The Week of January 14th - January 20th


Words according to Thomas, Co-Founder, Jack of all Trades, and Creative Director of Raven Vanguard


Do you believe in surrounding yourself with beautiful things? I do. Raven Vanguard does, and our Clients surely do. More on this in a few moments. First, I need to provide context to this Weekly Once-over.

This Weekly Once-over starts very differently from the way it will end. While some of you may not particularly care for the way it begins, I am hoping that you will not object, maybe even concur, with the way it ends.

A word to the wise, it ends pondering other polychromatic resonances and more highly ambient domains and the significance of brainwaves during hypnagogic illusions, flow states, and in states of creativity, meditation, and daydreams.

However, the beginning is all about me, and who I am, and unshackled honesty. Raven Vanguard is a small business, and I am one of its owners, so you deserve to know something about me before you decide to hire us to do work for you, or your family, or your business or brand.

The beginning of this Once-over is not linked thematically to its end; the opening is about personal beliefs and philosophy, whereas the ending is about conveying artistic taste, and our Raven Vanguard philosophy of beauty. However, the beginning and the end share a common purpose in that they offer you context about me, and about Raven Vanguard so that you can make informed judgments concerning whether we can add value to some part of your life.

My foundational imperatives for this Once-over, as indelicate as they may seem to some of you at first blush, will operate as the embarkation point for what follows henceforward -

I am Caucasian, Christian (in my case Catholic), a member of the working middle-class, middle-aged, heterosexual, and a man. At least I have the so-called gender trappings of being a male, whatever the hell that means nowadays in this land and time of gender nonconformity and gender neutrality. Apparently, in today’s vernacular, I am what you would call cisgendered.

As a consequence of the haphazard confluence of these six specific attributes, myself, and those like me, for reasons having to do with political correctness and expediency, have been denounced as accursed by most of society. In other words, I am toxic by my identifying characteristics alone. Guilt by mere association – so McCarthy-like.

I am a white, Catholic, middle-class male, so that automatically makes me a racist. I am a white, middle-aged, middle-class, heterosexual male so that naturally makes me a patriarchal predator whom all women should fear. Also, based solely on my personally defining traits I am undoubtedly homophobic, xenophobic, a chauvinist, a jingoist, a sexist, an ageist, and a religious bigot. Oh yes, all that, and more; you see, I am also an undeserving byproduct of my lifelong privilege – nothing more, nothing less.

Make no mistake about this; I do not apologize for the color of my skin, or my sexuality, or for being a man. Why should I? After all I had no choice about my foreordained biology. Moreover, my Parents, Grandparents, and their Parents were good, hard-working, conscientious people, so I don’t have to apologize for my ancestry. And even though my religion and manner of earning a living are based entirely on personal preference, these choices harmed no one, so no need for me to rue having made them.

And, if you knew anything at all about my Family and me, you would understand that I am not a product of any form of contemptuous Machiavellian privilege. My Parents did not raise me to be a deceitful, calculating, and manipulative opportunist. And although I do possess each of the defining characteristics I ascribed to myself above, I do not subscribe to, advocate, or uphold any one of associated stereotypes.

I do not, and will never subscribe to the ideological nonsense that you and I cannot peacefully exist, side by side, because we pray to different manifestations of God. From my enlightened point of view, we are all praying to various expressions of the same Divine Being. My Leading Lady is no warmonger; can you say the same thing about yours? Because it is absolutely absurd to me that any Godhead would encourage anyone to perpetrate acts of barbarism in the name of religion.

And while we are on the subject of God Herself, have you ever wondered whether Hell, in its theological and metaphysical manifestation, is itself, actually a holy place of a different sort? I haven’t.

(obiter dictum) Sometimes, attempting to explain one’s belief in God and the afterlife is like trying to describe or characterize the difference between zero and the infinitesimals. And in trying to offer my explanation of God and the hereafter, should I attempt to do so by quantifying or by qualifying? Or, would I be better off endeavoring to describe the essence of God and the eternal beyond in terms of mitigating facts and circumstances? Or, should I simply resign myself to finding solace and reveling in the incomprehensibleness of God and the threshold of existence, and give up entirely on the process of explaining that which is wholly unfathomable in the first place?

I believe each human being has the fundamental right to self-determination. Provided that each person’s exercise of self-determination is harmonious vis-a-vis one another. Oppression in any form is indecent and villainous.

I also believe each person has the paramount obligation to be self-sufficient and self-reliant. In other words, while I have the responsibility to provide for myself and my Family, I do not have any liability whatsoever to provide for you or your Family. I’ll do my job and take care of mine, and you do your job and take care of yours.

However, respecting the preceding paragraph, this does not mean that if you and yours are ever in need that I won’t voluntarily decide to lend a hand to help you; in all likelihood, I will, but I should have the right to make that choice freely, not be forced to do so by way of some governmental mandate.

I am a registered Republican but vote my mind, not BS party rhetoric. I vote my mind after careful reflection and the exercise of my unfettered thinking and freedom of choice.

I believe today’s political party system is divisive and destructive; the parties that supposedly represent us are nothing more than ruinous factions comprised of remorseless liars, two-faced charlatans, and sanctimonious buffoons, caring only about factional interests, and bickering, disharmony, and conflict. My advice to everyone – try voting your conscience in support of the best candidates available, rather than voting by rote based on BS party ideology.

I am fiscally conservative but considerably more open-minded on social and cultural issues.

I am not a misogynist, and I believe that patriarchy, in its essence, is immoral and capable of achieving nothing but an end-of-days cataclysm. Unfortunately, among the male tribe, I am seen only as heretical and schismatic. However, if the past 4000 plus years of patriarchal domination hasn’t adequately established the pure lunacy of the idea that mankind is somehow more significant than womankind, then you are, no doubt, a woman-hater yourself. Or, perhaps you’re just a misanthrope, and hate all humankind equally.

Is it just me, or is it utter foolishness to attempt to debate the fate of an entire nation by indiscriminately tweeting about it? Twitter can't possibly be the proper forum to bridge the growing divide in this Country. There has to be a better way.

I believe a free market economy is still the best system, but I am deeply wary of unbridled capitalism in its current incarnation and am repulsed by the idea that socialism might be the next step in this Country’s evolutionary process. I will never vote for anyone who is a candidate propped up by the Democratic Socialists of America organization. I do not need an organization like this to empower me as a working person; I’ll take the necessary steps to enable and empower myself, thank you.

If someone is willing to put in the tireless effort and hard work necessary to achieve their goals, why shouldn't they be richly rewarded with abundance and affluence? I believe if someone goes about their work honestly they deserve to be paid fairly for their efforts.

Each person’s equal right to liberty and self-governance is indispensable to the creation and perpetuation of a free society. Socialism, in any of its insidious forms, operates to turn the very essence of this idea on its little-pointed head and undermines and annihilates the entrepreneurial spirit and demonizes all private forms of ownership of and over property.

US politicians of every stripe have been bandying about the phrase “American Exceptionalism” as though we, as a Country, are the greatest thing since sliced bread. The politicians who persist in using this phrase are plainly clueless as to its original origins. Nevertheless, it is hubris and fool’s gold to think even for a minute that we are exceptional, literally speaking, in comparison to the entirety of the global community. Egoism is not the same thing as national pride, so don’t confuse the two.

I am not naïve. Today’s version of capitalism in corporate America offends my moral sensibilities in various ways. In many of those ways, the duplicitous business practices of American companies are socially, environmentally, and economically counterproductive, and in some instances even disastrous.

So I am in search of a new way of doing things, a friendlier form of capitalism; I am in no way looking to protect the status quo. The way forward must find an answer to eliminating the disproportionate political and economic power of special interest groups. And we can start by removing corporate money, union money, pharmaceutical money, corporate farming money, polluter money, and energy money. My view for corporate America fosters social justice, environmental recovery, and the ethical sourcing of labor and materials, among other things.

I don’t favor a system that calls for Medicare-for-all, more generous welfare-type services, government-managed and administered health care and education, ridiculously high marginal tax rates on the so-called wealthy, free public higher education, overly-subsidized health insurance coverage, guaranteed jobs for all, government control of industry and technology, or governmental policies that are redistributive.

And for the socialist-leaning among us, don’t point to current examples like Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands and pretend that they are some sort of paradigm of wonderfulness. Their minuscule population size alone makes any attempted comparison meaningless. Moreover, what may or may not be working there, will never work here. The reality of this one will sting a bit, but each of those countries has something that thoroughly permeates the social fabric of their societies (something that is not at all entirely pervasive all through the United States), they each have a long cultural history of exceedingly strong work ethics and personal responsibility and self-sufficiency.

In today’s post-industrialized America, we need to rethink and retool the idea of unions and unionized labor. Unions served a particular purpose at one time, but that time is not this time. A significant reason underlying the existing trade imbalances we see now is directly the result of unions having long undermined the competitive viability of these unionized companies and eroded the skill and performance of the labor pool within those same companies.

I do not care for the ideology of Trump, nor do I care for him as a person, but I also do not care for the politics of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old Democratic Socialist, now US House Member, and social media darling. Although, in stark contrast to Trump, she at least seems like a decent person – naïve for sure, but seemingly well-intentioned. So, for now, I will merely characterize her as a harmless acolyte of the ultra-left, and I will hold off placing her in the wantonly dangerous category alongside Trump who has proven himself to be a megalomaniac of the Nth degree. But, her desire to “run train on the progressive agenda” surely has me shaking my head and wondering whether she is actually as benign as I first believed.

On January 15th, Governor Cuomo, the current governor of New York State, included in his proposal for this year’s state budget recommendations, an estimated $300 million in annual tax revenues that could be generated each year if New York legalized the use of recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21. I do not care for Cuomo, but I heartily endorse his recommendation to the State legislature concerning marijuana. Legalize it!

With that monotonous bit of background now out of the way, let’s move on to the fun stuff, and my original question to each of you; that being, do you believe in surrounding yourself with beautiful things?

Why do we have such a fear about surrounding ourselves with beautiful things? Perhaps, this is how I should have phrased my inquiry in the first place. Because in this Country, this fear is endemic. Especially in comparison to Europe, and parts of Asia. But, yet, intuitively, we all know that the spaces we occupy each day shape and influence our everyday experiences and enjoyment. From how a room is lit, to the materials, furnishings, one-of-kind objects, and artwork within, and the paint colors on the walls – no one can argue that the aesthetic design of a space does not impact our mood, pleasure, how we think, or how we behave.

We find it shocking that so many people who inhabit this globe of ours tolerate mediocrity within their designed environment and find it and the accompanying monotony perfectly acceptable. And this applies equally to those among us who can well afford to develop their spatial environment in any way they so desire.

Our world’s greatest affliction is its mind-numbing preoccupation with normalcy, and the desire to achieve mainstream acceptance in the middle of ordinary. As creatives ourselves, we’ll never understand wanting to be unexceptional. Never! Normal is just not in our nature.

Over the past five years, I have studied most of the available research on empirical aesthetics, as well that which is currently being published in the emerging field of neuroaesthetics. Although I do not claim to be a neuroscientist, I am encouraged that the developing research in these areas supports and is consistent with my long-held belief that our brains respond naturally and positively to beauty in art, architecture, music, and design, and where spaces that prioritize aesthetic creativity, beauty, well-appointed design and decoration over functionality and minimalism reveal, once and for all, the full measure of what is possible in our otherworldly experience of being human.

Artistry – is the act of creation; it is the visionary or interpretive accomplishment of making something out of nothing.

As artists, we have struggled with how to best communicate our vision of beauty and creativity to you. We believe our website and social media help us to communicate with you to some extent, but we know that these forms of communication are imperfect. Not too long ago, we had an epiphany along the lines of build it, and they will come.

Meaning, we had to find the most suitable approach to show you, in ways that you can experience first hand, rather than have to imagine entirely, what it is that Raven Vanguard has in mind when we talk about creativity, artistry, and beauty. We had to find better ways to manifest exactly what it is that we are offering to you. We determined that the most desirable way to materialize our vision starts with devoting more time, intention, attention, effort, and creative thought to making it happen in a tangible form literally. Therefore, leading us to the already in progress aesthetic, and exemplary redesign of our entire Studio and Showroom spaces to reveal our vision of beauty in an intimate, hands-on, eyes-on, visual, tactile, and perceptible experience.

We immediately set out to make our Studio an exceptional, exquisite, and personal place; an alternative universe, a haven-like sanctuary removed from the ordinariness of the rest of the world, a place that is the ultimate kaleidoscopic expression of incomparable creativity. It is now a place, space, and environment that will be a continually evolving emporium of beauty, comfort, sensuality, and carnal and otherworldly pleasures and delights. An aesthetic, luxurious, and ritualistic mélange of leather, lace, and velvets – our rejoinder to the Spartan-like austerity of minimalism, and the commonplace.

From this point forward, every single decision we make concerning the interior decoration, design, and atmosphere of our Studio must not only do justice to the spirit and architecture of the building itself but must also represent the utterly unique nature of our Brand, and the pinnacle of our creativity.

From here, before we decide to purchase or acquire anything of substance for one of our Studio’s many eclectic spaces, we will first ask ourselves whether the piece or object is appropriate to our design goal. Then, and admittedly, more importantly, we will ask ourselves whether the item under consideration is extraordinary enough to be welcomed into our Studio. Always keeping in mind that Raven Vanguard has never been, and will never be, about merely being good enough.

In our world, opulence, contradiction, sensuality, mystery, spirituality, nonconformity, and darkness are seen as artistic benchmarks, and never as something to be feared. Our Studio’s spaces are the ultimate embodiment of our creative ethos; where our obsession with every handcrafted detail, and the ultimate in artistic craftsmanship, are intended to affect you in ways that are beautiful, sensual, memorable, and transformational. Our final challenge is to create for you a space in which your experience is not only profound but one that is long-lasting and fondly remembered.

Now, as promised, moving on to the subject of brainwaves. What are they, and what do they have to do with this Once-over?

One of the primary components of the human nervous system is the neuron or nerve cell. These cells, particularly those within the brain, are electrically excitable and are continually producing oscillating patterns of electrical energy that are measurable according to frequency and amplitude by an EEG machine. On average, a human brain has approximately 100 billion neurons ( I am confident women have more). These neurons pass signals (information) to each other by way of synapses; humans supposedly have as many as one trillion synaptic connections.

Science has categorized four major types of brainwaves; Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta. Consider Beta waves to be your waking-state brainwaves – these are the wavelike patterns produced while performing activities during the day, and while thinking, or attempting to solve problems. Beta waves are the fastest, most excitable waves; these are waves that often associated with increased stress and other negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, and depression, and stress-related illnesses like cancer, heart disease, stroke, and gastrointestinal upset.

Alpha waves, which are slower than Beta waves, are usually associated with flow states, rest, relaxation, and contemplation. Theta waves are slower than Alpha waves – Theta waves are produced during meditative states; these are also the waves that can be measured just as we are about to fall asleep. Theta waves represent the commingling of unconscious thought with conscious experience. Theta waves are produced during periods of intense creativity, in daydreams, by meditation, and other waking dream states balancing lucidity and feelings of well-being. Bringing us, finally, to Delta waves, our slowest brainwaves, which are producible only during periods of sleep.

We believe that by constantly surrounding ourselves with beauty, we are providing all-around benefit for our brainwaves and brain health. We also think there is a direct relationship between daily encounters with beauty and the production of positive neurotransmitters like endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin. There is considerable evidence that beauty helps to reduce the production of stress-related neurotransmitters like adrenaline and cortisol. We will return to the importance of certain brainwave states and manifesting beauty in our day-to-day experience in our next Raving, hopefully, come early February.

In expectation, stay upon the road less traveled until you come to the little-known fork in the road that leads to somewhere even a little more different, and mostly uncharted – ah, yes, the path less traveled. Walking this path is at the heart of who we are and what we do.

I want to leave you with an anecdote concerning the importance of surrounding oneself with beauty in search of the transformational escape it can provide from the tribulations of the mundane.

Jonas Salk is the researcher responsible for the polio vaccine. By all accounts, Salk was a workaholic who tirelessly searched day-after-day for a cure for this insidious disease; and when Salk had reached the point where he believed his efforts were utterly futile, he allowed himself the deliverance that only comes about through experiences with beauty. Falk left his clinical confines in Pittsburgh and traveled to the 13th Century monastery Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi. With senses fully awakened, he conceived the ultimate means to the end of polio.

Years later, Falk said of his encounter with beauty: “The spirituality of the architecture there was so inspiring that I was able to do intuitive thinking far beyond any I had done in the past. Under the influence of that historic place I intuitively designed the research that I felt would result in a vaccine for polio. I returned to my laboratory in Pittsburgh to validate my concepts and found that they were correct.”