imomus (imomus) wrote,

Pick Opera: Top 10 blog events of 2007

The web is my window on the world. This year my window got bigger, brighter and sharper -- in the form of a 24 inch iMac -- and also more ubiquitous thanks to the iPod Touch. But of course the web is all about content, and particularly content that changes frequently. So today I wanted to list what were, for me, the Top 10 blogs (or frequently-changed webpages, if you prefer) of 2007.

1. YouTube
Okay, YouTube isn't really a blog. But it had to be in here: the integration of video was really the blogging event of the year. Sure, for some 2007 may have been the year of Facebook, but for me it was the year of YouTube. I embedded my first YouTube video -- Cornelius' track Toner -- in a Click Opera entry posted on January 24th. Since then there's been no stopping -- entries are now as likely to use YouTube videos for visual punctuation as photos. Comments can now take the form of videos. There were naked vlogs, YouTube readings of my novel in progress, YouTube multi-channel video installations. "Something really quite odd has happened," I wrote in March. "I've started watching TV again." Rather than the passive potato, though, this second time around I was TV's programmer, its producer, its promulgator.

2. Google Reader
Staying with cutting-edge Web 2.0 software that suddenly made sense in 2007, or didn't exist before, Google Reader is a blog aggregator that uses RSS to put all the blogs you follow on one (ugly and slightly unstable) page. I did find myself using it quite a bit this year, but only because my blog bookmarks dropdown menus in Safari are such a shambles -- it takes forever to get to the bottom of them, where the interesting stuff is. (Why can't I just reverse them, Safari engineers, and have the new adds appear at the top of the menu?) In principle I'm against stripping all the graphics out of blog entries -- I don't believe the content of a blog entry can or should be separated from its form, its layout. That's like trying to separate soul and body (does RSS stand for "religious soul separator"?) And I'm not particularly worried by Google's recent faux pas, in which they allowed anyone on your Contacts List to share your Reader feeds. But I do think they should allow you to switch that off.

3. TateShots
Hey, Art Museum, Give Me iPod Eye Candy! I demanded in April via my Wired News bully pulpit. Museums, I felt, were lagging behind individuals in their ability to deliver web video versions of their shows. Mainly, I guess, this happens because of clearances and copyright and stuff -- the paperwork institutions have to do but individuals don't -- but also because they have fancy websites they don't know how to alter once the designers have packed up and moved on. Museums, in other words, don't use Web 2.0. But the Tate Gallery in London got the video thing very substantially right with their TateShots page, a regularly-changing video magazine designed, in part, by James Goggin, maker of the last two Momus LP sleeves. And, speaking of LP sleeves, check out the TateShots interview with Linder Sterling, who made some of cult Manchester band Magazine's most memorable imagery.

4. Tokyo Bopper
2007 may have seen the demise of Shift's Girls on the Street feature (Shift redesigned their site in a much less compelling format), but other street fashion blogs stepped into the breach. Most enjoyable, for Hisae and me, was Tokyo Bopper, the bright yellow shop blog broadcasting several times a day from a hiking boot store in Harajuku. It's the quirkiness of this commercial blog which endears: why are they so obsessed with their oddly misimagined Tyrol? (I suppose it's the home of hiking.) How are they reconciling nu-rave revivalism with Alpine folk styles? And what will geek-star Yama-Sama be wearing today?

5. Face Hunter
Staying with fashion, a cluster of new sites showed what people -- the people who still care and still try, at least -- were wearing on the streets of various cities. StreetPeeper briefly added Tokyo to its impressive list of peeped cities (Paris, Oslo, New York, Melbourne, New York, Seoul, San Francisco...) then removed it, leaving Drop Snap as the best and latest way of seeing what the Japanese street was doing. Face Hunter got around a lot, stayed up late, and went to the right parties. (Please don't tell me to look at The Sartorialist. I have, and I don't like it.)

6. Tokyo Art Beat Blog
Since art and Tokyo are my two favourite things in the entire world, it makes sense that Tokyo Art Beat -- a site that combines them -- would float my boat. TAB started the year as an excellent listings service, but ended even better, having added an even more excellent blog and a Kansai-specific service for those in the Kobe-Kyoto-Osaka triangle. It was a pleasure to meet TAB's Paul Baron at Super Deluxe in May, and I particularly enjoyed Ashley Rawlings' writings on the blog, including his year-end rundown. Three years in, Tokyo Art Beat is a great example of how the web is the ideal index to real world events you couldn't really know about any other way.

7. PingMag Make
In Blogger Royale, a satirical piece from March about the bitter, violent, treacherous internecine struggle between English-language Japan-themed bloggers (well, mostly between me and Marxy), PingMag was the last blog left standing on Survival Island. PingMag had a strong year (so strong that Jean Snow's sterling site sometimes looked like a PingMag index) and ended it with an interesting new offshoot, PingMag Make. Basically, the PingMag formula still applies; features on commercial art, crafts, quirky shops, design, "making things". But now the coverage has gone Japan-wide, and focuses on people working outside major urban centres. This gives us valuable glimpses into the lives of people like Nanographica, who combine Slow Life with media savvy in a seductive, somewhat escapist, package.

8. Flasher
Flasher is an interesting site, a video magazine of interviews with creative people about their work. I suppose this goes back to my Google Reader thing about soul and body not being separable; I do want to see the correlations between people's work and their faces, bodies, voice and dress styles and backgrounds. That's what Flasher provides. It not only gave me a chance to see how people like Ellen Allien and Jan Family actually looked and sounded, it introduced me to new artists like Haushka. As a regular Flasher viewer I was chuffed to be interviewed for the vidmag in April, and to see the resulting video bobbing so high in the Flasher popularity charts for the rest of the year.

9. Vernissage TV
2007 was the year of the Grand Tour -- the conjunction of four major art events in Europe in June which brought the art world from all four corners of the earth. Carbon emissions could have been reduced if they'd all just stayed home and watched the art carnage on Vernissage TV, a surprisingly lifelike (in other words jerky, rapid and subjective) video coverage of openings. That's certainly how I "experienced" Art Basel Miami (unlike Digiki, who actually went), and how I "experienced" Documenta. I'd been planning to go to that, but the initial reports were so scathing ("Don't bother, it's a waste of time" etc) that, cash-strapped, Hisae and I cancelled our Kassel plans. Imagine my annoyance to discover, from the end-of-year coverage in ArtForum and Frieze, that Documenta was both the worst and the best art event of the year, a real intellectual earworm, a grower.

10. Neojaponisme
How could I end the year without some sort of comment on Neojaponisme, Marxy's new blog? Well, without wishing to damn it with faint praise, Neojaponisme is quite good. I like Ian Lynam's Cow Books-ish design -- the idea seems to be that Neojaponisme is a radical tract you find lying around in the Naka-Meguro branch of the trendy secondhand bookseller, something that mildly shakes you out of your consumerist conformity as you sip a coffee, putting you into just the kind of mood required to go shopping again. Marxy hasn't abandoned his basic "Fight this generation!" stance towards his adopted country, but I can see how, working in marketing (this is a man whose dayjob includes charging people thousands for members-only information on Japanese consumer markets), you might want to be slightly more critical of consumer trends when you get home. Marxy has widened the tone and subject-matter from the narrow focus seen on his old blog, Neomarxisme, by including content from a rotating roster of people with very different perspectives, interests and feelings about Japan. Recently we've had e*rock and Mumbleboy contributing, for instance, and there are even some contributions by actual Japanese people, some short fiction, and some drawings, as well as cracking essays by Mr Marx himself (I enjoyed the recent one on the Japanese version of Hair). A promising beginning, then, for a new blog from one of Japan's more articulate and informed observers. I can't say it's raised my pulse, though, the way the old one did. And no, I won't be delurking any time soon. In aggregate, I think I'm a little against the idea of blogs-as-aggregators, which is basically what Neojaponisme seeks to do (to aggregate various different perspectives on Japan). I think they become a little wishy-washy, a little vanilla. They lose tone and flavour. Or do I mean they separate body and soul?

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