Ta-Nehisi Coates has been a friend to me, and to this blog, since my early days of professional pop culture writing. The news that he’ll be doing some work for the New York Times’ opinion pages this summer is great news, not least for nerddom. One of my hopes for Ross Douthat’s tenure at the Times, even though I disagree with his politics, was that he’s provide a sustained engagement with culture in the Op-Ed section, an affirmation that art matters up there with everything else. He’s written some culture columns, but they’ve been more occasional than not. In a sense, Ta-Nehisi’s presence on the page, however long the duration, updates not just Bob Herbert’s slot, but Frank Rich’s, given how far the latter had meandered from his theater-critic roots. And the first column is just incredible. I’m obviously a white lady rather than an African-American dude, but Ta-Nehisi’s presence makes me feel more represented in the pages of the Times.