Archive for February, 2016

Hellos

A dear old friend of mine recently returned to the Vancouver area, where he is living alone in a barn that he turned into a beautiful studio apartment a few years ago. Although I know maybe no one more ‘out and about’ than my buddy, he told me he was concerned that if something happened to him while he was at home, it might be days before anyone found out about it.

He came up with a good plan. Every morning we would send a little text to one another conveying news of our continued existence. (I live alone, too.) It’s become a favourite part of my day.

My friend and I are heading into week three of trying to schedule lunch, so these morning greetings are especially happy ones to me. You can’t make new old friends.

Kwantlen students helping Syrian refugees in BC

For their practicum, several former students of mine in KPU’s Bachelor of Business in Marketing Management program have formed C.A.R.E. (Community Aid & Relief Efforts) Kits,

a student run endeavour eager to aid the Syrian refugees settling in British Columbia. As fourth-year marketing students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University entering into practicum, we wanted to help make a difference in our community.

Our amazing team has put together care packages, also known as “kits”, filled with basic necessities that families and children will need once they arrive in Canada. Each kit that is sold will be delivered and stored with a partnering community outreach program here in Surrey. Once our new neighbours arrive, our kits will be distributed by our partnering organization. And because we are all about giving back, our entire proceeds made from all kits sold will be given back to Kwantlen’s Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing Management (BBAMM) Scholarship Fund.

I know five of the six students running this project very well. They’re tops.

KPU’s Scholarship Fund has long been close to my heart. I’ve seen first-hand how it helps students – many of whom are immigrants themselves – stay in school, pay the rent, and lessen their debt load. (I’ve been funding two scholarships – The Maureen and George Basil Award and The John Reiss Award in Journalism – for many years.)

Please consider supporting this wonderful project.

Smart/Dumb

In my profession some colleagues believe that marking hard – giving more D’s than B’s, for instance – correlates with a high level of “rigour” in teaching. To my mind, though, there is often no connection between grade distribution and rigour. If you are handing out a dozen D’s, you need to look at both the quality of instruction and the level of preparation students have received prior to taking that course; something is wrong.

The most “rigorous” – that is, demanding and detailed – professor I ever had was Lionel Abel. He gave everybody A’s, yet almost nobody took a class from him more than once. He was too tough. He would read student essays aloud in front of the class and make brilliant if sometimes lacerating comments. One time he stopped after reading just the first paragraph and gazed, smiling, at the lady who wrote it, asking, “Did you take Freshman English?” She nodded yes, turning red. “Did you pass?” I had to look away. Abel finished his analysis of her work by writing a big A on the student’s front page.

I didn’t receive similar treatment until my second class with Abel. “Mr. Basil, do you mind if I read your T. S. Eliot essay in front of the class?” I said I would be pleased. Then the professor added: “May I be frank?” What could I say but yes? The professor showed the first page of the essay to the class, with several words circled. “I believe that you don’t know what these words mean,” he said, then went through them, one by one. It was very embarrassing. After class Professor Abel told me that I was trying to sound smarter and more educated than I was: a foolish endeavour, which made me sound dumb. “Don’t approach great poetry with big statements; come to it with questions. You’re never dumb when you ask questions.”

From that moment I resolved never to be embarrassed to be the “smart dumb person” in the room, asking questions when no one else raises their hand. At the very worst, this is entertainment for my colleagues. To my mind, it is also essential mental hygiene.

A lovely Lionel Able quote: “We realize we have made a friend when in a relationship we are able to suppress that special disappointment which follows getting to know him, her, anyone – even oneself – well.”

It is sweet to remember those first resigned sighs, from my loyal friends. The essence of friendship is neither correction nor therapy.

The New York Times titled its obituary of Lionel Abel “The Last Bohemian.”

Title

Close Enough for Jazz” would be a good title for a memoir … were there not many books already with this title.

“Close Enough to Jazz” is better anyway.

It’s about time

An old friend is publishing online, chapter by chapter, a roman à clef in which yours truly plays a pivotal if not a leading role. No, I am not giving you the URL. And yes, I should return to my own memoirs before it’s too late.

Happy Thursday

jellyfish.gif

Jellyfish, Vancouver Aquarium

My gif was made with the help of GIPHLY. More about gifs and GIPHLY here, where you will find out whether “gif” is pronounced with a hard or a soft “g” – or both.

White art, clear prose

RobertRyman

Clear writing that explains artistic technique can be rather rare. Daniel McDermon’s New York Time’s interactive piece “When a White Square is More Than a White Square,” on the paintings of Robert Ryman, is admirably done.