Archive for March, 2010

Getting to ALA, Keeping a hand in–or not

Monday, March 15th, 2010

My previous post and some accompanying email have resulted in a fair number of messages, mostly direct, a few indirect, for which I’m grateful.

One fairly immediate issue has to do with whether I’ll be at ALA in Washington. This concerns budget, but also a promised speech during the conference (which would, apparently, be my 2010 speech–I seem to be back to one per year). That relates, somewhat indirectly, to a longer-term question having to do with the status of Cites & Insights (and, I suppose, this blog).

Namely…the question of whether my work is meaningful (and appreciated) enough to continue, or whether I should abandon it and spend time entirely on other things, maybe more local. Part of going to ALA or other conferences is keeping in touch; the question is whether that’s worthwhile.

A dear friend asked whether I really thought my work was appreciated. I responded, well, yes, I seem to have pretty good readership and a few people tell me so now and then. (Heck, more than 45,000 pageviews and downloads for one notorious issue so far…not bad for a nonentity in the field.)

Then this dear friend nudged me a little bit: “So, are they buying your books or donating to help keep Cites & Insights going? Does so-called appreciation really mean anything?”


Well, four people so far have donated to keep C&I going.

As to book sales to individuals…perhaps the less said the better. (I don’t really know who does, or rather doesn’t, buy the books. If you exclude library-held copies as reported in, that leaves an even dozen sales of But Still They Blog, 50 for The Liblog Landscape, 28 for Academic Library Blogs, 52 for Public Library Blogs, and 214 for Balanced Libraries…and, well, no more than seven for the various paperback annuals of C&I. I think all those numbers are too high–I’d guess other library purchases not [yet] accounted for in play a significant role.)

So far, I don’t really have a convincing answer for my dear friend. Or one that convinces me that “keeping a hand in” justifies the cost of ALA. The upsurge in donations and sales since that last post amounts to zero, but these are still early days…and, yes, I know, you all have your own financial issues.

The dear friend is suggesting that maybe it’s time for me to wholly retire from the library field. Is the dear friend right?

Followup…: I’ve been informed, just a few minutes ago, of clear evidence that the dear friend is wrong, and I am grateful for that evidence. It looks much more likely that I will be going to ALA Annual, at least this year…and keeping on with C&I while we see what future possibilities arise. Oh, and may I just say “LSW FTW”?

On an only slightly related note, my apologies to a few people whose comments, on posts that were mirrored from another blog, have been deleted along with those mirrored posts. It no longer makes sense to have the mirrored posts in this blog; the comments make no sense without the attached posts.

Back in the market

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

Well, it was fun while it lasted…

I was informed a few days ago that my services are no longer required as Editorial Director of the Library Leadership Network. As of April 1, 2010, I’m either fully retired or unemployed, depending on your perspective and what happens in the future. (No, this wasn’t my decision.)

I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do next, but some things are clear:

  • I could really use a sponsor for Cites & Insights (or, I suppose, a whole lot more donations than I’ve gotten so far!). That’s no longer “extra money.”
  • If someone knows of something (possibly very part time, definitely not more than half time, definitely not involving relocating, possibly project-oriented) that suits my peculiar set of skills as a library writer, editor, speaker and systems analyst, I’d be delighted to hear about it. (Anybody setting up a center for serious evidence-based librarianship? I’d love to do some qualitative as well as quantitative research on how library blogs are working and what’s working best, for example, but that can’t happen without explicit advance sponsorship: Selling the results is clearly not working.)
  • There’s mild urgency on one point: I’m supposed to be speaking in a program at ALA Annual this year, and with a nearly complete loss of earned income, it’s a little hard to justify the costs of the conference. I need to make some decisions within the next month or so…
  • Yes, I’m delighted to be semi-retired. No, we’re not going to starve, be put out of house and home, or go begging. On the other hand, “semi-” suits me; I’d like to keep actively involved in the library field and believe I still have much to offer. It would be nice to have some portion of that involvement recognized as valuable in the form of compensation.

Feel free to get in touch (waltcrawford at gmail dot com). Of course, a solid sponsorship for C&I, including conference funding, would make this all a lot easier…

Mystery Collection Disc 9

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Fog Island, 1945, b&w. Terry O. Morse (dir.), George Zucco, Lionel Atwill, Jerome Cowan, Sharon Douglas, Veda Ann Borg, John Whitney, Ian Keith, George Lloyd. 1:12 [1:09]

Businessman gets out of prison after an embezzlement sentence and returns to his mansion on a lonely, fog-shrouded island (a former pirate hideaway, which may explain the secret passages). His wife died while he was in prison; his stepdaughter’s there, as is a shifty butler. He believes that several colleagues—who framed him for the embezzlement and ran the company into the ground—murdered his wife as part of a search for the “hidden treasure” (which doesn’t exist: the losses were due to bad investments, not embezzlement). So he invites the lot of them out for a weekend. They all come, including the son of one who’s died—and, other than that upstanding son (who wooed the daughter at college, but was rejected by her because she assumed he was after her supposed money), they’re a mutually-suspicious, backbiting, nasty little group. Oh, there’s also his cellmate and former accountant…

Naturally, the launch that brought them all to the island has to go back to the mainland “for repairs.” That leaves the lot stranded. After enticing them with some specific clues and items, he leaves them to their own devices—which mostly consist of trying to find the “treasure” and stalking one another. It’s a lot more entertaining than I expected, and it all works out—sort of—in the end. (Well, not for the businessman, but you can’t have everything.) The soundtrack is clipped just often enough to be annoying, and the print’s not great. Not a masterpiece, but pretty good; with flaws, I come up with $1.25.

They Made Me a Criminal, 1939, b&w. Busby Berkeley (dir.), John Garfield, Claude Rains, Ann Sheridan, May Robson, Gloria Dickson, the Dead End Kids (Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, etc.). 1:32.

The setup: Johnnie Bradford, a southpaw boxer with a serious drinking problem, wins the championship—and, during the celebration, winds up in a brawl that leaves a reporter dead. He didn’t do it, but he passed out during the process. His manager (who beaned the reporter wih a bottle of booze, killing him) takes off with Bradford’s dame, his watch and his money—leaving him as the obvious patsie. But the cops find the victim, put out a bulletin for the champ’s car (being driven by the couple) and, in the chase, they wind up crashing and burning. The cops assume Bradford’s dead and the case is closed. Except for one detective (who blew an investigation years before), Claude Rains, who notes that the burned guy’s watch is on the wrong wrist…

Meanwhile, Bradford (John Garfield) goes to a lawyer to figure out what to do. He has $10,000 in a safe deposit box. The lawyer says he’ll get it and to lay low—then gives Bradford $250, says he’s taking the rest as his fee, and tells him to ride the rails as far as he can go. Which Bradford does, winding up at an Arizona orchard that’s also a sort of rehabilitation camp for delinquents, namely the Dead End Kids. It’s run by a feisty old lady and her beautiful daughter (Dickson—Sheridan’s the dame).

That’s enough for the plot. Let’s say the happy ending requires an unexpected and unlikely soft spot, but was probably the only way to end the flick. Lots of boxing; I wonder whether Busby Berkeley choreographed the fight sequences? A lot depends on your tolerance for the Dead End Kids, aka the East Side Kids and the Bowery Boys. In this case, I thought they were OK, although still basically hammy little thugs. Decent print. Call it $1.50.

Jigsaw, 1949, b&w. Fletcher Markle (dir.), Franchot Tone, Jean Wallace, Myron McCormick, Marc Lawrence, Winifred Lenihan, Doe Avedon, Hedley Rainnie, George Breen. 1:10.

A printer apparently commits suicide, but a cop—also the eventual brother-in-law of a breezy Assistant DA—checks into it and also winds up dead. The Assistant DA, who never seems to take much of anything seriously, gets deeply into a web of New York neofascists (who may be in it for the money), intrigue, attempted seduction and more murders—and along the way is appointed Special Prosecutor for the case (whatever that case may be). Lively, complex plot, but Franchot Tone as the hero really does seem a little too disengaged for the role. Still, it moves. Anybody who hasn’t figured out the mastermind halfway through the film isn’t really trying, but that’s not particularly unusual.

Quite a few uncredited cameos, mostly in a nightclub: Marlene Dietrich, Henry Fonda, John Garfield, Burgess Meredith and more. Some decent filming. Some damage to the print (missing bits and a white streak down the screen during portions). Not great, but worth $1.25.

Algiers, 1938, b&w. John Cromwell (dir.), Charles Boyer, Sigrid Gurie, Hedy Lamarr, Joseph Calleia, Alan Hale, Gene Lockhart, Walter Kingsford, Paul Harvey. 1:36 [1:39].

Pepe Le Moko is a French jewel thief now holed up in the Casbah, where he’s essentially impossible to arrest. Enter a no-nonsense French officer who wants him caught—and a gorgeous Frenchwoman on vacation with her fiancée. There’s not too much doubt where this will all end, but the story—a classic—is in the getting there.

This one really is a classic, with Le Moko’s slightly odd band of compatriots, his one song (well, with Charles Boyer playing thepart…), the magnificent Hedy Lamarr, a great supporting cast, fine cinematography and all the atmosphere of the Casbah itself. The only letdown (other than a tiny number of lost frames) is the soundtrack, which has background noise and occasional distortion. That reduces the value of an eminently enjoyable classic to $1.75.

Old Flicks: What’s Next?

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

In a couple of weeks–or, realistically, roughly a month–I’ll have a decision to make.

Not an earth-shattering one, which makes talking about it more fun.

Namely: After I watch the fourth movie on Disc 9 of the 250-movie/60-disc Mystery Collection, which I’ll do tomorrow or Thursday, I’ll watch the four movies on the fifth and final disc of the Spaghetti Western 20-movie pack (which was a freebie). I normally watch two old flicks a week, so after two weeks, I’ll go back to Disc 10 of the Mystery Collection.

The question is, after that disc, what’s next? Which set do I alternate with the Mystery Collection?

Between freebies and ones I’ve purchased, I have six choices–four 50-movie Packs, two much smaller sets.

I’m nearly certain I won’t choose one of these two after Spaghetti Westerns:

  • Mean Guns: The Time to Die Collection–another 20-pack (and another freebie), with a mix of Spaghetti and other westerns (and, unfortunately, another copy of the regrettable God’s Gun). Four movies B&W, 16 color; three from the 1930s, one from the ’40s, six from the ’60s, 9 from the ’70s, one from the ’80s. Three repeats.
  • Gunslinger Classics 50-Movie Pack: An interesting mix of old westerns (including some of the singing cowboys) and more modern flicks. 31 Color, 19 B&W. 15 from the 1930s, 5 from the 40s, 2 from the 50s, 9 from the 60s, 17 from the 70s, one each from the 80s and 90s. Seven repeats–but several more are repeated in Mean Guns. (Yes, yet another copy of God’s Gun.)

Much as I like the old westerns and more than a few of the modern ones, those can both wait a year… Which means the choice is probably one of these four:

  • Shirley Temple Smiles and Curls Collection (a freebie): Two DVDs–one with three features, one with 11 shorts. One feature is in color. All are from the 1930s.
  • Legends of Horror 50-Movie Pack (another freebie): An oddly-titled set, since it includes all of the movies in the Alfred Hitchcock 20-pack, almost none of which are horror films. Of the 30 others, 11 are in color, 19 B&W; 9 are from the 30s, 5 from the 40s, 3 from the 50s, 4 from the 60s, 9 from the 70s. There’s actually some good stuff here, although I’m not particularly a horror buff.
  • Comedy Kings 50-Movie Pack: Six color, 44 B&W, six that I’ve already seen. One from the 1920s, 22 from the 1930s, 18 from the 1940s, 8 from the 50s, one from the 60s.
  • Box Office Gold 50-Movie Pack (on 13 DVDs): All color. One from the 1950s, two from the 1960s, 26 from the 1970s, 21 from the 1980s. One that I’ve already seen. Lots of big-name stars. If this seems implausible, well, it’s another set of TV movies. (Remember TV movies?)

Heck, I could leave it up to “my two readers” (yes, I know better, as I suspect do most other libloggers who use that particular bit of false modesty): Whichever set gets the most votes in comments is the one I’ll watch first. OK, I’ll do that…but voting is only from among the four sets in the second group of bullets. And, as usual, spam is not accepted.

A brief post with only 2% plagiarism

Monday, March 8th, 2010

I was working on the draft of a future Online column (based, as they mostly are, on edited & updated material from previous Cites & Insights) on the uniqueness of everyday language–taking the two-year-old test I ran, doing a new, slightly smaller, test and updating the commentary.

One piece of commentary had to do with the likelihood that people would use the same actual words to talk about the same thing–as someone commented, “after all, how many ways are there to discuss Hamlet’s ambivalence?” Two years ago, when I checked Google for the two key words, I came up with “around 57,000,” and didn’t see that any of the first 100 seemed to be the same text.

This time, I came up with more than ten times as many results (which I regard as having more to do with Google’s increasingly silly initial result numbers than anything else–yes, the database continues to grow, but by >10x in 18 months?)–and, in looking through the first 100 results, I found two pairs that sounded an awful lot alike.

In one case, a Yahoo! Answer was almost identical to a paragraph in a Wikipedia article…but split into three paragraphs and with one or two word changes. Checking dates, it was pretty easy to conclude that the Yahoo! Answer was, shall we say, an innocent failure to attribute text to Wikipedia (text which was considerably older there). (Note: I’m not accusing Wikipedia of plagiarism–the text was pretty clearly copied from Wikipedia, not to it.)

The other was odder–a fairly long commentary on a scene from the play. One was from a signed, nicely formatted, set of discussions on Hamlet’s scenes (or, rather, on scenes from Act One, with the full set available as an inexpensive ebook). The other was from an ad-supported multiple-blog site, with no apparent authorship and with a bunch of HTML-like code appearing at the top of the “post,” and with no signature. I’m pretty sure I can guess which was copied from which–and in that case, since the original doesn’t include a copyright waiver, there’s more at stake than failure to attribute.

All of which is somewhat tangential to the original story. That story continues to be that everyday language is a lot less “common” than we may think–that, by and large, sentences at least 10 words long are likely to be unique even within a corpus as large as Google’s database. (The first test had relied mostly on my own writing and on first sentences of paragraphs; the new test uses the second sentence of the second paragraph of a post from each of 150 different blogs. Very similar results…) Basically, while one identical sentence (that is, a sentence in one work that’s also found in another) is absolutely, positively insufficient grounds to assert plagiarism–it may be enough to suggest that further checking is warranted.

Cites & Insights 10:4 (April 2010) now available

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Cites & Insights 10:4 (April 2010) is now available at

The 30-page issue is a PDF print-over-the-web publication, as usual, although three of the four essays are also available in HTML form (the article titles are links). As always, My Back Pages is a PDF-only bonus.

This issue includes:

Perspective: On Disconnecting and Reconnecting (pp. 1-9)

Can you turn off all your “connecting” devices for an hour, a day, a week? Should you? A number of librarians and others discuss the virtues of disconnecting from virtual life once in a while–and maybe reconnecting with ourselves, nature and our real-world friends.

Trends & Quick Takes (pp. 9-16)

The good old days that never were, blaming the user for bad survey design, the difference between production tools and creative talent, checklists for writing and publishing–and ten quicker takes on an even wider range of topics.

Making it Work: Thinking about Blogging 5: Closing the Loop

The close of this four-part series (there was no Thinking about Blogging 3), on how we should blog–and notes on some impressive blog research, miscellaneous issues, and a brief threnody on a dead blog.

My Back Pages

Nine little essays on topics as diverse as crackpot physics, how to get diners to spend more, stretching “obsolete” past its limits–and powering a 600-watt device with a 2.5-watt source!