Mr. Struggan sends his regards.

Regarding Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap

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Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap, 2012
Directed by Ice T

Wilson here. Mr. Struggan, the hip-hop aficionado he is, assigned me to review last year’s documentary The Art of Rap for our film review this week. He has been bugging me for quite some time to watch it for him, ever since he learned of its release from a subway ad tucked away in Brooklyn’s Morgan Avenue station last summer.

The Art of Rap is a strong, but incomplete history of rap and hip-hop’s roots and traditions. The film’s goal, as director and narrator Ice T states from the start, is to give insight into the technical processes behind the global cultural movement that is rap music. Towards this end, he takes the audience on a loose and winding historical tour through the Bronx, the movement’s birthplace, south through New York City, then across the country to Los Angeles. Along the way, Ice T stops to meet with some of hip-hop’s greatest emcees to chat about their processes, approaches, techniques, experiences, and influences. What comes out of this odyssey is a remarkable amount of insight into the art form and what it takes to be the best in one of the world’s most popular musical genres. We also get treated to a wide range of entertaining freestyles and anecdotes from some legendary figures, including Grandmaster Caz, Melle Mel, KRS-One, Q-Tip, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg (pre Snoop Lion reincarnation), Eminem, Yasiin Bey (The Artist Formerly Known as Mos Def), Kanye West, and others.

Ice T, as our tour guide, is able to show us the inside story from the perspective of a true insider. He is perhaps the most logical fit for a project of this scope and ambition, considering his own position as a founding father of the hip-hop movement in LA and his consistent career as an actor. The perspective he is able to offer is fascinating and what he achieves is a film that truly celebrates the craft of hip-hop, without damaging itself by taking a self-congratulatory tone.

What Ice T doesn’t quite achieve, however, is the full picture. There is an over reliance in the narrative on the dichotomy between hip-hop’s New York origins and its second life in Los Angeles. The only thing in between is a brief stop in Detroit to pay homage to Eminem. This leaves some glaring omissions, most notably from the South; such figures as Ludacris, TI, Lil Wayne, and Andre 3000 and Big Boi from Outkast are left unrecognized. Perhaps this doesn’t concern the film and it is simply content to present the huge sample that it does. From my point of view, though, that sample would have been better if fully representative of hip-hop’s stylistic diversity.

Mr. Struggan sends his Regards.

The Mr. Struggan Foundation's February Loan

Wilson and Nico here. It is our pleasure to announce the recipient of The Mr. Struggan Foundation’s February loan, powered by Kiva.org

Each month, Mr. Struggan will be pledging a $25 loan to a borrower on Kiva’s website, which helps connect loan applicants from around the world with people who are willing and able to provide them with the funding they need. These microloans can go a long way towards helping people, especially in parts of the world where typical banking infrastructures are inadequate or do not exist.

This month’s Mr. Struggan Foundation loan recipient is Sarah, a 32 year-old mother of two who works for her local town council in Uganda as a health inspector. A loan of $450 dollars will help pay for the construction of rental homes she is building.

Please consider helping Sarah out; she is only $425 dollars away from getting her loan fully funded. For lenders new to Kiva, use this invite link to sign up, and The Mr. Struggan Foundation will receive an additional $25 for our endowment. Once you sign up, you can become a Foundation Member by joining our Lending Team, where you can track the Foundation’s progress and attribute your own lending activity to the fund. After two months of progress, our endowment currently sits at $50.

Mr. Struggan sends his warm regards.

Regarding The Art of Scent: 1889-2012 at The Museum of Arts and Design

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The Art of Scent: 1889-2012
The Museum of Arts and Design, New York
Nov 20, 2012 - Mar 3, 2013

Wilson here. Mr. Struggan has, for several years, maintained a boycott against the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan. A member of their staff, who shall remain nameless, displayed a great amount of rudeness the last time Mr. Struggan was in touch with their institution, and their typically uninteresting exhibition program hasn’t motivated him to return since. Hearing about their current exhibition, The Art of Scent, held Mr. Struggan’s curiosity enough, however, to send me there this past Thursday to review the show. 

After wading through some truly strange exhibitions on the lower floors, I reached the 4th floor, where the assigned exhibition is installed. What met me in the gallery was stranger still, consistant with Mr. Struggan’s expectations. Embedded into the walls were several large indentations, with projected wall texts next to each. Accompanying these indentations, which served as smelling stations for the content of the show, was an introductory text to the exhibition projected from the ceiling onto the middle of the gallery floor. The text explained the exhibition’s aim to give historical context to the craft of scent design, starting from the dawn of the industrial revolution, which began a modern era for scent makers with the development of synthetic chemical production on a large scale, through the 20th century and up to the state of perfumery today. 

The exhibition, according to the supporting text, aims to situate the “olfactory arts” within a larger historical context alongside the history of visual arts and design. The exhibition is interesting from this historical standpoint, but the show accomplishes little else. Twelve seminal fragrances from the field of scent design are exhibited, each available to experience at one of the indented stations along the wall. Though the wall texts provided some stimulating information about the history of the perfume industry, they failed to provide a full and adequate context to the show for me to leave with a clear understanding of what I had learned. It was the kind of information that could have been just as easily been read in a book. Actually, i take that back; a book would have been far easier, not just as easy. And far more convenient, comfortable, and informative to boot. 

Beyond these shortcomings, the experience of the show uncomfortable. If the exhibition designers didn’t think it would be an awkward experience for visitors to thrust their heads into holes blatantly shaped like vaginas to have perfume vaporized at their nostrils, then they were very wrong.The show was wrought with other inconveniences as well, besides the disconcerting wall vagina vaporizers. The wall texts, for instance, were projected on the wall and faded in and out on a loop. When approaching a new station, the texts would just as often than not fade out of view before you had a chance to finish reading. This made the experience not only awkward, but also needlessly frustrating.

The exhibition also featured a side gallery with liquid samples of a range of perfumes to try, as well as a totally unexplained projection of a “live feed” of descriptions of the scents. In all likelihood a poorly conceived social media plugin to garner viewer participation. 

In short, the show lacks adequate contexts, both in its physical design and in its content. Every aspect of the exhibition was approached with all style, and little substance. Mr. Struggan, after hearing my thoughts about the show, is fairly sure he won’t be sending me back to MAD anytime soon. 

Mr. Struggan sends his Low Regards.

Regarding Warm Bodies

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Warm Bodies, 2013
Directed by Jonathan Levine

Wilson here. Mr. Struggan has a hefty dose of disdain for the type of rom-coms that roll out every year to capitalize on the emotional ups and downs of the Valentine’s Day ritual. It is for this reason that his interest was piqued by Warm Bodies, which seemed to him a very atypical early February release. He sent me to see it this week for a review ahead of the 14th to let you all know his thoughts.

Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer lead the film as R and Julie, the latter a young woman and member of the human resistance against a zombie apocalypse that has overrun the planet, the former a young zombie who falls in love with Julie during a feeding frenzy in which he eats her boyfriend. Vowing to protect her from his undead cohorts, R and Julie begin to discover a bond between them despite their differences, and ultimately unlock the key to the zombie cure (spoiler alert: the cure is love). 

The story, adapted from a novel by Issac Marion, largely follows the story arc of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; two young people (or one young person and one young zombie) from two warring factions, thrust into an improbable love despite their differences. Added to this is a clever take on the typical zombie story, giving us a humanized protagonist in the midst of an existential crisis surrounding his droll routine as a zombie and his self-contempt at his need to satisfy his hunger for human flesh. The end result is a unique genre bender that, despite an oddball premise, delivers a fun and funny film with an authentic message about love and the human experience. 

The film is not without its shortcomings, however. Hoult and Palmer carry the film with two very strong performances, but the rest of the cast is very one dimensional. This is somewhat the fault of bad pacing, where parts of the film could have used more breathing room to further develop the characters and their motivations. The film is still a very entertaining watch, especially for fans of the zombie genre, and provides breath of fresh air to the standard February fare. 

Mr. Struggan sends his High Regards.

Regarding Until the Quiet Comes by Flying Lotus

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Until the Quiet Comes, 2012
Flying Lotus

Nico here. Mr. Struggan, an avid pilot and horticulturist, unsurprisingly invited me to review Flying Lotus’ newest album, Until the Quiet Comes. Flying Lotus’ last album before this one, Cosmogramma (2010), was a cool album during a cool time.

Effective music elicits physical reactions. The 5th Dimension makes me dance. This album makes me fall asleep. No surprise, since the album’s concept relies heavily on dreams. This is not a negative criticism, I’m just saying this album is a dangerous selection for a solo road trip.

So, It’s a sleepy album. No less meaningful, though. “Sultan’s Request” has this deep repetitive riff/bass line that lulls the listener like a mantra. Not in a rocking way, but in a sleepy way, even to a point of monotony that begs attention. Interesting effect.

Furthermore, I disagree somewhat with critics who have said this album delves deeper into the jazz influences FlyLo began experimenting with on Cosmogramma. The jazz is there, but I hear a lot more hip hop rhythm on these tracks, albeit abstracted. Even thematically, this album is more hip hop-influenced. Think turntablism. Two of his collaborators, Thom Yorke and Erykah Badu, are good flavors for the songs’ drowsy soundscapes. FlyLo is an ascetic, not a baller. ”DMT Song” is more introspective trip than psychedelic roller coaster.

On Until the Quiet Comes, Flying Lotus continues to work his butt off and gets us listening in new directions. Thought-provoking music is important, but not always super-fun.

Mr. Struggan sends his High Regards.

Shout out to Plan 9 Music in Richmond, Va., where I bought this album. Helpful staff. Good selection. Be sure to make a visit if you’re ever in Carytown.

Mr. Struggan’s February Hearts Playlist

Wilson and Nico here, ushering in our second month of the New Year with Mr. Struggan’s February Hearts Playlist! We hope you enjoy this preview for the month ahead, featuring the likes of Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Dr. Dre, Rufus Wainwright, and other artists. Happy listening!

Mr. Struggan sends his regards. 

(Source: Spotify)

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