Seven Days Make One Weak

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Lee Rocker, Joseph Epstein, Richard Pipes

Happy New Year.

Should that be capitalized? Probably. Holidays are generally capitalized, so if you’re referencing the New Year holiday, then it’s capitalized.

But if you’re merely saying, “Welcome to the new year,” then probably not.

It was a very good New Year for Alabama and Ohio State, who showed what everyone should know: The ACC is a second-rate football conference. It’s always been a fact, though it does occasionally produce great teams, like Clemson lately and, before that, a few Florida State teams.

Particularly sweet about the ACC’s double thrashings: It seems to be pushing for the title of “Most Woke” among all the conferences. I used to think of the ACC as a basketball conference with a football schedule. Now I just think of the ACC as garbage.

Health Care Worker COVID Deniers?

What is going on? Apparently, large numbers of California health workers are refusing the COVID vaccine.

These are health care workers. You remember them: the heroes. The ones who put their lives at risk to fight COVID. The brave.

But they don’t want the vaccine?

Are they like those reckless heroes who run into a heavily-shelled and land-mined No Man’s Land to retrieve the corpse of the regiment’s mascot dog? And doing it naked, no less?

Or are they simply weighing the risks and concluding the risks associated with the unknowns of the vaccine outweigh the risks of getting the disease itself? Are they looking at the people they treat and saying, “What, exactly, is the big deal again? Why are we so freaked out over the cold, albeit a particular virulent, contagious, and nasty cold?”

I don’t plan on getting the vaccine. I probably would if I hadn’t already caught COVID (it really does suck, in my experience), but at this point, I’ve been assured that I’m immune for a minimum of 90 days, probably closer to 180 days, at which point, warm weather will have returned.

I plan on putting off my final decision on the vaccine until late 2021.

Defending Joseph Epstein in this Absurd Matter

The New Criterion defends my man, Joseph Epstein in Misogynist Gate, making a few of the points I made in my earlier defense of the great essayist and a lot of others.

“Apparently Mrs. Biden likes to call herself “Dr. Biden,” a proclivity that Epstein says “sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic.” She should, Epstein advised, drop the title, if for no other reason than it communicates less honor than affectation and social insecurity.

“In the United States, anyway, it is generally understood, though seldom mentioned in polite society, that the less distinguished one’s academic institution, the more likely one will insist upon the honorific “Dr.” And that’s for Ph.D. degrees. The degree of Ed.D.—officially a “doctor of education”—is, let’s be candid, more a certificate than a degree. Yes, one is entitled to the title “Dr.” But it’s only a short step, or half step, up from those entertainers and purveyors of boutique soaps who style themselves “Dr.” or “Doc”: “Dr. Bronner,” for example, or “Doc Watson.” 

“In this country, in most situations, “Dr.” is an honorific properly reserved for medical doctors. We understand that there are notable exceptions—“Dr. Henry A. Kissinger” comes to mind—but exceptions do not make the rule.”

Secular Monks

First Things recently posted its 25 most popular articles from 2020. Nearly every title made me want to click it.

The one that grabbed my attention the most: Secular Monks. I thought it was going to talk about men who dream of living like monks. I fall squarely in that camp. Though I don’t honestly think I missed an eremitic calling and cherish my children (with grandchildren now arriving), there is always a strong pull to wall myself off from the world . . . a pull that was fed by COVID lockdowns and strengthened by my disgust at COVID panic.

But no, that’s not what the article is about. It’s about those highly-driven self-absorbed CEOs and shakers who go to great lengths to conquer the secular world . . . lengths that would humble a monk.

“Why does Jack Dorsey engage in spiritual exercises? To gain superhuman powers? To end suffering? To attain enlightenment? To humble his undeserving heart? No, he does it in order to maintain “clarity” and “focus” and to boost “mental confidence.”

“Dorsey is a secular abbot for secular monks. He embodies the ascetic self-control of the Calvinist, the aspiration for indomitable human agency, and the secular orientation to the practical conduct of everyday life. He puts all three in the service of success. . . .

“Needless to say, this ascetic conception of the good life leaves no room for marriage and parenthood. A long-term commitment to a woman and children opens one to enslavement. The “new celibacy” is one of the habits of success. Family life is constant disruption. You can’t sleep soundly when your child wails all night with a cough and fever. You can’t perfect yourself when you must always consider your wife’s needs. Secular monkhood requires a strict regimen. It’s good for a man to be alone.”

Listening: I’m Movin’ On by Lee Rocker. The former Stray Cats bassist remade this Hank Snow hit earlier this year. It’s not often these days that a Hank Snow song gets re-made, especially his earliest hit from 1950, but this one is really good.

Reading: Russia Under the Old Regime by Richard Pipes. I bought this book at one of the largest used bookstores in the world (John King Books in Detroit) over Thanksgiving, just for the heck of it. I started flipping through it and got engrossed. The chapter on the Russian Orthodox Church’s disturbing history of subjugating itself to political power is fascinating.