Why is it that certain people are controversial for no other reason than being controversial? Don’t get me wrong; I am not suggesting that controversy and being controversial, or having controversial ideas are necessarily harmful. In fact, throughout the history of the World, a great many extraordinary things have come out of controversy, and we have no doubt been utterly enlightened by a rich abundance of controversial figures with their seemingly overblown and radical ideas. From where I sit, being controversial is OK provided it is with a benevolent purpose and is effected without overstepping, much less trampling over, the outer boundary of decency. Much the same with controversy provided it leads us to discourse and resolution. But being controversial without purpose? What is the objective if this is the end sought? This seems to be the path chosen by the egomaniacal among us, those trapped by the cult of celebrity or celebrity-ism, or those locked in a never-ending search for their fifteen minutes of infamy. Point made? I hope so.
Based on early feedback, our readers enjoyed the experience of Colouring of Pigeons as the musical accompaniment to our January 9th Blogbook entry. Encouraged by your reaction, we now offer Karmacoma as the aural soundtrack to today’s latest entry to our Blogbook canon. The track Karmacoma is both beat and sample-heavy, lyric-driven eastern-tinged dub psychedelia. Part of the emerging early 1990s Bristol underground in the UK, Daddy G, 3D, Mushroom, Nellee Hooper, and Tricky, formerly of the Wild Bunch Crew, operating under the moniker Massive Attack released Karmacoma in 1995 as the third single from their second studio album Protection released in September 1994. Bristol would also give us Portishead, and in many ways, Bristol’s imprint is all over Bjork’s first two studio albums, Debut and Post. Making its Raven debut, please enjoy Massive Attack’s Karmacoma
My life partner, beyond life partner, and business partner, Brooke, is the motivating force behind my writing this particular section of our Blogbook entry; let’s call it Rainbows and Unicorns (although the working title was for a short time called Bong Hits at Candy Mountain – Sorry Charlie!). Candidly speaking, Brooke and I do not have a “content strategy” for our Website, or for this Blogbook. We believed, and still do, that marketing strategems are disingenuous in the overall context of clearly communicating our personal and business philosophies.
Our overarching philosophy? To be honest in all that we do. However, at times honesty comes with a price. I believe that being honest about all things obliges me to speak freely at all times, even when that means saying things that go against popular opinion, populist ideologies, political correctness, or even when it ruffles feathers. That’s just me. Brooke, on the other hand, is non-controversial by nature; this is not a bad thing because she is at the same time the perfect union of complexity and contradiction. She is virtuous without fail and, no matter the circumstances comports herself under the influence of righteousness and grace. Shun the non-believers.
Brooke could literally find herself in the middle of a tumultuous swirling shitstorm but not ever see it that way; instead, like Dorothy Gale from Kansas, she would furiously start clicking together the heels of her emerald and silver slippers (ruby slippers aren’t Brooke’s thing, nor were they ever Baum’s thing) and imagine herself in a rapturously idyllic setting, say a Technicolor sunshine-drenched pastoral meadow, wherein lies the magical bridge of hope and wonder, reigned over by Glinda, The Witch of the North, surrounded by clovers, poppies, and butterflies, sans The Wicked Witch of the West and her cadaverous sister witch from the East, and the freak-me-out flying winged-monkeys. Not to mention that terrifying humongous image of the undulating billowing bulbous evil godhead clamoring behind the curtain. What the F@#! was that all about anyway? Gratefully, in Baum's infinite wisdom he revealed the disembodied head to be nothing more than a pompous humbug.
Or what about that harrowing sepia-toned sequence of events starting with It’s a twister; it’s a twister! to Auntie Em, Auntie Em, Auntie Em!!!! culminating in Dorothy’s disturbing fever dream inside the cyclone (Baum’s word, not mine; I would have called it a tornado) where she encounters the phantasmagorical image of the cackling Almira Gulch riding her bicycle as she morphs into the Wicked Witch of the West. Here Scarecrow, want to play ball? If I only had the nerve. To this day, the Lullaby League and the Lollipop Guild are still sources of night-terrors. It's a magical Liopleurodon Charlie. Thankfully, in 1939, MGM, Mervyn LeRoy, and Victor Fleming had the good sense not to introduce us to Mombi, The Wicked Witch of the North (the snatcher of Ozma and responsible for transmogrifying her), because that would have undoubtedly been the end of me. I still can't bring myself to forgive them for the Western Witch's ominous broomstick calligraphy trumpeting Surrender Dorothy; the horror! The horror! But all of this is just a horse of a different color, therefore, lest you begin to think that I am writing all of this under the influence of the stoned immaculate, let’s get back to the point of this section. Let's return to the Land of sweets, and joy, and joyness.
So, aside from lions and tigers and bears, what does all of this mean? Brooke tempers my bluntness with her kindness and wisdom, and at the end of the day, I have learned (hopefully) to speak freely, candidly, and honestly, but measured with humility, sincerity, and compassion. Thus, I am free to provoke thought and to be thought-provoking, as long as I do so under the influence and guidance of rainbows and unicorns and the watchful eyes of Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle.
Composer's Postscript added January 24, 2018 - For the Baum purists among us, and for the young in heart, and to appease those who thought we had become illiterate in a fortnight, Raven Vanguard did not forget that the literary architect of Oz conceived of his masterwork as a panegyric to freethinking feminists the world over. After all, what right-minded male would refuse to subjugate himself to the supreme authority of the immortal Princess Ozma, rightful ruler of Oz? Moreover, we haven't forgotten that the "Witch of the North" is merely Glinda's nom de guerre and that her Baum-given name is Glinda the Good (or Witch of the South). Glinda, who offered counsel to Ozma, was the protector of Oz and its inhabitants, and also the arbiter between good and evil, locked in a never-ending struggle with the beguiling and leagued Witches to the South, West, and East, not to mention the shrewish Northern she-devil Mombi. And did you know that the Scarecrow's brain transplant amounted to nothing more than needles and pins? I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks; I do, I do, I do, I do, I do! For fear that I might forget Baum's most important message of all, Brooke, being Brooke, reminds me to always keep in mind that "a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others." Diatribe denouement concluded.
As a writer, I am somewhat reverential and referential concerning the literature that I am drawn to and always have been ever since high school. At first, my writing style (if I might be so bold as to call it that) borrowed quite heavily from a myriad of influences, ranging widely from 18th Century Russian literature to Blakean mysticism, philosophy, necromancy, and religion, to historical accounts of world events and the arts, especially late 19th Century through to the Interwar years, to biographical sketches of people living their life on the fringes (think Grigori Rasputin or Saint John of the Cross).
After decades of writing under the influence of those much more perceptive and creative than I am, and after passing through varying stages of assimilation, transformation, and finally, liberation, I began to find my own distinct voice and manner of writing. Although my work will never be confused with literary masterworks from the likes of Blake, Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Eliot, Wilde, or Huysmans, nevertheless, I continue to write in a style that is often tipped in favor of these historical touchstones with the hope of adding a dimension to my writing which elevates it above and beyond mere homage. I find that by continually returning to the work of the acknowledged masters of the craft, I am able, in some sense, to elevate my own work to levels I could not possibly achieve on my own.
If the literary world has an apt comparison in the musical world, I am a wannabe composer, producer, and turntablist in the vein of Afrika Bambaataa and DJ Shadow practicing the art of “beat juggling” and sampling, taking you on a sample-brimming journey from West Coast to East Coast to the Bristol underground the whole time bathed in shades of crunk and hyphy. Ingesting and mixing into an ecstasy-inducing melange the tracks Bitches Brew, Close to the Edge, Hat and Beard, Straight Up, Out to Lunch, The Little Rasti, A Night in Tunisia, Country Preacher, Walk Tall, Hummin, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part I, Ungodly Fruit, and Ten Crack Commandments. If I could only pull this off; but I can dream, can’t I? Perhaps DJ QBert can take the first crack at this mix in Comic Assassins-style and give me compositional credit for the resulting pastiche.
Music in outer space? Surely of Divine origin! WTF! FRB 121102 proves it! This news comes as no surprise to me. The discovery of FRB 121102 is wildly out of place in the landscape of space noise and space junk. I now have three working theories on these most hallowed of posthumous transmissions; each theory is as plausible as the next so I will expound upon each one in turn for you.
One of these days I suspect we will learn that the source of these mysterious fast radio bursts from the afterlife is the after death creation of either The Band From the Promised Land; or Saint John of the Cross conducting a quintet of sincerely dead 16th and 17th Century composers in an ecstatic musical interpretation of the Old Testament’s Song of Songs; or Major Tom and the Spiders From Mars. I know, I know.
The Band From the Promised Land is the ultimate otherworldly three-piece ensemble playing a maelstrom of free jazz and avant-blues comprised of Jimi Hendrix on lead guitar, Eric Dolphy on saxophones, bass clarinet, oboe, piccolo, flute, and all manner of sonic mayhem, and John Bonham on drums and percussion. On occasion, Jeff Buckley contributes operatic vocals to the clamorous, but euphonic ruckus. Major Tom and the Spiders from Mars is presently comprised of Major Tom temporarily sitting in for Ziggy Stardust, Mick Ronson on guitars, Trevor Bolder on bass, and, for the time being, Keith Moon sitting in on drums and percussion while Mick Woodmansey continues his life’s work here on this earthly plane. Bringing us to my remaining theory, Maestro Saint John of the Cross shepherding Saint Teresa of Avila, Girolamo Frescobaldi, Alessandro Grandi, Salamone Rossi, and Heinrich Schutz in a sacred consonance- dissonance explosion of the holy erotic in obeisance to the almighty Song of Songs. One of these empyrean ensembles will be coming soon to the Elysian Fields Opera House, and by fast radio bursts or satellite transmissions to a venue in your hometown.
Exciting things are happening in a well-preserved hamlet located along the historic canal within New York’s western borders. Raven Vanguard is privileged to have the opportunity to take part in this artistic and cultural renaissance, but for now, we must be tight-lipped about the plans that this unique and talented ownership group has in store for discerning, but open-minded, artistes, travelers, wanderers, wayfaring strangers, bohemians, mystics, gypsies, and vagabonds. Stay tuned and be patient fellow adventurers, voyagers, and experiential enthusiasts, for more news will surely follow in the months ahead.
A lunch with close friends this past week brought up for discussion, among other fascinating topics, the early 20th Century macroeconomics theory introduced by economist Vilfredo Pareto. Pareto’s theory is commonly referred to as the 80-20 rule and has since been applied to broad categories of relationships, in particular, to those relationships characterized by inputs and outputs, or having to do with productivity and efficiency in relation to effort. In our lunchtime dialogue, Pareto’s principle was discussed in the context of macroeconomics models that show 80% of a populations’ wealth to be in the control of 20% of the population, and also that 20% of a populations’ for-profit businesses generate 80% of the populations’ gross domestic product, meaning the total value, in economic terms, of everything produced by the population. Being a small business owner myself, any discussion of Pareto’s theory is always like a cold dose of reality. More on this topic in a future Blogbook entry.
Confession – in my personal life I do not tweet, never have, never will. Admittedly, I am of the old school, in part, because I desperately cling so tightly to the peace of mind brought about by my wholehearted embrace of privacy. To me, Twitter and many other social media platforms are the antitheses of privacy. For some, this sacrifice of one’s private sanctuary is an acceptable tradeoff, but not for me. Within my personal space, Twitter and social media will never be my thing because I believe communication should be meaningful and personal, not trivial or trivialized.
For communication to be meaningful, it must be understood. If communication is to be understood, among other things, it should be logical, and articulate, and exhibit elasticity of mind, appraisal awareness, and the felicitous weighing of consequences. And, whenever the situation calls for it, communication should also be concise, provided it is likewise precise. Communicating is an art, but it is an art form that is dying if it is not dead already.
Take Twitter, for instance; I find no merit whatsoever in a communication system that fosters and perpetuates the cult of celebrity and is intentionally designed to reduce the number of steps from impulse to action (Their words, not mine). Translated loosely – people, many of whom possess little to no impulse control in the first place, impulsively broadcast meaningless, mostly undecipherable, sound bites over the Internet that the rest of us apparently cannot live without. For clarification, my use of the phrase “the rest of us” was intended metaphorically, because, personally speaking, I rarely give a fuck about tweets over the Internet.
On the whole, social media platforms are marketed as process improvement technologies because they reduce the duration of time required to complete typical tasks. Instead of stretching the time between impulse and action, social media encourages people to proceed directly from the impulse to act as though they are operating on auto-pilot. What Twitter and other social media platforms have really done is create communications systems that have effectively eliminated the cognitive processes that would ordinarily take place for most of us between impulse and action.
While short-form communication is here to stay, I disagree with Dom Sagolla, and others like him, that the average person is capable of communicating with the clarity, succinctness, exactitude, and levelheadedness demanded when dispatching tweets of less than 280 characters over the Internet concerning matters of intricate substance, or that might involve the opening of Pandora’s Box. Is there value in Twitter and social media? Undoubtedly, but that value exists only in the mundane and the commonplace, or in its use as an information stream of tweets containing links to useful resources. Beyond that, it becomes a combination of slippery slope contrivances, viperous rhetoric, signal-to-noise ambiguities, and grievous consequences. To this, I say no thank you.
Quite frankly, there are numerous topics that, because they are weighty, nuanced, and profoundly consequential, deserve a better fate than a half-baked tweet, or a smattering of dim-witted, insignificant, acrimonious, or ill-conceived Twitter exchanges. Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking - don't they? If they only had a brain.
Genuine social discourse is priceless. I am in favor of an all- inclusive and encompassing debate between genuinely interested parties who seek common ground, consensus, compromise, or resolution whenever it concerns matters that are deeply personal, complicated, potentially divisive, or many-sided. Topics like immigration, race relations, my God or your God, the generational curse that is welfare, public education, healthcare, verbal versus non-verbal cues (navigating between yes, no, and maybe), why some men just don’t get it, Giant Pandas, gender dysphoria, same-sex marriage, cyber terrorism, global warming, gentrification, cyberbullying, or arming the populace in the event of nuclear Armageddon, are equally deserving of open-mindedness, our undivided attention, and heartfelt deliberation, not hollow or pernicious remarks made through social media platforms that champion impulsive action over rational, reflective, and even-tempered conversation. Rant over.
New rant beginning. As someone who believes there is real, enduring value in diversity, it frustrates me to no end that our politicians can’t seem to find a common purpose around the subject of immigration. When we started our Blogbook, we promised ourselves that we would remain apolitical, and since we intend to cling to this promise steadfastly, this is as close to the political line as we are willing to tread.
Is anything inherently wrong with wanting an immigration system based solely on worthiness and merit provided it is also colorblind, race-blind, and influenced by wisdom-guided compassion? What’s more, shouldn’t this system be administered according to a preordained and aspirational set of ideals and objectives designed to welcome only those who will strengthen, contribute to, improve, promote, and safeguard our society, rather than give shelter to those who might take from it, detract from it, criminalize it, undermine it, or, God forbid, attack it from within causing bloodshed, mayhem, or misery?
The truth is, I ask this question rhetorically because I believe this approach is the only viable approach we have available to us. This Country’s immigration philosophies and protocols have been crippled, hamstrung, and outmoded for decades and badly in need of a socially-aware, yet pragmatic overhaul. And, to do this, let’s stop politicizing the process; meaning, no more party-line haranguing, soapbox bellowing, or finger-pointing. Unfortunately, politicians have intentionally polarized the realities of immigration for so long that I question whether they are even capable of engaging in the required acts of self-restraint and respect necessary to conduct the meaningful civil dialogue needed to produce workable solutions to this labyrinthine dilemma.
Immigration is not the only issue to fall within this Country’s political minefield. Being honest, almost every issue of substance is politicized these days. Hell, we live in a time when gerrymandered career politicians make a living off of politicizing every issue whether the question is truly meaningful or not at all. This whole notion of politics-as-usual and how we feel about this dilemma played a significant role in the outcome of our most recent presidential election. As members of a free society, why do we allow, let alone tolerate, politicking over issues that require a working moral compass? It seems to me that any decisions concerning either the present or future composition and makeup of this Country should be devoid of politicking. Moreover, why should ideas be heard or unheard because they don’t subscribe to someone’s bullshit notion of what is politically correct or politically incorrect? Opinions and views should be heard or rejected entirely on merit, or the lack thereof. For the record, this Raving should matter not whether you self-identify as a democrat, republican, liberal, conservative, or an extraterrestrial.
If you are a music lover, you will consider this piece of news to be good news. Western Electric just notified us that their mythical WE 300-B vacuum tube, which is being reintroduced in 2018, should be available to us for pre-order sometime this summer. If you are enamored with vacuum tube amplifiers, you no doubt have your favorite triode output tubes; mine are the 300B, and the copper plated GM70 tubes. Since the early 1970s, I have owned and or auditioned many amplifiers incorporating 300B tubes in their respective designs. If I were pressed to select my two favorite 300B vacuum tubes, I would tell you that they are Western Electric’s WE 300-B and Takatsuki’s TA-300B. Unfortunately, we no longer have a supply of WE 300-B’s in stock. However, we will soon remedy this injustice, and once done, I promise an exhaustive comparison between the Takatsuki and the new Western Electric. Anticipation? Certainly!
So here’s the thing with our ongoing Tom Wait’s marathon listening sessions, as enjoyable as this has been, the end game is nowhere in sight. Think about it, choosing your three most cherished consecutively released studio albums over Tom Waits’ storied career. So far, the best I can do is limit my choices to the period from 1978 to 2011, but that means I have to ultimately decide between Blue Valentine, Heartattack and Vine, Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs, Franks Wild Years, Bone Machine, The Black Rider, Mule Variations, Blood Money, Alice, Real Gone, and Bad as Me. Every time I think I am getting close to eliminating one record, I take another listen and then get sucked back into the music and find myself further away from making up my mind.
I know I promised an expeditious resolution to our reader’s Tom Waits challenge in our last Blogbook entry, but as much as I’d like to comply, consider that promise broken to hell. On the other hand, I don’t feel right just leaving everyone hanging, so as a token of our intention to persevere to the final whistle, please enjoy this musical and comedic interlude of Tom Waits performing his classic The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me) from his 1976 album Small Change -
Now it is time to recognize Raven’s Cultural Vanguardist of the Month. However, we are going to do this a little bit differently this month; January’s Cultural Vanguardist is David Lynch. However, rather than finishing off this Blogbook entry with a brief mention of why David Lynch’s work is so important to us, we decided to post one more entry later this month devoted entirely to David Lynch’s far-reaching and eclectic oeuvre. For months now, we have been planning to recognize David Lynch, but, because of the immensity of his work, we have struggled with the realities of how to do this in a manner that does justice to Lynch’s creativity. We also have a second reason for changing things up this month, and that has to do with our friends and Gallerists Emily Tucker, Baird Tucker, and the Benjaman Gallery who, on January 20th, co-curated “The Dreamer Who Dreams” Exhibition in Buffalo, New York. This one-of-a-kind multi-media Exhibition, spearheaded by Emily Tucker, was designed to celebrate Lynch, his influence on others, and the work of others who influenced him. Hence, our next Blogbook entry will be devoted to Lynch and the importance of this particular Exhibition and the arts stewardship, vision, and imagination of the Tuckers and Benjaman Gallery. Please check out – http://www.thebenjamangallery.com
Moving on to Raven’s Mind-Bending Jukebox which, as you now know, is played out under the rubric of “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe;” starting with something old (a piece of music released before the March 1983 launch of the compact disc), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner by Black Uhuru from their album Showcase released in 1979 –
For something new (our sole criteria is relatively speaking), we have selected the track Queen released as a single in July 2014 by Mike Hadreas, recorded under his moniker Perfume Genius, and appearing on his third album, Too Bright released in September 2014 (Adrian Utley of Portishead plays on this track) –
Something borrowed in most cases, as here today, will be a cover song. Today, we give you two different cover songs along with the original songs being covered. Let’s get started with Dear Prudence by The Beatles found on their self- titled ninth studio album (more commonly known as the White Album because of its all-white album cover), written mostly in India and released in November 1968 –
One of our favorite cover versions of Dear Prudence is by Siouxsie and the Banshees from their double live album Nocturne released in November 1983; Siouxsie and the Banshees had previously covered The Beatles’ song Helter Skelter on their debut album The Scream released in November 1978. Here is their version of Dear Prudence –
We decided to give you a second cover song because we had a difficult time choosing between Dear Prudence and Back to Black the title track off of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black album released in October 2006; she died shortly after that in July 2007 –
Our favorite cover version of Back to Black is the reworking performed by Beyonce and Andre 3000 and produced by Jay Z for the soundtrack to Baz Lurhmann’s 2013 film The Great Gatsby. Although darker than Amy’s original, we actually prefer the cover –
Representing something blue or blew (usually a blues-based song or a song that features players blowing into or over a mouthpiece, reed, or some form of resonator), we have chosen two tracks from our favorite Catwoman, Eartha Kitt. First up, I Want to Be Evil originally released in the Fall of 1953 on the album RCA Victor Presents Eartha Kitt; presented here is one of my favorite performances of Eartha’s –
Up next, is Eartha’s My Discarded Men released in 1989 as a single and then again in 1995 on her compilation album The Best of Eartha Kitt – Where is My Man –
For the silver sixpence in her shoe (usually, a piece of music originating in the United Kingdom at any point in time from 1551 to 1980 when the sixpence coin was minted and before it was outmoded by the decimalization of the UK monetary system), we have selected the track Why Can’t I Touch It?, released by the Buzzcocks on their September 1979 compilation album titled Singles Going Steady –
And the last entry in this version of Raven’s Jukebox is a song intended to honor the bride (usually a piece of music by a female artist or music that positively relates to the subject of marriage or romantic love), in this case, the track is Fade Into You by Mazzy Star from their October 1993 album So Tonight That I Might See, which features lead singer Hope Sandoval. Hope is among our favorite Massive Attack collaborators appearing as a guest vocalist on their tracks The Spoils (2016), Paradise Circus (2010), and the EP single only release Four Walls (a collaboration with British electronic musician Burial (aka William Bevan))(2011).
Brooke has asked me to take the amulet (long story) to the Banana King (it was either that, or take the broomstick of the wrathful, but now liquefied, Witch from the West to the vagabond charlatan soothsayer masquerading as the autocratic crowned head of the Land of Oz); so this appears to be a logical place to end our Blogbook entry for today. Let peace, sanctuary, and rapture be your guide as you journey along the Road of Yellow Bricks.
As a bonus for sticking with us to the end of this particular journey, here is the Massive Attack track The Spoils, featuring Hope Sandoval on vocals. The video for this track is directed by John Hillcoat, who you may remember from our previous Blogbook entry directed Grinderman’s Electric Alice and also collaborated with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis on the 2005 Austrailian film The Proposition –