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November 30, 2002

true state of education

so, i'm in arizona. for thanksgiving with the folks and all. and what happens at every holiday gathering? right, family games. so, it's trivial pursuit with the parents and their friends. for as much complaining as i hear from them that the "younger generation" has their head up their ass (okay, i'll conceed that to be partially true) you think they'd be better at the game. more life equals more experiences which should equal more answers right? well, this part of the "younger generation" has served them a nice big fat slice of shut the fuck up pie. winning answers scored by me are; abby hoffman, stephen hawking's "a brief history in time", dr.who, mars (as in what was the last planet that nasa has landed on), and hell, even maxim magazine. my friends, the pop culture revolution has begun. wicked.

November 27, 2002

bob's blog

I'm filing this under nonfamous nonstrangers because I know my friend Bob will post for us occasionally. Quite coincidentally, he launched his own blog, Imminent Ptomaine, last week.

It is, as he pointed out in its email introduction to me, "darker and more caustic" than f.a.n.s. But then again, Bob is a highly intelligent and amiable Brit who has lived in the States for many years; were he anything other than dark and caustic I'd be all-to-suspicious.

The blog's title does give me slight pause, as dining Chez Bob et Terri is an unparalleled treat for the senses-- where else have I ever enjoyed a whole roast lamb studded with 10 heads of garlic or tawny port older than myself? Nowhere, gentle reader. Now must I fear that these pleasures might cause painful illness and death?

Ah, well. Worth the risk.

For True Epicures

I'm feeling like I'm on a roll today. I just had to share this article from the Onion with everyone, mainly because I can just imagine all the guys out there who would read this and think "wait, I thought everything in the Onion was a joke. That's my idea of a romantic evening."

The High Maintenance Bird

There has been an interesting confluence of themes in my life lately, especially in regards to my heritage turkey, the history of cocktails, and that rather unnerving southern species of bird known as the turducken, which Jay discoursed on so eloquently here a few days ago.

This morning I awoke to a story on NPR about the farm that raised my Thanksgiving centerpiece, Wish Farms in Prairie City, OR. Then they did a piece about a particular kind of heritage martini, as it were, using Plymouth Gin, which was of course thematically linked to the book I'm reading, Straight Up or On the Rocks: The Story of the American Cocktail, which had this nice little excerpt on the page that I started with this morning:

Turkey Cocktail: To one large turkey add one gallon of vermouth and a demijohn of Angosturo bitters. Shake.
The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald

which seemed really funny on a bus at 8 am this morning after a hard night of primary research on historically important cocktails. But not half so amusing as the read I had upon opening the information packet that accompanied my heritage turkey. First of all, the fact that a turkey should require documentation beyond that which is specified by the Department of Agriculture, is in itself quite amusing. But that it should come with instructions for care and cooking that rival in anal retentiveness the pages of Cook's Illustrated or the above and below mentioned turducken is really quite a hoot.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled to be participating in the Slow Food movement, and to do my part to help keep a family farm in operation. Being the daughter of a gentleman farmer, I do value the small time agricultural operation and all, but so far as I know, the most instruction my father would provide to a would-be cook about to tackle one of his birds would be along the lines of "well, it's dead, which I know because I did the backbreaking work of putting the thing out it's misery. And you should probably cook it before you eat it."

So the main information sheet is titled "A few words on your Thanksgiving turkey" and assures me that, in fact, Sunday, November 24, 2002 was the correct date of death for my little hen, an 11.5 pound specimen of poultry pulchritude. It reminds me (which is probably not a bad thing to do) that the nasties are in the cavity of the bird and should be removed prior to cooking and then used "in preparing a flavorful stock and/or stuffing." It also advises me to rinse the bugger inside and out, and just in case I hadn't thought of it, suggests that "the spray attachment on your kitchen sink is an ideal tool for this job."

It also reminds me that my American Bronze bird is superior to those that millions of Americans are thawing right now after picking up at their local grocery stores (well, I should hope so, considering that I just paid $40 for an 11 pound turkey!), and as such requires no brining or marinating since they are but "techniques introduced to cope with the blandness of the Standard White supermarket turkey" (which comes as something of a relief, as I was a bit concerned that my first experience not using a pre-brined kosher turkey might result in me making a salty mess of this rare bird). It also gently suggests that extreme methods of cooking, such as smoking and frying, would overwhelm the subtle flavor of my new poultry prize, and implies that I would be insulting the little critter to treat it in such a shocking manner. My bird will also likely take as much as an hour less to cook than its supermarket cousins, owing to its gentle nature. No, this is a delicate creature, and should be treated with the utmost roasting respect, which according to the Slow Food people does have its many variations, and might well entail "high-temp, low-tem or a combination, breast-up, breast-down or a combination, stuffed/unstuffed, basted/unbasted" oven treatment. And here I thought turkey roasting was uncreative!

So this information sheet goes on to advise me that I should remove the bird from the oven the moment the internal temperature reaches 165 so as to avoid drying it out. It also offers the helpful hint that should I be concerned about undercooking the stuffing, I could wrap it cheesecloth, microwave it first and then fill up the bird with it already hot. I wonder, does Heloise know about that one?

And here I thought I was just buying a turkey, not a whole new philosophy on the treatment of poultry products. I hope the organic potatoes I plan to purchase at the Pike Place Market today won't inform me that they would feel slighted to be mashed with some garden-variety garlic and milk. At least I can assure them that I will be using some very good Irish butter in the mix.

November 26, 2002

Introduction to Australian Heritage

You may not be aware of this, but I am an Australian. In the spirit of international cultural outreach, I offer the reader this introduction to Australian heritage. This classic text is required reading in all Australian primary (elementary) schools. Read this and be the conversational vedette at your next cocktail party with all you need to know about Australian historical figures, events, and cultural locations.

hey there pilgrim

Perry is astounded (and almost offended, I think) by Paulette's and my participation in the "Slow Food" movement, but he's going to be eating a "Slow Turkey" with us on Thursday. Apparently a fair number of New Yorkers will be doing the same: Turkeys Similar to What Pilgrims Ate

I'm a little freaked out by the Times' angle though: I have a hard enough time with my "extinction day" festivities without highlighting my cultural connections to the Pilgrims. I'll just take my heirloom turkey with an extra helping of white guilt.

November 25, 2002

Bonsai Kittens

Bonsai Kitten is one of my favourite links to send to the gullible and/or reactionary (the two traits are highly correlated, in my experience). Check out the guestbook for the insightful commentary.

If bonsai kittens were real, I'd have one. Not only are they unique, but if you have more than one they stack easily for space-saving storage.

Slate slaps Bearing Point name

Slate's Rob Walker has again earned my admiration by pointing out the tragic flaws in the rebranding of KPMG Consulting as Bearning Point. Why is it that consulting firms always choose such bad names? (Remember Monday:, PWC Consulting's short-lived name before it was snapped up by IBM?) This article rightfully attacks the name as stupid and the brand behind it as utterly generic. To wit:

"What are we? Who are we? What do we stand for? We make things happen. … We integrate and collaborate. We deliver on our promises with an attitude of 'whatever it takes.' We measure our success by the success of our clients. … We have a presence, an intensity. … What we have not changed is our mind-set—the desire to get it done. … It's who we are. We're fast, nimble, smart, innovative, flexible, responsible, and honest. We know how to think on our feet. And make it happen. Now. … We don't walk. We run. But with a purpose. A mission. … "

Whoever did this work (and I'm checking on that) just wrote down whatever jargon the CEO had running through his mind that day, and charged them lots of money for regurgitating it. This is the kind of stuff that makes me embarrassed to do brand strategy.

Super Soy

So, I'm paraphrasing from someone on Chowhound to explain this little movie for
Kikkoman Soy Sauce, but it would appear that Super Kikkoman defeats his enemies by pouring soy sauce over them. He apparently can wield more than just a condiment, however, as he shamed the cat in the video into hanging himself by pointing out that he should already know enough to use soy sauce, and not Worcestershire sauce, on his omelette. The girl in Super Kikkoman's bed is apparently named after a Worcestershire sauce maker in Japan, which kind of speaks for itself.

November 24, 2002

Turducken: it's what's for dinner?

Had nonfamous nonstranger Paulette and I not already contracted months ago to buy a (this is for real) "organic free-range heirloom turkey" from a small "Slow Food" farmer in Oregon, we'd be making a turducken for Thanksgiving. Though it sounds as if it could be German for "moving so as to avoid flying poo," turducken is a Southern delicacy sweeping the nation.

This NYT article hails it as a "free-form poutlry terrine." What this means in practice is stuffing a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey (with stuffing in between) and cooking for 12 hours.

Calvin Trillin, easily my favorite food writer, has written persuasively about the glories of the turducken. But Paulette's Dad-- a farmer-- has the last word. When she suggested he raise turducken, he replied earnestly, "Oh no. Last time I tried to stuff a chicken up a duck's ass it didn't work too well."

However unpleasant that image is, I maintain it's still better than Tofurkey and other fake flesh. But then again, I'm not a vegetarian.

November 22, 2002

Lorem Ipsum

OK, so I lied. Our first four test contributors are having a busy week, so I am going to start shoveling content up to get things going. This one comes courtesy of memepool, my second-favorite blog.

What more appropriate space-filler than info about "Lorem Ipsum," that most famous of "greek" (not Greek) text strings? And it has its very own web site, Lorem Ipsum - All the facts - Lipsum generator.

The full Latin text, from Cicero's "de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum" (The Extremes of Good and Evil), reads thus: "Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit..."

I know some people (naming no names here) who would take issue with this statement, which renders in English as "There is no one who loves pain itself, who seeks after it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain...."

Leaving aside Cicero's ignorance of the booming Roman S/M scene, his commentary is as usual quite sage-- it's an argument against asceticism and anti-pleasure moralism. The Republic could use a little more of that now, to counter the Bennetts and Borks afoot in the Forum.

Next time you need to fill space, just specify exactly how much of Cicero you need (in paragraphs, words, or bytes) and Lipsum will create a custom remix for you.

I may even post a few chunks here...

November 20, 2002

our categories

So posts need at least one category. To start, these are they:

art/lit/smartypants - for you highbrows
aviso - Italian for "advice" and "warning," a propos our amateur advice columnists
biz - if you must write about business, do it here
ha- if it's really funny, put it here
neuroses - air out your issues here for public comment, lest you turn into Jeannine
nonfamous nonstranger news - stuff about the site and the contributors
podium - if someone needs a lecture
politics (woe is us) - it's all bad news these days
popcult - cf. art/lit/smartypants
seattle - no monorail, please
tech/sci- for nonfamous geeks
yum- good food and its pursuit

Anything I've left out?

why the title?

The site's name is taken from the text of a letter (view image) received in late 1997 at the offices of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, where I was working (along with nonfamous nonstrangers Rachel and sometimes Monica). We were torn between the undeniable pathos and unintentional humor of both the letter and its apparently scattershot distribution. OK, mostly we were just laughing so hard we hurt-- and that went on for weeks. We actually considered calling poor Jeannine, but encountered a difficult question: how does one call a paranoid schizophrenic without making her more paranoid? Emily Post offers no guidance on these matters.

To this day, phrases like "greatly maimed and incapacitated" pop to my mind and I giggle. Only when nonfamous nonstranger Topher revealed this week that he actually knew "crazy Jeannine" from his college days at Evergreen was I able to think of her as a real person, and a sad one at that. The urge to make contact surfaced again-- but what would I say? "Did you ever get help?" "Did you know you made some kids in the desolate middle of the country laugh and feel less sorry for themselves, in a kind of sick Seinfeld way?"

So thank you, Jeannine, and I'm sorry. I promise not to invade your privacy or host any "charity dinners on behalf of the cause [we] have fabricated about [your] life." But there is this little website where some decent people will share with the wider world our thoughts and worldview-- much as you shared yours with us via Xerox and snailmail.

the first post

Welcome, everyone, to "famous and nonfamous strangers." As this is mostly a message to those of you who expressed an interest in contributing, I've filed it under "nonfamous nonstrangers"-- as you are friends of mine and strangers only to the millions of adoring fans who will one day read the site.

I'm going to post a separate message about all the other categories we're starting out with-- though I expect more to come later.

Setting this up was so much easier than I expected. In the course of 24 hours, I registered a domain, set up hosting, and got MT installed on the server (by the nice people who wrote it). I am remembering how little I know about HTML, but for the most part I am insulated from all that.

I've set up a few people of you as "authors" initially, and I'd like to get all of you up and posting before I add others. I know everyone's busy, but this is all about a multiplicity of voices-- and my selfish desire to hear more of the smart, insightful, and funny things my friends have to say.

I'm going to hang back a little with my own entries for a while, in part because I'm still doing a lot of back-end tweaking and in part because I know what I sound like and don't want to hear myself talk.

With that, enough of this message. Welcome, thanks for trying this out, and please give me feedback. If you're not having fun after a week or so, let me know.


What is "famous and nonfamous strangers"?

As David and I update the site, it occurs to us that a little explanation is in order for both newcomers and, you know, posterity.

Relatively early in the blogging craze (back in November 2002) I decided to create a site that would mimic the kinds of conversations my wonderfully erudite, articulate, and most of all hilarious friends have when we get together. Since you can't have a dinner party every day, why not a blog instead? I intended more of my non-Seattle-based pals to get in on the act, but for whatever reason (lousy weather?) most of the active contributors live here. (I'm going to continue to hassle the rest of you.)

So the style of the site is conversational, occasionally confrontational, and generally short and to the point. Most all of us blog around the edges of work (and of course the busy lives we cram in outside those 40-60 hours a week), so there is a forced economy to much of what we post. As a huge Orwell fan, that "dispatches from the front" feel is something I love about the site.

I set out a few original categories (which have since been augmented) and set a loose on the world. The results have been tremendously satisfying. As of today, we're averaging around 300 unique visitors a day, a tally aided no doubt by references to the blog in the New York Times, BBC News Online, The New York Daily News and Slashdot.

Our themeline is "commentary on the world around us, with an effort to keep paranoia at the lowest healthy level." Especially when we talk about politics, a little paranoia doesn't seem unreasonable, but we do try to avoid sounding like our patron saint.

At any rate, that's surely enough introduction-- browsing the site is by far the best way to get a feel for it.