Mar 23, 2009

I'm happy to say that, as of this morning, ScheduAALL has 80 user accounts. Assuming approximately 2,000 people attend the AALL Annual Meeting, that means 4% of attendees are already using ScheduAALL. Not bad, considering that the conference is still 4 months away.

Since last Tuesday's launch, I've added some additional functionality to the site:

RSS feed. Subscribe with an RSS reader, and you'll be notified every time a new event is added to the site.

Contact form. If you know of missing events, find incorrect information, or have any other reason to contact me about the site, anything sent via the contact form will show up in my inbox.

Social bookmarking. Every event now has a "Share" link at the top. This provides links to share an event on several websites, including Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, and Diigo.

Email events to friends. There's also an "Email" link to a form that will allow you to send the details of an event to anyone via email.

Printer-friendly display. Every event can now be displayed in a printer-friendly format with a single click.

Event Attendee Information. At the bottom of each event page, you'll now see a count of all users on the site who have added the event to their personal schedule. In addition, there's also a list of all public users scheduled to attend, with a link to their profiles. (This information will only display if you are logged into the site.)

Thanks to everyone who's provided feedback about the site.


Mar 17, 2009

Earlier today I launched ScheduAALL 2009, a personal scheduling application for attendees of the 2009 AALL Annual Meeting and Conference, July 25th - 28th, in Washington, D.C. The feedback thus far has been positive, which is a relief to me following about 3 weeks of nonstop work getting it ready.

Given that 27 people have signed up and are using the site at the time of this post, I hope that things are pretty self-explanatory. Nevertheless, I thought it would be a good idea to provide a walkthrough of the site.

A quick note on the technical aspects: I built ScheduAALL using Acquia Drupal. There are plenty of contributed modules in heavy usage (CCK, Views, Workflow, Mollom, etc.), but the ability to create personal schedules — and save other user's schedules — relies primarily on the Flag module. I'll follow up shortly with another post that goes into more detail about how the site is put together. For now I'll focus more on the user end.

When a new user comes to the site, this is how the front page appears to them:

At this point anyone can browse through the conference schedule, but in order to utilize the personalized schedule functions, a new user account must be created by clicking the "Register" link. Simply fill out and submit the registration form, and you have an account:

To create an account, you only have to provide a username, password, email address, and first & last names. Optionally, you can also upload a photo and provide other details about yourself which will be visible to other users if you opt to make your profile public.

In order to find conference events, you can use the search bar at the top of the page, or you can browse using the links at the top of the page:

Using the links at the top of the page, you can view the complete conference schedule in chronological or alphabetical order:

You can also view the schedule for a specific day:

Or you can browse specific types of events:

When you find an event you want to add to "My ScheduAALL" (your personalized conference schedule), simply check the box next to the event:

To view further details about a specific event, just click on its title to be taken to the summary page:

Any events you check will automatically be added to your personalized conference schedule, My ScheduAALL. To view your schedule, click the My ScheduAALL link at the top of any page:

If you want to print My ScheduAALL, click the "Printer-Friendly Display" link to load a black and white version of the page suitable for making hard copies:

If you decide to keep your schedule private, this is all you need to do to build your schedule. If, however, you'd like to share your schedule with other registered users on the site, you'll need to turn on your Public Profile. To do this, click the link labeled "My Profile" just below the Find Events search box:

By default, after you create your ScheduAALL user account, your profile is set as Private, indicated by the red status box at the top of your profile. To make your profile public, click on the Edit tab and find the Profile/Schedule Sharing settings at the bottom of the form. Select "Public" and submit:

Now the red status bar on your profile will be replaced with a green one, indicating that other registered users on the site can see your profile, including your schedule:

To see all other users on the site who have Public Profiles, click the "Find People" link (right next to the "My Profile" link):

When viewing another user's profile, you'll have the option of saving his or her profile to your own personal list of Saved Schedules. Just click the green link at the top of each profile labeled "Save this Schedule":

Now any profiles you choose to save will appear on your Saved Schedules page, linked at the top of the page:

That's pretty much it!

Over the next week or so I'll be adding some additional functions, including:

  • An RSS feed for new events
  • A contact form to send me updated information about events so I can add it to the site
  • The ability for users to add personal events to their own schedules

Also, sometime before July I hope to create a mobile version of the site so conference attendees can use ScheduAALL on their mobile devices while at the conference.

As new information and events is added by AALL, I'll do my best to keep ScheduAALL up-to-date, but please be sure to always check AALL's official conference website for the most accurate and current scheduling information.


Feb 24, 2009

The American Association of Law Libraries recently released the preliminary program for this July's Annual Meeting and Conference in Washington, D.C. Since the program is over 50 pages long, I thought it might be helpful to condense the schedule of educational programs into a shorter, more visually-oriented document. Feel free to download, print, and share it with others.

I'll update this printable schedule as changes are made by AALL. Feel free to contact me to let me know about updates or errors. I'll incorporate them as soon as I can.

This schedule grid is my own creation, not AALL's. For the most accurate, up-to-date information, be sure to visit the official Annual Meeting website.

2009 AALL Annual Meeting - printable schedule [PDF] updated July 21


Feb 18, 2009

When this year's Oscar statues are handed out Sunday at the Kodak Theatre Slumdog Millionaire will be the unlikely heavyweight. It entered the awards season as an underdog, but with the big show looming it's the favorite to win most of the categories in which it's nominated, including Best Picture and Best Director. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button may have more nominations than Slumdog, but come Sunday Button seems unlikely to win more than 3 or 4 technical awards.

The real battle this year is for Best Actor. Momentum has shifted back and forth between Sean Penn (Milk) and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), with each winning several awards along the way. Penn's chances could be hurt by the fact that he's already won in this category before (for Mystic River), while Rourke's recent flirtation with Wrestlemania might have damaged his own campaign. Still, one of the two seems likely to take the prize. If there's a vote split, it could open the door for a win by a dark horse like Richard Jenkins (The Visitor).

Best Supporting Actress is an historically unpredictable category, so while Penélope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) seems to be the favorite, don't be surprised if Viola Davis (Doubt) or Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) goes home with the little golden man.

Kate Winslet (The Reader) and Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight) appear to be safe bets to win Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor, respectively.

Here are my complete predictions...

Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
Actor: Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler
Actress: Kate Winslet - The Reader
Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Supporting Actress: Penélope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Director: Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire
Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire
Original Screenplay: Milk
Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire
Film Editing: Slumdog Millionaire
Art Direction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Costume Design: The Duchess
Original Score: Slumdog Millionaire
Song: "Jai Ho" - Slumdog Millionaire
Makeup: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Sound Mixing: The Dark Knight
Sound Editing: The Dark Knight
Visual Effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Animated Feature: WALL•E
Foreign Language Film: Waltz with Bashir
Documentary Feature: Man on Wire
Documentary Short: The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306
Animated Short Film: Presto
Live Action Short Film: Spielzeugland


Feb 13, 2009

As the film's end credits rolled, drummer Hal Blaine appeared on screen playing an impressive drum solo as part of a 1970 performance with Nancy Sinatra in Las Vegas. As the clip ended, a voice shouted from the audience, "What an incredible drummer!"

The voice was Hal Blaine's.

Last night I attended a screening of The Wrecking Crew at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. I've seen the film before, but last night's event was particularly special because the screening was followed by a Q&A session with Blaine, pianist Don Randi, music producer Bones Howe, and the film's director Denny Tedesco (son of famed session guitarist Tommy Tedesco).

"The Wrecking Crew" is the nickname given to a loose group of 1960s session musicians in Los Angeles who played on seemingly every hit pop song recorded in the city during that decade. Phil Spector used them on all his sessions. Eventually, so did Brian Wilson, replacing the Beach Boys in the studio with the likes of Blaine, Randi, Tedesco, bassist Carol Kaye, guitarists Al Casey and Glen Campbell (yes, that Glen Campbell), saxophonist Plas Johnson, to name just a few. The never-ending list of acts they backed is a who's who of 60s stars: The Byrds, Jan and Dean, Simon & Garfunkel, The Association, The Mamas & Papas, The Monkees, Sonny & Cher, Herb Alpert, even Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. (To call this an abbreviated list is an understatement.)

Blaine, now 80, is often credited as the leader of this group, and his credits are the most impressive of all. He played on 7 consecutive Grammy winners for record of the year and at least 39 different #1 hit songs. He is widely considered to be the most recorded drummer in history.

The centerpiece of Denny Tedesco's documentary is a 1996 roundtable discussion featuring his father, Blaine, Kaye and Johnson, but plenty of others are interviewed in the film, including Randi, Casey, Campbell, drummer Earl Palmer, percussionist Julius Wechter, and bassist Joe Osborn, as well as musical luminaries like Howe, Brian Wilson, Cher, Nancy Sinatra, Herb Alpert, Lou Adler, and Dick Clark.

The amount of music compiled for the film is astounding, and not surprisingly obtaining the rights to the songs is a big reason it took Denny Tedesco 13 years to put the movie together. During the Q&A, Tedesco noted that an early backer suggested using "sound-alike" versions of the songs, a revelation that drew laughter and groans from both the audience and the panelists.

One of the more interesting moments in the Q&A came when an audience member asked Blaine about his work on a particular Steely Dan song. Blaine had no idea what song by the band he had played on, and even expressed disbelief when told the song's title. "Dr. Wu????" Randi then noted that the sheet music given to session musicians rarely included a song title, and often consisted of little more than a chord chart of numbers, with each number representing a chord (thus allowing the musicians to easily switch between keys).

The Wrecking Crew is still looking for distribution, so for now it will continue to play limited screenings and film festivals. If a screening pops up near you, check it out. It really is one of the best hidden stories in popular music history. For more information about the movie, visit the film's official website.


Feb 9, 2009

A little over a week ago I posted a list of my 10 favorite horror films, and following a request on Twitter from a colleague, I decided to post another list. But rather than simply pick a different genre and churn out 10 great movies, I've decided to jump to a different medium altogether: music video.

So without further ado, here are my 10 favorite music videos of all time...

1) "Take on Me" - a-ha (1985) Watch Video
You know your music video has staying power when "Family Guy" does a parody of it 20 years later and no one says, "Huh?"

2) "Hurt" - Johnny Cash (2002) Watch Video
Cash closed out his career with several albums full of covers. The best remembered is his take on Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt," thanks in no small part to a video that subtly captures the pain of aging, loss, and death better than any movie or novel that came before it.

3) "Thriller" - Michael Jackson (1983) Watch Video
Clocking in at 14 minutes, this horror spoof from director John Landis broke just about every rule in place at the time for music videos. Jackson's later long form videos were ridiculously self-absorbed, but this is one pitch perfect. Seriously, how can you go wrong with dancing zombies?

4) "Sledgehammer" - Peter Gabriel (1986) Watch Video
This stop motion masterpiece of the absurd dazzled viewers upon its mid-80s release, and to this day it remains MTV's most played video. It also still holds the record for winning the most MTV video awards (9).

5) "Sabotage" - Beastie Boys (1994) Watch Video
Before becoming an acclaimed feature film director, Spike Jonze made a name for himself in the world of music videos. His best known work is this opening credits sequence for a fake 1970s TV cop show.

6) "Here It Goes Again" - OK Go (2006) Watch Video
Known to most people as "that one with the guys dancing on the treadmills," this video surpassed the popularity of its song and artist moreso than probably any video before or since. The band even performed the dance routine live on the MTV Video Awards.

7) "Buddy Holly" - Weezer (1994) Watch Video
Another entry from director Spike Jonze, it inserts Weezer (and a dancing Fonz stunt double) into an old episode of "Happy Days" with hilarious results.

8) "Virtual Insanity" - Jamiroquai (1996) Watch Video
Another example of a video whose popularity surpassed its artist, this one features Jamiroquai singer Jay Kay dancing in a room with a moving floor. In reality, the floor was stationary while the walls moved, but a few camera tricks provide a hynotic visual effect in this single-take video.

9) "I Will Follow You Into the Dark " - Death Cab for Cutie (2006) Watch Video
You won't see this clip about death on most lists of the best music videos of all time, but its a personal favorite of mine. Its simplicity make it both moving and at times humorous.

10) "Big Me" - Foo Fighters (1996) Watch Video
As unapologetically poppy as the song it promotes, this Foo Fighters video mimics those annoying yet funny Mentos commercials from the mid-nineties. It became so popular that the fans began tossing Mentos at the band when they played the song live, forcing Dave Grohl and company to remove it from their playlist for a time.


Jan 30, 2009

Earlier today I posted my version of the 25 Random Things meme to my Facebook profile. Seems everyone's doing it, so I had to be cool, too.

One of my "random things" reads as follows:
21. There are few things better than a great horror movie. However, there are probably less than 10 great horror movies in existence, and there are few things worse than a not-so-great horror movie.

A colleague posted a comment asking what my favorites were, so I quickly compiled a list. It wasn't hard. As I noted in the list, I don't actually think there are a lot of great, or even good, horror movies out there. But, boy, do I love these.

Here's what I came up with:

1. The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973)
Shot and edited more like a drama than a horror film, this movie somehow gets scarier on repeated viewings.


2. Dawn of the Dead (George A. Romero, 1978)
The second installment in Romero's zombie series follows a few survivors as they seek shelter in a shopping mall. Perhaps the only horror movie that successfully combines laughs with all out terror (sorry, Scream).


3. The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982)
Carpenter at the absolute top of his game. The monster could be present in any scene taking the form of any character, and that fact alone added a layer of tension seldom seen in movies.


4. 28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002)
I usually like my zombies slow, but I'll make an exception for Boyle's British zombie flick. Simply terrifying.


5. Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)
How often can you say that the imprisoned killer in a movie is more terrifying than the one at large? Just once.


6. Session 9 (Brad Anderson, 2001)
Thanks to this little-seen gem, the phrase "asbestos abatement" still sends shivers down my spine.


7. The Descent (Neil Marshall, 2005)
This tale of a group of women on a caving expedition gone horribly awry might be the only movie that ever kept me awake afterwards. For three nights.


8. Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)
If Star Wars had been a horror movie, it might have been half as scary as Scott's claustrophobic sci-fi nightmare.


9. Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)
Romero's first zombie flick set the bar pretty high, and the fact that there is no explanation whatsoever for what's going on makes this even more frightening.


10. Ringu (Hideo Nakata, 1998)
Far superior to the tame American remake, the Japanese original has one of the most convincing false endings in cinematic history. Even once we realize the movie isn't over yet, we still aren't prepared for the terror awaiting us.


Jan 22, 2009

Looks like I picked the worst possible photo to accompany my Jan. 9th post ("Best Picture Oscar nods might be locked up"). With this morning's announcement of nominees, it turns out The Dark Knight wasn't Best Picture material after all. But, surprisingly to many, The Reader was. And The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was the biggest winner of all.

Here are the nominees in the 6 major categories:

Best Picture
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Frost/Nixon
Milk
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director
Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire
Stephen Daldry - The Reader
David Fincher - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard - Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant - Milk

Best Actor
Richard Jenkins - The Visitor
Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn - Milk
Brad Pitt - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
MIckey Rourke - The Wrestler

Best Actress
Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie - Changeling
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Meryl Streep - Doubt
Kate Winslet - The Reader

Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin - Milk
Robert Downey Jr - Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon - Revolutionary Road

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams - Doubt
Penélope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis - Doubt
Taraji P. Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler

For a complete list of nominees in all categories, go to Oscar.com.

Besides The Reader stealing nods from The Dark Knight for both Best Picture and Director, perhaps the biggest snub occured in the Best Song category, where Bruce Springsteen failed to earn a nomination for his song "The Wrestler" from the film of the same name. Considered the favorite to win a gold statue after a Golden Globes victory, The Boss lost out to two songs from Slumdog Millionaire and one from WALL•E, as only 3 nominations were handed out in a category that usually has 5.

Another surprise is that Benjamin Button, not Slumdog Millionaire, earned the most nominations with 13. Slumdog received a still-impressive total of 10, and is likely still the favorite to take home the Best Picture crown, though one has to wonder if it's losing momentum after it's young star, Dev Patel, failed to get a nomination in the Supporting Actor category.

Fans of British filmmaker Mike Leigh were probably smarting this morning after his Happy-Go-Lucky star Sally Hawkins was left out of the Best Actress race despite earning several critics awards and a Golden Globe.

Another surprise Best Actress nominee was Kate Winslet. The fact that she was nominated wasn't the surprise. It's which movie she was nominated for that turned heads. Most pundits predicted she'd get a nod here for Revolutionary Road and a Supporting Actress one for The Reader. Instead, it was her Reader performance that landed her in the Best Actress category, while her turn in Revolutionary Road went unrecognized.

* * *

So with nominations officially handed out, who are now the favorites to win? Vegas oddsmaker John Avello at The Wynn Hotel & Casino already has his picks...

Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
Director: Danny Boyle
Actor: Mickey Rourke
Actress: Kate Winslet
Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger
Supporting Actress: Viola Davis

* * *

Based on the tally above, I correctly predicted 23 of the 30 nominations in the top 6 categories. And since I did have Kate Winslet in the Best Actress race and predicted a nomination for her performance in The Reader, albeit in the wrong category, I'm going to go ahead and take half credit for that one. So how did I fare compared to previous years? See for yourself...

2005: 19 of 25
2006: 21 of 25
2007: no predictions
2008: 20 of 25
2009: 23.5 of 30 (19.5 of 25 in top 5 categories)*

* 2009 was the first year I made predictions in the Best Director category.


Jan 20, 2009

This Thursday morning, Oscar nominations will be announced in Los Angeles. As I noted recently, all 5 nominations for Best Picture are already locked up, but that doesn't mean there won't be surprises in other categories.

Here are my predictions for how things will shake out on Thursday in 6 major categories...

Best Picture
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Frost/Nixon
Milk
Slumdog Millionaire

The PGA, DGA, and WGA are all in agreement on these 5 movies, so it seems no one else will crash this party. That means WALL•E will have to settle for a nomination in the animated film category. Otherwise, there are no other contenders. There were high hopes early for Revolutionary Road and The Reader, but once those films were released, the acclaim for each was limited to Kate Winslet's performances.

Best Director
Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard - Frost/Nixon
Christopher Nolan - The Dark Knight
Gus Van Sant - Milk

Most years you can count on 1 or 2 films not nominated for Best Picture to sneak in here, but this year doesn't seem to be one of them. Nolan looks to be on the shakiest ground since his movie was the kind of blockbuster that rarely sees award season love. That leaves the door open a crack for Stephen Daldry (The Reader) or Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky), but each of those films will be lucky to eke out a single acting nomination.

Best Actor
Clint Eastwood - Gran Torino
Richard Jenkins - The Visitor
Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn - Milk
MIckey Rourke - The Wrestler

This is really a two horse race between Penn and Rourke, with the latter taking a post-Golden Globes lead. The other 3 slots are pretty wide open. Sentimentality for what may be Eastwood's final on-screen role should garner him a nod, while Langella's channeling of Richard Nixon looks like another safe-ish bet. When The Visitor opened in theaters last summer, Jenkins received a lot of well-deserved Oscar talk, but his small picture could be forgotten by voters by now. If so, Brad Pitt may get a token nomination for Best Picture contender Benjamin Button.

Best Actress
Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Sally Hawkins - Happy-Go-Lucky
Angelina Jolie - Changeling
Meryl Streep - Doubt
Kate Winslet - Revolutionary Road

Hathaway was a strong favorite here for most of last year, so her place is assured. Perennials Streep and Winslet seem like no-brainers, too, while Jolie seems to (inexplicably) be on everyone's short list for her scenery chewing performance. Hawkins, winner of a Golden Globe and several critics' awards is the logical 5th nominee, but oddly enough she seems the least certain. If she falters, either Michelle Williams (Wendy and Lucy) or SAG nominee Melissa Leo (Frozen River) could be a surprise contender.

Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin - Milk
Robert Downey Jr - Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Dev Patel - Slumdog Millionaire

Don't look for a lot of surprises here, as Brolin, Downey, Hoffman, and Ledger have all been virtual locks for quite some time. Patel should benefit from Slumdog's transformation into an Oscar heavyweight, but if not, Tom Cruise seems most likely to step in for his jaw droppingly hilarious performance in Tropic Thunder.

Best Supporting Actress
Penélope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis - Doubt
Taraji P. Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler
Kate Winslet - The Reader

Cruz took several critics' awards early to help her cause, while Davis more than held her own among all the acting heavyweights in Doubt. In addition, Winslet's stock grew considerably after her double win at the Golden Globes, including a victory in this category. That leaves 3 actresses battling it out for the remaining 2 nods: Henson, Tomei and Doubt's Amy Adams. Henson and Adams both have SAG nominations on their side, and while Henson's small role in Benjamin Button is exactly what Oscar loves, Adams will probably see her nomination go to Tomei as part of a very late surge from The Wrestler.


Jan 9, 2009

With Best Picture nominees already announced by the Producers, Directors, and Writing Guilds, Cinematical points out that 5 films were nominated by all 3 unions.

This strongly indicates that these 5 movies will be the nominees for Best Picture at the Academy Awards:

It turns out it is pretty common for a movie to be nominated for all three of these. (It helps that the WGA nominates 10 films, increasing the chances of overlap with the other awards.) The PGA awards are the newest, having begun in 1990, and since that time 43 films (not counting this year's) have hit the trifecta. And of those 43 -- and this is the important part -- only three have then failed to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

Hey, as long as Changeling isn't nominated, I'll be happy.


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