Wednesday, December 23, 2009

newnoise1 writer's guide to surviving the festive season

Writers are sensitive beings, even if they hide it behind rough exteriors. They are often overwhelmed by the festive season for obvious reasons. Here I have listed some points to make it all a bit easier:
  • Remember, blood red is only in vogue in December, that's only one month of the year. Except for February. But Valentine's Day is still far away. Notice that bloody red and think about how you can use it in your stories. Think of The Red Badge of Courage. No, you don't actually have to read it but think about it.
  • Even if you didn't write or publish anything this year a fresh new year is coming. Plan the articles you want to write next year. Write frameworks. There are thousands of international and national public holidays you can write about. If you don't want to write about the same days that everybody else is writing about make up your own international holidays. For instance: Day for writers who do not write or Day for the stumped or Day for writers who have writer's block.
  • Listen to your own voice. Does it seem to complain about life in general often or non-stop? Listen to it and consider that everybody else must listen to it. If people must read what you are writing they might start off by first listening to what you are saying. Be interesting, be fascinating, develop your arguments, build your plot, show insight. Don't talk the hind leg off a donkey.
  • Avoid a hangover. Remember a tomato cocktail, the known cure for a hangover, is . . . yes, very red.
  • Write a children's story and read it to all the children in the extended family circle. If they like your story give them each a copy as a gift. If they don't like your story write one where Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer meets up with several mishaps and give that to them as gifts.
  • Notice things you can write about. Live in the moment, see the immediate moment. Suspend your cherished beliefs and open up to the cherished beliefs of those around you. If you all have the same cherished beliefs change yours as soon as possible.
  • Rest if you need to after a hard year of writing.
  • Think of all the millions of writers typing away at their keyboards. Your ideas are worth repeating. Picture yourself writing the best piece you have ever written. Picture readers telling you how they liked what you wrote.
  • Think only of titles. Rudolf joins in the fun at the barbecue, How green was our Christmas tree, The electric shock I got when I blew all the lights in the neighborhood quite easily while rigging up the Christmas lights. This gets the creative juices flowing.

Have a wonderful Christmas and fantastic 2010. Thanks for all the support in 2009!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

newnoise1 gets stylish on money and investing in 2010

The subject of money is never far from my mind. This is in line with the psychological principle that we often can't stop thinking about things we don’t have.

Especially when all our neighbors, in fact entire neighborhoods, have things we don't have. The wanting trend is so common among humans that a spiritual law had to be created against it. This ancient law proves that even before capitalism everybody wanted stuff and thought all the time about stuff they didn't have. Today, some become obsessed and either go for therapy or work in financial areas where they can skim off the top and do other such clever things, legally, at the office, on a daily basis. But that is not what I'm blogging about. I'm off on a tangent.

I have ignored money as a topic worth thinking about at my own peril. Since realizing this mistake I have elevated it from its place in my topic catalogue where it use to sit next to the likes of subjects such as dress making, WWE wrestling (sorry don't know what WWE stands for and don't care) and how to peel a carrot if you don't have a knife.

I wrote about my fits of fear and hyperventilation about being aged and toothless with no prospectus a few months ago in an article on frugality. Since then I have done much in the way of spending less. Sad to say I am not yet rich. If you are clued up on money you will know that four months mean nothing. In Money World four months are only like sands through the hour glass and such are the days of our lives.

Nevertheless, I have come across a number of principles with regard to money that seem to provide a clue on how to approach the subject.

One book I read was written in such a weird style that I only noticed it was really about saving and investment by the time I reached chapter four . This is the kind of money book I like. The style fascinated me because well, listen to this:

'If thou select one of thy baskets and put into it each morning ten eggs and take out from it each evening nine eggs, what will eventually happen?'
'It will become in time overflowing.'
'Because each day I put in one more egg than I take out.'

The words to notice here are 'thou' and 'thy' in the first sentence. The book made me feel as if I was reading and understanding Shakespeare at a remarkable pace. The other remarkable thing is the basic arithmetic (ten minus nine) that's normally absent in writings on saving and investment where it is often more important to hide service fees among a bushel of complicated graphs. But this kind of arithmetic I can live with. Easy peasy, as they don't say in Babylon.

The book, The Richest Man in Babylon, is filled with Babylonion words such as 'doth' and 'upon' and 'setteth' which make you feel as if you are indeed walking down Babylon's dusty ancient streets clutching your little purse stuffed with gold and silver coins. Feelings are important to.

The book will inspire you to think about how you manage your money and advises confidently on how to get your lean purse to overflowing.

Some of the rules of engagement include:

  1. Pay yourself first. Keep some of your money for yourself, about ten percent. Live on less than you earn. (see ten minus nine reference above)

  2. Hang on to the money you saved. Or in Babylonion: 'You do eat the children of your savings. Then how do you expect them to work for you?'

  3. Learn and know everything there is to know about your trade.

  4. Be careful who you invest with. As they say in Babylon: 'Usurious rates of return are deceitful sirens that sing but to lure the unwary upon the rocks of loss and remorse.' (This is pure Babylonion. Notice the stylish repetition of the s-sound that aims to multiply your fear of risky investments.)

  5. Budget. As they say in Babylon, 'Budget then thy necessary expenses. Touch not the one tenth that is fattening they purse.'

  6. Make your money work for you . . . 'Put each coin to laboring'.

  7. Buy your own home. 'Then will thy own heart be glad because thou wilt own right a valuable property and thy only cost will be the Kings taxes.'

  8. Start early with a pension plan and protect your family from loss of income.

  9. Do not buy on credit and do pay your debts. 'Thereby shalt thou acquire confidence in thyself to achieve they carefully considered desires.'

These doth include only some of the Babylonion saving and investment methods.

George S. Clason was a financial author who wrote a series of essays on money and investment that was later compiled into book form and published as The Richest Man in Babylon. First published in 1926 the common sense advice and story telling style made it a winner that is republished about every four or five years.

You will notice a absence of reference to inflation. I suspect the book was written Before Inflation. Inflation means that the ten percent savings Clason suggests could be worth less than ten percent over time once you minus inflation. Such are the days of our lives.

Please note that I am not a financial advisor (God forbid). I am only recommending this book as a good read. Remember, one day you will look up and notice that there is really absolutely nothing worth watching on television, this will be the ideal time to read this book.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

newnoise1 reviews Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Wow! Why did I write the longest review in blogging history on this book? Firstly, the author is saying something that's worth repeating. Secondly, trying to get clever with this book review will be like jumping into a bog and expecting to float around safely on a crocodile's back. Even if the review is lengthy I tried to keep it as basic as possible to avoid being swallowed alive by the bog wildlife.

This is not an easy book. You get the feeling that in real life it would be impossible to have a conversation with the author, Robert M. Pirsig. Half of the book is about his struggles to communicate with his ten year old son.

The manuscript was rejected 121 times until a publisher at William Morrow finally described it to his managers as a work of genius that will attain classic status. This is exactly what happened once the book was finally published in 1974.

Why would an author try 121 times to get his book published? My guess is that it was extremely important to him to let the rest of the world understand the implications of what he had to say.

The book is a descriptive 'thought journey' that the author undertakes to cover a subject he has been thinking about for 20 years. This subject is how rational thought and traditional ways of thinking have taken centre stage in our lives to such an extent that the actual experience of reality has been placed on the back burner.

The book can be compared to Ayn Rand's Fountainhead where the entire focus is on rationality. Rand had an axe to grind with those who, she suspected, did not think for themselves at all. I have no idea if she would have been in agreement with Pirsig's view that the rationality tool has been sharpened to the point where it manages to cut the freshness and newness of everyday life from our sight.

However, as a trained scientist and philosopher Pirsig is in an ideal position to confront the subject of rationality and reality. To him this confrontation became a matter of life and death. It is fascinating to read how he becomes completely preoccupied and obsessed with the subject, looses his mind, is diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, receives shock treatment and wakes up from that experience with his memory erased and a new identity.

It all starts with the term Quality. Pirsig uses the term Quality to refer to reality before it is intellectualized through rationality. Quality is the immediate here and now reality. Science misses a large part of this reality as its focus is mainly on the rational part of reality, including logic, labels and words. Science can only describe this exact moment trough logic, labels and words. Furthermore, science ignores the hip, artistic or feeling parts of life that Pirsig terms 'romantic reality'. In scientific terms 'romantic reality' does not exist. The term Quality combines rational reality and romantic reality into the one actual reality.

Pirsig's point is that Quality (reality) comes first and rationality is secondary to this. He writes:

'Romantic reality is the cutting edge of experience. It's the leading edge of the train of knowledge that keeps the whole train on the track. Traditional knowledge is only the collective memory of where that leading edge has been.' (page 287)

Pirsig describes how these thoughts inspired him to help the students in his freshman writing class write better. They had become so stuck in the rules of writing that they had nothing to say, their creativity disappeared. He recounts how he helped a student get rid of this 'stuckness' by advising her to write about the upper left-hand brick of the Opera House in Bozeman:

'She was blocked because she was trying to repeat in her writing, things she had already heard, just as on the first day, he had tried to repeat things he had already decided to say. She couldn't think of anything to write about Bozeman because she couldn't recall anything she had heard worth repeating. She was strangely unaware that she could look and see freshly for herself, as she wrote, without primary regard for what had been said before. The narrowing down to one brick destroyed the blockage because it was so obvious she had to do some original and direct seeing.' (page 197)

Zen is all about gaining insight through seeing originally with your own eyes in the here and now. In the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu (reality as described by Eastern philosophy) Pirsig finds long descriptions that correspond with his understanding of Quality (reality).

At the other extreme Pirsig considers the motorcycle as an example of a rationally developed machine. Mechanics cross out the 'romantic reality' part of the motorcycle. Yet, the motorbike is in fact much more than the mechanical methods used to develop it. Ever heard bikers enthuse about their motorbikes? The real, actual motorbike is about much more than the rational, analytical and mechanical methods used to develop motorbikes. To mechanics these romantic aspects are beside the point. To Pirsig missing these points limits our view of reality.

According to Pirsig we have been using the same methods to find truth and knowledge for too long. Knowledge has become mechanical. For instance, consider the child bored to death by the same learning method repeated day after day. Has she learned anything new? No, millions of children had to study the same material she is now studying. Once romantic reality is removed she is left with the cold hard facts. Insight is beside the point as long as the facts can be memorized. Yet, memory always works in the past and can never, like insight, operate in the immediate present.

Robert Pirsig managed to write a book that tells a fascinating story and that contains a mind blowing message. A large part of life, the actual experience of each moment as new, fresh and creative can be missed through an obsession with rational methods of thought and traditional knowledge. By now it must be obvious that no matter how many times you read this book you'll always find something new. Read it, often.