Thursday, October 15, 2015


Some time ago -- a year? -- I sent an article about Alvina Krause, my undergrad acting professor at Northwestern University -- to be published in a journal managed by Tailor and Francis Group ( which is anchored in Oxford but “has a passion” for digital distribution . . .  We are one of the leading publishers of online journals and eBooks.”

Taylor and Francis Group is part of Informa PLC which operates at the heart of the Knowledge and Information Economy. It is one of the world’s leading business intelligence, academic publishing, knowledge and events businesses. With more than 6,500 employees globally, it has a presence in all major geographies, including North America, South America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa."  Its website is mostly pitched at investors.

The actual journal in question is “Stanislavski Studies” edited by Professor Paul Fryer, FRSA, FHEA. He is Associate Director of Research and head of The Stanislavski Centre, all at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance (UK).  He advises me that my “proofs” have not been corrected and returned and that I’m holding up publication.  I’m supposed to address all questions to a T and F editor.  I was surprised.  I thought we'd finished.

The final copy that I had sent earlier, thinking that was the last step, was finalized with Macintosh OSX, but now I’m working in Yosemite (10.10.5).  They are not very compatible.  The editor I’m assigned never heard of Yosemite and advises me to just stick to PDF.  But that’s a transmission form.  The change in operating systems is internal to the document and possibly changed the format and even some spelling.  But anyway, English spelling and American spelling are not the same.  Even American English and Canadian English do not agree.  Much of the Stanislavski literature is in Russian, an even knottier translation and protocol problem, pdf or not.  PDF is just the bucket -- proofing is done on the contents.  I was in the soup.

We’re in a similar swamp when it comes to photos, since the best ones were taken by a photographer at the end of the Seventies, now dead and her business dispersed.  There is evidently more concern about violating proper ownership in Europe than there is here.  Part of the problem is that copyright is a legal arrangement attached to nations and their treaties.  This cumbersome system means constant reviewing to devise ways to redefine ownership of new media, now what constitutes infringement in a mash-up/cross-arts world.   I’ve been looking up Google’s list of entries they removed because of legal challenge and see that they are almost all music, which is impossible to confine to one “owned” version, much less prevent from being shared, adapted, quoted, and so on.  An actual object or a close copy of it almost has to be real rather than virtual in order to talk about copyright or proofing with any meaning.

Composing table for cold metal type

As I think more closely, “proofs” are a concept developed in the days of print, cold metal type at that.  One hand-writes the corrections onto the “proof” sheets inked on the press’s bed stone-- then picks out the offending letters and inserts new letters, hoping the new spaces work.  But with computer composing, the actual print is so fluid that it’s harder to pin down than Walt Whitman’s many versions of  “Leaves of Grass.”  There is no “Editor’s Cut” because they were ALL editor’s cuts.

Putting a “journal” online in separate editions is also thinking in old categories.  There’s no reason to cluster the collections of articles in elaborate systems kept on a schedule.  They are better “streamed” to get rid of deadlines.  Information about changes or reference to other material can be attached to the articles.

Of course, since T and F is in England, they’re in the middle of the night when I’m up and functioning, so communication can hardly be in real time.  But the real problem is the old assumptions that no one quite realizes IS an assumption, much less one that is no longer practical.  It is clear to me that swinging such a wide net (“the world’s leading business intelligence, academic publishing, knowledge and events businesses. With more than 6,500 employees globally, it has a presence in all major geographies, including North America, South America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.”)  means losing control, which is the very thing they are selling: control.

Do not lose control of the mouse.

Like all print communicators, the assumption is that we are alike, which is an advantage sometimes, but demands accommodation at some point.  My biggest advantage is that I don’t matter.  Academics (which I chose NOT to be) and commercial people (ditto) have offices in cities or universities.  They do not write in their nightgowns at dawn while cats tamper with the keyboard.  They do not live in villages where the library is devoted (with excellent effect) to children and the last remaining housewives and retirees.  Formal eminences use a vocabulary that might seem the same, but actually mean something slightly different.  Most of them have no clue about computer communication, so they hire young women (formerly typists) and say, “Make it so.”  No thought given after that because it is the world’s duty to accommodate high status people and education guarantees high status.  Except in a little grain-and-cattle town where cats have no respect.

The next hinge-gone-haywire is the relationship between commercial computer practices, whose main use is totting up the numbers and puffing up the descriptions, and the academic use, which used to be a matter of analysis, research, and freedom from selling.  To try to do academic work on software organized for the ease of recording the efforts of salesmen and rentiers is to undermine the whole structure of academics around science and law, including social morality.  I’ll deal with arts later.
Academic software

In the time since first contact with this journal, a couple of years ago, I’ve replaced my Mac computer twice, my printer/scanner three times, and my operating system twice.  I’ve used programs that have updated a dozen times -- was FORCED to do so in order to keep using them -- and have dumped half-a-dozen social platforms partly because they kept changing their terms of service.  Newcomer tech schemes for posting my essays make me run from the barrage of urging to join them.   Techies love to encrust them with bells and whistles, just to see if they’ll catch on, which means they’re soon discarded, because the people who admire such things are easily bored.

Most of the providers and users of all this stuff assume that I have what they have: iPods, tablets, smart phones, etc. and am capable of texting.  They keep demanding that I list my smart phone number but not my land line number, which is the only one I have.  They confirm acceptances by texting, which I can't receive.  I have Skype but never use it.  There is no built-in mic on my equipment and the add-on one I use is always getting misplaced.

I need stability so I can concentrate on the quality of my thought and writing.  This preoccupation with parlor tricks might account for some of the online sludge decorated with gorgeous color-saturated images.  I think another part of the problem is the quality of teaching writing in its advanced forms.  What I’ve seen is mostly a bunch of youngsters with no life experience sitting together examining each other’s work for grammar errors, just as they did in high school.  No grappling with overwhelming ideas.
The Remains.

The lobster, like all crustaceans, cannot grow without discarding its shell, which leaves it terribly vulnerable in the transitions.  MFA degrees are supposed to supply safety for beginners.  It’s an impossibility.  Clarity is a better goal, but a dangerous one.  Aspiring to economic and status success is deadly, the fisherman’s net that will land a writer in the hold of the economy to be prepared for consumption by boiling alive.  Bouillabaisse.

In the end I asked for a search of their "chain of evidence" as we might call it in the legal world, and someone along the line successfully located what was needed.  Once again, my task is complete.

Which takes me back to the original subject:  the acting classes of Alvina Krause, as derived from Stanislavski’s “method.”  It fit the genre of plays of the time -- lyric realism -- and the Edwardian culture which persisted on Broadway.  Miraculously, the "Method" worked even better for cinema actors.  But the “frame of reference,” went to movie stars who no longer studied the skeleton of the whole because it was achieved via image bricolage according to the taste and goals of an auteur, who was trying to satisfy investors.  What metaphor shall I suggest?  Lamphrey eels?  Sharks -- no, those are critics.  In the meantime the seas warm until the coral reefs die.

I am a creature of my time and place.  I can hear the ranchers loading their cattle at the edge of town, but also I can still consider the implications of the most recent neurology studies in terms of the “Method”.  The spine of the character is metaphor and the centrality of sensations as the content of identity and memory is key, and . . .   Later.  More.


Chas Clifton said...

You have a newish Mac without a built-in mic?

Mary Strachan Scriver said...

Yeah, so? It's a Mac Mini. I don't normally need a built-in mic, but the cat likes to chew on the accessory one, so I keep it in a drawer.

Mary Scriver