URLs du Jour


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  • I am unusually fascinated by the reaction to Joseph Epstein's op-ed in the Saturday WSJ Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.. (Maybe paywalled, sorry.)

    Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the “Dr.” before your name? “Dr. Jill Biden” sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic. Your degree is, I believe, an Ed.D., a doctor of education, earned at the University of Delaware through a dissertation with the unpromising title “Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs.” A wise man once said that no one should call himself “Dr.” unless he has delivered a child. Think about it, Dr. Jill, and forthwith drop the doc.

    As a number of people have pointed out (including me in the past): the Ed. D. degree is kind of a joke, academically. Bill Cosby got one, fer Pete's sake.

    But a lot of people responded … well, as you might have expected them to.

  • Dr. Jill (apparently) fired off a passive-agressive tweet:

    Note the name and handle. Dr. Dr. In case you missed one of them, I guess.

    Dr. Jill feels diminished by people failing to use her title. I think she feels that a little too easily. I would hope that "our daughters" are made of less fragile stuff.

  • Of course there are few bonds stronger than those in the fellowhood personhood of the higher education establishment. And, for daring to speak his mind, Mr. Epstein received the ultimate academic death penalty, as reported by Hot Air: WSJ op-ed writer critical of 'Dr.' Jill Biden gets canceled by Northwestern University.

    Joseph Epstein was recognized on Northwestern University’s website as “emeritus lecturer” for more than twenty years. That changed Saturday when it was discovered that his profile is no longer available. Epstein has been canceled.

    I wonder if they yanked his campus parking sticker? Library card? That'll show him!

  • Across town the UChicago Bio Prof Jerry Coyne muses at his blog: Should Ph.D.s call themselves “doctor” in everyday life?. Jerry's pretty left, so he makes the obligatory noises about Epstein's "misogyny" and "sexism". Not to mention his "patronizing" and "condescending" tone. But he's got a good quote from "Miss" Manners, Judith Martin, via the NYT:

    Judith Martin, better known as the columnist Miss Manners, said her father, who had a Ph.D. in economics, insisted on not being called Dr. and implored his fiancée, Ms. Martin’s mother, to print new wedding invitations after the first version included the title.

    “As my father used to say, ‘I’m not the kind of doctor who does anybody any good,’” Ms. Martin said in an interview on Saturday. “He didn’t feel it was dignified. I am well aware that this is a form of reverse snobbery.”

    Still, Ms. Martin said, “I don’t tell people what to call themselves and I’m aware that women often have trouble with people who don’t respect their credentials.”

    Respect my credentials!

  • Ann Althouse (retired law prof) is way more copacetic:

    Epstein is an essayist. He's been writing essays and publishing collections of essays for many years. He's 83. And good for him, suddenly scoring so big with this one essay. It really gave people with a need to write essays and mini-essays — tweets 'n' blogposts — something to write oh so easily about.

    That fiend Epstein! He's a misogynist! Why's he a misogynist for calling bullshit on the use of "Dr." for people who are not medical doctors? I haven't read the essay yet and I've only glanced at the criticism — enough to see the charge of misogyny — and what I'm going to presume is that it's perceived as misogynist because it's women — and not men — who style themselves as "Dr." when they are not medical doctors. Why do women do it? Are they guessing they'll be thought less of because they are female? The "Dr." business might be a defense again real or imagined misogyny, but that doesn't make it misogynistic to argue that it's time to lay off the self-puffery of the non-medical "Dr."

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    In his (apparently) web-unavailable newsletter, Jeff Jacoby makes a point too:

    Political and media circles are filled with people who have non-medical doctorates. Examples include columnist George Will; MSNBC host Rachel Maddow; Senators Ben Sasse, Tammy Duckworth, and Kyrsten Sinema; incoming Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen; former Fed chairmen Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. To my knowledge, none of them has ever insisted on being referred to as “doctor” in daily life.

    Neither do countless scientific luminaries with doctoral degrees. Richard Feynman … was a Nobel laureate who was one of the most renowned theoretical physicists of the 20th century. He was also perfectly content to be addressed as “mister.” Indeed, he titled his 1985 collection of reminiscences Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feyman [sic]!

    Indeed. Good book, by the way. Click the pic to buy.

  • What people should be maybe more put out by is related by Jim Geraghty at Naional Review: Bill Gates: It's 'Appropriate' to Keep Bars and Restaurants Closed Longer. His comment:

    […] if anyone is going to advocate for longer lockdowns and stricter restrictions, and ask Americans to make even greater sacrifices, losing jobs, losing businesses, facing bankruptcy . . . it probably should not be the second-richest man on the planet.

    Hey, Bill? Maybe you should shut down Microsoft for "four to six months". You know, just as an example for us peons.

Last Modified 2024-03-23 1:00 PM EDT

The Witch Elm

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I'm going to gripe about something I've griped about before. I strongly suspect the book contract Tana French wrote under specified a word count that resulted in (tada!) 509 printed pages.

The problem is that this would have made a pretty good 300 page book.

Don't get me wrong. Ms. French is an excellent writer, and those extra 200 pages-worth of words are pretty decent writing. It's just that they don't add anything. At a certain point they become irritating obstacles to get past in order to make it to page 509.

Don't mind me. I sympathize with writers who need to get to N words, when the story they're telling is only about 60% there.

While Ms. French's previous books have had Dublin cop narrators, this one is narrated by civilian Toby. He's not a particularly likeable character; one of the things that immediately becomes apparent is that he takes ethical shortcuts on the way to a desired goal, but seemingly always gets away with a too-lenient punishment.

Things start going bad for Toby when he interrupts a burglary at his apartment. He gets thrashed to near-death. As it is, he sustains enough damage to earn an extended hospital stay, slur his speech and make his memory spotty.

He has no urgent desire (and maybe no ability) to resume his normal life. But he gets word that his beloved Uncle Hugo is dying from a brain tumor. This causes the extended family to gather at the Ivy House, their ancestral home. A lot of fraught family drama ensues. But then (page 162), one of the family urchins is exploring the titular hollow tree and pulls out … aieee, a human skull!

Well, now you're talking. About time. Who does the skull belong to? And, if it was there via foul play, who done it? There are a lot of suspects. Including Toby himself—remember I said his memory was spotty? He doesn't know.

Things are resolved in ways I only half-saw coming.

Last Modified 2024-01-23 2:06 PM EDT

Blow the Man Down

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link]

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After three straight 1940s noir movies, I was ready to watch something a little more recent. An Amazon streamer, it's still arguably noir. The IMDB genrecizes it as "Comedy, Drama, Mystery". I'm not too sure about the comedy; if present, it's the darkest variety.

Sisters Mary Beth and Priscilla are up against it: their mom has just died, leaving them with bills to pay and not enough income to pay them. They live in a small Maine fishing village (it was filmed mostly in Harpswell, Maine, just across Casco Bay from Portland) and run a fish shop. Mary Beth is the bad sister, who wants nothing more than to have fun, preferably in the big city. Priscilla is the head-on-her-shoulders sister, who wants to make a go of the shop.

But, unfortunately, homicide intrudes. Probably justified. But it sends off a chain of events that involves a different homicide (not at all justified), the local whorehouse proprietor (Margo Martindale!), and secrets the ladies of the town have been keeping for decades.

It's pretty good, and you might find the comedy I failed to.

Old man note: I remember seeing Annette O'Toole in Smile, playing a hot young beauty pageant contestant. In 1974, she was 23.

Now she's playing old-lady roles.

I can stand getting old myself, but I'd really prefer that Annette O'Toole not get old.

Last Modified 2024-01-23 2:06 PM EDT