The Open Access Landscape: 2. Agriculture

Posted in open access on March 6th, 2015

Agriculture includes aquaculture, fisheries and other aspects of raising and processing plants and animals, including food and some aspects of nutrition. This topic includes 309 journals, which published a total of 16,880 articles in 2013.

Grades

Grade Journals %J Articles %A A/J
A

213

69%

12,376

73%

58

Free

150

70%

6,630

54%

44

Pay

63

30%

5,746

46%

91

A$ pay

12

4%

1,490

9%

124

B

22

7%

1,019

6%

46

Free

7

32%

101

10%

14

Pay

15

68%

918

90%

61

C

23

7%

847

5%

37

Pay

7

30%

351

41%

50

Unk.

16

70%

496

59%

31

D

39

13%

1,148

7%

29

Free

23

59%

714

62%

31

Pay

15

38%

433

38%

29

Unk.

1

3%

1

0%

1

Table 2.1. Journals and articles by grade and price

Table 2.1 shows the number of journals and 2013 articles for each grade, the free, pay and unknown numbers, and average articles per journal. Note that boldface percentages (grades) are percentages of all agriculture journals, while others (free, pay, unknown) are percentages of the particular grade (so, for example, 7% of the journals were grade B, and 32% of that 7% were free).

Since A$ means an APC of $1,000 or more, all A$ journals are in the Pay category, so that isn’t listed as a separate line. It’s not particularly surprising that those journals tend to have the most articles—and it’s typical of OA in general that journals with APCs publish more articles (on the whole) than those without.

The small number of D journals (with even fewer articles proportionally) include these subgroups: C: 11 journals, 25 articles in 2013; D: 5 journals, 21 articles; E: 4 journals, 16 articles; H: 10 journals, 1,056 articles; N: one journal, four articles; S: 8 journals, 26 articles. Worth noting: two journals make up the bulk of the H articles—one with 263 articles in 2013 and one with 536, for a total of 799 of the 1,056. Neither had any articles in the first half of 2014 when checked in late 2014—but when checked in early 2015, the one with 263 articles in 2013 shows 298 articles for 2014, so it’s apparently back. The other (with 536 in 2013) had eight articles in 2014, so it’s nearly comatose.

Article Volume (including all of 2014)

2014 2013 2012 2011
Journals

273

281

273

256

%Free

62%

61%

62%

64%

Articles

15,266

16,383

14,702

13,205

%Free

44%

45%

47%

50%

Table 2.2. Journals and articles by date

Table 2.2 shows the number of free and APC-charging journals that published articles in each year, including all of 2014, how many articles those journals published, and what percentage were free.

The 17 “unknown” journals (with 497 articles in 2013) are omitted. The journal numbers still don’t add up because there are some journals that don’t publish articles in any given year—eleven of them in 2013, for example.

The percentage of free journals is fairly typical for all of OA and didn’t change significantly during this time; the percentage of free articles is higher than the overall OA average and, as with that average, declined in recent years.

Is OA activity in agriculture declining? It’s really not possible to say, given that new journals may have emerged, that some journals post articles months after the publication date, and that some journals have erratic publishing patterns, but at least it seems likely that growth slowed in 2014. More specifically, the same set of journals published 917 fewer articles than in 2013—but note that one journal (discussed in the previous section, going from 536 to 8) accounts for more than half of that difference.

Looked at on a journal-by-journal basis, 125 journals published more articles in 2014 than in 2013; 24 had the same number; 160 published fewer articles in 2014 than in 2013. In terms of significant change, 89 (28%) had at least 10% more articles in 2014, 87 (28%) were relatively unchanged (-9% to +9%), and 133 (43%) declined by 10% or more, including 14 that have yet to post any 2014 articles (some of which may be small journals with long posting delays.)

Peak Journals No-Fee% Articles No-Fee%
Prolific

0

0

Large

17

24%

5,710

21%

Medium

81

54%

6,274

53%

Small

128

58%

4,129

58%

Sparse

72

68%

767

70%

Table 2.3. Journals by peak article volume

Table 2.3 shows the number of journals in each size category, 2013 articles for journals in that group, and what percentage is in no-fee journals. There are no prolific agriculture journals (1,000 or more articles per year), and sparse journals are much less common than overall. That the percentage of no-fee journals goes down as the article frequency goes up is a consistent and expected pattern.

Fees (APCs)

APC Jour %Fee %All Art. %Fee %All
High

11

10%

4%

1,151

13%

7%

Medium

19

17%

7%

1,347

15%

8%

Low

41

37%

15%

3,558

40%

22%

Nominal

39

35%

14%

2,882

32%

18%

None

171

61%

7,445

45%

Table 2.4. Journals and articles by fee range

Table 2.4 shows the number of journals in each fee range (High: $1,451+; Medium: $601 to $1,450; Low: $201-$600; Nominal: $8 to $200) and the number of 2013 articles for those journals.

Since the fee ranges are based on quartiles of this study universe, deviations from 25% in the first %Fee column represent differences between agricultural journals and OA as a whole—e.g., far fewer very expensive journals and generally lower APCs throughout, with most fee-paid articles in journals with low or nominal APCs.

It seemed worth considering whether there’s a statistical correlation between APC level and volume of articles (as indicated by peak year, 2011-2013). That is, does the number of articles change in a predictable manner as the APC changes? The answer, at least for agriculture OA journals, is no: the correlation is 0.06, far too low to be considered of any significance.

Starting Dates and the Gold Rush

Year Total Free%
Pre-1960

4

75%

1960-69

4

25%

1970-79

4

100%

1980-89

3

67%

1990-91

4

75%

1992-93

3

67%

1994-95

6

50%

1996-97

9

89%

1998-99

15

87%

2000-01

18

67%

2002-03

31

71%

2004-05

28

82%

2006-07

41

49%

2008-09

44

57%

2010-11

58

45%

2012-13

35

37%

Table 2.5. Starting dates for agriculture OA journals

Table 2.5 shows agriculture OA journals by starting date, including the percentage of journals started in a given date range that currently don’t charge APCs. For DOAJ journals as a whole, there’s a sense of a gold rush for APC-charging journals starting in 2006—and agriculture is very much typical. Note that, except for odd cases in early year, the bulk of new journals was consistently free until 2005—and has dropped significantly since then.

Figure 2.1 shows essentially the same information as Table 2.5, but as a graph with lines for free and APC-charging journals. Note the wide gap from 1996 through 2005, with free journals growing at a much faster rate—and the jumps in APC-charging journals since then.

Figure 2.1. Agriculture journals by starting date

Year Journals Articles Art/Jrnl
Pre-1960

4

194

49

1960-69

4

216

54

1970-79

4

132

33

1980-89

3

172

57

1990-91

4

309

77

1992-93

3

145

48

1994-95

6

234

39

1996-97

9

400

44

1998-99

14

1,162

83

2000-01

17

807

47

2002-03

30

1,394

46

2004-05

27

1,205

45

2006-07

39

2,251

58

2008-09

42

3,137

75

2010-11

58

4,084

70

2012-13

34

1,038

31

Table 2.6. Articles per journal by starting date

Finally, Table 2.6 shows journals that published articles in 2013, when they started, and the average articles per journal. There are four unusual time periods: four journals beginning in 1990-91, 14 beginning 1998-99, 42 beginning 2008-2009 and 58 beginning 2010-2011. Those journals average 70 to 83 articles per journal per year; the rest all average fewer than 60, in most cases fewer than 50.

Definitions and notes

See The Open Access Landscape: 1. Background for definitions and notes

A few offhand words about The Open Access Landscape

Posted in open access on March 5th, 2015

The background post went up on Tuesday, March 3, 2015.

Did I run out of steam before preparing any of the topical posts/chapters?

Not really. I already had a reasonably final draft of the first one ready before I posted the background. Since it was the first one, I wanted to give it a couple of days in which I might refine the model (since chapters will follow a similar model).

That turned out to be wise: I’ve added some information and revised one caption while the post has been scheduled for posting.

You’ll see it tomorrow (Friday, March 6) at around 8:10 a.m. PST.

My current plan is to publish one chapter/post/topic a week, probably on Fridays, until I’m done, I run out of energy, or other things intervene. As of this point, I’ve done the 2014 counts for the next topic and am just starting the chapter itself–in between doing other things.

As for doing “full”-2014 counts for most topics (scare quotes because some journals, mostly annuals and 2/yr publications, take a LONG time to post the online articles): with one huge exception, most topics have 100 to 350 journals to check; at 309, the first topic was among the largest. (Six topics have fewer than 100 journals; those will be easy.) The one huge exception is, well, huge: 1,702 journals. Fortunately, I won’t get to it for another 17 weeks, and I can nibble away at 2014 counts until then.

It’s possible that all of the topic posts will include 2014 counts. It’s probable that all but one of them will.

I hope people will find these worthwhile, and that people will be interested in a combined bookform set late this year…and, to be sure, that people will contribute to C&I and/or help me find a way to make a complete followup study in 2016 plausible to do.

(This offhand commentary is not part of the canon, so won’t be listed at the end of the background when I start adding those links.)

The Open Access Landscape: 1. Background

Posted in open access on March 3rd, 2015

In early 2015, I completed what I believe to be the closest thing to a universal survey of Open Access (OA) journals, sometimes called Gold OA: all the journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) as of May 7, 2014, that had enough English in some version of the interface so that I could evaluate them. That turned out to be 7,301 journals, of which 6,490 journals published at least one article between January 1, 2011 and June 30, 2014 and had websites that made it possible for me to count or estimate the number of articles each year.

The analysis and description of the state of OA journals, based on this universe of 6,490 journals, appears in mid-2015 as Idealism and Opportunism: The State of Open Access Journals: Idealism and Opportunism*, an issue of Library Technology Reports from the American Library Association.

This series of blog posts (which may turn into a book if there’s enough interest) complements that study by expanding on Chapter 5, “A Closer Look at Subjects.” If time and energy permit, I plan to prepare a post on each of 27 topics (and two clusters that aren’t really topics) and, possibly, several groups of topics. Each post will discuss the journals on one topic, looking at them in some of the ways that Open Access Journals: Idealism and Opportunism* looks at the broader set of journals. Subjects were assigned based on the very detailed subjects in DOAJ and, in some cases, the title or publication pattern of the journal.

This introductory post notes some of the definitions that apply across all of the posts, the one way in which these posts may introduce new data, and some caveats.

Definitions

A number of terms and category breakdowns used in Open Access Journals: Idealism and Opportunism are also used in these posts, generally without explicit definitions.

Grades

The earlier studies on large subsets of DOAJ and the Beall lists used grades to group journals, including A, B, C, D, E, H, N, O and X. Grades E (empty), H (hybrid), N (not OA), O (opaque/obscure) and X (unreachable/unworkable) make up the 811 difference between the 7,301 journals checked and the 6,490 in the universe discussed in these posts. The following grades and subgrades appear in these posts:

  • A: Apparently good. No apparent issues with a journal, and if there’s an article processing charge as of late 2014 it’s $999 or less.
  • A$: Good but pricey. No apparent issues, but an APC of $1,000 or more.
  • B: May need investigation. The journal may be great, but something about the site suggested that a scholar might want to investigate further—e.g., poor-quality English in the interface or misleading claims or journal titles.
  • C: Highly questionable. Journals with serious problems that I believe most scholars and librarians would and should ignore. Reasons include APCs that aren’t stated (or probably exist but aren’t discussed), false claims by the publisher, and implausible things such as two-day review turnaround.
  • D: Dormant, diminutive, dying or dead—journals that might be locked out of DOAJ in the future or seem to be going away. The D grade includes these subgrades: C: Apparently ceased; D: Dying; E: Erratic publication patterns (fewer than five articles in some years); H: Hiatus (possibly); N: New; S: Small (fewer than five articles in some years, never more than 10 articles per year).

Article Volume

In some cases, I group journals based on the peak article volume between 2011 and 2013; the smallest group of volume categories has five ranges:

  • Prolific: 1,000 articles or more.
  • Large: 200 to 999 articles.
  • Medium: 60 to 199 articles.
  • Small: 20 to 59 articles.
  • Sparse: 1 to 19 articles.

Note that these are per year counts: a quarterly with 15 articles in each issue would fall into the Medium category.

These categories are not based on simple analysis of what’s out there. There are very few prolific journals, a few hundred large journals, over a thousand medium journals, more than 2,500 small journals and more than 2,200 sparse journals.

Fee Levels

I tend to refer to all fees as APCs, although some journals charge submission fees or require paid membership in an association. Where APCs are variable, I take the fee that would apply for a research paper by a non-member of an association and that is either ten pages long or a different length specified as normal for that journal.

Fee levels are based on actual analysis of the universe: while most OA journals don’t charge APCs at all, among those that do, 25% of the journals (roughly) fall into each of these four ranges:

  • High: $1,451 or more.
  • Medium: $601 to $1,450.
  • Low: $201 to $600.
  • Nominal: $8 to $200.

Note that in some cases journals are characterized as Free, Pay or Unkown: Unknown journals are those that almost certainly have APCs but don’t state the amount, and are all grade C.

New Data

Where time and energy have allowed, I’ve rechecked journals within a subject to determine the number of articles for all of 2014 (or at least all those posted to the journal site by February 27, 2015 or later).

The only change in data for any journal from what’s used in Open Access Journals: Idealism and Opportunism* (and is available in anonymized form at http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1299451) is the use of full-2014 numbers when available. When it is, I note it; with luck, all but one (enormous) subject will have full-year counts.

Caveats

I have not changed grades, APCs or anything else about a journal based on the revisit and that article level assignments are usually based on 2013 or peak levels.

The total 2014 article counts for a topic are probably low for three reasons:

  • As with the full report, these figures omit 2,400-odd journals with no English interface, apparently accounting for 18% or so of articles not accounted for.
  • Some journals post the last issue of a year well into the next year, so some of those counts might go up later.
  • New OA journals almost certainly emerged in some (if not all) topics between May 7, 2014 and December 31, 2014. I have not included any such journals.

I would love to revisit the whole DOAJ scene for a longitudinal study, if financial resources become available to make that realistic, but that revisit would not happen until 2016 and would include all of 2014 and all of 2015. (Feel free to contact me if you know of ways to make this realistically feasible.)

Want the Book?

I believe the 29 (or 37) chapters, plus a modified version of this background chapter, would make a worthwhile book—and if enough people express interest in such a book, it will happen (when the series of posts is done). Ten interested parties might be enough. If you’re interested (which does not imply a commitment), leave a comment on one of the posts or send me mail: waltcrawford@gmail.com.

*Title changed March 23, 2014, at the suggestion of the senior editor for Library Technology Reports–a suggestion with which I immediately agreed, since it’s a better title.


Subjects posted:

Open Access articles in Cites & Insights

Posted in Cites & Insights, open access on March 2nd, 2015

After some years of not writing about OA in Cites & Insights, seems like I’ve been writing about it quite a bit. John Dupuis suggested that I provide a list of all the OA-related essays over the last year or so. I’ve done that below, starting with December 2012 (the first significant OA-related material since 2009). All OA-related essays appear under the “Intersections” flag, since OA involves the intersection of libraries, policy, media and technology.

All references below are to Cites & Insights.

Cites & Insights 15:4 (April 2015) Available

Posted in Cites & Insights, open access on March 1st, 2015

Cites & Insights 15:4 (April 2015) is now available for downloading at http://citesandinsights.info/civ15i4.pdf

The print-oriented version is 38 pages long; it includes boldface as applied but the links don’t work.

If you’re reading online or on an e-device and want working links (but no boldface), you may prefer the single-column 6×9″ version at http://citesandinsights.info/civ15i4on.pdf

The single-column version is 72 pages long.

This issue includes the following:

Intersections: The Economies of Open Access  pp. 1-38

Publishing costs money. That’s a given, although sometimes that cost is so negligible that it can be handled as departmental or library or society overhead. This roundup looks at a range of items related to the economics of journals in general and OA journals in particular, divided into ten general topics. It turns out that I have stronger feelings than I thought about this issue, so there’s a fair amount of my own commentary mixed in with excerpts from various posts and articles.

Visual discrimination test

Posted in Language, Stuff on February 9th, 2015

At least one of the three numbered terms below is the name of a physics subject repository. At least one is not.
arxiv
Can you tell which is which?

Comments open for a few days.

(A note: the terms appear as a screen capture from Word…because WordPress’ visual editor literally will not let me retain the proper glyph; it autotranslates it to X, no matter how I enter it. Cute.)

Open Access Journals: New Grade Summary

Posted in open access on February 4th, 2015

As noted in the current Cites & Insights, I’ve moved 580 DOAJ journals from Grade B to Grade A$ because the only reason to regard them as possibly requiring investigation is that they have APCs of $1,000 or more. That’s something to be aware of, and the justifications for high APCs still need discussion, but if an author has the money and finds the APC reasonable, there’s nothing else about these journals to raise concerns.

The Library Technology Reports issue this summer will reflect that change, but none of the existing C&I coverage does.

Here’s a table (that probably won’t appear in this form in the report) that shows the number of journals and 2013 articles in each grade, as revised.

Grade Desc. Journals %J Articles %A
A Apparently good

3,976

54.5%

177,077

48.4%

A$ Apparently good with high APC

580

7.9%

113,574

31.0%

B May need investigation

567

7.8%

40,273

11.0%

C Highly questionable

294

4.0%

25,284

6.9%

DC Ceased

263

3.6%

1,362

0.4%

DD Dying

93

1.3%

533

0.1%

DE Erratic

182

2.5%

1,554

0.4%

DH Hiatus?

145

2.0%

5,006

1.4%

DN New?

16

0.2%

98

0.0%

DS Small

374

5.1%

1,449

0.4%

E Empty

18

0.2%

EC Empty/cancelled

53

0.7%

N Not OA

165

2.3%

O Opaque

189

2.6%

X Unreachable or unworkable

386

5.3%

Total

7,301

366,210

If you draw the conclusion from this table that journals with high APCs publish a lot of articles, you wouldn’t be wrong.

Cites & Insights 15:3 (March 2015) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on February 3rd, 2015

Cites & Insights 15:3 (March 2015) is now available for downloading at http://citesandinsights.info/civ15i3.pdf

The issue is 24 pages long.

If you plan to view it online or need working hyperlinks (at the expense of boldface working–someday, I’ll have a new computer and new version of Word’s PDF conversion and Acrobat), the single-column 6×9″ version, 46 pages long, is available at http://citesandinsights.info/civ15i3on.pdf

This issue includes the following:

Intersections: One More Chunk of DOAJ    pp. 1-10

Because there will be a published concise version of all this stuff–out this summer from ALA’s Library Technology Reports, working title “Idealism and Opportunism: The State of Open Access Journals”–I went through 2,200-odd additional DOAJ journals with English as one of the language options (but not the first one), and was able to add 1,507 more entries to my DOAJ master spreadsheet, which now includes 6,490 journals qualifying for full analysis and 811 that don’t. This essay offers some summary information on the 1,507 added journals and some overall notes on the full DOAJ set–including some new and replacement tables (there may be errors in tables 2.66 b and c and 2.67 b and c in earlier issues).

The essay also offers some details on “N” (not OA) journals, notes on very small journals, a few comments on opportunism, idealism and initiative–and the URLs for two spreadsheets offering anonymized versions of the DOAJ and Beall data. (Note that the DOAJ spreadsheet has just been changed to shift 580 “B” journals there because of $1,000-or-more APCs to a new “A$” subgrade, since the high APC was the only issue with them. The summary text in this issue has NOT been changed to reflect this refinement; the Library Technology Reports issue will reflect the change.)

The two spreadsheeets are on figshare and licensed with the Creative Commons “BY” license, making them available for any use as long as attribution is provided. Each spreadsheet includes a data key as a second page.

Words: Books, E and P,  2014    pp. 10-24

Bringing discussions of ebooks vs. (or and) pbooks up to date from the January 2014 essay. In most cases, “and” is now the prevailing attitude as ebook sales appear to have plateaued–although of course there are still those who say print books will die Because Digital and now, oddly, a few who say ebooks will die or are dead (which I regard as equally unlikely).

 

50 Movie Gunslinger Classics Disc 10

Posted in Movies and TV on January 29th, 2015

We’re back to b&w and the hour-long B-movie “programmers.” Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, to be sure.

The Lawless Frontier, 1934, b&w. Robert N. Bradbury (dir. & story), John Wayne, Sheila Terry, Jack Rockwell, George “Gabby” Hayes, Yakima Canutt, Earl Dwire. 0:59 [0:49]

The sleeve makes more of this plot than I think it deserves—but maybe that’s the missing ten minutes (out of an original 59 minutes!). What I got from the plot was horse riding, more horse riding, an occasional shot being fired, an idiot sheriff, even more horse riding, Gabby Hayes apparently can’t be killed with a knive in his back and bullet upside the head, more horse riding, really? a sheriff stupid enough to think that cuffing the outside of huge cowboy boots to a bed is somehow going to keep an outlaw trapped?, even more horse riding, and of course the woman in the cast winds up married to John Wayne, who’s the new and less stupid sheriff.

Even Yakima Canutt’s stunt riding’s not that great. Mostly for John Wayne completists. Charitably, $0.50.

Rim of the Canyon, 1949, b&w. John English (dir.), Gene Autry, Champion, Nan Leslie, Thurston Hall, Clem Bevans, Walter Sande, Alan Hale Jr. 1:10

This is more like it—even if there isn’t much real gunslinging (a fair amount of shooting, basically none of it precision or stunting). It’s a real movie with an actual plot, and long enough that it could be considered a feature rather than a programmer. Gene Autry—and this one’s late enough that it’s “A Gene Autry Production”—may not be the #1 singing cowboy and wonder-horse, but he’s a strong #2. And, of course, the character he almost always plays is named Gene Autry of the Flying A Ranch and his horse Champion.

The plot (yes, there is a plot): three prisoners have escaped, notably including one who staged a holdup netting $30,000 in silver (a lot of money at the time) and was caught and put away by Autrey’s father, the sheriff at the time. The escapee wants revenge, but also wants his $30,000, and the other two escapees are there to help out. Autrey just wants to win a stagecoach race as part of the town annual festivities (and with winning, a local hot number will go to the dance to follow), but a competitor has removed one wheel’s nut, so he craches; the competitor laughs at his request to take him back into town—and he limps (he twisted his ankle) two miles to a ghost town, formerly owned by the miner whose $30,000 was stolen. There, he meets up with the local teacher (female and a whole lot more interesting than the town floozie) who goes out there every couple of weeks and swears she’s heard the miner speak to her.

Meanwhile, the thugs have lost one horse and decided to steal Champion as a replacement—forcing him into a nasty-looking metal bit that he really, truly does not like.

That’s just the beginning. In the end, all is well (but no phony “and the hero marries the girl” ending), and along the way, it’s a solid picture. As usual, The Hero prefers fistfights to actual gunplay—and it’s Champion who deals the fatal blow to the chief villain. Along the way, we get to see Gene as his dad in a flashback. Only two songs, which is OK. Even though it’s 1:10, I’ll rate it as a B flick—whilch means $1 in this case.

Man from Music Mountain, 1938, b&w. Joe Kane (dir.), Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Carol Hughes, Sally Payne, Ivan Miller, Ed Cassidy. 1:00 [sleeve; 0:58 IMDB, 0.53 actual on the disc]

Perhaps a more typical Autry flick, with his cowhands all being singers and his sidekick being Smiley “Froggy” Burnette. Lots of songs, an interesting instrumental number with some surprising instruments, a couple of Burnette-written comedy songs—and enough plot to keep it moving. It’s an odd one, though: it starts with con men buying up an old ghost town and abandoned gold mine and selling lots (and shares) on the basis that the recent opening of Boulder Dam means electricity and water coming soon, and with hydraulic mining they can work the mine. It’s a con—and Autry, on his way back from a cattle run, spots it—but it takes in lots of people, including Froggy.

Where things get strange is that, between Autry’s counter-con (he salts the mine to con the con men into buying back the mining shares) and shootouts…well, he winds up making the con men’s case: The town winds up with electricity and a worthwhile mine. If he’d been in cahoots with the con men, he could scarcely have done a better job (but they probably wouldn’t have wound up arrested for killing one of his hands, a crime he doesn’t seem to take as any big deal). It’s missing five or minutes and possibly some plot development.

Do note that this is the 1938 Gene Autry flick, not the 1943 Roy Rogers flick with the same title prefaced with “The.” The sleeve description of the plot is just plain wrong—and the sleeve has the “The” from the 1943 flick. Anyway, it’s OK but nothing special. I’ll give it $0.75.

Public Cowboy #1, 1937, b&w. Joe Kane (dir.), Gene Autry, Smiley “Froggy” Burnette, Ann Rutherford, William Farnum, Arthur Loft, James C. Morton. 1:01 [0:53]

Another Gene Autry one-hour B-movie songfest with seven minutes missing—but this time, instead of being Gene Autry of the Flying “A” Ranch in some unstated location, he’s Gene Autry, a deputy sheriff in Grand Junction, Wyoming (ol’ Froggy’s the other deputy). And the aging sheriff and deputies have a real problem: a band of rustlers using airplanes and shortwave radio is ruining the local cattlemen. The rustlers have an interesting MO: the plane spots a herd on the move with relatively few cattlemen; they radio the main group telling them where to go; the main group—a truck full of horses, a couple of cars full of bad guys and a couple of big refrigerated trucks—kill off the horsemen, round up the herd into a makeshift corral, slaughter and skin them on the spot and load the carcasses into the trucks—adding the butcher’s signs later on.

There’s not much three guys with horses can do against this big high-tech gang, even if one of the horses is Champion. The townsfolk demand that the sheriff resign (egged on by the new editor of the local paper, that editor being—of course—young and pretty, since this is a singing cowboy movie). They bring in a hotshot detective agency to replace the sheriff and his deputies. There’s some entertainment (I find that I really don’t care for most of Autry’s written-for-the-movies songs, at least at this early stage, and the Burnette number is flat-out racist), and the deputies manage to spring a trap, showing up the modern detectives. It’s all a lot implausible, but not bad as B-movie entertainment. I’ll give it $0.75.

Suspension of disbelief and the Earth problem

Posted in Movies and TV on January 20th, 2015

Warning: This is a silly post. If you’re looking for significance, go elsewhere.

We’ve been watching Stargate: Atlantis (on DVD, from DVD Netflix–you know, the one that doesn’t have shows disappearing all the time because movie companies can’t tell it what it can and can’t circulate), roughly one episode a week, since we went through Stargate: SG-1 some time back.

On one episode we saw recently, we ran into a suspension problem: Namely, even given the grotesque level of suspension of disbelief needed to enjoy Atlantis, we found it difficult to believe this episode. (Hey, we enjoy Scorpion: we can suspend disbelief with the best of them.)

Here’s the situation:

The wormhole/scanning/whatever handwave required for Star Trek‘s transporter and, on a much more galactic scale, the Stargate is a classic handwave: you learn to accept it. (Einstein-Rosen? OK.) And one aspect you learn to accept is that it’s purely a transport mechanism: you can’t duplicate objects in the process because Science.

The episode in question involved a wraith Dart, the ships the wraiths use to harvest their victims by transporting them up to the ships and, later, draining the life force from them (because Evil). The Dart had crash landed or something, and the chief scientist could–of course–get it working again. And, under duress, the good guys were going to fly it up to a much bigger wraith ship and plant a bomb on the ship (and get somebody out or something–I’ve forgotten the extra bit).

But then, when you see the Dart, it’s tiny–with basically enough interior space for the pilot. Which raises the question: where do all those harvested folks go? Or, in this case, where will the other folks on this mission go while they’re rocketing off to the big wraith ship?

Turns out they’re stored as patterns in the Dart, until they’re regenerated later. Now, remember, this method is used to provide food for the wraiths (only human essences are nutritious for them).

And, at that point, I said “Bullshit.” Because, if you’re storing patterns, there is no way you can’t recreate multiple copies of those patterns. Which means there’s no way the wraith can’t simply generate as many cloned humans, thus food, as they want.

I know, I know: the whole transporter/stargate/beaming method is ludicrous anyway. But at least–with the possible exception of one or two Star Trek episodes I’ve half-forgotten–at least it’s consistently ludicrous. You can’t use the transporter/stargate to clean up illness or the like, you can’t make copies, it’s always A goes in and is destroyed, while A comes out somewhere else, just exactly the same, immediately. If A can be stored in some little box, well, bullshit.

My wife had exactly the same reaction. Sure, it’s a silly point–“how much nonsense is too much nonsense?”–but there it is.

The Earth Problem

This one applies to both Stargates. It stems from the assumption that every group Our Heroes encounter on every planet is human or closely related to humans and speaks English–because, you know, they all spring from ancient Egyptians who conquered the stars. And, of course, spoke English.

Given that, it strikes me that, whenever Our Heroes come out of a stargate or Chappa’ai and ask the locals what planet they’re on, they’re going to get the same answer: Earth.

Because, realistically, we all live on earth, thus Earth. If you asked true natives in any land area where they were, they would presumably respond with some language’s version of “here” or “where we live” or “Ourland.” And, presumably, on alien planets the planet would be called by that language’s equivalent of “here”–that is, Earth.

Which could get confusing. Fortunately, Our Heroes rarely ask that question, and they refer to planets as a set of coordinates or magic numbers for dialing the Chappa’ai.

I know, I know: it’s TVSciFantasy. Don’t expect much. Certainly don’t expect the fairly rigorous internal consistency of, say, Buffy. It’s just good cheap fun. Which is OK by us. (Yes, someday I’ll rent one disc from season 1 of ST:TOS, on Blu-ray, just to see just how cheesy those sets and SFX actually look in high-def on a big screen. One episode should do the job.)

Really clever folks will have figured out what this post is. I just finished–sort of–the first draft of one major project. I’m not quite ready to start the next essay/project. This is what you call procrastination.


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