Saturday, January 31, 2009
You can keep yer Oscars and yer Golden Globes (and yes, even your Razzies): I will proudly accept the Dardos Award bestowed on me by blog pal Bill. Here's the description of the award:
The Dardos Award is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web."
There are rules, however:
1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.
2) Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.
It was very nice of Bill to choose me-- we first met over at the comments section of Dennis's blog (which I'm convinced is the Rick's Cafe Americain of the film blogosphere-- that's where everyone meets), where we discovered a mutual affection for the much-maligned Superman Returns, and we've been fast internet friends ever since. I highly recommend checking out Bill's blog, not only because he had the good sense to recognize me, but because it is a smart, spiffy and stylish model of pop culture writing.
A variety of factors caused me to not follow up on the second part of the award, not the least of which was narrowing the list down to five blogs. I would love to toss Dardos to everyone on my blog roll. But after much time and thought, here's my list...
Actually, before I get to that, I need to mention some other people. These folks have, I believe, all been cited, but if the purpose of this award is to thank and honor those blogging folks who nuture and inspire, I would be remiss if I didn't say hello to:
Jonathan Lapper: I mentioned Jonathan on my blog relatively soon after I started it up, because I'd liked one of his posts in a Jim Emerson comments section. I don't remember the subject of Jim's post, or even the specifics of Jonathan's response, but I described him as "nice guy Jonathan Lapper," to which he responded, "I'm a nice guy? Thanks." Soon after, he said something kind about my post on A Face In The Crowd, and we've been exchanging Internet notes ever since. With its fun games, snarky jokes, fabulous picture scans, and thoughtful analyses (to say nothing of those daily banner changes!), Cinema Styles is easily one of my favorite film blogs, and I especially appreciate Jonathan's attention to Classic Hollywood. I'm not the only one-- Jonathan's posse is wide-ranging, and his comments section is always a hotbed of hoppin' conversation.
Campaspe: Speaking of Classic Hollywood...Is there a more stylish film blogger anywhere than the Self-Styled Siren? It's like reading a blog written by Nora Charles, full of smart, screwball prose that seduces and kicks like a vodka martini, and leaves you just as dazed and giddy. Her posts have the texture and detail of good short story, the insight of a good essay, and the wit of a Preston Sturges comedy, but the most amazing thing is how easy she makes it all look: I don't always agree with James Wolcott, but he got it right when he described Campaspe's blog as "Sophisticated and yet not stuck up about it." She also manages to go straight to so many of my cinephiliac sweet spots ('30s Hollywood, Douglas Sirk, anecdotes), that I'd almost be jealous of her speed, depth and grace if I weren't so grateful and enriched by all she has to say about them.
Dennis Cozzalio: I've mentioned Dennis many times before on this blog, but there's a reason for that: he is the most generous film blogger I've ever encountered, and a piercing and funny critic to boot. His was the first film blog I ever visited (back when he did a series of remarkable posts eulogizing Robert Altman), and I was so drawn in to what he said that I not only wanted to continue to read his blog, but to check out those blogs he linked to, imagining they must be just as cool. Well, a lot of them were, and so I'd like to thank Dennis for his own extraordinary work, for introducing me to the great work of so many others, and for always being such a kind and welcoming soul to newcomers like me.
Girish: Everyone loves Girish. Everyone cites Girish. Everyone is in awe of Girish. These are, of course, the proper responses to someone as thoughtful and almost frighteningly prodigious as Girish. I can't think of a film blogger who combines the popular and the academic with the same skill, or whose tastes seem both so broad and so deep. As Jean-Luc Godard said of Truffaut, "His consistencies make up for all the rest of our inconsistencies."
Cinebeats: Perhaps more than any other film blog, Kimberly's is the one that most inspires me to add movies to my Netflix queue, songs to my I-tunes list, and books to my Amazon cart. That's because she tackles sixties and seventies cinema with such sensuous gusto that she makes every text she's discussing sound like a must-have. Fearlessly retro in her tastes, but also reminding us with great wit and skill that the boundaries between old and new, classic and modern are far more permeable than we're sometimes led to believe.
And now, without further ado...
Well, OK, one more thing. I am chronically incapable of following rules when it comes to memes. So, instead of five blogs, I am offering three pairs of blogs from different subject areas, plus one extra blog, because there's just too much good stuff to cite.
The Dardo For Film Blog
Bob Westal and Larry Aydlette (nee Shamus, nee That Little Rounded-Headed Boy) have both been very kind and supportive blog friends from early on, and both offer the important reminder that a "film blog" doesn't just have to be about film. Bob, like me, is a TV and politics junkie as well as a film geek, and he writes about all three subjects with smarts, earnestness and good humor; whenever I'd worry that maybe I was blogging about the election a little too much, Bob's excellent posts on the primaries would inspire me to write more. The first post of Larry's I ever read was actually about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he's still one of my favorite writers about pop music (he also has great ruminations about writing, newspapers, Florida, the Oscars and anything else he damn well pleases over at "Welcome to L.A."). A month or two ago, Lapper noted that Larry is a model, not only because he's such a good writer and a good guy, but because he's so completely chill about what he does. A week of nothing but image-driven posts? Why not! Change the template again? Of course! While the rest of us worry about comment numbers, subject matter, post length, etc., Larry is over there like Howard Hawks, smoothly running his own show and not too worried about what anyone thinks. "It's just a blog," he seems to be saying-- and that relaxed attitude is what lets his blog be so good.
The Dardo For Comics Blog
I found Mark Engblom's very fun blog, Comic Coverage, a few years ago almost by chance: I was looking for images of some old Marvel Comics covers online, and stumbled across Mark's witty post on "Comic Book Floating Heads." Well, this was like Dr. Donald Blake discovering Thor's hammer-- it may have been a chance meeting, but I knew I was in for some fun adventures in the months ahead. By the way, if you don't get that reference, you might feel a little lost at Mark's place, which is devoted to Silver and Bronze Age superhero comics. But that disorientation will only be temporary: Mark is almost always at pains to make everyone-- newbie or comics veteran-- feel at home, and to remind us of the fun of comics collecting, whether it's the melodramatic pleasure of a particular hero or title, the goofy joy of old-time letters pages, or the even goofier joy of old-time comics ads. Mark and I have had our disagreements, but I can't think of a better starting place for someone who wants to understand just why some of us are obsessed with these 22-page, badly-stapled pamphlets. One of Mark's recurring features is "Highlight Reel," documenting those moments in comics that he thinks are just cool. Well, all of Comic Coverage is a "Highlight Reel," and I thank Mark for his geeky passion and his fun sense of humor.
Ever wonder what it's like to think about comics collecting from the other side of the counter? Over at Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin, comic shop manager Mike Sterling offers his stories, opinions, rants and praises about the state of the industry on a daily basis. He has the funniest comics scans on the web, as well as some of the strangest laugh-to-keep-from-crying stories about life in the commercial trenches, from distributor stories to funny customer requests to truly sweet tales of friendship and community. Funny without feeling strained, snarky without being truly mean, and never letting hipster cool get in the way of genuine joy, Sterling's blog is the best virtual comics shop you could ever visit.
The Dardo For Political/Cultural Blog
Some of my earliest blog reading centered around politics-- in the wake of the 2004 nightmare, I started reading Daily Howler, Crooks and Liars, Talking Points Memo, and other blogs for information and, well, solace. Those are good blogs (especially Josh Marshall's), and I also really like what Steve Benen's been doing at Washington Monthly, but those more "official" blogs already get a lot of attention, and can also feel a bit rigid if you read them for extended periods of time. More and more, I find myself drawn to those blogs whose mixtures of politics, culture and personal memoir feel fluid and funnier. No one mixes those modes more skillfully than The Black Snob, whose blog I discovered last summer. From her trenchant Obama analysis to her moving and funny stories about home life to her cyber-stalking of TJ Holmes, Danielle Belton recognizes the ability-- maybe even the necessity-- of the remix to an effective blog-life: we are never only one person (especially) online, but a set of worthwhile paradoxes and contradicitons, and our political life should be just as rich and heterogenous.
Along similar lines, John West's Ich Bin Ein Oberliner, aside from having one of the funniest blog names I've ever heard, locates that elusive spot between academic life, personal time, and politics (with a healthy dose of comics reviews thrown in). West is a smart, savvy analyst of politics (especially from an epistemological point-of-view), but what I most like is that, whatever the topic, you can almost see the thoughts becoming solid as you read them; what I mean is, he makes his process of working out his ideas a living, breathing, thinginess-of-the-thing kind of thing, which makes the posts both more inviting ("Come join me in this process of working it all out") and more exciting (because thought should always be an adventure into the unknown).
The Irving G. Thalberg Dardo
Finally, one more Dardo, to Yellow Dog. Jeff Rice has been running this academic blog for many years, and it's inspired me more than any other blog I can think of. Years before I even started blogging, I would read Jeff's posts to students in comp classes, would be inspired by something he wrote and return to my own writing with renewed purpose, or would recommend posts to friends. I am almost always infuriated or intrigued by what Jeff posts, but I'm rarely bored, and I think that's the sign of a good blogger. What Yellow Dog does, more than anything, is to ask, "Why?" Why this form, this idea, this ideology-that-hides-itself-as-'natural'? Why do we accept this or that shibboleth of writing or thought or teaching? It doesn't matter if you agree or not-- the point is, Jeff has gotten you to rethink your position. In doing so, he reminds you that blogging (and by extension any writing) can be anything-- essay, argument, joke, image, snatch of an idea, beginning of a story. The only limits are those of your courage and your imagination.