Flowers, dolphins, palm trees and patterns reminiscent of 50s tea towels are abstracted and contorted by the movements necessary in removing or putting on appropriate clothing. At times, the towels seem destined to sail off as winds rise up off the beach. Watching the surfers struggle with the triad of clothes, towels and modesty, we anticipate the possibilities with glee from our comfortable and concealed view of the parking lot.

Moffat then takes her camera down and out onto the beach itself, in full view of her intended prey. At first the boys seem oblivious to Moffat’s presence or, more to the point, they feign indifference as they vainly preen: proudly strutting, flaring feathers, in control.

Ten minutes into the video, the mood begins to shift. We move in closer. Their lips are moving. She seems to be talking with the surf cowboys, but we can’t hear what they are saying. There is no sync sound. The soundtrack of surf, drums and tibetan chants seems enhanced. Moffat’s headon interaction with the surfer boys proceeds. They have been successfully stripped of their voices and she moves in for the kill. Looks of confusion begin to appear; their responses become more apprehensive as suspicion of this videographer’s full intentions to dawn on these beautiful faces. As the camera falls more predominantly on the surfer’s privates, some of the guys are more than willing to moon and flash for Moffat’s camera. Others are not so thrilled with the idea. They scurry into hot-rods to try to conceal themselves from Moffat’s full-on approaches. Windows roll up and then down again as the boys try to wave off this now-irritating woman.

The physical tension builds. Some are angry, some nervously laugh her off. But in the end, most of these beautiful men fall victim to our heroine’s persistent curiosity, dropping whatever has concealed the “family jewels.” Most, save one; and here persistence turns to assault: Moffat’s hand grabs and finally succeeds in pulling away the chump’s towel, though he deftly repositions himself behind a well-placed surfboard. The moment, repeated in slow-mo, pushes home all of the transgressively aggressive (woman-artist as stalker) and comically phallic (surfboard – always stiff, sleek and huge) potential of the scene.

The aggressive and comic tension of Heaven is of course one key to its success. And despite the tape’s obvious departures, this achievement has roots in earlier film and photographic works. For example, Night Cries provides evidence of Moffat’s instinct for melding style and content. In that brilliant short film, which explores the feelings of an aboriginal woman as she cares for her dying foster mother, highly stylized and boldly coloured sets create an exquisite framing device for her actors. The sets take on a life of their own that runs in tandem with that of the central character. Similarly, the deceptively natural framing of Heaven parallels its plot. As Moffat sweeps around her real-life characters, she knowingly constructs tableaus for their physiques in natural and artificial backgrounds, while her increasingly invasive camera-as-weapon zeroes in on its initially unsuspecting subjects.

Of course for many Moffat fans, Heaven’s sexualized “looking” may more readily remind them of Guapa (Goodlooking) – her romantically staged images of female roller-derby contestants. There is an enticing tongue-in-cheek sexiness evident in both works. The chest and butt checks of roller-derby contestants find humorous parallel in the stand-and-model chest and butt checks of Heaven’s surf heros. But perhaps the more subtle link between these works is the way that they play with our assumptions. Moffat placed her Guapa characters in a soft void, as if they were roller-skating in mid-air, coming at us through a fog. The sepia photographs of what we generally think of as barbaric sporting-event/sitcom subvert received wisdom. Similarly, Heaven may remind us that most of us seldom see surfers other than through televized events: Moffat takes advantage of this reality by presenting the work on a 27-inch monitor, in a domestic setting complete with couch and faux-ornate rug. But the gritty reality of parking lots as changing rooms in Heaven is a vision at odds with our romantic ideal of these heroic icons.

Moffat’s own earlier writing about Guapa hints at the possibilities that can develop from one project to the next: “I can take all the black out of the images and shoot white and airy. It’s like I’m taking the girls from hell into heaven. It’s a spiritual enlightenment.” And ah, if they knew what heaven had in store.

But for me, the most direct reminder of previous work is in Heaven’s connection to a photograph from 1985, The Movie Star. In it, David Gulpilil (Aborginal star of Nicholas Roeg’s 1971 film, Walkabout) reclines on the hood of a bright yellow car, wearing full ritual dance makeup and surf jams. He clutches a can of beer and seems to listen to a boom-box – angled to pull our eyes seductively toward his bare chest. The setting is, of course, Bondi beach. Moffat was addressing aboriginal displacement, unemployment, alcoholism and representation – issues seen in art and life again and again. Layered into The Movie Star is the reality that this laze-about stud once played the young man who accompanied the little white girl in Walkabout.

Twelve years later Moffat returns to Bondi, not to talk about displacement, but to do some serious displacing of her own. She uses her own Native and worldly sex-appeal along with a wiley camera finesse to get a bunch of knock-dead macho surfers to unwittingly mock themselves while luring and coercing them into the full monty. Her candid and immediate style, enhanced by some excited editing, has resulted in a sophisticated, complex and wonderfully hilarious 28-minute towel trauma that we won’t soon forget.

Art Remakes Itself: Looking At Mixed Media

arilamThe fall is a displacement of the ordinary, a moment of peril in which the body is given over to gravity. Both the imagined and enacted state of the fall affirm the physicality of existence, while invoking cultural realities and spiritual conditions. The fall speaks to these times and, as a now-prevalent motif, it invites examination.

Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses begins with an unforgettable description of the extended free-fall of two men following a jet explosion. Rushdie’s subjects move past fear and resistance to other modes of falling: one maintains steadfast propriety, while the second performs antics “pitting levity against gravity.” In passages that render the density of time and the heightened awareness evoked by unfettered descent, Rushdie proposes the fall as a space of unexpected transformation, one that most surely exposes the will to live. It’s not without irony that publication of this novel lead to a fall of sorts for the author, in the form of a death sentence issued (and recently renewed) by Islamic leaders.

The opening passages of The Satanic Verses refer to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Johan Grimonprez’s videotape Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y likewise uses the springboard of terrorism to conjure up the resonance of the fall. A projected video that was the hot draw at last summer’s “Documenta X,” the piece is a gripping, delirious account of the history of airline hijacking. Newsreel footage of events and their rendering in mass media is interwoven with voice-over narration that shifts from the facts of each incident to poetic evocation of the fall and our fascination with cataclysmic violence. Breathtaking images of explosions and falling planes, of pushing crowds and arrested terrorists, are set to the throbbing disco-beat of The Hustle (1975). A fast paced montage of grieving mothers, elated survivors and a chilling audio recording of Russian military deciding to shoot down a Korean jetliner is interwoven with hilarious footage of world leaders from Kruschev to Clinton. Grimonprez renders history as enthralling theatre, full of tragic error and mis-directed passion, carried out by singularly unconvincing – but real – actors.

Grimonprez’s strategy of lacing together troubling fact and hot exhilaration generates a powerful brew much indebted to American writer Don DeLillo. The conceptual core of Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y draws on DeLillo’s White Noise and, more explicitly, Mao II. In these, the image of the catastrophic fall is posited as a symbiotic fusion of terrorist will and media appetite that generates a shared experience for the mass audience. A transcendent counterpoint emerges in the mantra-like interjections, in soothing voice-over, of the protagonist’s musings from White Noise: “Should not death be a swan dive, graceful, white-winged and smooth, leaving the surface undisturbed?” This alluring conception of death as a graceful and pleasurable slippage, a lyrical moment of rapture that is entirely at odds with its violent genesis, speaks of and to a yearning for apocalyptic resolution. The fall – as a state that gives in to the forces of descent or to Nietzschean compulsions of the will – becomes a form of obedience that lifts one out of time and in the process makes history. Most of all, it can be seen as a form of rage against the present.

The will to fall is most explicit in those for whom falling is the chosen method of suicide, when rage against the present turns against the self. The Suicide Box is a work by the Bureau of Inverse Technology (BIT), which was included in the 1997 Whitney Biennial. The thirteen-minute video is a proposal for computer-assisted video surveillance of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, a locale that has offered a tempting, if slightly unreliable, exit from the woes of this world for some 997 documented jumpers. The means of surveillance are disarmingly straightforward: a video camera set below the bridge records when sensors detect a falling object. The Suicide Box presents clips from the camera’s 100-day “trial activation,” during which seventeen “events” were recorded: the falling bodies of would-be suicides appear as mute, blurry, grey bundles passing through space. In the declarative voice of the corporate infomercial, the piece presents statistics and the technical aspects of the project. It proposes future comparisons of the rate of jumps to the Dow Jones industrial average, in the interest of obtaining a prospective economic “explanation” of the falls, then another dark grey form, almost a speck, tumbles down the screen. Falling bodies are interspersed with the inadvertently poetic false starts of seagull-triggered footage. The attempt to correct this technical problem, to refine the parameters of documentation, becomes a metaphor for misplaced social effort.

As a device that is incapable of more than recorded observation of desperate private acts, The Suicide Box has an eerie neutrality and, for many, a discomfiting element of voyeurism. But BIT’s use of the tactics and aesthetics of advanced technology, of what are fast becoming the instruments of social management, in fact highlights the compassion of the piece by bringing an insistent witness to the community’s failure to sustain the living. By video-taping self-destruction, BIT uses the means of institutional regulation of public space to press past it by surveillance, not of property or of worker productivity, but the real disorder of human despair. The Suicide Box is not tied to security or profit: the work deliberately moves into a social blind spot. It speaks of the ingenious ways we ask machines to stand in for us when we devise technological solutions – allowing the compilation of data to displace ameliorative action. Good intentions make a soft landing in the “digital sediment” of the data acquisition system. Research for the piece – discussed by Bureau engineer Natalie Jeremijenko at the Banff Centre’s “Flesh Eating Technologies” conference in Canada this past December – revealed an unwillingness on the part of public agencies to intervene by, for example, raising the barriers on the bridge or tying the sensor’s output to an emergency response system. Such indifference also reflects the extent to which freedom of individual will, including the will to fall, is paramount.

Cathy Sisler’s brilliant video, Lullaby for the Almost Falling Woman (1996), presents a fictive account of a woman whose efforts to get a job are subverted by a compulsive tendency, or will, to fall. The subject, played by the artist, copes with excruciating self-consciousness and the attendant skinned knees, bloody lip and scattered papers. The viewer is drawn to her vulnerability, her eagerness to appear poised and confident, and her desperate inability to do so. After one especially nasty tumble, the protagonist turns away from a concerned passerby, pretending nothing is wrong in a reflex unwillingness to expose her propensity to fall. Later, the falling nature of the body is emblematised in the gooey extended fall of a fat drop of bloody saliva and the lesson of the bodily fluid is solemnly taken in by the falling woman: resistance is futile.

Sisler presents this material straight-on with an anxiety-driven hyperbole that hovers perfectly in the zone identified by writer Gary Kibbins as not-necessarily-funny humour – a tingly and somewhat uncomfortable confusion of responses Kibbins suggests is characteristic of Canadian artists’ eccentric use of video.

The psychic condition evinced in Lullaby for the Almost Falling Woman reflects current material conditions, such as widening social and regional disparities of income distribution or the downward spiral of expectations and profound isolation that accompanies economic displacement. The second almost-falling woman in the tape is metaphorical: Montreal, a city whose badly eroded economy is matched by dangerously under-maintained building facades and half-finished demolition projects. The piece reminds us of a jobless `economic recovery’ that has left a generation in free-fall, unable to secure a foothold on financial stability, let alone well-being – not to suggest that the bleak process of perpetual job search is confined to the young.

The solution, as one of Rushdie’s lucky pair discovers, is to embrace descent. Sisler’s almost-falling woman fixes on the paratrooper as a model who is trained to fall, who falls behind enemy lines and is always prepared to plunge with purpose. The almost-falling woman “wishes she could fall smoothly like that.” For the paratrooper, as for the narrator of Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, the fall is an act of assertion in the world. What is more, the paratrooper is not alone. In the end, the falling woman joins forces with her body and her personified fluids in a bizarre, imagined pre-emptive strike on an unsuspecting interviewer in response to his classic gambit: “What would you do in the following situation…?”

Like Sisler, Martin Kersels privileges the very awkwardness that commercial culture shuns and suppresses. Kersels is an L.A.-based artist whose work has garnered a flurry of critical and popular interest in recent years. His Stingwray Medley and Tripping Photos feature spectacular falls by the spectacularly physical artist, who weighs more than 350 pounds. In the Tossing a Friend (1996) photo series, Kersels is pictured launching one small friend after another – six friends an average of fifteen times each – into the air. The piece seems to document a quiet but intense bonding ritual: tosser and tossed are solemn though there is something of the backyard, adolescent stunt in these images.

Tossing a Friend offers a variation of the fall that deploys the solace of community. The toss is an exercise of power infused with redemptive playfulness. As an activity it is dangerous and bizarre but the undercurrent of abuse is countered by the obvious submission, the giving over of control, by the subjects. The level of trust is such that these images approach ecstatic embrace even as they depict release. Tossing a Friend offers a mad, invented ritual that breeches the fundamental isolation of the fall by holding open the prospect of acting in concert. Kersel’s images point to a resilient capacity for social cohesion that lies in individual acts of mutual risk and sustenance.

The fall is a well-worn motif in western culture: why is it so compelling now? Is its cogency brought on by the end of the millennium or the decline of western hegemony? Or is the falling body a refreshing assertion of physicality in a world increasingly imprinted with the brittle logistics of technology? The currency of the image of the fall speaks of a powerful, widespread sensation of passage to a new condition; it speaks of the not very new belief that rapid, accumulating change is bringing us to an unpredictable and irreversible moment of transformation. Then again, perhaps the most obvious answer is the right one: the fall, as an aesthetic formation, is clean, sheer release. And our appetite for that seems never to have been greater.