Thursday, November 17, 2005

Hidden Kitchens & Blogs

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'.


Blogger Autumn said...

It's amazing the things people build community around. Like, righ tnow, on the bottom of my screen I see IRC - where I'm in #unfiction and #lastcall. And of course, many of our wedding guests were Beekeepers.

I've found that blogging created a community for me that has been amazing. My best friend, is a blogger, and we met through this medium. What I love about blogging is that it does allow you to find people who are interesting, or have similar interests.

(I also agree on the GF grill. ick)

November 17, 2005 11:49 AM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

One Christmas my mother bought my brother's George Foreman grills. She thought it was the greatest thing in the world for some reason. When she told me, she suddenly got a lightbulb over her head and said, I can get one for you too!

I made a scrunchy face and said, "Why would I want a George Foreman Grill?"

Then I said, "Did I say that out loud?"

"Yes," she said, "you did," and swatted the back of my head as she walked away.

November 17, 2005 7:03 PM  
Blogger Erin O'Brien said...

McHugh, you are the only person I know that is musing about the connection between George Foreman grills and blogs. I do not have a George Foreman grill, but I do have a blog. I started it about 3 weeks ago.

Unlike your blog community, which is populated by nice, polite people, my blog community is inundated with persons such as Hairy Prison Guard, Dongley Shlongford, panther girl, the velvet fog and badgod.

And since YOU are the one that planted the idea of starting a blog during our (ahem) lunch last summer, I thought I'd stop in and let you know that you've created a monster.

You can't get rid of me, I've known you too long.

November 18, 2005 4:00 PM  
Blogger Derryl Murphy said...

The George Foreman Grill is great for grilled cheese sandwiches. I'm just sayin'...

November 18, 2005 7:14 PM  
Blogger SquidgePa said...

I'm glad that the book is as good as it sounded. I heard a review of it on NPR.
We have a George Foreman grill in a box in the basement. As of today, it gets less use than any of the kilns in the garage (Figaro is currently candling his first load).

November 19, 2005 6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comments about the George Foreman Grill reminded me of a trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond. A huge GFG started a conversation about the normal sizes between a mother and her adult son.

The son swore by them. He could have replaced George as a pitchman. What was funny was that his mother's opinion was more extreme of than Maureen's. Listen to her and you would have thought that the grill did everything short of causing the bird flu.


November 21, 2005 10:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I landed here looking for more info on failure drills. I know that post was made nearly a year ago, but I just went over failure drills today.

In a combat situation, Marines are taught to put two rounds into a target, center mass. If those two shots should fail to stop the target (hence 'failure drill,') then you put one shot in the head, hoping to destroy the central nervous system and halt all motor functions.

Probably more than you wanted to know, but little errors like that are a pet peeve of mine.

November 23, 2005 1:58 AM  
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March 24, 2009 1:48 AM  

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