A Child's Book of Scorpions of Medical Importance

Things that may one day save your life

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Krampus Hates Hipsters

One of 1000s of vintage Krampus postcards you can hotlink from your lazy, seasonal blog.

One of 1000s of vintage Krampus postcards you can hotlink from your lazy, seasonal blog.

As an American, the things you own and consume are your identity.  Your place in society is defined by your ability to acquire, and the discernment you apply in choosing, your stuff.  Even hipsters and self-exiled outliers who pride themselves in cocking a snook at American consumerism play a full role:  their rejection of the consumerist formula always involves a loud avoidance of the first part of the equation, and a whole spirited devotion to the second.  And because the premise of America requires the destruction of the old, and the constant, grinding acquisition of the new, the refinement of consumer taste must be eclectic and seasonal.  Even American intellectuals are constantly on the hunt for novelty, and the vast space between ‘intellectual’ and ‘hipster’, the seething, chaotic, meaningless reality of the ‘cultural critic’, is heavily populated.  Are you old enough to recall a time when sophistication in America meant a passing familiarity with Kabbalah, an ironic, encyclopedic knowledge of 70s sitcoms, and the ability to pronounce ‘Côtes du Rhône’?  Where is your truth now, hipster?

Google tells me that American interest in Krampus began in December 2010 with a groundbreaking survey of the Krampus phenomenon by professional blogger ‘TeenAngster’ (Real name:  Alison; Location: Brooklyn, NY; Turn-ons: folk art, vintage oddities and other stuff discovered in her first year as a ‘Lit Major’ at University of Iowa, then pared and refined obsessively during three years in Williamsburg).  Her survey sets the formula for American discoveries of Krampus over the last two years:  Krampus is a vaguely goth, anti-Santa Claus;  Krampus adds some edgy thrills (and lazy blog copy) to the hackneyed, consumerist Christmas myth.  Krampus is cool, and he comes with many sets of vintage postcards that are easily scanned or hotlinked.

But there is a problem.  Krampus is also fucking terrifying.  And he hates hipsters.  I have friends who grew up with the myth of Krampus, and, at best, they would find Brooklynites’ glib, seasonal fascination annoying.  One such friend spent his life in a Hapsburg satellite state.  On the evening of the Nikolo (December 6, the St. Nicholas festival), his grandfather would prowl around the house after bed time, scratching windows with thorny twigs and rattling heavy chains.  My friend would cower under his bed for hours, having wet himself, sobbing for the intercession of St. Nicholas before Krampus made it into the house; because if Krampus did find him, he would be roughly tossed into an excruciating basket made of thorns and TAKEN STRAIGHT TO HELL.  (Some myths claim children are taken to Krampus’s lair, but, whatever.  It’s all the same to a six-year-old Slav).

‘OK,’ you might write in your next Gawker article.  ‘Old world parenting techniques aren’t the best.  But Krampus is still über-cool.  Check out these hotlinked photos from a Krampuslauf, which means ‘Krampus run’ in German, and occurs during the month of December in Austria, Hungary, Northern Italy and…’

Let me stop you right there, Alison.  Have you ever been to a Krampuslauf? Have you ever been to Carinthia, the glorious Texas of Austria?  Those JPEGs you cut-and-pasted are from the Disney ‘Main Street Parade’ of Krampusläufe. Your goth alternative to mall Santa has a mundane reality:  on the morning of December 5th, Austrian ‘bros’ get wasted on beer and schnapps, they don shitty monster masks and fur suits, and then use the occasion and the anonymity to wander the streets of Eberstein or Treffen harassing girls and beating the crap out of fags and pussies with sticks.  Things usually get a little out of hand, but, like the high spirited fraternity ‘rager’, it’s allowed to pass and is quickly forgotten.

If you want to understand better what Krampus is all about, spend a few winter months in Carinthia or south Tirol.  Learn German.  Attend a local Nikolo evening.  And head out to a small town Krampuslauf to survey the action.  But leave the skinny jeans in Brooklyn, and be forewarned:  Krampus is an old world allegory that doesn’t make for easy or frivolous consumption.  Krampus can smell irony from 200 metres.  He’s drunk on schnapps, swinging a spiny pine sapling at your head, and, above all, Krampus hates hipsters.

What to Look for

Two Scorpions Kissing

Scorpions Kissing

We have all had that uncomfortable conversation, where we try to explain the complex beauty of scorpions to an acquaintance only to be confronted with indifference:

‘I hear they’re just primitive arachnids.  What’s the big deal?’

‘Well, morphologically, they appear to be primitive, but if you study the composition of scorpion venom, you will find that evolution has exercised a long and powerful…’

‘Whatever.  I think they’re creepy.’

And this is usually where the conversation ends, and not only every conversation about scorpions, but many conversations about other, less important, things.  People struggle where there is no comfortable frame of reference.

Scorpion venom is remarkably intricate, and bears the mark of hundreds of millions of years of ceaseless evolution;  as though the original, outward design was sufficient, but the scorpion’s rich cocktail of organic materials, mucous, salts and long- and short-chain peptides, each perfectly targeted to the species of prey or enemy, quickly became an obsession for Nature; like Proust, who lay in bed for the last three years of his life pouring every ounce of energy into extending a single novel that would test the limits of human stamina.  The beauty of scorpions is thus easy to dismiss, much like the three-and-a-half thousand pages of stuff someone remembered because of a soggy cookie.  And, yet, beautiful and essential in spite (and perhaps because) of its obscurity.

When I first visited France, I was disappointed.  The cosmetic Bohemianism I had known in California seemed richer than what I perceived there.  The French were homogeneous.  They spoke in the same tiresome idioms, repeated the same idées reçues, and their cuisine was surprisingly repetitive.  How much daubemerguez or choucroutte was a student required to stomach?  But the strength of France wasn’t in the breadth (although the breadth was there once I learned to see it), but in the deliberate, thousand-year refinement of its arts.

My heart recently went out to a friend who is trying to pursue a career in France, but his first three months have been excruciating.  Barnaby, a young orchestra conductor, searches for the familiar, and is endlessly disappointed.  The French are less forthcoming than the Americans.  They are lazy.  Parisians are assholes.  He doesn’t have time for museums.  The language course was a waste of money.

‘I can’t wait to get home.  Coming to Paris was a mistake.’

‘It wasn’t a mistake, but perhaps it was the wrong thing for you.  There is beauty there.  Everything worthwhile is in France.  But you have to want to see it.  You won’t have the tools to discover it unless you are there for more than a year, and unless you try to find it.  Unless you allow it to change the way you think, and only then you will recognise the importance is in the details.  The many, many vast details that were invisible before.’

‘What the fuck are you talking about?  Details?  I have to stand in line for everything!  The university course is like a pretentious high school!’

‘You need to step outside yourself.  You need to get out of your “comfort zone”!’ (I had to put the phone down briefly and gag after repeating these words, but I knew they were the only way to convey my urgent warning).  ‘You need to explore what you really want.  Are you doing what makes you happy?  You can’t expect to find beauty if it isn’t fundamentally what you love.  Maybe you need to look more deeply inside yourself.’

‘Are you saying I should start dating men?’

‘Yes.  That is exactly what I’m saying.’

Balkan Travel and Gay Space Aliens

I travel frequently.  More on this later, but ‘picture thousand words, .etc.’ and I leave you with a summary of my adventures this week, and an excerpt from a book I wrote to keep you busy until Interpol  loses the trail and I can settle in to write again.

I will be here for a few days.

Then here.

And then, in all reasonable likelihood, here.

In the meantime, I would like to draw your attention again to the Balkans.  The story is called ‘Gay Aliens Invade Dubrovnik’, and follows the making of a disastrous film about Dubrovnik, a once glorious city-state on the Dalmatian coast.  Many of the events in the book are true, although they defy belief.  Read it.  It’s funny.


“War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.” – Ambrose Bierce

“The little Republic of Ragusa [Dubrovnik] is rather little known.  It has experienced, like other states, the alternatives of good and bad fortune; but since its most brilliant periods have never permitted it to play a certain role among the other nations, it has not sufficiently excited the curiosity of historians or politicians to obtain a distinguished place in the annals of the world.[1]

This story begins and ends in Dubrovnik, a once-glorious city-state on the very southern coast of Dalmatia. Dubrovnik flourished as an independent republic, respected for centuries for its wealth, architecture, culture and its willingness to trade with neighbouring states.  It produced mathematicians, musicians and artists, but has recently fallen on hard times.  Once a proud Republic, claiming much of the Balkan Adriatic coast, Dubrovnik was the focal point for rivalries among Montenegrin princes, Hungarians, Turks, the Venetians and French, but descended swiftly into obscurity in the twentieth century.  Croatia lost its statehood, absorbed into the fitful anonymity of the Yugoslav socialist republic, and the spectre of Soviet dominance meant that few in the Western world bothered to explore the territory or the rich history of a Republic whose name, if it evoked any recognition at all, bore a mystical, distant familiarity, like the names ‘Atlantis’ or ‘Carthage’.

Not only had Dubrovnik lost its wealth, and perhaps its soul, it also faced a public relations disaster.  Its obscure struggles behind the Iron Curtain led the world to forget; and the few recent glimpses of a nation emerging from a long nightmare of war and relative isolation were too easily subject to misinterpretation.  Liberated countries of limited means, spurred by their desire to take their places on the international stage, fell easy victim to the wanton bullying of more popular states, and to the humourless and paranoid vestiges of their own authoritarianism.

Even during those rare, blissful moments when history began to smile on Croatia, or rather, when its perennial frown would start to soften, the tragic conspiracy would quickly regain hold.  In many instances, the culprits were the Croatians themselves – the damage done to their national esteem by centuries of subjugation having left them with a propensity for self-sabotage.  If an external enemy wasn’t ready to spoil the plans, corruption or self-doubt would lead quickly to an internal collapse, and the Croatians were once again near the bottom of the international pecking order.

It all struck home one summer afternoon as I watched the Sydney Olympics with my old university chum, Dobriša.  Being patriotic, he was excited to learn that a Croat had gained the 62kg-class weightlifting final, but his enthusiasm turned to horror as Nikolay Pechalov took the stage.  I laughed aloud the moment I realised, upon glimpsing the swarthy, bouffant-mulleted gremlin and ethnic Bulgarian who now faced the camera, that the world would quickly assume Croatia was an impoverished, land-locked, ex-Soviet republic, before everyone hastily changed the channel.  Dobriša wept with bitter joy as Pechalov took home the gold medal, while his hairstyle and demeanour forever ruined what little credit Croatia had with the industrialised world.

Considering this incident, I realised the world needed to find a deeper regard for the Croats, whom fate has conspired, again and again, to assure remain misunderstood or overlooked.  In the summer of 2002, I was drawn to a film project intended to portray the enduring soul of Dubrovnik, its spirit of tolerance and independence, and the cultural riches it fostered.  An unfortunate crew joined me:  Dobriša, a neuroscientist and would-be actor; Dan, an aspiring Croatian film director and childhood friend of Dobriša; Richard, a jobless, medieval Latinist; all of whom worked to change Dubrovnik forever.

Unfortunately, our plans to capture the essence of Dubrovnik, the warmth and achievements of its people, reviving its well deserved place in the modern imagination, didn’t go as planned.  They fell prey to the sort of historical entanglements that make Balkan history such a hornets’ nest. Dubrovnik is impossible to capture without the interweaving stories of its Balkan neighbours and partners, whose conflicting viewpoints too easily muddy the waters.  Any artistic portrayal of the place requires unflinching honesty, without which, as Croatian history has proven inevitable, recriminations quickly follow, a lot of people die, and many significant monuments are destroyed.

In this book, I have taken considerable care to recount not only the story of our film, ‘Gay Aliens Invade Dubrovnik’, but also to portray the Croats and their Ragusan brethren with the affectionate detail they so deserve.  In addition, the careful reader will gain many practical things from this book:  numerous helpful moral lessons, a rudimentary understanding of finance, and an incautious glimpse of the international sex trade.

In fact, the whole experience taught me a number of valuable things that I am now compelled to share.  Many of these lessons will be familiar to the reader.  And many of these lessons are included in the body of common sense that most people have acquired upon leaving school.  It will certainly be exasperating to some readers who, cleverer than I, feel they will have anticipated the sorry outcome of our plot.  But I beg the reader’s patience, and I ask only that he keep in mind certain factors that would cloud our view of the tragic outcome toward which we hurtled ourselves despite cautious planning and absolute good faith.  Less wholesome motivations can quietly consume the best intentions while still inhabiting their skin.  I ask the reader to keep this thought in mind.  And I pray that the reader might understand in advance that many small, anticipated outcomes can drive toward a climax that is wholly unexpected.


We were confronted with the familiar, softly luminescent, black screen, the whir of fans and the smell of burning dust as the projector awoke.  A brilliant, 1980s, techno pastiche, composed by Dan in the early hours of the previous morning, provided tempo to the flight of a bright, pink unicorn that tore shuddering across the screen, shitting a trail of silver stars in its arc that fell like glitter and conjured the film’s title ‘Gay Aliens Invade Dubrovnik’ in a glaring, neon, rainbow font.  We had spent most of the production money on costumes and alcohol, and couldn’t afford a graphic artist.  Dobriša had carefully traced each frame of the exuberant, trembling unicorn, adapted in childlike scrawl from a toy box.

‘I want my fucking money back!’  Our meetings with Ribaric, our main financier and head of the Croatian National Office for the Protection of the Family, Motherhood and Youth (NOPFMY), had long ago ceased being cordial.  ‘I want my money back! I don’t even want to see the rushes!  Do you think I can fucking sell this?  Who made these titles?  A fourteen year-old girl?’

Dobriša raised his hand sheepishly.

Ribaric was an ambitious civil servant who jealously controlled the ample NOPFMY film budget.  He ripped the projector’s electrical cord from the wall.  We were suddenly blinded by the fluorescence of the hall lights, and terrified to see Mr. Grgic, a hulking ex-non-commissioned officer from the Croatian armed forces who now served as production supervisor, standing at the door holding a baseball bat.

‘You assholes are going to make some big changes, starting with those faggy titles.’

‘Kitsch is very fashionable these days…’

‘Shut up!’  Ribaric grabbed the baseball bat from Grgic’s paws.  ‘I’m not going to sell this.  It looks like garbage!  You want the world to think Croatians can’t use digital design tools?  I’ve seen Romanian studios produce better crap than this!  I want it sexy!  I want it modern!’

‘Sir, I think I have a compromise; you can have your sexiness and your modernity while we maintain…’  I was quickly silenced as Ribaric prepared to swing the bat.

‘Here is your compromise:  use those fucking iBooks I paid for and re-do the whole goddamn thing!’

Ribaric punctuated his demand with a hissing swing.

‘I want it professional!’  Another swing.  ‘And I want it gripping!’  Another swing and he took a step closer.  ‘And it’s going to be sexy…but tasteful.’  He cocked the bat as if to swing again, but paused on the word ‘tasteful’.  ‘And it has to grab the audience, from the first second!  Right from the titles!’  He began to swivel the bat in small circles, warming up for another dramatic swipe.  ‘From the start it has to tell a story!  A story about Croatia!  And about Love!’

And with the word ‘Love’ he swung with full force, aiming for a glass paperweight, an abstract and upward sweeping wave representing the élan of the new Croatia.  Unfortunately, years of bureaucratic struggle had left him ill prepared to make such a precise and physical point.  He clipped the top of the wave, and a dagger sharp sliver of glass flew toward the wall, while the bat continued downward, unimpeded in its poorly aimed trajectory with the corner of his desk.  It rebounded suddenly, wrenched itself from Ribaric’s hands and flew spinning from his grasp.

We all ducked, and Ribaric’s physical menace evaporated in an instant, as the glass shard ricocheted in a vengeful arc and nicked his skull.  The bat clattered on the floor.

‘Ow!  Romance! Fuck! And I want some production value!’  Ribaric massaged his scalp and checked his fingers for blood.

Dobriša was the first to regain his composure.  ‘Sir, if I may point out:  the unicorn is a symbol of love…’  Dobriša’s earnest attempt to find a middle ground between Ribaric’s incoherent, violent recipe for popular appeal, and our hastily composed, but inspired, title sequence made things worse.  While the immediate physical threat was gone with Ribaric’s sudden loss of control, he quickly assumed a more abstract, and mortal line of attack.

‘I didn’t ask for an opinion!  This is shit!  This is bad filmmaking.  If you can come back here in three days with a title sequence that doesn’t embarrass me, or Croatia, then I might not kill all three of you!’

Unfortunately, the series of events that would finally convince Ribaric to try to kill us were largely outside our control, and had little to do with unicorns, production value, or the quickest way to lure an audience with a sexy yet tasteful narrative of thrilling romance.


[1] I am indebted to Robin Harris and his recent history of Dubrovnik (SAQI: London, 2003) for this quotation from ‘Izveštaj gosp. La [sic] Maire, francuzkoga konsula u Koronu o Dubrovačkoj Republici’, JAZU Starine, xiii (1881), 40.

O Albania!

My understanding of Albania was the consequence of a research project on the near Balkan states, and arrived, suddenly, with no warning, like norovirus on a cheap, Adriatic cruise:  you purchase a berth and follow a moderately educational itinerary in the hope of disease-free cultural exposure, but instead gain unwanted insight into the shared, 3rd-class toilets and the biology of your fellow passengers, something that can never be un-learned.

It’s hard to point fingers.  Can we blame the Albanians themselves?  The toxic, Balkan, political soup whose recipe dates to the rift of the Roman Empire?  The injurious influence of neighbouring, Slavic states who have made it their mission to slap the luckless Albanians down whenever history begins to smile on this ancient and chronically subjugated people (or, rather, when history’s perennial frown begins to soften)?  I am going to play it safe, and point a couple of fingers, in the shape of automatic pistols, while noisily strafing the entire room and mouthing the sounds of gunfire.

Few dare shine a light on this dark spot on the European map.  But when your attention is unwillingly captured, between bouts of dry heaving, a remarkable and tragic picture emerges.  Albanians are ferociously patriotic, and not without reason.  They are also ferociously antipathetic to outsiders, also not without reason.  Please, read on, be forewarned, and realise you cannot blame me for any unwanted, chronic symptoms.

The Albanians are an ancient people, the most ancient in southeast Europe by some estimates, and were among the first inhabitants of the Illyrian-Pelasgian peninsula.  A few ethnologists consider them to be some of the earliest migrants from the Caucasus, and the roots of the modern Albanian language predate Latin and Ancient Greek.   Significantly, many linguists, and all Albanians, believe their language is the basis of Greek mythology:  a convincing example shows modern Albanian words of ancient origin to form the roots for the names of deities such as ‘Zeus’, ‘Athena’, ‘Thetis’, and nearly every other proper noun in Greek legend.

Thus Albania’s relationships with its neighbours and, to a lesser extent, with distant powers, are subject to two considerations:

1)      Albanians were the original inhabitants of the modern Balkan states, and thus have legitimate claim to all of the land from the Adriatic and the Ionian Seas, in the west, to the shores of the Black Sea in the east.

2)      Albania is the source of all Western civilisation.

Albanian contact with the world beyond has long been under the injurious influence of adjacent, Slavic states, who have stifled its efforts to promote its legitimate interests outside the Balkans, and thus Albania has adopted a rather risky diplomatic strategy which has, as its primary focus, the elimination of all peoples who would stand in the way of its claims, in addition to those who have systematically taken advantage of the Albanians’ trusting and peace-loving nature.  In distinct contrast to nearby states (i.e. Croatia) whose best approach is to minimise the risk of untimely conflict with bigger neighbours and ingratiate itself through convenient alliances (Danke Deutschland!), the Albanians have put all of their lekë together in an enormous pile and purchased one, giant, geopolitical lottery ticket[1].  In fact, the stunning propensity of the Albanians to take enormous, and tragic, risks is well documented – http://bit.ly/bNuYSN

Any sensible person must agree:  they have little to lose. Every book I had ever read concerning Albania was careful to point out the staggering dearth of reliable historical records.  The Greeks recorded the presence of Illyrian tribes, and they  are known through coinage and the few ruins that remain of their inadequately fortified cities.  In the 3rd century BC the northern Illyrians at Shkodra,  close relations of the modern Albanians, embarked on the first of a small number of remarkably ill-planned but daring gambits by launching a suicidal naval attack on Roman ships.  The Romans, then emerging as the most powerful city-state on the Italian peninsula (something the Albanian forefathers seem to have overlooked), quickly gained a foothold in Illyria and, a few generations later, had managed to assume control of the entire civilisation, defeating king Gentius, sacking his castle and pre-empting any Albanian ambitions of self-determination for the next two millennia.  The whole of the comparatively little history recorded on the Albanians from that moment onward reads like a plaintive, American slave hymn.

Now, before you light that torch and reach for your pitchfork, may I ask you to read the other posts in this ill-spirited blog? I sincerely love the Adriatic Balkan states (big shout out to my ‘domies’ Professor Dobericious, Ivo, Dan, Igor, Marin, Minister Mršić ), and I would gladly leave my home in the withering, cultural desert of California to join my spiritual brothers on the other side of the earth where hospitality, drinas, and rich, rustic wine flow freely.  I have never met an Albanian whom I didn’t like; not least for the comically large, pendulous, brass balls that every citizen of that country assumes as a birthright.  It’s more than I can say for Californians, and, at least, for future Adriatic visits, I am now armed with the necessary, cultural prophylactics.

[1] The lek (plural lekë) is the primary unit of Albanian currency.

Why am I not allowed to dress like this every day?

What does it say about our society that the words ‘Gay Prussian’ never seem to pop up anymore?  I’d like you to take a moment to think about that.

Publish and be damned!

My fiancée was tonight questioning my commitment to blogging, posterity, etc., because I hadn’t touched my stony, fallow patch of the blogosphere in five months.  And I was all, ‘Fuck blogging!  I wrote a bunch of great stuff, and I’m not even famous yet, let alone rich.  I hate the internet!’

As I uttered these words, I was in New York, cultural centre and de-facto capital of the United States, preparing a meal that included lacinato kale, hand roasted hazelnuts and mimolette cheese for a bunch of local sophisticates.  NPR droned in the background, and a young, nasal critic hailed the latest product of the grinding, senseless (and enormously profitable) New York publishing machine as ‘richly textured’, in the signature monotone of US public radio.  I nearly stepped on the dog as I dove for the laptop to login to my WordPress account.

Firstly, the regime that would rule the US in my darkest and most triumphant fantasy would pay particularly close attention to the publishing sector, and would have an exhaustive list of capital offenses, at the very top of which would be the juxtaposition of the words ‘richly’ and ‘textured’, or ‘deeply’ and ‘felt’ in any context outside of my own writing.  (The reader can be assured that any use I might make of these dismal phrases would ONLY be in the interest of national security).

This led me to think about publishing, the internet, and my own, recent, heartbreaking experience.

‘Wait a minute!’ say my Brooklynite friends, almost spilling their glasses of absinthe while pausing the latest episode of ‘Oddities’.  ‘I am, like, totally underpaid.  How can you say our industry is profitable?’

Anyway, by locking myself in the library and stuffing throw pillows under the door, the smell of burning dinner quickly dissipates, and I can hear the yelling and sirens only as echoes through the garden window.  You can whine about your parasitic industry in your own time, hipsters.  This is my blog.

Secondly, let me share a few facts with you.  Nature Publishing Group (NPG – a subsidiary of MacMillan) and their villainous cousins Reed Elsevier (Elsevier), are running a remarkable scam, which is exemplary of the problems with publishing everywhere.  Both of these houses publish top-tier scientific research, in Nature and Cell, respectively;  which would be fine if it weren’t for the way they go about it.

The hard truth hit me as I sat in one of the world’s best neuroscience laboratories and quizzed a group of researchers about their business with the aforementioned publishers.  (NOTE – these people all have PhDs from places like Princeton and Oxford).

‘How much does NPG pay you for the paper?  Do you receive an advance?  Royalties?’

‘Pay us?  What do you mean?’

The moment of disillusion that followed was second only to discovering the lie of Santa Claus.  I won’t go into the details, but here is how it breaks down.

a) Scientist are born defenceless introverts, and remain that way through their adult lives.

b) They conduct research funded by the taxpayer and private grants.

c) Elsevier and NPG charge the scientists for the privilege of publishing in their journals.

d) Legions of salespeople from Elsevier and NPG, who are highly paid and incentivised (and many of whom seem, mysteriously, to have backgrounds in jurisprudence) sell the journals back to the universities and scientists for many, many thousands of dollars for an annual subscription.  They are aided in their salesmanship by the very public nature of university budgets in most countries.  Further pricing advantage is created by a) above. 

This scenario raises a few questions:  what do Elsevier and NPG do to deserve their money (their business margins approach those of the Beloved Goldman Sachs), and how does this relate to publishing generally?

Answers:  ‘nothing’, and ‘in a lot of ways’.

There was a time when publishers performed many valuable services for their clients, and a few less valuable, but that seemed quite good anyway when tied in a bundle with everything else.  They offered essential printing and distribution, and less essential editorial and promotion.

But what do authors require today?  Certainly not physical distribution.  Written content flies around the internet more quickly (and more freely) than is comfortable for many.  Perhaps if the publishers specialised in digital rights management, and could bring order to the piratical free-for-all.  But nearly none of them does (with the strange exception of  those rascals Elsevier and NPG).  And who cares about printing?  It can be had cheaply and on-demand, if required at all.  And as for the promotional efforts of major publishing houses, I’ll let this satisfied customer explain it all: http://tcrn.ch/yQ2M1P

I would estimate that a little money spent on SEM and social media marketing with an expert agent would make more financial sense than leaving your nest egg in the hands of a comp lit major from Wesleyan.

So, what advice am I giving to authors (and researchers) in light of these disheartening facts?  Get a job with Elsevier.  They’re hiring:

Reed Elsevier
125 Park Avenue
23rd Floor
New York, NY 10017
+1 212 309 5498