Archive for May, 2007

Cites & Insights: A reminder

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

If you have posts or other web documents that link to any essay in Cites & Insights before volume 6, issue 10, please make sure that the hyperlinks point to, not

All content has been removed from the old site. Currently, there are dummy PDFs for issues in volumes 4 through 6 pointing to the new site; requests for volumes 1-3 or any HTML separates will yield 404s. In another month, the old site (that is, the subdomain) will disappear entirely.

Google Book Search and egosearching (redux)

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

A while back (19 months, to be precise), I posted a multitopic post that included my response to Dorothea Salo’s suggestion that Google Book Search might have enough current books to make egosearching worthwhile. I was pleasantly surprised, finding 26 books (none of them my own) referring to me.

So what’s changed? I tried it again today–using [“walt crawford” OR “crawford, walt”] as a search term.

Impressive. 219 results (which turn out to be 160 results when browsed through). That does include four of my own books, the three from ALA Editions and, thanks to scanning at the University of Michigan, my very first book. (I don’t know how I’d get Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change into Google Book Search….or, wait a minute, maybe I’ll sign up for that one of these days.)

Of the 160, three are false drops–e.g., a list of Hollywood names with Joan Crawford adjacent to Walt Disney, separated by commas. Five are other Walt Crawfords, as far as I can tell (race car driver, ornithologist, etc.). One is probably a false drop, but I couldn’t see any context to be sure–but it almost certainly wasn’t me.

Whew. That leaves, lessee, 160 minus four minus nine, 147 references in other books. Some are, of course, to Future Libraries: Dreams, Madness & Reality. [If you’re wondering, I always use the subtitle because another Future Libraries–without the subtitle–came out right around the same time.] Most aren’t.

I think I’ve seen at most half a dozen of the books that quote me or my stuff. Most of the rest I’ve never heard about. As far as I can tell, none of the quotes is in the context of saying “What an idiot!”–but sometimes you can’t see the context. (Actually, I’d expect at least 10%-20% of the citations to be in the context of disagreeing with me, and maybe the percentage should be higher.)

So writing a lot does lead to getting quoted a fair amount. Count me delighted. (And happy that what I seem to remember as a hundred-result limit on GBS result displays has gone away.)

Cites & Insights 7:6 available

Saturday, May 12th, 2007

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large v.7 issue 6 (June 2007) is now available for downloading.

The 26-page issue (PDF as usual, but HTML separates for each essay are available from the home page)

  • Bibs & Blather – On Being Wrong (and more)
  • Making it Work – library resources, innovation, futures and more
  • Trends & Quick Takes – three essays and six quicker takes
  • Net Media Perspective: Civility and Codes: A Blogging Morality Play

Given how much I’ve heard OpenOffice 2 touted as a much better way to produce good HTML than nasty ol’ Microsoft Word, I’ve included an experiment on the home page:

The hyperlinks are, as usual, to Word 2000 “filtered HTML” files. But there’s another set of hyperlinks below, to OpenOffice 2 HTML files generated from the same Word file.

It’s not really a fair comparison–after all, Word 2000 is two generations and five years out of date, where OpenOffice 2 is the absolutely newest version as of mid-April–but I’d be interested in the comments of HTML gurus (send ’em to There will probably be a Walt at Random post later…

50 Movie Pack Classic Musicals, Disc 9

Friday, May 11th, 2007

Side A of this disc contains Soundies Festival and Soundies Cavalcade—but those titles are artificial, appearing only on the sleeve and as menu slides to cover the six “soundies” included—six very brief (one-reel or two-reel) musical shorts, all featuring black performers. So while there are eight rather than four reviews here, six of the eight are for shorts.

Mr. Adam’s Bomb, 1949, b&w, Eddie Green (dir.), Gene Ware, Jessie Grayson, Mildred Boyd. 0:20.

Silly but cute comedy, really not much more than a sketch. Really not much to say. I’ll give it $0.25.

Bubbling Over, 1934, b&w, Leigh Jason (dir.), Ethel Waters, Southernaires, Hamtree Harrington, Frank L. Wilson. 0:20

Another sketch, although fairly well developed for its brief length. Scratchy video and sound. $0.25.

Open the Door, Richard and Answer to Open the Door, Richard, 1945. William Forest Crouch (dir.), Dusty Fletcher, Stepin Fetchit. 0:09 + 0:10

The last short in Soundies Festival is Open the Door, Richard—a remarkable 9-minute drunk-act monologue by Dusty Fletcher. But in IMDB, that title yields what’s here (as the first short in Soundies Cavalcade) as Answer to Open the Door, Richard, here two minutes shorter than the IMDB summary. This one’s an extended music piece with a singing jazz group and back-and-forth between Dusty Fletcher (the drunk on the sidewalk, but now he’s standing) and Stepin Fetchit (Richard, not all that chipper himself but just married and not about to open that door). The second part’s seriously choppy, but I’ll give the combination $0.50.

Murder in Swing Town, 1937, b&w, Arthur Dreifuss (dir.), Les Hite and his orchestra, June Richmond. 0:10.

This one isn’t even in IMDB—not surprisingly. It’s basically two musical numbers with a vague semblance of a plot mixed in. Choppiness doesn’t help—but I’ll give it $0.25.

Boogie-Woogie Dream, 1944, b&w, Hans Burger (dir.), Lena Horne, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Teddy Wilson and his band. 0:13.

Definitely the highlight of this side. The plot, such as it is, has a posh couple (Russell Morrison and Virginia Pine) falling asleep at a nightclub as it closes—and the dishwashwer (Lena Horne) fantasizes with a couple of other cleanup folks (Ammons, Johnson) about singing and playing with Teddy Wilson. Mostly music, and great music at that. For a change, the video and sound are pretty good. This one gets $0.75—which for 13 minutes isn’t bad.

Reaching for the Moon, 1930, b&w, Edmund Goulding (dir.), Douglas Fairbanks, Bebe Daniels, Edward Everett Horton, Claud Allister, Bing Crosby. 1:30 or 1:14 or 1:06 [1:06]

This should be a screwball musical comedy based on Irving Berlin’s musical—except that in this version, only one song remains, more than 44 minutes into the movie. So it really isn’t a musical—but it’s loads of fun, with the senior Douglas Fairbanks acquitting himself as a swashbuckling investor (just before the crash) who doesn’t deal with ladies very well. Mostly set on a cruise ship. Art deco lettering throughout—in the hotels, on Wall Street, on the ship—adds an odd air, but this isn’t meant to be taken seriously in any case. I believe Bing Crosby does one verse of the one song, but he’s good while he’s there. $1.25.

Mr. Imperium, 1951, color, Don Hartman (dir.), Lana Turner, Ezio Pinza, Marjorie Main, Barry Sullivan, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Debbie Reynolds. 1:27.

This is more like it: most definitely a musical (although Debbie Reynolds—18 at the time—doesn’t sing, and Lana Turner’s songs are dubbed by another singer) and a romance. Turner’s a singer, later a movie star; Pinza’s a crown prince, later king. They meet, fall in love, are separated for 12 years, meet again (this time in California), fall in love again—and are separated again, but we assume it will all work out. Not great, but good (although the heat between Pinza and Turner is room temperature at best), and both color and sound are quite good. $1.50.

Housekeeping notes

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

Walk on by, nothing really to see here, but…

Siccing: Effective, well, a week or two ago here (I think) and in the next Cites & Insights (due early next week if all goes well), I’m adopting a “casual corrections for casual speech” practice. (Not exactly a policy, but a practice.)

What that means: When I’m quoting from other blogs, comments, etc., spelling and grammar errors that I notice (or that Word notices for me) will be corrected without drawing attention to them, as opposed to (sic)ing readers on the error. I’ll still use [square brackets]–when I remember–to mark wording changes for the sake of clarity or brevity or whatever, but not for the casual errors most of us are inclined to make in casual writing. (I try to use square brackets to mark imposed capital letters when the start of the quotation I’m using isn’t actually the start of a sentence, but I’m never even close to perfect in that regard.)

While I don’t claim to be a traditional journalist, I thought about the fact that “typical” journalists don’t include all the Ums and Errs and Wells and other verbal ticks when they’re quoting someone. (“Typical” as opposed to attack-dog “journalists” who look for every opportunity to make subjects look bad.)

Exception: If I’m quoting a blogger who makes a big deal out of their magnificent writing skills, well, then I might (sic) them. Right now, I can’t think of anyone who I’m inclined to quote who would fall into that category–but as with Pew and poll quality, people who live by asserted higher standards should be held to higher standards.

Truncated comment period: A couple of weeks ago I noted that I’d turned off comments on posts more than a year old and was considering doing the same for posts more than six months old–not to discourage commenting (I love good comments!) but to discourage spam. (Turns out that linkbacks were accidentally enabled until about 14 months ago…turning all of those off took a while, but substantially reduced the amount of trapped spam all by itself.)

So how did it work? The first day or two after doing it, there seemed to be a concerted effort to show that it was useless: I got more than a hundred (all trapped) spamments, all from the same source, on one day, and more than 60 on the next.

Since then, however, it’s been pretty good–in fact, most days I now have more legitimate comments than spamments, which is how it should be. (At the current rate, I would be willing to plow through two weeks’ worth of Spam Karma trapping to find legit comments after we return from a vacation–when we manage to take a vacation, sigh.)

That may not continue, but so far, so good. If I do cut it to six months, I’ll probably make exceptions as appropriate–but you get precious few legit comments more than six months after a post.

Death of a Salesman

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

No, this isn’t a cute post title. This is a post that will have no meaning except for people within driving distance of Mountain View or Berkeley and who like good contemporary drama.

We saw the Traveling Jewish Theatre production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman on Sunday at Mountain View’s Center for the Performing Arts, where it will be playing through May 20. After that, it moves to Berkeley’s Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, May 25-June 10. (The production began at San Francisco’s Theater Artaud, April 5-29).

Here, it was presented at the Second Stage–the smaller venue with an open “stage” area with bleacher-style seating on three sides (that is, rows with a rapid vertical rise and individual chairs rather than fixed seating), meaning no bad sitelines and an intimate space overall.

It’s a first-rate production. I’m not much of a theater-goer, although that may be changing, but this was profoundly satisfying. If you’re in the vicinity, you might give it a try. Here, at least, the tickets were reasonable (for live performances)–we paid $34 a ticket, with open seating.

We’re not the only ones who thought this was well done. The San Francisco Chronicle gave it a good review when it was at Theater Artaud. (For those not familiar with the Chron‘s trademarked little man, this play got the second best of five possible ratings, which is a strongly positive rating.)

If you’re nearby but not familiar with downtown Mountain View and the Center for the Performing Arts–well, the center is a linchpin of the hugely successful revival of downtown (specifically Castro Street); the library’s a couple of doors away, and that section of Castro has a range of fairly new and interesting restaurants.

Lackluster veteran: Bias, much?

Monday, May 7th, 2007

So there’s a big new Pew report that includes an Official Typology on how connected we are and how we feel about it.

There’s even a quiz.

I took the quiz. And scored as a “lackluster veteran”–which means I know the stuff, I’ve used it for a long time, but I’m not enthusiastic enough for the Pew writers. (Funny. I generally answered very positively to the usefulness and value of the tools that I do use–I just don’t use as many of them as Omnivores. I guess if you’re not using everything, you’re lackluster.)
Lackluster veteran? How about “Experienced skeptic” or, maybe–given that Pew seems to treasure those who are online all the time with umpteen different devices operating simultaneously–“balanced user”?

Lackluster veteran. I can’t get enough of that phrase. It speaks so soundly to Pew’s whole set of biases when reporting on their studies. How dare I know the technology and not be a wholly enthusiastic twittering texting always-on cell-phoning participant?

I’m not linking. As with all things Pew, it’s not exactly hard to find. All the Omnivores are busily linking to it. (I have no problem with Omnivores. I do have a problem with Pew’s snide label for those of us who are less enthusiastic.)

Citizen vs. consumer

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

It was almost exactly a month ago that I tossed out a few ideas for posts, The things I didn’t say. Given the 14 posts in between, I clearly didn’t quite stop blogging entirely.

One of the ideas that I believe is “post fodder” (not C&I essay fodder) is this one:

A post about “citizens and consumers,” recognizing one peculiarity of my household that probably warps my perceptions on some issues. Maybe later.

Maybe now. Not dressed up–this is a lunchtime post–but this is what I have to say.

Background: I had NPR on while shopping or driving home or something. A woman was being interviewed who had, with some friends, tried to go for a “year without shopping”–that is, a year without buying anything new except food (or whatever–I only heard a few minutes).

The woman discussed one difficulty: You get bored, you go shopping. That’s what we all do. If you don’t go shopping, what do you do when you get bored?

Recognition: I realized at that point that there’s something wrong with me. My wife too. I don’t believe it would ever occur to us to use shopping–and, worse, buying–as a way to relieve boredom. Maybe that’s because neither of us is particularly fond of shopping. Or of buying, for that matter.

And I resent the hell out of it when I’m “addressed” as a consumer or customer, by the government, any agency of the government, a magazine… (or, yes, a library: I am not a library customer although I am a library patron).

While it makes me hear Patrick McGoohan in my mind’s ear, and visualize a big bubble floating nearby, I am inclined to say: “I am not a consumer. I am a citizen.” Not as catchy as “free man,” but there it is.

I want to be treated as a person/citizen first, consumer second (actually consumer third: member of my community second). I resent being treated as a Set of Shopping Preferences, as a Buying Demographic.

It’s not that we don’t shop, or that I leave it all to my wife. We go grocery shopping together–always have. (Well, she goes to the farmer’s market for most produce; I wouldn’t be any use there, and it’s a good time for me to vacuum the house without deafening both of us.) Since we mostly fix our own meals, that makes eminently good sense. I’m the one who does a “Sunday run” every two or three or four weeks for stuff that makes sense to buy at Target or Trader Joe’s or Office Depot or the like. The fun part of that is that I get to hear a few minutes of Car Talk, but I still love it when it turns out there’s nothing that needs to be purchased on a particular weekend.

But shopping for the sake of shopping? Buying stuff to relieve boredom? Not a chance.

We don’t get bored easily. There’s always a backlog of reading material. My wife’s spending more time playing piano these days, along with gardening and a research project. I spend a certain amount of time writing, of course, and on the web. We both watch some TV (right now, including the weekly movie and old series on DVD, that works out to right around 8 hours a week–a week, not a day–for both of us, and an extra 90 minutes for me each week for the next 15. WPT, if you must know. Taped on a VCR. We don’t own a DVR, partly because they seem to be great ways to Watch More TV.).

And there are always books to be read. A couple hundred thousand about 7 minutes away, neatly arranged and all for free!. I figure there are at least four or five thousand that I want to read or should read.

To those who feel the need to Go Out and Buy because they’re bored: Most places have one of these collections of free books and other materials, usually with experts who can help answer questions and find what you can use. Reading is a great way to conquer boredom. So are meditation and deep thinking, but I know that’s a lot to ask.

So there’s the shameful confession. We’re Bad Americans. We don’t feel it’s our duty to Consume. When we do buy, we spend enough to buy something that will last, rather than buying something cheaper several times over. We’ll cheerfully pay for quality (and, within reason, we’ll cheerfully pay to keep local businesses alive). But we buy because we have use for something.

Maybe that’s one advantage of always living in a starter home: There’s really no room to keep acquiring stuff. You learn to buy only what you have real use for.

And no (another Unamerican alert), we haven’t carried a balance on credit cards in a very long time. We use them, to be sure–but we use them (and get 1% cash back), they don’t use us.

I know: It’s not a deep or philosophical post. But someone asked for it. So there it is.