eMusings is our newest feature at Digital Giraffe, intended to bring items of uncommon interest to our viewers' attention. We begin this month by sharing with you the company of three talented contemporary writers. They will take you on a fascinating journey from Hip Hop to Osama to the passions of the heart. eMusings will appear from time to time as the spirit moves and the muse dictates.

"Fo shizzle my nizzle"...Humble Mumble"..."Bling bling". What do these phrases conjure up for you? If nothing much comes to mind, then perhaps you need a tour through Hip Hop culture and in that case Todd Boyd is your man. Dr. Boyd teaches critical studies in the School of Cinema and Television at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. His fascinating book, "The New H.N.I.C (Head Niggas in Charge"), will lead you through, as he says, "The Death of Civil Rights and the Reign of Hip Hop". Published by New York University Press in 2003, The New H.N.I.C. will rearrange your outdated mind furniture and initiate you into the language and culture of the 21st Century. Boyd's discussion of wealth and status, commercialism versus artistic integrity, unspoken stereotypes and verbalized misconceptions are brilliant. Like Gore Vidal (below), he hopes to "knock down the wall of silence" that envelops the mainstream. In the process he reveals the cultural and linguistic genius of Hip Hop and gives the reader an invaluable tour through America the not-always-so-beautiful.

Gore Vidal, now 77 years old, has been tweaking the imperialist assumptions of Thomas Jefferson's intellectual off-spring for many years. As the Danish composer Carl Neilsen once wrote, "I love the vast surface of silence; and it is my chief delight to break it". Vidal, on the other hand, deplores the silence surrounding the loss of civil liberties in the United States as well as the lack of a lucid, honest explanation of why our troops are in the Middle East. If you are concerned about what is happening to those inalienable rights, you will want to read his book of essays, published in 2002, entitled "Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got To Be So Hated", Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books, New York. Quoting Vidal:"The awesome physical damage Osama and company did to us is as nothing compared to the knock-out blow to our vanishing liberties....Could it be that the greatest victim of the September 11th terror attacks will be American liberty?". For only $10. USD you can read Vidal's deeply troubling words.

Born in 1945 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, J.D. McClatchy has been Editor of The Yale Review since 1991 and is the recipient of Fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. "The Ten Commandments", published by Aldred A. Knopf in 1998, brings us his exquisite poetry, expressed with elegant phrases and intensely felt passions. McClatchy is courageously in-your-face. He does not shrink from opening his private emotions to public scrutiny. Indeed he is as incisive with his own heart as he is with contemporary lifestyles. It is difficult not to flinch at his description of a man getting a mammogram, or a youngster being initiated into the sexual society of other men. McClatchy makes no secret of his homosexuality, nor does he speak only to those who share it. His voice is democratic and all-inclusive. His phrasing is taut and equal to the legacy of Whitman's "barbaric yawp". Of pain he writes "each of us slowly turned into something that hurts,/someone we no longer recognize". One of my favorite passages reads:

"'God spoke one and I heard two'

That is, he heard himself as well.

Can what I say be also true?

Shaky grounds on which to dwell,

I'd say that angels still rebel

Against authority. And you?"

McClatchy's voice dominates contemporary poetry. "Ten Commandments" offers us superb examples of his art.

The three writers on eMusings this month share an affinity for the cracks in the mainstream sidewalk, a bit of real estate that I inhabit myself.But then, most artists follow the road less taken, don't they?