Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Abandoned Blogs: Why Do They Exist?

"Embraced by Words" - Robbert van der Steeg via Flickr
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A once frequently updated, searched, and visited online journal, now left abandoned by it's creator. 


by El Jay Terry January 24, 2009
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When surfing across the web, occasionally I come across a brilliantly written post, look at the date, and then realize that the post itself dates back to the dawn of the Internet era.

A dead blog, long abandoned by the writer who once filled it to its digital brim with posts.

Arriving at a party that ended a week ago. All the commenter-guests have left to who-knows-where, and the author-host is long gone. Flat soda and soft potato chips (never doubt the power of preservatives) sit on the table, exactly where the everyone left them. I decide not to dig into a bowl of fossilized fast-food french fries. 

There is a camera. And within, there are pictures and videos. The party is over, but I can flip through the photos to see what everyone did. What everyone said.

Now--back to the abandoned blog. I decide to linger, scrolling through their posts to see what they were up to, when, and who they were.

...Why did they stop? 

Sometimes there's a single post within a year saying, "I'm not gone! A lot of things came up, but I'm still here!" and no subsequent posts after that. In the older blogs that once garnered an active community of commenters, I wonder if their regular readers waited for them to come back...or if life just continued on like always.

...Where are they now? 

I scroll through their posts, particularly during their most productive eras. A few tentative initial posts in 2009. Abundant--hundreds of posts in 2010 through 2012, tapering off into a mere 54 in 2013. The blog had its good run...until whatever fueled the initial creation of the blog ran dry.

The author ran out of ideas. This is particularly true with some informational blogs in fields that lack the constant new this, new that. I came across a treasure trove in the form of a well-written frugal living blog that featured tips on how to save money in many aspects of life. Eventually, the author must have run out of ideas, or found a different way to supplement her income.

The author ran out of content. This is true particularly in blogs birthed by grief or trauma, sustained by the process of the griever/victim sorting out their thoughts and questions in their minds, before ultimately moving on with their life and leaving the messy emotions behind in the form of digital bits and pieces floating across the web. Sometimes the blog author leaves a goodbye message to his or her readers. I like to think that they are in a happier place now, one in which they no longer have to use a blog as an outlet to deal with pain.

The author got bored. These "digital graveyards" are smaller, mostly because the blog never made it into a "golden era" of productivity and sharply tapered off after one or two initial, lackluster posts. I, too, have abandoned several blogs soon after starting them, especially if I realized that I didn't want to carry this through to the end. The commitment was too great for the amount of enthusiasm I had when creating the blog.

The author had other priorities. Probably the most common one that I've seen happen, particularly to myself and this blog. School happens. Work happens. Weddings happen. Sometimes there is a hiatus due to life-craziness-schedules-etc, which can span a few days to...a year. Life intercepts, whisks the author from the chair, and that's it.

The author found a new and better platform. Not sure if I'd count this as a digital graveyard because the author is continuing the same project, only in a different space. These aren't as sad because the original blog author usually leaves a link to the new and updated blog website.

I like to think that the original blog authors have moved onto bigger and better things. Meanwhile, the blog functions as a digital time capsule of who they were and the era that once encapsulated these people. Some of you reading may be blog owners yourselves. Have you ever deleted or abandoned a blog, and why? 

Interview with Marivi Soliven - Spooky Mo: Horror Stories

Marivi Soliven, author of Spooky Mo: Horror Stories. 
Spooky Mo: Horror Stories is a collection of nine short stories written by Marivi Soliven featuring women who deal with professional rivals, cheating spouses, domestic violence, and detestable neighbors. Marivi Soliven's writing captures the internal motivations behind each character's actions - their dreams, fears, and desires - ultimately humanizing the people who live in her stories.  

***Interview with Marivi Soliven - Spooky Mo: Horror Stories***

The Creation Process

The blurb for Spooky Mo: Horror Stories describes the collection as "giving a distinctly Filipino treatment of the Seven Deadly Sins." Tell us more about how each story in this collection is a Filipino treatment of the Seven Deadly sins. 
I would rather have the reader go through that exercise. The Seven Deadly sins hook was something that came after the fact, when all the stories had been written. I did not start writing them with the intent to portray each of the 7 deadlies.

What was the research process for these stories like? 

Minimal. For "Spooky Mo" I asked a professor friend who'd done research in Tokyo about the Japayuki and asked another professor friend about common Japanese surnames. Additionally, I looked up the phenomenon of vagina dentata after watching the indie flick Teeth. I actually went to that town in the Philippines where crucifixions are re-enacted, but as a tourist, not as a writer looking for short story material.

What role does the topic of domestic violence for women play in this short story collection? 

It's in the story about the little girl being abused by her father and in "Bangungot". I wanted to show how eventually, abusers get what they deserve, even if it has to come from supernatural sources.

The stories in this collection have also been described as "feminist horror stories". How do the elements of feminism intersect with those of horror in this collection? 
The fact that the aggressors were women? I don't know who described the collection as "feminist horror stories" but I never EVER start out thinking Well today, I'm going to write a feminist story. I avoid writing stories with a message. It's preachy and annoying.

Which elements from your life or surroundings have played a large part in the creation of your characters and their respective worlds? 

Every experience is fodder for story.

There is an emphasis on traditional comfort food, the roles of women in a patriarchal culture, and Catholicism throughout these stories. What made you decide to explore these aspects of Filipino society? 

Every experience is fodder for story. I happen to enjoy Filipino comfort food, I was raised in a Catholic patriarchal culture, so why not write from what I know?

Were there other topics that you aimed to emphasize in these short stories? 

The fun supernatural folklore stuff.

Audience

What audience did you have in mind when creating the stories? 
I never think of an audience when I write. If I did, I would be an advertising copywriter, which I was, before I turned to fiction.

What advice would you give a reader unfamiliar with the Catholic context and Filipino culture to help with reading and understanding the themes behind your text? 

Just go with the flow and read other books if you really want to learn more about Catholics and Filipinos. I write stories, not textbooks. 

Picking Favorites

If you had to pick a favorite story in this collection, which would it be, and why? 
That's like asking a mother to name her favorite child. 

Questions About Each Story ;)

Below, Marivi Soliven answers questions regarding each story in her collection:  

1. "Talanung Manok (The Defeated Cock)"


In "Talanung Manok", Socorro, a woman who has cooked for her husband's clients for years comes to suspect that he has a mistress when his appetites change. After her husband fatally crashes his car on a stormy night while speeding to his mistress, Socorro gets a young doctor to cut her a very private piece of her husband so that she could serve it to his mistress... eversokindly

I read that "Talanung Manok" means "The Defeated Cock". Why was the title in Filipino and not in English? 
Because Talunang Manok is the name of the actual Filipino dish.

How did you think "Talanung Manok" would be received by the audience?

That's not something I ever think about because how a reader "receives" a story is beyond my control.

2. "Child's Play"


Lizzie, a little girl who lives with her violent father, is invited to leave him and live with the Kabaan, a mysterious doll-sized culture that lives under the tree. This one's pretty cool. Check it out. 

Where did the concepts for the Kibaan (tree folk) come from? 
Philippine folklore.

3. "Manananggrrrl"


In "Mananangrrrl", witches separate their upper bodies from their lower halves when they go to feed. On the Wicca Watch talk show, a witch describes a gruesome (and hilarious) story of witchy rivalry between a slender witch and a heavyset witch. 

Was there a talk show in particular that you based this one? 
I am disappointed you didn't recognize Oprah. 

4. "Bangungot"


Rebecca has always carried the statute of Muniya, a voluptuous goddess who sweats ample amounts of sap. Muniya sees how Esteban, Rebecca's deadbeat husband, beats Rebecca. One night, after Esteban kicks Rebecca from the house and cuts up her green card, the goddess decides to intercept...

What does "bangungot" mean by definition? 
Nightmare.

The abusive husband is a common archetype used in your stories featuring domestic violence. From what sources did you draw inspiration and details for Esteban's character?

He is an archetype but also someone I have encountered over multiple calls for the National Domestic Violence hotline.

What is "binagoongang baboy"? Google translate: "baboy" = pig, but nothing for "binagoongang". 

Bagoong - shrimp paste. It means pork stewed in shrimp paste.

5. "Lost in Digestion"


Lola Ichay deals with an intrusive and close-minded neighbor by "killing him with kindness" in the form of her delicious traditional cooking. Nigel! Nigel! 

How does "Lost in Digestion" reflect your experiences in National City? 
It does not. It was inspired by a neighbor I detested. 

6. "Penitence" 


Magda and Tom visit Pampanga to witness Good Friday celebrations, which include the brutal reenactments of the crucifixion of Christ. Initially, Magda regards the acts of self-flagellation with disgust, but soon she surprises herself...

How did your own experiences with Catholicism (or religion in general) influence the details in "Penitence"? 
The repression, the endless cycle of guilt, the actual ritual of annual crucifixion in that small town. 


7. "Migrant Life"


Eulalia, a woman unable to communicate orally as a result of a stroke, lives a dull life in front of the television while her resentful children quarrel about who has to take care of her. One day, the characters in Desperate Housewives invite her into their world...

Why did you use the set of Desperate Housewives as the source of Eulalia's escape from her mundane, post-stroke life? 
Because I'd watched a couple of seasons and knew all the characters.

Which Deadly Sin is associated with Eulalia? 
Lust. 

8. "Consumption" or in other words, "Your Children Are Delicious"


In "Consumption" Guinevere Go and her father are the co-owners of a successful company of malls. Guinevere transforms into a giant snake to feed on children a few times a year, which causes her waistline to fluctuate dramatically, causing people to become suspicious...

Where did the idea of a person-snake come from? 
There is an urban legend in Manila that the daughter of one of the richest Chinese Filipino department store owners has a snake for a twin. 

9. "Spooky Mo" and spooky moles


When Rhacel informs her mother that she is going to Japan to be a dancer, her mother enlists the help of a toothy friend to protect Rhacel's dignity. Why, thank you, mother. Just what I needed.

What does the last line in this story, "Bilib ako sa iyo 'Day--ang s-puky mo" mean? I see the "Spooky Mo" part in it. Is it a pun? (Google translate offers something akin to "I believe you--it's the Spooky Mo!") 
Yes. Spooky = puki (cunt) + spooky (scary)+ mo (your). Figure it out.  

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You can find a more flattering spin of this interview published on College News

I was initially elated and just really happy to have interviewed one of my favorite authors. Then I read the tone of the interview from a more objective standpoint, and have since thrown away my fan goggles.  While my personal enthusiasm for her future projects has been altered by this experience, I still maintain that Marivi Soliven is a great writer, and recommend her works, especially The Mango Bride

Below are my reviews of her works: 
The Mango Bride
Spooky Mo: Horror Stories

For other interviews with authors, please click here 
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Monday, April 27, 2015

Spooky Mo: Horror Stories by Marivi Soliven


Spooky Mo: Horror Stories

Spooky Mo: Horror Stories by Marivi Soliven is a collection of nine short stories based on the Seven Deadly sins -- with a Filipina twist. In each of these stories, Filipino women from different walks of life deal with professional rivals, husband's mistresses, domestic violence, close-minded neighbors. Each woman has her own vices, which range from gluttony to pride, lust to envy.

Throughout this collection, we see the wrath that women are capable of, or as Marivi Soliven reminds us in the introduction, "how we members of the gentler sex can, when provoked, turn into genuinely scary bitches. Consider yourself warned." 

Each story features some supernatural element or another. In "Mananangrrrl", we have Wiccan witches who can detach the upper halves of their bodies from the their lower halves. In "Child's Play", a little girl is invited to live with the folk beneath the tree to get away from her violent father. The supernatural elements can be stripped away to reveal the inner motivations of each individual, from a young dancer disillusioned by the "entertainment" industry of Japan to a fresh widow who is filled with resentment and wrath towards her husband's young and attractive mistress.

As a non-Filipino with a non-Catholic background, I wasn't familiar with some of the words used in titles, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the stories, which provided more than the necessary context needed to understand the gruesome bits of each tale.

I loved all of these stories because even though it's inspired by a Deadly Sin, it was easy to connect with each of the characters--their aspirations, fears, and secrets. I read through one story after the next, thinking, "Oh, it can't possibly beat the story I just finished reading!" I was pleasantly surprised when I hit the last of the stories, "Spooky Mo", a tale with a guest appearance of vagina dentata.

Check out my interview with Marivi Soliven here. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Interview with Michelle Perry Higgins: College Students and Money

Michelle Perry Higgins, Author of College Poor No More

Money. It means different things to people. Financial freedom. Material pleasures. A fleeting resource. Savings for our dreams. Investing in our future. Whether some of us grew up with a savings account or spent our allowances on snacks and indulgences, money is a resource that we all must learn to manage because it encompasses an essential part of our lives--now, and later down the road.  

When speaking with Michelle Perry Higgins, author of College Poor No More and financial planner at California Financial Advisors, I was struck by her charisma, warmth, and dynamic speaking style. From her voice, I could tell she loves what she does. She truly cares about educating people on how to manage their money.  

Below is a transcript of the insightful talk with Michelle Perry Higgins about the money saving concepts that she covers in her book, College Poor No More (click to see review)  

CN: Was your family frugal when you were growing up, or did you pick up these frugal skills later on in life?   
MPH: I grew up in what I would consider the middle income class, but there were definitely times where my family really struggled financially. At a very young age, I was very sensitive to my parents always talking about money and making sure that we lived within our meansI wanted to make sure that in my lifetime I would be helping people with money because of having to listen to that.   

CN: That's very relatable too. I read that you have two kids?  
MPH: I do! I have two little girls, and definitely we talk about money all the time and talk about budgeting and [whether] they can afford to buy certain thingsSometimes they say, "Mom, enough money talk!" but I'm hoping there is a balance there with what I'm teaching them and not overwhelming them. My little one, who is eight, really has a passion for money, so we've started to talk about the stock market. I taught her the other day what the euro was. One day, I hope she'll be in the office with me working here. We'll see though.   

CN: When are good money management habits formed in young people?  
MPH: It's really important that these habits are formed well before college. Unfortunately, what I found in research for this book is that students in college were never taught these good money management tips, and then it's way too late by the time that they get to college, to all of a sudden learn what it means to budget, to look at your bank account, or to learn opportunity costs.  
This book, the one hundred tips [in College Poor No More], really is helpful for those individuals who maybe feel like they're not equipped, or they need a refresher on what they can do to stretch their dollar.   

CN: Absolutely. This is one of the things that I wish my high school had a class on.  
MPH: Yup. It's so true. It's a must, and ultimately, if it's not taught, then it becomes a problem--debt accrues, or it becomes a big fight in relationships and marriages down the road. It's a ripple effect, and that's why I really wrote this book--to help students gain control of their finances before it's too late.  

I called [College Poor No More] the "bathroom book" because it's a small book, it's a 4 x 6" book. I want it to be thrown all over your college dorm or apartment. It's not something that I want you to say, "Oh my gosh, I gotta sit down and read another book!" It's not like that. It's something that you can flip through really quick while you're watching TV, and grab a few tips here and there.  

I want it to be a fun book with a lot of cartoons, so that it's not another thing that you have to add to your schedule. Did you find that it was pretty easy to peruse through?  

CN: Absolutely, the tips are pretty short, they stick to about one or two pages, and I love the cartoons. They were so cute.   
MPH: Oh, you did? Good, I'll tell my illustrator, I appreciate that!   

CN: Great! Why is debt during or after college a problem?   
MPH: Having student debt is not the problem. This book is not about me saying, "Oh, students shouldn't have student debt." I had student debt. I graduated from St. Mary's College with student debt because I couldn't afford to get through school without borrowing money.  

What I am trying to say is a problem though, is taking more debt than you need. If you only need $15,000 of a loan every year, don't take $20,000 if they're going to give you $20,000. Only take the $15,000.  

Don't borrow more money than you need to. That's really the bottom line: we don't need you to graduate with more debt than you're already going to have, because it's going to be hard enough already to pay back existing debt. So it's what I'll call the "bad debt".  

We don't want "bad debt" to accumulate in addition to the student loans that you're already going to have to take. And that's happening a lot, like, "Oh, I'll just put the money into my savings so that I have money to go out and go to a football game"...And that $10 drink and that $20 hamburger at the football stadium really adds up.  

Iyou don't have that money, maybe you'll drink that beer at your house before you go to the football game, which is a lot cheaper than spending ten dollars on a beer. It's little things like that where I really want to help students realize that there is that "bad debt" that we want to stay away from.   

CN: When I was in college, I kept getting all these credit card offers in the mail, and even on campus, they would have booths trying to sign students up. How can students avoid giving in to all these tempting credit card offers?   
MPH: They gotta just keep walkin'. [Laughs.] Ignore the free shirt, ignore the free keychain, the free this, the free that--nothing is for free when it comes to credit cards. So, learn to live on a budget.  

Learn to live within your means, then in your senior year, you can get a credit card. Then, by the time you do get that credit card during your final year of school, then you've got it all figured out! No one's going to want to have debt, it's like why have debt? I've already gotten used to living this cash poor life if you will. That really helps a lot of students, when they realize, "I don't need to have this debt hovering over my head."  

CN: Can you sign up for a credit card but not use it? Would that still affect your credit?  
MPHThe reality is yes. Students can get the credit card and not use it, but it's too tempting. So I wouldn't recommend that. A lot of parents do give their child a credit card that they've co-signed on, and I would prefer that situation much more, because parents can monitor how much is being spent. It's too darn easy to have a credit card and not use it when you don't have the good money management skills yet. We need to build up the skills first before you go and have that temptation.   

CN: What's the number one mistake that college students make when it comes to managing money? Would it be going into too much debt with credit cards, or something else   
MPH: A lot of students feel like they're in college, they're not really on their own yet, and they don't feel the need to take the time to figure out a way to stretch their dollar. A lot of this gets pushed by the wayside until they graduate. I don't want to say it's too late, because it's never too late, but they really do need to take the time to understand good money management tips while they're in college: to learn to live on 90% and save 10%, to never borrow, to check their credit once a year.  
All of these basic tips are very vital, so a lot of college students are making the mistake of saying, "Oh, I'm just so poor, money management tips aren't important to me now because I have none!" Well, yes, you do have money. You have allowances, you're getting student loans, and we need to learn to stretch that dollar.   

CN: How did you gather the money saving tips for the book?  
MPH: Because I mentor a lot of interns, I was lucky enough to have students that worked for me. I had them help me do a lot of research, and having that team of students who were set in school, they really helped me find the tips to be relatable to students.  
Hopefully when you read this book, you don't feel like I am preaching to you, I want you to feel like, "I can do this! She understands me," and that was with the help of my research and obviously having a whole team of students who helped me.   

CN: There was this tip in the book, tip #67, "Convince one of your roommates to get a dog instead." I laughed because I thought that was so clever, and also a bit evil, because it's like, persuading a roommate to get a dog so that they'd be facing the costs instead of you. Was there any context to this tip? Where did this tip come from?  
MPH: That one did come from one of my interns who, we were joking because he told me how everyone wants a dog on campus. Once you get off campus and have your own apartment, it's like the cool thing to have a dog!  

Then I said, "You know, let's do some research and really find out how much a dog costs." It was profound, I mean, it was thousands of dollars a year by the time you add up the cost of the dog, the shots, the food--animals are expensive.  

Yet we do want them, and it's kind of the first sign of independence, like, "I want a dog!" but for the time being, it's best to pass on that, because you need those dollars for other things, which are more of a priority than having an animal while you're in school. You're better off getting something that doesn't catch much. Like, get a fish. [Laughs.]  

CN: Exactly. [Laughs.] Less upkeep.  
MPH: Right. Right.   

CN: What makes this book, in particular, stand out from other frugal advice books?  
MPH: When I did the pre-writing of this book, I really went out to the market and said, "Okay. Is there a book like this on the market?" 

I didn't want it to feel like the other books that students are reading while they're in finance class, because I knew that it'd end up in the garbage. I wanted something that packed a lot of information in a small, compact way that was relatable. And there was nothing else on the market that I could find that was like this.  

I am really passionate about this because I mentor so many college interns. I really wanted to find a way to help college students gain control of their finances, and again, I just didn't see anything like this on the market.   

CN: What's the top tip that you can share with us today?  
MPH: The top tip...  

CN: ...You've given us so much.  
MPH: I know! The top tip...Which is the most important one? Well, one thing we haven't covered is professional matters. Making sure that college students graduate and find a great job includes getting them financially ready, and also getting them professionally ready.  

And I'm finding that a lot of students are not ready. They haven't had internships, they haven't joined clubs and gotten exposed to the outside world, or networked. They haven't taken their wild stuff off of social media.  

My greatest tip today is get an internship for the summer, one that is in your field or that you are passionate about, and put something that you're proud of on your resume. Because employers like myself want to see internships or good jobs on your resume.  

Here we are in the month of March, where everybody should be aggressively finding an internship for summer. Even though it's wonderful to sit on the beach, even if it's a couple hours a week and you have to go get another job where you're making a lot of money, get that internship.   

CN: Great advice.  
MPH: Because ultimately, that is going to relate to finding a job and making good money when they graduate to pay off their student loans, so again, the ripple effect.   

CN: Yes, absolutely. Build the resume.  
MPH: Yes!   

CN: And where can we get your book?  
MPH: If you go to Amazon.com, it is on there, you can pre-order [College Poor No More] on Amazon, or if they want to learn more about me, follow me on social media, you can go to my website, MichellePerryHiggins.com, and everything's on there.  

CNYou lead an interesting career as a financial advisor. How can we learn more about you and your work?  
MPHAlso on my website, MichellePerryHiggins.com, you will find that I have a Facebook page, I have a Twitter page, and so I'm very active on social media, and on the news, so there are a lot of different avenues to follow me. Or if students are interested in applying for internships with me, then they can send in their resume. I'd love to hear how everybody likes the book!  

CN: Is there anything I haven't asked you that you'd like to tell us?   
MPH: 100% of the profits are going to college scholarships, that's important to know. I really appreciate anyone who buys this as a college present, a graduation present for high schoolers, or for their college student, because all these profits are going back to raising money for scholarships.