Technofile

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The Independent Culture
Technofile casts about for cultural meaning, with a detour to turn Nazi propaganda on its head. Then it's a good 15-minute wait to download some on-line movies, but don't worry, you can make your own in seconds

SCROLL AND UNUSUAL

If you're after mottoes for, like, modern living, - and who can resist them when they're illustrated by doggie paintings? - then Chris Kukura is your man. View his stuff (shown far right) at Scroll, a culture showcase and on-line magazine created by Behaviour New Media. You'll also find episode one of Naoki Mitsuse's Sex Slave Rebels (shown right), a cartoon story of personal liberation. It may be about a man in a leather mask who casts off his chains, but peaceful purple skies replace graphic unpleasantness. Then there are David Opp's straggly animal friends, and an egg man called Happy Smackett. Select buttons with labels like "Shelter" and "Nature" to explore his "Solipsistic Universe". Other sections of Scroll contain media commentaries, a Douglas Rushkoff story, and a piece by Scroll editor Theo Diamantis about his own favourite personal home pages.

CLICKING HITLER

Joseph Goebbels wouldn't have been too impressed with the Internet. With its tiny screens, weedy sound, menus not orders and an audience of individuals rather than crowds, the Third Reich's minister of propaganda would have regarded it all as a lamentable step backwards. The Propagandameister, a Web presentation made for Scroll (see above) and also available via The New Venue (see right) takes the Nazis' graphic tool kit and makes it perform a new role in digital captivity. The familiar black, red and white palette signals alarm - that the events it describes could ever have happened - and moral outrage, not overweening, immutable power. There are animated parade drills, but the viewer decides when they move by clicking on the controls that advance the sequence of screens. It's thematically appropriate, and it gets the best out of the technology. Worth a look, even if you think you know the story.

A FLICKER OF FRUSTRATION

One day soon, the Internet will be a proper channel for distributing movies, according to D Film. The site is gearing up already. It is hooked up to a pioneering Internet service via cable modem, which uses the kind of cable currently used for TV rather than ordinary phone lines. D Film is currently hosting The New Venue, an on-line gallery which presents a new digital movie each week. But most of the presentations emphasise the medium's current technical limitations rather than its potential. Fifteen minutes of download for a minute of movie is a pretty poor ratio, and then the film appears in a window the size of a postage stamp. The results are generally worth the wait only as curios. On The Ephemeral Nature of Little Movies, for example, uses its brief span to present some images from early cinema in the style of a silent film, closing with the thought that little digital movies will themselves become obsolete. If they waste bandwidth like that, they deserve their fate.

Early cinema is a natural point of reference for artists working in a technologically immature medium, though. Animator Xeth Weinberg draws the parallels charmingly with his cartoon character Bulbo, a black-and- white figure who may be digitally smooth in his rendering (and loads fairly fast, thanks to the use of ShockWave Flash animation) but belongs to the 1920s in spirit. There's no gore in Bulbo's Space Shot, despite the efforts of a cannon-firing villain in a spiked helmet, and no harm done. "I wanted to avoid the hip-cliche violent ending that crops up so much in short cartoons, especially on the Internet," Weinberg declares. "I like Bulbo being a bit kinder and gentler, if maybe just stupider. Call it Hyper Lame."

GET IT FRAMED

For those times when a plain text e-mail just won't do, try D Film's "Moviemaker" service. Choose your cartoon characters, a scenario such as "Pick-up" or "Chase", a setting, a sky (filled with UFOs, if you wish); type in dialogue - "Happy Birthday", "Will you marry me?", "You're fired" - and click to send to the e-mail address of your choice.

TECHNOTIP

ShockWave and QuickTime are types of software that bring web sites to animated, multimedia life. Sites using them will provide links to locations where they can be downloaded free of charge (though you may well have QuickTime on your computer already).

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