Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hip Hop Headines - Fear of a (relevant) Black Planet

Underground hip hop doesn't lack people who want to MC, and despite its lack of widespread commercial appeal it has a strong base in young people.
But underground hip hop doesn't have enough new things to talk about.
We've all heard it before, and before that, and before that.
The stereotypical underground hip hop song is a lot like the stereotypical blog post: Both require a literary touch, a healthy ego, and both tend to be autobiographical, which means they can both end up sounding like a narcissistic person blathering about what they did yesterday.

What if hip hop MCs decided to rap about the news?
This has already worked out well for Akrobatic, who does a sports wrap up on the Boston radio station Jam'n 94.5. Listen to one of his more famous and (at the time) timely raps, and decide if the hip hop medium wouldn't work to distribute other forms of information.
Here's Akro on the current Celtic's team, now in the NBA Finals.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Empty threat

Occasionally on my way home from work I tune into WRKO's Michelle McPhee, partly because I like her outrage on behalf of perceived wrongdoing and partly to learn how the moderate right wing is thinking. McPhee's rhetoric is far from the hate mongers (Jay Severin and Michael Savage for instance) who share time slots on the channel, so she is usually bearable to listen to. But other times, she can be willfully blind to all the evidence against her point, and clearly just trying to press her agenda for making John McCain the next president. Sometimes it seems she shills as hard for McCain as other radio hosts shill for a show's sponsored vinyl-siding vendor or window replacement company.

Tonight she dredged up the ghost of Jeremiah Wright, yet again. McPhee's attempt to keep the ex-pastor in Obama's ex-church relevant felt as fresh and newsworthy as last week's potato salad. But I suppose he makes good radio with his years-old over-the-top sermons. And I expect her and other McCain supporters to bring him up again and again as the November election nears. He's a perfect villain for voters who treat any criticism of this country as blasphemy or treason. (And also those who choose their candidate based on a lapel pin.) But what's Wright got to do with Obama now?

Obama left the church. It's over. And by November that Jeremiah Wright potato salad is going to be well past its expiration date. The more the Republicans try to bring back the ghost of Rev. Wright, the more accountable they will have to be for the skeletons in McCain's closet.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Have we met?

After countless hours spent browsing news Web sites, it's become clear that among all the other things the Web does for writers, it allows them to put multiple headlines on the same story. This is great.
I appreciate a good headline, the way I appreciate a good Shoe comic. Good heads are fun, succinct, but leave you wondering where the rest of the story might go. They should be accessible to anyone. For years, I valued the tabloid headlines at the Boston Herald above all others. What the paper lost in the vitriol some of its columnists it made up for in the wittiness of its head lines. I can't recall any now, because like the paper and ink they were forged in, my memories of good headlines have faded and been reduced to pulp.
The same is true for the engaging headlines over at Slate, but I think that news site is on to something bigger in the way it presents its stories. Browse Slate for too long and you will inevitably end up clicking on the same story twice. Why? Because the Web site uses different headlines to link to the same story. While paper editions are forced to choose one headline and run with it, Slate can come up with three or four and appeal to a wider range of readers to click on the story and maybe read through it.
It's a great idea, and other news Web sites should steal it. If I could put multiple heads on this story, they would include "What's in a name?" "A rose by any other name..." "The beast of a thousand heads" or "AKA" - which would probably look great splashed across the front of a tabloid. (I decided to go for the lamest and last example I could think of, "Have we met?")
These multiple entry points will only draw more readers. The head line is the introduction, the come-on to the story. And first impressions count for everything when you're dealing with readers who can turn just about anywhere else for another story.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What to do!

Well, for the past four months I've been checking the presidential primary polls regularly, looking to see who the nominee will be. But you know what? I think I'll just let that sit for a while. It's like waiting for a cake to bake. Check it too many times and all the heat will have whooshed out of the oven. And we don't want that.

So what to do while the primaries wrap up... I think maybe I'll bake a cake. Of course, first I'll have to do the dishes, and I should do those anyway.

Next, I think I'll do a bit of laundry and then get a haircut.

Presidential politics can be exciting, but it can turn into a bore. I think I'll check back after Pennsylvania votes.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bitter your tongue

Slate blogger Melinda Henneberger sums up my thoughts on the controversy Barack Obama caused in his remarks during a San Francisco fundraiser.

It smacks of blame the little guy.

To be sure, he cushioned his statements with "it's not surprising" that people are bitter and looking for somewhere to turn after losing their jobs in an economy that overlooked them.

But his comments rip the carpet out from under the lives these small town people have built, and the ideas and philosophies that have sustained them.

I would have had no qualms with anyone hypothetically saying, "It's no wonder people in America are uninformed and forget about the war and the catastrophic debt and the plight of low-income and no-income people - Most people get their news from Rupert Murdoch's News Corp."

But Obama sounds patronizing to the people who obviously weren't there at a fundraiser in San Francisco.

I don't think the Jeremiah Wright flap should have been a big deal. I like the idea of a politician listening to sermons he might not agree with. I didn't think the "typical white woman" thing was anything more than poorly chosen wording. Hell, the thesaurus says the word normal is a synonym of typical. And who hasn't wanted used the word normal to describe someone?

No one should claim to understand the forces that effect peoples thinking unless they're damn sure of it. That may sound hypocritical coming from a journalist (and blogger) who does that sort of thing for a living, but it's true.

The thing that really gets me is he didn't have to say that. A lot of people already believe those stereotypes.

And lastly, unfortunately I don't have the time to go into the problems I have with Bill Clinton's error-ridden defense of Hillary's wacko Bosnia sniper-fire story. However I would like to see a YouTube mash-up of the 3 a.m. phone call commercial and the (paraphrasing) "It was late at night, she was exhausted, she misspoke" defense.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Quid pro quo... or tit for tat

Slate's John Dickerson brings up an interesting question: How did Barack Obama win the support of former candidate Bill Richardson?

Dickerson suggests the two pols might have worked out a deal, where Obama gets the endorsement, while Richardson gets picked as the vice presidential nominee or wins a cabinet role if Obama is elected.

It's not hard to imagine Richardson as Obama's running mate.

The current governor of New Mexico's long resume would add experience to the Democratic ticket, and his Mexican heritage would help bring the Latino vote into the fold.

But, I think there may be other factors at play.

Maybe the governor felt miffed by Hillary Clinton's suggestion that Obama would make a fine vice presidential candidate, on her ticket.

After all, this winter, Clinton was making similar (and maybe more realistic back then) invitations to Richardson.

Of course, most people saw Clinton's suggestion that Obama take the VP slot as a ploy, rather than a genuine invitation.

But maybe Richardson felt passed over by the former front-runner, and wanted to let her know she can't have it both ways.

Or maybe after Clinton used the hypothetical VP pick to undermine Obama, the New Mexico governor looked back at her hints this December with a new set of glasses.

When compliments become condescending, the formerly flattered might feel miffed.

And this wonderfully written piece in the New York Times shows just how pissed the Clintons were about the endorsement - and that Richardson knew perfectly well how the former first lady would see it.