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.

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.