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W.D. Peckenpaugh (Silverton, OR USA)

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Photoshop 7 Down and Dirty Tricks
Photoshop 7 Down and Dirty Tricks
by Scott Kelby
Edition: Paperback
42 used & new from CDN$ 0.36

5.0 out of 5 stars A nice set of "Ooh, cool!" PS7 tricks, Dec 9 2002
While it's certainly worth the time and effort to learn about Photoshop's features and functions the hard way, sometimes it's nice to just be able to whip out a cool effect in a few minutes. Scott Kelby gives users dozens of sample projects, as well as hundreds of individual tips and tricks, in a step-by-step format that even beginners can follow.
The effects are divided by broad category (type effects, photo effects, drop-shadow effects, etc.), which is helpful if you sort of know what you want your finished effect to look like -- but, it's also fun just to browse the book and try something that looks interesting. Kelby's writing style is clear, but funny at the same time; you certainly shouldn't get bored working your way through any of the effects. Also, his concise yet informative step-by-step captions will give new and experienced users material for further experimentation and tweaking.
Some reviews have commented that certain sections contained errors. I haven't worked my way through every single section of the book yet, but of those I have (roughly two-thirds) there have been no glaring errors or omissions. This isn't to say there aren't typos or errors; I'm sure there probably are, just as there are in almost every book. I haven't found any that have detracted from the value or clarity of the book, however.
PS7 Down & Dirty Tricks really isn't a "learn PS7" book, so I don't recommend it for that purpose, though it is instructional. Buy a good, comprehensive book first, and then buy this one so you can have some quick fun when you bog down on channels, paths, or some other confusing topic in your "big" book. Highly recommended!

Adobe(R) Photoshop(R) 7.0 Studio Techniques
Adobe(R) Photoshop(R) 7.0 Studio Techniques
by Ben Willmore
Edition: Paperback
31 used & new from CDN$ 0.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent standalone book, or addition to PS7 library, Dec 9 2002
A blurb on the back cover of this book quotes Scott Kelby, president of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, as saying, "When we get stuck, we call Ben" [Willmore, the author]. After reading only the first chapter, it was easy to see why.
Willmore starts by proclaiming his dislike of techno-babble, and his intention of demystifying Photoshop's many functions by explaining them in plain English. He succeeds! There are a lot of other PS7 books out there, and I own a few of them, but none is as reader-friendly as this one. At the end of each chapter, Willmore includes a "Techno-babble Decoder Ring," which explains, again in plain English, many of the chapter's technical terms users may encounter when reading other resources.
The author introduces material in a logical order, from simple to complex, with 19 chapters broken into four major sections. While it makes perfect sense to read from cover to cover, the book also works well as a reference for specific topics: chapters, or topics within chapters, are still usable and understandable even if you skip around the book. There are ample illustrations and screenshots, many in full color, and this makes the text much easier to follow. In addition, the accompanying CD-ROM contains numerous practice images, as well as stock images from Stockbyte.
If I had to have only one comprehensive Photoshop 7 book, I think this would be the one.

Adobe Photoshop 7.0 [Replaced by Photoshop CS]
Adobe Photoshop 7.0 [Replaced by Photoshop CS]

5.0 out of 5 stars Wow -- there's so much to like!, Nov. 8 2002
I came to Photoshop 7 with more than a bit of trepidation. I had always thought it would be far too complicated to learn, and that I could get by with more "basic" packages like Photoshop Elements or Jasc Paintshop Pro. After reading so many rave reviews about PS7, I finally decided to take the plunge.
One word: awesome! As a photographer working mostly in digital these days, PS7 is just a dream come true for me.
The file browser (new in version 7, I understand) offers quite an array of functionality for previewing, sorting, and batch-processing images -- the sort of thing I used to use a standalone product to do. Being able to sort, rank, batch-rename, and rotate (i.e., picture shot in portrait but needs to be rotated 90 degrees to display properly) files in the browser has more than tripled my front-end productivity. The ability to export the browser cache information to CD, for example, also allows me to create "virtual" or online proof sheets -- another time saver, as well as an ink- and paper-saver.
The healing brush (also new in this version) is an exceptional tool, and I would go so far as to say that it, plus the file browser capabilities, have repaid my investment already. If you've ever retouched photos, and especially closeups of faces, where even the slightest variations in color or saturation will make the retouch even more glaringly obvious than the original blemish, you will not believe the results this tool offers. Operating something like a clone stamp tool, it samples pixels from the source, but then integrates them with the hue and luminance information surrounding the destination. The result is facial retouches that look flawless, as though the resulting skin grew there naturally. In just a few seconds I can fix problem spots that would've taken several minutes each, or longer, in the "old days" before I began using PS7. Another impressive tool, related to the healing brush, is the patch tool. Basically, instead of defining a source for the "good" pixels, you make a selection of the "bad" ones you want to improve, and then drag that selection onto an area of "good" source. It's very good for retouching large areas (where painting with the healing brush might be tedious), and also does an exceptional job on architectural flaws (cracks in stucco, for example) and foliage.
Then, of course, there's all the other thousands of things PS7 lets you do. I had used layers and masks in Paintshop Pro before, and so found that an easy adjustment to make, but there's so very much more available if only I can learn how to use it all! I definitely recommend a good third-party companion guide; I got a video CD guide, which has proven very valuable already, and I've only scratched the surface of PS7's functionality.
If you're a pro photographer or a serious amateur, you really should consider Photoshop 7. It is a gigantic leap ahead of the software you're likely using now, and the learning curve isn't as scary as a lot of people make it out to be. And, of course, if you do any kind of graphic or fine arts work, you probably own it already . . . I very highly recommend it!

Maximum Accessibility: Making Your Web Site More Usable for Everyone: Making Your Web Site More Usable for Everyone
Maximum Accessibility: Making Your Web Site More Usable for Everyone: Making Your Web Site More Usable for Everyone
by John M. Slatin Ph.D.
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 32.75
28 used & new from CDN$ 3.78

5.0 out of 5 stars The best book on web accessibility. Period., Sept. 29 2002
I'll just come right out and say it: Dr. John Slatin and Sharron Rush have written what is going to become an industry standard text for web accessibility.
The few other books on web accessibility have only certain strong points, or are overviews lacking concrete direction. Not so with Maximum Accessibility. Slatin & Rush present a comprehensive evaluation of the state of the industry in regard to web accessibility, a summary (perhaps the most comprehensive, yet readable, I've ever found) of U.S. and international law pertaining to accessibility for the disabled, and [perhaps the most compelling parts of the book] personal looks at disabled users' interactions using popular web sites to do everyday tasks. [A side note: congratulations to amazon.com for their willing paricipation in the book (including permission for many screenshots), and for being forthright in admitting when they could do things better for disabled users -- and then doing them. On the contrary: shame on the Salt Lake Winter Olympic Organizing Committee for being made aware of huge problems, admitting they knew about it, then refusing to return the authors' calls after they had promised to work with them, and finally refusing permission to use screenshots from their web site in the book.]
More than just presenting an overview, though, Slatin & Rush delve into the code behind the page presentation (something like Nielsen's "50 Web Pages Deconstructed" -- not surprising, since he wrote the foreward for Maximum Accssibility). They identify problems, explain *why* they are problems, demonstrate ways to fix (or improve) them, or, when things just can't be fixed, offer suggestions on ways to provide equivalent content that is accessible. In short, Maximum Accessibility is "one stop shopping" for improving the accessibility of web sites: from why, to where, to how, the information is in here, it's current, and it represents the best practices of a large segment of the technology industry.
A substantial portion of the population has at least some form of disability. A substantal number of them actively use the web. From a purely profit-driven motive, why would you want to exclude potential customers from your site? From a purely legal point of view, you may be required to provide accessibility, depending on your type of company or organization and the services you provide. From a purely moral standpoint, it's just the right thing to take some very simple steps to ensure your information is available to all. And from an egocentric/pragmatic viewpoint, well-constructed accessible web design generally makes the web experience better for everyone -- including you. Code the way you hope others would code for you -- or for your aging mom, or your disabled brother, or your child with a disability. Maximum Accessibility provides background and reasoning to address all these concerns, as well as practicable, "nuts & bolts" advice on how to fix problems - or code without problems to begin with.
I highly recommend Maximum Accessibility to *all* individuals and organizations involved with web content development, design, and management. It will be money very well spent. If you're in the industry, buy two and give one to your CIO! ;-)

No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars Finally!, Sept. 7 2002
Well, after waiting five years, the DVD of Jackie Brown is finally out! And what a DVD set!
The story is base on Elmore Leonard's "Rum Punch," but the screenplay bears Quentin Tarantino's unmistakable and wonderful personality. It's not so much an action film (as the TV ads and trailers made it sound) as a story of double dealing, double crossing, and the desperation of the title character. Leonard himself was quite taken with Tarantino's direction, most especially with the casting of Samuel L. Jackson in the Ordell Robie role.
Jackson is good as Robie (but I love Jackson, and so am no doubt biased!), and brings his brand of character intensity to the role. The real surpise, though, is Robert Forster as Max Cherry, a bail bondsman with no-nonsense yet heart-of-gold sensibilities. Cherry falls for Jackie, and the underlying sexual tension between them, while understated and never consummated, is electric! Pam Grier (of blaxploitation film fame) is excellent as Jackie Brown, and her portrayal really makes the viewer root for Jackie to come out ahead in the end.
The extra material is pretty good, though I'm just happy to have the film on DVD! I was especially amused, though, that the entire "Chicks with Guns" video is included -- truly an unsung classic!
If you've read the book, or liked Pulp Fiction, give Jackie Brown a try. Highly recommended.

Inside 9-11: What Really Happened
Inside 9-11: What Really Happened
by Der Spiegel
Edition: Hardcover
36 used & new from CDN$ 0.05

5.0 out of 5 stars Chilling and compelling, Sept. 7 2002
As others have noted, there will no doubt be bigger, more detailed books about 9/11 as more now-classified data is released, but at this point *this* is *the* definitive book.
Der Spiegel, the German magazine, harnessed their substantial investigative and editorial resources to compile the data for this book, and their attention to detail is impressive. Equally impressive, and what I feel is the most effective technique in the book, is that each chapter tells the story of a few people -- some of them "key players" in the events, others simply people in the wrong place at a very wrong time. An immense amount of activity took place in a very short time frame, and the book does an admirable (although not completely perfect) job of presenting it in a comprehensible and compelling manner. I literally couldn't put it down, and read the whole thing in one night.
If you're looking for a "tribute" book about the victims or responders to the attack, this isn't it. However, if you're looking for the very best, most detailed chronology of the events currently available, this is it. High praise and great thanks to Der Spiegel for this book.

Constructing Accessible Web Sites
Constructing Accessible Web Sites
by Michael Burks
Edition: Paperback
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy goal, an excellent guide, Aug. 31 2002
Web usability has become a big [and important] topic in web design these days. Thankfully, its lesser-known sibling, web accessibility for disabled users, is now coming into its own right as a necessary design skill.
Constructing Accessible Web Sites will be extremely useful to the nuts-and-bolts people who actually design and code sites, but, as importantly (if not moreso), it gives an excellent overview of current laws and standards for the higher-ups who authorize and budget for site design. The chapter on organizational strategies for accessibility is a must-read for anyone who has any responsibilities regarding web design, implementation, or retrofitting sites to meet legal (and moral) obligations for accessibility.
The book is loaded with code samples, screen shots, and useful commentary on why things don't work for those with disabilites, and how to fix them so they work better for everyone. Particularly useful is a scorecard comparing authoring and design tools' accessibility authoring functionality and compliance with standards (Section 508, WCAG).
If you are involved in the design, creation, or maintenance of web sites, and you have clients -- and that would be just about every site, whether your site is an intranet, extranet, or public Internet site -- you really need this book. You owe it to yourself to own this book and make your life -- and the lives of web users with disabilities -- much, much easier. Highly recommended.

No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars It's rare that I say this about software..., Aug. 23 2002
But I really wish I could award more than five stars!
I heard about Visual Communicator on the Kim Komando radio show, and she just raves about it. I think she's a pretty reliable source, so I decided to check it out. Not only am I not sorry I got this, I *am* sorry I didn't get it much sooner. This really is *the* software for: anyone who's ever tried, and failed miserably, to create a home/business video; anyone who's ever tried, and failed miserably, to use some of the "simple" video production packages; anyone who's ever wished he could "throw together" a really slick video presentation for work, school, a club, or family; and anyone who delights in having friends and family "ooh and aah" over something cool *you* created.
Setup is painfully simple: install the software, tack up the "green screen" cloth, assemble your camera (and lights -- more on that in a minute), and get going. The "personal broadcasting handbook" included in the package leads the user through a basic tutorial (your first video production) and lets you get your feet wet. The rest of the book is clear and concise, and the online help is even better (how refreshing!). It's no exaggeration to say that even a reasonably-intelligent child can make stunning videos with Visual Communicator (in fact, one of the previous reviewers is 11 years old).
Perhaps the very best feature is the amount of work and forethought the software creators put into the supporting elements: titles, transitions, effects, and a thousand other production details the average person would never think of. For example, applying and editing effects: how many other video editing software packages require you to set "in" and "out" points, choose from a list of semi-meaningful effect names, click "OK," and hope for the best while it takes several minutes rendering your effect? And then, if you don't like it, want to change it, or want to move or expand/contract the timing of the effect, you do it all over again and wait for it to re-render. Not Visual Communicator. All effects and transitions are done "on the fly," meaning you can preview them in real time, add or delete them at will without having to render the entire video sequence again, and edit placement and timing by dragging the effect's icon in the timing "tray" next to the teleprompter window. Now *that's* the way it *should* be!
There are numerous "styles" and templates included for use in creating video, along with a wizard that helps you focus on your information while taking care of the details (like making sure all the text and backgound styles are consistent). The wizard is extremely helpful, but adventurous or advanced users can skip it and use any of the template/style elements directly. You can import other video clips, audio clips, and still images for use in your video, all with the same drag-and-drop ease as the effects. You also have options in formatting your finished video: you can publish everything from highly-compressed .asf files (suitable for emailing or placement on a web site) all the way up to uncompresed .avi files (plan to have a *lot* of hard drive space for this!).
And what review would be complete without mentioning Visual Communicator's crowning glory, the green screen? If you've ever watched the weather man on TV pointing to "an approaching front" and wanted to do the same, or wished you could make a video of yourself standing on the moon, now you can! VC Plus includes an "official" green screen cloth (official in the sense that it's the optimal shade of green for the software to key to it to create this effect). Tack it up behind you, make sure you have very good lighting (poor lighting will lead to some interesting effects, making you look like you're one of Star Trek's unfortunate "red shirts" who didn't quite re-materialize from the transporter!), and the output is nothing less than amazing! I think this is really the "killer app" of Visual Communicator -- this, and the high-quality effects and template material. You don't have to use the green screen when creating your videos, but I think once you've used it and seen how spectacular it looks, you will no longer consider it "optional."
Also included in the VC Plus package is a clip-on microphone. It is worlds better than your standard PC mic, and helps eliminate a lot of background noise. If you've ever priced a quality clip-on mic, you will see that the price difference between VC and VC Plus is reasonable; in fact, you could say they're selling you the mic and giving you the green screen cloth for free.
If you have a video camera (camcorder or PC cam), and your system meets the [reasonable] requirements to run the software, this is a package you will use often, love to use, and love to see the reactions of people viewing your creations. I recommend it *highly*!

In the Realm/Sens.
In the Realm/Sens.
DVD ~ Tatsuya Fuji
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 72.47
5 used & new from CDN$ 38.84

4.0 out of 5 stars Wow...not what I expected, but more than I expected, Aug. 12 2002
This review is from: In the Realm/Sens. (DVD)
To be honest, I didn't know this film contained scenes of explicit sex before I bought it (didn't read reviews first -- bad on me!). Not that that would've necessarily kept me from watching it, but I think it let me have an initial viewing free of preconceived notions and pre-judgment.
The story is based on true events in pre-war Japan; a less explicit remake, but containing more pre-tryst character development, is the later film "A Woman Called Sada Abe." I don't know if it's fair to compare the two, because they want to accomplish very different things. "Woman" gives more background on Sada, giving the viewer a more compassionate feeling toward the woman and her ultimate sexual psychopathy. "Realm" lacks the background, but I think it presents a much more powerful and dark look into the mind of Sada, as well as the period that helped make her what she was.
One thing that surprised me is that the explicit sexuality, while surprising (I was going to write "shocking," but I don't mean it in a judgmental way), really didn't overpower the story. After the surprise wore off, it was, for me, simply the vehicle for demonstrating the downward spiral Sada (and Kichizo) found herself in -- sex was no longer about love, or even physical pleasure, but about possession and control over herself, in a society where she otherwise had very little control. The scenes are erotic, but not stimulating (it's hard to express in writing what that means, but suffice it to say this is not simply a "porno eye-candy" delivery).
As for the quality of the DVD, the transfer is OK, but why, oh why, do we *still* have to suffer the insult of pan-and-scan? Directors and cinematographers compose scenes carefully, but this is lost when 20% of the frame simply isn't there anymore. Please, Fox Lorber (and others), stop ruining films this way! We are sophisticated enough to disregard the black bars in order to enjoy the film the way it was meant to be viewed. The soundtrack is adeqate, though the music becomes rather repetitive after a while. The English subtitles often fail to match the dialogue, with one character's subtitle displaying as the other character is already responding.
I don't believe, as some others claim, that this is "pornography." Clearly, the director uses explicit sexuality to create a specific atmosphere, and give the viewer character insights that would be less powerful without it. But, it's probably not for everyone. [And I'll never eat another hard-boiled egg without thinking of one particular scene...]
I recommend this film, but those who know they would be offended by explicit sexuality may find "A Woman Called Sada Abe" more tolerable.

My Man Godfrey [DVD]; Gregory La Cava
My Man Godfrey [DVD]; Gregory La Cava
Offered by vidco
Price: CDN$ 7.99
6 used & new from CDN$ 5.98

5.0 out of 5 stars The best of the "screwball comedies", July 28 2002
I concur with previous reviewers that this isn't just a "must-see" film; it is must-see-repeatedly, or must-own! In addition to (or perhaps because of) the excellent performances and script, this is widely regared as the film that defined the genre known as "screwball comedies." It's a shame that this title often ends up on the "bargain" rack in video and electronics stores.
In my opinion, William Powell gives perhaps his best performance. He is quick and witty, yet always charming and just "a bit ahead of the game." His amazement, bemusement, and eventual adaptation to his new circumstances is superbly played.
Just as powerful as Powell is Carole Lombard. She is exquisite as the nothing-if-not-persistent younger daughter, and plays the part with a comic touch that is hilarious, yet not overacted.
Now, as for the DVD itself. I've heard the Criterion Collection disc is far superior; I'm positive it would have to be! The Madacy disc is representative of their work: glowing whites, poor contrast, variable sound quality, and virtually no extra features on the DVD. If it wasn't for the fact that the Criterion release wasn't available when I wanted to get this DVD, I would own that one instead. I highly recommend you spend the extra few dollars, as Criterion has included several extras that seem very interesting, and their video transfers tend to be a lot cleaner.
But, in any case, buy the DVD for the film, regardless of which release you buy -- you won't regret it.

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