Sunday, January 18, 2009

Diamonds in the Rockpile: Class of 2008

Somebody told me not long ago that there are 70 million blogs already operating in the world with more coming online every day. That's a helluva big rockpile. I got news for you. I don't read every one of them. Shocking, I know, but true. So there are -- without question -- blogs that are not on this list that are every bit as deserving of recognition as the ones included here. I wrestled with the idea of doing this for quite a while before deciding to go ahead with it. I wrestled with it because awards by their very nature are exclusionary. They elevate some above others. That's their purpose. To recognize achievement, to applaud good work, to acknowledge the effort that goes into it. At the same time, I don't want to give the impression that I'm saying those not on the list are not good. A lot of them are very good. In fact, there are some that deserve to be on here that didn't make it this time because if I tried to list them all I'd never finish writing this. Besides, I have to save some for next time right? So these 10 (a purely arbitrary number by the way) are simply the ones that stand out in the opinion of our panel of judge as consistently good over a period of time.

I also wrestled with it because of the nature of the usual "blog award". Usually these are thinly disguised tags passed from blog to blog and as often as not the criteria for "awarding" them to someone is that the "someone" isn't likely to get pissed at you for tagging them. I wanted to create something "Certified 100% Tag-Free". So I created the award with the idea that it's only given directly from me to thee. I'm happy to take nominations from anyone at any time. But this isn't a "Pass-It-On" kind of award.

So there's really only one underlying criteria, and that -- in it's simplest form -- is that the panel of judge (that'd be me) thinks the blog rocks. I tried coming up with some objective measurements and then realized that all I was doing was basing the measurements on the ones that in my mind were already selected. So once the pretense of measurable, objective criteria was heaved cheerfully over the side I could actually get down to work.

It'll probably come as no shock that most of the blogs in this list are photo blogs. Or at least they're photo-related blogs. But this isn't for a specific niche. If it's good, it's good and it doesn't matter what it's good at. But I tend to visit more photo blogs than non-photo ones, so that explains the proportions.

Finally, unlike most blog awards, there are no "rules". If you're on the list, you've been selected and you can do with that what you will. You are of course welcome to display the bling if you choose, but it's not "mandatory". I'm not gonna take it back if you don't. The prescribed number of people to pass it along to is zero. That's not how this works. If you think there's a deserving blog out there, nominate them and tell me why you think so. I won't promise to agree with you, but I'll promise to check them out. And nominations are open to anyone for anyone and for any type of blog.

"So who are these uber-bloggers anyway?", you ask. And I reply, in the order of most recent update when I started writing this post, the 2008 Diamonds in the Rockpile are...

Napaboaniya APAD (A Photo A Day)
I'm not sure if "Napaboaniya" is a name, a word or an acronym or just a collection of letters that sounded neat. What I do know is that Elaine, who writes Napaboaniya APAD is one of the most astonishing photographers I've run across in the blogiverse. I don't think I've ever seen her post a photo that I didn't admire, but I've been especially impressed by her candid portraiture. She manages to select (or perhaps replicate) natural lighting in any conditions that wraps her subjects like a warm blanket. Her macro and still life work is certainly not anything to ignore either. If you're a fan of great photography, you want to check this lady out. Often.

Written, Inc.
I don't think it's possible for me to pump Carmi's tires too much. First of all because he won't let me and second because there's simply not enough air to do the job properly. Not only is the guy an absolutely gifted photographer, he combines that talent with an unerring eye -- both literally and metaphorically -- for the better things to be found in the world. Not that the guy is a Polyanna or anything, but Carmi's got a way of finding the kernel of goodness in the pile of... not-so-goodness. Plus, he's brought us Thematic Photographic allowing the rest of us to showcase what talents we have in a low-stress environment. And if you find yourself stressing anyway, Carmi's always good for an encouraging word when it's needed. Not just a great blogger, he's good people.

David's blog is one I didn't discover until pretty late in 2008, but once I found it I made it a regular stop. Another photojournalistic type with an international edge. And a gift for puns that even make me groan, which you'd recognize as no small feat if you knew my dad. David's not only a talented photographer, he also often shares the things he's learned the hard way so the rest of us don't have to learn them that way. And he does it without waxing pedantic, it's more a simple "How I Did It YMMV" format. But given the quality of his work, nobody's likely to ignore the lessons. And finally, anyone who's ever been nominated for his "Post of the Day" will tell you that the nomination itself is enough to salvage a bad week or make a good week great.

Nice Cream
Ingrid's Ice Cream is Nice Cream is, in her own words, "nicheless". this is another blog I discovered in the latter part of 2008, and for the longest time I didn't know what to make of it. And... I still don't. But one thing has to be said, no matter what she's doing you can never accuse Ingrid of being dull. She may be dazzling you you with stunning photographs as good as any photoblogger's or bringing whatever you happen to be drinking through your nose with her comic stylings. She may be provoking your thoughts with a story or just a simple (or not) open question. Or she may simply be shamelessly "Wasting Your Time on a Friday" (or Monday). It's always something new, and audience participation is de rigeur. She may be too eclectic for some tastes, but since this is my award, the only taste she has to appeal to is mine, eh?

On the M104
Another amazing photoblogger out of New York City, Daryl is a woman of few words in her posts, preferring the "Wordless" kind of memes to those requiring narratives. And like Ingrid (sort of) she has her own "regular features" that are uniquely hers and not part of a group participation project. "Toonsday Husbandisms", "Waiting Impatiently", and "Thursday in the Hood" are favorites among regular visitors. In addition to her own blog, Daryl also contributes to The World In Black And White. All of this would be amazing enough without knowing that all her photo work is done with an Olympus point-and-shoot digital. That little guerrilla touch makes what you see "Out and About in New York City" all the more impressive. And as a bonus, regular visitors get to play the "find the signature game". Perhaps in a nod to Hitchcock, or perhaps just because she can, Daryl often blends her signature into the scene so cleverly that it's usually undetectable at a glance. Regular visitors have made an unofficial game of who can find it first.

Lisa's Chaos
I don't remember for certain now how I first discovered Lisa's Chaos, but I'm almost sure the thing that made me a regular was her series of photographs from the Basilica of St. Mary's in Minneapolis. I may have visited her off and on before then, but after that I was hooked. Strangely, architecture isn't a staple at Lisa's. Her specialty seems to be mainly macro work. But it's holy-sh*t-Batman macro work that leaves you slack jawed in amazement. When she's not zeroing in on something tiny and making it big, you'll find her catching the local wildlife in all its glory. And in addition to the Diamond in the Rockpile, Lisa's also been conferred the "Pulseless Wonder" with oak leaf clusters. I told her after the St. Mary's series that anyone who routinely hand holds a 50mm lens at a 1/8 second shutter speed and gets images as sharp as if she'd used a tripod must have no pulse. And yet, she continues to do it. so living dead or not I hope to see much more from her in 2009 and beyond.

Tarheel Ramblings
Lee's Tarheel Ramblings was a recommendation from a friend that's become a regular stop on my touring of the blogosphere. A little bit more than simply a photo blog, this is a slice of life in my home state presented the way a native would do it, even though Lee originally entered this world in Indiana. He wasn't born here, but apparently he got here as fast as he could, and his angle on the area is usually unique and always interesting. Lee's another photoblogger that doesn't mind sharing his "trade secrets" with the rest of us, and his photographic prowess is impressive enough that we take notice of how he does what he does. Like all the best photographers, he's got a keen eye for things that most people miss.

Mimi Writes
Mimi, Queen of Memes, is another North Carolina blogger probably best known for her "BlogBlast for Peace". An artist in many senses of the word, "Mimi Pencil Skirt" looks at life through a unique prism of optimism and humor, of deep-seated compassion and firmly rooted conviction. There are no secrets here. What you see is Mimi Unplugged, an unvarnished, undiluted incredible human being with a sly wit and a quick mind. You'll laugh, and occasionally you'll cry. But you'll never doubt. And if you should need a lighter view of life, you can always check out her "Dating Profile of the Day". If that doesn't have you feeling better about yourself after a few entries, seek help immediately.

Okay, Fine, Dammit
Maggie Dammit is unique on this list because she's the only one who isn't at least a part-time photoblogger. You'll find the occasional photo or video on Okay, Fine, Dammit, but Maggie is first, last and most a writer. A very gifted writer. When I first encountered her sometime last summer, she was in the middle of a string of humorous anecdotes and I started reading her regularly because I thought she was funny as hell. Which she certainly can be when it's called for. But in the fullness of time I discovered a whole other dimension to her writing. And it wasn't at all amusing. It was thick, and rich, and deep, without a word or phrase wasted on the superfluous. the stories aren't always pretty. In fact, some of them are patently ugly. But she tells them with a grace and dignity that you cannot fail to appreciate if you have even a shred of a soul. You'll notice the sticky post announcing the coming of her new blog "Violence Unsilenced" that will be debuting soon. It's taken a lot of work and a lot of courage to bring that project about and it's one that I expect to see wearing the 2009 Diamond in the Rockpile badge before this time next year. Don't miss it. And in the meantime, go check out OFD. You'll be glad you did.

Liquid Illuzion

I know what you're thinking. This is a sympathy vote, right? And I have to confess that there may be some truth in that. But the blogger we knew as "Liquid" isn't around to know she was named for it. So who is the sympathy for? The best answer to that question is that the sympathy is for the people who visited her blog regularly and who saw the sheer brilliance in her photography or her poetry. It's for those who laughed at her razor wit and for those who were numbed by shock at the news of her death. And it's also for those who never got to know this sparking gem of a woman who never met a stranger. It's for those who have kept her blog going even now. Her best friend in "Blogaritaville" has created an autolink on her blog where those of us who knew her can post links to memorials we've written. Where those who knew her can come to remember, and those who didn't can come to know her. It's a sympathy vote, yes. But if she hadn't touched so many in such profound ways she wouldn't have been a nominee. So the final award for the Diamond in the Rockpile Class of 2008 goes goes to our Liquid Illuzion, Suzanne Horne.

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ingrid said...

thank you, mojo. you made me grin. :)

Shadow said...

cool, nice links to check out....

Maggie, Dammit said...

Once again, you are being far too kind to me than I deserve. I don't know what I did to get your attention, but I'm grateful for it.

Your thoughtful description of each of these people says a lot about you, my friend.

Thank you for this.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Maggie...thank you so much for the accolades, Mojo. I'm in some very good company here and I'm humbled. I still get surprised by people's reactions to my photography at times. I know I do a pretty good job most of the time, but sometimes I seem to really inspire people with some of my images. What more could a photographer hope for? I really appreciate the award, because it is truly in recognition of accomplishments and not as a result of some payback or continuation of a tag. Your thoughtful rationale for the recognition makes it very special indeed.

Daryl said...

I am truly blown away, so much so I have no smart ass comment to leave... thank you for putting my blog in such amazing company ...

Charli said...

Thanks for these blogs... I especially liked Okay. Fine Dammit. I like your award system too.

Mimi Lenox said...

This is very special....because you hand-picked each one and described the soul of the blogger so beautifully (I am blushing at mine, let me add). Thank you. I am honored to be amongst these brilliant bloggers and more blessed to call you my friend.

lisaschaos said...

What a great award! I love how you did it and I love that I have a new list of blogs to check out (like I need to read more!). Thanx for all your kind words and I assure I have a pulse, most of the time ;)

Sorry i was slow coming by we just got back to town last night and while I'm trying to unpack my daughter drops my grandson off and as I type he is balancing blocks on my head. :)

Carmi said...

You are enormously kind and generous, and your place on my blogger-I-must-meet-and-hang-out-with list has just been cemented just a little more. Note: there was already a lot of cement there to begin with.

I believe generosity reflects on those who share it most, and that is especially the case here. I've loved your artistic vision from the moment I first saw your work. But it is the goodness of your soul that reinforces why anyone who visits once immediately becomes a fan. You see the world as I'd like to see it, and I'm honored to call you a friend.

Looks like my must-read list just got a little bigger. How neat to be in such incredible company!

Anonymous said...

I've been away the past week.
I was reading all my comments and replying and when I came across this. I'm overwhelmed!! :)
Thank you so much for this award, it has come in at a great time.
I hope my future pictures will interest you as much :)

Thanks once again!!

maryt/theteach said...

Congrats to everyone on the list! You all deserve Mojo's award! :)

Country Girl said...

Arrived here via Daryl's blog. Excellent post you have here. I've been to visit all and was not disappointed. Thank you.

Sandi McBride said...

Daryl sent me over, and of course David (Authorblog) is a favorite of mine...great new award that is actually an award and I'm sure they all earned it...I just happen to know that David and Daryl both did for sure lol...they're on my main highway through blogdom. Glad I came over.

judi said...

tipping my cap/ visor to you. your choices are wonderful and thanks for opening up my world to these amazing blogs.

Dianne said...

and it's Oscar season too!

some mighty fine choices there - you did good :)

Bryan said...

Wow, thanks for the reading suggestions on this list and otherwise! I have taken a quick look at all of them, and I'm stunned with the many amazing photos I've seen. I especially like Esther's, and not just because of the horse with the funky hairdo. It looks to be a great resource as well. Thanks again!

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