Archive for March, 2007

Threats Aren’t Debate, and They’re Not Acceptable

Posted in Writing and blogging on March 26th, 2007

This is a short one because I’m so appalled…

Kathy Sierra runs an interesting, thoughtful blog “Creating Passionate Users.” She’s a biggie, with important things to say, in some demand as a speaker. I don’t always agree with what she says. I always think it’s worth reading.

And she posted this astonishing tale today, explaining why she’s not at ETech today–and why she’s canceled all speaking engagements.

Death threats. Threats of personal violence and violation. Easily credible enough to be worrisome.

It may be virtual space, but these are real people–and this is just not acceptable behavior. Period. Not as a joke, not as a gibe. Not. Acceptable. Behavior.

Update: Robert Scoble posted on this issue and decided not to do any more posts for the rest of this week. That’s a big deal for him and not unusual for me, but I think he’s right: Leaving this post at the top of the page for the rest of the week is worthwhile.

As for anonymous comments: With the single exception attached to this post, I will remove any comments that do not contain a real and verifiable email address–and I will never reveal that email address. But I’ll also remove any negative hateful or personal-attack “anonymous”/pseudonymous comments as a matter of course.

50 Movie Pack Classic Musicals, Disc 6

Posted in Movies and TV on March 24th, 2007

The Great Gabbo, 1929, b&w*, James Cruze (dir.), Erich von Stroheim, Betty Compson, Donald Douglas, Marjorie Kane, Marbeth Wright. 1:32 [1:34].

The * after b&w is for one of the disappointments in this curious film: Portions of the movie are supposed to be in color (“multicolor”), presumably some of the massively staged musical numbers (near the end, we see the marquee noting a cast of 350—I can believe it!). Unfortunately, there’s no color in this print (or, apparently, in any available version). Other disappointments: too many splices and distorted sound in a couple of the big numbers. Otherwise—well, it’s an odd mix of drama and musical, featuring the declining director/actor von Stroheim as an impossibly good ventriloquist (his dummy sings while he’s eating, drinking and smoking) who’s also a harsh egomaniac and abuses his assistant so much that she finally quits (although she still loves Otto, the dummy). Two years later, the Great Gabbo’s a big star in a Broadway show—but the former assistant is also a featured singer/dancer in the show, along with a man who turns out to be her husband. The Great Gabbo wants her back; she tells him the truth; he goes nuts—well, he finishes going nuts, including punching out Otto. It’s an—um—interesting movie. I didn’t pay attention to the year before viewing it; knowing that it’s one of the earliest all-sound movies (and how difficult early sound techniques were), some of the problems with the film (one or two slightly flubbed lines, relatively little camera movement in most of the big musical numbers, exactly one angle for audience reaction shots—or is it the same shot repeated?) are forgivable.

The set of IMDB reviews as of this writing (March 8, 2007) is even more bizarrely varied than usual, including one person who was disappointed because they assumed that all musicals are automatically musical comedies (and this one ain’t no comedy!), one or two who were offended by all that music interrupting von Stroheim’s scenery-chewing, and one who managed to view this as a Communist propaganda film. Right. Watchable enough, and von Stroheim certainly has presence, but I can’t give it more than $1 except maybe as a historic document.

The Dancing Pirate, 1936, b&w*, Lloyd Corrigan (dir.), Charles Collins, Frank Morgan, Steffi Duna, Louis Alberni, Victor Varconi, Jack La Rue, The Royal Cansino Dancers. 1:23.

There’s a fair amount to say about this little gem of a picture—“little” in that it’s not one of the huge music-and-dancing Busby Berkeley or Warner Bros. spectaculars. In addition to the movie as it exists in this set, there’s the movie as it was filmed and some interesting marketing maneuvers. First, the movie. It really is a gem, but as a modest picture with some great dancing—waltz, tap, and glorious Mexican/Spanish ensemble dances. Oh, and two original songs by Rodgers & Hart: The movie isn’t a spectacular, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the real stuff.

The plot’s straightforward. A dance instructor from Boston in 1820 gets shanghaied on to a pirate ship. He manages to escape when the ship’s loading up fresh water in Alta California and intends to go back to Boston—but a shepherd’s spotted the pirate ship, rung the alarm in the little town, and somehow he winds up captured as a pirate (the rest of the pirates sail away, knowing nothing about this). They want to hang him as a pirate, but the alcalde’s daughter wants to learn the waltz; then some soldiers show up—supposedly on the governor’s business (from Monterey) but actually thrown out of the governor’s ranks, and out to seize the alcalde’s lands one way or another. Various hijinks ensue, including a wedding intervention by a nearby band of peaceful Native Americans who are handy with ropes, and of course it all turns out well in the end.

Charles Collins is wonderful (if perhaps a trifle too cheerful in the face of frequent impending death) as the dancing pirate, and boy can he dance. Steffi Duna as the alcalde’s daughter is very good. But do you recognize that second name in the credits? Frank Morgan—the wizard of Oz. He’s remarkable as a frequently bemused alcalde, showing the same mix of bravado and uncertainty as in The Wizard of Oz. I enjoyed it. The print’s pretty good (a little streaking near the end), the sound’s good, I’d watch it again. The ensemble dances in Spanish/Mexican dance outfits are spectacular, partly because they’re not over the top: They’re just dancing in the town square.

The movie as it was filmed? That’s the * after “b&w,” and it’s a disappointment: This was the first dancing musical filmed 100% in Technicolor, as the credits note, and it would be great to see those costumes in color—but this print, apparently like most that are available today, is strictly black & white.

Marketing maneuvers? The jacket shown on IMDB makes this out to be a Rita Hayworth movie. And apparently she’s in the movie—but not in the credits. For good reason. She was 18 years old at the time, and in this as in fourteen 1935-1937 movies, she’s either uncredited or credited as Rita Cansino, sometimes part of the Dancing Cansinos or Royal Cansinos. You’d have to know what she looked like at 18 and look very closely to spot her in the big dance scenes; I certainly didn’t spot her. (And Mill Creek doesn’t credit her, appropriately.) If you read the full set of IMDB and Amazon user reviews, be aware that they’re reviewing several different versions (apparently there is or was a color VHS release at some point—I’d love to see this in color!) and that, as usual, some of them bring their preconceptions to the table. In my case, I’ll just say that I think Collins did a fine job all around, Morgan was amusing, the story was fun and didn’t strike me as outlandish. Even deducting a little for the missing color, this gets $1.50.

Road Show, 1941, b&w, Hal Roach (dir.), Adolphe Menjou, Carole Landis, John Hubbard, Charles Butterworth, Patsy Kelly, Shemp Howard, The Charioteers. 1:27.

This and the other film on Side B don’t really qualify as musicals (each has two or three musical numbers within a dense plot)—but they’re both delightful screwball comedies. This one has a rich bachelor who winds up in an insane asylum thanks to his fiancée, meets “certified lunatic” and joyful eccentric Col. Carlton Carroway (Menjou)—who checks himself in and out of the hospital from time to time, escapes and winds up with a traveling carnival. There’s more to the plot, of course; it’s classic screwball comedy, expertly done and thoroughly enjoyable. Very good print, good sound, just plain enjoyable even if it doesn’t really belong in this set. $2.

Hi Diddle Diddle, 1943, b&w, Andrew L. Stone (dir.), Adolphe Menjou, Martha Scott, Pola Negri, Dennis O’Keefe, Billie Burke, June Havoc. 1:12.

This time, Menjou’s a not-very-successful con man married to a Wagnerian opera singer (Negri); his son (O’Keefe) (who she doesn’t know about) is a sailor, marrying a woman during his three day shore leave. The bride’s ex-boyfriend thinks the sailor’s a golddigger and tells him that the mother’s lost all her money (due to his deliberate scheming and crooked gambling)—but the sailor doesn’t care, and the marriage commences. They want to go on a brief honeymoon, but this is a screwball comedy… Good running gags (one of which, a beautiful woman who keeps showing up in different scenes and apparently different minor roles, blatantly opens the fourth wall as a lead character mentions that she’s a relative or friend of the producer); a remarkable sequence in which four people at a nightclub practice doubletakes (causing the bartender watching them to do a classic doubletake). The print’s not quite as good as Road Show; the musical numbers are fine (one of them really excellent) but two songs do not a musical make; but as a screwball comedy, this is a fine little movie. $1.50, lowered for some damaged sections.

Kudos and apologies: One more Friday p.m. post

Posted in Cites & Insights, Writing and blogging on March 23rd, 2007

I don’t believe I’ve posted anything about Five Weeks to a Social Library. Not that I’ve been involved in this remarkable exercise, other than commenting on a couple of blog entries and following the set of blogs and the retrospective posts on the blogs of the founders, but…

I suppose “this remarkable exercise” is a giveaway: Congratulations are in order to Meredith Farkas, Michelle Boule, Karen Coombs, Amanda Etches-Johnson, Ellyssa Kroski, and Dorothea Salo. And, to be sure, Tom Peters and Heather Yager. The first group conceived something audacious, planned it, and made it work–by all accounts, extremely well.

It’s easy for me to spot and congratulate people who are doing “the kind of thing I’d do” well (or at least better than I think I’d do it). What this group did falls into an entirely different category: Something I can’t imagine ever doing myself, but where the worth of it penetrates my thick skull fairly rapidly.

I won’t attempt an overview or discussion here. The site has lots of content, and it’s not as though Farkas, Boule, Coombs, Etches-Johnson, Kroski and Salo don’t all have their own outlets. I might do an essay later; I might not (if I find I have little useful to add). Mostly this is just to say: Good work, impressive work, something that makes a difference and should have legs for further use…


And, along the way, to note something entirely different involving one of that group, a person I treasure as a colleague and consider a friend–and who I found necessary to criticize in the current Cites & Insights. (I also found it necessary to criticize another colleague and friend, Peter Suber, on the same issue, and I think I understand the circumstances involved.) In this case, Dorothea Salo issued an eloquent apology and explanation, which reminds me again of why I consider Salo a treasured colleague and friend.

OK, that’s it for today. Probably not for the weekend. I commented on “shutdown day” (not participating and don’t see the point) at LISNews. I’d say “I won’t do any posts for 24 hours,” but it’s quite possible that I’ll do a really serious and important post tomorrow–I’m about to go exercise to the last third of the last film on the sixth disc of the 50 Musicals set, which means it’s time for another set of four mini-reviews of old musicals.

[Footnote: That horizontal rule seems to show up on aggregators but not at W.a.r. itself. If you wonder “what horizontal rule?” there’s the problem.]

Apology of sorts

Posted in Writing and blogging on March 23rd, 2007

Sorry if you picked up multiple posts and even two copies of some posts from eager aggregators. Had a short lunch today, so used the extra time to do the promised 16 stub posts for comments on the new book–even though it’s highly unlikely that anyone will get copies of the book before next Wednesday at the earliest.

Thanks to those who’ve been noting the new book already, if I don’t happen to add a comment on your post.

Now to finish out a usual slow Friday afternoon, go home and update the C&I index for C&I 7:4, and decompress a little…

Balanced Libraries: Overall comments

Posted in C&I Books on March 23rd, 2007

Stub post for comments on Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change as a whole.

Update 5/31/07: The individual-chapter stub comments have been deleted as being silly.

Cites & Insights 7:4 available

Posted in Cites & Insights on March 22nd, 2007

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large volume 7, issue 4 (April 2007) is now available for downloading.

This 24-page issue (PDF as usual, but the essays are available as HTML separates) features the first Cites & Insights book: Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change.

Essays include:

  • Announcing Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change – description, price, availability, and the first paragraph of each chapter.
  • Library Access to Scholarship – A thematic essay on Open Access and rhetorical excess.
  • Finding a Balance: Improving and Extending Service – The third and last book excerpt, Chapter 9 of Balanced Libraries
  • Perspective: Informal Notes on the Lulu Experience – Comments so far on PoD self-publishing.
  • Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change

    Posted in Books and publishing on March 22nd, 2007

    Balanced Libraries: Cover

    Now available at my Lulu storefront or directly, with full information and preview pages.

    Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change is my contribution to the ongoing set of discussions, experiments and changes in libraries and librarianship that sometimes carries the name “Library 2.0.”

    It’s a 247-page 6×9 paperback with fifteen chapters. $21.95 $29.50 plus shipping. Price changed on August 24, 2007, and book became available through CreateSpace and (presumably) Amazon.
    Readers of Cites & Insights have had access to draft versions of two chapters. An essentially-final version of a third chapter will be in the April 2007 Cites & Insights, which will also have a lot more information on the book.

    That issue should come out later today (Thursday, March 22, 2007).

    COPA and unintended consequences

    Posted in Technology and software on March 22nd, 2007

    Here’s why I couldn’t predict how many posts I’ll do over the next nine days…

    I just read this post by Larry Lessig and watched the 18-minute lecture (with Lessig’s apparently famous one-or-two-word PowerPoint slides, which seem to generally be loved, and which I find I love even less than typical PowerPoints, but that’s another post that’s probably never going to get written…but I digress*).

    The post starts out being about COPA being struck down yet again, but then goes into a Lessig recommendation to Congress, having to do with mandatory HTML labeling of “harmful to minors” content.

    I’m not going to get into that argument. Comments at the post begin to pick at it; I’d expect that Seth Finkelstein and others will continue to discuss it.

    Nope. I’m just going to point out a slide that has two words and one symbol: Very clear, very blatant, and maybe very unintentional at least taken out of context (but there’s no disclaimer later on). At least I assume this stance isn’t intended by a professor at that big private university just a little north of here in Palo Alto.

    The slide’s contents?

    private = bad

    What Lessig is trying to say, I think, is that leaving identification of “harmful to minors” entirely up to private enterprise (filters), in the absence of good legislation, yields bad code. But that’s not quite what it says.

    And, capitalist pig though I may be, I’m not quite ready to accept that government regulation is always necessary for good outcomes. Maybe it is in this case; I’m not sure.


    * If I ever had a tombstone, which I sincerely hope won’t be the case, “but I digress” would be a wonderful epitaph.

    Minor milestones (or not)

    Posted in Writing and blogging on March 22nd, 2007

    Milestones are always fun. I have two big ones coming up, one personal and one for the blog. There’s a third, also for the blog, but it’s pretty minor and just a little indeterminate.

    The major non-blog one: My next book. With luck, today [I’m waiting for the test copy to arrive]. I anticipate publishing the April Cites & Insights as soon as the book arrives and looks OK, so with luck that all happens this evening. With bad luck…well, I won’t go there.

    The major blog one: Two years. That’s a week from Sunday. I’m sure I’ll come up with some suitable hunk’o’narcissism/recursive blogging.

    Then there’s the minor one: Five hundred posts. If you’d asked a year ago, I’d have said the two-year mark should come before the 500-post mark. If you’d asked a month ago, I’d have said I’d probably set up posts so that the two-year post is the 500th post.

    The best-laid plans of mice and men…or, more simply, whoops. The only way to achieve simultaneity at this point would be to postpone the book for nine days or so, since I’m committed to putting up 16 stub posts (for comments) right around the time I make the book available . I sincerely hope it’s not another nine days; my nerves would be twitching.

    So I doubt there will be a formal 500th post. Chances are, it will just happen.

    If you link to posts here, you might say “but you already have 500 posts“, with fiveblogs being the 500th. Sure enough, that’s the URL–http://walt.lishost.org/?p=500.

    My answer: Funny numbers. That post was actually the 494th or 495th post. Apparently I thought better of five or six posts, preparing drafts and discarding them, or somehow otherwise losing numbers.

    What’s nice: this blog is still averaging better than three comments per post (1702 comments as of this writing). I don’t troll for comments, no matter how it might seem–well, except in a couple of special cases and the 16 stub posts. I think that count excludes the two or three comments that I’ve deleted after they managed to make their way past safeguards.

    Looking for significance? Move along, move along; this was just a coffee-break bit of recursion.

    Most Cited Authors in Library Literature: A little polite bragging

    Posted in Libraries, Writing and blogging on March 21st, 2007

    Marcus Elmore alerted me to this:

    The March 2007 College & Research Libraries includes an article by Kelly Blessinger and Michele Frasier, “Analysis of a Decade in Library Literature: 1994-2004.”

    That article includes a table of the most frequently cited personal authors, ranked from 1 through 28 (but there are 32 authors on the list, thanks to ties), apparently choosing 50 citations as a cutoff.

    I’m number 27, with 53 citations to 29 items.

    Not quite up there with Birger Hjorland (#1, with 165 citations), but still…I’m honored.


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