Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Two Years

Happy second birthday, Here, Tishie Tishie!

Photo from here

Been so busy that I haven't had time to get a giveaway together. Sigh. Hope people visit the site for more than just freebies though!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

On Writing Well

I promised that I would write a bit more about William Zinsser's On Writing Well, a book I read a couple of months ago. I intended to include the parts that struck me the most in each chapter. I got as far as Chapter 10 before I had to return the book to the office library. Meh. But I think these are enough to convince any writer to read the book.

Chapter 1: The Transaction
“Good writing has an aliveness that keeps the reader reading from one paragraph to the next, and it’s not a question of gimmicks to ‘personalize’ the author. It’s a question of using the English language in a way that will achieve the greatest clarity and strength.”

Chapter 2: Simplicity
“…the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what—these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence.”

Chapter 3: Clutter
“Take the adjective ‘personal,' as in ‘a personal friend of mine,’ ‘his personal feeling’ or ‘her personal physician.’ It’s typical of hundreds of words that can be eliminated. The personal friend has come in to the language to distinguish him or her from the business friend, thereby debasing both language and friendship. As for the personal physician, that’s the man or woman summoned to the dressing room of a stricken actress so she won’t have to be treated by an impersonal physician assigned to the theater. Someday I’d like to see that person identified as ‘her doctor.’ Physicians are physicians, friends are friends. The rest is clutter.”

“Is there any way to recognize clutter at a glance? Here’s a device my students at Yale found helpful. I would put brackets around every component in a piece of writing that wasn’t doing useful work. Often just one word got bracketed: the unnecessary preposition appended to a verb (‘order up’), or the adverb that carries the same meaning as the verb (‘smile happily’), or the adjective that states a known fact (‘tall skyscraper’).”

Chapter 4: Style
“…you will be impatient to find a ‘style'—to embellish the plain words so that readers will recognize you as someone special. You will reach for gaudy similes and tinseled adjectives, as if ‘style’ were something you could buy at the style store and drape onto your words in bright decorator colors. (Decorator colors are the colors that decorators come in.) There is no style store; style is organic to the person doing the writing, as much a part of him as his hair, or, if he is bald, his lack of it. Trying to add style is like adding a toupee. At first glance the formerly bald man looks young and even handsome. But at second glance—and with a toupee there’s always a second glance—he doesn’t look quite right. The problem is not that he doesn’t look well groomed; he does, and we can only admire the wigmaker’s skill. The point is that he doesn’t look like himself.”

Chapter 5: The Audience
“‘Who am I writing for?’

“It’s a fundamental question, and it has a fundamental answer: You are writing for yourself.”

Chapter 6: Words
“What is ‘journalese’? It’s a quilt of instant words patched together out of other parts of speech. Adjectives are used as nouns (‘greats,’ ‘notables’). Nouns are used as verbs (‘to host’), or they are chopped off to form verbs (‘enthuse,’ ‘emote’), or they are padded to form verbs (‘beef up,’ ‘put teeth into’). This is a world where eminent people are ‘famed’ and their associates are ‘staffers,’ where the future is always ‘upcoming’ and someone is forever ‘firing off’ a note. Nobody in America has sent a note or a memo or a telegram in years. Famed diplomat Condoleeza Rice, who hosts foreign notables to beef up morale of top State Department staffers, sits down and fires off a lot of notes. Notes that are fired off are always fired in anger and from a sitting position. What the weapon is I’ve never found.”

Chapter 7: Usage
“…Guardians of usage are doing only half their job if they merely keep the language from becoming sloppy. Any dolt can rule that the suffix ‘wise,’ as in ‘healthwise,’ is doltwise, or that being ‘rather unique’ is no more possible than being rather pregnant. The other half of the job is to help the language grow by welcoming any immigrant that will bring strength or color.”

Chapter 8: Unity
“…every successful piece of nonfiction should leave the reader with one provocative thought that he or she didn’t have before. Not two thoughts, or five—just one.”

Chapter 9: The Lead and the Ending
“The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead.”

“The perfect ending should take your readers slightly by surprise and yet seem exactly right.”

Chapter 10: Bits & Pieces
“Most adverbs are unnecessary. You will clutter your sentence and annoy the reader if you choose a verb that has a specific meaning and then add an adverb that carries the same meaning. Don’t tell us that the radio blared loudly; ‘blare’ connotes loudness. Don’t write that someone clenched his teeth tightly; there’s no other way to clench teeth.”

“There’s not much to be said about the period except that most writers don’t reach it soon enough.”

“Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it’s where the game is won or lost.”

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Well, Hello There, Mr. President

You might have seen this plug on cable TV...

Inside Malcanang was produced and directed by Filipina Marnie Manicad for the National Geographic channel. Marnie is a good friend of mine, my ka-barkada since grade school. We're so thrilled that she was able to pull this off--while being a hands-on mom to two darling girls, to boot!

We were invited to the premiere a couple of weeks ago, so we literally got to be inside Malacanang.

Cameras were not allowed within the palace, so we took quick photos with our phones outside...before a guard promptly told us that photos weren't allowed on the street either.

With L, who holds a Ph.D. in botany, and C, who is a mom of one but is so much skinnier than me! Flowers were for the gal of the hour, Marns

At the gate, stickers were placed on our camera phones so that we wouldn't be able to take pictures inside. The only people allowed to take photos were official photographers. And so, I present my barkada's official photo with the President. How cool is that?

Marnie (in yellow) with the rest of our barkada minus four (one was busy with work and taking care of three kids; the rest are abroad), plus Marnie's sister and Mr. President, who joked that we were all schoolmates (he supposedly went to Poveda for kindergarten)

It kinda felt like prom, except we all went stag. (Marnie, of course was supported by her husband, reporter Jiggy Manicad.) It was so surreal seeing Marnie sitting on stage beside the President and giving a speech in front of cabinet members and press. We're all so proud of her.

Do catch Inside Malacanang, tomorrow night (March 18), 9 pm on National Geographic. No air dates yet for other countries, but keep an eye out for it!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

February Books

Delayed post. Someone's been a busy bee!

Book #1: The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

Photo from here

The mystery genre has a special place in my heart--when I was a kid, I would borrow a Nancy Drew or Bobbsey Twins hardbound book every Friday, to read over the weekend. So, browsing through a bookstore one afternoon, I was drawn to The Sherlockian. When I see a book I haven't heard of, I Google it to check the reviews before purchasing it. And since the reviews for Moore's first novel were mostly favorable, I decided to give it a shot. The back-cover description:

"In December 1893, Sherlock Holmes-adoring Londoners eagerly opened their Strand magazines, anticipating the detective's next adventure, only to find the unthinkable: his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, had killed their hero off. London spiraled into mourning--crowds sported black armbands in grief--and railed against Conan Doyle as his assassin.

"Then in 1901, just as abruptly as Conan Doyle had 'murdered' Holmes in 'The Final Problem,' he resurrected him. Though the writer kept detailed diaries of his days and work, Conan Doyle never explained this sudden change of heart. After his death, one of his journals from the interim period was discovered to be missing, and in the decades since, has never been found.

"Or has it?

"When literary researcher Harold White is inducted into the preeminent Sherlock Holmes enthusiast society, The Baker Street Irregulars, he never imagines he's about to be thrust onto the hunt for the holy grail of Holmes-ophiles: the missing diary. But when the world's leading Doylean scholar is found murdered in his hotel room, it is Harold - using wisdom and methods gleaned from countless detective stories - who takes up the search, both for the diary and for the killer."

I've only read a few "adult" mystery stories, and only a couple seemed really plausible to me. The Sherlockian didn't amaze me, but it was an entertaining read that had interesting info about Sherlock Holmes lore and bits about his creator (Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker actually knew each other, for one). And it made me want to read all Sherlock Holmes stories. Hmmm. Project!

Book #2: Zsazsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Maynila (Part One) by Carlo Vergara

Photo from here

For the uninitiated, Zsazsa Zaturnnah is about a gay hairdresser who turns into a voluputous superheroine after swallowing a rock from outer space. It was turned into a musical and a movie, and is absolutely hilarious (in case you didn't get that from the plot). And the cool thing is, it was penned by Good Housekeeping's brilliant creative director, Carlo. Which reminds me, I have to get my copy autographed...

This second graphic novel finds Ada (Zsazsa's alter ego) in Manila. Some parts made me laugh out loud; other parts were pretty heavy. It's not just mindless fun, you see--Carlo gives you something to think about. Parts Two and Three are scheduled to be released later in the year.

Book #3: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Photo from here

This American classic is about "a childhood in a sleepy town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it." You'd think it would be hard to get through, but this book was such a pleasure to read. Because of it, there's a new entry in my list of favorite literary characters: Atticus Finch. His character is so awesome that he inspired a bunch of people to become lawyers in real life. While I'm not moved to sign up for law school or anything, I appreciate his brand of parenting. Something to guide me, er, later on.

Book #4: The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

Photo from here

Because any writer worth his (or her) salt should read this. In fact, every member of all the editorial teams at the office were given copies. If you've read it before, read it again. Always helpful.

As for my March reading list...that isn't going so well, still at book number one. Time to speed things up a bit.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happy Thought

Real Living asked me to write a home story for their April issue. It was nice writing again after so long. Ever since I became editor in chief, my job has entailed mostly...well, editing. I've written a grand total of one long feature for GH (although I've rewritten a number of things, and I often have to come up with cute little blurbs), so I relished the process.

It was a rush article though, so I couldn't do much relishing. But even the limited time was enough to remind me why I love writing--about homes, in particular. I missed playing around with words in my head, looking for the strongest verb, the most apt adjective, and the best arrangement to produce the rhythm I'm looking for. (Writing really is done by ear.) I know I could have done better if I had had more time, but I think I did OK. After I submitted it, I saw my former boss, who said, "I miss your writing. 'Yung no editing required."

That just made my week.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Three Years in the Making

In 2009, the Ultimate Warriors were the New Year League Pool B champions.

Three years later, we finally FINALLY won again.

Congratulations, Ultimate Warriors, my beloved team and 2012 New Year League Division B champs! Thank you to Makiling Ultimate Club, the kids who gave us a good fight during the finals, and who were ever so polite ("Foul po").

To my teammates, old and new: Thank you for all the effort you put in on the field, and your commitment to training. Thank you for giving my team of five years another championship at last. *sniff* And now, a song...

Now, go rock it in Division A!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Notorius P.I.G.

I've been remiss when it comes to reading InStyle, and only found out yesterday that the diva of divas, Miss Piggy, actually did an eight-page fashion spread for them in November!

Photo from here

What an absolutely brilliant idea! My favorite photo has got to be the closeup of her legs and feet wearing Brian Atwood platforms.

"I especially adore the way these shoes enhance my naturally svelte and statuesque gams." Photo from here

In an interview, Brian Atwood was asked about creating heels for Miss Piggy. His reply: "Oh my god. SUCH a diva. Her handlers… Before I even started the first sketch, I had a list of what she likes, photographs of her feet in certain shoes….I’m serious. Literally, we had a whole sheet--two pages--of what she likes, what her feet look like…she doesn’t like closed toe because her feet look chunky…they hang over the pump…she prefers strappy with adjustments…It’s true. Yeah, she was a diva, but it was definitely worth the shot."

Pig also granted her own interview:

Aaah! She even stunned on the red carpet at the recent Academy Awards:

Miss Piggy in a Zac Posen dress and Fred Leighton jewelry (no less!); Kermit in a Brooks Brothers tux. Photo from here

Other divas can learn a thing or two from this porcine princess!