Archive for June, 2006

The last* Cites & Insights** (pay attention to the asterisks***!)

Saturday, June 10th, 2006

That’s right–the last* Cites & Insights** will be appearing well before ALA Annual: Based on other uncertainties, I’ll say “no earlier than Wednesday, June 14, and no later than Tuesday, June 20,” with the most likely dates being Thursday, June 15 or Sunday, June 18.

*This will be the last C&I with a masthead saying “written and produced by Walt Crawford, a senior analyst at RLG.” RLG’s members approved the merger, so my last day as an RLG employee will be June 30–because that’s the last day RLG will have employees. Don’t cry for me, whether in Argentina [46 readers so far this year] or elsewhere: I’ll start working for OCLC on July 1, going back to full-time from the 75%-time position I’ve had since last fall. Sure, I lose more than 1,000 hours of sick leave in the process–but that’s a tribute to my general good health, and would happen in any job change.

The bad news: I have to change health providers, I drop back to no accumulated vacation (but get paid for the vacation I had), I’ll have to reacclimate to full-time work, I’ll miss some of the great RLG people who aren’t signing up for the transition, and the initial period–the “transition” of RLG services and stuff to OCLC–is likely to be somewhat difficult, just as the last month has been difficult. The good news: In the long run, I think there’s a good chance I might be working with (and certainly working for) a broader range of libraries, including the public libraries I admire so much–and that I might even have a job that’s a little more in line with my professional activities. And, to be sure, there are great people at OCLC as well.

**This will be the last substantive issue for this academic year. I’m sticking with the plan I announced a couple of months ago. Balance in copyright was last issue’s primary theme. Balance in libraries and librarianship–which you could consider a contribution to the ongoing discussion of web services and other new library tools–is the primary theme of the forthcoming issue. I don’t intend to have an issue as big as the Midwinter issue, although I’d love to have that much readership; at the moment, though, I have more text in the four draft essays (not including Bibs & Blather), so I’ve got a lot of editing to do. The August issue will be one most readers can cheerfully skip, a probably-short issue devoted to typography and design issues.

***What? You actually thought I was shutting down C&I just because of job disruptions? Or maybe that OCLC frowned on the publication? Wrong on both counts–and I know I have loyal readers at OCLC, as I apparently do here (this blog shows 1,613 sessions from since May 1).

I can’t say for sure how things will go over the next months and beyond, but I’m pretty nearly certain that “regular” C&I issues will resume in mid to late August, that is, with a September issue. And I’m only a little less certain that the September issue will feature Looking at Liblogs, a new take on last year’s single most discussed article.

Coming soon: A post regarding that probable feature and what you can do now to help (or at least clarify) it.

[Modified to break up a ridiculously long paragraph. No text changes.]

50 Movie Pack SciFi Classics, Disc 10

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

All four in color (more or less, in one case)—with two of them featuring a form of prehistoric feminism. As I’m now finding to be common, about half of the IMDB user comments appear to be from people who either didn’t actually watch the film or were stoned or drunk while doing so—which in some cases may make sense. Note: Spoiler alert for two of the flicks–but if you’re watching these for suspenseful plot, you’re really in the wrong place.

Blood Tide, 1982, color, Richard Jefferies (dir.), James Earl Jones, José Ferrer, Lila Kedrova, Mary-Louise Weller, Martin Kove, Lydia Cornell, Deborah Shelton. 1:22 [1:23]

This is an odd monster movie, if only because the monster (a vicious marine beast) appears for about four seconds total. Set on a remote Greek island (no telephones), where a young man and his new wife come by fancy yacht to seek out his sister. She’s busily uncovering older layers of a religious painting (finally uncovering the prehistoric beast). Meanwhile, you’ve got James Earl Jones as a cynical treasure hunter blowing up underground areas to find ancient coins and treasure (and maybe unleash the beast) while otherwise drinking heavily, various girlfriends and others acting strangely, virgin pseudo-sacrifice…well, lots of good actors, good scenery, and a plot that doesn’t really go much of anywhere. Generously, $1.25.

The Brain Machine, 1977, color, Joy N. Houck Jr. (dir.), James Best, Barbara Burgess, Gil Peterson, Gerald McRaney. 1:25 [1:21]

Strange psychological experiments—four volunteers in a sealed environment with a beautiful scientist/doctor, two scientists outside, lots of mainframe computer equipment, a hammock of sorts that can apparently not only read minds but can insert things into them (maybe)—and a second team that really controls the experiment on behalf of The General and The Senator, now that they’ve killed the scientist who Found Out The Truth about the experiment. The volunteers turn out to be a seedy lot, but still may not deserve their fate, either crushed by the walls of a computer-controlled chamber gone wrong or electrocuted as they try to escape. A little too realistic in the resolution: When the man supposedly in charge of both experiments asks his superior how he expects to cover this up, the superior shoots him. (Sorry if this spoils the movie.) Otherwise—well, “establishing shots” of a house and pool appear interminably often for no apparent reason, as does a seemingly-identical sequence with the Real Control Team: This has the feel of a 45-minute TV episode padded out to 85 minutes. Zero for the incoherent plot and really awful ending; $0.75 for some interesting B-movie acting along the way. $0.75.

The Wild Women of Wongo, 1958, color, James L. Wolcott (dir.), a cast of beautiful nobodies (only Joyce Nizzari has more than one other film credit, and her role doesn’t even merit a character name). 1:11

As Mother Nature informs us in a voice-over, she and Father Time did an experiment 10,000 years ago that went wrong: They set up an island village Wongo, with beautiful women and “beastly” men—and, a few days’ walk away, another village with beautiful men (none with facial hair, all pretty boys) and not-so-beautiful women. There are also supposed ape men ready to attack everyone, but we only see two of them and they’re pretty pathetic. The alligator temple is also involved, with a mysterious revolving-stone entrance. When the son of the beautiful-men king comes to Wongo to ask the ugly men to go to the other village to fight off the apemen, the beautiful women go ape, and prevent the ugly men from killing him; this leads to all sorts of hijinks, with the beautiful women rounding up the beautiful men, the homely men finally meeting up with the homely women, lots of winking in the temple of the alligator, and an apparently happy ending. There’s also a parrot who talks a lot, which is one of several clues that this movie was done as a lark. (All of the prehistoric folk speak perfect English, but other than dress styles there are no obvious anachronisms—and we have to assume that women of 10,000 years ago were skilled in making fabric and preparing sundresses. I didn’t see any zippers, buttons, or seams; give them credit for this.) Not exactly serious anthropology, but harmless fun and fairly well filmed (but with complete nobodies as actors, albeit many of them very attractive complete nobodies). Oh, and of course there’s one catfight: You expected that, right? $1.25.

Prehistoric Women, 1950, color, Gregg C. Tallas (dir.), Laurette Luez, Allan Nixon, Judy Landon, David Vaile (narrator). 1:14 [1:13]

This movie would be a lot more tolerable if most “night scenes” (actually filmed in daytime but with smoke machines running) weren’t so obscured as to be nearly unwatchable. This time around (also 10,000 years, and the whole story is told as an expansion of a cave drawing), the prehistoric folks all speak unknown languages (mostly just names), and a really annoying narrator tells us what’s going on—including gems such as that “swan diving was invented before swans” and a tendency to tell us what we just saw happen. Anyway, in this case one women and some female children escape from a tribe where the women were really treated badly; the children grow up into beautiful young women in short cloth sundresses (with belts and purses of sorts, and in some cases strappy sandals, but few really egregious anachronisms), and dance themselves to exhaustion because—well, because they need men. So they capture some (wearing animal skins—I guess cloth is just for women) to use as husbands and slaves. The handsomest one escapes; on his way back to his tribe (in caves), he manages to discover fire. (Otherwise, it’s fair to say that the men are…well, they can’t figure out how to pick up rocks and throw them back at the women who are slingshotting them, and they don’t seem to have progressed from clubs to spears. As Harry Belafonte would say, “That’s right, the women are smarter.”) He comes back to rescue the others, gets captured, various subplots with a nine-foot giant and a flying chicken—sorry, dragon—are resolved, mostly with this burning stuff (did you know that striking any two rocks together repeatedly will cause fire just when you need it?)…oh, and of course the men turn the tables on the women. Yes, there’s a catfight in this one as well. They discover cooked meat in the process, and I guess they all live happily ever after. The acting is…well, unlike Wild Women of Wongo, there’s no reason to believe they weren’t kidding. Very generously, $0.75, if only as an early D-grade color curiosity.

Foxit Reader: Close, oh so close

Monday, June 5th, 2006

Sigh, I had a nice long post ready here to guide frustrated C&I readers to a small, fast PDF reader: Foxit Reader. Recommended by PC World, it’s a free under-3MB download (one .exe file, no install, may cause security questions since it’s an executable) that starts up in a second or so and looks to have most Adobe Reader functionality. Not much speed improvement over Adobe Reader 7, but a lot better than the initial “let’s load umpteen pieces” Reader 6 startup.

Only one problem (well, three: Making it the active reader in Firefox is a slight nuisance, and there’s no text-to-speech capability):

For C&I, at least, the printouts aren’t identical to the original. It appears that Foxit Reader is doing something strange with embedded fonts–perhaps emulating them or just not getting them quite right. The results are that spacing’s a little off here and there, and the Berkeley Bold I use for boldface (which is not a bold version of Berkeley Book, the regular text face) is badly off, looking like something’s wrong with the type. Small differences, but the result is a slightly “jaggedy” page. If I hadn’t spent my own money and a fair amount of time getting C&I to look as good as possible, I might not care–but I did, so I do, and the clash between the magnificent Berkeley Book typeface and the slightly helter-skelter outpout from Foxit was too much to deal with.

If none of that matters to you, you might find Foxit Reader worthwhile. As it stands, I can’t recommend it (so won’t provide a download link): After all, the whole point of PDF is presenting an accurate rendition.

Well, there’s an hour or two of my own time (at home and at lunch) wasted; now to go home this evening and restore Adobe as the PDF viewer of choice in IE and Firefox.

Note: The Foxit spacing problem has since been solved, but I haven’t had occasion to do a new check. It may be a good alternative to Reader.

Comments and trackbacks yet again

Thursday, June 1st, 2006

I did something this morning that I’ve rarely had to do: Deleted a comment that had made it past Spam Karma 2.

I didn’t tag it as spam, because it wasn’t clearly spam. But I did consider it offtopic and mildly offensive, an all-lower-case rant. It wasn’t a case of disagreeing with me; it was a case of being disagreeable.

I maintain open commenting, which is becoming rarer (I think). I intend to feel free to delete comments that I regard as inappropriate.

As for trackbacks, those were originally allowed but didn’t appear; now they’re explicitly disallowed, as a second line of defense for the thousands (literally) of spam trackback attempts. (Spam Karma’s number at the foot of the page is real, unfortunately.)

I seem to have a new problem (is this a “lazyweb” call for help? dunno): I’m no longer getting email when a comment appears. Since I’m not likely to check W.a.r. more than once a day or so (and a whole lot less than once a day if I’m offline, e.g. during ALA or vacations), that may mean that comments don’t get read and responded to (or deleted, as necessary) for a while. I do read every comment, when I see them. I’d love to know how to get the mail notification to work again…I’m guessing it’s some interaction between Spam Karma and WP’s discussion settings.

That’s it: No big deal. (Oh, as for the informal ALA New Orleans post: It appears that the post to LITA-L never made it, for reasons unknown. If someone else wants to copy that text, or just the airport-related portion, to LITA-L or any other list, be my guest; just say “Walt Crawford sez” or something of the sort. Jessamyn’s comment indicates that not-wildly-unreasonably-priced tickets are still available from some cities for some dates, but that may not last long.)