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It is with some sadness that I announce this blog’s transition from WordPress to Tumblr, meaning that the url is changing from to This url, and all of the posts contained within, will remain up.  The new url also has all of my WordPress posts up, conveniently converted into Tumblr format. It’s strange to be nostalgic for urls or WordPress themes or blogging platforms, but I admit I am a little attached. Thank you for visiting these past 20 or so months, and I hope you’ll check out the new space. –MM

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From the otherwise unpleasant Slate article on “overrated” books, Elif Batuman offers up a very sensible, and I think true, opinion:

Like many people, I enjoy learning which canonical books are unbeloved by which contemporary writers. However, I don’t think participants in such surveys ought to blame either themselves (“I’m so lazy/uneducated”) or the canonical books (“Ulysses is so overrated”). My view is that the right book has to reach you at the right time, and no person can be reached by every book. Literature is supposed to be beautiful and/or necessary—so if at a given time you don’t either enjoy or need a certain book, then you should read something else, and not feel guilty about it.

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“The unity and companionship…was the fruit of a common faith.”

From Terry Gross’s “Books and Beliefs Shaping Michele Bachmann” interview with NYer journalist Ryan Lizza.

GROSS: And one of the books I was really surprised to read about, which I hadn’t heard of before, is a biography of Robert E. Lee written by J. Steven Wilkins published in 1997. Part of it has to do with slavery. And I want to read a paragraph that you quote.

Slavery as it operated in the pervasively Christian society, which was the old South, was not an adversarial relationship founded upon racial animosity. In fact, it bred on the whole not contempt, but over time mutual respect. This produced a mutual esteem of the sort that always results when men give themselves to a common cause. The credit for this startling reality must go to the Christian faith. The unity and companionship that existed between the races in the South prior to the war was the fruit of a common faith.

Mr. LIZZA: So this one sort of blew me away, because you have to ask yourself -and first of all, let me just point out why this book is relevant. For a number of years, Michele Bachmann’s personal website had a list of books that she recommended people read and it was called Michele’s Must-Read List. And so I was looking over the list and noticed this biography of Lee by Wilkins. Never heard of Wilkins. Started looking into who he was, and frankly couldn’t believe that she was recommending this book.

(H/T Nora.)

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The Men Who Would Be Spiders!

From Chad Wood’s Rumpus essay on Edward Bolman.

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Great Moments in Political Cartooning

1884 cartoon in Puck magazine ridicules Blaine as the tattooed-man, with many indelible scandals. The cartoon image is a parody of Phryne before the Areopagus, an 1861 painting by French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme.

This is made better if you read Puck as “Fuck.”

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Sandman: We are in the dreams of the city.

From Sandman 51 – World’s End 1.

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Sandman: I have seen SUCH cities.

From Sandman 39 – Fables And Reflections 5.

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Late night Wikipedia

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In other news

Via Karl, “A Twee Grows In Brooklyn” from the Observer:

Portland was “Brooklyn before Brooklyn was Brooklyn,” as NPR correspondent Ari Shapiro once quipped. His colleague Kurt Andersen, host of the public radio show Studio 360 and co-founder of Spy, put it more starkly: “Brooklyn without black people.”

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Churches, hair salons, wing joints and bike paths

I missed the uproar surrounding the NYT article on the gentrification of H Street while I was away last week, and have been slowly catching up. Ta-Nehisi Coates (no surprise) touched on (I think) an under-reported aspect of gentrification, home-ness:

I grew up in West Baltimore at the height of the Crack Age. I spent more time negotiating violence than I did negotiating my studies. I got jumped by some project kids when I was nine, and until I my senior year I either got jumped or fought every year. But I loved West Baltimore — so much so that when I went off to college, I was intent on coming back. My old middle school was shut down a couple of years ago, after a student was stabbed to death. The school likely needed to be shut down — but I was still sad. The point isn’t that violence is a good thing. It simply means that every day, normal human beings develop feelings for people and places that go beyond the work of economists, sociologists and self-styled reformers.

We all probably move through neighborhoods or towns or subdivisions that seem to us ugly or crime-ridden or desolate – places we call “bad” (as if geographies could be unsound or morally suspect) – and forget that each of these places is also a home. These are places where childhoods happen, where families reunite, where a memory is set. The Columbia Heights of my high school years is just gone, no longer there. People called it a “bad” neighborhood, and like TNC I don’t mourn the bad things that did sometimes happen there, but it was mine. That Columbia Heights is the barbershop on Belmont, the newspapers and Rock Creek soda from Nehemiah, the Waffle Shop on Park, a mural that seemed to go on forever across Irving. It’s not that these places are necessarily better or more deserving of the space than the retail and condo behemoths that have settled down along the neighborhoods corridors (well, excepting the Waffle Shop), it’s that they together made up my home. The people who left Columbia Heights and the people that remain there have both lost something, lost that place.

It is the unlucky fate of urbanites that we live in places that by their nature are in flux. People move, cities change. I just hope we can all be good neighbors in the meantime:

@blackurbanist: DC Stop the race bait -churches, hair salons and wing joints DO belong with bike paths & #urbanism.

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