The Week of January 28th - February 3rd


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


Political posturing among US politicians – don’t you just love it?

Very much like this Country’s failed medical complex, our political system is equally screwed. And it was broken long before Trump, so don’t even go there. The reason we have someone like Trump in the first place? Because our political system has been irreparably fractured for decades (perhaps much longer), and anarchy appears to be lurking right around the very next corner. The mere fact that Trump and the word president are now historically and regrettably linked is symptomatic of the creeping, perilous malaise that is sucking the lifeblood out of this Country. (In my opinion, Hillary Clinton was not a better option, so please don’t view this Once-over as a pro-Democrat, anti-Republican rant, because it is neither one of those things).

Although political and bureaucratic bickering over the State of the Union Address is nothing new, the factious wrangling we have witnessed the past couple of weeks over the Constitutionally-mandated presidential address has stooped to new levels of absurdity.

Adding to this foolishness, a melee including a protracted government shutdown over an utterly unbuildable wall, the histrionics and haranguing within the Democratic Party over its attempts to neuter both Bernie Sanders and Howard Schultz in equal measure, and all of the latest revelations about Trump’s ethically dubious, perhaps even illegal, electioneering practices.  

Genuine social discourse evades our society and has for some time now. Uncompromising and unbridgeable differences seem to be at a level not seen since 1861.

We are quarreling over consequential 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), patriarchy as a form of social organization, gender dysphoria, same-sex marriage, cyber terrorism, global warming, gentrification, cyber bullying, and arming the populace in the event of nuclear Armageddon. Have I missed anything?

Each of these subjects is 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.

Oh, and by the way, does anyone really need a State of the Union Address to tell you what shape our Union is in at this very moment?


Sarah Sanders, really? Seriously?

God wanted Trump to be president? You are the White House Press Secretary – why would you add gasoline to an inferno that is already starting to resemble the Wicker Man-styled funeral pyres of Celtic lore? And you said this suggesting that God actually supports Trump’s presidency. Hypocrisy for sure – you do know that your Boss has evil in his soul? Trump’s closest analogue may, in fact, be the anti-Christ; Trump is a vindictive man, a bully, who doesn’t give a damn about anyone or anything outside of himself. He is a man who knows nothing at all about truth-telling, compassion, forgiveness, respect, dignity, or loyalty. His time in office is not some sanctified Higher Calling. He has zero chance of a second term in office, and his exit will no doubt be ignominious beyond compare as he is about to reap all that he has sown throughout his entire life.

And while God Herself undoubtedly played a mysterious and inscrutable role in Trump’s current 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW mailing address, She merely is testing our faith by causing all of us to endure Biblical-like hard times in the proverbial wilderness in order to judge what is in our collective hearts.


What don’t they teach our kids in school?

The unvarnished truth about the post-Columbian European colonization of both North and South Americas, and the cultural genocide, massacre, and death of approximately 56 million Indigenous Persons from 1492 onward. It’s shameful that I have to explain such a thing to my Daughter by pointing out the many bald-faced lies in her textbooks.


To Brexit, or not to Brexit?

Unfortunately, most people in the United States can barely keep up with the political shenanigans happening here at home to even venture a wild guess as to what Brexit is all about. And for those of you in the States who know next to nothing about Brexit, rest assured that events will be taking place abroad between now and March 29th that will have a cataclysmic impact on the global economy, no matter the outcome.

On June 23, 2016, under a referendum, the citizens of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.  On March 29, 2017, the UK formally notified the European Commission of its intention to leave the European Union by triggering application of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Here in the States, most people respond with “so what?” Well, the deadline for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is March 29, 2019. If you’re not fully aware of just how economically and financially intertwined and interdependent the United States and the United Kingdom are, you best brush up on Brexit. 

Raven Vanguard does business within the United Kingdom, and within other member countries of the European Union, so Brexit is far more than a passing interest to us. Brexit will affect our clients and us. 

However, trying to explain the ramifications of Brexit in a Once-over is a non-starter. Heck, most people in the United States still think that the United Kingdom, Great Britain, Britain, and England are one and the same. Wrong. Perhaps this stems from confusion surrounding the use and terminology of words like nation, country, state, and kingdom.

Hell, even Brexit itself, a blended word or portmanteau, of the words Britain and exit, is itself a misnomer. In all likelihood, Brexit came about from Grexit, which was the phrase coined years ago when Greece’s EU status was in question.

Maybe the best I can do in this Once-over is to clarify the sovereign, political, and geographic nuances relating to the differences between the United Kingdom, UK, Great Britain, Britain, and England. This Once-over will not attempt to tackle the niceties of the parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy form of government from across the pond. And I am not foolish enough to offer any insight whatever into the composition of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Moreover, I will not complicate matters by including any wild-eyed discussion whatsoever of football (soccer) leagues and home nations.

What follows will be a total oversimplification of almost five centuries of complex and disputed historical events, so for the historians and political theorists reading this, please cut me some slack.

First, the proper name of the sovereign entity is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; also known simply as the United Kingdom or the UK. The United Kingdom is the sovereign equivalent of the United States. The United Kingdom is comprised of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. London, located geographically in England, is the capital of the UK. Even though England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are generally referred to as countries, their powers of local law and governance are derived and devolve from the United Kingdom. Again, to simplify, think of the fifty states as being the equivalent of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The United Kingdom is a Member State of the United Nations; whereas, England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are not. Similarly, the United States is a Member Nation, but, for example, New York, California, and Texas are not.

Great Britain is the collective name given to England, Scotland, and Wales and their associated islands. Northern Ireland is not part of Great Britain, but, geographically speaking, it is part of the British Isles. Confused? Well, Brexit itself is even more so.

So, is there a clear path forward on Brexit? What is the holdup? Could this all lead to another physical border wall between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland? Will the Province of Ulster be back in the news on a daily basis? And will people continue to mistakenly believe that the strife in Ulster has to do with religious differences between Catholics and Protestants? Might Theresa May be forced out as Prime Minister by a vote of no confidence, especially now that the European Commission has told her they will not renegotiate any part of the withdrawal agreement? Would her sudden and ill-timed departure trigger a general election? Is there a possibility that a second referendum could be put to the citizens of the UK concerning whether to stay or leave? It has even been suggested that the UK could merely revoke its prior Article 50 notification and opt to stay in the EU.

For a company like Raven Vanguard that transacts business with so many European manufacturers, these are uncertain times.


Fuck what’s trending in 2019!

I made the following observation in my previous Once-over - Our world’s greatest affliction is its mind-numbing preoccupation with normalcy, and the desire to achieve mainstream acceptance in the middle of ordinary.

Upon further reflection, this remark is deserving of added explanation. Sadly, ordinary and wretched are kindred cousins.

To me, normal and normalcy are the equivalent of nothing special. Why would anyone desire to be unexceptional when spectacularity and magnificence are within reach or attainable? To me, unexceptional is no different than mediocre.

Normal essentially means conforming to the standard of the most common type. Please read that line over at least two more times and let it sink in for a moment. Is this what you truly aspire to? Why would anyone pursue, seek, hope for, or struggle to arrive at or accomplish usual? In Raven Vanguard’s world, commonplace is the death knell; it is a cardinal sin for which there is no quarter.

As a designer and content specialist, the very last thing I aim for or strive to be is common, or trivial, or average, or routine, or monotonous, or on trend. I think you get my point. No thank you; we’ll leave the conventional and the wearisome to those in our industry who so readily take comfort in the safety and ordinariness of the middle. We’d rather expand the boundaries of human imagination in unexpected directions than conform to the majority’s fondness for predictability and uniformity. We’d rather be known as the brand which changed everything instead of the brand who did it the same way as everyone else.

Following trends and fads is not Raven Vanguard’s thing. Following trends and fads are just another way of saying planned obsolescence. Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence as it is sometimes called, is the design industries sure fire way of designing a space with an unnaturally short shelf life. Trends and fads almost always go out-of-date quickly, and your designer knows this. The design industry, very much like the fashion industry, is an expert at creating, inflating, and encouraging its very own relevancy.

Trends tend to come and go very quickly based on the Bell Curve principle. And nowadays trends tend to pass even more rapidly with the proliferation and influence of social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. The duration of a particular trend’s lifespan is now rarely longer than 3-4 years, most times even much shorter than that. Think of the potential financial fallout to the client for that ridiculously short-lived design decision. No client deserves to feel as though they’ve wasted their money. But by succumbing to every interior design trend that comes along, this is precisely what the designer is subjecting her or his client to in the long run.

Moreover, trends and fads do nothing more than rehash what has already been done umpteen times over. Many people enjoy following these trends because they don’t want to miss out on the latest in-thing. And if this is the realm you travel within, and typical, short-lived, and run-of-the-mill are what you expect from your design team, then Raven Vanguard is not for you. And that should be OK with us, but it isn’t! Not by a long shot.

In December and January, my inbox is overflowing with emails from vendors, other design professionals, and so-called social media influencers touting their wares or know how, or sense of taste by encouraging me to see and follow what’s trending. Guess what, every single email like that is deleted without being opened. Why not? I don’t give a fuck about what’s trending or trendy. Today is February 1st, today alone, I received no less than a dozen emails proclaiming the latest and upcoming trends; and the fate of these emails? They were deleted, without reading a single one.

And by all means don’t characterize something as being a hot trend, that makes it even worse. And telling me that a particular trend is one I absolutely must follow, you might as well lose our number. To those among you that are guilty of sending these types of emails, please stop, take us off your mailing list; we never wish to see or read about someone’s interior design trend predictions ever again.

Design trends and predictions are suffocating the true artistry out of our industry and end up cheating those that are relying upon our uncorrupted creativity because adopting and following trends encourage the proliferation of mass production over artistry and handcraftsmanship. Mass produced items are outdated as soon as they are installed.

In a word, it all comes down to exposure. People can only come to know, appreciate, and understand what it is that they have been exposed to, and if the only things they encounter and experience are the ordinary, mundane, and trends, then the possibility of ever achieving true, long-lasting greatness within their design environment is minuscule to non-existent.

As creatives, this is the battle we wage every day – convincing someone that the known, deeply familiar, or suddenly popular should give way to the unknown and to the concealed and mysterious path along which very few dare to travel. Being entirely candid, this battle is what I love most about our industry, daring people to be different, being a pathfinder, illuminating the path for those with the foresight to envision it, beautifying the path, and making the heretofore unknown and unfamiliar something that is forever cherished and adored.

We prefer to work with clients who crave variety, who see beauty in both coherent and disconnected narratives, who also have an innate desire to personalize their surroundings, and who love to surround themselves with beautiful and imaginative things. We are looking to connect with those out-of-the-box thinkers having a fetishistic fascination for darkness and shadow and a curiosity for fantastical arrangements, and an unbridled obsession over heirloom and heritage handcraftsmanship, and creativity without compromise.

Raven Vanguard leads by example in ways that are forward thinking and that boldly reflect our aesthetic and artistic heritage, and our unique antiquarian nature. Preferring the beauty of design that is timeless, executed with painstaking and meticulous attention to detail, and a little bit of madness and magic, we design spaces that do not reflect or require redesign due to the whims of the times, fashion, or some so-called influencer’s predicted trendsetting color scheme or piece of mass-produced midcentury furniture.

Our clients deserve and are entitled to designs for their homes and businesses that transcend all trends.

Recommended Reading.

Everyone owes it to yourself to read the January 29, 2019, Statement for The Record in connection with the Worldwide Threat Assessment issued by the United States Intelligence Community. This document, although surely sanitized of anything remotely classified, is a sobering read. In its uncensored form, this document would no doubt be utterly terrifying. Our world is a very frightening place indeed.


Final Observation.

Why are wealthy Democrats lauded for their political contributions while wealthy Republicans are shunned and villainized for theirs?

Perception is a funny thing. Consider the top 300 wealthiest zip codes in this Country, which happen to also be home to the uppermost 1.5% of individuals sitting atop this Country’s socio-economic index; predominantly Republican, correct? Well, the answer is no. In these zip codes, Democrats receive approximately 60% of the total political contributions made.

Yet, everyday, on social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, it is perpetually argued that Democrats, the party perceived to be most closely aligned with the poor, the middle class, and the marginalized and disenfranchised, are at a decided disadvantage raising money for political campaigns because Democratic candidates don’t have similar access to the bank accounts of wealthy Americans. This claim is just another false internet myth. But surely one Democrats harp on every chance they get.

However, the reason Democrats can perpetuate this myth and continuously demonize wealthy Republican donors has more to do with the Democrats’ long-standing strategy of placating their voting-base by manipulation through the availability of additional benefits and concessions within the social services arena. And because the citizenry does not wish to bite the hand feeding it, the citizenry blindly takes to social media maliciously spreading this Democrat-fueled falsehood to the benefit of the Democratic Party. Look, Republicans are equally adept at spreading bullshit, so the point I am trying to make here is to do your own research before you retweet or like someone else's fabrication or distortion.