“[N]ote how the [Northwestern University English] department’s statement doesn’t even include [Joseph] Epstein’s name. Is he such a non-person now that even mentioning his name would be offensive?”

No. That’s not the reason NU’s English department (where UD was a student, and where she knew Epstein) quite consciously deleted Epstein’s name.

Turnabout is fair play. If Epstein is going to erase Jill Biden (not just her Dr. title, but anything other than the humiliating “First Lady,” for which he counsels her to settle), NU can do the same thing to Epstein. It’s all about (to use Jill Biden’s term for what Epstein tried to do) “diminishing.” You flatten another human being to nothingness; we’ll do the same to you. How does it feel to be diminished to some temporary nameless long-forgotten adjunct?

Epstein was strategic in his non-personing of Jill Biden; Northwestern will be equally strategic. Bruce Bawer unsurprisingly takes note of the diminishment. But he misreads its motive. Mentioning Epstein’s name would not be offensive; it would be unjust.

ISISN’T

But I swear to God I committed actual atrocities!

‘[Joseph Epstein complains that university] Presidents are no longer the towering intellects of yore,’ writes Tom Bartlett.

Epstein indeed has a long list of complaints about the falling off of moral and intellectual seriousness among university presidents. To which UD once again has to say: What a bald-faced hypocrite.

The university president who conferred Epstein’s one honorary degree – his crony, Peter Diamandopoulos of Adelphi University – was little more than a thief, who was made to reimburse the university for at least some of the money and perks to which he helped himself.

The sole university president in the country who considered Joseph Epstein worthy of an honorary degree was so corrupt that his tenure at Adelphi has a whole book about corruption devoted to it: SUNY Buffalo sociologist Lionel Lewis wrote, a few years after the ignominious fall of this greedy, amoral man, When Power Corrupts: Academic Governing Boards in the Shadow of the Adelphi Case.

If Epstein had a bit of decency, he’d return – or at least repudiate – this heavily soiled honor.

So by all means let us be lectured on university ethics by Diamandopoulos’s boy!

“21 face federal charges in bust of ‘astonishing’ drug distribution ring at UNC, Duke, App State”

Well, if you ever listened to ol’ UD, you wouldn’t be astonished at all. How often has she tried to tell you that the best cover for major drug operations is a colonial home full of clean-cut studious fraternity brothers? Really, who would have thought that the earnest young strivers at San Diego State’s fraternities harbored major weaponry, tons of coke, and all the rest of the tools of the trade in their quaintly Greek-lettered domiciles? But no – even after SDSU, you’re still shocked, shocked, to find that a massive drug conspiracy rages in three North Carolina universities. Silly boy!

The Unkindest Cut of All

UD‘s old acquaintance, (see this post) Joseph Epstein, Man of the Hour, has endured insults from all over the world in the aftermath of his … ill-considered column about Jill Biden. But knowing Epstein (whose real name is Myron, as I recall), UD figures this well-meaning piece by a couple of Northwestern University law professors has got to be the worst of the worst. The authors argue that while Epstein’s column stank six ways from Sunday, NU acted badly in response by scrubbing him from its website. It’s a free speech issue, after all.

They’re probably right. But in characterizing Epstein’s status at NU, they (inadvertently?) say things guaranteed to wound him.

Epstein, in UD‘s day as an NU undergrad, taught writing and literature at the university (I never took any of his courses) even though his highest degree was only a BA. I guess the idea was that Epstein was a well-known, well-connected author (books of popular interest, essays, fiction) who lived in Chicago (grew up there), had things to say about art, wanted to teach, and could benefit NU students both intellectually and practically. He was, if you like, our Saul Bellow (U Chicago got the real Bellow) – both men were writers and intellectuals who only had BAs (Bellow did a little grad work at the U of Wisconsin), but both were worth having on your faculty (Ravelstein describes classes Allan Bloom and Bellow taught together at the U of C) because they were noted figures. Somewhat noted, and mainly in conservative circles, in the case of Epstein. (FWIW: A mutual friend of Bellow and Epstein, Edward Shills, also had only a BA. By the time Bellow wrote Ravelstein, he and Shills were enemies, and Shills got one of Bellow’s patented fatal character sketches in that novel.)

Although in strict hierarchical terms Epstein was rather a nobody at NU, he thought of himself, from my observation of him, as superior to what he regarded as cookie cutter politically correct tenured English PhDs. They were timid, dry as dust scholars; he was a red-blooded freelancer who launched himself into the real world and came back and wrote about it and got reviewed in the New York Times, etc. etc. They produced the constipated prose of pretentious ideologues; he wrote clear, strong, true, and real words.

He couldn’t stand the department; he looked down on it. (The department, from what I recall, couldn’t stand him back.) All through those years, as he edited The American Scholar and sat on NEH review committees (Republican administrations were heady days for Epstein), he thought of himself, I’m pretty sure, as simply dropping in on NU a few days a week, when he wasn’t hobnobbing in Washington, to share his thoughts about literature with a small, carefully selected group of English majors. (The money can’t have been much, but for a freelancer I suppose it was a welcome little stipend.)

Despite his lofty sense of himself, however, in the clear light of university hierarchy he was merely an adjunct lecturer, subject to review and renewal every year. Far from bothering Epstein, I’m guessing he read this status as his preference, a way of avoiding faculty meetings and administrative chores, and a way of maintaining personal freedom.

But there’s no controlling the way other people describe his situation at NU. Here are the two law professors:

Epstein never held a professorial rank at Northwestern, but academic freedom equally protects lecturers, adjuncts, and other faculty members. A sad fact about modern higher education is the very large population of professional scholars without tenure, many of whom, like Epstein, teach for decades with lower pay and less job security. In a different economic environment, many of them would be tenure-track professors. Their precarious status is a reason for insisting even more strongly on that protection.

Of course they are quite right about the economic insecurity of adjuncts; but Epstein never thought of himself as a professional scholar seeking tenure, etc. The idea in fact repelled him. His ego rested on an entirely other self-perception, one that entailed a transcendence of the whole pathetic academic game. How horrible, in his latter days, to be made a poster boy for adjuncts!

“Palm Beach has many lovely estates for sale, and we are confident President Trump will find one which meets his needs.”

You can cut the condescension. I’m not going anywhere near Mar-A-Lago. I’m moving to Molena, Georgia, a convenient drive away from Jimmy Carter, with whom I plan to build Habitat for Humanity houses; and the location of Sahaj Marg Ashram, where I will live.

Meditation, Cleaning (“imagining the day’s accumulated impressions [going] out one’s back and being replaced with divine light”), and Prayer will occupy my days when I am not working with Jimmy.

‘[The point is to control] who gets to be considered genuinely intellectually lofty…’

A writer in The Forward isolates a major motive behind Joseph Epstein’s notorious WSJ essay : Keeping certain categories of people out of the senior common room.

But when UD considers Epstein’s own number one intellectual exemplar, the room looks a bit dull-witted. The critic Hilton Kramer, for instance, “argued that Mikhail Gorbachev was a far bigger threat to the free world than Joseph Stalin had ever been,” notes Jeet Heer.

Kramer

stood in steadfast opposition to the idea that gays should be open and equal citizens in a democratic polity. He did this moreover not by making any rational arguments against gay equality but by constantly and snidely assuming that the very practice of gay sex was naturally repugnant to all right-thinking people.

Queers and women seemed to rub him the wrong way.

About one of America’s most prominent female intellectuals Kramer wrote, “In the end, Mary McCarthy’s politics were like her sex life—promiscuous and unprincipled, more a question of opportunity than of commitment or belief.” When writing about sexually active heterosexual male intellectuals (notably McCarthy’s ex-husband Edmund Wilson) Kramer somehow avoided the word promiscuous. Like a school yard bully, Kramer knew that slut-shaming is reserved for girls.

When you add to the common room the whole guy gang Epstein hung out with in those heady intellectual days, the place looks positively scummy. Kramer was a trustee at Adelphi University, an institution being run into the ground by Kramer’s buddy, the scandalous Peter Diamandopoulos. It took years of litigation for Adelphi to get rid of Diamandopoulos, who basically spent every moment of his presidency taking as much money as he could out of the school.

While president of Adelphi, Diamandopoulous arranged an honorary degree for Joseph Epstein. Given the vileness of this university-dismantler, it is in fact a dishonorary degree, and Epstein should have repudiated it.

A few scenes starring these stewards of the university:

[Diamandopoulos] entertaining his old friend on the board, John Silber, over dinner and drinks ended up costing Adelphi $546. Dr. Silber was president and is now chancellor of Boston University.

The next day, food and drinks with another trustee, Hilton Kramer, and a second guest cost the university $707. Mr. Kramer is The New York Observer’s art critic and a media critic for The New York Post.

The meal charges were actually modest; it was the bar tab that drove up the grand total. The bill was $454 for the 1982 Brion wine and Martell 100 cognac that Dr. Silber and Dr. Diamandopoulos drank. And the 1983 Chaval and Martell that he and Mr. Kramer sipped cost $552.

Promiscuous and unprincipled at the expense of the students for whom he was supposed to be acting as a trustee, Kramer seems a strange moral or intellectual exemplar for anyone – except, I guess, for Epstein.

Shooting on a Metro Train Near UD’s House

So far there’s little information, but what we have is intriguing. At around seven this morning, an FBI agent shot another person multiple times on a train at the Medical Center station (this is basically the highly sensitive location of the National Institutes of Health).

Les UDs are of course speculating as to the details.

I’m gonna guess, said UD, that this has nothing to do with his (let’s assume his) being an FBI agent, except for the fact that it means he was carrying a gun (who isn’t?). I’m gonna guess it was domestic – a fight with another guy over a woman?

It’s always possible he was threatened by a crazy fellow passenger, and instead of changing cars as the rest of us would do he decided to unload on him. Or he saw someone threatening someone else… But anyway, I’m going to go with something in his private life.

A President Named Donald: Final Scene

[Donald appears in the amber light of a door. He has a tragic radiance in his red satin robe following the lines of his body. The “Varsouviana” rises audibly as he enters the Lincoln bedroom.]

DONALD [with faintly hysterical vivacity]: I have just washed my hair… THIS FAKE ELECTION CAN NO LONGER STAND!

KAYLEIGH: Such fine hair!

DONALD [accepting the compliment]: It’s a problem. Didn’t I get a call?

KAYLEIGH: Who from, Donald?

DONALD : Amy Coney Barrett.

KAYLEIGH: Why, not yet, honey.

DONALD: How strange! I —

[Donald stands quite still for some moments — a silver-backed mirror in his hand and a look of sorrowful perplexity as though all human experience shows on his face. He finally speaks but with sudden hysteria.]

DONALD: What’s going on here? What’s happened here? I want an explanation of what’s happened here.

KAYLEIGH: Hush, hush, honey! Please.

DONALD: Why are you looking at me like that? Is something wrong with me?

KAYLEIGH: Please, Donald. You look wonderful, Donald… I understand you are going on a trip… A wonderful trip…

DONALD: Yes! I’m anxious to get out of here. This place is a trap! … I’m ready to go… I can smell the sea air. The rest of my time I’m going to spend on the sea. And when I die, I’m going to die on the sea. You know what I shall die of? I shall die of eating an unwashed grape one day out on the ocean. I will die–with my hand in the hand of some nice-looking model, a very young one with a small blond bob and a big silver necklace. “Poor man,” they’ll say, “the quinine did him no good. That unwashed grape has transported his soul to heaven.” And I’ll be buried at sea sewn up in a clean white sack and dropped overboard–at noon–in the blaze of summer–and into an ocean as blue as my first lover’s eyes!

[A doctor and a nurse have appeared around the corner of the building and climbed the steps to the portico. The gravity of their profession is exaggerated–the unmistakable aura of the state institution with its cynical detachment. The doctor rings the doorbell.]

DONALD: What is it? … I wonder if it’s for me.

KAYLEIGH [brightly]: Someone is calling for Donald!

DONALD: Is it my friends from the Supreme Court?

KAYLEIGH: I think it is, Donald.

NURSE: Hello, Donald.

DONALD: Whoever you are–I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

The Cold Light of Day

The little world of Edinburg High runs smack into reality, as its coach is put on probation, its star football player (who assaulted a ref and was carted off to jail in front of thousands – millions – now that the incident has gone viral) is out for the rest of the year, and all of its sports programs are also on probation.

The football players gathered in front of the high school right after the assault and petitioned to return to the field asap. They must be really shocked at the severity of the punishment.

But life is for learning. There’s a big world out there – there’s not just the little world of Edinburg where smashing a game official cuz you’re pissed is a little embarrassing but no reason to halt the game or subsequent games. In the big world, the global revelation of criminals on your team is no small matter.

“We don’t need no piece of paper from the City Hall / Keepin us tied and true…”

UD excitedly welcomes Tucker Carlson to her old hippie/Joni Mitchell/anti-bourgeois world! UD is, as they say, “from the ‘sixties,” and I guess in the wake of Trump’s destabilizing loss, some former right-wing reactionaries are taking UD‘s leftish path — embracing, as Tucker does, a contempt for traditional institutions, a repulsion away from old people, and a disgust for capitalist status anxiety.

In response to the Epstein Shitstorm, Tucker hits the hippie trifecta:

At the age of 55, [Biden] got a doctorate … [She has] status anxiety… [She] decided to cure that, as so many do in our country, with another pointless title.

You’re on your way, babe! Now I want you to pick out a Terry Southern novel (any Terry Southern novel), lie back, and relax.

Sensible, Thoughtful Take on the Joseph Epstein Shitstorm from…

Graeme Wood. Excerpts:

‘Do people with doctoral degrees have the right to call themselves “Dr.”? If they have the right, does exercising that right make sense, in all situations? If Epstein had wanted to investigate these questions, he could have done so without sprouting new feet like a centipede, finding ways to step in rhetorical dog turds in every paragraph…

What mystifies me is Epstein’s desire to police the use of the title, when he could instead just use it as requested, like a normal person, and contain his disrespect…

In a university environment, insisting on it might be pompous; in an environment where such titles are rare—such as before the name of the soon-to-be first lady of the United States—they make more sense…

If Jill Biden wants to flaunt her Ed.D., who is Joseph Epstein to object? Those letters mean only what they mean. They certainly aren’t more embarrassing than other titles that people use in perpetuity. Ambassadors, I find, tend to call themselves “Ambassador” forever, even if they bought their sole ambassadorship by bundling political donations in Long Island…’

**************

Wood actually tries to go there, to the arcane competitive arena of title-tossing… I’ve covered the European mania for dottore on this blog…

I’ve never thought much about – or blogged about – my own titlephobia, but for what’s it’s worth:

Les UDs share a refusal to call themselves anything other than first name last name. On our syllabi we are first name last name. On academic correspondence the same. On everything the same. We have available to us, and have certainly seen lots of other people use, Dr. and PhD. For ourselves the idea of using these is embarrassing. We wouldn’t think of doing it. Except in one context.

When we are sending each other, or sending friends, particularly immature and hilarious emails, we sign ourselves with … I don’t know – MA, PhD (Mr UD has two MAs), Doctor Margaret Soltan, MA, PhD, and maybe I’ll add something extra like OBE…

But see we can afford to joke and, as Wood notes, find these things pompous, because we move in an environment where such things are common and we’re a little cynical about them because as with all titles (see Graeme on “ambassador”) some are powerfully earned and meaningful and some are not and the better part of valor is just to avoid them. Plus we were both raised in families full of advanced degrees so we fail to see the shimmer and the glimmer of them. Is this reverse snobbery? I dunno. As I say, this is pretty much the first time I’ve thought about this.

*************

Actually, to be really really unwisely disclosing, I think for me it’s about as far from reverse or any other kind of snobbery as one can imagine. Like you, I live in my head, and in my head I’m a jerk. In my head I barely made it out of high school and am, au fond, an absurdity. When I read Humbert Humbert’s description of his first wife – “that figure of fun, Mme Humbert” – I pause at figure of fun and feel powerful identification. I just never made it into the adult world, where you take yourself seriously and where there’s a correspondence between the interior of your head and things like titles designating mature accomplishments. My problem, not yours, Dr Biden.

View from UD’s front door, Electoral College Monday, 4:00 PM.
Gigot Gets Jiggy with It.

Gigot, Gigot, Gigot

Kiddo, you gotta know when to hold em, and when to fold em. You went ahead and dealt yourself and your newspaper some Joseph Epstein, knowing full well what’s in that deck, and even after the game blew up in your face, you’re still dancing around with the shards of his cards in your bloody digits.

Stick with me baby I’m the fellow you came in with… Yes, loyalty is a thing; we’ve all watched in amazement as your fellow conservatives in congress maintain their loyalty to Donald Trump. You yourself remain a fan of his. Fine.

But in your capacity as editor, monkey nipples, you have an obligation to the Wall Street Journal. It’s not like just liking Donald Trump for, you know, yourself. It’s like you publish things that reflect on a whole newspaper. Once having published a damaging opinion piece, nothing stopped you from reviewing your decision, re-reading the piece, and expressing something short of rigid rageful defense of it.

Instead, you argue that no one’s really angry about it outside of a cynical conspiracy of Bidenites. “[T]he Biden team concluded it was a chance to use the big gun of identity politics to send a message to critics as it prepares to take power.”

Paulie, Mrs Gigot, Honeychild: Your excitement over sinewy macho Jill brandishing a weapon overlooks the national and international overflow of disgust in response to Epstein’s attack on a woman who simply chooses to use the title Dr because she has a doctorate. This here’s a big story (that link is to Team Biden/Paris), and you need to reckon with it, sugarlips.

And as for your conspiracy theory: Let’s say the Biden team did all gang up on you and your boy Epsy in a coordinated effort to do damage. So what? What have you got against coordinated action? Your guys in congress are as one ganging up on Biden – you got a problem with that?

And again – instead of conceding just a tad — not taking the piece down, but conceding just a tad that there might be a small but reasonable connection between what Epstein wrote and the massive anger/disdain/disbelief it has generated, you make a number of dumb statements in its defense that have nothing to do with Epstein’s argument. “She can’t be off-limits for commentary.” Yes, and we’ve all decided Jill Biden must be TOTALLY OFF-LIMITS FOR COMMENTARY. Don’t you, Paulie, or anyone else dare say a word against her!

And finally, just like a woman, you get all teary and so there and I’m too good for this world: “[T]hese pages aren’t going to stop publishing provocative essays merely because they offend the new administration or the political censors in the media and academe.” BWAH! What dya say to that ya big bully? (Tosses hankie – er, bloody card – in face.)

Here’s what we say, bubbaleh, and we’re going to try to keep this abbreviated and monosyllabic: There’s a dif tween prov. and crp.

“We are going to destroy the GOP.” The crowd loudly cheered and started chanting: “Destroy the GOP! Destroy the GOP!”

Wowza.

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