Re: deserted islands

Randy Pitman (
Fri, 7 Jan 2000 10:15:51 -0800 (PST)

Hi Milos,

First of all, let's hear it for treadmills: great for offsetting the
excesses of holiday Saturnalian revelry *and* spurring the often sticky
wheels of cogitation. Earlier this week while jogging 4 m.p.h. on a 5%
incline (and feeling every %), I fell into a 60s-type meditation (sans any
drugs other than endorphins) on the amazing progress civilisation has made
in the the past century. In particular, I was reflecting on 1) Rand
think-tanker Francis Fukuyama's observations on the widespread growth of
liberal democracy in the 20th century, 2) the great achievements of the
civil rights movement during the past 40 years, and 3) the so-called
disintegration of the family and general social fabric (led, in part, by

And this is what struck me: The world did not suddenly develop a liberal
democratic woody over the writings of John Locke, W.E.B. Du Bois did not
oust Jacqueline Susann from the bestseller lists of the late '60s, and the
family (for all its admitted strengths) can be awfully insular (some of the
descendants of the Hatfields and McCoys eventually came to the realization
that there was more to life than swigging moonshine and swapping lead on the
front porch, but I seriously doubt that the exodus began with reading Thomas

To paraphrase Beaumont, Cocteau, and--most recently--Disney: "Twas TV killed
the (fill-in-the-blank) Beast." Of course, I'm speaking of television here
in a broad sense, both as content and conduit, so it would be more accurate
to say "visual media." This is, I think, *the* big story of the 20th
century, but we tend to take it for granted and it will be up to future
generations to point out the incredible strides humankind took between
1950-2000, in part at least due to the widespread broadcast of political,
social and cultural "narratives" told in the nigh universal language of
visual media.

Ok, I'm going to step away from the coffeepot now and get on to more
relevant matters such as reviewing geranium starter videos.

Randy Pitman
Video Librarian
8705 Honeycomb Ct. NW
Seabeck, WA 98380
Tel: (800) 692-2270

----- Original Message -----
From: Milos Stehlik <>
To: Multiple recipients of list <>
Sent: Thursday, January 06, 2000 7:07 PM
Subject: deserted islands

> Dear Friends;
> I hope that you will indulge me in this list of musings which were
> this morning, on a treadmill, as I was trying to chase away fat which
> insists on adhering to my ageing body (it likes me, I don't like it - why,
> then, does it want to stay?), and as I was suddenly bothered by the rather
> vehement response in EXCLUDING distributors from participating in
> what is certain to be an impressive list of video titles you're all going
> to take to a deserted island. I had thought that librarianship was about
> INCLUSION not EXCLUSION, but this is a new millennium, and therefore,
> obviously, a brave new world.
> Then it dawned upon me: of course, only librarians will survive the deluge
> and be saved - the distributors will all drown while pursuing their
> acquisition which no one, except them, really wants, and which comes
> attached with a greedy producer who asks, always, and sometimes gets, too
> much. Therefore, having distributors participate in compiling a list of
> videos to take to a deserted island (though most of them, I would venture
> to say, see more films each year than most librarians do) is a moot
point -
> they would not be there to enjoy them anyway.
> I realize this list will, in any case, be very selective. Its contributors
> are only those who subscribe to Videolib, but these are the librarians in
> the know, and I was reminded by Gary's remark, sometime back, that about
> 600 subscribe - and this is somehow shocking. Because how do the OTHER
> 12,000 something public libraries and 3,000 + something academic libraries
> - MOST of which purchase video - KNOW what to buy? Which leads to
> point sometime back. I am often amazed at the knowledge and cinematic
> sophistication of librarians who purchase from us at Facets or who read
> this list, but I am also sometimes shocked when I walk into a public
> library in a neighborhood or small town and am irresistibly drawn to their
> video collection, where the HIGH point would be a mediocre Stephen King
> adaptation or "How to Grow Geraniums and Build Inner Happiness".
> Why aren't there 20,000 subscribers to Videolib? It's FREE - and few
> in the world are - it's "democratic" - and if you collect videos, you can
> learn things and get answers to your questions from a lot of other people
> in-the-know.
> Why is the American Library Association NOT throwing hundreds of thousands
> if not millions at video librarianship at a time when publishers would
> to save the costs of printing and paper and just have you donwload an
> "electronic"book? Why, when children are growing up in a media-saturated
> culture, is video librarianship NOT a top issue, when it IS a top issue
> with the American Association of Pediatrics and (slow-moving that it is),
> with the AMA?
> I am also sorry to report also that the very presence of video at the NEXT
> ALA convention is in serious doubt, because National Video Resources,
> helped subsidize the - not insignificant - cost of exhibiting at the ALA
> for video distributors - decided to pull the plug and will NOT contribute
> (last year's contribution of $5,000) in the future. It's a big question
> whether without the subsidy, small distributors can frankly afford it.
> The re-release of SORROW AND THE PITY, of SHOAH, our own upcoming
> of THE DECALOGUE were mentioned here in the past month. Did or will these
> titles SELL 13,000 copies to public libraries and 4,000 odd copies to
> academic libraries? I doubt it. Yet by all standards, they are
> indispensable cultural artifacts - be it, that they are "audio-visual" and
> NOT print - any library which carries video and does not carry these
> is a poor library.
> How DO these librarians who buy the geranium tapes GET their information?
> Do they all subscribe to Video Librarian? Why is there NOT a decent
> accessible bibliographic medium - STILL - in a field which prides itself
> CATALOGUING? Someone suggested a while back Books in Print. After many
> false attempts, I finally received a free trial access to the web site. I
> was shocked by the shoddy research - purely garbage in and garbage out.
> Many titles were falsely ascribed to sub-distributors (including us)
> without an attempt to identify and credit the manufacturer - I found it
> both useless for video (and VERY expensive -- $1800/year).
> Yet why is there not some fund of $2-$3 million a year and a foundation
> which ACCURATELY catalogs and disseminates information about video, DVD,
> laser disc - a field which obviously desperately NEEDS bibliographic help,
> which is separate and apart from the knowledge in the heads of many of
> those who subscribe to this list?
> How, in this new high tech millennium, do we insure that the art of the
> audio-visual image survives and makes it to the library shelf? How do we,
> in a culture of the conglomerate, insure that the independent, diverse
> film or video IS accessible at the library when it will likely NOT be in
> the local video store. I'm not speaking of those independent voices which
> break through - the occasional Hoop Dreams - I'm thinking of the
> or even thousands of independent films with something to say which need
> SOMEONE to understand them, save them, help give them a public. Who else
> but the library?
> After Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, people kept referring to a second kind of
> film school: the video rental store. Indeed, film-knowledgeable and
> film-loving video rental clerks (like lovers of books at bookstores or
> libraries) have done much to help spread film culture - to get customers
> clients to try films they would otherwise have never seen. Yet who is
> training - and how - the librarians who deal with the public (not
> necessarily those who do acquisitions) at being the vanguard of an
> independent media culture?
> That's as far as I got. If I went any further, I would probably still BE
> that treadmill - though I doubt I'd still be standing up. I apologise for
> the intrusion.
> It is that I see the potential and don't know how it can be actualized.
> Sixty odd years ago, when Jean Renoir could not find the money to produce
> his La Marseillaise, he financed the film "by public subscription." Why
> couldn't 20,000 libraries, all buying ONE copy of a new film, by say, Mike
> Leigh or a Native American independent, for $50, FINANCE that film
> a budget of $1 million). Now there's a thought!
> All the best for the millennium ---
> Milos Stehlik
> Facets Video