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December 2001

Centennial of Transatlantic Radio is Object of Events

2001-12-12 / Appearing at Centrum pro Současné umění (Center for Contemporary Art) here at Jelení 9 in Prague, our Tape-beatles took part in an evening’s worth of events celebrating Guglielmo Marconi’s first successful transatlantic radio broadcast, one hundred years ago today. Boasting a variety of musicians, poets, filmmakers, and other artists, the event began at 3 p.m. and continued until well into the evening.

For the Tape-beatles’ part, they screened a DVD copy of their ‘expanded cinema’ work Matter. The response was genuine and we were pleased to be part of such an auspicious event.


Historical Investigation Yields Several ‘Ah-hah’ Moments

2001-12-05 / Always on the prowl for new mental stimulations, this week found the Tape-beatles attending a series of lectures at the Goethe Institut Prag, delivered by a mixed group of heady notables under the aegis of ‘Excavating the Future.’ The presentations were assembled in such a way as to draw a thread between the life and work of 19th-century Czech polymath scientist Ján Evangelista Purkyně (Purkinje) and current trends in digital and so-called ‘media’ arts. Purkyně is an interesting figure for us because of his relationship to the beginnings of media that rely on the technical production of sensory illusions for their effects.

Purkyně was remarkable for having early described the ‘persistence of vision’ phenomenon (thought responsible for the illusion whereby a series of still images, one rapidly following another in succession, creates the appearance of motion in cinema). He was also the first to describe human fingerprints, noting their uniqueness and potential use as a form of identification.

“By focusing on the so-called subjective and virtual phenomena,” reads the catalog to the conference, “he also paved way for the invention of cinema and later generations of media.” (Including various forms of social control!)

We sat for most of two days in the Goethe Institut’s crystal-chandeliered lecture hall, alternately rapt with fascination, or lost in our own thoughts if the presentation was poorly presented or simply uninteresting.

Amid references to such withering obscurities as the Great Wunderschrank of Uppsala (in fact quite dazzling), there were occasional revelations, or riveting technological parables, or scintillating examples from other disciplines. Anyway, we took notes. You can be sure it will feed our future work.

Ján Evangelista Purkyně (Purkinje), 19th-century Czech scientist who described subjective sensory phenomena, doing many of his experiments on himself. The above image happens to be his self-portrait.


Excavating the Future

An Archaeology and Future of Moving Pictures

National Technical Museum, Prague

Anomalous Research

Small Goals Achieved Through Retrograde Movement

2001-12-02 / Hewing doggedly to the path they’ve set before them, our Tape-beatles are struggling in a tangle of technical quirks, and progress does not uniformly come easy. The task currently at hand: the creation of VideoCDs using our trademark content and heretofore trusty CD burner. What promised to be so easy quickly became a Gordian Knot of difficult electronic embranglements!

Some of the more technically adept of you (out there) are no doubt thinking “Whatever is the big deal? I’ve been making VideoCDs on my computer for years. It couldn’t be any easier!” We’ve heard it before, and it is no small part of our frustration. The problem here seems to stem from reasons of mysterious origin, and it is difficult to eliminate benign attributes from the process to narrow down the problem.

Our numerous innocent attempts yielded no results. Files apparently prepared correctly were not accepted by the burning software. Freeware VideoCD tools downloaded from the internet reported incorrect packet sizes, which said software offered to correct, but in the end, failed to do. Booting into an alternative operating system and using similar tools made for it ‘resolved’ the issue with packets. But new problems arose. A number of compression sessions, some lasting as long as 15 hours, eventually ‘resolved’ the problem with regard to our burning software accepting the file, and delivering it to the surface of our tiny platter.

In the blink of an eye, joy turned to frustration as the resulting tiny platter failed to play in any of our software-based VideoCD players. A test VideoCD from another source played with alacrity under identical conditions. Harumpf. What could be going on?

The solution we finally worked out did not really solve the mystery: we simply moved to an older machine we weren’t currently using for anything else, and everything clicked. Making a VideoCD was there as easy as it should have been all along on our more advanced equipment. It seems as though our late-model CD-RW drive is not able to burn VideoCDs that will actually play, where the older unit performs without stammer nor stall.

Still we are bothered by the problem, and will continue to experiment as our hectic schedules allow. However, it should be duly noted that we have already spent some ten days chasing technical shadows! The upshot, it should be remembered, is that we now have a way to make VideoCDs. This will allow us to duplicate video content of very acceptable quality to cheap media, furthering our aims of dominating public consciousness.


Flaws in DMCA

From the Chronicle of Higher Education, October 12, 2001. Wayne State University law professor and copyright expert Jessica Litman sparks new debate over flaws in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The Internet Under Siege

By Lawrence Lessig. Who owns the Internet? Until recently, nobody. Read how corporations and governments are attempting to wall off parts of cyberspace.

Epitaph to George Harrison

George Harrison 1943-2001 2001-12-01 / We couldn’t really let this one go by without comment. This fragment appeared in our in-box, and suggests intriguingly that Harrison’s copyright-infringement lawsuit (now more than a decade in the past), may have been nothing more than cynical profiteering at its basest, most conniving level (but then, you already knew that):

What was really lame about that lawsuit was that it was Harrison’s former manager that sued him. Harrison supposedly commented how similar the songs were once, and admitted to his manager that he might have subconsciously stolen the melody. When they parted ways some years later, the manager went and bought the rights to the Chiffons song and sued Harrison for copyright infringement. Melody is 50% of a copyright, so that was enough. [C.R.]

Forwarded by Negativland, with the line “Hoping we’re not too early with these Season’s Greedings.”

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