Pixel Scroll 12/28/20 This Irrepixel-Able, Trantor ‘Original’, This Mule-Produced Crime

(1) FRONT AND CENTER. Octavia Butler is on the cover of Huntington Frontiers, published by the Huntington Library in Pasadena. Read the cover article here: “A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky” by Lynell George.

When I last encountered Octavia E. Butler, it was 2004 and she was slated to deliver the keynote at the Black to the Future Festival in Seattle, Washington. Time has flattened or obscured some of the details of days spent reporting on panels, lectures, and post-event gatherings. I don’t remember the precise order of events of that opening evening, but I do recall some of Butler’s heartfelt words about finding and making community in this brief but special moment when we were assembled together. I sat, scribbling notes in my reporter’s notebook, making shapes of letters in the darkness of the auditorium. Her voice didn’t seem to need amplification—it was warm and deep and burnished with authority, as if she was not just leading things off, but leading a country….

(2) NOT OUT OF LEFT FIELD. First Fandom Experience solves three eofannish mysteries in “V is for Vincent, Vernon, Vytautas”. Learn more about a famous photo taken over the weekend of the First Worldcon in —

V is for Vincent

Below is one of early fandom’s most iconic images. On Independence Day, 1939, this carload of irascible youth from states far and wide ventured forth from the World Science Fiction Convention in New York to Coney Island. It’s a who’s-who of prominent First Fans: Madle and Agnew from Philadelphia, Korshak and Reinsberg from Chicago, Rocklynne from Ohio, and one very tanned Ray Bradbury from Los Angeles.

But among the who’s-who, there’s a “who’s that?” V. Kidwell. …

During the first Worldcon, fans took the opportunity to visit Coney Island where this foto-op took place: Front: Mark Reinsberg, Jack Agnew, Ross Rocklynne Top: V. Kidwell, Robert A. Madle, Erle Korshak, Ray Bradbury Coney Island, July 4, 1939)

(3) JAPANESE BOFFO BOX OFFICE. [Item by N.] “’Demon Slayer’ Overtakes ‘Spirited Away’ to Become Japan’s Biggest Box-Office Hit Ever”The Hollywood Reporter has the story. (Also it’s the fifth highest grossing film of the entire year, surpassing Sonic the Hedgehog, which is a coherent sentence I have just typed.)

Demon Slayer is based on a popular 2016 manga by Japanese artist Koyoharu Gotoge. But the property didn’t become a pop cultural phenomenon until it was adapted into an anime series for television. Produced by Tokyo-based studio Ufotable, the 26-episode series aired on Tokyo MX and other channels in 2019, but later became a sleeper smash hit when it re-aired on Netflix and Fuji TV. The popularity of the series reignited interest in the manga, making it a runaway bestseller. As of December, the Demon Slayer manga series has sold nearly 120 million copies.

When Ufotable’s big-screen adaptation of the series hit Japanese cinemas this fall, conditions were ripe for a box-office bonanza. Japanese cinemas nationwide had fully reopened nationwide after a brief period of COVID-19 shutdown in the spring. Since the Hollywood studios had postponed most of their releases until 2021, Demon Slayer had limited foreign competition and Japanese cinemas were highly motivated to wring as much earnings potential as possible for the local blockbuster. 

(4) WILL POWER. “Brain-controlled gaming exists, though ethical questions loom over the tech” reports the Washington Post.

As the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center shut its laboratories following the covid-19 outbreak, Nathan Copeland, a 33-year-old volunteer, collected the equipment that would grant him transformative abilities during lockdown. Paralyzed from the chest down with only limited arm movement, Copeland took home an advanced brain-computer interface, a device that allows him to control on-screen actions using only his mind.Copeland is part of cutting-edge research into brain-computer interfaces at the University of Pittsburgh, recently awarded over $8 million by the National Institutes of Health. The team’s experiments are a peek into a potential transhumanist future more commonly associated with cyberpunk movies “The Matrix” and “Ghost in the Shell.” Since 2015, Copeland has lived with a transistor-like chip, known as a multi-electrode array, surgically implanted directly into his brain. Copeland’s chip records the rapid-firing of cellular neurons — an almost inscrutably complex neurological signal — which is ferried over to a computer for what’s referred to as “decoding.” This signal is subsequently “translated” into the desired, seemingly telekinetic actions of its user.

To date, one of the team’s biggest successes has been decoding the complicated neural signals to allow Copeland to control a nimble robotic arm…. 

(5) JEDI CONSERVATION MOVEMENT. Musings on Mouse analyzes “Star Wars ‘nostalgia fatigue,’ and Marvel’s bankruptcy lesson”. BEWARE SPOILERS. I don’t think I included any below, however, definitely some in the linked article.

…Quality, some may argue, isn’t just representative of one episode or one movie, but the franchise as a whole. Case in point: The Mandalorian finale….

That, many critics argued in the days after the episode aired, is precisely the problem. As Matt Zoller Seitz wrote on Vulture, “the series succumbs to the dark side of parent company Disney’s quarterly earnings statements, which keeps dragging Star Wars back toward nostalgia-sploitation and knee-jerk intellectual-property maintenance.” Other fans rolled their eyes at the criticism, pointing out that Star Wars has always returned to the franchise’s most popular characters, most noticeably in the Expanded Universe’s novels, comics, and video games. 

Sound familiar? It should — it’s the exact same debate that popped up in 2017 after Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi hit theaters. What is Star Wars? It’s an argument we’ve come back to with The Mandalorian’s second season finale. I’m not a critic, and this newsletter doesn’t exist to critique art. What I’m more acutely interested in is determining Star Wars’ future business. Let’s be clear: Star Wars is more than fine, but as Star Wars expands under Disney, there’s always room to figure out how to ensure it grows at a healthy rate instead of risking alienating parts of its consumer base every year.

(6) PUTTING THEIR STAMP ON THINGS. JSTOR Daily’s Livia Gershon points to the introduction of a new academic work that overviews “James Tiptree Jr. and Joanna Russ: Sci-Fi Pen Pals”.

At first glance, the classic science-fiction authors James Tiptree Jr. and Joanna Russ might not seem to have much in common. Behavioral psychologist Alice Bradley Sheldon began writing under “James Tiptree Jr.” in 1968, when she was in her fifties. She used the fictional male name and real knowledge of science and the military to infiltrate male-dominated science-fiction magazines. Russ, two decades younger, was an outspoken radical feminist, English professor, and critic. And yet, as Nicole Nyhan writes, the two writers exchanged hundreds of letters over fifteen years. Nyhan provides the introduction to a selection of writing from Tiptree’s side of the correspondence.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1970 — Fifty years ago at Heicon ’70 in Heidelberg, Germany, “Ship of Shadows” by Fritz Leiber wins the Hugo for Best Novella. (It would also be nominated for a Nebula.) It was published in F&SF in July, 1969 which as you can see was billed as a Special Fritz Leiber Issue. This was a bizarre story of Spar, a blind, half-deaf barman at the Bat Rack. We’ll say no more. The other finalists were “A Boy and His Dog” by Harlan Ellison, “We All Die Naked” by James Blish, “Dramatic Mission” by Anne McCaffrey and “To Jorslem” by Robert Silverberg.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 28, 1913 Charles Maxwell. He makes the Birthday List for being Virgil Earp in the “Spectre of the Gun”, a not terribly good Trek story.  He also appeared in My Favorite Martian in “An Old Friend of the Family” as the character Jakobar. His longest running genre role was as the Radio Announcer on Gilligan’s Island for which he was largely uncredited. Interestingly he had six appearances playing six different characters on the Fifties series Science Fiction Theatre. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born December 28, 1922 Stan Lee. Summarizing his career is quite beyond my abilities. He created and popularized Marvel Comics in such a way that the company is thought to be the creation of Stan Lee in way that DC isn’t thought if of having of having a single creator.  He co-created the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk,  Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch and Ant-Man, an impressive list by any measure. And it’s hardly the full list.  I see he’s won Eisner and Kirby Awards but no sign of a Hugo. Is that correct? (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born December 28, 1929 – Janet Lunn.  Three novels, two shorter stories, one anthology for us; much else.  Metcalf Award, Matt Cohen Award, Order of Ontario, Governor General’s Award, Order of Canada.  Quill & Quire obituary here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1932 Nichelle Nichols, 88. Uhura on Trek. She reprised her character in Star Trek: The Motion PictureStar Trek II: The Wrath of KhanStar Trek III: The Search for SpockStar Trek IV: The Voyage HomeStar Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Other film SF roles included Ruana in Tarzan’s Deadly Silence with Ron Ely as Tarzan, High Priestess of Pangea in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, Oman in Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes and Mystic Woman in American Nightmares.  Other series appearances have been as Lieutenant Uhura and additional voices in the animated Trek, archive footage of herself in the “Trials and Tribble-ations” DS9 episode and as Captain Nyota Uhura In Star Trek: Of Gods and Men which may or may not be canon. (CE)
  • Born December 28, 1934 Maggie Smith, 86. First genre role was as Theis in Clash of the Titans though she’s better known as Minerva McGonagall In the Harry Potter film franchise. She also played Linnet Oldknow in From Time to Time  and voiced Miss Shepherd, I kid you not, in two animated Gnomes films. (CE) 
  • Born December 28, 1942 Eleanor Arnason, 78. She won the Otherwise Award and the Mythopoeic Award for A Woman of the Iron People and also won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Fiction for “Dapple”.  She’s a Wiscon Guest of Honor. I wholeheartedly recommend her Mammoths of the Great Plains story collection, which like almost all of her fiction, is available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born December 28, 1945 – George Zebrowski, age 75.  A score of novels (Macrolife particularly applauded), a hundred shorter stories, several with co-authors.  Clarion alumnus.  Edited Nebula Awards 20-22; four Synergy anthologies, half a dozen more e.g. Sentinels with Greg Benford in honor of Sir Arthur Clarke.  Three years editing the SFWA Bulletin (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) with Pamela Sargent and Ian Watson.  Nonfiction anthologies Beneath the Red Star (studies on international SF), Skylife (with Benford; space habitats), Talks with the Masters (Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Gunn).  Book reviews in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Campbell Memorial Award.  “Never Forget the Writers Who Helped Build Yesterday’s Tomorrows” in SF Age.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1946 – Sheryl Birkhead, age 74.  Long-time fanartist and (it serves us right) veterinarian.  Here is a cover for Tightbeam.  Here is one for It Goes on the Shelf.  Here is one for Purrsonal Mewsings.  Here is one for The Reluctant Famulus.  Kaymar Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1952 – Ramona Wheeler, age 68.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories.  Essay “The Sailor of No Specific Ocean” in the Hal Clement memorial anthology Hal’s Worlds.  Here is her cover for her collection Have Starship, Will Travel.  Here is her cover for her collection Starship for Hire.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1963 – Robert Pasternak, age 57.  A dozen covers, two dozen interiors for us.  Interviewed in On Spec.  Aurora Award.  Here is Leslie Fiedler’s biography of Stapledon. Here is the May 93 Amazing.  Here is the Dec 00 Challenging Destiny.  Here is the Summer 13 On Spec.  Here is a review of a Jun – Jul 07 exhibition.  Here is an image from a Winnipeg Free Press interview.  Here is an ink-drawn face; see here.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1979 – D. Renée Bagby, age 41.  Eight novels for us, five dozen others (some under another name).  Air Force brat, now wife; born in the Netherlands, has also lived in Japan, six of the United States.  Has read The Cat in the HatPersuasionThe Iliad and The OdysseyThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  “The voices start talking and I type what they say.” [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1981 Sienna Miller, 39. The Baroness in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. More interestingly, she’s Victoria in the flawed but still worth seeing Stardust. (Go listen to Gaiman reading it for the best take on it — brilliant that is!) And she’s Darcy in Kis VukA Fox’s Tale, a Hungarian-British animated tale that sounds quite charming.  (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) A DISH BEST SERVED LOLD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Zachary Pincus-Roth discusses how a bunch of Millennial Disney musical fans came up with “Ratatouille: The Musical,” created songs, cosplayed characters from the imaginary musical (including enlisting their parents to play older characters) and even creating a fake cover of Playbill for the imaginary musical.  Disney Theatrical Productions stated “although we do not have development plans for this title, we love when our fans engage with Disney stories.” — “How TikTok and social media are changing Broadway fandom”.

(11) OBI BUT NO OBI-WAN. This happened last year, but it’s news to me… “Japanese theatre to stage kabuki version of Star Wars” in The Guardian.

The Star Wars franchise is about to breach the artistic final frontier with a one-off performance of a kabuki adaptation starring one of Japan’s most revered stage actors.

The classical Japanese theatre, which combines highly stylised movement and unusual vocalisation, will swap samurai swords for lightsabers and replace feudal warriors with the forces of light and darkness.

Star Wars Kabuki-Rennosuke and the Three Light Sabers, which are being staged in Tokyo, will combine plots from each of the franchise’s latest trilogy, substituting plots drawn from the days of feudal clan rivalry with drama from a galaxy far, far away.

Ichikawa Ebizo XI, Japan’s pre-eminent kabuki actor, will take to the stage as Kylo Ren, the conflicted son of Han Solo and Princess Leia, in front of 50 winners of an online lottery….

(12) UNFINISHED TOLKIEN. John M. Bowers asks “Did Tolkien Write The Lord of the Rings Because He Was Avoiding His Academic Work?” at Literary Hub. The trouble with this headline is that it’s not as if Tolkien didn’t procrastinate about working on his fiction, too.

…Already by 1932 he admitted to Chapman the weight of the Chaucerian incubus upon his conscience. His Gawain edition, “Chaucer as a Philologist,” and “The Monsters and the Critics” had all appeared before the Second World War. Set against this relatively slender résumé were undelivered assignments such as his Pearl edition, the book-length “Beowulf” and the Critics, and his EETS edition of Ancrene Wisse. If his own harsh remarks about George Gordon holding up their Chaucer edition did not quite qualify him as a “slanderer,” these complaints did de?ect blame from his role as an “idler” who failed to reduce his annotations to a publishable length. He would confess during a newspaper interview in 1968, “I have always been incapable of doing the job at hand.”

(13) AROUND AND AROUND. “Animation reveals invisible center of solar system that’s not the sun”Business Insider knows where it is. In a minute, you will too.

It’s common knowledge that the sun is the center of the solar system. Around it, the planets orbit — along with a thick belt of asteroids, some meteor fields, and a handful of far-traveling comets.

But that’s not the whole story.

“Instead, everything orbits the solar system center of mass,” James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist at the Japanese space agency, JAXA, recently explained on Twitter. “Even the sun.”

That center of mass, called the barycenter, is the point of an object at which it can be balanced perfectly, with all its mass distributed evenly on all sides. In our solar system, that point rarely lines up with the center of the sun…

(14) THOUGHT OF THE DAY. From Mike Kennedy: “I just realized that the various dings, buzzes, and clicks our phones/watches play to get our attention are clearly intended to train us to understand R2-D2.”

(15) EMERGENCY HOLOGRAPHIC IP LAWYERS. CinemaBlend will explain “Why James Bond’s Studio Once Sent A ‘Very Stern Letter’ To Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Crew”.

Star Trek is a franchise that primarily deals in the world of sci-fi, but it’s not unheard of for the franchise to attempt parody other genres every so often. Such was the case in the Deep Space Nine episode “Our Man Bashir,” in which an accident in the Holosuite traps the crew in Bashir’s spy fantasy program. The episode is a fun nod to the genre of ’60s spy films but apparently was not well-received by James Bond studio MGM.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mind Matters sets the frame for a DUST short in “Sci-Fi Saturday Film: The Robot Tries To Learn About Grief”.

An elderly woman, Sheila, whose daughter has been in a high-conflict zone in a military environment, learns to manage with a robot—ordered apparently off the internet, with a manual—that can learn to do homework and hang Christmas decorations.

It’s an agreeable story and good Christmas fare!

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, N., Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Contrarius, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

90 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/28/20 This Irrepixel-Able, Trantor ‘Original’, This Mule-Produced Crime

  1. Cat Eldridge: “There’s nothing intrinsically less rigorous about an educational EdD than other Doctorate degrees. it’s the equivalent of the old argument about women’s work being less valuable than men’s work.”

    My experience with the Ed.D. is that it’s the degree that intellectually undistinguished high school football coaches suddenly sprout when it’s time to pass over a qualified woman for the school superintendent’s job.

  2. I prefer my modification of the original Heinlein screed against non-MDs being called doctor, the one Jubal Harshaw gives in Stranger in a Strange Land.

    I took that in as received wisdom as a child. Fortunately, I’d had good experiences with teachers of education before reading Number of the Beast which inoculated me against that passage (which I’d forgotten). And my knee did jerk when I first heard this. I did say people with Xy.Ds use Dr. in a non-academic context are pretentious twits.

    (I work in academia. I am almost literally unable to address a prof by their first name while on the job, even when invited to. It’s Doctor or Professor, interchangeably, from respect.)

    Then I rethought it a bit. The reason I respect the title “Dr.” as it is understood in common language is that it signifies a member in good standing of a healing profession, one with a enforceable code of ethics and some commitment to personal risk in the course of the profession. That’s different from an educational achievement.

    There’s a big long list of people with “Dr.” in front of their name up in the comments, among them war criminals and charlatans. Addressing Henry Kissinger by the same honorific as my GP–pushing eighty and seeing patients full-time during the pandemic–kinda makes me want to puke.

    My revised opinion is that physicians, nurses, physician’s assistants, and EMTs deserve distinctive honorifics. They’ve built public trust via professional responsibility which the average Xy.D. holder does not have and has not earned. Trying to steal their honor just makes the Xy.D.s appear more untrustworthy, because they are acting deceptively.

    According to a passage in Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, the German word “doktor” was understood in Africa by Africans to mean “medical doctor”. A European character in Africa with a non-medical doctorate prominently called himself “doktor”–on his business sign, for instance–in order to deceive those to whom it meant something different. I believe (it’s been thirty-seven years) he was looked down on in the book by the other Europeans for doing so, and rightly, because he was a liar. Why shouldn’t be it be as shameful to use educational advantage to deceive the average American of 2020 than the average African of Lessing’s book and time?

  3. John A Arkansawyer says My experience with the Ed.D. is that it’s the degree that intellectually undistinguished high school football coaches suddenly sprout when it’s time to pass over a qualified woman for the school superintendent’s job.

    Possibly but that’s because there’s a lot of hack colleges that award degrees of dubious status. That doesn’t mean the Ed.D itself is bad, just you need to know which institution awarded it. None of which matters here as the RWNJs are only interested in using this to slam Biden.

  4. As someone with, shall we say, extensive and mixed experiences with MDs there’s something in me which balks very hard at the idea of elevating them over any other kind of doctorate. Perhaps everyone else here has been luckier.

    But even before some of my unfortunate personal experiences, and those of many of my friends and acquaintances, the first story I was ever told about a doctor was of one breaking the news of my eldest sister’s inability to thrive with a careless “you do know she’s brain dead, don’t you?” to my mother who was alone in the hospital, keeping vigil for her newborn baby daughter.

    So I’m all for keeping them from thinking they’re more important than or better than other doctors, because some of them are damn well worse.

    A quick glance at wikipedia tells me Dr Jill Biden enrolled under her maiden name, so she was clearly aware of the potential for bias and hoped to mitigate it.

    I can’t see what the quoted section of her project has to do with the price of tea. I’m sure people who were already primed to dislike her and her achievements because of her husband are getting something terribly obvious to them out of it, but it seems perfectly innocuous in isolation, so if they wish it to mean more to me they’ll have to spin it out some more.

  5. Meredith says As someone with, shall we say, extensive and mixed experiences with MDs there’s something in me which balks very hard at the idea of elevating them over any other kind of doctorate. Perhaps everyone else here has been luckier.

    My previous and last PCP a decade ago to Jenner who’s a NP was a male MD who I had for just one encounter as he refuse to fill out federal paperwork that was required as the result of my motorcycle accident in the Eighties. He was let go by Martins Point shortly thereafter.

    I do have an osteopathic doctor that I dearly love, Meaghan, that is my torturer, but she’s fairly unusual. And yes she too gets dark chocolate each time I see her.

    I’ll admit that I really don’t get along all that well with MD specialists given my existence revolves around them, oh irony there.

    Now playing: Peter, Paul and Mary’s “This Train”

  6. “I can’t see what the quoted section of her project has to do with the price of tea.”

    As it stands I don’t even know where in her thesis that statement appears. Is it in the abstract, is it her hypothesis, is it a conclusion she’s reached, are these averaged figures for a region (if so, how large is the region, do these figures hold up locally, statewide, nationally) etc etc etc…

    Without any context it’s utterly futile to try to derive any meaning at all from the quote. The only thing it’s good for is as a metric for people probably arguing in bad faith or with only half a brain.

    And I’ll just end with saying: the EdD is a doctoral programme, graduation from which grants the title of Dr. She’s absolutely entitled to it, as a graduate of an EdD, and any debate about the relative merits of the sort of work done during an EdD versus a PhD versus an MD shouldn’t be centred around one woman who happens to be in the public eye.

  7. KasaObake says very nicely that And I’ll just end with saying: the EdD is a doctoral programme, graduation from which grants the title of Dr. She’s absolutely entitled to it, as a graduate of an EdD, and any debate about the relative merits of the sort of work done during an EdD versus a PhD versus an MD shouldn’t be centred around one woman who happens to be in the public eye.

    That’s is the perfect summation of this entire controversy. I suspect if she has earned another sort of degree that somehow it too would’ve been degraded by the RWNJs as unworthy. In the end, they are just nasty, stupid people.

  8. @John —

    Why shouldn’t be it be as shameful to use educational advantage to deceive the average American of 2020 than the average African of Lessing’s book and time?

    Oh, get over yourself. As I mentioned earlier, those icky awful academics had the title first. If anyone is usurping it, it’s the medical professionals.

  9. KasaObake: ” any debate about the relative merits of the sort of work done during an EdD versus a PhD versus an MD shouldn’t be centred around one woman who happens to be in the public eye”

    That really is the thing. It makes it impossible to discuss the merits on their own basis. We’d have a different discussion if the example were Michele Bachmann promoting herself for a while to Dr. due to the J.D. after her name. She’s entitled to it, I guess, but it was still wrong of her to do so.

  10. contrarius says tonJohn Oh, get over yourself. As I mentioned earlier, those icky awful academics had the title first. If anyone is usurping it, it’s the medical professionals.

    In medical circles, all PCPs are assumed to be MDs even when they aren’t. My PCP who’s a NP is the called a MD by those who don’t know her even though she’s not and I point out that out to them as her training is just as valuable as their training. And for me, her training is far, far more valuable than their MD will ever be.

  11. Meredith: “So I’m all for keeping them from thinking they’re more important than or better than other doctors, because some of them are damn well worse.”

    I’m not sure that follows, but it does bring up a point:

    I’m suggesting honorifics for some healing professionals on the common grounds I stated. I don’t know that every MD qualifies. Pediatricians risk infection routinely; surgeons do not. I think nurses all do unless they’re promoted high enough. The same is true of privates, so rising in the profession shouldn’t disqualify one.

    People with doctorates should consider whether there might be another title which is a better brand for them. Since the word doctor has a distant root meaning teacher, I’d suggest something with a similar etymology or similar associations. It’d be nice to establish a title for people with terminal degrees who are qualified to teach at the university level. I’ve never liked that my friends with MFAs didn’t get the respect people with Ph.Ds doing the same job received. Universities can be exceptionally stingy with titles. One friend taught nearly twenty years before finally going from instructor to associate (I don’t think it was assistant) professor.

  12. @Cat Eldridge: “My PCP who’s a NP is the called a MD by those who don’t know her even though she’s not and I point out that out to them as her training is just as valuable as their training.”

    I’m sorry I left out nurse practitioners! I knew I was forgetting someone. But this gets at what I’m getting at: Dr. Person (in the popular mind) doctors as a career. She’s not assumed a doctor on the basis of a degree, but because of her training, her professional standing, her profession, and the role that places her in.

  13. In an effort to make this vaguely genre-related, I’ll share a little table I made up earlier in the month. In the popular mind as understood by comic book writers, Dr. Medical is assumed a good guy and Dr. Scientist is assumed a bad guy. Dr. Psychiatrist falls between. This is by no means a rigorous analysis! But it was fun.

    And if academics want a title of their own, I recommend Professor. There’s only one in the comics–so it’s thought of as open territory–and he’s a really good guy.

    Doctor Publisher Type Career
    Alchemy DC Villain Scientist
    Bedlam DC Villain Scientist
    Cyber DC Villain ?
    Death DC Villain Scientist/Weapons producer?
    Destiny DC Villain Scientist
    Doom Marvel Villain Scientist
    Druid Marvel Hero Psychiatrist
    Faustus Marvel Villain Psychiatrist
    Fate DC Hero Archeologist?
    Light DC Villain Scientist
    McNinja Self Hero Doctor
    Manhattan DC Hero? Scientist
    Mid-Nite DC Hero Doctor
    Mist DC Hero? Person
    Nemesis Marvel ? Doctor-turned-inventor
    Occult DC Hero? Person
    Octopus Marvel Villain Scientist
    Phosphorus DC Villain Scientist
    Polaris DC Villain Medical fraud
    Psycho DC Villain Medical student framed by athlete
    Sivana Fawcett/DC Villain Scientist
    Solar Valiant Hero Scientist
    Spectro DC Villain Scientist
    Spectrum Marvel Villain Evangelist
    Strange Marvel Hero Doctor
    Sun Marvel Villain Scientist
    Thirteen DC Hero Parapsychologist
    Voodoo Marvel Hero Psychologist

  14. @Cat
    The NP at the cancer place I go to (now quarterly) has an MD from a school in the Philippines, so I figure he’s qualified. My PCP is both an MD and a DPharm – that’s a lot of work right there.

  15. P J Evans says The NP at the cancer place I go to (now quarterly) has an MD from a school in the Philippines, so I figure he’s qualified. My PCP is both an MD and a DPharm – that’s a lot of work right there.

    Ok I think that you’re missing the point. I’m saying that they don’t need a MD to be perfectly qualified for what they do. Indeed a MD is my my view in my view a handicap.

  16. @Cat
    It does depend on what they do – my PCP may not need the MD – he does have PAs – but that DPharm makes him more useful when it comes to prescriptions, because I expect him to know about the interactions.

  17. @KasaObake

    “I can’t see what the quoted section of her project has to do with the price of tea.”

    As it stands I don’t even know where in her thesis that statement appears. . . . Without any context it’s utterly futile to try to derive any meaning at all from the quote.

    It takes all of 30 seconds to find a copy of her paper online, and only one or two more to CTRL-F “quarter” to find the statement in context.

    The only “meaning” to be derived from it is that it is a fairly blatant math error, and context doesn’t change that.

    @Meredith

    A quick glance at wikipedia tells me Dr Jill Biden enrolled under her maiden name, so she was clearly aware of the potential for bias and hoped to mitigate it.

    Her paper was submitted under her married name, Jill Jacobs-Biden. She didn’t try to mitigate that.

    @John A Arkansawyer

    It makes it impossible to discuss the merits [of discussing an EdD vs a PhD] on their own basis

    What makes it impossible is that even if you try to do so, as I did, people discount the argument as sexist, even though sexism isn’t part of the comparison.

    I recommend Professor. There’s only one in the comics

    I’m sure you’re thinking of Professor Xavier of the X-Men, but there’s also Professor Ludwig von Drake in Donald Duck’s universe, and Ray Palmer, alter ego of DC’s Silver Age Atom, was also a professor (both also good guys).

  18. @John A. Arkansawyer–

    People with doctorates should consider whether there might be another title which is a better brand for them. Since the word doctor has a distant root meaning teacher, I’d suggest something with a similar etymology or similar associations. It’d be nice to establish a title for people with terminal degrees who are qualified to teach at the university level. I’ve never liked that my friends with MFAs didn’t get the respect people with Ph.Ds doing the same job received. Universities can be exceptionally stingy with titles. One friend taught nearly twenty years before finally going from instructor to associate (I don’t think it was assistant) professor.

    The title of Doctor has been in use for people with doctorates for seven hundred years are so. And it’s bizarre to describe the Latin “docere” as a “distant” root for doctor; it came directly from the Latin at a time when speaking Latin was part and parcel of being an educated person.

    Medical practitioners started using it far more recently, when most of them were barber-surgeons and not very well-regarded. They were trying to make themselves respectable.

    Maybe medical practitioners should consider whether there is another title which is a better brand for them.

  19. @bill: I was restricting myself to character pseudonyms. Charles Xavier is known as Professor X. He was the only super-Professor I could find.

    As for this “blatant math error”, my and my math degree missed it on multiple readings. Maybe it’s just that I don’t worry too much about precision when the numbers are small enough to write out, or maybe I picked up contextual clues that it wasn’t such a big error after all. Here’s the whole paragraph:

    The community college classroom is unlike any other classroom in America. Diversity, rather than homogeneity, is the norm. In an average-sized class of twenty students at Delaware Tech, for example, most of the seats will be filled with young students who have just graduated from high school. The majority of these will be female. At least five seats will be filled with middle-aged men and women who have lost their jobs due to downsizing and/or outsourcing. One or two seats will be filled with students who have graduated from a GED program. Some seats will hold older women whose children have just entered college – now these women are taking the opportunity to earn college degrees themselves. Three quarters of the class will be Caucasian; one quarter of the class will be African American; one seat will hold a Latino; and the remaining seats will be filled with students of Asian descent or non-resident aliens. At least one quarter of the students will have children – most of them will be single mothers. Some will be the first in their families to attend college. Few will have taken honors courses in high school, while many will have taken remedial courses, special education, or vocational training. Almost two-thirds will be part-time students, with the remaining one-third attending college on a full-time basis. The socio-economic status will range from middle to lower class with approximately 67 percent receiving financial aid. Although there is strength in diversity as a classroom component, the lack of homogeneity in academic ability makes it difficult to teach to a single standard. In addition to academic concerns, the social, emotional, and physical needs of the community college student offer their own unique challenges. As a result, due to the diversity of the student population, student retention is a major problem faced by the community college.

    Calling this a “blatant math error” is a bit much, don’t you think? Especially given the number of multiracial people in the US who fall into more than one category.

    She’s painting in broad strokes here to give an overview, in a section titled Overview, explaining why what she does is important, which is is, and to whom it is personally life-changingly important. If I copyedited it, I’d query it*; if the author objected, I’d stet it and move on.

    *I hope. I had to multiply 24 times 36 twice to get the right answer last week.

  20. @John —

    And if academics want a title of their own, I recommend Professor.

    First, as already mentioned multiple times, scholars had the title first. If anyone should find “their own” title, it’s medical professionals, not scholars.

    Second, “Professor” is a job description — not an educational signifier. One can be a professor without being a PhD.

  21. @Contrarius:

    “Professor” is a job description — not an educational signifier. One can be a professor without being a PhD.

    Quite so. Both of my Great Teachers were full professors without Ph.D.s. One had an MFA and the other had no high school diploma and a couple of years of college. They are at least as deserving of respect as any other full professor with a Ph.D. in that department–maybe more so, because without writers, what would the teachers teach?

    Let’s roughly equalize the titles given to college teachers and roughly equalize the titles given to healing professionals. I respect teachers for teaching and healers for healing. Those are morally positive virtues. Knowing things and being smart is morally neutral at best. Why make that the distinguishing virtue?

    I have much more respect for what someone does than for what someone knows. I thought slightly less of my friend who took his Ph.D.* in physics to work in retail. At least he didn’t become a quant or a weapons designer, and part of his work involves putting goods into peoples’ hands cheaply, but still, what a waste.

    Given that in popular usage a doctor is someone who doctors, maybe academics should consider rebranding themselves as professors who profess, and build their own respect.

    *It’s a memoir-truthful statement. He and his brother had very similar names. One had a masters and one had a Ph.D. I think they were both in physics, but it’s been thirty years, and I couldn’t swear to you that’s so, or which one took the job. It might’ve been the one with the masters degree. But physics I’m almost certain of.

  22. @John —

    Given that in popular usage a doctor is someone who doctors, maybe academics should consider rebranding themselves as professors who profess, and build their own respect.

    John, you keep steadfastly ignoring the fact that academics had the title first. Why is that?

    And “a doctor is someone who doctors” only because the original noun was usurped to create the modern informal usage of the verb. As already mentioned multiple times, “doctor” is from “docere”, which means to teach — not to administer medical assistance. So, again, if anyone actually “doctors”, it’s the academics — not the medical professionals.

    Seriously, John, we can’t get anywhere if you continue to ignore the facts of the matter.

  23. Contrarius: See, this need to go all “liar liar pants on fire” instead of arguing the argument is a problem for me.

  24. Calling this a “blatant math error” is a bit much, don’t you think?

    I dunno, it jumped out at me. Even if it is a result of students occupying more than one racial category, the discrepancy calls attention to itself and should be explained (as she does elsewhere in the paper, where sums don’t come out to what one would expect).

    But there are other math errors, spelling errors, grammar errors, etc. The References list is incomplete. This is as formal as academic writing gets, but it really needs at least one more proofreading pass. If I had turned in work like this when I took composition in 11th grade, Ms. Schneider would marked it up and told me to re-do.

  25. @Contrarius

    John, you keep steadfastly ignoring the fact that academics had the title first. Why is that?

    Not trying to speak for John, but as a practical matter, when average people use the term “Doctor”, they mean MDs, and that’s all they mean. Whatever “Doctor” meant originally, now it means (in general, broad usage) someone who bills Blue Cross to see you for 8-12 minutes.

  26. When people say doctor, they mean physician, except when they don’t! I am frankly astounded to see reasonably intelligent native English speakers trying to argue that an English word can have only one meaning! You’d think these people had never seen English before! 😀

    Heck, we even have a word for it: polysemy.

    Now when I hear someone described as a doctor, my default assumption (still subject to possible correction) will be physician, but when I hear someone referred to as “Dr. So-and-So”, all bets are off.

    And as for the suggestions (by both sides) that we should reform the English language to correct this “problem”, well, all I can say is: good luck with that! Well-meaning people have been making “logical” suggestions to “correct” the English language since at least the 19th c., and so far, the success rate for such “corrections” has had a lot of zeros after the decimal point!

    As a test, let me ask a question of any UK denizens in the audience: how do you feel about reforming your language in order to solve a political problem in the United States? (In the interest of not overwhelming the blog software, I suggest that only people who are ok with this idea respond!) 😀

  27. @Xtifr
    I think since the 17th century – there was a suggestion for a body like the French Academie, to approve usage and new words. For some reason it didn’t go over at all.

  28. I’ve advocated for the medicos changing their title only in response to the idiotic suggestions that academic doctorate holders should feel obliged to find a new title to replace the one they’ve had for centuries longer than medical doctors, to avoid treading on the toes of the physicians who appropriated the title to make themselves sound more respectable.

    I’m totally comfortable with one word having two or more meanings. I’m just responding to the people who, whatever their claims, only became het up about this when a woman they’d rather not respect came into more media attention than she’s had previously. Total coincidence, right?

  29. @Lis:
    Especially since many right-wingers in the media who are trashing Jill Biden as disrespectful for using her earned title because “real” doctors are PHYSICIANS have been mostly silent about or actively cheering on the vilification of actual physicians who’ve dared to recommend social distancing and masking to deal with a once-in-a-century pandemic.

  30. @Xtifr

    I am frankly astounded to see reasonably intelligent native English speakers trying to argue that an English word can have only one meaning!

    Who is doing this?

  31. I have never run into any confusion regarding what kind of doctor I’m talking to – and I’ve known both MDs and Phds in various fields. I’m thirty years out of graduation school, and still address my thesis advisor as “Dr. Lastname” (in spite of his reminders that I don’t have to do that any more). Like Xtifr, if there’s no context, and I hear of someone called “Doctor something” is that the fellow is a physician (and also that he looks like Robert Young) – but there’s almost always a context that removes any potential for confusion without causing any conscious thought.

  32. @Contrarius: “John, you keep steadfastly ignoring the fact that academics had the title first. Why is that?”

    I haven’t steadfastly ignored it. I’ve acknowledged as a fact and I’ve explained why I don’t find it a convincing argument. That is the exact opposite of ignoring it.

    “Seriously, John, we can’t get anywhere if you continue to ignore the facts of the matter.”

    Doctor, go heal thyself.

  33. Yes, in Spanish you do have the word medico to mean “medical professional.” And you also have the word doctor (feminine, doctora) to mean “doctor.” As in English, doctor/a isn’t restricted to those holding medical doctorates.

    Really not much different than in English. Which shouldn’t surprise us.

  34. Here’s a thoughtful article from last year, when this wasn’t a matter of defending the honor of a political figure. It’s thoughtful and explains the usage choice on WHYY to introduce people with their specialties, not their titles.

    I turned it up looking, for the second time, for opinion polling or studies on what Americans answer when asked “What is the profession of Dr. Smith?” or “What does Dr. Jones do?” or something else that gets at the actual descriptive use of the word doctor today.

    Arguments from etymology are interesting, but they are essentially prescriptivist. In this case, two relatively privileged groups both lay claim to the titles “doctor” and “Dr.” I believe Vox Populi sides with the medical profession; it’s always a story about someone who thought Dr. Furter was a medical doctor.

    I suspect the provocateur who wrote that op-ed knew exactly what he was doing with it: He made an argument which academics might win at the cost of slipping further in public opinion as a class. The individual academics who gain by promoting themselves as Dr. Nottamedic may come out ahead; I think the profession will not, and that’s a shame.

  35. @John A. Arkansawyer–

    I suspect the provocateur who wrote that op-ed knew exactly what he was doing with it: He made an argument which academics might win at the cost of slipping further in public opinion as a class. The individual academics who gain by promoting themselves as Dr. Nottamedic may come out ahead; I think the profession will not, and that’s a shame.

    Joseph Esptein, the guy who wrote this, has a long track record of racism, sexism, and homophobia. Yes, he knew what he was doing–and you don’t want to acknowledge what he was doing. Or perhaps you really don’t know, but in that case, your ignorance of that is not a defense of either his position, or yours.

  36. @Lis Carey:

    Yes, he knew what he was doing–and you don’t want to acknowledge what he was doing. Or perhaps you really don’t know, but in that case, your ignorance of that is not a defense of either his position, or yours.

    Once you’ve decided whether you believe I am a bad-faith liar or a stupid idiot, please actually say what is is you imagine I “don’t want to acknowledge” so I can point out why you have imagined my mental processes wrongly.

    Joseph Esptein, the guy who wrote this, has a long track record of racism, sexism, and homophobia.

    The one paragraph with “kiddo” in it was enough to know he was a piece of work. Hearing about his track record a day or two later wasn’t unexpected.

  37. @ John – “What does Dr. Jones do?” Everybody knows that he’s a noted archeologist and puncher of Nazis.

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