The Week of February 11th - February 17th


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

The Conundrum of the One (and Another) Called Valentine, the Saintly Ones

In honor of Saint Valentine, Raven Vanguard brings you its first Once-over threesome.

Why is this historical relic known as Valentine such a puzzlement? Although the Catholic Church still recognizes Valentine as a Saint, sufficient confusion surrounds his true identity and his life’s work that the Vatican discontinued his liturgical worship in 1969. So, he’s a saint, until he wasn’t? The only thing we know about him for sure is that he was martyred by Emperor Claudius II (the cruel one) sometime in the 3rd Century when Claudius had Valentine beheaded.

So what does Valentine’s decapitation have to do with make-believe romance and a box full of preservative-filled chocolates? According to the Catholic Church, absolutely nothing. Well then, who’s to blame for all of the satiny red hearts, starry-eyed cards, BDSM restraints, candy, hurt feelings, heartache, one tragically epic Chicago-styled massacre to the dismay of Bugs Moran, a chubby cherub named Cupid, hopelessness, melancholy, thorny-stemmed flowers, and other associated acts of foolishness and debauchery surrounding February 14th? Not to mention those countless ill-fated attempts to reenact the fantasy of Venus in Furs (the despotic one) that either met with utter disaster or which were brought to naught by a coward’s premature utterance of safe words. So, who is to blame for the romanticized misery that has become Valentine’s Day?

To find the answer, fast forward approximately 1100 years after Valentine’s execution to the reign of King Richard II (not the Lionhearted one). Thanks, Chaucer. So it seems Chaucer, not Hallmark, is to blame for the fictitious and romanticized commercialization of Valentines Day as a thing. Yes, it’s true; Chaucer’s 14th Century poem, Parliament of Foules, marks February 14th as a day of courtship and mating rituals.

And now that we’ve solved the mystery surrounding the origin of the day called Valentine’s, what of this so-called other Valentine I mentioned in the title above? It’s not like misogyny has escaped the internal politics of the Catholic Church. In typical patriarchal fashion, the only Valentine we ever hear about is the male incarnation. How many of you are familiar with Saint Valentine (Valentina), the virgin saint? Not many I venture to guess. Valentina and Thea are known as the Holy Virgin Martyrs who were tied together and burned at the stake in Palestine by the Romans in the 4th Century for just being Christian.

Saint Valentine (the beheaded one) and Saint Valentina (the virginal one) were beatified with little to no Church-made historical record marking their exercise of heroic virtue and miracle making, or miraculous healings. It was not until late in the 16th Century that the Vatican created a rigid procedure for the recognition of saints and sainthood called the Congregation of Rites.

A modern-day declaration of sainthood is the formal recognition that the person in question is actually dwelling in the happiness of Heaven.  Heh, when the time comes, where can I apply for one of those? Would Valentina and Valentine even be considered saintly by today’s modernized process for canonization? Although I am Catholic myself, I confess that the steps to sainthood have always seemed more shrouded in mystery and confusion than anything else. From the Universal Call to Holiness, to identification as a Servant of God, to acknowledgment as Venerable, beatified as a Blessed, or, ultimately, canonized as a Saint; what does it all mean?

Well, if you’ve read Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra and grappled with his secular philosophy of the Übermensch, then, in a mirror-image sense, you know what I am talking about in respect to the opaqueness encircling the spirituality and religiousness of sainthood.


Where God Herself is Concerned, No Prayer is Ever Left Unanswered

All too often I hear someone complain that they prayed and prayed for something but were ignored by God. Did this person ever once stop to consider that God answered their prayer by not giving them exactly what it was they were seeking? Perhaps not receiving every little thing we pray for is God’s way of answering some prayers. This begs the question – should God give us everything we pray for?

Because, after all is said and done, why shouldn’t God give us everything we pray for? Well, for starters, if every prayer were answered precisely as asked for, this would undermine faith, hinder personal growth and independence, and diminish the true meaning and implication of prayer. A benevolent God would want you to stand on your own two feet and advocate for yourself because She wants you to be self-reliant. God and prayer are not intended to be crutch-like.

Perhaps a prayer that is seemingly unanswered is in fact answered by the manifestation of an indispensable crisis of faith for us to resolve fully as a means to test our abilities to fend for ourselves righteously. Or, perhaps our prayer is apparently unanswered because God knows that what we might be seeking is not what’s best for us in the long run.


The Moral Superiority of Trump, or the Difference Between Gods and Monsters

No doubt about it, Trump believes he is more principled, virtuous, trustworthy, and moral than every other person walking the face of this planet. Each day, his thoughts and behavior affirm his grossly perverted sense of moral superiority. Trump is not the only politician who falls into this category – this Country is full of so many others just like him.

Unfortunately, self-aggrandizement is more acutely harmful in the realm of morality because not only do we overindulge our own sense of morality and incorruptibility but we drastically underrate the decency, virtue, and trustworthiness of every person who is slightly different from us in any way. Thus, explaining the extreme divisiveness of political rhetoric in the Trump-era.


Building Walls and Fences along the Southern Border

I am writing this Once-over on Thursday (February 14th); more likely than not, by the end of the day, Congress will pass a bill related to government spending and border security that will be forwarded to Trump for his signature. Trump has indicated he will sign this bill to avoid another government shutdown.

So, what’s included in this bill? More accurately, what isn’t included? Well, for one thing, the almost 6 billion dollars Trump initially sought to build his unbuildable wall. Based on my reading of the bill, only $1.375 billion is earmarked for barriers and fencing along the US-Mexico border. What happened to the remaining $4.625 billion Mr. Trump?

Oh, that’s right, Mexico is going to pay for it. Wrong. Does this mean Trump will finally get to use his emergency powers to build the wall as part of a glorified military construction project by merely declaring a national emergency?


The Parkland School Shooting was One Year Ago This Week

Heads bowed in prayer for the seventeen who lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in another senseless act of gun violence that continues to haunt this Country like a plague. How many mass shootings must we endure in this Country before our politicians can work up the courage to outline the only workable solution? [And yet just as we were set to publish today’s Once-over, another mass shooting, this one at a place of employment in Aurora, Illinois, resulting in six dead, including the shooter, and six wounded, including five police officers.]


Back to Trump, And His Silly Dalliance with Kim Jong Un

When last we heard from Trump, he was assuring us that North Korea’s nuclear threat to world security had come to an end. Wrong again, Mr. Trump. Well, that is if we are to put any stock in what one of your military commanders has to say about this subject. But since they apparently don’t know much about ISIS, or the goings-on in Syria, or along the Mexican border, it is doubtful we should put much stock into the military’s threat assessment concerning North Korea. According to General Robert Abrams, Commander of US Forces in Korea, North Korea has not reduced its military capabilities one bit since Trump first met with Kim Jong Un in 2018.


Back to Trump’s Unbuildable Wall along the US-Mexico Border

Trump is scheduled to meet in Vietnam on February 27th – 28th with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to discuss the nuclear disarmament of North Korea. Although Kim Jong Un will no doubt continue to spin circles around Trump in the arena of nuclear diplomacy, Trump will no doubt exit these meetings claiming a victory of sorts by announcing that North Korea, not Mexico, will now be responsible for paying to build the entirety of the wall along the US-Mexico border.


The Nutritional Content of Ultraprocessed Foods Sucks

Wait, we needed an in-depth study to confirm this fact? We all know that industrially processed foods containing genetically modified ingredients are not healthy for anyone, even our pets. Well, that is everyone knows this fact outside of Monsanto, the FDA, the AMA, and those industrial farming and agriculture producers that have overwhelmed the food supply chain in this Country. Here’s a shocker, this same study confirms that ultra-processed foods can lead to obesity, cancer, diabetes, gastrointestinal disease, and heart disease.


Who knew that Chatroulette was a thing?

Not me, that’s for sure. I am still wondering why Brooke has an active account.


What Is Up With Politicians in the Commonwealth of Virginia?

If my math is correct, the three highest ranking politicians in Virginia, the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and the Attorney General, all Democrats, are now embroiled in race and sexual assault-related scandals that will not ease up anytime soon. Something about stones and glass houses comes to mind.


Shamima Begum is Back in the News

Amidst great hullabaloo and angst, in 2015, then age 15, Shamima Begum bolted from the United Kingdom with two other teenagers to join the Islamic State in Syria, better known as ISIS. Well, today, now nine months pregnant, and a thoroughly indoctrinated jihadist to boot, poor 19-year-old Shamima wants to return to the UK to give birth to her child so that her unborn child can acquire UK citizenship. Ben Wallace, UK Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime, has publicly stated that Begum would be prosecuted if she were to attempt to return to the UK for any reason.

Shamima Begum is by all accounts complicit in terrorist activities and eyewitness to the beheading and execution of imprisoned hostages. She now sits in a refugee camp located in eastern Syria. Until it is established otherwise, she should be treated as an enemy combatant and face the consequences for her conduct should she ever attempt to repatriate to the UK. The lesson here, Shamima? All actions have consequences.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out against the background of Brexit between now and the end of March 2019.


Words according to Brooke, Co-Founder and Boss Lady of Raven Vanguard


Hi there, Brooke speaking.

Oh look, lucky me, it’s time for another Weekly Rant-over! Although I like that it’s a team effort this week. However, the funny thing is – as husband rants about the hallmark day... I spend my Valentine's evening alone. Well, we’re in the same place but on different floors. Not a biggie for me, it seriously feels like every day is Valentine's day anyway. I don’t joke (even though I’m the funny one in the relationship). Every day Tom wakes me up whispering sweet nothings while showering me with chocolates, poems, and roses. Ok, maybe not all of those, but he sure does make great coffee.

Being the rebels that we are, we always celebrate our love a few days after Valentine's Day. Why? Because it’s SO badass. Or maybe it’s because we get a two for one deal wherever we go? Tom and I met nine years ago sometime during the week-ish of Valentine’s Day. Combining the celebrations of the high holy day along with the anniversary of me gracing Tom with my presence for the first time...just seems to elevate them both. I’m sure he agrees.

Speaking of love and elevating things; hang on, you thought I was going somewhere different there, didn’t you? Get your mind out of the gutter.

Let’s talk about cars instead; it’s a natural progression, right? I used to be into cars. I remember it vividly – being about six years old and seeing my dad’s friend park his late nineteen-eighties black 911 Porsche in our driveway. I stared out the window, awestruck by this beautiful machine parked in our driveway- with those iconic round headlights. I completed my dramatic lovestruck-ness with a fake faint (I may or may not have done this same faint nine years ago when I met Tom...Tom it wasn’t fake!).

I was in love. It was gorgeous (No Tom! I’m talking about the car here, not you). From that point on, I began picking up car magazines every time I went to the grocery store with my mom, and I was dragging my parents to car shows, I had Porsche calendars, Porsche posters, even a Porsche barbie car.

I knew the stats on them all. This infatuation of mine stayed steady with me through my teens pretty heavily, and then as many first time loves do- it fizzled. Cars just didn’t seem to do it for me anymore. Sure, there was the economic reality factor, and the effects of becoming an adult happened – nowadays I’d rather spend that money on other things, like food.

Alternatively, as a matter of preference, let’s talk about the real underlying issue here... what about the dull, lifeless designs? They started getting worse, and worse, and worse. And I’m not saying that the eighty’s was the prime decade for car designs (although for Porsche it may have been, but not according to husband, he preferred the first incarnation of the 911 in the mid-1960’s up through the whale tale and turbo iterations in the 1970s). For comparison purposes, take a good long look around at vehicles manufactured today in relation to the artistic creativity exhibited by those automobiles designed and built decades ago. Today, it’s like soccer mom mobiles gone mad...everywhere. It’s almost as if car manufacturers purposefully sit around their drafting tables and drawing boards year after year and discuss how to make them less and less sexy, and utterly unappealing in every aesthetic sense imaginable. 

Last week I attended our local auto show for old time sake. Although husband and Dakota were told I was visiting a client. Instead, I actually went by myself and wandered throughout the show just so unimpressed (however, ladies- if you are looking for an afternoon sausage fest, attend an auto show). Tom that’s not why I went...I don’t think. Anyways, we’re talking $75-100K for blah. And cheap-looking blah at that. Yes, that’s the technical design term – blah. The quality wasn’t there, and the designs sure weren't. I just found everything quite boring, unappealing and ridiculously expensive. Talk about the horrors of planned obsolescence and mass-production taking their toll on design creativity.

When is society going to demand better? Better design and better quality? Sadly, I’m not sure it’s heading that way with today’s disposable fill up the ocean attitude. But I know we can all chip away at making the world a better and more beautiful place with the talents that we have. Here at Raven Vanguard, we believe there are still those among us quite capable of creating those faint worthy designs, but the manufacturers need to start encouraging their creativity and stop stifling it.

The truth is, you’d be better off hiring Raven Vanguard to make your space much prettier than that 911 Porsche anyway.

So to everyone who currently manufactures a product having any sort of aesthetic value, either bring sexy back or start putting the sexy in – please! If you do, we promise a return to non-fake lovestruck faints. Thanks!

Words according to Dakota, SHE II, and Raven Vanguard’s third member, also known as Sloth

Ah yes. It is my turn to write now. A bit tough to follow up beheadings, talks of being burned at the stake (Side note: am I the only one who pictures the scene from American Horror Story’s Coven, where Myrtle gets burned at the stake, screaming, “Balenciagaaaaa!” as her last words? Yes? No? Iconic!! I digress) and vintage Porsche design discussion, but I will do my best.

Valentine’s Day. Or as some may call it, Single’s Awareness Day. I am a single person in a sea of grumpy single people on a commercial holiday surrounding the conceptualization of love. Sure, most single people would cringe. Or drink. Or avoid their social media feeds bursting with relationship-related content and, yes that word, love. Or self-medicate the puff-puff pass way. Or all of the above. Not me though. I have been surrounded by love and positive relationships my entire life. Which I suppose some people pity me for, since my mom and dad are high school sweet hearts, my sister and her husband are ALSO high school sweethearts, and I’ve had a miserably repetitive cycle of love and loss, cheaters, grade-a clingers, and emotional fallouts. I used to be bitter. I would have constant thoughts about being black sheep of my family. SUCH A BLACK SHEEP. So obnoxiously so, and I already was to begin with – being a designer and an artist among business and medical professions with colorful hair, tattoos, piercings, a sailor’s vocabulary, and a knack for trouble – but to add my failures in love? UGH!

I have done my best to change that way of thinking. Over the years I have grown up a lot, realizing that my relationship trials were more common than not, and were simply just stepping stones towards better versions of myself, a whole lot of self-discovery and actualization, and changes. (I wrote about an experience that I had with a Spiritual Medium in a previous Once-Over, and that experience brought a lot of realizations to light.) Plus – to be happy for others who are genuinely happy rather than envious or jaded feels better for me. I feel better as a whole when I surround myself with people who are their best selves – which a lot of my friends have found through their significant others. Have you ever seen a friend go from an emotionally and mentally damaging relationship, to finding themselves, to finding someone who cherishes them in the way they should have been treated all along? Because I have had that honor, and honestly, there’s nothing like witnessing your friend glow from a healthy connection.

Valentine’s Day Perks

Think about it from a business perspective. So many small businesses benefit from the commercial aspects of the holiday. And as much as some people bitch and moan about the materialistic representation of affection, saying love should be celebrated always and not through gifts, so many small bakeries, florists, restaurants, bars and various artists and makers capitalize on the smaller holidays. (That does not mean that you should only be buying her flowers once a year – c’mon you can do better than that!)

Another perk? I get leftovers. And pity dessert. Which some may find sad – but I look forward to the leftovers my parents have from their romantic night out, which they give me because I’m alone in my pajamas at home most Valentine’s Days. YES. Give me your steak and cheesecake, can’t you see I’m sad?!? * Proceeds to happily consume fancy shit I did not pay for.* Score.

Single’s Awareness is also a funny trend that I’ve been seeing around. Literally just fucking owning that you are ONE on a day for TWO. My friend runs a business called Mundy Cakes in downtown Buffalo, and she capitalized on not only the concept of love, but also the concept of lonely, which to me in my crazed sense of humor was hilarious. One of her cookies stated, “If I Had Any Feelings, I’d Have Them For You.” Genius marketing, and delicious I might add.

So let’s not get so bitter or aggravated or annoyed by love and rather commercial holidays. Businesses benefit, couples benefit, and yes, singles benefit too. Happy Friday!