Archive for July, 2007

Academic librarian blog

Monday, July 9th, 2007

Remember back when there was some grumping that there weren’t many academic librarians blogging about academic library issues? I thought it was overstated at the time, but…

Anyway, there’s new blog called Academic Librarian, by

The first few posts show real promise for a significant contribution to the field.

I guess we’ll have to call this one AcLib. AL, the otherwise natural abbreviation, has been taken…by a radically different blog which shall go unlinked here.
Anyway, worth a look..

One book that won’t happen

Sunday, July 8th, 2007

A while back, I wrote about the experience of rereading the L2 special issue after some time had passed.

In that post, I discussed the possibility of turning that issue and the major followup a few months later into a print-on-demand book: Not altering the text at all, but adding footnotes with full URLs, turning those footnotes into a bibliography, and adding an index.

I got a little positive reaction. As I was recovering from ALA and after putting out the July issue of Cites & Insights, I did the preliminary work needed to do such a book–that is,

  • Took the entire Word text of Cites & Insights Midwinter 2006, the Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0” issue, and stripped it of the banner, contents, and masthead.
  • Appended the brief followup from February 2006 (pages 1-3).
  • Appended the big followup, Perspective: Finding a Balance: Libraries and Librarians, from July 2006.
  • Switched the template from the C&I template to the “cibooks” template. added a title page and slot for contents, added a brief Foreword, changed second-level headings throughout to be chapter headings, inserted a table of contents and looked at the results briefly.

That really didn’t take long–figure three to five hours total. The results were promising: without footnotes, bibliography and index, it made a book roughly 145 pages long.

So I thought I’d follow through with the long (and incredibly boring) part–which is to say, going through page by page and:

  • Copyfitting to avoid very short last lines of paragraphs and other problems–a process made more difficult because I couldn’t actually change any text.
  • Adding index entries as appropriate.
  • For each quotation, finding the original post or other source and inserting a footnote (and bibliography entry) containing the full URL for the quote.

Once that was done, I’d only need to clean up the index, add a brief Afterword, figure out the spine width, select a photo for the cover, prepare the cover, and upload the whole thing to Lulu. Shazam! Instabook!

But as I started doing the long part, I thought about the essays I could be writing. I thought about this year’s discussion of liblogs. I thought about two book projects, both new material and (I believe) of real service to the field, that I could be starting in on. I thought about how long the process was likely to take–probably at least 50 hours, possibly closer to 100. All on my own time.

And I thought about job progress or lack thereof, and whether I should be putting more time into that.

Finally, I considered the likely sales for this instabook (I’d be surprised if it ever reached three digits) and the possibility that somebody would grump about my “profiting from” essays in which the majority of text was other people’s comments.

For a few days, I was a little stymied on writing a group of essays that will form the core of the August C&I, and the uncreative process of making the book seemed attractive.

Then, on July 4, I broke through the little writing block–and realized that I could spend those 50 to 100 hours a lot more productively working on new projects. Add that it’s extremely unlikely that book sales would yield even minimum wage for the time spent. Add that all of the material in the book is available, free, albeit without precise URLs for source material.

Turned out to be an easy decision. I’ll focus on new material. This particular book won’t happen. Sorry to disappoint the handful of likely purchasers.

Classic Musicals 50-Movie Pack, Disc 12

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

How do you get 50 movies on 12 discs when there are exactly four each on the first 11? You guessed it—six short flicks on the final disc. One of them is a small gem; the others, not so much.

Fiesta, 1941, color, LeRoy Prinz (dir.), Anne Ayars, Jorge Negrete, Armida, George Givot, Antonio Moreno, The Guadalajara Trio, José Arias and the Tipica Orchestra of the Mexico City Police. 0:45.

Remember The Dancing Pirate (C&I 7:5, May 2007), filmed in color but only available in black and white? I said I’d love to see that one in color. Well, this somewhat similar (albeit much shorter and less complex) film, also set in a Mexican rancho and with good folkloric dancing, is in color—and spectacular original Technicolor at that, more colorful than most later movies. The plot is simple enough—the rancho owner’s niece is returning from Mexico City and her childhood sweetheart expects they’ll be married, but she shows up with a bozo hunk of a radio actor who she’s engaged to…anyway, it all works out. Almost all of the movie is music, singing and dance, all well done, in simply spectacular costumes and color. The print is in excellent shape; it almost seemed to be DVD quality. Truly a small gem. $1.50 only because it’s too short for $2 or more.

Let’s Go Collegiate, 1941, b&w, Jean Yarbrough (dir.), Frankie Darro, Marcia May Jones, Jackie Moran, Keye Luke, Mantan Moreland, Frank Sully, Gale Storm. 1:02

Silly college-fraternity plot based on rowing and a crook passing for a new oarsman. Not many songs, but the ones here are good. Very early Gale Storm (she was 19 at the time), and she does stand out. $1.

Up in the Air, 1940, b&w, Howard Bretherton (dir.), Frankie Darro, Marjorie Reynolds, Mantan Moreland, Gordon Jones, Lorna Gray, Tristram Coffin, Clyde Dilson. 1:02.

Apparently Darro and Moreland made a number of buddy pictures. In this case, they both work at a radio station where a mediocre singer gets shot (as, later, do a couple of others) and Darro tries to solve the crime and get on the air. Lightweight comedy, but not bad. $0.75.

Minstrel Man, 1944, b&w, Joseph H. Lewis (dir.), Benny Fields, Gladys George, Alan Dinehart, Roscoe Karns, Jerome Cowan, Judy Clark, John Raitt (as himself). 1:10 [1:03].

Two Oscar nominations, for best scoring and best original song (“Remember Me to Carolina”), and apparently based on a real character’s success, fall from grace (after his wife dies in childbirth) and eventual redemption. Fields as Dixie Boy Johnson is less than magnetic on the screen and has an odd singing style that you may love or hate. Lots of music, to be sure, much of it very good. Whether you like this movie or not may depend on your tolerance for blackface: Fields and, later, Judy Clark as his daughter (Dixie Girl Johnson on stage), both white, both use classic blackface for their minstrel-show roles. I find that too unsettling (especially in 1944) to give the film more than $1.00.

Rhythm in the Clouds, 1937, b&w, John H. Auer (dir.), Patricia Ellis, Warren Hull, William Newell. 0:53.

Nicely done, with more than enough plot for its modest length. An aspiring songwriter cons her way into the apartment of a successful writer who’s out of town, sells her songs as being cowritten with the missing artist and somehow manages to pull things together when he returns. Good music, nicely paced, a good “second film.” $1.25.

Sitting on the Moon, 1936, b&w, Ralph Staub (dir.), Roger Pryor, Grace Bradley, William Newell, Henry Kolker. 0:54.

William Newell, a nervous sidekick in the previous flick, is also a sidekick this time—as a lyricist to Danny West, who falls for a failing movie star, writes her a song, makes her a success on radio but in the process winds up failing himself (aided by a bogus Mexican marriage while he was drunk). Naturally it all works out. Enough good music to make it work, but enough missing frames in the print to make it awkward. $0.75.

And that’s it for the Classic Musicals pack. Next up? Hollywood Legends. I note that Mill Creek Media is now selling 100-movie packs–each combining two of the more than two dozen 50-movie packs. Hmm…

Crying foul

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

David Rothman’s at it again, and I’m just plain tired of it.

Let me clarify: Not David “medical librarian” Rothman, who I read regularly and respect. I’m talking about David “Teleread” Rothman, and there’s no link because I’m certainly not going to increase Teleread’s link love even by the smallest amount. Not hard to find, if you’re so inclined.

DTR (for short) has given me a hard time before, calling me a Luddite, dinosaur and similar charming terms–mostly because, back when I was writing about ebooks (which I don’t as long as I work for OCLC, given NetLibrary), I wasn’t enthusiastic enough for his taste.

This time’s different. The current Cites & Insights includes an essay on copyright term and extent, “PermaCopyright and Other Extremes.” Go read it, if you haven’t already; if you’re a PDF bigot, here’s the essay in HTML form. I discuss a silly but high-profile essay by Mark Helprin asserting that copyright should last forever, and some of the responses to the essay.

After the Helprin essay and some direct responses, I comment on a rather lovely piece by Jonathan Lethem in Harper’s, “The Ecstasy of Influence.” Lethem, a novelist who understands that virtually all “new” creations are influenced by and draw from (that is, are partially derivative of) older creations, makes his point by writing a lengthy essay nearly all of which is taken from other sources, but turned into a strikingly original piece by the process of arrangement and connection.

Just for fun, I followed that with “An immodest proposal” to give Mark Helprin exactly what he wants: PermaCopyright–but only for wholly original works. Then I define wholly original.

It’s a goof, of course. I think it’s a pretty obvious goof. I can’t think of any piece of writing or music in the last several centuries that would qualify as wholly original under my definitions–and that’s because “wholly original” is almost wholly mythical.

I stopped reading Teleread a long time ago, but–thanks in part to David “medical” Rothman!–I have a LibWorm ego feed that turned up DTR’s post, including this comment:

Hmm. What’s this about the possibility of “indefinite” protection for “wholly original” works and terms of 28 or 40 years or other “plausible” lengths” for entirely or partly derivative works? Is Walt—a library automation specialist dear to many in the library community—actually serious about selective permaterms? Is this just a “modest proposal” in the Swiftian sense? I’d hope so, given the disaster that even selective permaterms would wreak on Project Gutenberg and other public domain efforts. Anyone, Walt included, care to parse these thoughts? Does he really want librarians and the rest of us to pay big bucks—forever—to the heirs of future Shakespeares?

I found this offensive and said so in a comment. Anyone who reads DTR and doesn’t link through to my essay might actually believe that I favored permanent copyright in some cases. For DTR to even suggest that this might be the case indicated to me either a failure to actually read the essay or a fatally flawed sense of humor–or, I suppose, skimming through stuff looking for another chance to beat up on me, given Rothman’s past record.

DTR’s response to my comment?

With hundreds of RSS feeds to digest, Walt, I just wanted a definitive parsing, ideally from you. May the day come when LIS schools can give courses—updated daily—in Crawfordian studies! Meanwhile we’ll agree to disagree on e-books, an area in which I keep thinking you’re in your humor mode. Cheers. David

I was going to write an angry response here–why is it up to me to do “definitive parsing” of an essay?–but now I see what’s actually happening.

To wit, DTR is too busy to actually read the essay or the issue. He chose to attack me based on my announcement of the issue, specifically this text expanding on the ©1 essay title:

PermaCopyright and other extremes, including my Modest Proposal for permanent copyright for truly original works

This is, I submit, a new low in attack blogging: Taking the announcement of a piece as the basis for an attack on the author. And here’s my response:

If you’re too busy to read something, you have no business commenting on it. Doing so is somewhere between sloppy and unethical.

And here’s the true irony. In the past, I typically haven’t expanded on essay titles at all. Another nemesis, whose name will go unmentioned here, griped several times about this, apparently feeling that I owe it to potential readers to provide an expansive description of contents so they’ll know whether the issue is worth their time. While I think that’s a little bizarre for a freebie, I also wondered whether some essays (particularly essays that pull together bits and pieces) are underread because they’re not discovered. I thought I’d try more expansive announcements.

Here’s the result. Consider the advice of one person who has no doubt long since stopped reading C&I–and get slagged by someone else who’s too busy to actually read it, but not too busy to cherrypick a sentence to use as the basis for an attack-dog “query” several times as long as the sentence itself.

Well, I’ve wasted too much time on this. I intend to get started on essays for the August C&I today–and that’s going to be a confusing process, as I see four essays coming all of which relate to and overlap with one another. Some fun.

U.S. readers: Enjoy your fireworks or whatever. I needed today to kickstart a return to writing after a two-week break (ALA and aftershocks)…

ALA-related musings, job situation, etc.

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

Good things about going to ALA Annual this year (partial):

  • Another chance to see people I only see twice a year–and a few I’ve never met face-to-face before.
  • Some good conversations about possible personal futures. (Nothing solid yet; there’s one big contracting situation that I think would be a real win_win situation, but no decision’s been made yet. As a result, I’m still open to contacts and offers.)
  • Much better weather than expected–in DC, that is.
  • The exhibits felt a little more varied and interesting than in some other cases (and better attended).
  • The distances were such that this was mostly a walking conference for me (during the day, I’ll typically prefer walking for up to 1.5 miles), which is always a good thing.
  • Great LISHost dinner, great OCLC Bloggers Salon, I was very pleased with LITA TopTechTrends, the other program I attended (!), on orphan works, was first-rate.
  • My earlier decision not to base essays or commentary on “second-hand conference reporting” was confirmed by reading reports on my own TopTechTrends comments: Some big differences between what I believe I said and the spins put on it by various writers.

Not-so-good things about going to ALA Annual this year:

  • Missing six days of Blenheim apricots at the peak of ripeness: Our tree yielded a large number of small (unfortunately) apricots, nearly all of which were ready to pick during the same week. My wife gave away scores of them, and based on what I’m eating now, I could have had six or eight a day of the kind of fruit that inspires passionate writing; Blenheims are simply magnificent.
  • Missing six days of being at home, my wife, our cats, writing, etc…but that’s a direct tradeoff with getting (back) in touch with lots of other people.
  • The prices, especially for breakfast and a glass of wine here and there…
  • Having to spend time thinking about my personal future in terms of income rather than in terms of possibilities for extracurricular stuff.
  • The journey back home (already discussed), although it clearly wasn’t as bad as some others endured. Still, it took me until Saturday to fully recover from the process.

Next up: Philly in January. All my Pennsylvania friends assure me that the frigid conditions last time around were an aberration. I’m not sure. Will I be there? That depends in part on how things go with the search for a personal future…

For those who care, I think all I have to say about the job situation appears here. I hope the one “majority of time” contracting possibility works out; it’s one where I think I’d bring a lot to the work–and it’s work with a group I respect. But it’s just not feasible to stop looking elsewhere, given the uncertain nature of when (and whether) a decision will be made… Otherwise, some interesting discussions about piecemeal possibilities–training, teaching, and exploring the kinds of things I’m good at and that are in demand.

As for my Twitter experiment: That’s already been covered. I’m still being “friended” by new people. But, account or no account, I’m just not there.