Bob came into my office last night and told me that he'd read my blog entry and then, on a whim, he clicked on that button at the top right of the screen that said 'next blog' and just surfed. He found blogs in other languages, blogs about people's kids, blogs by angst-ridden college students. It reminded him, he said, of the early days of the web, when nobody quite knew what to do with a webpage and so people would have a bit about themselves, a bit about their hobbies ('I brew my own beer' or 'I love to garden'.) Then they'd have a list of cool links. Before Yahoo, other people's links were about the only way to find your way around the web.* Yahoo was just a page of searchable links on a grand scale. Then came alta vista and all the search engines and eventually google.
Yeah, I remembered. I remembered that there were pages that were just links. There was even a slang term for those pages, which I've since forgotten. Something disparaging. I went surfing off to other people's blogs, reading a little, surfing. Ever so often I'd come to a blog that didn't have the little button, so I'd back up, and hit the 'next blog' button on the previous site and get a new blog. All of the 'next blog' sites had an entry dated November 17, so I suppose they are selected based on that.
Interesting and obvious things. A lot of blogs are, well, boring. A lot of the time they're boring for the same reason that eavesdropping on conversations is interesting at first but then becomes boring. No context. Really successful blogs are hooked into some sort of community. Really
successful blogs create a community. As I write this I think about the people who are going to read it--Mad, and Greg and Chris and David and Tom and all of you. And Bob. (Especially Bob.) A lot of my good friends don't read blogs, just like a lot of my good friends don't have any connection to the writing community. But one circle of friends in my life comes from a circle of blogs.
Which brings me to Hidden Kitchens
, a book I'm reading. (Recommended by Tom, thanks Tom
.) It's about communities formed by food and cooking. I thought it would be a cookbook, and it has recipes, but it really isn't very much of a cookbook. It's by The Kitchen Sisters from NPR. It's full of weird pockets of community. Church Burgoo fundraisers in Kentucky
. The George Foreman grill and it's affect on the poor and homeless. Turns out the George Foreman grill is a boon to someone on the economic edge. Poor people often live without kitchens--in SROs (single room occupancy) and residence hotels. If you don't have a kitchen, a George Foreman grill is an amazing appliance. It is small, you can put it under your bed if you're not supposed to cook in your room. Often three or four people will chip in and make meals together on someone's George Foreman grill.
I wasn't a fan of the George Foreman grill. A Foreman grill is an electric grill with a slanted cook surface. Slap a chicken breast or a hamburger on the grill, close the lid and it cooks, leaving rather attractive grill marks on the surface of your food. But the cook surface is slanted so that when it cooks, the fat drips down to the front of the grill. This reduces calories, but it also leaves you with rather dry and tasteless meat. (Let me add here that I am not a fan of boneless skinless chicken breasts, either. Bones give flavor. As does skin. If you're concerned about calories, cook with the skin on and then take the skin off before you eat it. You'll have a few more calories, but a lot more taste.)
But if the George Foreman grill is giving migrant workers a way to make dinner, I'm all for it.
In my head, there is some strange connection between blogs and George Foreman grills. Something about community and the street finding its own uses. Bill Gibson's intersticial spaces and community. But it's a bit obvious in one sense (community! the moment I type the word a complex social network of interactions gets reduced to a political buzzword) and a strained one in another sense. Sure, blogs sometimes create community and George Foreman grills sometimes create community but the truth is, humans tend to build social networks on the flimsiest of premises. Beani Baby collectors. Sports fans. The fact is I was thinking about these two things at the same time so they became intertwined.
But guess what, I found a blog post about the grill!
So it is intertwined.
*Even before that was gofer (gopher?) holes, an ancient search protocol. But that was when I very first started on the web and Patrick Nielsen Hayden talked about 'all the gofer holes in the world'.