Blog Reads

A resource for finding blogs of note

The Ominous Comma

Blog: The Ominous Comma

Type: Humor

The funny thing about humor blogs is that they usually aren’t. Funny, that is. And I don’t blame the perpetrators; it is, after all, a rare talent to be amusing in print, most attempts ending in a strained and embarrassing jokiness that is painful to read. Of all those that I have begun reading (I rarely finish them), The Ominous Comma stands out as a valiant effort.

The Ominous Comma

I would not say that the blog is hilarious but it has the power to grant an occasional wry smile; and that is success indeed in a genre that is characterized mostly by a painful grimace. The writer, Brent Diggs, has a rather more subtle style than the sledgehammers so common in this arena and his wit tends to the surrealist end of the spectrum. Indeed, it is appropriate that I found a reference to Monty Python buried within a post, a suitable homage to the standard bearer of such humor in the seventies. A paragraph may serve as an example of Brent’s style:

“Doctor Toboggans has been mercifully absent the last couple of weeks, having received a complementary trip to Australia from one of his clients in order to swim with the legendary great white sharks along the Barrier Reef. Unfortunately for us, it seems that the sharks were on a low arrogance diet and so our fine physician has returned to Comma headquarters in one piece, refreshed and ready to inflict more insight upon an unsuspecting world.”

This Doctor Toboggans seems to surface from time to time as one reads and leads me to suspect that the blog is also character-driven, an added benefit to the general surrealism, if true (I have not read extensively enough as yet to decide on this one but the signs are good). All in all, the result is a blog I can recommend.

The design is excellent, surprisingly tasteful for a humor blog. Muted colors, tans and browns, and a simple but clear layout is the basis of a very good-looking blog. It all seems too good to be true – let me see if I can think of a constructive criticism.

Ah, yes, the home page. It is a portal more than anything else, offering a choice of routes into the various categories. And I don’t like this, preferring to know whether what I am reading is recent or an early entry. It’s a personal thing, I know, but I really can’t think of anything else to moan about.

Now that has to be good, doesn’t it?

September 24, 2007 Posted by | blog design, blogs, Fiction, humor, surrealism | 4 Comments

Mahmood’s Den

Blog: Mahmood’s Den

Type: Personal/Political

Generally, Blog Read’s intent is to discover lesser known blogs of excellence but occasionally we will point at more famous blogs because they genuinely are very good. And Mahmood’s Den is a blog that stands out as deserving of its popularity.

Mahmood’s Den

I first discovered Mahmood many months ago and was immediately captivated by his easy style and manner. A Bahraini national and resident, he is cultured, educated, has a superb writing style and is the perfect antidote for those prejudiced against all things Arab. It is a stated aim of his to show others that not all Arabs are determined upon world domination and it is clear that he is succeeding; his blog and other websites have a huge following, no doubt all attracted by his level-headed thinking and openness to new things.

There is a certain laid-back, slightly wry feeling to Mahmood’s blog, perfectly encapsulated in his photograph contained within the header. A man who can smile at the world as he does has things to teach us all. It is easy to be completely at home with Mahmood’s gentle philosophy, to feel welcome in the pages of his blog.

As for design, he gets that spot on too, in common with many Arab blogs and websites. He uses a clean and simple two-column framework with muted, desert colors entirely appropriate to his themes. And the header is a compilation of all that we imagine of the Arab world, cleverly merged into an attractive first resting place for the eye. It is a professional’s blog, a demonstration of how simplicity will always defeat the extravaganzas of color, animation and curlicue so beloved of those trying to make an impact.

This is a blog that should be read by all who have an opinion on international politics today; not because Mahmood has earth-shattering revelations on such high flown things but because he allows us to see the diversity of all peoples and the insanity of some of our prejudices. If his blog has a message it is: we are all human and isn’t it wonderful?

How badly we are in need of that message at times.

September 17, 2007 Posted by | Arab, Bahrain, blog design, blogs, humor, Mahmood, Personal, Politics | 2 Comments

Cape Town Daily Photo

Cape Town Daily Photo

Blog: Cape Town Daily Photo

Type: Photo

I am not a great one for photo blogs but this one had an unfair advantage with me. The first ten years of my life were spent in that beautiful city at the southern tip of Africa and so I was interested as soon as I saw the blog’s name.

Cape Town

It did not disappoint me. The photographers have an ability to see interest and beauty in unexpected places and their photographs are a pleasure to look at, although many could have been taken in any city in the world. That is part of what they have to say, however – that, although set in unparalleled scenery and an exotic place for most of us, yet it has aspects that are familiar to us too.

The photos that were identifiably of the Cape were the ones that won me over, however. And, when I came to the post named Snowflake, all my resistance collapsed. When I was very young, my father bought a painting by a local artist and that picture hung on our dining room wall throughout the first twenty years of my life. It depicted Cape Town docks and the Snowflake flour silo loomed large in it. In fact, it was larger than life for my father told us that, before he sold it, the artist quickly made the building larger, so much so that it was, on consideration, out of proportion to the ships in the harbor. This was for composition purposes, for it was not noticeable until you had spent your youth looking at the picture from across a dining table.

Clearly the painting entered deeply into my unconscious mind for the sight of the photo in this blog brought the memories flooding back. And now I have admitted why I chose to write about the blog.

But it has other qualities too, aside from my personal experience. The authors have written about each photo, giving us some background and helping us to appreciate what we are seeing. Too often photo blogs expect the photo to tell all and they become an endless series of meaningless snapshots as a result. Only the very best of photos can stand up to that sort of treatment.

The blog design is simple and unobtrusive, the black background drawing the eye immediately to the pictures, the lack of adornment around the edges adding to this effect. It is a design entirely without pretension or clutter. And I like that.

So there we have it, a snippet of me and a snippet of them. Go take a look at one of the most beautiful cities in the world by clicking on the header up there.

September 12, 2007 Posted by | Cape Town, Photo blogs | 2 Comments

Harry McFry Investigates

Blog: Harry McFry Investigates
The Case of the Missing Family

Type: Fiction

You don’t have to tell me – I know. Fiction published in blogs is almost invariably so awful that I rarely get past the first paragraph. But note that word “almost” there; just occasionally one stumbles upon a rare jewel that flashes through the surrounding dross. Today I found such a gem.

Harry McFry

The blog in point is Harry McFry Investigates, a delight at first sight that continues to deliver as one delves deeper. Wryly humorous, it combines the detective genre and, amazingly, the study of genealogy into a thoroughly delicious read. Make no mistake, reading a book on a computer monitor is no mean feat and it takes true dedication or excellent writing to hold the viewer’s attention. McFry delivers and I should warn you that following the advice to begin at Chapter 1 is dangerous; the book is habit-forming (and up to Chapter 137 already).

In part, the author, one Thomas Hamburger Jnr. (hmmm), achieves this through knowing his medium. The chapters are short, just the right length to persuade one to read the next before clicking onward. And the blog design is apt, muted and unobtrusive, allowing the text to remain the central focus. This is a very clever bit of blogging.

It is also a pleasure to read anything written by someone who knows his grammar – I cannot count the number of blogs I have despaired of through their constant misuse of words and the humble apostrophe. Maybe I’m a snob but, if you’re going to publish something to be read by all and sundry, you should at least check to see that it contains no glaring errors. No flies on McFry or Hamburger on this score.

And that really is the power of this blog – it is a complete conception, a delicate balance between fact and fiction, a dweller between two apparently unrelated worlds. The whole thing is just too beautiful for words.

In fact, enough of my pontificating! Do yourself a favor and click on the title up there to enter the mysterious world of Harry McFry!

September 4, 2007 Posted by | blog design, blogs, Detective, Fiction, Genealogy, humor | 2 Comments

Burning Windmill

Blog: Burning Windmill

Type: Art

There are basically two types of art blog: the blog created by an artist and the blog made by those who appreciate art. Generally speaking, it is best to stay away from both, the first category tending towards self indulgent display of some pretty awful attempts at art, the second usually amounting to grandiose and long-winded efforts to show everyone how clever and trendy the blogger is.

Windmill

Burning Windmills fits the second category but is refreshing in its approach. There is none of the usual departure into convoluted language to disguise the fact that nothing of any note is being said; the author, Adam (and that’s as much as I’ve been able to find out about him) writes clearly and with humor, presenting his finds without any need to justify his taste.

And his taste, from what I’ve seen, is pretty accurate. There is a wealth of atrocious art out there to sift through in a search for anything worthwhile, but Adam has succeeded in his quest. Take, for instance, this gem that he offers us in a recent post. And the glory of it is that he has not been able to discover the artist’s real name – I am vindicated in my similar failure regarding the blog owner!

Posts are just right for a blog – neither too long nor too brief. And Adam’s writing style is simple and unconcerned with projecting his ego; he will happily write of walking the doggie and coffee intake. No need for him to explore the way paint is applied or how color affects us, no, he simply tells us how the picture moved him and that is sufficient. There is more than enough technical babble uttered these days without adding to the heap.

The blog is a model of calm, simple and muted design and color, too. Away with the curlicues and wilting roses so beloved of lady artists, the overly complex designs of the intelligentsia, determined to prove themselves a creature apart. Shades of grey, a windmill and a date – ’tis enough and Adam gets to the point. Excellent stuff.

You may not be into art blogs but neither am I (in spite of the fact that I once had ambitions in the art arena myself). But in my daily trawl for blogs to review, Adam’s stood out as a worthy subject; it looked good at a glance and that first impression held. My only quibble would be that I’d like to know more about him; perhaps that’s just my nosiness…

September 3, 2007 Posted by | Art, blog design, blogs | 4 Comments

Craigblog

Blog: Craigblog

Type: Personal Interests

Craigblog has only been going since April of this year but already it is one of my regular reads. It is true that many of his interests coincide with mine but the deciding factor is really the quality of Craig’s writing, his well thought out views and his clear presentation.

Craigblog

The blog uses a template but one of the better ones and he is working to personalize it as he learns what can and can’t be done. A three-column design, it is unusual in choosing to put the main content on the left, rather than the center. This works well in practice and the blog is extremely easy to read as a result.

Craig is a Scot, as befits his name, and there is a slight emphasis on things Scottish as a result. He is not a rabid nationalist, however, and he allows us to see a more moderate side of those wild Gaelic northerners of the English imagination. A better advertisement for Scotland would be hard to find.

Content is wide-ranging and includes thoughts on life, sports, music and blogging itself. Essentially, it is a personal blog but with specialist knowledge and interest in certain defined areas. Every blog is a reflection of the person who created it and, judging by the blog, Craig is a good person to know.

Criticisms? Well, I’ve been trying to think of one as I write but so far nothing occurs. All in all, it’s an excellent blog and one I thoroughly recommend. Great job, Craig!

August 31, 2007 Posted by | blog design, blogs, Formula 1, music, Personal, Scotland, sports | 3 Comments

Tips for New Bloggers

Blog: Tips for New Bloggers

Type: Blogging Tips

One of the greatest things about the blogosphere is the constant exchange of ideas and information. If you are a new blogger, sometimes the blogging world can seem like a new society with rules and hierarchies you don’t quite understand. What you soon learn is that blog design is very important to the success of your blog. But what if you aren’t a web designer or well-versed in html? Where do you turn?

BlogTips

Well, if you’re one of the millions using Blogger, there’s a resource for you that’s full of helpful hints, tutorials and guides to html coding that will help you tweak your template and turn your vision for your blog into reality.

There are tips and instructions for accomplishing nearly any design scheme and banishing that “blogger” look of the standard available templates. Want three columns instead of two? Want to customize the colors on your sidebars or add an image background? Easy to follow tutorials on these and other subjects can be found here.

I have personally used one or two tricks and tweaks that I found on http://tips-for-new-bloggers.blogspot.com/. If you’re a new blogger using Blogger for your hosting, there isn’t a better resource on the net.

August 27, 2007 Posted by | blog design, blogger, blogs, html | Leave a comment

BlogF1

Blog: BlogF1

Type: F1 Motor Racing

Okay, I’ll admit it: I picked this one because I like Formula One racing and BlogF1 is almost an institution for anyone interested in the sport. Like most F1 blogs, it’s a UK site and it does the usual things, covering the races when they happen, indulging in a little speculation when things are quiet and providing the occasional bit of fun, such as the Caption Contests.

So what makes this one different from the many others? I’ll let you into a little secret – it’s the writer, Oliver White. Universally known as Ollie, he has a style and approach that is always friendly and open; he knows his stuff too, an important aspect if you want to write a blog in such a specialized niche.

Ollie does not feel it necessary to compete with the news sites – an uphill task if ever there were one. He is content to report the important things and comment when something grabs him. It’s a gentle, laid-back style in comparison to other F1 blogs and it has won him a large number of regular readers, many of whom have very good blogs themselves. This is a noticeable feature of F1 blogging – there is little back-biting or overt competition between the bloggers and most participate in an informal, unstated community of writers who debate and discuss in each other’s blogs’ comments systems.

The blog design is pretty standard, effective enough, with an arresting header and reasonably well-ordered sidebars containing the usual mix of information and advertisements. A weakness is that the posts do not give the number of comments but, to some extent, this is offset by a Recent Comments list in the sidebar. I do like to see immediately whether a comment of mine has been answered.

And the blog is a member of the 9rules association of blogs. This is a sticky one for me, especially as Ollie describes it as a “network made up of the best websites on the internet.” Yeah? That’s an assertion that many might argue with; plus, I’m not certain that 9rules likes being described as a network – it has a looser style than that. I suppose, if you have to belong to a network, 9rules is better than most.

It’s a minor point anyway and one that probably wouldn’t be noticed by most readers. The main point is that Ollie’s blog is one of the better F1 blogs on the net (though not the best) and well worth a read if you’re into the sport.

August 25, 2007 Posted by | blogs, Formula 1 | 2 Comments

Rollo’s News-sense

Rollo’s News-sense

Offbeat News

Awash in the sea of news blogs, Rollo brings a sense of humor to the stories of the day, looking at the news through his own uniquely skewed perspective. Rollo says he makes sense of the news and a nuisance of himself but we found his articles to be irreverent and amusing, voicing the questions we all want to ask. Sometimes, things are not what they seem.

Rollo

Blogs about news are often too serious, too taken with agendas and opinions. Rollo takes no sides and takes no prisoners. Whether writing about eggplants containing messages from God or insane celebrity baby names, Rollo brings you the news that will make you smile instead of wince. It’s news that is enjoyable and readable.

Blog Reads recommends adding Rollo’s News-sense to your daily news reads as well as your blog-reading list.

August 25, 2007 Posted by | blogs, humor, news, offbeat news | Leave a comment

Blog Reads – a new resource for Bloggers!

If you’ve started a new blog recently or have been plugging away for months without much feedback, you know how lonely it can be. Here at Blog Reads we know that some of the best blogs on the net are still out there waiting to be found and we want to find them and bring them to you.

Blog Reads will feature up and coming new blogs, great established blogs and blogs that are just great reading, informational or a lot of fun.

If you know of a blog worthy of note, let us know!

August 25, 2007 Posted by | blogs | Leave a comment

   

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