Back on May 1, the (London) Times had a feature called “40 bloggers who really count.” If you’d thought the equation of popularity to cultural significance was a uniquely American phenomenon, think again: somehow the authors found room for seven fashion blogs, two Hollywood blogs and two gossip blogs, but not a single science, nature, art, poetry or religion and philosophy blog. They included just one blog apiece in the literature and memoir categories (Maud Newton and dooce, respectively), the latter especially surprising since I believe that the memoir blog is still numerically the most dominant genre.
I flirted with the idea of doing my own, rival list of Top 40 blogs, but started thinking about all the blogs I’d have to exclude from such a short list and thought better of it. Besides, if I’m so opposed to the “Top 40″ mentality, why pander to it? Still, if you’re not reading blogs like the Marvelous in nature, Coyote Crossing, The Rain in My Purse, Drawing the Motmot, Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ Artlog, Paula’s House of Toast, Crack Skull Bob, or tasting rhubarb, you don’t know what you’re missing. There’s way more to the blogosphere than politics, celebrities and gossip.
I was pleased this morning to see an old blogging friend back at it with a new photoblog, from this shore, which, based on the photos she’s posted so far, promises to offer far more real and intimate glimpses into East Asian Buddhist monasticism than one could ever hope to get as a mere tourist.
“From this shore to the other shore:” a common metaphor for the crossing from samsara to nirvana, delusion to wisdom, in East Asian Buddhism.
The photographs and interviews here are part of an on-going project to both document and express the lives of Buddhist nuns.
Face it, it’s hard to find non-idealized portrayals of monastics even when they’re just boring old Cistercians or Benedictines, without the additional layer of exoticism you get from having them be Zen (Seon) Buddhists. How often do you get a chance to see that world through the eyes of someone who has lived it herself, day in and day out for five years?
Then this afternoon I discovered that Anthropological Notebook is back — another chance to see supposedly exotic people being very human and ordinary. Lye Tuck-Po is a Malaysian anthropologist who has worked extensively with the Batek, a hunter-gatherer forest people of peninsular Malaysia, and is also an accomplished amateur photographer. She took down the original incarnation of her blog last August “due to pressure of work,” but has now started it up again, intending to use it “mainly for posting photography.” One can also follow her work on Flickr.
The Smorgasblog on my sidebar is the main way I link to other blogs, but since it’s exclusively text-focused, photoblogs get short shrift. I also tend not to link much to microbloggers, haiku poets, and the like, since that would entail quoting posts or poems in their entirety — a violation of Fair Use under U.S. copyright law. I’d have to email for special permission, and most of the time I’m just too damn lazy. So it is that I almost never link to one of my favorite poetry blogs, Grant Hackett’s Falling Off the Mountain. His one-line poems are simply amazing.
UPDATE: Grant deleted his blog without explanation on June 1, 2010.
Speaking of micropoetry, tiny words (also on Twitter) recently began serializing a new issue after a longer-than-expected break. I like this magazine not only for the great content, but also the minimalist design and the fact that it is doing nearly everything right, in my opinion. Most online literary magazines are clusterfucks of poor usability, non-existent SEO, missing or malformed RSS feeds, and a lamentable tendency to try and ape print magazines in every way possible, so it’s refreshing to find one like tiny words whose editor not only has a firm grasp of how the web works, but even seems interested in expanding readership beyond the authors themselves and their immediate friends.
I launched a new website myself last week, a blog in the guise of a discussion forum for my videopoetry site Moving Poems. Check it out if you’re at all interested in news and views about the videopoetry/poetry film medium, and email me if you’d like to contribute posts. I explain my thinking and goals for the forum in an overview post.
Lest you think that blogs are no longer culturally relevant just because the cool tech kids have moved on to other things, “Surprise: Traditional Blogging Platforms Still Reign Supreme,” a headline in ReadWriteWeb recently announced. Even the bulk of online conversations still take place in blog comment threads, not on Twitter, Facebook and their ilk. Unique, personalized websites with regularly updated content on the front page still rule the web, and that really shouldn’t be a surprise. Would traditional print periodicals be in such trouble otherwise?