Friday, April 03, 2009

Towards an Indie top ten

The newly-released NZ Blogosphere survey for February 2009 reveals that Reading the Maps was the twenty-first most popular Kiwi 'political' blog during that month. I have rather mixed feelings about that result.

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.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post. Always good to check out recommended blogs. I very much agree about Tumeke ratings as well.

12:56 pm  
Blogger maps said...

I'm sorry for not including you! My trouble with your blog is that you;re so extraodinarily prolific that I can't keep up!

1:01 pm  
Blogger Skyler said...

I was just surfing the net, as one does, and came across this blog:

It's not political or literary but it's inspiring and there are many good links on it to other crafty blogs :-) Enjoy!

Our own Bronwyn Lloyd has a lovely blog too:

1:59 pm  
Blogger Skyler said...

Another new blog I like that I found via Mightier Than Any Sword:

3:11 pm  
Blogger Skyler said...

I like this one too (I'm adding some female perspective to this blog):

4:07 pm  
Blogger Giovanni Tiso said...

Oh, thank you sir, those are good tips, much as I'd be loathe to belong to any club that would have me as a member (although - true to cultural trope - let me assure you that your well deserved bribe money is on its way).

I have my own reservations about Tumeke's list - the fact that the rankings are influenced by number of posts and comments, for instance, sets the whole thing up to encourage micro-posting and controversial and noise generating diatribes as opposed to more reasoned approaches. I'd rather they went by number of weekly returning readers, for instance - the returning reader is really what tells you whether or not you're doing something right (which you obviously are), and building a meaningful readership.

That said, nominations. I have a thing for good writers, and for that I look no further than the very fine work of Ms's (what's the plural of Ms?!) Clayton, Gallagher and Hart. Mr Litterick is a key piece of national infrastructure and, concerning your distaste of the Tumeke top 20, besides Public Address - I think the work that Russell Brown is doing in running that show is of some value - I think The Hand Mirror deserves a nod, not only for what it is but also for what it's trying to be.

6:17 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Maps - thanks for the mention - I have been rather lazy of late and playing a lot of chess tournaments... The first Blogger you mention is interesting - here is a line she came up with I liked -

"...The temple took me by surprise every time I saw it - ..." !

I immediately thought of stealing or appropriating it ...

The Temple is at never occurred tome that Ratana was a town also.

7:53 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I don't think others will share your kind enthusiasm or interest Maps as my Blog is rather - well it hasn't got much sex in it or on it...and I am a pretty boring unshaven old coot ... and there's not a lot of controversial politics or any film, fashion, singing, or pop or sexy porno stars - and to cap it all I'm an ugly old bastard...

But thus and so it was or is...

7:58 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

artandmylife - has a great Blog - very busy - there are undoubtedly many more hidden away we don't know...

and yes Bronwyn's is fascinating... I got to reading some of Robin Hyde's books and also Edward Albee again because of some things she said...

and Jack Ross does some fascinating posts...

...which he incorporates into his books - so he puts a bob each way so to speak...

I will check out the other links you posted here...

on My Space someone got angry because I wouldn't enter into the game of rating poetic Blogs - they brought out a list in any case and I didn't even look at the list - for all I know I lead it - I mean on MySpace - but I doubt it...

But I was simply not interested in who was "the best" as I feel that poetry art and so on is ultimately a personal taste, and I like to think free from those comparative traps people get into ...

I spend too much time looking at the pics of the attractive women on there!

Sorry (not) Skyler and other womerators etc


But if you are talking chess I am fanatically competitive at chess...where I am in the rating lists in that game is very important for me!
In fact this year - I could possibly win the Senior NZ Champs whereby I would then be eligible to play in the World Senior Chess Championships in Italy - I think next year...if Giovanni (or anyone else - I mean only people with money am I interested in here - if Giovanni is moneyless in Gaza - forget it mate!)) can help me get to his wonderful country and where all those wonderful people and things (ancient, modern, AND postmodern - I will be very Postmodern Gio) are I will accept his (or anyone else's) money with great gratitude and promise to throw my games v all (or any) Italians! (In the unlikely event I am actually playing* and not visiting or observing beautiful Italian women or the art galleries, famous places and so on...) ... I will be infinitely grateful...all I ask for is huge amounts of money...nothing much else.

*Or if playing actually have a chance to win...

8:30 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I suuppose some one has alredy turned the "prompt" words into poetry or texts...I just got "reculant" and then "table" !

...he sat sadly or "ettiously" at the green and reculant table, wondering if Hamish Dewe or Richard von Sturmer might, suddenly, and for no reason, or rhyme, appear...

8:36 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

'suupose' was a "mis" - but I suppose it too could have been a "prompt"

this one now - "sermene" - a long and rather "acid" sermon....

..but certainly meaningful...

8:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, the tumeke rankings include number of posts by blog owner, and number of visits by bots.

They also exclude things like the herald blogs and the blogs. Colin Espiner has quite a readable one.

8:52 pm  
Blogger Timespanner said...

Thank you very much for the inclusion in your provisional Indie Top 10, Maps. I'm chuffed you like the blog. Thanks also for your blog -- long may you "tell it like it is." Cheers.

9:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

even a single ‘scientist’ stop treating every word by Charles Darwin as their Gospel.

If only it were possible to have a rational debate about anything like species evolution, biology or global warming with violating somebodies religion (on the left)....

Personally, I don’t give a crap whether octupii existence 1M years ago or not. I don’t care when kind of ape they find. I (and that is a capital I) am not an ape variation. I’m not even sure I agree with being human if that means I’m going to be compared with some of the people i see on TV. I think there has to be a more intelligent answer to this question. Or tell me how Darwin explains where my thoughts come from and where they go when I’m not thinking about them. I got way to many questions which don’t get answered entirely by any one theory in existence today.

I’ll just believe what the Bible says, it wont change. In another 150 years the evidence will be overwhelmingly in favor of the Theory of Space Alien ancestry.

Fossils are never formed slowly; they are only formed quickly as a result of catastrophy. That is why when you see a strata of fossilized shellfish, it is always a complete spectrum of all ages from larva, to fully grown adult in real life proportions, kind of like a "family portrait."

In real life, when an animal dies, the predators and scavengers consume it quickly. When a complete body fossil is found, it is because a catastrophic event buried it before the scavengers could get to it.

12:34 am  
Blogger Richard said...

"In real life, when an animal dies, the predators and scavengers consume it quickly. When a complete body fossil is found, it is because a catastrophic event buried it before the scavengers could get to it."

This isn't quite correct - they consume a lot of it - but not the bones - and many animals die in places where they are inaccessible to large predators so other or most bones remain. (Mammals - they have an internal skeleton of hard bone) mostly are preserved more easily but insects are also fossilized in amber for example.)

In some case remains of humans and other animals have been found relatively intact where some one or thing has died in a very cold place - or swamp - remains are preserved in certain kinds of swamps (which is what a number of the poems of the Irish poet Seamus Heaney are about).

There are thus many many fossils. If you have a microscope you might even see them in amber or coal - which is known to have been formed from the remains of dead animals and tree... . Shells of sea animals will mostly become fossils - many will be ground to mix with sand but of the others huge numbers will remain.

You seem to think that evolutionary theory stops people trying to figure out (or at least to question) the why of things - you seem tormented by this question - you must have doubts - person who a deep faith in God or whatever would not be concerned about evolution or science as such (except perhaps some of the applications of science.)

You have read the Bible - but do you read other books? What about the Koran or the Buddhist writings or some philosophy? The bible and other religious books deal with abstractions and stories that are really not very clear - or verifiable.

What astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, modern geography and geology, and evolution has made us see is that humans (and our solar system or even our galaxy)) are not the centre of things and that we are not "better" than say cockroaches...

Science is a great help in many ways but it doesn't solve ontological or epistemological questions...although science and philosophy (and even religion however defined) does converge somewhat. We cannot say for example what consciousness is - it is impossible ever to know what it is. But we might make human life better overall - that is possible. (Of course technology and science has many negative aspects - so it is debatable if all or any of our scientific knowledge will help us - but we all live in hope.)

In addendum - the local (NZ) poet and writer Olwyn Stewart wrote a good meditative poem about the "ice man" who was found in the Swiss Alps quite well preserved.
(She - as far as I know - believes in God by the way. But I don't know much about her personal religious views.)

4:58 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Correction this should be:

"You seem to think that evolutionary theory stops people trying to figure out (or at least to question) the why of things - you seem tormented by this question - you must have doubts - a person who has a deep faith in God or whatever would not be concerned about evolution or science as such (except perhaps some of the applications of science.)"

5:01 pm  
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8:49 pm  
Anonymous A Very Public Sociologist said...

Dear Maps

I didn't have an email address for you, so I hope you don't mind me leaving this here.

I'm writing to invite you to take part in the Carnival of Socialism. The Carnival has been bringing a fortnightly round up of everything that's going on in the global socialist blogosphere for the last three years, and draws from a wide and eclectic mix of blogs. It has had the added bonus of helping the blogging left become a more cohesive and welcoming place, as well as delivering more audiences to the blogs that have already taken part.

But the Carnival needs your help. We are looking to expand the number of volunteers beyond a core group of 'usual suspects'. Previous Carnivals are located on its dedicated blog at to give you an idea of what hosting a carnival entails. We have sessions booked up until 26th April but need volunteers for dates after then. So how about it?

If you would like to sign up for a Carnival, know someone who might, or have any other questions about it please drop me a line at philbc03 at

Socialist Greetings,

Phil BC (A Very Public Sociologist)

6:24 am  
Blogger Edward said...


I think I understand what you are saying. Evolutionary theory involves how species change and adapt, and involves biology and behaviors, not necessarily other concerns such as the philosophical inquiry into consciousness. Some interesting books i've recently read coming from a theistic approach concerned with the latter (i.e. not 'debating' evolution at all because that's just like debating gravity) if you are interested are:

Antony Flew's 'There is a God' (2007)(although the foreword by another author is a bit cringe-worthy) and David G. Myers 'A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists' (2008). These authors have backgrounds in philosophy and psychology so their books contain logical arguments rather than the drivel usually produced by their fundamentalist counterparts.

At any rate I hope these couple of references can help satisfy your desire for "rational debate".

2:32 pm  
Blogger Matthew R. X. Dentith said...

I'm flattered by inclusion on such a list. I'm not sure what else I can add aside from being flattered; everyone else has mentioned worthy contenders; possibly, modesty aside, one of the spots in the top ten should go to your blog.

(I'm amused that the Tumeke ratings have me as indeterminate in re politics. Obviously my Libertarian baiting isn't as obvious as I had hoped...)

10:14 pm  
Blogger Dr Jack Ross said...

It's true that Zero did sail under an alias for a few hours before finding her true name -- the fact that neither you nor Skyler seem quite clear on what gender she is even yet I'm afraid rather puts paid to any further claims on her indulgence ... Thanks for popping me in your top ten list, though. I have to say (without hyperbole) that this one, reading the Maps, is not so much in my top ten as my favourite blog period.

9:12 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tena Ko
Thanks for your positive comments re my Rekohu Blog.
I find yours very informative as well. Ka pai.
As a footnote; I am not of Ngati mutunga extraction either. (I said that my children were.)I am Ngati-pakeha with a few dubious cupfuls of something else thrown in. I am a proud ambassador for Te Imi Moriori, locally on Rekohu and further afield. Being pakeha doesnt make me any less interesting does it?
Me rongo and thanks

10:42 pm  

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