Last year I decided to put on twist on my annual "best blogs" post [2002, 2003, 2004] by taking a turn toward the obscure. Because blogs now pervade the media landscape, it makes little sense to write a post arguing that Huffington Post is better or worse than DailyKos -- or Cute Overload.
It turned out that this change -- pointing to lesser-known sites like History of the Button, Buzzfeed, and Indexed -- was a rather auspicious. Within 24 hours of releasing the list, seven of the top ten links on Del.icio.us' typically-tech-centric hotlist were sites on my list. And so in the spirit of celebrating the lesser-known, it's time again to point toward the best blogs that might have flown under your radar. Here they are, the Best Blogs of 2007 that You Maybe Aren't Reading:
30) The Informed Reader
As mainstream media organizations continue to close their foreign bureaus out of cost-saving desperation, the less expensive version -- "the international news blog" -- has become a staple property on nearly all sites (nytimes.com, msnbc.com, cnn.com, newyorker.com, etc.). Though the foreign news consumer might be tricked into believing these will reveal new forms of international reporting, it actually means that none of these sites stick out above the rest -- except for the Wall Street Journal's The Informed Reader, which somehow kept my attention this year by finding the right balance between gathering links and providing context. (See also: Good Magazine.)
29) Songs About Buildings and Food
Imagine if your favorite college prof got hooked on meth and The Hills -- and you were more concerned that the latter was killing him. That's this blog. (See also: Advanced Theory Blog and The Medium.)
If the dictum "the future is now" has any veracity, then what do we do with the past? This blog chronicles how past generations envisioned what the future would look like. With an archive that goes back to the 1880s, Paleo-Future is an essential compendium of a new historical category: nostalgic futurism. (See also: Subtopia.)
27) TV In Japan
If ever there were a genre in need of aggregation, Japanese TV would be it. This site (from my friend Gavin Purcell, whose day job is running Attack of the Show on G4) is religious in its pursuit to bring you the best moments of televised weirdness from the Land of the Rising Sun. (See also: Neojaponisme and Ping Mag.)
For those of us who have given up on the once-spectacular and oft-praised Arts & Letters Daily, the transformation of Book Forum to an aggregation blog has been nothing less than a savior. (See also: ArtsJournal.)
23) Metafilter Popular Favorites
Every year I sneak a reference to Metafilter onto this list. And every year a Metafilter post ridicules its inclusion -- can't wait to see this year's! My longstanding love-hate relationship with Metafilter (check the archives) tilted back toward the negative this year, which is why the Popular Favorites feature was almost a panacea for my frustration. More big sites are adding this "favoriting" feature (BoingBoing, Gothamist, etc.), which I initially appraised as a cheap way of avoiding depth, but now find the only way I can continue reading some sites. (See also: Ask.Metafilter.)
Drawn bills itself at "collaborative weblog for illustrators, artists, cartoonists, and anyone who likes to draw," but it acts more like a comprehensive guide to visual culture. (See also: Design Observer.)
The overabundant jungle of pop culture blogging leaves little room for new voices to emerge. One can read only so many snarky reviews of every episode of every reality tv show on every network every night (I know!). As an antidote to Perez Hilton's pretty hate machine, FourFour's Rich Juzwiak (whose day job is blogging for VH1) has carved out something unique in the pop landscape by balancing critical insight with a celebration for the lovable. And what does FourFour love? For starters: Tyra, America's Next Top Model, Beyonce, Tyra, Project Runway, and... Tyra. (See also: Golden Fiddle and Best Week Ever.)
20) Reverse Cowgirl
Her: "Why don't more sex bloggers make your list?" Me: "Cuz they all talk about the same thing." Her: "Yes, but in many different ways." It's true, sex bloggers don't usually end up on this list, but Susannah Breslin's blog was one of the few sites in the genre to stay in the "to read" pile all year long.
19) Kanye West: Blog
Too much was made again this year about famous people getting blogs. Do you really want more insight into these people's opinions? Of course not -- you want to know their passions, their desires, their interest in dropping $7K on a bottle of cognac. Kanye's blog is more like a scrapbook of his id: some links (hey look, the new Lupe Fiasco vid), some photos (hey look, a Delorean), but surprisingly little ego.
16) Pussy Ranch
Several years ago I included Diablo on a "hot new blog!" list. Now she's super famous, and I'm still making this stupid list.
15) Serious Eats
Food blogging has always been a blind spot for me, but Serious Eats was the first site to find the right mix of editorial voice and community interaction.
13) La Blogotheque: Take Away Shows
Drag a band out into the street, shoot video of them playing, upload it to the internet... and magic. If you're looking for a place to start, I suggest The Cold War Kids, but there are 70+ more. (See also: RCRD LBL.)
11) The Daily Swarm
Looking for an alternative to Pitchfork? Who isn't! But Daily Swarm isn't exactly that -- it's a music news source that somehow seems to break news before anyone else. And it's not "press release" news that Pitchfork delivers, nor the salacious celeb news of TMZ, nor even the industry banter of Idolator; rather, The Daily Swarm's beat is a rare kind of -- dare I say -- investigative work that no one else is doing. (See also: Stereogum and Culture Bully.)
10) A Brief Message
Brevity seemed to only increase its role as the ruling doctrine this year (see: Snack Culture), and the designers hopped on board with their micro-manifestos on this site. (See also: Very Short List.)
9) The "Blog of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks
You've seen them -- too many times to count. And if you had taken pictures of every unnecessary instance of quotation marks, you "probably" would have made this list too. (See also: Apostrophe Abuse.)
8) emo+beer = busted career
When Earl Boykins mixed the infographic with a passion for Brooklyn indie music, he ended up with several pieces in the New York Times that could have passed for art installations. (See also: Infosthetics.)
7) Frolix-8: Philip K. Dick
What we once called "the news" is increasingly becoming different filters for perceiving reality. If you think about it, watching the news is just putting on someone else's reality goggles. Philip K. Dick would probably agree, and so this amazing site gives you today's headlines matched up next to which PKD novel the story corresponds with. If it seems that science fiction gets less fantastical every year, then this is the site for you. (See also: Cyber Punk Review.)
A snowclone -- says Wikipedia, cuz it oughta know -- is "a type of formula-based cliche that uses an old idiom in a new context." The best example is the rampant usage of "X is the new Y." But there are so many others, such as "Don't hate me because I'm X," "In X, no one can hear you Y," "No rest for the X," "To X or not to X," "Xgate," "Xcore," "Got X?" -- and many more. The site is so diligent in its pursuit of the cliche and the trite that you might fall stricken with a loss of words, gasping "This is not your daddy's snowclone." (See also: Language Hat and Away With Words.)
Gawker Media's modus operandi is to enter a content category (gadgets, politics, sports, music, etc.) by summarizing that industry with enough volume (in both senses of the word) to basically become the essential trade mag in that sector. This is why Jezebel represents the biggest coup in the empire's history. Rather than beguile its way into the women's magazine industry, Jezebel burst onto the scene in May by defining itself in oppositional terms. It isn't so much a thing as it is not those things. To be clear: it is not the celeb porn that Conde Nast and Hearst have been splooging on you from newsstands for decades. Whereas the average Idolator post would fit in just fine in Blender or Pitchfork, Jezebel was an entire take-down of Glamour, Cosmo, and the rest of the airbrushed crew. This is the holy grail of publishing: to find a voice that is completely unique while still appealing to a broad category. Nicely played, Mr. Denton. (Note: By the numbers, Jezebel probably doesn't qualify in the "overlooked" character of this list. But with as many dudes like me reading this "women's fashion" site every day...) (See also: Spout.)
4) Smashing Telly
Smashing Telly is the antidote to all those skull-numbing viral video aggregators. Instead of gathering 30-second clips of dogs on skateboards, the site meticulously curates long-form clips that will make you wishing to extend your office hours. It's where I found the Mailer/McLuhan interview, Manufacturing Consent, a random Clockword Orange documentary, and countless other things. (See also: First Showing and vidoes.antville.org.)
New York Magazine is a perplexing contradiction. It is probably the best magazine on the newsstand right now (Wired is the only competition), but it also has an editorial voice that is occasionally annoying in its sense of privilege and entitlement. On its worst days, I call this attitude "Aggressively SoHo" -- as in, it surpassed believing that NYC is the center of the world by declaring the epicenter somewhere south of 14th St. and north of Chambers St. When my bestest friend Melissa (disclaimer!) said she was co-launching this blog (she has since moved onto Rolling Stone), I was worried that this voice would ring through on its cultural coverage. But the opposite has happened -- Vulture has kept the best parts of New York Mag (the nuance, the design, the clever), while leaving the Aggressive SoHo Tude at the door. (See also: Wired's Blogs.)
2) Ill Doctrine
When Ze Frank sadly abided by his promise to shut down his much-celebrated but under-watched show in March (after exactly one year), the internet was left to gasp for unique video programming. Jay Smooth's Ill Doctrine has been the only video blog to emerge with a distinct voice, a mature vision, and brilliant programming that mixes essay, criticism, and attitude. Check it: Chocolate Radiohead and Amy Winehouse and the Ethics of Clowning People. (See also: Epic-Fu and Rod 2.0.)
1) Twitter and Tumblr
"Blog" has always been an elastic term, just barely surviving the stress of containing everything from Hot Chicks With Douchebags to DailyKos to your mom's Vox account. But this year the seams of the term finally burst, and out spilled some brand new words, tweets and tumbls, and these two new forms of quasi-blogging that are more personal, more immediate, and of course more annoying than anything online communication has rustled up so far. Twitter and Tumblr are the Rubik's Cube and the Tetris of the blogging world -- simple concepts that are immensely more complex and compelling than they logically should be. I've explained Twitter to a hundred people in a hundred different ways, each time not quite capturing why it's different, why it matters. "You just have to play it to understand," I eventually say, choosing the only verb that approaches the nuanced complexity. And yet, there's another very simple way to say it: Twitter and Tumblr made blogging fun again this year.