Scholarly Roadkill

Mitch’s Blog

Deep in the Weeds

Monday, January 24, 2022

Richard Charkin is one of the superstars of publishing. Former head of Macmillan, Holtzbrinck, and Blooomsbury, President of the International Publishers Association, a fellow at Oxford, etc. Upon his retirement in 2020, he decided to start his own small press, Mensch Publishing. Here’s someone who went from the Bloomsbury boardroom-- a company with close to $200 million in annual sales, offices on four continents, publishing 2000 books a year with a staff of 500-- to a one man operation where he had to do everything from sorting the mail to fixing a cranky laptop. He has produced Read more

Those Aha! Moments

Saturday, January 15, 2022

I’ve had two big authorial moments in the past few weeks. The day before Thanksgiving I sent off the final book manuscript of Archaeology of Southwest Afghanistan to the publisher,  Edinburgh University Press. Then last week (ironically, on a Christian holiday called Epiphany), I did the same for the chapter I was invited to write for the 6th edition of the Handbook of Qualitative Research on publishing qualitative research. Each was a major step for me as a scholarly writer. Each gave me enormous joy, though maybe the feeling of relief at having each of them finally finished might be…

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Panning for Gold in the Filing Cabinets

Saturday, May 15, 2021

The latest pandemic task was simple: go through those five filing cabinets in the garage, jammed with papers from a 40 year publishing career and cull them down to what was important to save. A simple task, eh? I had already done this with my sister’s collection of papers and figured I had it down.

For someone who has dealt in history all his life, deciding what is “important” is both random and unclear. What makes something historical? In the archaeological work I do, little broken bits can make all the difference. A small fragment of a goblet…

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Saving Her Life

Monday, April 05, 2021

Well, it’s not exactly what you think, my sister Robin did depart five years ago at far too young an age. A phone call one late afternoon. A sudden heart attack, found hours later by a friend who had brought fast food dinner for the two of them. I wish I could have found a way to save her then.

No, this is a different question, one for the long term. Will we be remembered? By whom? How will we be remembered? These questions were central all weekend as I went through boxes of Robin’s papers pulled from her apartment…

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Jerry’s Phone Fetish

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Jerry’s Deli in Studio City closed yesterday. I lived around the corner when it first opened forty years ago. Large, loud, and Jewish, it was a lifeline for all those Brooklyn-expatriate movie folks working at nearby NBC, Disney, or Warner Studios.

Jerry’s menu was so large that it had to be divided into chapters.  The waitresses were as surly and sandwiches as dry as you could find anywhere on 57th Street. The pastrami stood as tall as the average Egyptian pyramid on a crushed slice of rye bread. If anyone wonders why so many American Jews have big mouths, it…

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Teaching Barefooted

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Spending as much time as we do on Vancouver Island, why not teach an archaeology class or two in their community education program for seniors, Elder College? I had enjoyed teaching at a similar program at the local junior college here in the Bay Area. Students showed up on time, politely waited their turns to speak, and brought a wealth of lifetime learning, tourist experiences, and half-remembered National Geographic specials with them. They also didn’t show up to class with their burrito lunches and their dog to snack on what gets…

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Breaking News: Aliens Built the Pyramids

Sunday, August 02, 2020

“Aliens built the pyramids obv”

Ok, you see a lot of this on Twitter. But the source? Some 15 year old conspiracy nerd sitting at his computer in Muskegon? No. Elon Musk.

Yes, that same Elon Musk, someone who has innovated in technology to build creative new cars, space ships, computer programs. Of all the people who know what can be accomplished with enough wealth, power, labor, technical support, and time, it would be him. And Fourth Dynasty pharaohs had way more of all of those elements than Musk can even dream of having.  

And, being Elon Musk, his…

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Writing Sistan

Sunday, July 26, 2020

A  big day yesterday. I wrote the first bits of my book Archaeology of the Helmand Valley and Sistan Basin. This is the project I’ve been working on for four years now, pulling together the publication of an archaeological project I was part of in the 1970s when I was a budding graduate student.

I’ve been through all 40 notebooks, 10,000 photographs, 4000 slides, and 250 site drawings. I’ve presented over a dozen papers on the project. I’ve had people create over 30,000 scans of the material from the project. I’ve excavated Bill’s garage-- William B. Trousdale, director…

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Virtually My First Conference

Thursday, July 23, 2020

I know academic conferences. All shapes, all sizes, all fields, all levels of expertise. I’ve been to conference venues on 6 continents, over 400 of them. At one point, I calculated that I had spent 4 years of my life in conference hotels. So the one this week shouldn’t have been a big deal. Except that it was my first virtual conference.

That changes everything. We’re all going to be doing virtual conferences for a while, so I thought my first impressions might be useful to some who haven’t experienced them yet.

The invitation came via a colleague in Rome…

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Catbituary, Lucky 2005-2020

Sunday, July 12, 2020

We didn’t misname her when we called her Lucky. There was a history there. Her mom, Leah, had been called Leo until she delivered a litter to our friends Sherry and Jack. They were anxious to get rid of an unexpected passel of kittens, so we were strong-armed into taking one. The timing was right, our senior cat Boots was old and ill and would not last much longer. 

Lucky was warm and personable, providing lots of lap sitting and purring. And then Minnie came along. She seemed nice enough at first, but turned alpha cat and soon Lucky was…

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