Saturday, December 10, 2016
Mitch’s blog, Scholarly Roadkill, is part of a consulting business, Scholarly Roadside Service, detailed on this website.The blog will cover topics I'm interested in, not only scholarly publishing, but archaeology, dance, the university, writing, scholarly life, and the absurdity of the 21st century universe. We have no facility to sign up followers, but if you click Like on our Facebook page, you’ll get announcements of new posts. Guest blogs welcomed, just let me know what you want to write about.
Thursday, May 25, 2017
Two profound endings for the field of anthropology took place this past week, one at either end of the alphabetic spectrum. In New Mexico, ethnographer Michael Agar succumbed to ALS. News meandered to Walnut Creek through his former affiliation at the University of Maryland. In Indianapolis, a suburban backyard retirement party was held for archaeologist Larry Zimmerman, retiring from decades at Indiana U Indianapolis. In one week, two of the most creative and caring members of our community leave anthropology and leave a deep chasm in the middle of the field.
One cannot say enough about the brilliance, commitment, or…
Sunday, April 30, 2017
It only took a couple of days after the March for Science that demonstrated why there was a March. The importance of science is amply demonstrated every day somewhere in the academic world, but in my own corner, archaeology, there were two big stories that broke within days of the March that highlighted the differences between science, crowdsourcing, and political posturing.
First came the news that was not yet news. Lee Berger, a paleoanthropologist working in South Africa became a media star two years ago with the discovery of homo naledi, a large collection of bones of a human ancestor discovered…
Thursday, April 27, 2017
One of my Facebooks friends recently put out an all points bulletin to send her copies of successful book proposals to help her craft one for her next project. She should have asked for something else instead— the email addresses of acquiring editors at publishers that they knew. That would have been much more useful.
I’ve written about how to get a book accepted at a press before, both in articles and in my book for qualitative researchers. The secret is a simple one—publishing is a socially-driven activity and your ability to engage with the gatekeepers…
Friday, April 07, 2017
The last time I presented a professional paper in archaeology was 25 years ago when I was in the throes of finishing my dissertation. Not that I haven’t been up on the podium since then. But talking about publishing in archaeology or any other scholarly field is pretty easy. I’ve lived it for the past four decades, and scholars listen to publishers speaking about publishing with the timidity of someone stumbling upon a necromancer in full spell-casting mode.
This one was different. It was my first attempt to speak about the Helmand Sistan Project, the archaeological dig that I participated…
Saturday, March 25, 2017
It was almost the last question, from the always perceptive Ruth Tringham: “This all sounds so depressing. Is there no hope for a future for scholarly publishing?”
Until then, I thought I was out of the woods. I had been invited to speak to the Berkeley archaeologists about changes in the publishing landscape as part of my role as a new Research Associate at the appropriately named Archaeological Research Facility, ARF.
I thought I had done well, dancing through industry consolidation, the growth of aggregations of content for sale, the “Big Deal” publishers jousting with library consortia (no, not jousting,…
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Amazon adventures of the 19th century are legendary. I am reading a biography of Alexander von Humboldt, the German polymath, and his experiences traveling the tributaries of the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers in 1800. His journals refer to herds of 15-foot long crocodiles, endless boa constrictors drifting by their boat, unexpected encounters with vicious jaguars, and piercing screams of unknown creatures in the night.
Amazon adventures of the 21st century are somewhat different.
It began at Left Coast early in 2015 with the good news that an 800 page reference book had quickly sold out and required reprinting.…
Friday, March 10, 2017
I was a king once. Four days a king. And I didn’t even remember it until last week.
It was in the journal I kept in 1975 during my archaeological fieldwork in Afghanistan. Reading it after 42 years, I got to the entry for October 6, where I was in my fourth day of sitting in a desert encampment in the Registan (“the land of sand”) surrounded by boxes of food, jerrycans of water, and mounds of field equipment, “guarding the goods.” The truck we had hired to carry these supplies got this far before miring itself in sand dunes for…
Tuesday, March 07, 2017
There’s a large plaza before the soccer stadium in Khotan built for the 2008 Olympics. A large urban park leads away from the Jiaotong University, just outside the ancient walls of Xian. A small square is nestled by the roundabout featuring Marco Polo’s statue on West Street in Zhangye. Centennial Park in the center Aqsu consists of an endless expanse of stone tiles. Traveling through the burgeoning cities the Hexi Corridor of Ganzu Province and the string of desert oases of Xinjiang Province—the Chinese end of the ancient Silk Road-- offer a consistent diet of large public spaces. And they…
Friday, March 03, 2017
“Want me to grab you a couple of bottles of wine from the garage before I go?” I asked Bill. We had just finished three days of poring over draft descriptions of seventeen Parthian sites on the Malakhan Plain. I was ready to head back to Northern California.
“There’s wine out there?” asks Bill, incredulous.
“There’s lots!” I reply.
I knew this for a fact because I had been through his garage several times in the past year looking for field notebooks, photographs, slides, maps, plans, and photocopies of research articles with titles like “Notes on some volcanic and other…
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