Just finished Michael Eric Dyson’s Tupac book Holler If You Hear Me. As in his book on MLK, Dyson draws out radical intentions and implications of his subject’s work, wrestles with the problematics of his life, and considers what the mythology that’s developed since his death says about the culture around him. The discussion of Tupac’s relationship with his mother, Afeni Shakur, brings together several threads of the book: the contradictory meanings of black masculinity in Tupac’s work and his thinking; the currents of rage, indictment, forgiveness, and affirmation in his music; the personal as political; the relationship between the ’60s Black Panther generation and the next one. If anything, the book suffers from Dyson’s tendency to over-explain the significance of each sentence from Tupac. Good read, and I learned a lot from it.

One passage of interest:
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Reviewing Entertainment Weekly interviews with the candidates, Marc Ambinder expresses surprise that

In some ways, Obama has the tastes of a 72 year old man; McCain has the tastes of a 47 year old whippersnapper. Who knew?

At risk of sounding cynical, why should we be surprised when Obama associates himself with Dick Van Dyke and McCain associates himself with Usher? Isn’t this what candidates often do in interviews – try to address potential vulnerabilities and convince more people that they’re more like them than they realized (that is, when they’re not focused on doubling-down on their perceived strengths)? That the guy smeared as a secretly foreign terrorist fist jabber touts an old white guy and the really old white guy who can’t use a computer touts a young R & B artist seems to make a lot of sense. Same reason around election time we often hear more from Democrats about their love of guns and Jesus and from Republicans about their love of Black people and the environment.

Updated (8/25/08) to correctly identify Usher’s musical genre, though not in time to avoid looking to Alek like an elderly white guy.

The gang at the Prospect’s convention blog (inter alia) have been carping about (inter alia) the Convention’s music selections for each speaker. None of the ones they mentioned, though, irk me so much as the pairing of the Beatles’ “Revolution” with Howard Dean. Come on, guys. It’s a song about being afraid of revolution. And certainly, for better or worse, Howard Dean was never quite as revolutionary as his strongest backers or critics made him out to be. But it seems safe to assume that the song was chosen to suggest that he’s an insurgent. And to do that was a counter-insurgent song is an insult to the audience’s intelligence nearly on par with Reagan’s citing “Born in the USA” as an articulation of his brand of patriotism. Anyone who’d like to try to convince me that there’s a subtle point being made about the revolutionary danger posed by Bush and feared by Dean, or the tension between Dean’s conservative record and his more radical rhetoric, or the fear of the Democratic establishment towards Dean, is welcome to try. I wouldn’t suggest it though.

Otherwise, I’d say Dean’s was a solid speech, even if some of the lines make less of an impact for those of us who’ve heard them from him several times before. The same goes for Ted Kennedy, on both counts. Of course, there can only be one Barack Obama.

Now I acknowledge that unlike some, I don’t know from (weird Hebrew-ish construction, I know…) music other than a very narrow selection of it, and I pretty sure I know less about Blender Magazine. But apparently, in a verifiable Blender Blunder, these people have named “Sound of Silence” by the prophetic Paul Simon, as the 42nd worst song of all time. Now I do know that there are many, many more than 42 songs out there, many of them written by non-prophetic writers, and thus feel comfortable declaring Blender Magazine to know nothing about music (or, for that matter, prophecy). Maybe Brian and I can start a bi-partisan campaign to shame them into submission.