Archive for February, 2007

Classic Musicals 50 Movie Pack, Disc 4

Posted in Movies and TV on February 9th, 2007

Delightfully Dangerous, 1945, b&w, Arthur Lubin (dir.), Jane Powell, Ralph Bellamy, Constance Moore, Morton Gould and his orchestra, Arthur Treacher. 1:32. [1:30]

15-year-old Cheryl (Jane Powell) is a music student who wants to make it in theater—just like her older sister (Moore). Turns out Moore’s really a burlesque performer. Cheryl pays a surprise visit to New York. Hijinks ensue. Good musical numbers, decent plot, fine performances by all concerned—but there’s some distortion in the sound track for the first half, unfortunate for a musical. That brings it down to $1.25.

Private Buckaroo, 1942, b&w, Edward F. Cline (dir.), the Andrews Sisters, Dick Foran, Joe E. Lewis, Shemp Howard, Harry James, Donald O’Connor, Huntz Hall, Mary Wilkes, Ernest Treux. 1:08.

Shemp Howard was much better on his own than as part of the Three Stooges, in my opinion, and he shines in this wartime flick as a sergeant who has trouble with his supposed girlfriend. The real plot: Harry James gets drafted and his group all enlist to stay with their leader. There’s another draftee who’s not willing to obey orders. The plot makes as much sense as any of these war-promotion flicks, and there’s a great running gag: Harry James, an amazing trumpeter, can’t get the hang of the Army bugle. The middle Andrews Sister is a bit much for my taste, but overall there’s good non-slapstick comedy, great music, and a generally decent print. $1.50.

Stage Door Canteen, 1943, b&w, Frank Borzage (dir.), Judith Anderson, Tallulah Bankhead, Ralph Bellamy, Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy, Ray Bolger, Katharine Cornell, Gracie Fields, Lynn Fontanne, Helen Hayes, Katharine Hepburn, Jean Hersholt, George Jessel, Gypsy Rose Lee, Alfred Lunt, Harpo Marx, Elsa Maxwell, Yehudi Menuhin, Ethel Merman, Paul Muni, Merle Oberon, George Raft, Cornelia Otis Skinner, Ethel Waters, Johnny Weissmuller, Ed Wynn, William Demarest, Count Basie, Xavier Cugat, Benny Goodman, Kay Kyser, Guy Lombardo and many more stars of stage and screen (I’m not kidding…Peggy Lee doesn’t even get a credit). 2:12 [1:52]

First the bad news: The print isn’t as good as it might be (some ghost images), although the soundtrack’s fine—and apparently a few minutes are missing. Oh, and the plot’s not compelling. But the plot’s mostly a way to show off an astonishing cavalcade of stars, either performing on stage or acting as waiters and the like—just like the real Stage Door Canteen and Hollywood Canteen (although it’s hard to believe they got quite such an impressive concentration every night). If you know stage, screen and music of the 1940s, there’s probably another 30 people I should have listed here. Supposedly, this is Katharine Cornell’s only screen appearance (a cameo). Katharine Hepburn singing The Lord’s Prayer (very well). Yehudi Menuhin playing two numbers, one of them Flight of the Bumble Bee. Benny Goodman playing clarinet like he invented it. And so much more. Thoroughly enjoyable, wartime propaganda and all. Even with a second-rate print, this gets $2.25.

Career Girl, 1944, b&w, Wallace Fox (dir.), Frances Langford, Edward Norris, Iris Adrian, Craig Woods. 1:09. [1:07]

Three out of four ain’t bad. This is the fourth. Traditional “girl from the Midwest goes to New York to make it big on Broadway, gets her heart broken, but it works out” story, with a wealthy fiancée back home who wants her to settle down and be Mrs. Mine-manager and a theatrical boarding house full of women who keep her from giving in. There aren’t many musical numbers and they aren’t all that great; the plot doesn’t really reach resolution; but worst of all, the soundtrack’s distorted enough that the musical numbers are mildly painful. Being generous, $0.75.

Frogs

Posted in Stuff on February 9th, 2007

Got to work at 7 a.m. (as usual), with rain on and off.

And the temperature in the mid to high 50s.

And mostly, frogs out en masse in the creek/marsh, as evidenced by the croaking.

Which, actually, I can hear from my desk (through the closed windows) as I finish lunch.

There are a lot worse ways to start a Friday morning. The rain’s let up, and I see several people strolling the path around the marsh.

Maybe time to do the same myself.

Maybe I just had the wrong video

Posted in ALA, Libraries, Media, Movies and TV, Writing and blogging on February 8th, 2007

Two posts back, I did a semi-random semi-blind (I just wrote “semi-bland,” and that’s true too) post lamenting my inability to “get” the greatness that so many other libloggers were seeing in a five-minute video.

Which I deliberately didn’t link to, as I didn’t feel the need to give it yet more link love.

Since then, three things have happened:

  1. Lots more libloggers (and others) have acclaimed the video in question. I’m clearly in the minority on this one.
  2. The semi-blind post, which I expected to be ignored as all good blind posts should be, yielded a really wonderful set of comments–one of which did include the link (which is OK), and a couple of which yielded plausible reasons why I don’t get this particular video.
  3. The eminent David Rothman–this David Rothman, that is–linked to this five-minute video. (I’m new at this video linking stuff. If that doesn’t work, here’s Rothman’s post with the video embedded..

This one I get. I was just watching the wrong video.

How vital is an ISBN? A lazyweb question

Posted in Books and publishing on February 7th, 2007

[I won't use "bleg" but "lazyweb" has a nice ring to it.]

There’s the question: How vital is an ISBN?

The specifics: I’m getting closer to actually doing a self-published/Print-on-demand book, one of several I’ve been thinking about, where potential sales don’t warrant traditional library publishing and I expect that nearly all sales would come from my own websites and people linking to them.

I plan to use Lulu. The first book–many of you have read two draft chapters, possibly not knowing that was what they were–looks to be about a 200-page 6×9 paperback when I’m done revising and reformatting it. I was planning to sell it for $20 to $25 or so, not hoping to make Big Bucks but maybe earn out, say, five or ten cents a word or, say, $10 an hour for the time I’ve put in on it. (My fondest dream would be to earn as much as I did for the Library Technology Reports issue I wrote, but that’s not going to happen…)

I can do that at Lulu with no real risk, have my own storefront for Cites & Insights Books, no problem.

But if I want an ISBN, they’ve bundled that in with “global distribution” services–adding the book to BIP, adding it to Ingram’s catalog (or some “wholesaler” that I assume is Ingram), making it available for Amazon & B&N.com if they want it, etc. The fee’s not too bad ($99–none of this is at all secret: It’s right on Lulu’s website. More if I want “my own ISBN” instead of one from Lulu’s pool).

But, and here’s the big but. (No jokes, Annoyed Librarian!) For anybody but Lulu to sell it, the retail price is double the wholesale price–where on Lulu, there’s no distinction. For a 200-page paperback, I’d have to charge $40 to get the same net proceeds as I’d get for a $20 Lulu price. It’s not clear to me whether I can charge $20 at Lulu and $40 everywhere else…See update below.
I don’t see these books getting any bookstore sales. I don’t see them getting many wholesaler orders. I might send review copies to American Libraries and Library Journal, but since LJ didn’t review First Have Something to Say (as far as I can tell, no publication reviewed it), I’m not sure it’s worth the trouble to try… Basically, I figure sales will be based on interest from my readers and whatever word-of-web/word-of-mouth goes beyond that.

So here’s the question–feel free to respond via comments or through email (waltcrawford at gmail.com):

Is an ISBN vital for this book (or any book) to sell to librarians (and in some cases libraries)?

Is it the case that people will buy books from Amazon that they’d never buy directly from Lulu?

I have no idea. Help?


Update: It is now clear that there can only be one “suggested retail price,” and that orders direct through my Lulu storefront will be charged at the full retail price. Turns out this was a very recent change in Lulu policy, apparently at the insistence of Ingram, and is causing a fair amount of grief… for reasons that the following example may make clear:Let’s say I produce Book A. It’s 200 pages long, 6×9 trade paperback, b&w printing. I anticipate 100 to 300 sales, at least 95% of which would come via links from C&I, Walt at Random, and others who choose to say “hey, this is a great book, here’s how to get it.” Let’s say I would like to clear $1,000 to $3,000 (which comes out to five to fifteen cents per word–less than I ever write articles for–and nowhere near minimum wage on an hourly basis). So I want $10 net proceeds per book.

  • Without an ISBN: I set the price at $21. Lulu (and its PoD printer) charges $8.53 for production and 20% of the remainder ($2.50, more or less), leaving me with $9.97. $21 is a bargain price for a 200-page trade paperback in the library field, so I’m happy. U.S. residents, at least, pay around $2.50 for postage, so the total’s still under $25.
  • With an ISBN: If the suggested retail is $21, I still get $9.97 for Lulu orders–but the wholesale prices is then $10.50. If Amazon, B&N, or anybody else picks it up from Ingram, the charge per book is slightly lower ($5.50 instead of $8.53), but I wind up with $4 (80% of $5) instead of $10.
  • Worse yet: If Amazon or B&N does sell it, they probably offer a slight discount–say $1.50–and have cheaper shipping when people buy more than one item So there’s an incentive for buyers to go to Amazon; they can get it for, say, $19.50 instead of $23.50. The buyer saves $4; I lose $6.
  • The alternative is that I get $10 on Amazon/B&N orders–but only by setting the price to $18.00 wholesale, thus $36 retail. That means I get $21.97 for Lulu orders–but it also means that a lot of people who might pay $21 won’t pay $36, and I feel like I’m ripping off those who do.

Suggestions? Of course, this could be entirely hypothetical–there’s no reason to believe that online booksellers would choose to offer a specialized library-related book.

I do note that “similar” paperbacks at Amazon are going for $28 to $30, so maybe I should split the difference…

Further feedback?

[Oh, there's also the odd choice: instead of $99 and getting a Lulu Press ISBN, I can pay $150 and get listed as my very own publisher with a single-ISBN range. Of course, a second book gets an entirely separate single-ISBN publisher, and so on... I really don't see the point in this--having something listed under "Cites & Insights Books" rather than "Lulu" in Ingram just isn't going to make any difference.]

Second update, February 15: Thanks to comments and further examination of the Lulu situation, I’ve made a near-final decision. No ISBN, availability strictly through Lulu’s online store. See my 2/15 comment for more. Thanks to those who commented!

On not getting it, or YMMV

Posted in Media, Writing and blogging on February 7th, 2007

There’s a five-minute YouTube video that’s all the rage with libloggers over the past couple of days. It’s so hot, it’s scorching–and no, it has nothing to do with ninjas, StarWars fanflicks, music videos, any of that.

This one’s serious, apparently. Heck, it’s by a professor. It’s about “Web 2.0.” I think.

And it’s so meaningful and important that people are suggesting it should be used to open meetings…

I’m not linking to it. If you read any range of liblogs, you’ve already seen it or will when yet others link to it and praise its wonderfulness.

I’m not linking to it for the same reason I’m not going to criticize it.

I. Just. Don’t. Get. It.

I tried. I watched it twice.

To me, criticizing it would be like punching a big mound of mud: Not harmful but not terribly enlightening either.

I’m certainly not willing to assert that all of those who think this is hot stuff are wrong; some of those links come from people I admire. (Admittedly, the list of “people I admire” is long and growing, but still…) (And yes, people I admire can be wrong. I’m planning a post on “being wrong”–when I have the evening/weekend time that isn’t spent writing and reading. Any day now.)

So if they’re not wrong, then it must be me. Maybe I’m insufficiently visually literate.

Yep, that must be it. (I don’t get Jackson Pollock either. And I’ve tried.)

I won’t say “we all have our limits.” That’s a generalization, and likely to be false. I’ll just say I have my limits (“Well, duh,” I hear those of you who know me saying). And this video didn’t expand them–which is also something I try to do fairly frequently.

As always, your mileage may vary. If you really believe said video is hot stuff, don’t let me discourage you. Just don’t ask me to watch it a third time. I do have my limits.

Update: Quite apart from the fascinating and informative discussion in the comments, here’s a video that’s stunning in its clarity and production values. (via Betsy Bird, thus the indirect link)

Drone

Posted in Stuff on February 5th, 2007

I wouldn’t normally point to this sort of thing, but–well, it’s my local newspaper, it’s an interesting testament to people taking things just a little too seriously, and–as translated into a YouTube video and, better yet, sampled music video, it’s hilarious. (YMMV). [OK, there's another appropriate word before "hilarious," but I don't use that kind of language in my blog, and anyway the tears have stopped streaming...]

You may have seen this six times already. It was on one of the A-list blogs. I saw it on Copyfight and maybe elsewhere, but for some reason I didn’t go look at it until David Free mentioned it.

The setup: The San Francisco Chronicle records reader complaints. Some of them, it puts up as podcasts on SFGate, the Chron‘s website. [Yeah, they have podcasts, Blogs, too.]

They had a story about uses for drones–aircrafts that don’t have pilots on board. A subhead used the phrase “pilotless drones.” A reader thought that was redundant. And called to say so.

The reader nicely mentioned his problem. And others thought his way of stating it so magnificent that, first, someone put together a set of photos, set the podcast to music, and put it on YouTube. The killer, though, is the second YouTube video, where someone turns it into a proper music video. Links to the two YouTube videos are on the SFGate site. There’s already a ringtone…

And, as another (very brief) reader call notes, “pilotless drone” isn’t necessarily redundant: Many (most?) drones are actually piloted remotely.

A little Friday afternoon posting

Posted in ALA, Writing and blogging on February 2nd, 2007

For some reason, I happened to be perusing past posts at the Other AL and ran across a comment cluster connected to the OCLC Bloggers Salon [one o, not two!] at Midwinter. You’ll find it down the page, right around here. Open the comments.

Now, having been at the Bloggers Salon (hey, there’s photographic evidence), I would comment:

  • What would possibly lead AL to believe that AL’s presence at the Salon would be frowned upon? Don’t say “politics”–I heard precious few political discussions, and most libloggers don’t let politics dominate their posts. AL falls into that “most” category, near as I can tell.
  • How would we know if AL was there, since AL’s been exceptionally good at pseudonymity?

Others who were there might respond to part of that first bullet by noting that I might not have heard most of what was being said. For a few minutes after the Laugh Heard ‘Round the World, I couldn’t hear anything out of the nearest ear…and the noise level in general, up until 10 pmish, was pretty ferocious.

A good time was had by all, or at least all I’m aware of. No fisticuffs. No stark confrontations (that I could hear). Given the competition (offering more free food and more scenic surroundings) Saturday night, a pretty good crowd.

Steam

Posted in ALA, Books and publishing, Writing and blogging on February 1st, 2007

Running out of, that is. At least as far as non-reflexive posts hereabouts is concerned.

It’s been two weeks since the last post that wasn’t either about Cites & Insights or Walt at Random. I guess this post doesn’t break that fast. (Today? Nature Valley apple cinnamon crunch bars, half a toasted multigrain bagel, calcium-enriched “lots of pulp” Tropicana orange juice, Kauai coffee [Trader Joe's]. Why do you ask?)

Why? Partly Midwinter. (In case there’s anyone out there who didn’t figure this out already, all but one word of Cites & Insights 7:2 was written and edited before Midwinter, and that word was actually a number.) I don’t blog during a conference (“I travel without technology”–didn’t even take my portable CD player this time around) and didn’t have all that much to say when I got back.

Partly job-related. Partly a cold (no sympathy desired: it just slowed me down for a few days and resulted in two half-days at home sleeping). Partly writing some stuff for C&I 7:3. Partly that, depending on various eventualities, some of the things I might be posting about might turn into other kinds of output, possibly at work. [Parse that sentence and win the right to say you're a better grammarian than I am.]

And a whole bunch writing draft chapters for an increasingly-probable book. Twelve down, three to go.

Thanks for all the kind words on the two rough-draft chapters some of you have read, even though you didn’t know they were rough-draft chapters when you read them.

In other words, I just haven’t had sufficiently interesting randomness to note here.

Hmm. Exactly two months to the two-year anniversary. Will I 500 posts or two years first? At this rate, probably the latter.


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