Towards an Indie top ten
On the one hand, I'm pleased that we've moved up the blog rankings, as more and more people partake of our sometimes torpid discourses on history, postmodernism, nationalism, poetics, and kickboxing. I'm particularly pleased to see that we've bested the offerings of politicians like Rodney Hide, who habitually confuse press releases with honest attempts at intellectual discussion.
On the other hand, I'm not very impressed with our company at the top of the blog rankings. Most of the top twenty seem to be either echo chambers for Labour or National Party hacks, or conduits for gossip about the drinking and mating rituals of the political elite in Wellington, or both. There's not one blog in the top twenty that I visit at all regularly.
Most of the Kiwi blogs I visit regularly don't even make NZ Blogosphere's rankings, presumably because they don't qualify as sufficiently 'political'. In these sense that they eschew gossip about Helen Clark's next career move or Winston Peters' love life, and document ideas and experiences alien to the preoccupations of the Wellington beltway, then I suppose they are non-political, and thank goodness.
What's needed, I think, is a sort of Blogging Indie Chart, which can recognise blogs that are either too elliptical or too uncommercial, or both, to reach the attention of the sages at the NZ Blogosphere site. Here, then, is a hastily-compiled, very provisional Indie Top Ten, based completely on my own momentary fancies:
# 1 Mightier than any Sword - never let it be said that Michael Laws is the only journalist working out of Wanganui. The proprietor of this blog is a fine antidote to redneck ranting, but the sometimes intimate content of her posts confuses conventional understandings of what is and is not properly 'political'. Check out her post about a journey to Ratana, the historic Maori town just south of Wanganui which Michael Laws and his co-thinkers seem never to visit.
#2 All-Embracing but Underwhelming - It is a brave man who tries to make philosophy popular without becoming a populist, and the blend of witty, down to earth polemic and witheringly detailed conceptual analysis on this blog attests to Matthew Dentith's bravery. Check out his Christmas reading.
# 3 Eyelight - yes, it's true, Richard Taylor only posts once a month or so, and that is a rather unbloggerly production rate. But would you like to have to deal with one of his posts every week, let alone every day? It's easy to get lost in one of the luminously obscure, labyrinthine instalments in the ongoing blog-poem which is Eyelight.
#4 Timespanner shows us that the internet can be something other than an eternal present of news updates, gossip, and manufactured outrage. The proprietor of this blog has devoted herself to the task of reassembling the history of the Avondale area of Auckland out of old newspaper articles, cryptic street signs, mossed plaques, and the memories of old toothless men sipping sherry. The sheer detail amassed by Timespanner's investigations prevents her from lulling us into mere nostalgia - reading her blog, we are in danger of being overwhelmed by the sheer weight of history, so that we lose our safe, rather smug grasp on the present. If you don't want to risk that grasp, then check out Timespanner's post on one of Auckland's kinkier streets for a little light relief.
#5 The Imaginary Museum of Atlantis - when the poets, short story writers, novelists, and essayists of twenty-first century New Zealand site down at their desks and put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, who are they writing to? Who, I mean, is their ideal reader - the person who knows what they're getting at, wants them to get there, but won't tolerate any easy shortcuts or self-indulgent detours? I suspect I'm not the only Kiwi scribbler who would name Jack Ross as my ideal reader, and the assured, intelligent exercises in literary criticism on this blog will show you why. Not that Jack's perfect - in his latest post he neglects to mention that he acquired his cat 'Zero' from me, and that shortly after doing so disposed of the perfectly good name I had given the creature.
#6 Rekohu - the owner of this blog only posts half a dozen times a year, but anyone who blogs from the remote Rekohu - known as Chatham Island in English, and Wharekauri in Maori - wins points with me. Rekohu is a blog which aggressively advocates the interests of the Moriori people who are the tchakat henu (tangata whenua) of the Chatham Islands, yet its author is a member of the Ngati Mutunga iwi which invaded the islands and enslaved their inhabitants in 1835, and which still harbours individuals who regard the Moriori as a people without mana whenua. That, too, wins points from me. Check out Rekohu's take on the declining population of his home.
#7 Mysterex - it's one thing to spend the early hours of the morning poring over old manuscripts, reconstructing the history of Auckland or the life of a respectable scholar like EP Thompson - it's quite another to fall asleep amongst piles of yellowing posters for gigs by The Scavengers, and fanzines with names like NO FUTURE and PUNKS (sic) NOT DEAD. There is something moving about the way that journalist and novelist Andrew Schmidt uses his blog to eternalise the transitory phenomenon of New Zealand's post and post-punk movements. In Andrew's hands, the ephemera of a now-despised subculture becomes a keyhole through which fascinating aspects of New Zealand's history can be glimpsed. Be honest: how much did you know about the Whangarei punk scene in the late '70s and '80s?
#8 Whenua Fenua Enua Vanua - There's a very strong tendency amongst Pakeha New Zealanders to decide, now that the mystical document known as the Treaty of Waitangi has been invoked in various pieces of legislation passed by successive governments, that beastly things like land wars and racism have been consigned to the past, and that, as long as they wear bone carvings, listen to Tiki Tane, and have a tapa cloth on their living room walls, nice middle class honkies from Grey Lynn can be counted as members of the 'second indigenous people' of Aotearoa/New Zealand. Read this blog for another point of view.
#9 Bat, Bean, Beam - there are very few people in the blogosphere - in the world, for that matter - who are a) paid-up, long-serving members of the left b) familiar with the intricate discourses of the natural sciences c) familiar with the even more intricate discourses of the modern humanities, especially those curious regions of the humanities known as 'social theory' and 'semiotics' and d) able to write unpretentious prose. You can see, then, why Giovanni Tiso's blog just had to make my list. There's also the fact that he's Italian, and that I've seen a lot of Mafia movies. Check out Giovanni's recent post on how the history of Italian communism might eventually become more than history.
# 10 - Nominations in the comments box, please. (I'm aware I've already been awfully unfair to a lot of fine blogs by leaving them out of my top nine, so I'm hardly going to put my head on the chopping block by closing out my top ten.)