Archive for 2006

50-Movie All Stars Collection, Disc 13

Posted in Movies and TV on November 9th, 2006

The New Adventures of Heidi, 1978, color, Ralph Senensky (dir.), Burl Ives, Katy Kurtzman, John Gavin, Marlyn Mason, Sherrie Wills. 1:38.

I like family pictures, at least some of them, but this one’s way too treacly for my taste—and, I’d guess, almost anyone else’s taste in 2006. The plot summary on the sleeve is just plain wrong: Heidi’s separated from her grandfather (Ives) because he’s apparently died—and her “despicable relatives” turn her over to a wealthy-but-busy widowed hotelier (Gavin) whose troubled daughter is a boon companion. They go to New York, and naturally goodness triumphs over all. The sleeve also mentions “ten delightful original songs,” and “delightful” is not the word I would use for the pallid ballads. Ives used to be a fine singer; not on this flick. $0.75, charitably.

The Borrowers, 1973, color, Walter C. Miller (dir.), Eddie Albert, Tammy Grimes, Dame Judith Anderson, Karen Pearson. 1:21.

The first of three TV movie (and one movie) versions of the Mary Norton novel about the borrowers, or rather one family of borrowers: Little people (about six inches high) who borrow space and possessions from the humans in the house. In this case, the house is a mansion and the lady of the house is a lively, bedridden, tippling Dame Judith Anderson, who enjoys chatting with the father of the borrowers (Albert) but assumes he’s a hallucination. The sleeve gets it wrong here too: “Now they must frantically avoid being captured and exhibited as scientific curiosities.” More like they must escape a ferret set to get rid of the vermin the housekeeper assumes them to be. Didn’t anyone at Treeline (now Mill Creek) ever watch these things? I know: Not bloody likely. Anyway, a first-rate cast, well acted, not treacly. I’d give it a higher price but for one bit of cheapness that unfortunately comes in opening scenes: Albert’s scuttling across the living room floor of the mansion to go back under the clock (and under the floorboards, where they live)—but he casts no shadow even when standing next to a heavily-shadow-casting door. Green screen is one thing, but doing it that baldly and badly right at the start… $1, for that and for some damage; otherwise, probably $1.50.

And that’s it for this little box full of TV movies. Next up: fifty “classic” musicals–probably back to mostly black and white, but there appear to be a number of little-known gems here (along with a few repeats from other sets). I’ll provide an overall comment on the TV movie box in the second-half roundup in Cites & Insights, probably the December 2006 issue.

Call it a manifesto if you must, but read it

Posted in Libraries, Writing and blogging on November 9th, 2006

Some of you already know that I don’t much care for manifestos–not because they’re challenging or uncomfortable, but because they typically oversimplify, make black-and-white out of the gray that is real life, polarize situations, and in other ways substitute absolutes for nuance.

I’m joining with others in recommending that you go read Laura Cohen’s “A Librarian’s 2.0 Manifesto” at her (worthwhile, recommended) blog Library 2.0: An Academic’s Perspective. The blog suffers from the SixApart printability problem in spaces (it won’t even print out properly in IE, apparently because the banner’s too wide)–but that’s minor.

Why do I recommend this despite my distaste for manifestos? Because, to my mind, this isn’t a manifesto: It’s a credo. And I love good credos.

The difference? Cohen isn’t making a series of flat statements, Truths that we Must All Recognize (or Be Part of the Problem).

Instead, she’s making a series of personal affirmations: “I will…”

By doing so, she invites others to consider similar courses–but does not imply that those courses are the only reasonable ones to take.

Credos invite elaboration, discussion, nuance: They encourage evolutionary change. They allow us to say, “I see what you’re saying, and my own course may be different; let’s discuss those differences.” They’re humanistic.

Laura Cohen calls it a manifesto. She wrote it; that’s her privilege. She did a great job of writing it. If you haven’t already read it, do–no matter what sort of library or library-related operation you work in.

Vote!

Posted in Books and publishing, Libraries, Stuff, Writing and blogging on November 7th, 2006

Other than that simple message, this is a semi-blind (and thus useless, if you like), multipart post:

  • If you don’t like what I’m saying here or what I’m saying, maybe you should… comment on what you disagree with. As long as it’s civil, non-profane, not slanderous, not spam, signed, and within scope, it will appear, I’ll read it, and if appropriate I’ll respond. After all, one way we learn (sometimes the best way, as adults) is to deal with those who disagree with us.
  • The above shouldn’t have to be said, of course. What? You think I’m going to say “if you don’t like what I’m doing, don’t read it”? Who would ever say that? (I heard a rumor, but I’m sure it was just a strawman.)
  • Yes, I’ve been to SecondLife. And to the library. It may be great for others. It doesn’t suit me (that’s not surprising, actually: I’m mostly a text person, I’m not terribly social, and real life suits me just fine). Can’t give you my “avatar”‘s name because I’ve already forgotten it.
  • I’ll make an exception to the first bullet in this case: I’m really not interested in comments from one small fringe of those involved in the SL library, and I’m pretty sure they’re not representative of those sincere librarians who are involved and who use their real-life names.
  • Vote. Did I mention that? With one exception: If you don’t know why you’re voting or what you’re voting for, don’t bother. I don’t believe in mandatory voting. (You can guess how I would vote on one issue if I was in Arizona.)
  • Gr**ny pictures? Whazzup with that? More than 200 spamment attempts in less than 24 hours. Maybe they’re really grainy pictures (historic photographs) and the spammer can’t spell.
  • And, ending this semi-recursive post (gotta get a long-running job going and then go off and vote): If you do post stuff that’s highly disagreeable, I reserve the right to delete your comment (maybe substituting a “comment deleted by blog owner,” maybe not). What I do not reserve the right to do: “Out” your pseudonymous/anonymous comment based on your IP address or your email address. That’s not going to happen. Ever. (If your comment’s vile enough or so disputatious and never-ending, I might flag your account so that every comment goes into moderation, but that’s different.)
  • I happen to think “Books are just the beginning” (Elkhart PL) is a brilliant motto for a public library. It’s called establishing the known story and building from there.

Now there’s a truly random post.

ALA email

Posted in ALA, Technology and software on November 3rd, 2006

I know this email stuff is awfully advanced technology, but:

I got email to renew my membership today. At my work email address — well, actually at my old work email address, which is apparently one of several aliases for my current work email address (crawforw@oclc.org, if you’re wondering, although the business cards have the formal alias Walt_Crawford@oclc.org).

So I click on the link (still not happy about LITA’s $60 or thrilled about ALA’s $110, but not ready to quit just yet either). And find that the password autoprovided isn’t the password I currently use. Fine; I click on the appropriate button and ALA emails my password.

To my gmail address. Which, now that I think about it, is what I told ALA I want to use for email.

So, fine, I log in and renew–it’s a strange cumbersome set of links, first to this page then back to that page then over to another page, but not too difficult–and it all finishes by saying it will email confirmation.

Which it does. To my old work email address.

Now that I think about it, I also changed my postal mail preferences to get stuff at home. So, of course, it’s still arriving at work. Except for the things that arrive at home.

I’m all for diversity–but maybe not in actually executing the preference changes that you invite people to do. Is proliferating an email address driven off a single membership number really that difficult? Is that what ALA needs the extra bucks for?

So not going to happen: A quick Friday post

Posted in Technology and software, Writing and blogging on November 3rd, 2006

So along with NaNoWriMo (Robin Williams lives on!), there’s NaBloPoMo, with much lower standards: You just have to write one post every day during November.

Not going to happen, at least not here, at least not intentionally (and a family matter now virtually assures that it won’t happen, period).

On the other hand, the continued spate of links to that actress (hey, she got paid, she’s happy) putting a weird face and snarky attitude on Live Search leads me to note that it could be worse…

What if, say, Yahoo! wanted to promote a snazzy new search engine, and the people designing the viral campaign website had academic library backgrounds. We could have (and no, I’m not putting up a prototype):

Elsie the search cow–with a four-legged avatar mooing until you enter a search term, then swishing her tail and chewing her cud as the results pop up…

[I don’t get two things: First, the claims that this actress is somehow stunningly beautiful and/or immodestly dressed; second, on a search-engine website, all the commenters who took it seriously!. Well, three things: Why MS would waste their money on this.]

Ozymandias and Orkut

Posted in Media, Technology and software on November 2nd, 2006

There’s a good article in this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle about social networking fatigue. This one’s locally written and, remarkably, begins on page one (slow news day, I guess, other than bs politics).

The story speaks for itself, and I don’t think it means “Social networking is dead” or anything close to it. Most of the people interviewed have no plans to shut down entirely; they’re just getting a bit less enthusiastic and finding a need to balance online and offline life. That is, I believe, a good thing.

My post title raises a point I found interesting, particularly given the sense some commentators have offered that anything Google does must necessarily succeed and dominate. It’s another “dog that didn’t bark” story, to wit:

The term Orkut does not appear anywhere in this lengthy story.

Friendster gets a tiny mention, but Orkut–which, after all, is the Google social network and therefore invincible–is nowhere to be seen. (I may still have an Orkut account. I wouldn’t know; I neither know nor want to know my account name or password.)

And before overinterpretation sets in:

  • I’m not opposed to social networks.
  • I was an Orkut member (and may still be, for all I know).
  • I am a LinkedIn member, albeit not a terribly active one.
  • I’m not in a library, but if I was, I’d assume social networks should be handled the same as any other legal websites.
  • If libraries have had success in having their own spaces in social networks, more power to them.

No NaNoWriMo here, but…

Posted in Books and publishing, Writing and blogging on November 1st, 2006

NaNoWriMo? Hard to help reading about it, given the number of would-be novelists among libloggers.

I’m certainly not making fun of the idea. Quite the opposite: I think there’s a lot to be said for just giving it one big try, devil take the details; go for a short novel over the course of a month. Then look at the results, see what worked, see what didn’t, see whether fiction writing is your thing–and proceed from there.

Thing is: I’m already pretty certain that I don’t have a future as a fiction writer or novelist. I tried short fiction as a teenager (and should have saved the very kind, not form, rejection letter from John W. Campbell, but didn’t). The writing was OK, the plots were mediocre, and the character development…well, a long-term friend who knows me too well nailed it when she said I’m just not observant enough. Not then, not now, not likely to be in the future. I respect good fiction writing. I respect good musicianship. Respect doesn’t mean I anticipate doing it, though.

Is there a NaNonWriMo for taking on a book-length nonfiction project with the goal to complete a first draft in a month? Probably not, and that’s not nearly as interesting, but I’d almost like to give it a try. Currently, I have four–no, make that five–book ideas. I could probably do a first draft of any of them in a month or so, if I abandoned all other writing. So far, that hasn’t made sense. But in the back of my mind…

[These are, as it happens, all book ideas where I believe PoD self-publishing would be the only realistic approach; I’d be surprised if any of them had the potential for the 1,200-or-so sales to make sense for a commercial library publisher. Nor would I be ready to go through that production cycle for these ideas, even though the editing would improve the results.

Will any of the five get written eventually? Probably. Will they all? Probably not, and probably just as well.

Meanwhile, C&I amounts to around 20,000 words per recent issue, That’s nowhere near “writing 50,000 words in one month.”]

50-Movie All Stars Collection, Disc 12

Posted in Movies and TV on November 1st, 2006

Out, 1982, Eli Hollander (dir.), Peter Coyote, O-Lan Jones, Jim Haynie, Scott Beach, Danny Glover, Grandfather Semu Haute. Title “Deadly Drifter” appears before title sequence. 1:23.

What’s this movie about? It’s about 83 minutes: An old joke, but the most applicable one in this case. After a bewildering viewing experience, a bit less so because the “experimental” nature of the film became fairly obvious, a visit to IMDB was a bit helpful. This is probably misplaced in the megapack: It’s certainly not a standard “TV movie” (particularly not with certain key language early on that isn’t acceptable on network TV, but perfectly appropriate to the flick). It’s an indie—a little indie: IMDB says the total budget was $25,000, including blowup to 35mm, and that most actors worked for free. Great cast, pretty much incomprehensible plot, having something to do with underground conspiracies and ESP. I think. “Deadly Drifter” was apparently added by a distributor; the director hates it, as it’s misleading. The jacket blurb calls this a comedy, but that doesn’t work either (particularly with at least one implied murder). Read the outraged rave reviews at Amazon: Maybe you have to have eyes to hear and ears to see what this picture’s really about. Or, to put it in a timely fashion: Far out, man. $0.75.

Good Against Evil, 1977, color, Paul Wendkos (dir.), Dack Rambo, Elyssa Davalos, Richard Lynch, Dan O’Herlihy, Kim Cattrall. 1:24.

Start: A mother gives birth and is somehow frightened into falling down stairs and dying. A shadowy figure notes that the baby is Theirs. Next: Baby all grown up, independent young woman, meets guy, they fall in love…but, oops, she’s supposed to marry Satan. Things get really confusing—and she winds up disappearing, while the guy finds another Satan-bound child and a priest exorcises that one, sound effects and all. Meanwhile, the woman’s gone, and the sometimes-interesting movie trails off in a cloud of talk. Why? It was a pilot for a TV series, presumably chasing the woman and her evil captors. Fortunately, the series never got made. Decent cast, mediocre acting, no ending. Arrggh… $0.75.

Congratulations, It’s a Boy, 1971, color, William A. Graham (dir.), Bill Bixby, Diane Baker, Karen Jensen, Jack Albertson, Ann Sothern, Darrell Larson, Tom Bosley. 1:13.

Bill Bixby as swingin’ bachelor as they were supposed to be in the early ‘70s—until a young man turns up who he fathered in a one-night stand. Various melodramatic hijinks ensue. But look at the cast: This crew wouldn’t make a really bad movie, and it’s mostly pleasant enough fluff. $1.00.

Snowbeast, 1977, color, Herb Wallerstein (dir.), Bo Svenson, Yvette Mimieux, Robert Logan, Clint Walker, Sylvia Sidney. 1:26.

Set in a ski resort town (Sylvia Sidney as the matriarch of the principal resort) starting the annual festival that keeps things working—when a young woman disappears and the matriarch’s son (and manager of the resort) finds a bloody jacket. As the plot progresses, it’s clear that there’s a “snowbeast” on the loose—maybe not a Sasquatch, because everyone knows they’re all gentle creatures, and this one’s a semi-intelligent killer. Great scenery, lots of ski and snow scenes, and the picture’s better than it has any right to be. $1.25, mostly for the scenery.

But wait, there’s more! If any of you have been following this series of posts, you may notice that–unlike all the other megapack reviews–every single disc in this collection has had exactly four movies. Not one of them has squeezed in an extra short flick.

So how do they get to call it “50-Movie All Stars Collection”? Simple. This time, there’s a 13th disc in the twelve-disc pack, one-sided, with the last two movies. The first of which is universally beloved by American football fans of a certain age; extra credit to whoever names the TV movie before I post the reviews toward the end of next week!

Oops: The movie I was thinking of–which actually has nothing at all to do with football, but will always be associated with football–isn’t the movie I’m watching. The one I’m thinking of had a one-word title and dates from 1968. The one I’m watching adds “The new adventures of” and dates from 1978. Never mind.

Spam: Better and worse

Posted in Writing and blogging on October 31st, 2006

Just a quick update to this post (and others regarding spamments and spam linkbacks):

The good: In general, Blake Carver’s changes have worked. Virtually no trackback attempts wind up in Spam Karma’s spam report, which–on most days–means that total spamments are down to two-digit numbers, frequently only a dozen or so per day. Sometimes even less.

Have I mentioned that LISHOST.org is a great hosting service? And that WordPress is great blog software?

The not-so-good: What does wind up in the Spam Karma list–and, fortunately, almost always there, not on the blog (I’ve had to delete two fairly tricky spam comments in the last two months; that’s not bad) is much nastier than before, at least in the portion (poster’s “name” and first couple words of comment) that shows up in the summary list. This is stuff I wouldn’t repeat here…at best degrading, at worst illegal. I’m not a prude, but “filth” sums up most of it. Still, it takes less than a minute a day to check and make sure real comments didn’t get flagged as spam (which has also happened two or three times in the last two months).

And I still haven’t had to go to total moderation or Capcha. It’s fortunate that this is only a midrange blog in terms of traffic (averaging 1275 sessions/day since 9/1/06), and only has pagerank 6, the vast middle ground of Google pagerank, making it a less attractive target. I do not envy “A-listers,” even in the modest realm of library blogs!

Safety and numbers

Posted in Stuff on October 30th, 2006

This morning’s San Francisco Chronicle included a brief piece about the most dangerous/safest cities. You can legitimately argue the methodology of such reports, but at least the publisher that issues them uses consistent methodology and bases reporting on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting numbers.

Thanks to ResourceShelf, I found myself at the summary report itself, and saw something that I’m a bit surprised was not included in the Chronicle piece–but maybe I shouldn’t be, since it’s an AP report.

To wit, the safest large city (population half a million or more) is decidedly within the Chron‘s circulation area: San Jose. It doesn’t come as a surprise that San Jose ranks that high (actually, I naively expected Honolulu to be 1st; it’s 2nd), given the crime rate in general in Silicon Valley. (Mountain View’s just a bit too small to be included, with around 72,000 population, but I’d guess the local crime rate is even lower than in San Jose.)

The lists broken out by very large, medium-size, and smaller cities are, I think, more interesting than the overall lists–and particularly the 32 largest, those half a million and over (12 in the middle, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, don’t show up).

A couple of caveats: Because of problematic rape reporting, Chicago isn’t included in the overall rankings–and because of understandably lousy crime reporting in general in [the second half of?] calendar 2005, neither is New Orleans (which is now way under the half million mark in any case).


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