Bryan Garner

I’ve put Bryan Garner’s website on our list of essential resources. Garner is a stratospherically erudite lexicographer, writer, and lawyer – and teacher.

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Get smart

To welcome humbling moments is part of good mental hygiene. There is, at any rate, no way around these experiences when you teach social and digital media to university students. On that note: Here is another amazing Overdrive Interactive graphic; when I say “amazing,” I mean “as if you are in a maze.” You could easily get lost in here!

My marking marathons don’t kick in for a couple of weeks, so I have time to investigate sectors that are adjacent to mine (“lead scoring,” anyone?) and meet the many new neighbours on my own turf. (I know that this graphic has been out awhile already, but going through these lists is nonetheless a good way of getting back up to date; almost all of these platforms and companies are still active.)

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The Melville School of Business

My academic neighbourhood at Kwantlen Polytechnic University has a new name, after philanthropists George and Sylvia Melville gifted $8 million to the school. I am so pleased, particularly with the initiatives this gift will fund.

George Melville, cofounder of Boston Pizza International, served as Kwantlen’s second chancellor from 2010 to 2017. From the university release:

“This very generous gift will create tremendous opportunities for students and faculty, and will significantly enhance the reputation of both the business school and KPU,” says Dr. Alan Davis, president and vice-chancellor of KPU. “George Melville’s sterling reputation as a business leader, philanthropist and community builder will be a tremendous asset as we continue to shape exceptional entrepreneurs who graduate ready to work, willing to learn and poised to lead.”

The Melvilles’ donation includes:

$3 million to establish the Melville School of Business Advanced Teaching and Learning Technology Fund, which will provide students with the most up-to-date teaching technology and equipment used in business and industry;

$2 million to create the Melville School of Business Endowed Scholarship Fund, which will provide $100,000 in scholarships annually for undergraduate business students;

$1 million to establish the Melville School of Business Endowed Bursary Fund, which will provide $50,000 annually for bursaries for undergraduate business students.

This couple’s generosity will touch the lives of a lot of students I will have in future classes, making their lives better, their goals more in reach.

“George and Sylvia Melville are true community builders and have been champions of KPU for many years,” says Kelly Finlay, chair of the board of directors of the KPU Foundation, which raises funds to create quality, life-long learning opportunities for KPU students to achieve personal, social and career success. “Both their children attended KPU and their passion for this university comes from witnessing directly how big an impact this institution has on its students.”

“The gift from the Melvilles will not only elevate the reputation of our School of Business but will support advancements in leading-edge teaching and enrich the student learning experience,” says Stephanie Howes, dean of the Melville School of Business.

I am elated.

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Smart luck

Teena Seelig, a professor in management science and engineering at Stanford, has been studying “luck” for two decades, according to Diana Aguilera’s article in Stanford Magazine. The professor provides some superb, lucid recommendations. My favourite:

Show Appreciation. “When someone does something for you, they’re taking that time that they could be spending on themselves or someone else,” Seelig says. “And you need to acknowledge what they’re doing.” Being gracious, even when you’re turning down an offer of assistance, may bring more opportunities your way.

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Gratitude

I have been enjoying getting to know the work of translator/poet/essayist Michael Hoffman.

Without an active sense of mischief, he says, translators can easily become bitter people. “Nobody sees what you are doing, and the minute you do something, people cry ‘Mistake, mistake!’ If done in that way, it feels almost parasitic upon literature. … That’s partly why I have mostly ended up translating dead people. They are more appreciative.”

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Pacing yourself

Even before my senescence began blooming, I enjoyed reading obituaries. The well-written ones are edifying distillations of character and action; their omissions are bolder than doomsday.

James McMeel cofounded the Universal Press Syndicate, which distributed Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” and the work of numerous other cartoonist luminaries (as well as columns by Garry Wills and Roger Ebert and dozens of others). McMeel was unique at the time for granting artists complete licensing rights to their work. It made the creators rich and happy – which made McMeel happy, too.

I love this anecdote about Jim Davis, the creator of “Garfield.”

Davis first met Mr. McMeel at an American Booksellers Association convention in 1981. Mr. McMeel approached him for an autograph, brandishing a Garfield book with a contract tucked inside. But Mr. Davis had a long-term contract with United Media, which had been syndicating his strip.

“It became a running gag,” Mr. Davis said. “Every time we met he’d hand me a newspaper or something with a contract inside.” After 15 years, Mr. Davis was finally free to sign with Universal.

“The thing with John,” he said, “is it didn’t feel like business. I once did an interview and the reporter asked me why Gary Larson had retired and I was still going. I said: ‘Well, Gary works so hard and he puts so much pressure on himself. Me, if I feel that kind of pressure, I lower my standards.’ It was that kind of air that John encouraged.”

“If I feel that kind of pressure, I lower my standards.”

That is a beautiful sentence.

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“immortal words”

Allen Ginsberg “finally sat on the edge of the couch and said, ‘Well, Dr [William Carlos] Williams, here we are [Jack Kerouac, Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso, and AG], all assembled. What immortal words do you have for us?’ So he pointed to the curtained window, looking out on the main street of Rutherford, and said, ‘There’s a lot of bastards out there!’” (from The Allen Ginsberg Project)

This explains a lot.

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The social media landscapes

My favourite class to teach, back in the day, was an advanced digital media class at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. No other class I’ve ever taught required such continual professional development, though, and it would take me many months of preparation before I could step inside that classroom again. The scene changes so rapidly.

Overdrive Interactive, a high-end Boston digital-marketing firm, has recently released two super-useful (and truly elegant) graphics: the Social Media Map 2021 and the Search Marketing Map 2021. All the links are live. These would be where I would start getting back in the postsecondary digital-media swing.

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How to write

I love my old friend Jonathan Mayhew’s prose. His blog, Stupid Motivational Tricks (Scholarly Writing and How to Get it Done), is often very charming (and it is always illuminating). Read this bit on the use of “scare quotes.” The last sentence is beautiful.

Obviously, (well, obviously to me), this mannerism arose out of deconstruction. All of sudden the “language” we use to describe “things” came into “question.”  It seemed “naive” to use words that were “problematic” in this way, so everything had to be put under erasure.  Since we still had to use words to “communicate,” we could “signal” our distance “from” them typographically.  

A word like “aesthetic” could be used, but only in quotes, otherwise the reader might think we actually believe in “aesthetics,” god forbid. The word in italics functions in the opposite way: here we are saying that this word solves our problems, as in the word cultural

“Here we are saying that this word solves our problems.”

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Feedback loops

The original focus of University of Washington’s Professor Kate Starbird’s research was Crisis Informatics, “the study of how information-communication technologies are used during crisis events, including natural disasters (like earthquakes and hurricanes) and man-made disasters (such as shooting events and acts of terrorism). … Initially, [her] research focused on the pro-social activities that social media platforms facilitate — for example, how people come together after crisis events to help themselves, their neighbors, and even people halfway around the world.”

More recently Starbird has studied the NOT-pro-social consequences “perpetrated by increasingly dense and often oddly connected networks of accounts.” It is important and scary work.

The infographic above is part of an illuminating slideshow Starbird put together “to help explain the dynamics of ‘participatory disinformation’ and how that motivated the January 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol.” Click on the image to see the whole thing.

Credit: Kate Starbird, University of Washington, Human Centered & Design Program and Center for an Informed Public

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