Archive for September, 2011

50 Movie Box Office Gold, Disc 5

Posted in Movies and TV on September 21st, 2011

Christabel, 1988, color (TV). Adrian Shergold (dir.), Elizabeth Hurley, Stephen Dillane, Geoffrey Palmer, Ann Bell, Nigel Le Vaillant. 2:27.

When I look at the running time (nearly 2.5 hours), the date (1988) and the cast (Elizabeth Hurley), I immediately think “Why is this on a Mill Creek Entertainment set?” The answer—or a possible answer—comes at the end of the movie.

Christabel is an upper-class British woman who marries a German lawyer she met a Cambridge, to the considerable dismay of her father. Did I mention that this starts in 1934? The two move to Germany, start a family, and by 1938—well, you probably know what was happening in the late 1930s in Germany. At her husband’s request, she moves back to England for a while, but that doesn’t stick. A fair amount of middling intrigue later, it’s mid-1944—and he’s been arrested after a plot to kill Hitler fails. She’s off in the Black Forest (where he sent her after the bombing began, although she came back to Berlin at least once)—but she sets out to find him and see what she can do for him. It’s gritty, includes some interesting (and, I suspect, plausible) details about ordinary people in Berlin coping with the situation (they learn to count to eight for the bombs in each U.S. heavy bomber during nighttime raids), and—well, I guess it ends happily.

It’s a little slow, and maybe that’s intentional. It’s also quite good, with some remarkably good scenes and Hurley doing subtle, generally deglamorized work. If you don’t mind a fundamentally serious movie, you’ll probably like this. The print is usually better than usual: Somewhere between VHS and DVD quality—but about 10% of the time, something happens and it’s got jaggies and vertical jitters. All in all, though, the problems don’t distract from a very good picture.

The answer? It’s a BBC television production, and since it’s not a series, BBC probably didn’t think they could gouge sell pricey DVDs successfully in the U.S. (Reading IMDB, I see that this is apparently based on a true story.) This one’s worth $1.75.

Ginger in the Morning, 1974, color. Gordon Wiles (dir.), Monte Markham, Susan Oliver, Mark Miller, Sissy Spacek, Slim Pickens, David Doyle. 1:30 [1:33]

This begins with two entirely different scenes. In one, a young woman—OK, let’s say it, a hippie chick (Sissy Spacek)—is getting out of a truck, thanking the driver, and starting to thumb her way along the highway again, suitcase and guitar case in hand. In the other, a vaguely worried man (Monte Markham) is deplaning and being pestered by someone he must have been seated next to on the plane, a middle-aged dirty old man (David Doyle) telling him he should go out and get laid a lot (he’s been divorced for a couple of months), that he should say “motel” right away when picking up a woman so he knows where he stands… And then they come together, as he (Markham, not Doyle—thankfully, we never see Doyle again) passes her on the highway, turns around, gets a flat tire in the process, and they wind up in the car together.

After this “meet cute,” we have a three-day story (starting on December 30) that winds up with an odd sort of Happily Ever After ending and involves the worried man, the young woman, the man’s rowdy friend who’s in Mexico but flies back to see him, the rowdy friend’s ex-wife who also happens to be in town…and, for good measure, Slim Pickens as the sheriff of Santa Fe (where this is all set).

I want to like this movie more than I do. Unfortunately, much of it is drunken carousing, and neither of the primary characters seem concerned that they’re apparently both badly-functioning alcoholics. That, and the somewhat vapid characterization by Spacek, diminish an otherwise interesting little film. (OK, so Spacek was probably 22 at the time this was filmed, and had to work with a poor script. She apparently wrote her own songs; they’re actually pretty good.) Good print. This has the feel of a TV movie, but apparently it wasn’t. All told, I’ll give it $1.25.

The River Niger, 1976, color. Krishna Shah (dir.), Cicely Tyson, James Earl Jones, Louis Gossett Jr., Glynn Turman, Jonelle Allen, Roger E. Mosely. 1:45.

A superb cast, a generally very good print (except that the music, written & performed by WAR, is sometimes wavering as though there were soundtrack problems), a Tony Award-winning play opened out into a movie.

I’m not sure how much more to say. I’m probably not the natural audience. The movie, set in an LA ghetto (presumably Watts), features James Earl Jones as an alcoholic house-painter/poet trying to keep his family together, Cicely Tyson as his wife, stricken with cancer, Louis Gossett Jr. as the best friend and local doctor—and a remarkable crowd of other actors. It’s a movie of its time, and very well done. Summarizing the actual plot would be of no particular use.

I don’t quite understand how this movie could be in this set, but that’s a common theme here. I’ll give it $2.

Social networks: Progress report

Posted in Libraries, Writing and blogging on September 20th, 2011

A mere 16 days ago, I posted “Still around, not posting much,” noting what I was doing rather than blogging–namely “Phase 1.5″ of the research for my book on public libraries in social networks.

I aimed to finish phase 1.5–cleaning up the saved tweets and wall updates and characterizing them–while I was still 65. At that point, I thought I’d be ready to do a quick pass for “extra” libraries (libraries where someone sent me comments for the book, where the library isn’t in one of the 25 surveyed states) and start preparing metrics and actually working on the book. Somewhere in there, I’d also do a hardnosed edit on already-written material for the October 2011 Cites & Insights and probably publish it.

Yes and no

Yes, I did finish Phase 1.5 by September 14, 2011, the day I turned 66.

No, I wasn’t ready to start preparing metrics and actually working on the book (that is, start writing text).

What happened in the middle: One of those who sent me info was Susan Mark, Statistics Librarian at the Wyoming State Library. Wyoming has very few reporting library agencies, and Mark had a list of those with Facebook pages. It’s one of the 25 states.

And my list didn’t match hers. Not even close.

So, after some digging around, I found that the problem was libraries with no obvious Facebook link on their websites (or at least on the home pages), and where the Facebook page itself didn’t show up high enough in a Bing search result (I was checking 15 or 20 pages). By using my brain and Ctrl-f (and Google, although I don’t think that made the big difference), I was able to check the first 100 results…and add in the missing libraries.

While it would be perfectly reasonable to focus on Twitter and Facebook uses that are linked from library home pages, I knew that I already had a fair number that weren’t–and thought it might be worthwhile seeing how many more I was missing. I took the first 100 (of 1,500+) remaining libraries and retested–just searching on Google and looking for a Facebook page in the first 100 results–figuring that if I found 5 or fewer, I’d just let it be.

I didn’t find 5 or fewer.

So I’ve now retested all 1,500+ libraries. Since I already knew these didn’t have obvious FB links on the home pages, I just worked with Google and the browser’s Find function. (There are so many fewer Twitter accounts, and they’re so much harder to find, that I didn’t bother.)

The results? Instead of 841 sets of Facebook updates and 370 sets of tweets (336 with both), I now have 1,158 set of Facebook updates, 381 sets of tweets (the extras mostly coming from the 19 “extra” libraries)–and 346 with both.

I just finished cleaning up and characterizing those updates and tweets this morning. So I’m now roughly where I expected to be last Wednesday—but with a whole bunch more libraries involved and some interesting new data.

By the way, it’s still true that, as far as I can determine, most public libraries (in the half of the country I tested) do not have either general-purpose Facebook or Twitter accounts (excluding teen departments), but “most” is a narrow figure: 1,231 libraries didn’t show either one, while 1,194 showed one or the other. (That number includes the Extra 19, all of which have one or the other–it would be 1,212 to 1,175 otherwise.)

You will find pages on Facebook for most public libraries, but hundreds of those pages are “community pages” that were neither created by the library nor have anything to do with them.

How many libraries are active on Facebook or Twitter? That depends on your definition of “active.” I’ll get into that more in the book and possibly in posts later on (or even in Cites & Insights if there’s too much blather to include in a relatively short book that’s mostly about what libraries do well).. Just to offer two data points:

  • 86 of the libraries with Facebook accounts (having at least one Like and at least one post–I didn’t include accounts that don’t meet those fairly minimal criteria) have averaged less than one post per month. Notably, 66 of those 86 lack obvious FB links on the library websites; I’m guessing most of them are fully abandoned. Another 75 have averaged less than two posts per month, but for a very small library that may be entirely appropriate…
  • 108 libraries have fewer than one Like per 1,000 residents.

Now on to metrics and some writing…noting that I’ll be doing a second research pass roughly one quarter after the first one (within a day or two either way), adding more new accounts and updating other figures. For Twitter, that means I can get reasonably accurate rates of activity–and for both, I’ll include a “freshness” measure for the most recent update or tweet, so that I can offer a reasonably sound basis for “active” or not.

In passing, I’ll note that marking up the updates has left me even more admiring the extent to which many very small public libraries serve their communities well with minimal resources. I always had such admiration, but it’s stronger. (It’s also a little remote: I’ve never lived in a town with a public library/system serving fewer than 50,000 people.)

So: Lots more blogging? Probably not. Did the C&I receive the intense editorial scrutiny I’d planned? Well…you be the judge.


Cites & Insights October 2011 Now Available

Posted in Cites & Insights on September 18th, 2011

Cites & Insights 11:9 (October 2011) is now available for downloading at

The 28-page issue (PDF as usual, with HTML versions of each essay available, either from the C&I home page–which will, incidentally, remind you that contributions or sponsorship are both welcome and might help keep this nonsense going–or from the title links below) includes:

Making it Work: Websites and Social Networks   pp. 1-17

Some notes on sampling public library websites (2,406 of them in 25 U.S. states) as part of the research for my 2012 book, a few idle thoughts on public library websites, and a Making it Work roundup and commentary on librarians and social networks.

T&QT Retrospective: Far-Away Services with Strange Sounding Names   pp. 17-22

Remember Cuil? Remember Knol? Oddly enough, the latter’s still around–but the former may have been a Bigger Deal as a one-week web wonder. Looking back and sideways with a little bemusement.

Offtopic Perspective: 50 Movie Comedy Kings, Part 1  pp. 22-28

Better than the Legends of Horror multipack, with occasional flashes of brilliance (and occasional flashes of stereotyping and schtick).

Now, back to the research and book writing…



Still around, still not posting much

Posted in Books and publishing, Writing and blogging on September 4th, 2011

Yawn. If there’s a staple of blogging, it’s the “I haven’t been posting much” post.

But heck, what good’s a meme if you can’t participate?

I’ll probably continue not posting much for at least another 10 days, because… (in my mind, I hear that intoned as part of a Almond Joy/Mars ad–odd, since I don’t eat either one)

Into phase 1.5 of research for the new book

Well, that’s along with turning around the book on micropublishing, writing one long essay for the October Cites & Insights, writing one short piece for C&I, wrapping up the first half of a 50-movie megapack (all of which means that I probably have the draft form of the October issue in place), going to see H.M.S. Pinafore, running scenarios to see when I should start collecting Social Security and how much we can spend without risking running out of $ by the time I’m 100, and being a lazy oaf as usual…

Phase 1.5? Going through 875 sets of tweets and Facebook statuses captured during Phase 1 (I copied-and-pasted, text only, the most recent five of each as I was noting other metrics), turning the raw text into something I could use (that is, one paragraph per tweet or status, shorn of most overhead) and noting the overall theme of each group and, for libraries with both, how they relate to one another. (I looked at the most recent 20 tweets or updates; in almost every case, what I see from the most recent 5 is true of the whole stream–e.g., some libraries use a social network entirely for events, some entirely for events, services and programs, some for a whole mix of stuff, at least one strictly to announce weekly sets of new books.)

That’s all additional fodder for the book, but with 875 sets–841 sets of Facebook updates, 370 sets of tweets, 336 with both–it takes a while. “Piecemeal” effort: do ten sets, play a little poker, do ten sets, check FriendFeed, do ten sets, check gmail, and so on. After or during which I’ll do more metrics and try to contact some of the libraries that stand out (for the good) in some respect, to get more feedback.

Target: Finish phase 1.5 while I’m still 65 years old. That gives me 10 days, which seems about right.

So that’s why I’m not blogging much and probably won’t be for a while. In the time it took to write this, I could have done another five sets…but I needed the break.

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