Archive for February, 2012

Survey and Sale

Posted in C&I Books, Cites & Insights on February 20th, 2012

A quick two-part post:

Survey

To date, 33 people have responded to the quick survey for Cites & Insights readers. Maybe that’s all I should expect, but I’d love to have a few more responses.

Sale

Lulu’s offering another of their frequent sales. This time, you can get 20% off any or all Cites & Insights Books, or The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing hardcover edition (at 20% off, the hardcover’s a bit cheaper than the paperback at full price) or whatever else you want to buy. The sale runs through February 23, 2012.

Just use SWEET as a coupon code. (Or, if you’re a really big spender–buying at least $400 worth of books in all–use SALTY and save 25%.)

Looking Back: hypePad and buzzkill

Posted in Cites & Insights, Writing and blogging on February 17th, 2012

One reason I expect to see more activity in this blog in the future is that I plan to prepost some portions of some Cites & Insights essays, just as I’ve always done for Offtopic Perspectives. The paragraphs that follow are the final portion of what will be the first section of the next Cites & Insights, and the only portion written so far. Not to give anything away, but it should be clear from the first sentence that I do plan to change and eliminate some sections of C&I—one reason I’m still polling. [Up to 30 responses as of 11 a.m., Friday, February 17, 2012. Can I hear 35? 40? 31?]

One section name that neither made the cut nor has a direct replacement: The Zeitgeist. It wasn’t used all that often—five times in all, as far as I can tell—and the last one landed with such a “tree in the forest” non-effect that I pretty much gave up the idea. Iris Jastram suggested the name (actually “preserving the zeitgeist”) as something Cites & Insights does or has done, for which I thank her: Even if I dropped the section name, I like the idea.

The very first essay tagged as The Zeitgeist appeared in the Spring 2010 issue (and was the entirety of that issue other than a Bibs & Blather on sponsorship and the surprise loss of my part-time job). The essay-specific subtitle was hypePad and buzzkill.

I reread the essay recently as part of an ongoing process of interleaving old Cites & Insights printed issues in with my flow of other magazines. At this writing, I’m about two months behind on other magazines and slightly less than two years behind on C&I, but the latter’s deliberate: I insert one issue of C&I in front of each Condé Nast Traveler when that magazine arrives. By the time I reread an issue, I’ve long since forgotten it, so I can read it freshly. That’s an attempt to replicate the experience of reading my magazine columns (all of which are now defunct, but it was a good two decades or so) a few months after writing them.

Anyway…

So I read this essay. At first I thought “it would be a prime candidate for a ‘wrong, wrong, wrong’ mea culpa about how badly off I was on my projections.”

Except that I didn’t make any projections regarding sales for the iPad: That part of the article wasn’t really about the iPad itself, it was about the sheer hype and hyperbole (not quite the same thing) before and immediately after its introduction. And I don’t see any need to apologize for anything I said in the article. In fact, while the iPad has sold much better than most non-Apple-centric observers expected, it has not destroyed ereaders, it has not wiped out netbooks or PCs or open computing (unless you’re one of those for whom a slowing of sales increases constitutes “wiped out”), and I don’t believe it’s changed everything. I’m still not part of the target market. My brother and sister-in-law are (they travel a lot more, for one thing), and they both have iPads (one of them is on a second-generation unit). They love them. They’re very intelligent people. We’ve tried them out. So far, we’ve found no particular desire to buy one—although there have been uses for which I’ve suggested that my wife might want one. So far, she doesn’t. If we wanted to spend more on computing and media consumption, switching to cable broadband from our increasingly-flaky DSL would probably come way ahead of buying iPads. (By the way, Apple’s down to 57% of the tablet market…but you can’t prove that by the pundits who still proclaim that there is no tablet market, only an iPad market. Using the same logic by which there is no personal computing market, only a Windows market—except that Windows still has more than 90% market share.)

As for the buzzkill section, for which the actual section heading was Buzzkill: Google Screws Up, I still think that’s a fair summary. Remember Google Buzz? How it was an instant success—because Google simply dumped everybody into it, populating your “social network” with email contacts? It was pretty much a disaster, and Google bailed out. Google+ may not be perfect (not by a long shot!), but it’s better.

I’m going to quote the final subsection of that essay, “Thinking about the Parallels.” I believe it’s held up pretty well:

Both Google and Apple are large companies in Silicon Valley, both of which rely heavily on user trust and faith. Both have groups of admirers who proclaim they can do no wrong and assail doubters.

As far as I can tell, Apple didn’t actively generate the level of hype, although the company certainly did its share of leaking and dissembling. Most of the hypePad story is about reactions and expectations, not about the device itself or Apple’s handling of it. I’ve never been much of an Apple person, and I’m not a great fan of Steve Jobs. That said, and discounting nonsense like “magical” and “revolutionary,” the iPad will succeed or fail largely on its own merits. While those merits may not meet my needs—and while I do believe you’re better off thinking of the iPad as an appliance, not another kind of computer, and that the closed model is dangerous—there’s no doubt its merits are real. It’s up to the public, early adopters and others, to decide whether the tablet form factor finally makes sense. It’s up to other companies to raise the bar that the iPad sets—which, depending on what people are looking for, may be easy or difficult.

Google was in charge of its own destiny. Google screwed up big time. I’ve generally been a cautious fan of Google. I like Gmail a lot. I think the Google Books project has many good aspects and could have been a blow for fair use (if Google hadn’t caved). I’ll be more cautious in the future about turning any part of my virtual life over to my former neighbors in Mountain View. Where I’ve usually been negatively disposed toward Apple, I’ve usually been positive (if cautious) about Google. In this case, Google screwed up. With any luck, Buzz will go the way of Orkut and Google users will get a lot more cautious.

Apple +1, Google -1. Is that a fair parallel?

Mystery Collection Disc 29

Posted in Movies and TV on February 16th, 2012

The Hoodlum, 1951, b&w. Max Nosseck (dir.), Lawrence Tierney, Allene Roberts, Marjorie Riordan, Lisa Golm. 1:02.

The term “film noir” and the vaguer “noir” have been applied by various amateur reviewers to many of the flicks in this massive set, and I suspect this one’s no different. (As I discovered checking IMDB: Yep—”a very underrated B film noir.” You can get away with almost any crap as long as it appears to be noir.) Unfortunately, “noir” has become a lazy way to glamorize cheap, nasty flicks—ones that revel in the dark side of humanity without the skill to suggest deeper meanings. I suspect much of what’s celebrated as noir is actually a browner color that gives off a certain stench: film crap. This one doesn’t even have the excuse of being filmed during the Depression.

This sad little B movie gives it away in the title. It’s about a hoodlum—a piece of work who’s arrested pretty much every year from age 15 onward for increasingly serious acts of casual thuggery. This time, he’s in for 5 to 25—and although the warden sees a lifetime criminal for what he is, the aging mother somehow convinces the parole board to free him.

Which, of course, does not go well. Need I recount the plot? He betrays his brother, seduces his brother’s girlfriend (who later commits suicide), sets up a really dumb armored car robbery that yields two dead in his little gang and two dead armored car employees…and eventually even his mother tells him what a piece of work he is, then dies. As does he, shortly thereafter. He never grows as a character; he’s scum, and seemingly proud of it.

I see no redeeming qualities in this other than its brief length. If you’re a believer that all noir has its worth (as, apparently, most of those who deigned to review this on IMDB do) and that badly-done cheap flicks with no redeeming virtues are all noir, I suppose this could get $0.50.

Dick Tracy’s Dilemma, 1947, b&w. John Rawlins (dir.), Ralph Byrd, Lyle Latell, Kay Christopher, Jack Lambert, Ian Keith, Bernadene Hayes, Jimmy Conlin. 1:00.

It’s a Dick Tracy B programmer, and that means slightly over-acted fun with silly character names, oddly-named villains, and good clean fun. This time, the villain is The Claw, a criminal whose right hand was replaced with a hook in the same accident that messed up one of his legs. We also have Honesty Insurance (with Peter Premium as a VP), Vitamin Flintheart, Tess Trueheart, Sightless the ‘Blind’ Beggar (whose sign is honest: “I am Sightless”), Longshot Lillie and more.

The setup: A furrier’s fortune in furs is stolen from his vault—by somebody who clearly knew the combination, changed just a couple days ago when the furrier changed insurance companies. In the process, the night watchman was slain. Who did it and why? We find out in a spirited hour. Great fun, but also a one-hour flick (and exactly the right length); I give it $1.00.

Black Gold, 1936, b&w. Russell Hopton (dir.), Frankie Darro, LeRoy Mason, Gloria Shea, Berton Churchill, Stanley Fields, Frank Shannon, George Cleveland, Fred ‘Snowflake’ Toones, Dewey Robinson. 0:57 [0:54].

What we have here is a musical, with original songs. Or it’s a romantic dramedy, with a young couple meeting cute and immediately falling for each other. Or it’s a tale of industrial sabotage and ruthless oilmen. Or it’s a tale of rebellious youth. It’s really all of those, with easily enough plot for a three-hour extravaganza…and the whole thing runs 54 minutes. Of which the first 2+ minutes are essentially waste footage showing various oil-rig scenes and showing off the cinematographer’s love of fancy dissolves, and another couple of minutes are apparently stock footage with the star overlaid, also showing off both fancy dissolves and fancy picture overlays.

What it isn’t is a mystery. The villain’s obvious from the first time we meet him, the ending has to be a happy one (although there’s a twist to it that makes no sense at all to me, but to explain it would be a spoiler), and very little is mysterious along the way. I think the movie relies primarily on fans of Frankie Darro, and it’s one of those movies that starts out by showing each major character with the actor’s name. It’s certainly fast-moving, and enjoyable enough in its odd way. I’ll give it $1.00.

Blonde Ice, 1948, b&w. Jack Bernhard (dir.), Robert Paige, Leslie Brooks, Russ Vincent, Michael Whalen, James Griffith, Emory Parnell, Walter Sands, John Holland, Mildred Coles. 1:13.

This flick, which is a noir film of sorts (of the femme fatale variety) starts out fast and never stops moving. We’re at a wedding, where various men are bemoaning the fact that their onetime girlfriend is marrying a wealthy man—and some of them have engraved cigarette cases from her. One throws the case away from a verandah (the wedding’s at the wealthy groom’s home), shortly before the new bride comes out and assures him that she loves him (not the groom) and will write to him from the honeymoon…

Now the couple are on the honeymoon. She’s writing a love letter to the spurned man; when her husband enters the room, she covers it with a brief letter to somebody else. Unfortunately, when he’s reading the innocent letter, he drops it, reveals the other letter, and walks out on her, flying back from the LA hotel to his home in San Francisco.

Without revealing too much of the plot, let’s just say that the next day the new widow goes after her old flame again…and then gets engaged to an up-and-coming Congressman, shedding some more blood along the way. Oh, and pretty convincingly framing the old flame who she still professes to love.

It all works out in the end, and it’s quite an amalgam of newspaper life (the old flame’s a newspaper columnist, she was a society writer and has become the society editor) and sheer coldblooded ambition mixed with sociopathy. The only problem I had is that this woman strikes me as so absurdly cold that, stunning as she may be, I couldn’t see how she got so many men falling for her so rapidly. But I’m sure it happens. Despite that, this is a good one, worth $1.50.

Cites & Insights: Any more responses?

Posted in Cites & Insights on February 16th, 2012

My quick survey of Cites & Insights readers seems to have stalled at 25 responses.

Maybe that’s the total of readers who have opinions. (Maybe it’s the total of readers, which is a truly depressing thought, but I won’t go there.)

I thought I’d give this one more try. Once the survey goes, say, three days with no responses, I’ll shut it down and assume that’s all the feedback I’m going to get.

As in the original post: The survey shouldn’t take more than two minutes or so.

There are no essay questions, it’s wholly anonymous (there’s no way to add identifying info even if you wanted to). If I was redoing this, now that I understand better how SurveyMonkey organizes things, I could have done it as three questions rather than the nine that are in the current survey. (Two questions would have had eight response bars each, rather than eight questions with two response bars each.) That might have made it appear shorter and easier…or not.

Anyway: If you have a spare couple of minutes, if you haven’t already responded, if you read Cites & Insights and want a say in its future: Go take the survey.

Thanks.

If you were freefalling without a parachute…

Posted in Stuff on February 15th, 2012

That’s a misleading title, but I couldn’t think of a better one for this very silly post that is of no consequence whatsoever.

As I’ve noted before, I relax with video slot poker to take breaks between writing, editing, research chores, or whatever. Most of that, these days, is in five to eight rounds of contests at the video poker site (free, no actual gambling), playing whatever the contest of the day is. A round is 100 plays–and a play is usually anywhere from three to one hundred hands (since most of the games are either triple play variations or, sometimes, 25-play, 50-play or 100-play, or “spin fever,” in all of which you’re dealt one hand, you choose which cards to keep, and those cards are replicated in as many hands as there are–or, with spin fever, a reel-type variation I still haven’t entirely figured out). You’re automatically betting the maximum each time, and your credits (wins) total at the bottom and are used to score the game. So far, so good: I track the games and play “against the nut”–that is, trying for a final total that’s more than the total bet. (If it’s pure triple-play, that’s 15 credits per play–three hands at five credits each–or 1,500 for a round.) Oh, I won’t turn down a high score of the day: that’s happened to me once, and it’s good for $50. But I’m playing for fun. (As noted earlier, all this has had the odd effect of reducing urges to go to actual casinos, as this is smoke-free and convenient, and in the long run even cheaper than casino gambling, since at most it costs me $25/year to avoid ads–if I don’t just play the downloaded version, which inherently has no ads.)

A new feature

A couple of days ago, a new feature appeared on the contest screen that shows up when you complete a round. If you’ve beaten the nut, there’s a “Congratulations!” and it tells you how much you would have won–in dollars and cents–if you’d been playing the game at a quarter ($0.25) machine.

Of course, it only gives you winning amounts. There’s no “Too bad!” message with the amount you would have lost during a round. That’s reasonable.

But, Duuuude…

Yes, I know, I’m at least 40 years too old to be using that phrase, but that’s what came to mind when I was playing 100-play poker, yesterday’s contest, and had a really good round: 59,910. The screen came up with “Congratulations! You would have won $2,477.50 if you’d been playing on a quarter machine.” (That may not be the precise wording, but you get the gist.)

But, Duuuude…..

If there are quarter 100-hand machines, and if I was playing maximum coins, I would have been risking…

wait for it…

$125 dollars per play. That’s one hundred and twentyfive dollars. That’s, let’s see, 15 lunches at my favorite local Chinese restaurant (including tax and tip). Or 15 to 20 bottles of most of the Chardonnays I buy. Or a nice dinner out with our best friend in Livermore…including wine, tax and tip. Or 15 weeks of the daily paper. Or two years of the cell phone service we use. Or one good pair of Rockport shoes. Or 125 pounds of organic navel oranges from our favorite semi-local grower. Or…well, you get the drift.

Per play.

That is so not going to happen. Realistically, I’d probably never even play the plausible version of a hundred-hand machine, at one cent per bet, since even that is $5 per play, and I’m not that wealthy. (I know there are hundred-hand machines; I saw some at Harrah’s New Orleans. I think those were penny machines, although of course they only handle folding money and the ubiquitous tickets.)

Even if I won Super Lotto, I wouldn’t wager $125 per play on a slot machine (or any other form of gambling.)

Even if someone sent me that Powerball ticket that’s worth $200 million as a lump sum, I wouldn’t wager $125 per play on a slot machine (unless, of course, such wagering–up to, say, 100 playsmaximum–was a condition of being handed the $200 million ticket).

I enjoy gaming, especially poker with its small amount of skill. Once in a while–much less so these days–I even enjoy doing it in a casino. But never for more than $50/day. Which may indeed mean wagering several thousand dollars over the course of a day or two, but not at $125 a shot!

Oh, and here’s the message I might have gotten two rounds earlier on the same day. “Sorry! You would be down $2,657.50 if you were playing on a quarter machine.” I can pretty much guarantee that no gaming site is ever going to show me that message.

[Overall? Overall, I've gotten good enough at holding that I'm running within a plausible range, which I define as anywhere from 93% to 103% over the long run, more typically 95% to 98% playing max coins--which, for me, would mean 93% to 96% in a casino, since I'm too cheap to play max coins. In hundred-hands contest play itself, I'm still up, because that one dealt royal flush, which turns into 100 royal flushes, takes a long time to play down to average. Thus, on the double-bonus version, where I got the dealt royal flush, I'm at 119.46% over 350,000 actual hands; on the deuces-wild version, with no such absurd luck, I'm at 95.06% over 300,000 actual hands. Of the variations that show up in contests, I've concluded that Double Super Times is my worst variation--I'm consistently under 90% for that. But when there's no actual money involved...]

 

 

Public library openings and my problem with negativity

Posted in Libraries on February 14th, 2012

Last November (November 25, 2011), I asked “How many US public libraries have actually closed?” Let me quote a little of that post:

When reading various posts and articles from various directions–some celebrating the promised end of public libraries, most bemoaning the decline of public libraries–I keep running into comments about so many public library closures.

LISNews, for example, seems to feature any story that suggests a public library might be in danger of closing, or that some source of funding has declined, and sometimes seems to have a “we’re all gonna die!” feel to it. It’s not the only one, to be sure…and I’ve noticed that threats or temporary closures seem to get a lot more coverage than reopenings, new library openings, or threats that were overcome. I know: “If it bleeds, it leads”: Journalism tends to emphasize the negative.

I got some interesting comments, but no real numbers, although there was one suggestion that the number was 0.4% since 2005.

Redux

Two months later (January 25, 2012), I posted “How many public libraries have closed? Redux.”

I noted the first post and lack of answers. I also noted that I’d asked the question again at LISNews in grumping about a story with the lead “In an age of library closings”–a fairly typical lead, since it appears to be common knowledge that public libraries are shutting down all over the place. Here’s what I said then:

Since you lead with that, I’ll repeat the question I’ve asked elsewhere (with no results): Do you–does anyone–have any actual data on actual library system closings? Not branches, not temporary shutdowns, but public libraries that actually disappear–or, let’s say, shut down for at least three years?

Has it been 1% over the last 10 years? 0.5%? 0.1%?

Have there been more public libraries (again, not branches–those are inherently more temporary) closed or opened over the last decade?

Or do we just conveniently talk about lots of library closures, despite lack of any real evidence that this is happening? I’m not trying to minimize the effects of branch “closures” or reduced hours, but I’d sure like to see some facts…

That question became a separate LISNews post. My dystopian friend Blake Carver came up with an “off the top of my head” list of closures and, as I would expect, his firm conviction that nearly all public library funding news is bad news. I quote:

Buffalo & Erie County Public Library closed a dozen or so branches 5 or 6 years ago.
Detroit Public Library is closing a bunch of branches.
That system in Texas is closing, or closed.
What’s the story in Chicago & Seattle? They are talking about closing branches?
UK libraries are in bad shape, I think they’ve closed a few, a few are being run by volunteers.
I’m pretty sure I just read a story about a place closing a branch in a mall someplace in the midwest.

As someone who scans maybe 100 stories about libraries a day I’d say the general trend is 90% terrible for budgets as reported in local news papers. I don’t know that there is a huge wave of closings though. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was one coming though. (Note: Huge Wave could mean numbers closer to 20, not 2,000)

That final paragraph is interesting. I believe most local news reporting is negative, because that’s the way news works.

A city increasing its funding for public libraries by 5% is not news; a city cutting its funding by 5% is news. Hell, look at the wave of stories and comments on the order of “OMG! California’s public libraries are all gonna’ close!” given the loss of somewhat less than 1% of public library funding…that is, what was left of state funding. The portion of those stories that followed the loss of $12.5 million with a note that California’s public library budgets total something like $1.3 billion? I don’t remember ever seeing such a story, actually…

Beyond that, we got Blake questioning my distinction between branches and library agencies, some interesting discussion of IMLS datasets, a pointer to an LJ site that really didn’t have any information on it, and some interesting refinements (that, sigh, I lost because my modem went down losing 15 minutes of work, work that I don’t intend to recreate at the moment).

Why do I care? Here are the last two paragraphs of the January 25 post:

But to me the primary effect of the “public libraries are closing all over the place!” meme is self-fulfilling prophecy and grist for the mill of libertarians and those who dislike public libraries: Oh well, they’re already shutting down like crazy, that’s just the way it is.

Which, as I suspected, is simply not true.

In other words, a consistent push toward negativity damages public libraries because it creates the perception that libraries are doomed anyway–that cities are already shutting them down.

 Some answers

So I went back to IMLS and looked at their annual publications, which actually do go back quite a ways.

If you’d like to look for yourself, go to the IMLS “Public Libraries in the United States Survey” page and click on “Publications” below that headline, not the Publications link on the left sidebar. As in the link pointed to below:

[Thank the Windows Clipping Tool for this--and my inability to draw a straight line for the funny-looking red arrow and sloppy highlighting.]

You should get a page titled “Public Libraries” with links for reports as recent as FY2009 and as far back as FY1989.

I looked at the reports for 2009, 1999 (a 10-year gap) and, given the suggestion that 0.4% of public libraries have closed since 2004, FY2004.

I also looked at three figures: Library agencies (“libraries”), Outlets (stationary, including branches) and Bookmobiles.

The number of outlets can be dramatically different than the number of libraries, especially in states like California that tend toward large agencies (and has 1,122 outlets as of FY2009, but only 181 libraries).

Here are the numbers according to IMLS, with my own totals:

Libraries Outlets Bookmobiles Total
2009 9,225 16,698 771 17,469
2004 9,198 16,543 825 17,368
1999 9,046 16,220 907 17,127

Do you see what I see? The 0.4% decline from 2004 to 2009…simply isn’t there. The overall trend of either libraries or branches (“outlets” is libraries and branches combined) shutting down…simply isn’t there.

Yes, there are fewer bookmobiles–6% fewer in 2009 than in 2004. But there are more libraries, more branches, and more total service points.

Actually, there is a number very close to 0.4% from 2004 to 2009: Namely, there are 0.58% more total service points in 2009 than in 2004. (Note that the “total” number adds Outlets and Bookmobiles, because Outlets already includes Libraries–except for those library agencies that are wholly bookmobiles.)

The 2009 IMLS report says that there are more libraries, right up front–but makes a point that the number of libraries hasn’t grown as fast as the number of people. That’s a much trickier discussion. Are people better served by lots and lots of very small locations or by fewer, larger, better-stocked, better-staffed locations? I don’t think there’s a simple answer. Nationwide, there appears to be roughly one library outlet for every 18,000 people–but that’s one of those averages that is as useful as saying that a river with wide banks and a deep central channel is an average of five feet deep.

One point that surprised me a little: The IMLS definition of a library requires paid staff and public funding. Given that a number of small libraries appear to be entirely operated by volunteers, I assume they have some minimal stipend that qualifies them.

I do know that there are lots of libraries around that don’t meet these definitions. A family member even operates one of them–and it’s quite appropriate that it wouldn’t show up in IMLS reports, as it has no public funding of any sort and doesn’t pretend to be an actual public library.

My problem with negativity

I don’t believe it serves the library field to repeat the false notion that American public libraries are shutting down all over the place. (Note that qualifier “American”–I really can’t speak to the situation in the UK.)

For that matter, I don’t believe that always stressing the negative side of library budget issues is healthy.

For what it’s worth, the 2009 IMLS report does note that public library funding has grown in constant dollars since 1999…and the funding per capita has grown since 1999. No, it hasn’t grown as much as usage, but overall, libraries were better funded at the depth of the recession than they were ten years earlier.

I think that’s an important story. I think it’s important that Oakland, a city with enormous budget and other problems, made a point of not cutting library services in this year’s budget–but that story doesn’t show up in the library literature as much as any cut would.

I think that’s a shame. Building from strength works better than trying to stave off weakness.

That’s why this post’s title begins “Public library openings”–because, on the whole, more libraries and branches have opened than have closed.

Surveying Cites & Insights readers

Posted in Cites & Insights on February 12th, 2012

I’m revamping Cites & Insights to some extent, and I’d like your opinions on a few things.

Take this very brief survey–if it takes you more than two minutes, I’d be surprised–to let me know a few items. No essays required, no questions about financial support, and it’s as anonymous as any other SurveyMonkey survey. If you don’t like the link above:

Click here to take survey

Please take the survey by the end of February 2012, if possible; initial changes will be reflected in the next issue of Cites & Insights, probably out sometime in March 2012.

I promise to look at the results. I don’t promise to be bound by them. Depending on the results, there may be future surveys.

Thanks for your help!


Update, 5:30 p.m. PDT, February 12: This is my first SurveyMonkey survey. I now see that there’s a limit of 100 responses. As of now, there are 8. I’ll check once or twice a day; once the limit’s been reached–if we get there–I’ll note that here and elsewhere.

If the results are at all ambiguous (in a way that might otherwise be useful), I’ll do a follow-on survey with similar questions in a different form, inviting other people to respond.

Blog maintenance: An update

Posted in Writing and blogging on February 10th, 2012

Three weeks ago, I noted plans to be more active on this blog–and to do some maintenance in the process.

That post garnered more non-spam feedback than I usually get.

I note “non-spam” because the level of spam comments has now risen enough that I can’t honestly pretend to scan them for wrongly-categorized comments: It’s now typically more than 100 per day, sometimes much more.

In general, people objected to my plans to get rid of “a whole bunch of posts that are outdated, and some of them really don’t have any significance any more.” I listened and tried to clarify what I had in mind, perhaps less than successfully.

And then I acted. And, with one big exception, I’m mostly done.

If you have an exceptional memory or took a snapshot of the homepage on January 24, you may note some changes in the “Categories” sidebar. There’s a new “Passé” category with relatively few posts. Another category changed names. Yet another category was merged into what should have been a parent category. There may be a couple more cases like that.

I added a new Micropublishing category for tutorials and other posts that serve as additional material for The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing.

And several categories have smaller numbers than they did on January 24.

What’s happened so far

In addition to the category changes and renaming noted above, I’ve deleted posts very selectively. Nearly all of the small number of deletions were posts that said nothing more than that Lulu was offering a short-term discount (and urging folks to buy C&I Books at the lower prices) or announcing a price change in a C&I book. I should congratulate my readership on a complete and utter disdain for sales, since none of those discount announcements seems to have resulted in even a single sale (and I’ve pretty much stopped doing them, although Lulu seems to have more short-term sales than ever).

I did not delete posts that made points I no longer agree with. I did not delete announcements for issues of C&I. I did not delete any post that, in my opinion, had any useful content, even if it was outmoded. (The new Passé category includes a few of those latter posts.)

What I’ve mostly done is to reduce multiple categorization–especially on posts that primarily announce new issues of Cites & Insights or discuss things related to C&I.

What’s left

As time and patience permit, I’m still going through the posts with Cites & Insights as a category, removing other category tags when the post announces a new issue or is primarily about the ejournal. I’m doing that chronologically (that is, oldest first), starting with page 15 of a post list for the category. I’ve done pages 15-11, and expect to do pages 10-1 over the next few days or weeks.

Update, 12:15 p.m. PDT, February 10, 2012: “the next few days or weeks” turned out to be the next two hours. This process is now complete.

I’m not deleting posts in the process. I’m only cleaning up categories.

More posts?

I think so. I tentatively plan to expand the use of Walt at Random as a precursor to Cites & Insights, just as it is now for old movies. And I hope to expand on some points here that don’t make sense in C&I. And, of course, I’m still working on (or planning to work on) possible funding for an ongoing study of public library use of social networks…and possibly book ideas.

Anyway, that’s what’s happened and what’s left. I don’t believe I’ve betrayed any archival principals. I do believe the Category sidebar will be a little more useful–and, of course, the search box and chronological navigation haven’t changed at all.

It’s not film noir, they’re Mist Filme

Posted in Movies and TV on February 9th, 2012

As I’ve been going through the 250-movie Mystery Collection, I’ve seen quite a few flicks that some cineastes would label as cinema noir or film noir–most of them low-budget black-and-white movies, usually badly filmed and seeming to celebrate the darker side of humanity.

Some of them probably are film noir. Some of them I’ve even enjoyed (as I have some of the classics of the supposed genre). All of them, as far as I can tell, have been labeled as noir classics or at least interesting noir by IMDB’s merry band of amateur reviewers, for some of whom almost any movie has not only redeeming but praiseworthy characteristics. [I just checked: Yep, some of the IMDB reviews for Apache Blood, almost certainly the worst Western ever filmed and a strong contender for worst movie of all time, manage to find some merit in it.]

Mist Filme

But some of them aren’t. They’re not subtle or existential inquiries into the darker side of humanity. They’re not … oh, you can supply your own set of noirish comments.

They’re mist filme. I would have called them cinema merde, but that phrase has been taken (both in that form and as cinema de merde), and seems to be used for the “so bad they’re entertaining” stuff like, well, Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Mist filme is German for “shit films” or “crappy films” according to Google Translate–at least it’s the version that doesn’t require special characters. I plan to use it in the future as shorthand for movies that are just plain crappy–not “if only they had more talent” bad, not “worth satirizing” bad, just bad.

I don’t remember how many movies from the first 28 discs of the 60-disc set fall into this category. I certainly don’t plan to go back and find out. My most recent run-in with mist filme came yesterday, when I began viewing Disc 29 with The Hoodlum, the first of four movies (three of them around one hour long, all presumably B “programmers” filmed to fill out double bills) on the disc.

The movie has no redeeming virtues that I could find. I watched the whole thing partly because it was short, partly because I kept hoping there would be something to redeem it. Nope. But look at the IMDB page: an average rating of 6.2, which would make it a pretty good flick. Maybe so, if mist filme is your thing.

I’ve been down to one old flick a week, but this time I moved on to the next movie just a day later, if only to balance out the crappy movie. The next one: Dick Tracy’s Dilemma, By comparison, it’s a masterpiece. (I’ll post the review after I watch the other two flicks on this disc, as usual.)

Mist filme. A genre to be avoided at all costs.


Update: On further reflection and the advice of sensible folk, I realize that there’s no way I’ll make a neologism like this work. So it’s back to either “film merde” or just “crap” as a descriptor.

Remarkable passive-agressive spam

Posted in Stuff on February 5th, 2012

This one’s so good I just have to quote it in full:

Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You clearly know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to your weblog when you could be giving us something informative to read?

In response to that suggestion, I’m going to quadruple the rate at which I post videos to this blog. That will move it up from zero videos per year to, well, zero videos per year.

 


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