Halfway to My MA: Reflecting on Post Modern Literature Studies

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Comments made by an Illinois State University creative writing professor more than four decades ago truly resonated recently.

Darn if I can remember the lady’s name, but she noted something to the effect that completing a truly challenging writing task — one filled with doubt, driven by despair and desperation, fraught with indecision and frustration — can be among the most magical and rewarding accomplishments in life.

That’s how I felt after wrapping up the final paper for my most recent English course, another step toward earning my Master’s degree. I’ve reached a milestone of sorts: The credits earned from this fourth course means I’m statistically halfway to the 32 credits required.

Wonder what Walt Whitman, considered a pioneer of modern poetry, would think about some of the works I had to read this semester.

The course focused on modern, post modern and contemporary poetry and prose, but rest assured: The assigned writing last semester did not include works by Stephen King, James Patterson or any of the popular juggernaut novelists who produce fantasy and action-prone works that get made into movies and TV series. The subject of works analyzed were void of supernatural spirits and superheroes.

We studied writers of “Language poetry,” an avant garde movement that arose in the hippie era as a backlash against more traditional forms of poetry. We debated topics like alienation, the fragmentation of modern life and poetry’s place in society today. And, we learned that some modern writers employ results from Google searches to create “poems.”

Required readings from mid and late-20th century and 21st century writers were balanced by essays from Gertrude Stein and Berthold Brecht, along with an excellent modern novel highly influenced by seminal works of Walt Whitman, considered a pioneer of the modern poetry movement. For a perspective, we even were assigned essays from Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 19th century philosopher and essayist, and John Stuart Mill, the British liberal thinker.

Full disclosure: I’ve not kept up with modern poetry and fiction; none of the works by contemporary authors we read were familiar to me. That’s why I was intrigued and looked forward to each week’s reading any the challenging writing assignments.

But frankly, I was taken aback by much of the poetry and literary criticism produced today. I found some works on our syllabus bizarre and incomprehensible, unfulfilling and trite, pretentious and directionless.

A quatrain of examples:

  1. One poem has same line repeated 49 times. (I won’t post the line because it contains a swear word; plus, the line is non-nonsensical to me.)
  2. One extended poetic work has one word — “red” — on a single page. (For the record, “red” was used on previous pages, too.)
  3. One essay focused retyping every word of an issue of the New York Times as a transcendental exercise. (The author also gave this retyping exercise as a class assignment.)
  4. A series of poems included one titled, “A Poem I Didn’t Write,” containing the contents of “The Tyger,” one of the most storied poems in the English language. (No doubt, true scholars of William Blake are not happy.)

Yet, to incorporate a cliche, there were literary diamonds among the rough stuff; and I gained a much, much better appreciation of and understanding for poetry.

One conclusion: Modern language, like all creative endeavors, needs to change and evolve; new men and women of letters (to borrow a well-used moniker) should have their turn, their time. For instance, a black poet transcended convention to make thoughts known with graphic-centered poems created using In Design software. (And, said poet’s work served as the basis for my final paper.)

So, if you’re interested the next step in my Master’s challenge, for fall 2018, I’m enrolled in Theory, Rhetoric and Aesthetics — Melville’s Modernity. (I trust we’ll be assigned to read a novel featuring a really big white fish.)

And, if you’re keeping track, I received an A in the course just completed. Read by final paper by visiting my “other” website.

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In the Good News Department: Chicago Tribune Editorial Staff Goes Union

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

One of the first posts published in The PRDude centered on what was perhaps somewhat revolutionary and progressive way back in 2009.

The post, “The Reinvention of a Media Company,” reported on plans to transform the then Tribune Publishing into a modern player in the evolving communications industry.

Will a unionized Chicago Tribune editorial staff result in a better newspaper? I think so.

Well, the company that now publishes the Chicago Tribune, the newspaper I subscribe to and read each day, is taking another step forward.  In news announced yesterday, the Chicago-headquartered company named Tronc, current owner of the storied publication, will recognize members of the editorial staff as the Chicago Tribune Guild, thereby joining the dwindling number of U.S. print journalists now part of organized labor.

This news (not totally surprising, as other print news staffs have unionized recently) is refreshing to this former newsman, a tangible step to help preserve sound, honest and ethical reporting in a rapidly progressing era of digitally-driven drivel and unforthright fabrication of fact.

(How’s that for some nifty alliteration.)

Over the years, this site has blasted the Chicago Tribune for misrepresenting the practice of public relations, as noted in this 2014 post regarding plans for Wrigley Field renovation and a year-end 2015 manifesto contesting what constitutes a “PR nightmare.”

Five years ago I followed up the aforementioned “reinvention” post with an analysis of how new owners were systematically destroying the fabled newspaper. And, this blog has focused on or referenced the Chicago Tribune quite extensively in other ways: Enter “Chicago Tribune” into the PR Dude search window, and 30 posts show up.

So, I’ve contested articles and opinions published in a newspaper that for decades had the braggadocio to bill itself as “The World’s Greatest Newspaper,” while looking to the Chicago Tribune for insight into what’s happening in the world and for truth.

Wishing much success to the new unionized men and women who produce the newspaper I read on the Blue Line weekdays en route to work, and while relaxing at home on the weekends.

But rest assured Guild members: Misrepresent or bash the public relations profession, and “Chicago Tribune” search numbers for this blog will jump to 31 expeditiously.

 

 

 

 

As April (APR Month) Winds Down, a Thought on the Value of Accreditation

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

The unseasonably cold temperatures (at least here in Chicago) of late certainly did not proclaim “April.”  But baseball is underway, flowering bulbs are in bloom and restaurants are inviting patrons to dine al fresco. So then, April, that “cruellest month,” is indeed here.

This image needs no explanation. Courtesy of the Universal Accreditation Board.

Of course, April also is recognized as APR Month, a time to put more emphasis on the value of the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential.

In previous years, I’ve waited until the waning days of April to offer thoughts on Accreditation.  This post from last year is a case in point, published hours before the calendar ushered in May.

Well, I’m following suit with this post — a day before the final day of APR Month.  As for the subject, I’m inspired by an email sent last week by PRSA 2018 National Chair Anthony D’Angelo, APR, Fellow PRSA.  The message encapsulates an often overlooked value of the APR credential.

Here’s the email message:

Dear Edward:

As we come to the end of April (APRil is APR Month), I’d like to thank you for the professional commitment you’ve demonstrated in earning and maintaining your Accreditation. While the majority of professionals pursue Accreditation for personal and professional development, it’s important to realize that this pursuit is actually linked to PRSA’s Code of Ethics. One of the Code’s Provisions of Conduct is “enhancing the profession,” and that entails acknowledging “an obligation to protect and enhance the profession,” and keeping “informed and educated.”

Your Accreditation signals your personal dedication to the Code of Ethics and this Provision in particular, and connects you with like-minded professionals who uphold standards for the entire industry. Like PRSA itself, you’re committed to advancing the profession and the professional, and I’m grateful for that. Thanks again.

Best regards,

Yes, enhance the public relations profession — a vital and necessary responsibility to be championed by Accredited members and all serious practitioners.

We need to remain diligent in adhering to ethical standards and sound, strategic practices, especially today, given the continued misinterpretation and misinterpretation of pubic relations by the media, the business world and public at large. We need to identify and condemn instances of unprincipled and dishonest communications initiated as part of a “public relations” program.  We need to encourage all public relations professionals to continue to learn and progress to keep pace with modern practices.

Earning the Accredited in Public Relations credential puts one on a career-long guideway to improving the profession. This holds true in April, as well as the 11 other months on the calendar.

 

 

They’re Back! More Fake Followers Follies for the PRDude

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Hope my new followers are inspired by these words of wisdom from 19th century poet Thomas Moore. Courtesy of Good Morning Quote.com

Without question, fake news is a big topic these days, one addressed seemingly daily in print news articles, broadcast commentaries and presidential tweets.

And, to share my perspective, the PRDude issued a manifesto of sorts on fake news in a January 2017 post.

Rest assured, fake news more than likely won’t pass from the national lexicon any time soon. Well, I’ve had a similar perspective about what I’m referring to as “fake followers.”

As noted in this post from January of this year, I started receiving messages from WordPress announcing new followers — but followers with ponderously long and nonsensical email addresses.

Well, they’re back.

Over the past week, I’ve learned that these “people” now follow this blog:

  • creeduogeorgiannecf@outlook.com
  • thiesnylaquandae@outlook.com
  • montenegroiphungki@outlook.com
  • carlyleoshenikak@outlook.com

Visits to Google to ascertain something — anything — about the origins of these Outlook account holders yielded no rational results.

Since January, I’ve made no dramatic changes to the PRDude in terms of the subject of posts or frequency. And, none of these newly minted fans have commented on my thoughts.  (Well, not yet.)

So, why do I continue to get these alerts announcing obviously fake followers?

I have a theory: Russian hackers.

Yes, Russian hackers. Why? Well, because we tend to blame lots of stuff on these scurrilous scoundrels halfway around the world, so perhaps they are behind this covert scheme to pad my follower roster with bogus names.

Read this Fortune magazine article published today and you’ll learn that the U.S., U.K. and Australia issued new claims that the Russians are behind a new wave of massive online espionage and sabotage.

So, comrade, or whatever name you prefer: I’m on to you.

Perhaps Facebook Could Do (A Lot) More

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Tomorrow, the world’s largest social media site will share a bit of important news with subscribers.

Yes, the folks at Facebook will let users, like me, know if our profile data was passed on to data consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

One of the “feel good” messages from Facebook, as shown on a monitor in the CTA Logan Square Blue Line station.

As noted in this April 4 New York Times article, up to 87 million users of the platform may have had data shared with Cambridge, now brought into the international spotlight for connections with the Trump 2016 presidential campaign.

I’ll leave the political discussion of this ongoing story to other commentators. What intrigues me is the total collapse of effective crisis management by Facebook since news broke of the data breach.

Want to get a perspective on how the crisis has unfolded over the past three-plus weeks?  This PR Week report offers a play-by-play recap right up to March 27, when the number of impacted users was just 50 million.

Coming up: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be testifying before Congress Tuesday.

For an organization built on letting users share ideas, news, images and videos — purportedly all for “free” — Facebook has lost the trust of subscribers and failed miserably at managing the sustained crisis that’s embroiled the company over the reported misuse of member info.

Note the image above. That message — and others from Facebook — was on a monitor in the CTA Logan Square Blue Line station, which I visit each weekday to travel to and from work. Other similar digital and print billboards can be found at other CTA stations.

Frankly, these communications, which I just noticed recently, are weak, an after thought of sorts to mitigate the collapse of confidence experienced by many of Facebook’s 2.2 billion users.

Following these developments, the questions that surface with me: Is this the “new normal” in crisis management? Are companies becoming too large to effectively anticipate and mitigate threats? Are CEOs like Zuckerberg unable to effectively lead and regain trust?

Tomorrow, I’ll learn if I’m about the 87 million Facebook users who had personal data shared without my agreement or knowledge. But to borrow from a popular 1980s song, I don’t know if I’ll like the next Monday.

 

Charleston: Charming, Cultured, Cultivated (And Fortunately, Not Curated). A Travelogue

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Quick: What do you know about Charleston, South Carolina, that is.

Well, we didn’t know much about this colonial coastal city until we spent five days there earlier this month. We knew there would be lots of history, great food and Southern heritage in this Low Country town known as “The Holy City.”

But we didn’t expect to be somewhat overwhelmed by just how charming, cultured and cultivated we found Charleston.  So what follows is a stream-of-consciousness account (in modern poetics this could be considered “lyric poetry” — I am in the graduate program for English, you know) of our trip to Charleston, followed by some original images.

From the steps of our hotel, I counted four church steeples, some with spires rising majestically to the heavens
in the distance I view three construction cranes, all a safe distance outward.

The first morning; a walk along Calhoun Street to the Fort Sumter National Monument
a dozen or so people wished me “good morning.” I didn’t have to ask.

A decidedly human scale with 18th and 19th century structures not repelled by the modern,
harmony between the Guilded Age and the digital.

Low Country cuisine, honest and unadorned, subtly delicious,
no places named for false royalty or known by AU/curved symmetrical structures.

Within the peninsula, a sense of decorum, unhurried,
thoroughfares like Zig Zag Alley leading nowhere and everywhere.

Flora, subtle but majestic at times, in full bloom,
emerges to buffer the persistent breezes.

The honest greeting of an honest server,
proud to share history on the restaurant that once was a church for longshoremen.

Designer names equitably share King Street
with Asian noodle shops and a haphazard liquor store.

Stately and elegant, woven into the quiet fabric,
College of Charleston, seat of learning and culture.

The muscular side, cargo vessels in the harbor,
honor the colonial heritage.

Solemnity, most of the time,
broken by church bells, seemingly from all directions.

(Okay, had enough? Enjoy the images below. Visit Charleston soon. There’s a lack of pretense, but an abundance of reality.)

 

Handsome buildings like this one are everywhere.

Many private homes have impeccable small gardens.

A view of the quad at the College of Charleston, voted as one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation. I would agree.

Charleston Bay is an active port.

This classic structure was completed in 1879 and is still in use.

The world’s biggest pineapple? No, a very cool fountain in Waterfront Park along the east bay.

Read closely, and you’ll learn that Charleston was once one of the busiest ports in the colonies.

Why is Charleston called the Holy City? Yes, there are a lot of cool, well-maintained churches. But also, the peninsula was a bastion of freedom for many religions.

Just outside of Charleston, one can get a glimpse of the country life. This image was shot at the Magnolia Plantation.

Yes, the azaleas were in bloom during our visit. We found these everywhere.

Yes, right there on the grounds of many churches; final resting places for Charlestonians.

The view from the Fort Sumter National Monument.

One Question, One Image March 18, 2018

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka the PRDude)

This headline from last week certainly jumped off the page, so to say, for me and perhaps a million or so other Chicagoans who care about the future of the city:

Amazon HQ2 search team visiting Chicago March 21-22

As noted in the accompanying article published by Crain’s Chicago Business, Chicago city officials are keeping the visit somewhat hush-hush, as requested by the folks from Amazon, who are considering my fair city along with 19 others for its “second headquarters.”

The under-construction Academic and Residential complex on the UIC campus.

As noted in this post from November of last year, I’m a solid supporter of Chicago gaining this once-in-a-generation corporate prize. I even liked the Chicago is all in Facebook page dedicated to helping communicate civic boosterism towards the HQ2 competition. (And, for the record, I shared the above post from last year, but it has yet to be included.)

Given the projected number of permanent jobs (50,000), high salaries for new Amazon employees (average of $100,000), and residual economic benefits (who knows for sure, but it will be a lot), there’s no question winning the Amazon prize would be tremendous for Chicago. (Although many claim the purported $2.25 billion incentive package is way too steep.)

So on to today’s question. The image above reveals progress made on the new Academic and Residential Complex at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  (Full disclosure: I work at UIC.)

This $100 million development, which I observe daily when exiting the CTA Blue Line UIC/Halsted station, is rising at remarkable speed. It’s a tangible example what Chicago does very well: Build stuff.

Since its inception and evolution in the late 19th Century into a truly world-class city, Chicago has built more than just iconic structures. Chicago has built industries — food processing and manufacturing, transportation, supply chain logistics and others — that rival those any place on earth.

That’s why I want to ask:

Does Chicago really need to win the Amazon HQ2 to maintain its position in the world today?

Regardless of the low profile hoped for during the meetings between the city and Amazon this week, I’m confident there will be many, many projections on where the bid stands.