Ann Arbor Blogs: the Moving Finger Moves On
Blogs considerably post-date Omar Khayyam, but I was reminded of these lines of his recently:
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
Of course he was writing about Life And All That, of which blogs are only a rather pale reflection, but their transitory nature was brought home by the recent announcement that Arbor Update is folding. As noted by Edward Vielmetti on AnnArbor.com, it was begun in 2004 by a group of University of Michigan (mostly) students. (Julie Weatherbee, who has been a stalwart, is on UM staff.) Not noted by Vielmetti is that in the early days it had a pronounced anti-townie tone. When I happened on it perhaps a year later, I was intrigued by its New Urbanist tilt. Many of the contributors, including Dale Winling (who founded an anti-neighborhood association called the New West Side) and Richard Murphy (aka “Murph”) were students in urban planning. At the time Douglas Kelbaugh of that school and department was promulgating many of the same concepts and was influential in setting city policy and the Calthorpe exercise (see my review) and I found this blog (the first one I ever read, along with its fellow student-run, anti-townie blog, Ann Arbor is Overrated or AAIO) to be a challenging, if sometimes infuriating, window on a different perspective. (I remember in particular Murph’s holding forth on the notion that homeowners should not be allowed to have curbcuts for driveways into public streets, since that took away parking for others.)
Over time, AU evolved into a useful venue for news and the pulse of what was happening in areas not reported by the Ann Arbor News. There were some really nasty anonymous commenters and some annoying threads that ultimately required moderation (to anguished cries of Censorship!), but also some really good conversation about the topics of the day. Julie Weatherbee also performed a considerable service in posting a summary of items that were coming up on the council agenda, with appropriate links. But now it’ll come off my list of local media. I’ll miss it.
AU was also a point of entry to discover other blogs. As we’ve noted before, this expanding universe (blogosphere? whatever) of local blogs is a great way to learn about topics of special local interest. But now we are seeing its impermanence also. Indeed, most of the blogs listed on AU’s masthead are either gone or inactive. Along with AAIO, this includes Larry Kestenbaum’s “Polygon, the Dancing Bear“, once a good place for political commentary but apparently an awkward fit with being the county clerk; Murph’s own Common Monkeyflower (perhaps not a good fit with being a working urban planner) and Teeter Talk (still some intermittent articles, but Homeless Dave has found a home on the Ann Arbor Chronicle). Edward Vielmetti still maintains his venerable blog, which I still think of as Vacuum though it is not named that, but I suspect that his new role as blogmeister at AnnArbor.com has been a considerable distraction.
To some extent, the newsiness and immediacy of local blogs, not to mention the sometimes snarky commentary, have been usurped by “legitimate” online news media, like Ann Arbor Chronicle and AnnArbor.com. AnnArbor.com even solicits volunteer contributors who are essentially bloggers. But there are still some local blogs of interest. One that everyone is talking about today (well, everyone who is interested in local politics) is A2Politico. The latest post announces that its previously anonymous author, Patricia Lesko, is running for mayor. I’m curious to see whether she will be able to keep up the prodigious output of the last several months. Another political blog is Some Other Viewpoint, unusual for this area in that it discusses Washtenaw County issues from a relatively conservative (and overtly Republican) viewpoint. A group I’m involved with has a blog, Public Land – Public Process. There are also two Ypsilanti blogs that are worth following. Advance Ypsilanti is all about that city’s policies and politics. Mark Maynard writes about many topics, often but not always local (including a recent story about the next step in Murph’s career), and usually provocative and/or entertaining.
Who knows how many of those blogs (or this one) will be around in another year? The problem with blogging was explained to the Pope on a recent radio show: “You have to keep posting”. AU had a longer run than most, perhaps because of its group nature. So farewell, Arbor Update. It’s been good ta know ya.
UPDATE: After receiving the comment from Edward Vielmetti about the New West Side organization, I went hunting for the article I wrote about the Arbor Update bloggers back in 2005. (I had to scan the paper copy: the Ann Arbor Observer doesn’t make digital copies generally available.) Sure enough, it quotes Dale Winling on his efforts to establish alternative renter-based neighborhood groups and the core of AU bloggers as being against having “homeowner values” pushed on them. The Observer chose a picture from 2004, showing two of them enjoying their victory over the proposed ordinance that would have kept couches off porches, a source of visual blight to homeowners but a basic freedom to student renters.
SECOND UPDATE: It was with high hopes that I clicked on a new blog highlighted by Ryan Stanton on Twitter. But the anonymous blogger (self-identified as female) of “arborblahg” seems more engaged by animus against everyone not her own generation than any political sensibility. Not very subtle or even very funny: “geritol spiked with vodka and viagra”. An email we received at our blog email address from “Mallory Weis” inviting us to look at the new blog says her motivation is “because I need something more meaningful than ‘House’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ in my life”. I deduce that she is fascinated by medicine from these hints and because “Mallory-Weiss syndrome” is described by Wikipedia as a condition of bleeding from tears at the junction of the stomach and esophagus caused by retching and vomiting “often associated with alcoholism and eating disorders”. Pretty. She needs a proofreader too. No need to look for serious examination of the issues there. Arbor Update, I miss you even more.
UPDATE: The use of upholstered couches on porches was outlawed by the Ann Arbor City Council on September 20, 2010. The story on AnnArbor.com continues to receive angry comments from students.Explore posts in the same categories: media