The Vigilant Robot

a watchful eye of creative complexity

Monthly Archives: July 2013

Hip Hop or Shakespeare?

A friend sent me this amazing video that features a British hip hop artist named Akala and his exploration of rap lyrics in connection with Shakespeare. Akala presents to the audience how Shakespeare and hip hop are not so far removed from each other as one would think. He demonstrates how Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter rhythm fits perfectly with rap lyrics, regardless of how fast or slow the beat is to which he is rapping. Akala talks about the fifth element of hip hop—knowledge—and how the intellect of rap artists was reflected in their boastful and smart lyrics, indicating their knowledge on certain topics and presenting them in lyrically beautiful ways. He uses Wu-Tang Clan as an example. Akala’s presentation is well done, using multiple examples and his own rap skills to show that there really is a relationship between Shakespeare and hip hop music. I think he proves that the difference really isn’t that drastic in the very beginning when he quizzes his audience on whether a verse is a rap lyric of a line of Shakespeare, and much of the audience consistently guesses incorrectly.

His presentation also reminds me that the state of hip hop today is very sad. Yes, back then with the likes of Wu-Tang, Biggie, Tupac, etc.—who were actual mainstream hip hop artists—the lyrics were intelligent, well-thought out, eloquent, engaging, artistic and at times lyrically elegant, and presented by artists who had loads of talent. I think this is the state of hip hop that Akala is mostly referencing. I certainly wouldn’t compare Lil Wayne,  Drake, or 2 Chainz for crying out loud, to Shakespeare. Good hip hop still exists and the talent still exists, but it is no longer in the mainstream. It has to be sought out. Akala’s presentation is a reminder of the beauty and intelligence that has existed in hip hop music and I hope that one day soon the half-witted, derogatory, auto-tuned mainstream music that is still called hip hop will die out and be replaced with another generation of artists who appreciate the genuine elements of hip hop, including knowledge.

Take a look at Akala’s presentation. Can you tell the difference between hip hop lyrics or Shakespearean quotes?

Wood Type (and Print) is Not Dying

I had the pleasure of catching some of a conversation with Jim Moran and April Sheridan of Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum at Printers Ball yesterday. As described on their website:

The Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum is the only museum dedicated to the preservation, study, production and printing of wood type. With 1.5 million pieces of wood type and more than 1,000 styles and sizes of patterns, Hamilton’s collection is one of the premier wood type collections in the world. In addition to wood type, the Museum is home to an amazing array of advertising cuts from the 1930s through the 1970s, and all of the equipment necessary to make wood type and print with it, as well as equipment used in the production of hot metal type, tools of the craft and rare type specimen catalogs.

Hamilton Wood Type moved into a new facility in Two Rivers, Wisconsin and Jim and April talked a lot about the move, where certain things are located in the facility itself, and what we can expect in the future. I cannot wait until they reopen because I have been wanting to visit since they were at their old factory and have not had the chance. I was able to purchase a really awesome wood type specimen book and this cool print, which is now hanging on my wall.


I also caught a conversation with Don Kilpatrick of The Detroit Wood Type Co. located inside a community run print-shop and store called Signal Return. With a background and practice in illustration, Don eventually became interested in design and wood type. At The Detroit Wood Type Co. he makes wood type with a laser cutter in order to offer type that is more affordable for young artists and the community in Detroit. He is up for all sorts of collaborations right now and may do project specific typefaces. I want to order a typeface, but I don’t have anything to print it with. Sigh. He also talked about the developing artist community in Detroit who are trying to contribute in good and sustainable ways to the city. There is always more to a city than the media portrays—more than violence, abandoned houses, vacant lots, etc. These type of things are the same as the media relentlessly portrays about the south and west sides of Chicago and I know there is so much more to those neighborhoods than that. It was nice to hear someone say the same thing about Detroit and counter all of the negativity. I have never been to Detroit, but I have been wanting to for a long time and everyone asks me why on earth I would want to go to such a place. Because. I know there is more there than people think and I would like to check out the city for myself instead of hearing all these negative aspects of it.

These conversations were the highlight of Printers Ball. I was pretty disappointed in the lack of literature available, as I expected much more. There wasn’t really much of anything worth calling the Ball literary. At least I walked away knowing that people still really care about handmade goods and that there will be a great resistance to the death of print. It won’t happen any time soon. Wood type is not dying. Handmade prints are not dying. Print is not dying. It is these awesome people and places like Hamilton and Signal Return that keep it going. I love the Midwest.

Reflections You’ve Never Seen: “Mirror City” Creates Stunning Abstractions of Cities

We have all seen photographs of various city skylines and their reflections in some glass building or body of water. If you have ever visited Chicago, then you have most likely seen a reflection of the city in “The Bean,” the famous smooth, bean-shaped structure at Millennium Park whose real name given by its sculptor Anish Kapoor is “Cloud Gate.” While these often make for very beautiful photographs and sometimes stunning views of the cities each in their own way, none of them resemble the reflections found in “Mirror City,” which I find absolutely mesmerizing. Noted in the video’s description, “Mirror City” includes a timelapse of images and videos of various U.S. cities, including Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, which  spent years reflecting and perfecting them into this extremely well-edited video, complete with mild, well-fitting, thankfully not obnoxious, dubstep music. The result is an engaging abstraction of different aspects of familiar cities into beautiful images whose content can no longer be specified because of its kaleidoscope effect. The images and video move to the beat of the music in ways that make you bob your head while still being captured by the shapes and bright lights of cities blending into each other. Michael Shainblum’s art of reflection is successful; the scene changes, the sound and image edits, and blending of shapes, streets and architecture allows us to view cities in ways we generally do not see. The sunrises and sunsets and moving car headlights throughout the city streets are particularly enjoyable. The video is well done and it is definitely worth watching.

We Forget

Tomorrow I will find nothing,
Lost in shadows and darkness,
The world so holy.
So lonely.
Truth comes forward like heaven on a rainbow.
Clouds dissipating into unopen arms.
Torrential rainfall like none the world has ever seen.
The ground cracked and crumbling.
Fingertips grasping ledges to which they can’t even hold on.
But holding nonetheless.
The asphalt curls and rumbles,
Flattening structures like demolition without the explosion.
The people are blind.
The world is white, bricks and metal no longer an obstruction.
Destroyed or cleansed is the argument.
Building anew the goal.
And waiting for destruction yet again.
We create war. We create worlds. We destroy souls.
And we forget.
This world is not ours to keep.