Two years ago Koozma Tarasoff published a substantial book of the same title, reviewed earlier in Ethnologies (Vol. 25/2: 258-260); the CD-ROM supplement became available early this year. To access it, I use a Mac G3 PPC with 896 MB/RAM onboard; with systemfile and other large programs running, the CD-ROM performed without a hitch. It boots automatically on a Windows machine; to run on a Mac, one clicks on the CD icon, then on /open/.
Spirit Wrestlers opens with a musical theme and a neatly-animated introductory splash that lead into a greeting message and operating directions. All this is brief, clear and friendly in both tone and function. Contents include the full text of the book, with colophon and scholarly apparatus, with significant extensions: one-click operation serves to expand maps and photographs to full-screen size, then to return to the main text; though these, like the text, are not clippable — an inconvenience for scholarly use. As in Tarasoff’s earlier Plakun Trava CD-ROM, the index is not interactive and one must exit it, open the chapter cited, then leaf to the page number.
Text appears on a standard 800x600-pixel screen, enabling simultaneous access to the desktop on most machines. Scrolling permits access to the large-type full page, making the text accessible even to those with limited eyesight. CD-ROM pages are laid out slightly differently from those in the book, and illustrations are marginal thumbnails, to permit almost identical book/CD-ROM page identity — indeed, the CD-ROM pages are thus a little better composed than those of the print version. All pages includes Main Menu access. Text appears in a clear tint on a lightly watermarked background, rendering it legible without tiresome extremes of contrast.
The interface is even more beautifully crafted than that of Tarasoff’s earlier CD-ROM, but the supplementary materials carry the power of this medium even further. They consist of Audio and Video files, an illustrated Timeline sequence, a brief pronouncing Glossary with point-and-click sound, a short Appendix illustrating photo restoration, and a brief interactive Bibliography of other works by Tarasoff. The Audio files provide specimens of Doukhobor choral performance from five LP discs and CDs published in the community over the past sixteen years, including one originating with Doukhobors in Russia, with brief text descriptions and access information. It is clear from the control page that interview segments were apparently intended to appear here. The Video files, in small-screen QuickTime® format, provide short sound videos of two choirs, performing intercut with landscape and historic images, and a touching interview segment with choir leader Paul Sampsonoff. One clip requested source access through a dialogue box, but this was straightforward. I was on another occasion able to confuse the interface, which responded intelligently by reverting to the segment menu.
In sum, the Spirit Wrestlers CD-ROM is pretty well everything a resource designed for both general and specialist use should be: accessible, diverse, rich in content, with detailed and thoroughly functional apparatus, though I retain my nit-picking desire for clippable content. All the positive comments made in the book review apply to the CD-ROM; as a study resource, it is rich and accessible for a wide range of users — and doesn’t weigh the substantial 1 kg. of the book. When I reviewed the Plakun Trava CD-ROM two years ago, I anticipated “the next Tarasoff CD-ROM”; here it is, and it is exemplary. Now we look forward to the works of others, because this example sets a superb benchmark by which to develop and judge them: may such appear quickly!