Archive for the ‘creative thinking’ category

PS,

24/03/2008

who-else-what-else-248.JPG‘PS comma’ is how to read my little title; it’s a mantra born in my mind just this morning, March 24, Manila time. It is a new mantra for creative thinking; reminiscent of Edward de Bono’s ‘Po’ (no comma), I’m offering it as a mind-blogging phrase for you to mine your gray matter and come out with copious ideas. The service is free – it comes from you; you help yourself.

Contrary to grammatical rules, my comma is not meant to indicate a pause, a temporary stop; instead, my comma is meant to be a prompt, to indicate a request to finish a silent ‘and?’ and a silent ‘so?’ and a silent ‘however?’ and a silent ‘nonetheless?’ and a silent ‘nevertheless?’ and a silent ‘but?’ and a silent ‘for?’ and a silent ‘nor?’ and a silent ‘yet?’ and a silent ‘or?’ Silence means ‘Yes?’

If nothing else, ‘PS,’ reminds you to relax, to be not serious. I’m not serious when I’m brainstorming, and that’s exactly why I’m creative! No Writer’s Block whatsoever.

Of course, my ‘PS,’ comes from ‘PS, I love you’ – which I have explained earlier in ‘A Thinker’s Faith. Rebel Thinker Writes, ‘PS, I Love You’ (frankahilario.com) – where I first presented ‘PS’ as a mantra for creative thinking. If you have ever written a letter, you already know that ‘PS’ means postscript, that which is done after writing, something you remembered to say after you have written your complimentary close. As I use it here, ‘PS’ means prescript, that which is done before writing. This morning I came up with the comma after ‘PS’ and that I will explain in a little while.

In Hindu and Buddhist practice, a mantra is ‘a sacred word, chant, or sound that is repeated during meditation to facilitate spiritual power and transformation of consciousness’ (Encarta Dictionaries 2007). A mantra is a ‘mental device, instrument of thought’ (iivs.de). Often, a mantra is only 1 or 2 syllables (buddhanet.net), but it can be a series of syllables (well.com). My ‘PS,’ or ‘PS comma’ is 4 syllables, so number is not a problem here.

Now, why am I offering ‘PS,’ as mantra? Because I had a flash of insight. Because it’s a very simple way of reaching any level of consciousness in creativity. ‘OM’ as mantra to reach the ‘7 levels of consciousness’ (swamij.com) is too serious for me, but you get the idea. Saying ‘PS comma’ is in fact fooling around with the mind, about which I have already written (‘PC Fools. The Rebel Writer Writes Of Slaves & Masters,’ frankahilario.com). With ‘PS,’ you are in fact trying to seduce yourself into a mental state of creativity, if fleetingly – and that’s all the time you need! Believe me. Been there, done that.

‘PS’ – noon today, when I was trying to collect notes on the acronym, I thought of Sony’s PlayStation and, surfing, clicked on Wikipedia. And now, here is a lesson in creative thinking from my Serendipity X and their Wikipedia on the subject of Sony’s PlayStation (PS). The head note on the PlayStation section says (en.wikipedia.org):

The current version of this article or section is written in an informal style and with a personally invested tone. It reads more like a story than an encyclopedia entry.

Very funny. What Wikipedia does not encourage is exactly what I do encourage because that’s how I write: personal, fervent.

So, according to the watchdogs of Wikipedia, an encyclopedia entry should be written in a staid, no-feelings-seen-no-bias-shown manner. Boring. That’s why nobody reads the encyclopedia. And yes, I now understand Wikipedia doesn’t want to be read either! That is to say, like all the other encyclopedia makers, they don’t want their sentences to be relaxed; they are not trying to impart knowledge on the reader – they are merely trying to impress him with their erudition.

Now, repeat after me, say ‘PS,’ – what I’m trying to do is get you to relax. You can’t be creative if you can’t relax. ‘PS comma’ is a non-threatening, low-cholesterol, high-energy diet that when you get a taste of it in your mouth you’ll want to experience it again and again. It’s a highly consumable non-consumable. This is a case where you can have your cake and eat it too.

‘PS comma’ – yes. Don’t underestimate the comma. We are told by the English Language Centre Study Zone of the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada: ‘The comma ‘is one of the most important punctuation marks in English’ (web2.uvcs.uvic.ca). Aren’t they all?

Look at my strange-looking title again; today, I have come up with a Writer’s Unblock, a radical use of the comma, as the comma in ‘PS,’ is a come-on, an invitation to a dance of the mind, an encouragement to come up with 13 new blades of ideas where none grew before. The comma in ‘PS,’ means, in brief: ‘What else?’ The comma asks you: ‘What else can you see? What else can you not see? What else is there? What else is not there? What else can be done? What else can not be done? What else do people say? What else do people not say? Etcetera.

In my previous essay, ‘A Thinker’s Faith’ that I uploaded yesterday, I gave you 30 examples of how to use ‘PS’ as a device for creative thinking, accompanied with a colon – ‘PS:’ An unfortunate incident, I realize that now. As a device for thinking, the colon is not really a come-on to start with but a warning to stop and think more logically, which was not my intention. To begin to think logically is to stop to think creatively.

And now let me put to the test my ‘PS,’ mantra, and try to generate as many entry points to begin to write as many creative essays as I can from a bit of unpromising news. ABL Lorenzo reports on the uncertain situation on the supply of rice for us Filipinos (March 24, gmanews.tv):

The government is looking to boost spending on rice to ensure a sufficient supply of the staple, Finance Secretary Margarito B Teves said. ¶ The country’s economic managers, the finance chief said, would be meeting with Agriculture Secretary Arthur C Yap to discuss measures to prevent a rice shortage and keep prices under control.

Applying now my mantra, I can write at least 13 different happy/sad essays (I prefer happy) on the basis of only those 2 sentences I have quoted of the discouraging news:

(1) PS, what happens when you ‘boost spending on rice’ – and what exactly does the phrase mean? Given the same budget, when you boost spending on A, you inhibit spending on B, right?

(2) PS, how do you predict a rice shortage? Don’t tell me there is only one formula for computing. Whose formula are you going to use? Why?

(3) PS, where is the supply of rice coming from today, in and out of the country? Why not instead boost the growing of more rice on idle lands? (100 days and you have a harvest.)

(4) PS, what is ‘a sufficient supply’ of rice anyway? Why do we have an impending rice shortage now when we didn’t have such in the last 100 years? Is this the effect of Typhoon Milenyo?

(5) PS, how much are we spending now for rice, and how much for French fries? Or Shakey’s pizza? Or Kentucky fried chicken?

(6) PS, why are they saying ‘rice shortage’ – are they trying to scare us people? When was the last time there was panic buying in the Philippines because of a shortage predicted or suggested?

(7) PS, why can’t we simply import rice from Vietnam or China or India maybe? How much can we afford to import?

(8) PS, how do you keep the price of a basic commodity like rice under control? If you say you can do that, can you give a historical example? What happens to the growers of rice?

(9) PS, the country’s economic manager: Do they really agree on what to do? Why or why not? How much really can they do? What about the economic law of supply and demand?

(10) PS, what’s the relationship between the population of the Philippines and the impending rice shortage? Can you relate the two scientifically – and convincingly?

(11) PS, why can’t we eat corn instead? Or rice with corn? (It tastes nice, really.)

(12) PS, why can’t we stop importing corn and import rice instead? (The poultry raisers will get mad, I can imagine.)

(13) PS, why can’t we reduce the cost of producing rice by using less and less fertilizers and pesticides and still harvest more and more? (When scientists disagree, what is the intelligent farmer to do?)

So: With ‘PS,’ as my mantra, I can generate 13 beginnings of 13 essays on the basis of bad news. Watch out when I work that magic spell on some good news!

So: Look at the title of this little essay on my own creative mantra again. It suggests a little engagement yet to be consummated, doesn’t it? I like my mantra to be like that. A tease. What else? Listen to the Beatles sing their greatest song, ‘PS, I love you.’ This one is a standing invitation to a dance. RSVP.

Advertisements

A Writer’s Faith.

23/03/2008

Rebel Writer Writes, ‘PS, I Love You’

a-writers-faith-282.jpg

This is Chapter 4 of my book Rebel Thinker Writer’s Guide For Non-Dummies (Chapter 3 is ‘Serendipity X,’ which you can read at frankahilario.com). This new chapter is about how I can teach you to start writing with a great idea when you have no idea to begin with in the first place!

I want the best for you. And how am I going to give you that? Today, I shall give you a mantra, the likes of which you’ve never seen before – and neither have I, since I just invented it today – the magic of which you don’t have to imagine after this. I was creative without the mantra, but now that it’s here, I might as well employ it to enjoy it more myself.

A mantra is a word, a chant, an incantation, or a magic spell. So, let me create some atmosphere, as in a circus. I imagine great writing is a great circus act where there is always magic.

We’re into science, but since I’m writing about creative writing, we can learn from being creative even from those in the arts. ‘The Artist’s Way’ is the million-dollar technique that Julia Cameron teaches in her book of that same title; Julia’s way to creativity is for you to write in your journal at your ‘best’ time of day, and to be religious about the habit. The book is a million-copy bestseller (artistswayatwork.com). The lesson? Creative writing is yours if you want it.

What’s in a name? That which we call blogging by any other name would be journaling. Journaling by itself is getting to be a habit in religion, with Ms Luann Budd, Professor of the San Jose State University in California encouraging the youth to write their own spiritual journals, coming out with her book Journal Keeping: Writing For Spiritual Growth (Karen Anne C Liquete, Manila Bulletin, March 19, 2008, E-1; read more of it here in journalkeeping.org). With Luann, learning to write has just become essentially learning to grow in the Holy Spirit – a most creative way. The lesson? Creative writing is as spiritual as you make it.

Luann says:

If we write about our problems, we may come up with solutions that never occurred to us until we wrote about (them). I think that our brains are a little like computers and problems can fill up our RAM and keep us from being able to process information. When we write about our problems, we are freeing up RAM. We can think more clearly about our problems.

I like Luann’s metaphor of the RAM (random access memory) for the brain, because if your computer’s RAM fills up, your Windows freezes and you can’t do anything until you stop everything and start all over again – Reboot!

I must say, with serenpendity, Luann Budd has discovered a new entry point to writing in a manner creative, and that is spirituality, in which traveling the road is re-creative.

The most important thing is to just start writing … (we’ll) figure out what (we) need to write about as (we) go. It’s funny how once we start keeping a journal, ideas for what we want to write about will come to mind as we are doing other things – like taking a shower or doing the dishes. The best way to start is to just begin – once we see the benefit it brings to us, we’ll want to continue the practice.

That book was published in 2002. I just surfed and found in amazon.com that there are other journaling-for-spiritual-growth books out there. This one targets the youth, since Luann has a Youth Ministry for New Life Covenant Church in San Jose, California. I can see that before this decade ends, any number of journaling young readers will come out with their own books that will surprise the world.

Me, I’m 68 and anyway I’m too lazy to keep a journal going, even if I can easily type everything on my laptop computer – I’ve been typing for half a century now, starting with my laptop typewriter, and I’m a touch-typist and the fastest I’ve seen. You don’t need the computer to come out with a great idea. (To come out with a great essay? That’s a different story.) I know because I’ve never run out of ideas since high school just a little more than 50 years ago; I know I’m crazily, happily creative – so I’d like to share with you my technique for generating one after another ideas for the beginning of a great article (even if it’s only a tentative title, or theme, or topic, or theory, or assumption, or subject, or focus). That is to say, what I always do is this: To generate ideas, I make one paradigm shift after another.

And how do I do that? The process I’ve already called ‘Serendipity X,’ my fooling around with ideas to come up creative. I play with my mind like my mind plays tricks on me when I’m sleeping: I’m flying, I’m dying, I’m having a wet dream, I’m doing this or that which I do not do when I’m awake – and most of the time I enjoy my dreams. Your mind is creative when you allow it to be. If you have doubts that my Serendipity X works, my creation of the mantra itself should be proof enough.

Serendipity is accidental creativity; how exactly do I make Serendipity X, or incidental creativity, work for me? What’s my device? How do I summon my X Muse? What’s my technique?

First, let me tell you about Ray Bradbury, who prompts his creative instincts using word association, working with unrelated words that don’t make sense being simply listed one after the other, and then he makes sense of it all by linking the words in a story out of the blue, even out of this world. Like listing the words crocodile blue cause road trick mat shine like that and making up a story going like, ‘It was a blue crocodile that caused a road to sag and a trick to run, that is, to make the mat shine’ – you’re beginning to get a hang of it.

I admire him for his imagination and his language; I can’t forget his ‘Live forever!’

I had been to see Mr Electrico the night before. When he reached me, he pointed his sword at my head and touched my brow. The electricity rushed down the sword, inside my skull, made my hair stand up and sparks fly out of my ears. He then shouted at me, ‘Live forever!(raybradbury.com)

Come to think of it, although I have given it neither a name nor described it as a teachable, workable method till now, my creativity technique is the exact opposite of Ray Bradbury’s word association – I shall describe it here as word dissociation, where with a group of related words (ideas for the article), I change perspective and the thought that comes out is (ultimately) sensible but has been neither directly suggested nor made obvious by any of the earlier ideas. You don’t get it? Don’t worry; I have many examples, below.

Thinking more, writing better, how to make writing about technology a little more creative, popularizing science: I am enthralled and enthused by it all. It is not only the science, not only the sense, but more so that seduction, that attraction, and in the proper atmosphere even that fecal attraction – and that’s not bullshit. You can make excellent compost using horse manure, or fish feed out of poultry manure. And I can teach you how to make an excellent essay out of unattractive information that others would rather pass by. Your feat is my faith.

In the title, I did write, ‘PS, I love you.’ It happens that that is one of the most likeable songs of the Beatles, and I like the Beatles; they did not originate the quotable quote, but, according to IanMotha:

It’s been said that ‘PS, I Love You’ was the greatest Beatles song, because in this song (is) everything the Beatles (used): their span, 7ths, minors, half steps and the Great vocal harmony between Lennon (and) McCartney.

I don’t understand music, but I understand that song. And that just happens to be the mantra I promised you: ‘PS, I love you.’ You see, this title of a song is also an acronym. It means, ‘Paradigm shift, I look over you, the obvious.’ Paradigm shift because to move from a critical to a creative mode, you have to change your point of view – already, the comedians do that, each joke being a fillip of the mind. I look over the obvious (that is, the logical) because that brings you back to the need to suspend your belief in the workings of the logical mind (critical spirit) and anchor your faith in the creative spirit. You have to believe!

That brings us to Edward de Bono’s device for creative thinking, the ‘Po’ (see also my ‘To All The Dummies In The World. Or, De Bono Debugged,’ frankahilario.com). In a brainstorming session, with others or with you alone, you say ‘Po’ and change the mood so that everyone accepts even outlandish, crazy ideas to help you come up with a brilliant one. I first read about ‘Po,’ thanks to my good friend Orli Ochosa’s gift to me of de Bono’s book The Mechanism Of Mind, in 1975. I thought it was one man’s great contribution to the art of creative thinking.

Some 33 years later, I’m going to make my own contribution to creative thinking, beginning with science writing. Today, March 21, Good Friday, marks a death, the end of the earthly existence of a Great Mind Above All Others, that of Jesus Christ, which set off a paradigm shift from death to life. I’m glad to announce that today marks a birth, that of a humble sound, ‘PS’ (derived from ‘PS, I love you’), which I hope will at will start a paradigm shift from a despaired mood of thinking called critical to an inspired mood of thinking called creative, from life to more life. The difference is like this: If you call for truth, you are critical; if you call for fruit, you are creative. Beyond truth, PS is beyond Po; it is also much simpler – almost, yes, literal.

PS is my new theory; PS is your new practice.

I look at science writing as fulfilling a need, but not simply filling a real or imagined lack of knowledge. Remembering that, for your PS practice, I give you now quite a number of examples of thinking with a mantra, each numbered paragraph being of two major parts, each one being a paradigm shift. The first part is your possible topic, or theme, or theory, or assumption, or subject, or focus transformed as a lack of (‘Lo’) – that’s the first PS. The second part is made up of questions and/or assertions that further change your point of view and should give you more ideas how and what to write about – that’s the second PS. That is to say, ‘PS’ is the device and ‘Lo’ is the trigger for the PS to happen. I guarantee it.

Remember, you are writing for the poor. You are a popularizer of science or technology in a specific society; you are going to write about the theory & practice of informational, or political, or economic, or social, or environmental, or natural science in that particular society such as about the lack of (Lo):

(1) Lo family planning. PS: Don’t look at me – I have 12 children, 1 wife, zero extra-marital affairs. We have a very small house, about 100 square meters floor space; that’s not overpopulation, is it? Look at the US and Japan; they have millions of poor, don’t they, and they are not overpopulated, are they? It’s a poor writer who blames poverty to the numbers, not the system. Rather, think about how the system can be changed and write about that. And where does change begin? With the one who wants change to begin.

(2) Lo access to media. PS: What about Lo appeal to media? Have you in fact written about your science (hardware or software) as a package that is as attractive to media as it can be? If the media are not paying attention to you, you are not paying attention to them. How about Lo appeal to the poor who are your target readers? To make the poor pay attention to you, pay attention to them first.

(3) Lo retention in memory. PS: Are you teaching them simply to memorize, or are you teaching them to learn how to do it themselves (hands-on), to learn how to think for themselves (heads-on)? Teach a man how to memorize, and he’ll have a word for a day; teach a man how to learn, and he’ll have knowledge for a lifetime.

(4) Lo books. PS: Is the need really for more books or is it for more people to want to know more? Is the problem lack of reading materials or the lack of a reading culture? Do you build a bigger library of books or a bigger library of CDs and more PCs connected to the Internet? The need for books is nothing compared to the need for learning.

(5) Lo credibility of the village leader. PS: What do you mean by credibility? Can you differentiate credibility from integrity? Is low credibility the problem at all? You’re assuming that those who question the credibility of the leader have credibility themselves, have integrity. It takes a village to know a leader.

(6) Lo ambition among the people. PS: When did low ambition of poor people get in the way of village growth or, for that matter, high ambition of rich people? It does not necessarily mean that the poor have low ambition in life. Everything is relative; so is ambition.

(7) Lo knowledge of the technology. PS: You are assuming that the people would wish to use your technology if they knew more about it. Write if you can about a technology that was adopted by more people after they learned more about it. Can you compare the new with the old? Is the technology coming from above, or from a need? If you cannot relate to the need, you cannot relate to the people.

(8) Lo capital. PS: Big businessman or small farmer, the problem may be lack of access to credit. How can the poor farmer have access to credit without collateral? Change the problem: Let the village be his collateral – in the person of a credit union or a cooperative. Is capital the problem or the entrepreneur himself? I know of someone back home holding 100 titles of land himself and cannot raise capital.

(9) Lo education. PS: Lack of education is a convenient excuse for failure to market science in a village. Failing to convince them of the value of your technology, you may have been talking to them in the wrong language – talking above their head, or not having understood their need at all. It takes a villager to know a village.

(10) Lo supply of affordable fertilizer. PS: Why not make your own organic fertilizer? Do you need to fertilize the soil at all? What about raising crops that do not need those fancy and expensive chemical fertilizers and pesticides? You cannot equate your expensive taste with that of poor farmers.

(11) Lo feeds for poultry or livestock. PS: What about substitute ingredients in the feeds? What about not growing those imported species and instead raising native chickens and pigs? In business, they would call that reducing risk.

(12) Lo poultry manure for composting into organic fertilizer. PS: Do you need composting at all? Why not practice green manuring, that is to say, mix the soil and vegetation on top of the earth so that it makes an on-the-spot organic fertilizer? No additional expenses. For those who have the entrepreneurial spirit, they can market the green-manured soil as a different kind of fertilizer. Or a different kind of soil.

(13) Lo quality of produce. PS: Is the use of science-recommended planting materials the solution? What about postharvest handling? What about looking for a market for low-quality produce – such as transforming it into a consumer product where quality can be added? If you cannot solve a problem, change the problem.

(14) Lo rate of passing. PS: Are the teachers to blame for teaching poorly or the students for learning badly? Why insist on teaching in the national language when English is the universal, intellectual, commercial language? Unless of course you don’t want the people to learn more than they already know.

(15) Lo germination percentage. PS: Is there an economic advantage where 95 seeds germinate out of 100 and where only 75 germinate? Is the seed the best way to plant the crop at all? This adage is not true: ‘Kung ano ang puno ay siya ang bunga.’ ‘The fruit is what the tree is.’ False. From seeds of sweet mango, you can get sour mango. That’s genetics and it’s not debatable.

(16) Lo high yield. PS: Why is it that plant breeders insist that farmers plant the highest-yielding varieties of all? If with a high yield the farmer becomes rich, why are there so few rich farmers? The problem with economists is that they are always after the maximum and expect that to be sustainable!

(17) Lo communication between science and clientele. PS: Are the communicators talking the language of the farmers and yet are not communicating at all? Do the communicators expect that after one article, one brochure and one visit, the farmer will wholeheartedly embrace the new technology? Communicator, remember that you are not talking to the farmer alone – you are talking to him and his family. Are you listening?

(18) Lo good moral character of farmer creditors. PS: Many farmers have so far refused to repay their loans. Are you sure it’s not the negative attitude toward borrowed money or toward borrowing from the government? If you make borrowing easy, you make paying difficult.

(19) Lo number of Internet searches about farming. PS: What about people’s knowledge of technical terms? What about the store of knowledge being difficult to understand even by other scientists, much less by the farmers themselves? Communication is too serious a matter to be left to scientists alone.

(20) Lo vocabulary. PS: If you want to be a good writer, the popular advice is that you should build a good vocabulary. They say that goes with public speaking, teaching. Not anymore, if you are computer literate, what with the dictionary and the thesaurus available online. Nowadays, I’m never off the desk using my new HP Compaq Presario notebook clicking on the shortcut icon for American Heritage (Microsoft Bookshelf 2000), which is a dictionary, and Encarta 2007 (Microsoft 2007), which has a thesaurus. You use the dictionary to find the meaning of a word; you use the thesaurus to find a synonym of a word; more importantly, to look for a related word in a particular field such as hammer & nail in carpentry and stock & scion in horticulture (see the Roget’s Thesaurus near you). As a writer, your vocabulary is not a problem if already it includes curiosity.

(21) Lo technology. PS: What do you mean by technology anyway? Do you know if the technology currently used has no competitive advantage at all? Do you know where it is different, where it is deficient? What does it mean for the user to shuck the old in favor of the new? What does the technology mean to the village where it is being introduced? Borrowing from Marshall McLuhan, remember that the technology is the message.

(22) Lo reading materials in the village. PS: If some people brought in more, will the villagers read more and the students learn more science? You cannot learn science in a vacuum – if people are not relating to your science, you are not relating to the people.

(23) Lo one-stop reference online. If you cause to be created the My Milky Way website, will farmers flock to the Internet and learn to raise goats for milk to drink or sell? Is My Milky Way using the language of the target villagers or that which technical people use to talk to each other? If the people are not relating to the website, the website is not relating to them.

(24) Lo interest of youth in technical courses. PS: Is the problem that of certain youth or that of the society itself because society looks down on graduates of vocational courses as belonging to a class lower than that of a secretary in an air-conditioned office? We get the youth that we deserve.

(25) Lo computers. PS: It’s lack of access, not lack of PCs. If people in villages lack access to computers, I attribute it to lack of imagination. And why is that? Some people don’t know how to package a proposal so that their village center or school will be computerized in almost no time at all and with very little expense and effort on their part. There are many local and international donors and funding agencies. All you have to do is learn how to ask.

(26) Lo mass media cooperation. PS: Are the media people educated on your art or science? Have they heard from your office or project at all? Have you related your product or service to them? Ask the eternal question: ‘What’s in it for you?’ Translation: ‘What’s in it for them?’ Remember, the media people have to be taught too.

(27) Lo people power to improve their own lives. PS: Are you sure empowerment is the answer? Using Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you must then first help satisfy the people’s physiological needs, then satisfy their safety needs, then satisfy their needs of love, affection and belongingness, then satisfy their needs for esteem, and then and only then satisfy their need for ‘self-actualization.’ Otherwise, you’re simply irrelevant.

(28) Lo competence in implementing a project. PS: In the first place, what are your criteria for measuring competence? Has the project been initiated by the people or by the experts, then merely handed over to the people, expecting a miracle in management? If the student has not learned, the teacher has not taught.

(29) Lo confidence of villagers in themselves. PS: Lack of confidence comes from either ignorance or bullying. How to fight ignorance? Education. PS: How to fight the bullying, the prejudice? Good question! Remember also: Bullying sometimes come from the experts in an atmosphere called consultancy.

(30) Lo intelligence of readers. PS: That depends on how you look at intelligence – single intelligence (measured as intelligence quotient or IQ, as propounded by Stanford psychologist Lewis Terman), or multiple intelligences (measured as linguistic, spatial, musical, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, naturalist, existential, as propounded by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner). If you look at intelligence only one way, then intelligence is not one of your virtues.

‘PS, I love you’ is all about thinking creatively, not simply thinking critically. In your writing, always think to be productive, not counter-productive. Think to be constructive, not destructive. At the very least, think to be inventive, but not invective.

In the arts or sciences, working in any mass medium, your greatest contribution to society is your thinking, which is ultimately reflected in your essay, editorial, commentary, column, blog. The writer’s fate is writing; this writer’s faith is writing the best.

My Crazy Dozen.

07/01/2008

The Rebel Writer’s Guide For Non-Dummies

the-rebel-writer-black-204.jpg

Who am I talking to this time? They would be public speakers, lecturers, PowerPoint presentors, resource persons, debaters, reviewers, essayists, biographers, autobiographers, authors, ghostwriters, columnists, journalists, consultants, managers, even proposal packagers in science. And why is that? All of them must be good writers first before they can be good at what they’re supposed to be doing. Those who can afford can hire good writers, so I’m not writing for those dummies.

Why am I not writing instead A Writer’s Guide For Dummies? Because there are too many of them already. The non-dummy reason I will not write a dummies’ book for writers is that you can’t write if you’re a dummy. A dummy is thick-headed, dull-witted, dense, unintelligent, boring.

It’s my New Year’s Resolution. Actually, I was inspired to write for non-dummies because I have seen too many books ostensibly written for dummies but when I look into them, their language is not anywhere near for novices. ‘For Dummies’ means it’s written for beginners, greenhorns, the uninitiated, those who are just starting, who are not aware of anything about the subject – but are neither unintelligent nor dull-witted. A dummy is certainly not educated on the subject – but why educate him on the history, comparison and technical details of Windows when all he wants to know and do is run Windows to write a letter and send it via email?

I have a different idea of what makes a good writer (not to mention a good Windows). I’m writing for non-dummies because I want to warn people about books for dummies. How many dummies am I talking about here? To give you an idea, Dan Brown reports that his book Da Vinci Code has sold 70 million copies worldwide (danbrown.com); multiply that by 2 readers a copy and you have 140 million dummies worldwide.

To balance that a bit, Time reports that JK Rowling’s 7 Harry Potter books have sold 400 million copies worldwide. Multiply that number by 2.5 readers a copy and you have 1 billion dummies. Count me in. I’m unique; I’m a one-in-a-billion dummy.

Actually, I’m one of the Harry Potter dummies 7 times over. I have read all 7 books word for word. JK Rowling writes so well that every chapter ends urging you to read on to the next and the next. Of course it’s all fantasy, but the magic of it all is told page after page, not simply described. (That’s how science should be told, like magic – science is magic.) I am 68 this year, a science writer, Roman Catholic and a dummy for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter. She is a rebel writer herself. Here’s a short list of rebel writers and I like all of them: William Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Ernest Hemingway, JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Scott Hahn. (I did not say I read all of them.)

Dummies are a dime a dozen; if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen a dozen million of them.

I googled “for dummies” books (double quotes included) and the Netscape Google search gave me 1,280,000 English pages with Strict Filtering (no sex-explicit texts or images for dummies). I noted some of the books: Blackberry Pearl For Dummies, iPhone For Dummies, Puppies For Dummies, Writing Children’s Books For Dummies, Scuba Diving & Snorkeling For Dummies, Electronic Discovery For Dummies. This world has gone to the dummies!

There’s Poker For Dummies – it’s for gamblers, and I don’t like to gamble. I gamble my opinion – The Attorney General has determined that gambling is bad for your health.

Suffer the little dummies to come to me, for of such is the kingdom. A dummies’ book is recalled because it may be hazardous to your health – John Wiley & Sons announces recall of Candle And Soap Making For Dummies because ‘the instructions in the book for making lye combine sodium hydroxide and water in an incorrect order’ and ‘could cause the mixture to bubble over, posing a burn hazard to consumers’ (cpsc.gov). It could be a little Hell on a little Earth.

From what I’ve seen so far, you’re a dummy if you buy a book for dummies – they’re for professionals, who I would believe are no dummies.

Like WordPress For Dummies by Lisa Sabin-Wilson; Chapter 1 is ‘What WordPress Can Do For You’ (amazon.com). The excerpt says: ‘In this chapter: >Understanding the benefits of WordPress and >Getting acquainted with the basic features of WordPress.’ Here’s the first paragraph:

If you believe that your ideas are important enough to publish on the World Wide Web for the entire world to see, then you, my friendly reader, are the perfect blogger, and WordPress is your perfect tool! How else can you get your message out with the potential of reaching a vast audience of millions worldwide for the cost of exactly nothing? There might be no free lunch in this world, but … there are free blogs to be had.

There’s no such thing as ‘a perfect blogger’ – I’m an inveterate blogger and I’m not always perfect. I ‘moved’ from blogger.com (Google’s) to wordpress.com (WordPress’), and if you ask me, WordPress is excellent! But is WordPress my perfect tool? Read my lips: NO. I’m not a novice; I started blogging in 2002, earnestly in 2005, and I have more than 50 blogsites / websites (18 in WordPress alone) all created by me, all photos uploaded by me, all links made by me, learning along the way. In my own domain, frankahilario.com, where I have uploaded 133 full essays, not simply rambling thoughts, WordPress keeps bugging me: ‘A new version of WordPress is available! Please update now’ – and when I click ‘Please update now’ (try it yourself, click the link I’ve made), it doesn’t help me at all – I have to download a file and then I’m left hanging what to do with that file. I ask my son Jomar and he says, ‘It’s complicated.’ If WordPress update is for dummies really, I need but click on ‘Please update now’ and it will do the rest for me, including backup my files. WordPress is not that smart, and I’m not that dummy. Also, blogging is not free: It costs WordPress and it costs me time, information, money, effort. There is no such thing as a free lunch – only a free hunch.

In other words, ‘for dummies’ is all hype, and you’re a dog if you dig it, you’re a zombie if you yearn for it, you’re a fool if you pine for it, you’re a puppy if you lap it all up.

Here’s one that is not for dummies. Chapter 1 is titled ‘Writing Copy: Capturing Hearts, Minds, And Money’ (amazon.com). The first two sentences are:

Picture me at the summer barbecue, my bare pale legs reflecting blazing beams of sunlight, my loud Hawaiian shirt howling with color. As I pass cold beers and overcooked hot dogs to my neighbors, someone I haven’t met before may politely initiate conversation by asking me what I do for a living.

Excellent copy! I know an excellent copy when I see one – I worked for one of the top ad agencies in the Philippines, Pacifica Publicity Bureau, and I learned a lot from the professionals like Nonoy Gallardo (husband of popular singer Celeste Legaspi) and Telly Bernardo. Jonathan Kranz’s book is for non-dummies like you and me. The author is smart, but a dummy for titling his book Writing Copy For Dummies.

Even so, Jonathan Kranz is one in a million. There’s a book Currency Trading For Dummies by Mark Galant & Brian Dolan (fxstreet.com). Can’t be. The concept ‘currency’ by itself is not for dummies, how much more ‘trading?’

I would say the ultimate insult is the book Hacking For Dummies. I will not insult by naming the author, but you can go visit Tony Bradley for his book review if you click the link there. Hacking is for crazy whiz kids or insane virtuosos, not dummies like you and me. In this case, I like being a dummy.

Chuck Frey tells me the book MindManager For Dummies authored by Hugh Cameron & Roger Voight PhD is a ‘terrific reference guide’ (innovationtools.com). That it is a ‘reference guide’ sounds interesting. Chapter 1 is titled ‘Getting Organized – Visually’ (amazon.com’ and in the chapter you will find how-tos: ‘Beginning to get organized. Seeing the depths of MindManager. Dealing with complexity. Linking to the outside. Sharing with other programs. Managing perceptions.’

That it is terrific? Terrible. That does it! MindManager has scared me into stopping my surfing for dummies’ books. My train of thought stopped when I read MindManager’s ‘Getting Organized – Visually’ as the first chapter (not to mention that the entry ‘PhD’ after a name puts me off). You don’t start with dummies getting organized – they’re not ready for it – and visually yet!

MindManager is ‘a mind-mapping program’ or ‘visual diagramming application’ (Chuck Frey). The assumption is that ‘You just had an idea! It was a solution to your latest dilemma at work’ (first sentence, Part 1 of the book) (amazon.com). So, MindManager assumes that you already have a brainstorm before you use it. That’s theory; in practice, The idea of a brainstorm is that you have absolutely no idea!

So, don’t blame me if I’m thinking of writing a book on creative writing for NON-dummies.

Now, instead of revising my own 12-year-old ‘The Unforgettable Ten Commandments Of Writing’ or coming out with a new copycat title ‘Writing For Dummies’ I shall write: ‘My Crazy Twelve Commandments Of Writing For Non-Dummies.’

Let me make it clear: I don’t write for dummies, because they wouldn’t understand me. I’ve written about them, yes; consider my ‘To All The Dummies In The World. Or, De Bono Debugged’ (americanchronicle.com). Naturally, my new book will be different, and it will look crazy (be warned: looks deceive), because I will have the following chapter titles (or something similar):

(1) If you want to begin right, don’t begin right.
(2) If you want to create order, create disorder.
(3) If you want to write well, don’t write.
(4) If you want to be read, don’t read yourself.
(5) If you want to listen to advice, don’t give the advice.
(6) If you want to attract readers, don’t give your vocabulary.
(7) If you want to improve, don’t just improve.
(8) If you want to get more ideas, look where there are none!
(9) If you want to have a good sequence, make a bad one.
(10) If you want to write objectively, you’re a journalist.
(11) If you want to know everything, you’re an encyclopedia.
(12) If you want to give up, you’re a mad genius!

At the back of my mind, I have had my own The Unbelievable Ten Commandments Of Writing (adiosfarewellgoodbye.blogspot.com).

Let me explain my Crazy 12 briefly.

(1) If you want to begin right, don’t begin right.

If I remember right, from Rudolf Flesch, the guru of readability, comes this sparkling gem of an advice for creative writers: ‘Begin anywhere, but begin!’ Following that advice, among other things, I have so far written 102 complete essays for American Chronicle (click this link if you want to check it out), and published a book out of 22 of them (see my ‘My American Book. Embracing Science Embracing Faith,’ americanchronicle.com) – and I can assure you all those 102 were begun every which way, sometimes beginning at the Beginning (simply because I liked the title already, like the very first one, ‘Fuzzy Logic & The Avian Flu’), sometimes beginning at the End (like I already had in mind ‘Sweetheart, sugarcane is sweet, but sweet sorghum is sweeter’ before I even wrote one sentence of my 22nd American Chronicle essay ‘The Yankee Dawdle’), sometimes beginning in the Middle (about the Virtual Academy for the Semi-Arid Tropics (VASAT); the word VASAT is in the title but I discuss it only beginning in the middle in the essay ‘The Telugu Paradigm. Understanding VASAT, The Illiterate’s Internet’). If you insist on beginning beautifully right away, you’ll never get anywhere because your Writer’s Block will stop you. If you are a blockhead, I know you are the irresistible force but you must remember Writer’s Block is the immovable object.

(2) If you want to create order, create disorder.

I preach to you the Chaos Theory of Writing: In writing, if you want to create harmony, first you have to create madness. So I surf the Web and type everything I like into the blank screen, I quote from a book, I relate from memory – and mix them all in confusion, haphazardly. You should see my ‘drafts’ – they don’t make sense. (Later, from out of the chaos, I can hear myself say, ‘Let there be life!’ And there is like. And it is enough.)

I practice what I preach, which you can’t say of so many people. As a visible example of chaos, look at my photograph again – you’re looking at my desktop and personal computer setup. In the italicized lines below, you will find the very first entries of this essay in its first incarnation (you can tell that I’ve been surfing the Web) (I numbered the lines here just for convenience):

Beginning:
(1) You have a dummies.com, dummies.
(2)
“for dummies” books gave me 1,280,000 English pages with Strict Filtering (no sex-explicit text, no sex-explicit images).
(3) Books: Blackberry Pearl For Dummies, iPhone For Dummies, Puppies For Dummies, Writing Children’s Books For Dummies, Scuba Diving & Snokeling For Dummies, Electronic Discovery For Dummies. (Yes, Snokeling is misspelled, but this is an illustration – I typed it incorrectly the first time.)
(4) Podcasting For Dummies – if dummies could do it, I could do it – I can’t. I’m not a dummy.
(5) Poker For Dummies – it’s for gamblers, dummy. I gamble my opinion – The Attorney General has determined that gambling is bad for your health.
(6) I will not write a dummies-book for writers or would-be writers – you can’t write if you’re a dummy.

Middle:
(7) From what I’ve read, you’re a dummy if you buy a book for dummies – they’re for professionals, and they’re no dummies.

End:
(8) In writing,
(9) If you believe that
(10) Apple TV for dummies

In this final version, I have deleted sentences #1, #4 and phrases #8, #9, #10. And I have a new Beginning, Middle, End.

The ideas and information I got from the Internet challenged me, set me in other directions, and otherwise helped me think some more and come up with my own order of thoughts. It wasn’t easy, but then again I’ve had years and years of practice so much so that the pressure has become pleasure. You should be so pleased!

(3) If you want to write well, don’t write.

Don’t write; instead, key in. I advice you to learn to use the personal computer, and well. One of my favorite writers, Ray Bradbury, does not want to use the PC for writing, and so he misses on two of the great advantages of word processing: spell-checking and grammar-checking. I’m a perfectionist; I remember typing the manuscript of a book on an IBM Selectric in the late 1980s and proofreading word for word 9 times. Today, using Word 2003, I need to proofread my essays only 2 times, once by software and once by me – the software is not perfect, and neither am I, but together, we’re a perfect combination. (I rewrite countless times, but that’s not proofreading.) Leave to the PC the routines like proofreading, correcting common typos, correcting grammar, and suddenly you’re a genius writing. (If you knew a little more, you can create a dictionary of technical terms and scientific names against which new typings will be corrected automatically.)

(4) If you want to be read, don’t read yourself.

Ask someone else to read your manuscript to find out its appeal. Rudolf Flesch’s advice is to write like you talk – but not when you talk jargon and you expect your unwary readers to understand specialist language. Don’t write like this:

Microsoft Office 2000 contains a word processor (for writing), a spreadsheet (for manipulating numbers), a presentation graphics program (for creating slide shows and charts, a personal information organizer (for storing names, addresses, e-mail, and phone numbers), a database (for storing information for mailing lists or tracking inventories), a desktop publisher (for designing and laying-out pages), a Web page creator (for designing your own Web pages), and a graphics editor (for editing images such as digitized photographs).

That’s from the ‘Number One best-selling book’ in the dummies series, according to Roger C Parker, who originated the Microsoft Office For Windows For Dummies (newentrepreneur.com). That first paragraph is information overload, too much even for a professional reader. It reads like an ad copy written by Bill Gates himself. Bill Gates is great in marketing, not in copy.

(5) If you want to listen to advice, don’t give the advice.

You may be a genius, but you’re a dull genius if you listen only to yourself, if you don’t listen to other people, if you don’t read what others have to say, don’t ask questions about what you don’t know, don’t discover what is unknown to you. If you believe you have all the wisdom, you’re not real; you don’t exist. End of story.

(6) If you want to attract readers, don’t give your vocabulary.

Contrary to what Dale Carnegie may have said, vocabulary scares people. For example, there’s Digital Art Photography For Dummies by Matthew Bamberg (amazon.com). Chapter 1 is titled ‘Digital Art Photography 101’. The first paragraph reads:

Art is the product of human creativity: a medium to create pleasure as well as express the conditions of life and feelings. Art also records history: who we are’ what’s around us; and how we interpret life, feelings, and interpersonal interactions.

That’s for dummies? That’s ‘starting from square one’ in digital photography? Consider: ‘human creativity’ and ‘medium’ and ‘create pleasure’ and ‘express the conditions of life and feelings’ and ‘records history’ and ‘how we interpret life, feelings’ and ‘interpersonal interactions’ – the two first sentences are not about a digital camera loaded with a huge memory card but a book overloaded with heavy words and phrases. Give me the loaded camera anytime! But a manuscript loaded with technical words? That’s why I say science writing is too important a subject to be left to scientists alone.

Again, a lesson from the readability guru Rudolf Flesch: Use plain words. If you avoid using long words and terms like the above, you’ll be amazed at how clear and interesting you become. From now on, remember: The Rebel Writer has determined that a wide vocabulary is bad for your health.

(7) If you want to improve, don’t just improve.

If you want to improve your writing, don’t just improve: Change it. You have to revise. Even if you think it’s already perfect. Let me show you by revising the one from Lisa (quoted above) like this:

If you believe that your ideas are important enough to publish on the World Wide Web for the entire world to see, then you, my friendly reader, are perfect for blogging, and WordPress may be perfect for you! Blogging gets your message out to a potential audience of millions at the expense of WordPress, at your pleasure, also because WordPress is easier to use and a much more beautiful sight to behold. (Beauty is in the eye of the beholden.)

WordPress is not the only blog pusher in the world, so Lisa’s ‘how else can you get your message out’ is misleading if not insincere.

I always have to revise, and heavily. This essay will have undergone at least 7 revisions before I let it go. It’s always like that with my Franciscan essays. How do I know when to stop? As I read again, I feel that now I’m beginning to like what I’ve written and in a little while I tell myself it’s done. (That needs some practice.)

The idea for this essay started with my old ‘The Unbelievable Ten Commandments Of Writing’ published in 1996 by IQ, a newsletter of New Day Publishers (Quezon City); I was the Editor. This time, I wanted to be different – don’t I always! The title for this one started with ‘My Dirty Dozen. A Practical Writer’s Guide For Non-Dummies.’ After several revisions, after 3 days, it has become what you see: ‘My Crazy Dozen. The Rebel Writer’s Guide For Non-Dummies.’ For me, it’s a perfect fit. The phrase ‘The Rebel Writer’ must be Heaven-sent, my just reward; I was a barbarian knocking at the gates for more ideas. Heaven knows I don’t have to be a barbarian but it helps.

(8) If you want to get more ideas, look where there are none!

Look inside your head! Learn to brainstorm with yourself, alone. A Filipino lawyer does that, with outstanding results. Antonio Oposa Jr (the lawyer son of an outstanding surgeon friend of mine, Antonio Oposa Sr from Cebu City in the middle of the Philippines), has written a powerful, highly original book on and for the conservation of the environment, The Laws Of Nature And Other Stories. I don’t have a copy but I read that book in the author’s own house the same day last year when he went to Cavite to attend a meeting of leaders and volunteers for the popular movement Batas Kalikasan (Law of Nature). He invited me. On our way by car, Tony was brainstorming with himself and scribbling, and when I noticed, I said ‘That’s mind-mapping, Tony Buzan,’ but I didn’t see the names registering recognition. Well, Tony Buzan isn’t the only creative mind hereabouts.

Ray Bradbury has another way of brainstorming by his lonesome; he calls it word association: Come up with random words, then string them along with a memory you have or an idea you didn’t have before. Edward de Bono has his Po device for a committee, which can be applied for a committee of one: Say ‘Po’ and accept all suggestions, no matter how crazy they are; consider each an ore in which a gem may be extracted.

(9) If you want to have a good sequence, make a bad one.

I learned this also from Rudolf Flesch 42 years ago (1965): If you are trying to convince people, arrange your arguments or points in a non-sequential manner. So, by weight, don’t arrange your exposition consecutively: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5. Instead, present #1 first, then #2 next, then #5 next, then #4 next, then #3 last. This way, you begin with the strongest point, supported by your next strongest; and towards the end, your discussion gets stronger again. Impressions are important: Impressions first, impressions last.

In case you got lost, I have a list of 12 here – how did I arrange them? I followed Flesch’s advice. My #1 was an obvious choice; my #2 and #3 are also strong because they’re so negative. Because they’re written deliberately suddenly differently, my #10, #11, #12 help me end with a bang, bang, bang!

(10) If you want to write objectively, you’re a journalist.

When in Rome, don’t write like the Romans do. Unless I’m sadly mistaken, all journalists try to write objectively – and that explains why they are boring to read. (That’s true, I’m sad to say, for science journalists writing for the Sunday magazines (and feature sections) of the 3 major dailies in my country: The Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Philippine Star, Manila Bulletin. But not those in Time and Newsweek and The New York Times.) If you’re true to yourself and to your readers, you can’t be objective. You have your own biases. So? So, write about them; write with them in mind; write to acknowledge them – that will make you human in the eyes of your reader, and they will love you for it. Your readers are not objective themselves – they root for people, sides, causes. No, you’re a double dummy if you try to write for all kinds of people – you can only write for your kind of dummies, dummy.

(11) If you want to know everything, you’re an encyclopedia.

I suppose most people don’t want to write about something because they don’t know most things about it. In fact, you don’t have to know anything to write about anything. Not knowing is a perfect reason for knowing more! You don’t have to be a walking encyclopaedia to write about a topic (although I assure you it helps) – you can always search the Internet (and I assure you it helps much more). If you want to become the expert and know everything, like an encyclopedia, you’re dull, as in uninteresting. The idea is that you want to find out more so that you are able to understand what’s going on so that you can describe it to your readers. I surf the Web from opinion to opinion, news to news, tripping lightly and, delightfully; that’s how I get some insights of my own.

(12) If you want to give up, you’re a mad genius!

Today, being a writer is easy – talent or no talent, you create a blog and in a minute or two, you’re a published writer. But learning to be a good writer is as difficult as earning a PhD in college, perhaps even more so. You may think you don’t need to learn more because your blog is popular as it is. You may think that you don’t need to be a better writer than you already are. Or you have tried and given up on it. It’s so hard to be good.

I thought like you before; fortunately, I came to the point when I gave up my high regard for myself and replaced it with the urge to improve myself. That’s what I want you to give up: your high regard for yourself, or your ambition, or both.

You’d be mad to give up a high regard for yourself, or your ambition – but you’d be a genius as a writer. After at least 30 years of popularizing science, after along the way giving up becoming rich and famous (yes, it was a choice; no, it wasn’t easy), and realizing that I have become a much better writer than before, I can share with you that the more you are at peace with the world, the better you become as a writer, not to mention as a human being. I thank God for all that.

Why now do I write? I want to share my experiences and insights in living and hope to encourage others. Why now do I write for writers? I want to share my experiences and insights in writing and hope to encourage writers to encourage others. There is so much negative in the Philippines today that to encourage the positive requires that you invest on heroism that of course is a huge risk since it borders on stupidity.

The Philippines needs more geniuses who are foolish enough to give up their comfort zones in favor of their country, to give up their ambitions for themselves. I’m hoping that more such insane geniuses will rise among Filipinos, especially writers young and old – the old, for their own legacy; the young, for own their future. Give up and be recognized! (As for me, I’ve given up on UP, the University of the Philippines, my alma mater; I’ve given up on the fervent UP nationalist geniuses. These are the times for globalization; now, nationalism is local, internationalism is global and the irresistible force.)

Age doesn’t matter; you can be a genius at 8, 18, 38, 68, 78, 88, 98? A silly genius for the environment. A crazy genius for God and country. A hero. To be a hero, I suppose you shouldn’t have to be ridiculous but it should help.

Bloghard, Blogeasy

28/12/2006

Remains of a beautiful photo square.jpgby Isolano (See PS below this essay.)

From Lisbon, With Love

Loving is an art; you do it with the heart. I think the same and do the same with blogging. Blogging is a serious thing for me, even when I’m funny. I learned to blog middle of last year, all text. And ever since I learned to download and upload an image via the Internet middle of this year, I never blog without an image, preferably a photograph, to illustrate my blogpost. Too often, the image helps me write the blogpost up. And that’s why I need Flickr.

Flickr is a word invented by them to designate the sharing of photos online, a concept popularized if not invented by Webshots. Webshots was founded in 1995; in 1997, it launched its website, offering for free the Webshots desktop, photo sharing, wallpapers and screensavers (TPI, 2004, webshots.com/). The company that Flickr built was founded in 2002, for an online game, Neverending; Flickr was launched in 2004 (Wikipedia). When Flickr began, Neverending ended. I was attracted first to Webshots, then changed loyalties when Flickr showed up with more élan. Another way of putting that is this: Webshots vs Flickr? I am not a lover of the beautiful – I am a lover of the more beautiful.

Bloghard, Blogeasy are two words invented by me today, 28 December 2006, Holy Innocents’ Day, or Childermas. Together, the two words constitute a concept I have had since mid-2005 fleshed out if not invented. My blogging is really an advocacy via hard essays (arrived at via critical thinking) and easy essays (arrived at via creative thinking). My advocacy? I can summarize it in 7 words, being these:

Try more creative thinking. less critical thinking.

placemat.jpgLike, instead of the littlest, I now have the biggest mousepad in the world – a decorative, plastic placemat 11 x 17 inches that is easy to wipe clean. So now I have freedom from want of movement.

Today, I wanted to give a name to the concept I have been pursuing and pushing since July 2005, when I started blogging. Bloghard, Blogeasy, this piece, I thought of at 1254 hr, Manila time. Earlier, at 1230 hr, I was thinking of advocassay, which contains the words advocacy, assay (for critical thinking) and easy essay (for creative thinking). Then the words Bloghard, Blogeasy just popped into my head, and I like them more.

Thanks to Flickr, my blogs are hard, and my blogs are easy. Likewise, life with Flickr has been hard and easy. I was talking to my wife this morning or, rather, she was telling me, after I told her that I had been using Flickr images before I asked permission. Let me call that here flickring, which I shall define as using an image in Flickr without prior permission. That sounds like and is synonymous with filching. As I was saying before I interrupted myself, my wife was telling me that my moral obligation is to ask first, use later. I know that too, but if I wait for your go-signal first, I lose the creative moment. You see, for each essay-story, I start with an idea, then a draft of the message, then I search for the photograph either for visual interpretation, or impact, or both. I can’t wait to ask first, then use later. When I write, the thoughts are warm, and I don’t want them to cool down by waiting for an image to add visual representation of those thoughts, or set more thoughts free. In fact, the image helps me create the essay-story itself.

How important is blogging to me? It’s most important, nay, it’s a lifeline to me. Last year, I bragged that blogging is the revenge of the unpublished writer (visit my blogsite The Word According To Frank). In my previous life, I wanted to be a published writer, but I never got my dream fulfilled. Too much protocol, too many heads to turn to, too much time to waste. It is the Age of the Internet, for heaven’s sake; we are no longer in the 1980s, when paper was king and the most important publications were all on paper. You act fast, you react first, or you’re among those who are left behind.

Not only that. I don’t commercialize my blogsites (no counters, no ads, no hints), and I always give credit to whom credit is due; for photographs, you will always find the name or preferred alias of the photographer, even the exact caption given, and certainly the website source (in this case, flickr.com/). With Flickr, I prefer feeling a little guilty while I give in to my creative urge: Draft, Download, Revise, Upload – that pretty much enumerates the steps I take when I blog. Flickr is so much a part of my writing now I can’t live without her.

What happens, asks my wife, when the image owner says ‘No, you can’t use my photo?’ Easy, I say: Delete. Just like that, give me 5 seconds. And then I go look for another image and when I’ve uploaded it, I write the image owner, telling him he can visit my blogsite wherever it is (I have more blogsites than I have children, which number 12).

I blog in my own unique way: Bloghard, Blogeasy, didn’t I tell you? Unlike a great many other bloggers, my blogs are not simply events of my everyday life, not even a record of my everyday thoughts. My blogs are my hopes, my dreams, my aspirations, my desires for The Good. Despite the clear and present danger of The Bad. Or rather, because of. And since I am a creative writer, substance and style come first, and I can’t be bothered by photo protocol.

If you want to know my Flickr score in the matter of flickring, out of about 100 images I have so far flickred, only one got angry, in fact he was mad after I told him. He demanded to be paid US$250 for my use of his photograph; when I politely said I wouldn’t pay even if I had the money (which I didn’t), he threatened to sue me in court. I told him, all by email, in that case he would be wasting his money on me – then I deleted that offending image. End of story. Before I did that, I told him he had to prove that I stole his photograph and that called for the corpus delicti (corpus body, delicti crime): No body, no crime. I delete your image and there goes the body of my crime. That’s the naked truth of the law.

I don’t know of anyone who has ever committed the perfect crime. Well, I know one now. When I discovered by accident the power of Delete to destroy the corpus delicti, I’m happy to report that I have committed the perfect crime. It happened before my birthday, a little more than 3 months ago. Understanding the law is vital to winning the case.

The point is not to commit the perfect crime but to commit the perfect image to your blogpost. And I almost always can’t wait to do that.

Naturally, I’ll do another flickring for this essay-story. And the image I have selected is a surprise even to me (I usually search with an eye for the unusual or the dramatic – Flickr calls it ’interestingness’): When I saw this one (the one on top), it struck at me so hard I laughed. Isolano’s image she captions ‘Flickr In Action’ – it’s so contrary and yet so right. The action is inaction. The drama is the promise of a drama. It’s funny but it’s not simply a joke; it’s a statement that an image can be what it is not. And yes, the girl is in the center of the world. And I’m in the center of my Thank You.

I posted this comment on Isolano’s flickrsite: ‘It’s the most beautiful shot I have ever seen in Flickr.’ And I clicked on top of the image to make it one of my favorite photos: as of today, I have only 4. I didn’t tell Isolano that I am going to use it here. When I’ve posted this on my blogsite, then I’ll email her. From Lisbon, with love. Surprise!

Update, 4 January: I did email Isolano and she thanked me and merely asked that I link the image to her account, which I have done. And that’s an achievement, since I’m relatively new at the game of HTML.

PS, 2007 December 30 (Manila Time) – The subject of the photograph, Matilde, protested the display of Isolano’s photo and threatened to sue both Isolano and me. I’m not intimidated by any lawsuit, but I don’t want to involve any other person, especially since Isolano was kind enough to give me her permission. That was a beautiful gesture, considering the circumstances. It was a beautiful picture – it was beautiful while it lasted. Matilde, look what you’ve done!

Add to Technorati Favorites

The Next Prayer Rally

18/12/2006

erikboi-up-close-and-personal.jpg

 

The Next Prayer Rally I Shall Attend

There were big plans for the 17 December Sunday Prayer Rally at the Rizal Park (the old Luneta) right where there is always a beautiful view of the sunset at Manila Bay. (Sunsets in the tropics are always magnificent, more so in the Philippines, I say.) The organizers called it a ‘Watch & Pray Rally,’ which Susan Ople described as a ‘gathering of citizens concerned over the incessant efforts to change the Constitution through improper means’ (14 Dec, susanople.com/), the same which Leslie Ann Aquino said was ‘a prayer rally of thanksgiving’ (17 Dec, mb.com.ph/). Somebody was misinformed? Leslie Ann noted that the original goal of the rally was ‘to protest the moves of administration (read: Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) allies at the House of Representatives to change the Charter through a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass),’ but this was changed when the House archived the Con-Ass resolution. They were going to hold rallies in Manila and other key cities of the country. With the shelving of the Con-Ass, CBCP President Angel Lagdameo, Bishop of Jaro, Iloilo, is quoted by Leslie Ann as saying:

God answered our prayer even before we directly addressed it to Him. And so that prayer rallies of petition are now converted into prayer rallies for thanksgiving. God has heard our un-articulated prayer. He loves the Philippines. He has converted our crisis-laden situation into ‘Kairos,’ a moment of grace. Let us give thanks to God and exalt Him above the heavens.’

Leslie Ann said that despite such welcome development, ‘Church leaders said the people should still continue being vigilant and this is the reason why they chose the theme ‘Watch And Pray: Magmalasakit Sa Bayan’ as the gathering’s theme.’ Do good works for your country. On Sunday, you are invited to do good, and that isn’t bad at all.

She also reported that simultaneous prayer rallies will be held by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Catholic Education Association of the Philippines (CEAP), the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), and the Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai, ‘to mobilize the faithful to be more watchful and to pray for the enlightenment of our leaders in government in Manila.’ Good.

But: ‘To pray for the enlightenment of our leaders in government in Manila’ – that disappoints me hugely, because it does not call for the enlightenment of our leaders outside government in Manila. I believe all of them need more enlightenment.

Now, for the prayer not answered: In fact, the huge prayer rally was a big flop’ – in the words of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago (Roy Pelovello & Company, 18 Dec, manilastandardtoday.com/). Roy & Co reported that police estimated the crowd at the Rizal Park at less than 10% of the 500,000 that the rally organizers expected to attend. Reuters estimated 50,000. The PNA reported a maximum of 20,000 people attending. I was watching TV today, the day after, and the cameraman would show only a small portion of the crowd; my estimate would be 10,000, and that’s generous. In any case, the afternoon rally ended peacefully.

I’m very, very disappointed. Yesterday, judging from experience, if the clout of the CBCP held and the exuberance of the anti-Charter change activists and anti-GMA militants were any indication, if the boisterousness and vehemence of the righteous were to be given credit, together they would have been able to muster in one place at least one million warm bodies to give thanks to God. That would have been a sight and a shudder.

So, blessed are those that have not seen and have not believed? It does appear that not many people want to give thanks to God for something or other.

Notwithstanding my huge disappointment, I’m all for prayer rallies of such kind. They demonstrate that Democracy is alive and well in my country. They show that those of us who disagree with those who disagree agree to let the others speak for themselves. I don’t believe in the separation of Church and State. Prayer rallies are a means by which priests can speak against those in government for the people what they believe is the voice of God.

There ought to be more prayer rallies. Is anybody thinking of holding a prayer rally anytime soon? I assure you I shall attend:

If, considering leadership, the next prayer rally is led or organized by any of the following interesting people:

Cory Aquino, once President and now a reformist. (Image by Erikboi who captions it ‘Up Close And Personal’ [flickr.com/] shows Cory being interviewed by Susan Enriquez, TV reporter.)
Joseph Estrada, once President and now a reformist
Gringo Honasan, once Senator and a leader of the reform movement
Ping Lacson, Senator and a reformist himself
CBCP President Angel Lagdameo, Bishop of Jaro, Iloilo
Loren Legarda, once Senator and once popular broadcast journalist
Christian Monsod, convenor of One Voice
Fr Gerry Orbos, popular columnist
Susan Roces, wife of once candidate-for-President Fernando Poe Jr
Bro Mike Velarde, leader of El Shaddai
Bro Eddie Villanueva, bishop of Jesus Is Lord Church.

All of them are reformists. I don’t agree with any of them, by the way. But I will attend their prayer rally:

If, considering reason, the next prayer rally is for faith accompanied by works. For faith without works is as dead as a doornail, useful only if it stays in one place and no other, if it doesn’t move at all.

If, considering the fragility of the flesh, the next prayer rally is for hope. For we walk by hope, not by sight. Hope is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. I continue to hope.

If, considering the peoples of this country, the next prayer rally is for equal cultural recognition, something that the Americans have not achieved in the last 200 years. We should be so proud of ourselves: Aetas, Apayaos, Bicolanos, Cebuanos, Chabacanos, Gaddangs, Ibanags, Igorots, Ilocanos, Ilonggos, Ilonggots, Kankannaeys, Manobos, Maranaos, Negritoes, Pampangos, Pangasinenses, Tagalogs, Warays and all the rest of some 100 tribes in these islands.

If, considering higher education, the next prayer rally is for the State University (the University of the Philippines) to learn the lesson of the relevance of creating and not merely criticizing, of construction and not merely deconstruction, of denouement and not merely denial, of ingenuity and not merely engendering civil disobedience.

If, considering economics, the next prayer rally is for the Filipinos to realize that employment here or abroad is not the only option, that entrepreneurship is a better option because it has a great multiplier effect.

If, considering sustainability, the next prayer rally is for the conservation of nature, which means wise use and not mis-use or abuse; if it is for Filipinos to recognize and respect the laws of nature which are beyond their control if violated. Or,

If, considering the health of the nation, the next prayer rally is for healing any hurts, any harm done, any woundedness – and for getting rid of unforgiveness once and for all. Love your enemies! was spoken to everybody.

If so, then I shall attend the next prayer rally, really.

If not, I shall attend to the spectacular sunset at Manila Bay.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Revised 20 December 2006

Miriam, Warrior Princess

05/12/2006

ior-miriam-santiago.jpg

Miriam, Warrior Princess

She is the Warrior Princess of Philippine Politics, and she has just lost another battle of wits. She is not going to be the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines; the members of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) have made sure of that. I don’t blame them.

Today, 4 December, the gentlemen of the JBC selected her out of their short list of nominees for that position. Do I see those gentlemen intimidated by a Chief Justice who, while she believes in the President of her country, doesn’t patronize anybody?

If I were history, I would be kind to her, she who talks what’s in her mind, and which ladies and gentlemen of the jury don’t like. When she’s angry, she’s mad, and while her grammar is perfect, her language is not. But I forgive her, because she’s a genius. Eccentric, yes; not all eccentrics are geniuses, but all geniuses are eccentrics. Take it from me.

I thought she would have made a perfect Chief Justice. She has a brilliant legal mind – necessary for critical thinking. She has a bright artistic mind – necessary for creative thinking. Law is not all logic; there must be art so that the lawyer can put her heart in it. If anything, she is all heart. ‘Warrior Princess’ says it all.

She graduated from UP Diliman in Quezon City with her Bachelor of Laws a cum laude, didn’t she? And from the University of Michigan Law School earned her Master of Laws and Doctor of the Science of Jurisprudence in only 1.5 years, she did. Not many can do that. She chose government service over private practice, she did. Not many do that. And she chose to be a warrior for good government. Not many choose that. The photo shows her on the cover of the Philippines Free Press, the fightingiest magazine in the country in awe of her.

She’s a writer above ordinary mortals. As a columnist, she wrote for a national daily and I remember reading her and knowing she was very good at it. I also remember reading with an editor’s eye the final manuscript of her book of short stories published by New Day Publishers entitled A Frabjous Day & Other Stories in 1997. I found it superb reading. My only editorial contribution to it was to suggest that a younger Miriam grace the cover (the past) and a more mature Miriam occupy the back cover (the present). The past informs the present. She agreed. If you thought law and art don’t mix, you don’t know enough of genius.

In my native land, #1 is female (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo); #2 is male (Manuel Villar) – they don’t want #3 female. In this matriarchal society, is the male of the species really afraid of the female of the species?

I suspect that Miriam’s challenge was too much for them, whoever they are: Make me the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, she dared them all. An unprecedented call, even if the Philippines is a matriarchal society, even if we have had two lady presidents of the country. I don’t mind if we have a Lady Chief Justice. But they do. The challenge is too much – against tradition, against male ego.

Since I don’t have the list of criteria the JBC used to select/deselect the nominees for Chief Justice, let me come up with my own. And it is this:

(1) knows Philippine laws inside out – so the man can apply the appropriate law when necessary

(2) known for being independent-minded – so the man can put into both theory and practice what the role demands

(3) known for elegance of thinking – so the man can discern the spirit of the law

(4) known life’s great unkindnesses – so the man can cause the wheels of justice to grind faster and yield more law to those who have less in life.

My list of course describes Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, political animal extraordinaire.

But the die is cast. The JBC have crossed the Rubicon. We will never have Miriam as Chief Justice. I hope we will always have Miriam, Warrior Princess of her country, in or out of the Senate.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Make Love, Not War

02/12/2006

dale-neill-track-one.jpg

Make Love, Not War

I was looking for love in Flickr (“make love” said my search text, including the double quotes), and the first image I saw I fell in love with: Dale Neill’s ‘Track One’ (flickr.com/), uploaded 25 November 2006. It tells me this: To love is to make beautiful music together. To steal moments being together, going nowhere but here, alone in all the world. And not to let that love be interrupted by interruptions, contraptions, eruptions, obstructions, even deconstructions. Shakespeare writes: ‘Love is not love that alters / When it alteration finds.’ You and I can see love everywhere and all the time we look if we want to, and that’s the point: we should want to.

In another blogsite, I posted ‘Children Of A Greater God’ (below) yesterday with the image below as explained in the blogtext:

*****
amy-kubes-miles-hugs-scarlett.jpg

Children Of A Greater God
01 December – The pastoral text of Fr Reuter is this: Our Lord was born as a baby, because He wanted to be loved. It is hard to love anything that you can not put your arms around. Everyone loves a baby. Apt image by Amy Kubes who captions it ‘Miles Hugs Scarlett’ (flickr.com/). Yes, except if we become children again, we cannot enter the kingdom of God and love those whom we hate. The babies are not only those whom we cannot help but love; they are the ones showing us that we ought to love all the time.

Then I wrote Amy and told her I used her photo in my blogsite ‘My Reuter Almanac’ and didn’t forget to say ‘Thank you’ – and Scot Hacker wrote this, also in her behalf, I suppose (I didn’t edit it) in http://birdhouse.org/blog/2006/12/01/children-of-a-greater-god/:

*****
Children of a Greater God?

Weird misappropriation. A well-intentioned man with a big heart, but who is also a pretty radical Christian opposed to single-sex marriage, “borrowed” one of Amy’s images from Flickr (Miles hugging his cousin Scarlett) and posted it to his own site, with some vague message about how we can’t enter the kingdom of god without having the innocence and love of a child. Unlike most image borrowers, the guy actually wrote Amy to let her know he was using the image, and he gave her credit on his blog.

So one hand it’s cool that he gave credit. On the other hand, his approach of borrowing first and asking later isn’t cool in Amy’s book, and we’re both angered by the fact that Miles’ image is now associated with a site that stands in staunch defiance of basic human rights.

Obviously, I’ve got a more open attitude toward sharing and re-mixing of content on the open net, but I also get chills thinking about Miles’ image being associated with hateful views. Amy’s going to be asking him to take it down. Will be interesting to see how he responds.

*****
My reactions? First, I have deleted that offending/offended image and changed it in that other blogsite (I posted it here only because I want you to see where I’m coming from in this whole hullabaloo). I must say I liked it and I didn’t want to see it go like that. The power to delete is greater than the power to download and then upload (with or without permission). Now I’m blogging. The power to blog is greater than the power of the editor to reject an article for publication in the traditional print media. Thank God for blogging!

I can’t see why Scot Hacker (and Amy Kubes, I presume?) can’t see the wisdom of these simple words that (almost) everybody knows aren’t mine: ‘Yes, except if we become children again, we cannot enter the kingdom of God’ – unless they don’t believe in God, unless they don’t read the Bible, unless they don’t believe in becoming like children again. If you don’t believe in the Christian God that I believe in as a Roman Catholic, then I believe you and yours are children of a lesser God.

The God I believe in tells me to love those whom I hate. Even if you don’t believe in God, even if you don’t believe in the God I believe in, what’s wrong with this statement? ‘The babies are not only those whom we cannot help but love; they are the ones showing us that we ought to love all the time.’ It’s an invitation to love!

And so Scot has discovered that like a good Roman Catholic, I do not subscribe to same-sex marriages (I believe they’re not made in heaven), to which he subscribes as one of the basic human rights (I believe it’s one of the basic human wrongs).

By the way, all my blogs and blogsites (you can’t count them) are non-commercial. I don’t sell products or services – essentially I sell creative thinking along with critical thinking, even when I don’t state it like that – we call that in marketing packaging, I think. (I know the 4 Ps of marketing – pricing, positioning, packaging, promotion – but I have never been good at marketing, even promoting myself). What Scot has done is critical thinking. I sell faith above reason. What Scot is trying to sell me is reason above faith. Well, we are entitled to our own mistakes; that is the essence of freedom.

About hate, my advice to Scot is so simple it’s not even original (you remember the Vietnam War?): Make love, not war. Don’t hate even if your views are contrary to someone else’s. Why? For the simple reason that hate hates haters. Jesus Christ said, ‘Love your enemies.’ I suppose it’s because you use up more energy hating than loving, and you foul up your own body systems when you assume the opposite of love. Surely, you can do better than that; your body deserves better than that. You have a choice.

So, to all the Scot Hackers of the world, let me repeat the words of true love by someone who knows more than we do (Philippians 4: 8):
Whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report;
if there be any virtue,
and if there be any praise,
think on those things.

Add to Technorati Favorites