I checked out my Statistics and Referrers page just a short while ago and noticed the Google Bot has been busier than usual in bringing guests over tonight. There could only be one reason, I thought -- and I was right*.
Thanks for the write-up Annalyn AKA Ajay! While you're off trekking somewhere out in Banaue or thereabouts (are you back yet?), I've been having a bit of excitement here, too, as a result of our fun email chat earlier this week.
PS: For those of you who are here because of the Blog-O-Rama feature, here's Batjay and Torn and Frayed, whom I mentioned. You probably knew who they were, anyway; they were among the first blogs I got hooked on, and are probably a couple of your favorites, too.
*UPDATED MAY 28, 2006. A friend kindly emailed to tell me the link to Annalyn's feature no longer works. Below is a transcript of her May 22, 2006 column. I included links that were not in the online version of the Manila Bulletin.
'GIGI GOES GAGA:' SO GOOD
BY ANNALYN S. JUSAY (NOW BLOGGING AT WWW.ANNALYN.NET)
A visit to her blog would tell you that this is some hip woman's turf. You have not even browsed through her engaging posts yet and your eyes wander to the stuff in her site's side panels which contain her own little notes on music, perfumes and a host of beauty products. On the other hand, reading her main blog is quite a different experience altogether. There's both depth, introspection and an easygoing quality in her writing which are the hallmark of a true storyteller and writer (which she was, in the past). There's something about her narratives which you can relate to if you happen to have undergone similar life-changing experiences and continue to ponder about your own sphere of human relationships. Transcripts of our email talk with Gigi Santos-Castaneda who is based in sunny South Orange County California:
Q. When did you start blogging? What compelled you?
A. I knew almost nothing about the blogging world; it really wasn't on my radar. But I had two friends who started up a joint blog devoted to their love - so sweet but the cheesiest thing I'd ever seen, quite frankly -- and it got me thinking if they could do this, so could I. And so I just dove into blogging without a clue and never looked back. At that point I was dying to start writing again -- I wasn't thinking about money or getting published but I wanted to connect with other people and hopefully get a bit of feedback.
Q. What do you think is the best thing about blogging? What do you like about it?
A. Blogging allows me to write freely. Unlike writing for a publication where I'm constantly editing myself, I can just start writing and see where it takes me. I'd say 90% of the time all I have is a one-sentence idea or thought, and I don't know how I'm going to develop or end it while I'm banging it out on my Mac. And I've also become a junkie for the feedback -- I love comments because they instantly tell me if I've gotten my point across and also because I've met the most terrific and supportive people that way.
Q. Why the title "Gigi Goes Gaga?"
A. Right after ex-husband and I decided to split, all I could think about was trying to pull my life back together. So I was looking for a job, finding a new place to live, checking out moving companies, etc. I had kept myself isolated from family and friends because I needed some personal head space.
Finally just to let them know I was OK and dealing with things, I put together a little newsletter with my stories and emailed it out to anyone who had asked how I was doing. It was written with a lot of lightness and humor -- which was the farthest thing from how I probably should have been feeling considering I was starting over with practically nothing. I named it "Gigi Goes Gaga" because I was thinking that perhaps I was just going insane.
When I decided to try my hand at blogging, I knew instantly what I was going to name my blog -- it was like closing the circle.
Q. What made you start a beauty blog too? How does someone like you find the time?
A. I was just mulling over this the other night: why did I ever start this? I have no time for almost anything, as it is. I originally conceptualized "Beauty Jones" to be like an extended sideblog or where I could go on length about my insane obsessions. I didn't really put that much time and effort initially into it, and neither did I want to. I just wanted an outlet for my interests in beauty and fashion, since in my fantasy world I'm a beauty or fashion editor for a magazine. Then I realized people were finding it -- even folks who'd never seen or read my main blog -- and now I find myself slowly working on it to give it a bit of an identity. Really slowly. But I write and type fast, though, fortunately.
Q.What can you say about Typepad as a publishing platform? What do you like about it?
A. I used Blogspot (all of you know, by the way, I meant Blogger, right? Sorry, mea culpa.) at first -- which was perfect for someone completely clueless about web publishing like I was (and still am), but also for one who's not quite sure about this entire blogging business. But I knew I wanted to create sideblogs for music and other stuff I'm into and I couldn't figure out how to do that. I soon found Typepad, which has a feature called "TypeLists" that allows me to do this almost effortlessly. I love Typepad; I feel like I'm growing along with it. Since I signed up I've learned how to tweak things a bit so I don't have to depend 100% on their templates. In a nutshell, because of its features and ease of use I can focus almost solely on content.
Q. In your own opinion, what do you think are the important things that should comprise a blog?
A. Yikes, I might be the wrong person to answer this because I got into blogging not knowing anything about it at all. I'll tell you, though, what the common thread is in all the blogs I read regularly: original content. It could be information or opinion or even just be an expression of a blogger's unique personality (like my neighbor, Batjay, who's freakin' hilarious). I love meeting people, period, and my personal opinion is that the best blogs give me that feeling of finding and discovering the persons behind them (and this is even true of my favorite business blogs, by the way).
Q. Do you have any favorite posts?
A. The ones that pop to mind this instant are "On Leaving and Living" (about how I decided to file for divorce), "Nice Girl" (because I think it neatly sums up a large part of who I am), and "Intermezzo" (about a short-lived relationship that really changed me). I've written about 209 posts to date so I'm sure I have some favorites I just can't think of right now.
Q. Your online/blogging habits.
A. I wish I had some good ones; my goal is to become a much more disciplined writer. Usually what happens is I'm sitting in front of my computer checking email or listening to music or netsurfing and then I'm hit with a thought or emotion. Then I start writing. Next thing I know I'm clicking the "Publish" button.
Q. Though some say that posts should be of a certain length, yours can sometimes be introspective and long. Obviously you don't like to be bound by blogging rules...
A. I did this at first out of ignorance rather than chutzpah. In fact, after my first few posts, Torn and Frayed (whom I constantly refer to as my "blogfather") suggested I try to keep my posts short so as to keep reader interest. But see, I just wanted to write -- and I also didn't have time to edit myself afterwards for grammar, much less brevity. I have noticed my posts are getting shorter on the average -- but I think it has to do more with lack of time and energy than trying to conform with certain rules and guidelines. Or maybe the trained journalist in me is finally kicking in.
Q. How do you detail the Filipino-American (or Filipino's American) experience in your blog?
A. I'm a Filipina in America so all my stories have an element of that reality, whether clearly apparent or not. I've written about what it was like for me to come here and adjust and evolve, but there's so much more to write about -- I've barely touched the surface.
Q. Plans for your blog?
A. There are other stories and topics I want to tackle but I don't feel I'm quite ready yet; I still need to develop more as a writer. For instance, there was a period in my life here that I was out of (immigration) status because I was in-between one form and another. And that was truly a struggle; it was extremely tough because suddenly I found myself with few options. I had been an activist fighting for Asian American Studies and various Filipino-American causes -- I was passionately involved in making our mark here in America, to show we belonged and that we earned our right to be here.
Then all of a sudden I'm at this non-place where I'm neither here nor there, where one could argue I didn't belong and that I wasn't supposed to be here even if I continued to pay my taxes and never used or took advantage of social programs and benefits. And so I had to disappear -- become an invisible Filipino -- which was EXACTLY the thing I was fighting against, because our people should never be unheard or unseen. So maybe I'll get to tell this story sometime between now and my next 200 posts. Otherwise I really don't have a solid plan; I'm not a pundit and I don't have a political, religious, or social agenda either. I just believe in staying optimistic and choosing to be a positive force wherever I am. I suppose that's what my blog is about, too.