Our first Blogbook entry of 2018 is intended to be an admixture of both desultory and painstakingly precise ravings concerning life and expectations in the New Year. However, if you are joining us here this morning expecting to find a narrowly circumscribed list of perfunctory New Year’s resolutions, you have come to the wrong place. New Year’s resolutions just aren’t my thing. To me, coming into any New Year overly fixated on a set of somewhat dubious and mostly superficial goals is akin to attempting to set twelve inches of newly fallen snow on fire, in other words, not likely to happen. Instead, do what I do and listen carefully to, and be guided by your intuition as you transition into the New Year. If you trust in your intuition deeply enough, you should never feel as though you are swimming in unfamiliar waters. With these sentiments in mind, slide over bitches and buckle up because we expect 2018 to be one wild ride.
I always view the New Year as an opportunity to break new ground; whether it be expanding upon or developing a deeper understanding of existing relationships, cultivating entirely new ones, injecting new energy into staid alliances, or just deciphering and then moving on from those relationships that are either no longer salvageable or worthwhile, or just plain fruitless, or counterproductive. The beginning of each new year is also an ideal time to check in with myself and ask “what have I been doing with my life?”
I am not one of those people who subscribe to the notion that life is nothing more than a series of foreordained immutable entanglements; although it might sound trite, I believe life is indeed what you make of it. Brooke and I choose not to accept the mundaneness of living in a socially engineered world where an animated GIF is passed off as real-life experience or where communication and emotion are reduced to emoji-styled expressions of nothingness. Social media is a superficial and apathetic form of communication that has eroded and interfered with the importance of real human interaction. Social media has many failings, not the least of which are the proliferation of ill-conceived and meaningless 140 character-long tweets, the spread of false information, feeding a growing sense of societal entitlement, boorish behavior, the subversion of personal privacy, and an ever-increasing fear of missing out on something. Attempting to live life through social media platforms will never transform one’s otherwise lackluster existence into an existence worth living. Worthwhile experiences come about through immersive participation, whether planned or spontaneous, so get out there and just do it.
Life is lyrical, live it, enjoy it, and never take it for granted. Carve your own way, make your own mark, be a doer, and don’t act like an entitled asshole standing there with outstretched hands expecting that the world owes you something, when in fact it owes you nothing. Listen, listen, and then listen some more, especially during moments of misunderstanding and disagreement, bearing in mind that no one person has a monopoly on being right. Never blame someone else for your error; when you are wrong or make a mistake, acknowledge it, take ownership of it, rectify it, learn from it, move on from it, and for fuck’s sake apologize.
As I sit here at the dawning of 2018 writing this Blogbook entry, I find it shocking how little real progress has been made in the advancement of women’s rights in this Country in the 170 years that have passed since the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. Amidst an alarming worldwide increase in the perpetuation of patriarchal scheming, sexist rhetoric, and violence and discriminatory practices against women, and with no true political path forward, we seem to be living in a time of growing uncertainty where this often barbaric mistreatment of women, again and again, has deadly consequences.
Misogyny does not take place in a vacuum; all people, especially men, must actively reject and work to dismantle these destructive patriarchal narratives and see to it that the men who hold, preserve, support, and exploit these beliefs are held fully accountable. As a society, when did we unlearn what is acceptable, unacceptable, right, and wrong? As a society, when did we start to condone and normalize gender alienation and oppression, predation, sexual assault, date rape, and domestic and relationship violence? As a society, when did we decide to turn a blind eye to the abuse and atrocities committed against women that are carried out in the guise of religious or cultural beliefs?
For the men that read our Blogbook, here’s to hoping that every misogynist among us finally wises up and graciously accepts the reality that a woman is an autonomous being who is not subservient to your unenlightened or culturally backward way of thinking and that women are every bit your equal; hell, the truth is, women are better at MOST things. I first read Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex – The Case for Feminist Revolution in 1977 as a college freshman; at the time, being an 18-year-old blockheaded male, I lacked the proper perspective to grasp her message or to truly understand the historic plight of women throughout many millennia. Recently, I took the time to reread this book, and talk about the change in perspective brought about by now being a Father to an amazing eleven-year-old Daughter; that, and being surrounded in my life by so many incredible and influential women.
Here’s to all women rising up and to all men wising up and learning what it means to be a good man! We support those bands and musicians like War On Women and girlSperm (gSp) that are helping to raise our collective consciousness and to demand accountability – here is War On Women’s video for the song Say It from their self-titled record released in February 2015 -
The New Year is also the perfect time to introspectively reflect on and hopefully remedy any extant personal or business shortcomings. And lest I forget, the start of the New Year is also time to again give thanks to all of those who have supported our vision from its inception, and to those who have continued to believe unflinchingly in Brooke and me and in the ideals that Raven Vanguard holds dear.
Since I am usually not one to jump into something with eyes wide shut, especially something as crucial as the unexplored New Year we have just entered, I allow accumulated wisdom, knowingness, truth, prior experience, intuition, memory, and the just-completed year to give context to the uncharted territory that lies ahead of me. I see the New Year as a means through which I can eventually provide three-dimensional context to the current state of the meaningfulness of my existence and a springboard to new levels of innovative thinking, creative abstraction, calculated risk-taking, and a higher degree of comprehension of what it means to simply be human.
Enough philosophizing for now since many of you are likely wondering what Raven Vanguard has in store for the year ahead. Honestly, I wish I knew the answer to that question myself; 2017 flew by so quickly that we barely had enough time to gather ourselves at year’s end, put our fiscal year to bed, and to detect and establish our bearings while standing on the precipice of the inevitableness of 2018 – I am jesting only somewhat, at least I think I am. Before 2017 fades to the deep recesses of our rearview mirror, I offer one final observation – Raven Vanguard is proof, if proof were really needed, that the keys to success and achievement are a vision, passion, integrity, and hard work.
In 2018, Brooke and I will write the next chapters of our life together, with our Families, friends, and with each other. Goals, do we have any? In a word, our overarching goal for 2018 is to impress. Beyond that, we aim to deliver on all of our promises and continue to do things on our terms by bringing together and merging the worlds of interior design, music, and contemporary art into unique and memorable life and lifestyle experiences.
Since the subject of music is proving to be quite popular among our Blogbook followers, let’s get right to it and discuss this entry’s musical topics. Recently, one of our Blogbook readers sent us a message asking me what I thought of Tom Waits, both as a musician and as an actor. He also asked me to identify and expound upon my three favorite LPs issued by Waits during a career that spans from about 1970 to the present day. However, there was a bitch of a qualification to this particular request, which being, the three records I selected had to be issued consecutively within the overall Waits’ discography.
When I first agreed to answer these questions in a future Blogbook entry, I hadn’t fully considered how daunting a task, in reality, a challenge, this undertaking would turn out to be. Thankfully, Tom Waits, the musician, is a long time favorite, and Raven Vanguard has most of his recorded output (at least his studio recordings) in our ever-expanding record collection. If you are familiar with the music of Tom Waits, you know that his studio recordings are incredibly disjointed, eclectic, and sometimes even quite harrowing, but in the most fascinatingly imaginable ways.
Where was I to start? I must confess that I am not a massive fan of Waits’ early recordings from the 1970s that had been issued before the release of Blue Valentine in 1978. Therefore, I quickly eliminated from contention Closing Time; The Heart of Saturday Night; Nighthawks at the Diner; Small Change; and Foreign Affairs. However, even with those records no longer in contention, the task at hand seemed no less insurmountable because I was left to scrutinize the brilliance of Waits’ music from Blue Valentine; Heartattack and Vine; Swordfishtrombones; Rain Dogs; Franks Wild Years; Bone Machine; The Black Rider; Mule Variations; Blood Money; Alice; Real Gone; to Bad As Me.
So my challenge was to select, from among this dirty junkyard dozen, my three favorite Tom Waits’ recordings that were released consecutively. What the hell was I thinking, because this would be no walk in the park? Since I am not one to ever shy away from a challenge, instead of settling in for a long winter’s nap, I have already begun the mind-blowing and monumental Tom Waits’ listening sessions. Waits once appropriately enough described his music as “music for the electric chair,” and “music for the criminally insane.” If I were to make an attempt to explain the music of Tom Waits to the uninitiated, I would suggest closing your eyes and imagining someone who is equal parts madcap crooner, bus station raconteur, freakshow eccentric, Bavarian polka band conductor, hallucinatory beat poet, “Blues and Haikus” aficionado, Brecht/Weill tunesmith, mariachi band troubadour, desolation blues street poet, sinister scat singing jazzbo, burlesque hall minstrel, word jazz rapper, gravel-voiced saloon singer, and last but not least the carnival sideshow barker standing at the gates of Hell.
Attempting to describe the music of Tom Waits in this fashion is foolhardy at best. Come hell or high water, Waits must be heard to be truly experienced. I hope to be able to complete my Tom Waits marathon before the end of this month and weigh in with my thoughts during our next Blogbook entry which should go online sometime before the end of January. Until then, I leave you with Hell Broke Luce a track off of Bad As Me released in October 2011 -and Goin’ Out West a track off of Bone Machine released in September 1992.
In my December 20, 2017, Blogbook entry I recommended many incredible records from the year 1979; in addition to all of those mentioned there, you should also consider taking a listen to The B-52s S/T; Devo’s Duty Now for the Future; The Cure’s Three Imaginary Boys; Augustus Pablo’s Original Rockers; and the Cars’ Candy-O.
We loathe the idea of rote year-end best-of lists, so we won’t be doing that type of thing around here. Instead, I’d rather just point out some of the music we have been listening to lately and let you decide for yourself how that particular record resonates with you. Whether a piece of music is genuinely deserving to be among those that merit a spot on your best-of list involves such a personal choice that it would be presumptuous on my part to impose my musical tastes on yours. In no particular order and not all of it from the 21st Century, hopefully, you can find time to take a listen to Patsy’s LA Women; girlSperm’s 12”; The Congos’ Heart of the Congos; Meat Puppets’ Up On the Sun; Brigitte Fontaine’s S/T; Bob Marley’s African Herbsman; Jlin’s Black Origami; Os Mutantes’ S/T; Gasoline’s A Journey Into Abstract Hip-Hop; The Creatures’ Boomerang; New Order’s Brotherhood; Augustus Pablo’s East of the Nile River; John Frusciante’s Niandra LaDes And Usually Just A T-Shirt; Scientist’s Introducing Scientist, The Best Dub Album in the World; The World’s First World Record; Chris & Cosey’s Heartbeat; Dr. Dre’s The Chronic; The Upsetters’ Super Ape; Current 93’s Thunder Perfect Mind; King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s Gumboot Soup; and Thee Oh Sees’ Mutilator Defeated at Last.
Take a listen to the song Holy Child by Jlin from Black Origami – and a live version of the track Sticky Hulks by Thee Oh Sees from their 2015 release Mutilator Defeated at Last -
Another common request from our Blogbook readers has been for us to mix in some discussion of audio equipment, in particular, two-channel audio systems. Audio is something that for us will always be part of the ongoing conversation, and we plan to discuss audio manufacturers and their equipment frequently in 2018. The most repeated question asked by our readers over the past month has been related to our preference in power amplifiers.
For me, all amplification components must be tube-based, whether we are talking power amplifiers, line stage preamplifiers, phono preamplifiers, or field coil amplifiers. Depending on needs and budget, our top two power amplifier recommendations are the M300B Frankenstein MK II mono amplifiers manufactured by Coincident Speaker Technology, and the Hollander, a three chassis, single-ended triode amplifier featuring the copper plate GM70 output tube that is designed and produced by Oswalds Mill Audio. Israel Blume of Coincident and Jonathan Weiss of OMA are two of the most knowledgeable people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. We will devote more time to these two now-iconic amplifiers in a future Blogbook entry, hopefully sometime in the late spring. We will reveal our choice for Raven’s Cultural Vanguardist of the Month in our next Blogbook entry later this month.
One final raving before I go, here’s to hoping that the glitch in the spacetime continuum has been repaired, or it is ultimately revealed that the speed at which 2017 blew right by me turns out to be nothing more than a once-in-a-lifetime anomaly.