Scholarly Roadkill

Mitch’s Blog

Eagle Week

Sunday, July 28, 2019

It’s been a week of eagles. Best known, of course, is the golf club-wielding Russian bird who oversaw Trump’s speech to a conservative college group. While generated entirely by accident, it still represents the height of American political satire. Kudos to the poor now-unemployed program assistant who hurried too quickly in his Google search and ended up with the perfect image to frame the perfect idiot in a perfect speech to a perfect set of automatons. Good on you.

My own eagle story is a bit more compelling.

Earlier this week I’m biking to Coombs, BC, a small town 8…

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Upending the Journals World

Friday, June 14, 2019

Started on the paper you’re writing this summer? Musing about which journal to submit it to when you drift back to campus? Are you aware that journal world is being turned upside down while you’re sitting here daydreaming? If you’re up to date on Plan S, Read and Publish, Big Deals, and Plan U, then go back to your rumination. If not, better listen up because it might matter by the time you get that paper ready to submit.

Point 1 (and Points 2-200): Publishing journals costs money. Even with all the free labor of editors and reviewers, it still…

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Can Scholars Really Write Popular Books?

Saturday, May 25, 2019

The cry is all around the university—Relevance! Public engagement! Write so the whole world can read you! This is the path for public support for higher education, for weaving our work into important policy debates, for fielding calls from TV producers, for finally…finally explaining to Aunt Faye what exactly it is that we do. As a retired publisher, I’ve been asked to help scholars get better at this writing game in my workshops, writings, and consulting. “Reaching the Hidden Audience: Ten Rules for the Archaeological Writer” was one of my first articles, now almost 20 years old.  Should…

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Where Do Our Words Go?

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Messages in a bottle go far beyond the song by The Police or the 1999 movie with Kevin Costner and Robin Wright.  A West Australian beach produced one thrown from a German ship in the 1880s. A Florida couple found one launched by a group of Scottish school children in the 1980s. This seems an appropriate way to start the question that bedevils every writer and publisher: where do your words go after they are released into the world?

Phillip Henslowe is the Elizabethan theatre producer in Tom Stoppard’s Shakespeare in Love. The hardy…

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The Great Conference Mandala

Monday, April 22, 2019

It was at the end of an email exchange with Caryn to arrange dinner in Albuquerque that I asked “Do you need any help at the booth?” Caryn is archaeology editor for Berghahn Books and the Society for American Archaeology meeting was coming up. A lunch meeting on Friday would leave her booth empty for a couple of hours. Could I cover for her? “Of course,” I responded. After all, I do know a bit about how to sell books at an academic conference.

But the meaning of that simple exchange, as she and I both knew, went…

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What Happened to that Grecian Urn?

Saturday, March 16, 2019

I’ve talked often about my archaeological “legacy” project from Afghanistan, where the field work was conducted back in the 1970s, and I’m only now pulling together the material for publication. In the process, legacy has taken on new meanings.  It’s not just the legacy of the archaeology work nor the contribution to the historical legacy of war-torn Afghanistan. Important legacies have crept into this work, weaving a deep web that crosses continents and many lineages. I’ll speak of one here.

The descendants of John Philip Miller (a pseudonym) has a stake in our work. Miller was an American consultant in…

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The First Warning

Friday, February 22, 2019

The First Warning is the only “comedy” ever written by the famed Swedish playwright August Strindberg.  And it is the only play I’ve ever acted in.

Comedy is rightly in quotes when it comes to Strindberg.He was not a happy guy-- alcoholic, misogynist, paranoid, depressive personality, and divorced three times. #MeToo came a century too late to include him, but he would have been a proper target. His autobiographical novel was entitled The Inferno. This sunniness shows in his plays, filled with horrid gender interactions and nasty characters meeting with bad endings. The First…

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Startup Secrets

Saturday, October 27, 2018

“What I hadn’t anticipated was how hard it was to start a publishing company.”

No, those weren’t my words, but those penned recently by Richard Charkin. Charkin should know a bit about publishing, just retired as CEO of Bloomsbury (think Harry Potter books) after a trail of other high profile publishing positions in companies with names like Macmillan, Oxford, and Reed Elsevier. His article about the struggles of leaving the publishing industrial complex to start a small, boutique press called Mensch Publishing was of great interest. After all, I had done the same thing. Twice.


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“So How Was Cuba?”

Monday, May 14, 2018

“Did you have a good time?” A reasonable question to someone who has just returned from such an exotic place.  But I wasn’t ready for it the first time. The guys had just come back from their dawn run and were sipping water on Tony’s porch. I’d returned the night before and was simultaneously sleepwalking and walking the dog.  “So how was Cuba?” one piped up.

How to craft an answer? Was it the invigorating music and dance we saw everywhere? That’s what Becky and her crowd would want to know. Or the visible differences between their socialist system and…

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What’s in a (Middle) Name

Friday, March 23, 2018

Like every scholar, even one who didn’t begin practicing until he hit retirement age, announcement of the online availability of the conference program is a trigger to click the button and find out when my paper is scheduled (8:15 am Thursday; no one will be there) and whether any of my commitments conflict (yep, my one committee meeting is 8-10 that same morning). Having received the expected bad news, I flipped to the committee page only to find that the Publications Committee, of which I am not surprisingly a member, had listed a Mitchell V. Allen II. I scoured the…

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