Mikita Brottman

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The Reluctant Scooper

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Do you always scoop up after your dog? I don’t. Not always.

To most people, admitting that you don’t clean up after your dog every single time is like confessing that you enjoy kicking young children. So let me be clear. I’m not saying it happens often, but it does happen. Obviously, I always clean up if he takes a dump in the middle of the sidewalk, or in a public place, on campus or on someone’s property. No question. If I didn’t, I know what would happen. With my own eyes, I’ve seen people letting their dogs take a dump in the middle of the sidewalk, and I’ve heard people yelling at them from passing cars. I don’t want to be shouted at in the street. Even when I do clean up, it’s not always good enough. Once someone even tapped my on the shoulder to point out to me that I’d “missed a bit.”

So one more time: I always clean up after my dog in the city. But in the countryside? In the park? Really? Is it such a crime? I know they say dog poop is full of microbes and viruses and bacteria that could end up in the water, but I’m sure it’s nothing compared to the pollution caused by human waste. I know they say children are at risk from contamination and I suppose people might slip on it, but it’s difficult to see how something so natural could be so dangerous, especially since we’re surrounded by toxic waste, air pollutants, oils spills and chemical leaks, not to mention ozone, lead, traffic fumes and everything else that’s supposed to be contaminating the earth. Surely human beings are far worse polluters than the most incontinent dog.

BSO Music for Sale

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It’s no secret that, like most orchestras across the country, the Baltimore Symphony is in financial difficulty, looking desperately for new sources of revenue and trying hard to attract ticket-buyers. As a subscriber, I sometimes can’t help feeling it would be better if the symphony died a quiet, dignified death. It might be preferable to the current cringe-inducing hustle, the posters of Marin Alsop, Paul McCartney tributes, wine-tasting nights and SuperPops. This month, for example, the Schumann concert is billed as “A Beautiful Mind,” and will be accompanied by an on-stage discussion about whether “manic episodes were responsible for Schumann’s bursts of creative genius” (who cares?). Even worse, throughout May, many concerts are paired with “Decorators Show House events,” in which symphony-goers are invited to visit a local show home and to “Purchase the perfect gifts and quality additions to your home décor from among designer items displayed throughout the Show House and from the on-site boutique.” When a concert that would interest me is paired with a “theme” like this, I’m immediately turned-off—why assume that those who like classical music are also interested in “designer home décor”? If this is what the symphony has come to, I’d prefer to sit at home and listen to the radio. At least I can turn it off when the ads come on.

Reading, The Solitary Vice

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Introducing “On Culture,” a new column by super-thinker Mikita Brottman, chronicling the weird and wonderful world of Baltimore, with special focus on fascinating small things oft overlooked.

This is an extract from my book about reading, The Solitary Vice (Counterpoint). I wrote the book partly in response to my work teaching literature to art students at MICA. My students read all the time, though they often do so in ways I found difficult to recognize (for example, they read online, on their laptops or phone screens, or via e-books). This led me to re-think some of my assumptions about reading, and literacy in general.

It’s about as difficult not to judge someone by the books (or lack of them) on their shelves as it is not to judge a book by its cover. But I keep trying, and I think I’m getting better at not jumping to conclusions. After all, books can be all kinds of things to all kinds of people—they can be tools, guides, investments, manuals, home décor, work, produce, or just a messy pile of clutter. I try to remember, too, that not all readers accumulate books. Some see no point in keeping books after they’ve read them, and will sell them, or give them away. More and more people are getting into the habit of reading e-books on their laptops or BlackBerrys, and more and more libraries are being converted to electronic form. Though it may well turn out that the portable, private form of the book—the kind we can hold in our hands, and cradle in our lap—continues to provide, for most people, the ideal fulfillment of immersion in another world, this doesn’t mean it’s the only way this need can be satisfied. Deep immersion is a style of reading which, in itself, is a by-product of the growth of the novel—traditionally considered to be a grand, fictional creation to be read at a leisurely pace, and in a private setting. Novel reading is certainly well suited to the lap or the bed, but other kinds of reading require different postures.

Mikita teaches literature and film studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

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