Thursday, December 29, 2016

Ten Years After - A Tower Records Story

A short while ago I was reminded that this winter marked the tenth anniversary of the start of Tower Record's liquidation. This period culminated in the closure of its four-and-a-half decades of profitable operation. During the liquidation I authored a few articles about the chains downfall, and was interviewed several times over the course of the crash as well, but I have not directly written about the period since. In light of this funerary anniversary, I suspect that it's as good a time as any to reflect. 

For most of us who worked in the field, and specifically at Tower at the time, the signs were there much earlier. Even in the major markets, where the much higher volume of sales could lead one into a delusion that the situation was not as dire as it was. Still, it was like a cat creeping up on a mouse for quite some time. For years leading up to '06, slowly but surely, corporate policy was being changed from the top down within Tower, and reflected the head office's desire to create a uniformity in presentation and selection in-store that were stemming from a desire to satisfy bond holders and not what we as professionals knew was best for sales. It just didn't feel right.

Other chains had contracted somewhat, and I guess that everyone was hopeful that Tower could do the same. Trim the fat, sell off some real estate, and first and foremost ditch the money-draining outposts, thus keeping the chain in existence. But, contrarily, this decrease in size would make the chain less attractive to a prospective new owner, and the head office was convinced that selling the chain to a new owner was the best solution. However, the debt that the chain was experiencing was, no pun intended, towering, and, in retrospect, there were forces who could benefit from liquidation. One must remember that this period coincided with the start of an overall economic downturn, and the US government was already bailing out home mortgage banks. They would eventually bail out many institutions, including some of the auto manufacturers, but rest assured, they had no intention of bailing out Tower Records.

But it wasn't going to be only Tower employees who got the sack. If one knew anything about the industry it was clear that this implosion would cause numerous distributors and labels to go under, and if they stayed afloat they would lay off the lions share of their marketing and sales staff. The artists would clearly not benefit from this either. All in all, it would be disastrous.

Someone had to stop this insanity, after all, the sales numbers in NYC were only down five percent, but that was a surmountable gambit to tackle with some out-of-the-box strategy and a shift in tactics. Needless to say, when I spoke with a few of the higher ups at some of the biggest distributors, they told me that they were "highly committed" to the digitization of the industry. They explicitly mapped out their vision of the future for me. They were going to cut out all of the middle men, the manufacturers, the retailers, and replace traditional sales with on-line services, so that they could maximize their net on a much smaller price point. The industry gross would die, but they would make a killing without hardly spending a penny to promote their product. Paradise for them, a nightmare for purists.

They told me this, but at the time I couldn't hear it, it just didn't make any sense. In 2005, music retail grossed 12.5 Billion USD. Digital sales were minuscule, and only accounted for about 6% of those sales. Another 8% of sales were on-line, but they were people buying CD's. How could the industry flip so quickly? Downloads had been around a few years already, and they didn't seem like a revolution. Napster had come and gone. There was no shortage of piracy lawsuits. What the hell were they talking about? Sure sales were down, but, as I said, this could remedied. Or could it?

The truth was that the perception was out there that the future was a lock, and the distributors reasoned quite correctly that any reduction in price would allow them to drive customers to shift format. It had been done before, when vinyl was replaced by the CD. Hell, they even got Democrat stooge Chuck Schumer to make public indictments regarding "the unconscionably exorbitant prices of CDs". Who cared about the fact that the money had to be split between the artist, the label, the distributor, and the retailer, not to mention manufacturing, shipping, and sales and marketing costs. In the end they were right, the public didn't care either, and bought the story hook, line and sinker.

For me, 2006 was a horrible year. My mother had been in the hospital for the entirety of the year, culminating in her death shortly before the liquidation commenced. My wife and I had received our second child at the end of '05, a blessing for sure, but the four of us were unable to upgrade to a larger living space from the small studio apartment we had on the Upper West Side of New York City. I had a second part-time job aside from Tower, and at night I was working on my second novel, which along with the first one are both still unpublished, thank you very much.

I had tried to open my own independent record store and club in the early nineties, but at the time shops and clubs were proliferating in NYC like rabbits with too much food. There were so many outlets that it was not an uneasy task to find a Tower employee in New York who had also worked for J & R Music World, Sam Goody, Disc-O-Rama, Virgin Records, HMV, Barnes & Noble, or any of the independent shops that dotted the city. I can only assume this was the same case in other major cities as well. By the mid-nineties it seemed an uphill battle, and by 1999 music industry sales had hit an all-time high in gross revenue, over 15 billion.

When Tower Records began to sink I revived the idea, and I spoke to Russ Solomon, with whom I had an amicable familiarity. I asked him if there was any way to re-organize, or separate, one or two of the stores from the liquidation process. Needless to say, this was a far too last minute ploy to be effective, but in light of the end of the business, companies that were once interested in purchasing Tower were now meeting with me and my partners. I remember with warm fondness when the late great George, from the Broadway department, came up to me with tears in his eyes, grabbed my arm, and repeatedly said, "I know you're trying." It was tough all around, if one was invested, that is.

Anyway, after the store closed its door in finality, I knew that I had to give it shot. We quickly incorporated, got a website up, conceived of a new, sleeker business model, cranked out a series of business and marketing plans, and found a space we could rent. Labels were behind us, and issued letters of endorsement, and we pitched the plan to several venture capitalists. We had no fewer than 10 advisors, an architect, and the pick of the litter for prospective employees. As for myself, I had given the project 12 months to the day to either get the doors open, or I was to move on.

But, the industry was running scarred. The press had joined with the distributor bigwigs and it looked more like rats on a sinking ship than anything else. When I showed people the numbers, they said I must have been mistaken, even though just a month or two earlier downloads only accounted for 1 billion out the 12 billion in the sales the industry was still accruing. In fact, in the year after Tower Lincoln Center closed, Barnes & Noble's flagship store right across the street grossed 95 million. The two remain Virgin locations did likewise. But, if you told anyone of the level of cash being made they would tell you that you were wrong. It was a dead or dying industry. It was like buying a horse after the car had gone into mass production.

To this day people say to me, "Wow, that would have been a great store, you would have done really well". Sure, but for it to be open now and still thriving, we would have needed to have gotten it opened at that crucial juncture, monetized all the product beforehand, and allowed our product lines to diversify. As it was, our model was a six-ring circus, with so much going on, in a much smaller space, that it would have seemed like a non-stop party. Like how Tower was at the beginning, but with a lean, direct spirit. One by one the Nile Rogers of the world, very nicely, balked at the idea until, by November it was down to us and Russ. The goal was now to convince Russ to support the change in the model. I had come to realize that the new entity couldn't simply be a sequel to Tower if it wanted to survive, it needed to be a "next step".

At the time Russ wasn't quite ready for retirement, but the scale of what we proposed was more than he wanted to be involved with. So, in the end he opted to open one small store in his hometown of Sacramento, California. I thought it was a bad move, and that it might not survive, and I told him so. But this is what he wanted to do, and he bowed out, literally just days before my 12 month moratorium was to expire. We, my family that is, had already transplanted to Michigan, and I was traveling back and forth until the day came that I had promised to throw in the towel.

After just two years Russ's R5 Records closed its doors as well, and he and I spoke again. By this time the industry had actually changed, drastically, and the reality was now much closer to the imaginary state people believed it was in just 36 months earlier. Russ admitted that the model that I had proposed to him was the right move, at least for New York, but now it was too late - a feeling that I shared with him. I thanked him for his endorsement of my theoretical correctness and stated in my usual smart-assed facetiousness that "that and $3.55 will get me a latte at Starbucks".

Around the same time I had shifted my own artistic direction from writing novels to screenwriting, of which my current company is a multi-award winner on the global script competition and film festival circuit. In the course of developing several series with my partner I found myself learning to do computer animation, doing graphic design, and most appropriate to this tale, creating music for score. So, for me, that was my evolution of how I could incorporate my love of music into my daily life and employment.

I like to imagine that Millennial's will look back with some retroactive fondness of the scale at which Tower, and the rest of the music retail business, propelled artists careers in the days before the powers that be allowed the music industry to die. Today gross sales do not exceed 7 Billion in the US, about 60% of what it was when Tower closed its doors. In fact, digital downloads still only make up less than half of all sales, not that anyone will believe that data. But, music will always be here, and somehow musicians will still make recordings and play live, so maybe only time will tell how it will evolve and morph in the future.

No Music = No Life

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away

Since the end of the year is nigh, here's a double shot in the Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away initiative. "Little Baby" is a fairly Industrial Music heavy composition, but, silly me, I just couldn't decide how deconstructed I wanted the guitar solo to be. Most of it is post-performance processing in Ableton 9 Suite DAW, but this track also marks my first use of the Roland GR-55 Guitar Synthesizer. So, here's two versions of the track, embedded from the 391 & the Army of Astraea BandCamp page.

And the other...

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Winter Blossoms

It's always refreshing to see a bit of spring-like color when the weather gets increasingly gray and white.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away

Here's a recent piece that attempts to combine Third Stream Film Music with Film Noir Motifs in an electronic context. "Third Stream Noir" is the seventh piece of 391 & the Army of Astraea Bandcamp hosted Gauntlet of Balthazar give-aways.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry wha...On Jews, Judaism, and Zionism

As the holiday season washes over us again this year, and we are all forced to endure the same forty Christmas songs being piped in over every in-store sound system, it can bring someone like myself to reflect on the nature of culture and how religious holidays are expressed by religious majorities versus minorities in our fine nation.

I had no Christmas when I was a child. It was something foreign, which I peripherally knew was fun for other children, but it was also something I had very little understanding of. Like everyone, I saw television shows like "Rudolph" and "Frosty", and even as a little guy, I thought, "These are stories about how everyone should include the misfits of the world. After all, to not do so is just not, nice". This theme of inclusion was usually paired with a metamorphosis within the character arc, and was perhaps even more demonstrative in the programs that did not hold back their overt medieval "conversion play" origin, such as the pence-pinching "Scrooge" and my all-time favorite, the semi-human "Grinch". I saw that the protagonists of these latter two outings were mean, vindictive, and actively attempted to "ruin" the Christmas holiday for the poor, innocent people who just wanted to celebrate it in peace. All good feelings. Mr. Grinch and Mr. Scrooge were clearly the bad guys, but it was okay, because in the end, they were infected, or scarred into, celebrating the holiday with their once and former "victims", and all was right in the end. To this day, I have friends, all of them Christian, who contest that I am being unreasonable in my derision for this propaganda, simply because, in their eyes, the Grinch and Scrooge become "better" people than they were at the start of the tale. To this I must say, "Of course you do", because in the aftermath of the coercion having it's desired effect, those characters are transmuted to playing for the "right" team, clearly the dominant one in our society. And that what it's all about isn't it - "For goodness sake's, what team are you playing for anyway?"

So what team am I on? I'm certainly on the American team, and I'm an artist, so there's that. But there is also some cultural baggage that boarded this train as well, and this is as good a forum as any to delve into it.

I was raised in a Jewish household. Now I know that when I say that, many people might have a number of ideas of what that means, some of which include picturing me dressed in Hasidic garb with side-locks. But to illuminate, we were a modern American family who, though I had a Bar-Mitzvah, placed high in Torah competitions, and we kept a kosher table, the catch was that we lived in a Jewish neighborhood, or as they are known more recently as, "an ethnic enclave", where the context was, even when secular, a Jewish one. When I was very small, because I had so seldom encountered non-Jews, I assumed that there must have been very few of them out there. I made the false assumption that characters I saw portrayed on television must have been Jewish, were played by Jewish actors, and if they looked extremely different, this clearly meant that they must have come from some distant foreign land. To clarify, I did not mean that I thought these people were following religious customs at all, I merely thought that they were part of the majority. A world of Grinches and Scrooges, if you will.

By the time I started High School, I realized that my picture of global demographics were way off the reservation, and I understood that Jews were scattered in small numbers around the world, but they had good numbers in Israel, which was established sometime before I was born. To be honest I didn't think about it much, and to this day I have never visited Israel. After all, the American and artist part kind of leads.

In High School I also began delving into the great philosophers. I had it in my mind that I wanted to understand what all of the competing trains of thought were about. I was quickly influenced by the existentialist and nihilist schools, and in particularly by Jean-Paul Sartre and Friedrich Nietzsche. I was after all a young artist, listening to de-constructed music, and painting, drawing or sculpting every day. Perhaps it was the upbringing of my younger years, but I thought, "these philosophers all seem to be German, French or English...where are all the Jewish ones?" Aside from scholars who focused on religious doctrine, that is.

I remember quite well visiting my local library and asking that exact question. Luckily, I was found by a very helpful staffer who pointed out the seminal work that answered my query. It was Theodor Herzl's "Der Judenstaat", or "The Jewish State", published in 1896. I absorbed the tiny book, and it is indeed slight, simply because the idea was so self-evident. The tract postulated a society in which Jews would be free to be Jews, religious or not, and would not be subject to coercion, scorn, or worse. The book also happened to picture all of this freedom and comfort happening in a politically sovereign nation. The ideal choice for Herzl of where this new state was to be established was an area commonly referred to (by non-Arabs) as Palestine (after the Roman name for the province, itself taken from the tribe which occupied Gaza in about 1100 B.C.E), at the time a province of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. In Herzl's era, the population of the area was still minuscule compared to nations around it (excluding what is now Jordan). A tad over 500,000 with about 400,000 being Muslim Arabs and the others a mix of Jews, Christian Arabs, Armenians, etc. As Jews, we identified this area as the tribal origin point, where a grand swath of often bloody history, littered with impressive architectural structures now in ruins that were once watched over by kings and their armies, regardless of the intervening happenstances. Indeed, the longing for national sovereignty, this core "Zionism", (literally the love of the spirit of Zion, which is manifested in the people of Israel) was also actually a part of Judaism, the religion, in that, religious lore also depicted the Jews returning to this place in the future. So, secular, cultural, and religious Jews could all embrace Zionism.The few who didn't for whatever reason, or even attempted to make the distinction, were clearly at odds with a core belief due to their faith in a conflicting system, such as Socialism, or had embraced an internalized Antisemitism, or they were mentally disabled. Either way, traitors.

By the time I attended college, I was an ardent proponent of Israel's cause, and by that time Israel's population was already about 4.5 million, 20% of whom were non-Jews. But, there were also about 2 million Palestinian Muslim Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza, who my leftist  activist friends informed me suffered under "Zionist Occupation". They attempted to persuade me that there was some distinction between Jews, Judaism and Zionism, one that I failed, and still fail to grasp. How can supporting the idea that Jews should possess a sovereign state be distinct from them as ethnic group, and if the religion also supported the concept as well, then why not? Should the British feel that they do not "deserve" to have a country, because in the past they conquered Ireland, and well, most of the rest of the world? I imagined, "what if the Jews hadn't established Israel, would everything be just dandy for the Jews?" Really? Well, it wasn't going very well in Herzl's time (and after), with pogroms and what we now call "hate crimes" running rampant, so the idea made so much sense that it was self-evident.

Today Israel's population numbers over 8 million, and it now comprises the lion's share of the world's Jewish population, leaving paltry number elsewhere, excluding perhaps in the US. Many opportunities have been extended to the Palestinians to establish their own state, or to make peace with Israel, and they have been "disinclined" to embrace any of these solutions. Why accept a portion of a country you perceive as completely your own? I get it. But this is not the reality. So, the Palestinians continue to live in a fantasy wherein they imagine that they will one day recapture the entirety of the land, and slaughter the Jewish population, or in the most liberal stance, engage mass deportation. On the other hand, for a people who chant the litany that they are "experiencing genocide" on a daily basis, the fact that their population continues to double every few years means that the United Nations, rather than ratifying yet another condemnation of Israel (85% of their actions are anti-Israel, even though Iran hangs people in the street and Saudi Arabia, well, you know all this...) should award the State of Israel with the "Worst Genociders in History" medal. Because clearly, they are quite incompetent in this area. Did the Israeli's not see the films about the Serbs, Rwandans, Cambodians, and Nazis? It's like they weren't even paying attention in class.

If this did indeed ever come to pass, the leftists would undoubtedly tell us that this is the chickens coming home to roost. But this is the worst sort convenient victim narrative reshuffling based on the fact that Jews are in political power in Israel, and like Scrooge, they are perceived as a money-making people, which is the very worst thing for Socialists and Communists. Revisionists will unfailingly always choose so-called "indigenous" (and ideally, impoverished) people to champion, regardless if their ancestors were immigrants as well, and they spend their time on iphones, driving around in Hondas, not engaging in pastoral occupations. The left has made it very clear that they possess an imagined pecking order of privilege list, and heaven help those who they perceive as working counter to their over-arching goal of installing financial dependence and globalization. It probably doesn't help matters that these Euro-Socialists probably don't have to look very far back in their own family trees to find a legitimate Anti-Semite.

Ironically, in Herzl's time, a great number of Jews were indeed impoverished oppressed refugees, and immigrants, migrating from nation to nation, boasting foreign folkways, etc. To me, even now, Jews, or being Jewish psychologically represents being part of a group that stands as the ultimate outsider, the ultimate naysayer. After all, for those of you who are unaware, Jews are a people for whom debate and argument are almost art forms. In relation to the larger culturally dominant monotheistic systems, Jews are the people who said, "no thanks", first to the Christian message, and later, to the Islamic one. I'm sure that this is quite a vexing paradigm to people whose ancestors buckled under and complied with the majority, allowing others the right to inform them of what to think and believe.

For Jews, it's often hard to be Jewish, to be the one who calls B.S., but on another level they, we, feel that we have something that is culturally, sociologically, and religiously for us and only us. We neither need, nor want, everyone to sign up. Quite the contrary, we're not looking to aggrandize, which is why I personally live my life by Groucho Marx's wonderful maxim; "I would never want to part of club that would have me as a member". There is a strength in that. 

Alas, it would be a wonderful world (and I'm not talking about Messianic completion here), if those in the majority did not require or desire compliance, either overt or psychologically couched, since, the compulsion to control is generally caused by one's own lack of confidence in the soundness of one's position. After all, life is not a popularity contest. The Beatles were not great because they were popular, they were popular because they were great. Had they made the same ground-breaking music to a much smaller audience, the fact would remain that their artistry was pivotal. Perhaps people would have been less aware of their contribution, or the effect they had would have been slighter, but the effect and critical acclaim would have still been there.

So, unlike Dennis Prager, I do not respond in kind when wished a "Merry Christmas", simply because I am not required to do so, and do not feel the desire or need to do so. Likewise, I do not, nor have I ever, offered Jewish holiday wishes to pretty much anyone, unless I possess a prior understanding that they do indeed celebrate that specific holiday. So, I guess the bottom line is, feel free to leave me and the Grinch alone. We're doing just fine without the roping in, and hey, maybe if I watch it again the end will turn out different, and he'll have the strength to stick to his guns! Oh, well, maybe not.

Friday, December 16, 2016

My Dictionary; Word of the Day


(ˈkȯrn-bouiss) noun from the Middle English > Anglo-Norman French > from Latin "cornu", meaning horn or tip, and the Middle High German "buoche" - a topographic name referring to someone who resided near beech trees. 

Of or relating to a player position in the recently created game of Tiddly-Ping-Ball. In this sport, the "pitcher" attempts to toss a ping-pong ball at a group of five evenly spaced paper cups, which are progressively filled with cotton "snowballs" as the rounds continue. The object of the game is for the pitcher is to either sink the balls into the any of the cups (1 point), or preferably, to knock over the cups with the ball (4 points), prior to the cornbuce achieving a greater number of "hits" deflecting the ping ball with his wand, otherwise known as the "halberd de cornbuce" (3 points). Rounds of the game conclude when either the pitcher or the cornbuce reach a point count of twenty-one, or earlier if all five cups have been knocked over by the pitcher, signifying an "automatic win". Whichever side cumulatively wins three rounds wins the game.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away

"Anaapotheosis" is the sixth piece of Bandcamp hosted music on the Gauntlet's Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away. It features a synthetically created voice which simulates a melismatic chant constructed in no particular tradition.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

My Dictionary; Word of the Day


(ˈliɡ-ə-mən-tCHo͝or) anatomical noun / adj. from Middle English via the Latin ligare, "to bind".  Of or relating to an overall area of ligaments within an individual organisms body.

As in, "Though injured, the beast lunged forward with mouth agape, moving far in excess of the physical limitations of its ligamenture".

Monday, December 5, 2016

An Open Letter to George Soros

Dear Mr. Soros, I have watched your remote involvement in global, and particularly American, politics for many years, and I thought at this juncture I would jot down a few thoughts I have for and about you. I expect that it is unlikely you will ever read  this commentary, but as the possibility does mathematically exist that one of your cohorts might bring it to your attention, I shall persist.

George, if I may call you that, I understand that you believe that what you are doing is right, and that you feel you are helping to forge a better world, free of discrimination, where all of us live in equal squalor or mediocre comfort under the reins of bureaucratic administrators, who I'm sure in your opinion, know what is best for the rest of us. It will be like Star Trek, and I can only assume that you are a big fan of Gene Roddenberry's positive-futurist vision of our society's rise to some sort of simulated Athenian Technocracy.

But, as most of us know, in the Star Trek mythos, the people of the world are only able to achieve the lofty goal of one-world government, global peace, and an economy "free of greed" after the two devastating global wars and an alien intervention. Sadly, or rather, fortunately, we have not yet experienced those effects, so even as a fan, I find the notion of a world-wide, all-powerful government frankly terrifying.

We saw in the last few month's those concerns expressed in popular opinion on the global stage, regardless of what the complacent press told us we should believe. Surely, you, and many like you, will continue to frame Brexit, (and Iceland) leaving the European Union as "racist" in the same way that the DNC's puppets attempt to cast President Trump's victory as a "triumph of bigotry". You may try to convince yourself, and the saddened "progressives" who don't understand what you are all about, that this is the case, but deep down you know that the numbers don't lie - the same "enlightened and egalitarian" Americans who voted your man Obama into office, are the very same people who jumped the fence and pushed Trump over the top.

Saying all this, I probably should address the defining item that encouraged me to pen this open letter to you. That issue is the three state election re-count which Jill Stein has been able to negotiate, with your financing, designed I guess, to disqualify enough electoral votes to keep the like-minded hanging onto a hair of hope that indeed, this "horrible nightmare will end". When I first heard that Stein was contesting the outcome in states with the closet margin between Trump and Clinton, it was obvious that this could only benefit Mrs. Clinton, as clearly, Stein was not going to jump from one percent of the vote to winner, and once I heard that she had raised the amount of money to file the injunctions (which was more than she raised during her entire campaign) I knew that you had deposited a nice, fat check into her account.

As I said, I think you believe you are serving justice, but let's look at the facts. You are a billionaire who is working for wealth re-distribution (I assume this means for everyone else, and not your money hidden in the Cayman Islands), you are a Jew who is rabidly anti-Israel (and we can assume on some level self-hating as you yourself describe your childhood home as "Anti-Semitic"), you are an "anti-racist" leftist who finances right-wing racist movements in foreign nations (i.e. the Ukraine) in order to destabilize the central government of countries that you feel betrayed by (no wonder Vladimir Putin wants you in jail, not that I'm saying he is a prince by any means). In concord you manipulate global media and the U.S. government to tell us that Russia is now more of a military threat to the United States than radical Islam. Really? We somehow avoided direct war with the Soviet Union, and then Russia, for literally a hundred years, and you want to orchestrate conflict between us over Syria? I'm sure you and your cronies are working overtime to have incidents occur the day Trump is sworn in so the mess lands in his lap. Is that fair? Just because you think a no-fly zone will "spread peace", it will not. Putin and Assad will not heed it and it will lead to expanding the conflict. Do I like Assad or Putin, No, I do not. But in this case the right side to take is to back up Putin, Assad and Hezbollah, and though I literally hate the latter two in particular, the alternative is the Free Syrian Jihadists, Al-Qaida, and ISIS taking over that nation. Do we really need another country in the region thrown into anarchy only to emerge as an Islamic theocracy?

Look, George, I get it, you have an end game where it all turns out alright. In my younger days I was a type of leftist too (certainly leaning towards anarchy), and I too thought that I knew better than "Joe Six-Pack". We could lead them to enlightenment, whether they wanted it or not, they could be "re-educated". As I grew older, my anarchistic tendencies led me to the notion that true liberty is best served by less government, less controls, and a greater free-flow of information. While I may have been wrong about the last part, with information overload only contributing to the Huxley-esque trivialization of our culture, I am implacable in my belief that globalism of the sort you envision will end up with us all slaves to a cultural / power elite who are your philosophic descendants, and who design to control the world through psychological media warfare in an endless de-enfranchisement / victim narrative.

So, George if you will, please try to take your head out of your convictions for a minute and look around. Your "help" is not wanted. Your illusion of power may make you feel more important than you actually are in reality. You are just a man, who puts his pants on one leg at a time like all others. Your most ardent followers don't even understand half the issues I mentioned earlier, and I expect that you like it that way...a complacent populace who analyzes politics with raw emotions manipulated by you and CNN. I fully expect to see President Trump surrounded by a cabinet comprised of African-Americans, Latino-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Women, etc., and I fully also expect that you, your followers, and the media, will continue to call him racist for the duration, just because it does not compute in your collective heads that you have alienated the "average deplorable voters" out there, and opted instead to elevate your status as a social / cultural elite of "victim identities" who, as I said, know better than everyone else.

Let the "setback" be what is, George. Suck it up and focus on your own life. Maybe a nice meal or two, a massage, you know - actually living, instead of financing unrest and working the conversion machine. Thanks.   

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away

December, December, and it's time for another Bandcamp hosted 391 & the Army of Astraea Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away. Today's track was inspired by a serial re-watching of the X-Men film series, though I think it may have taken on a less specific and more oblique sensibility, after the fact.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Autumnal Picturesque

Just a time out from The Word of the Day, The Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away, musings about screenwriting, and political analysis. I thought it might be nice to upload a few seasonal pics I took over the last few days.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away

Today's piece, "The Aeon", is a tad more on the short, quiet, yet more Industrial side of 391 & the Army of Astraea's recent electronic music pieces hosted by Bandcamp. Enjoy.

Friday, November 18, 2016

My Dictionary; Word of the Day


adv. (neg-are-es-may-pir-ig-nes) from the Latin: negare, and the Greek na anairései (verb. to Negate), and the Latin "per ignis" and the Greek "me pyrkagia" (by fire).

The engagement of a ritual act or magic designed to negate the Christian ritual of Baptism. As in, "the Conjurer cast a spell of negarésmepyrignis, thus removing and negating the act of baptism enacted on the child."

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away

With the election over and Thanksgiving nigh, today marks the arrival of the third Bandcamp hosted 391 & the Army of Astraea Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away on the Gauntlet, this time a track entitled "Limbic System".

Saturday, November 12, 2016

My Dictionary; Word of the Day


adj. / adv. (mo-tef-e-shee-al) primarily derived from the 19th century French "motif" - a repeated design or pattern. Secondarily derived from the Egyptian Heiratic "mut" and the Semitic "mot". Ref. Latin morte - death.

The process of morphological transformation engaged by symbolically altering one's appearance through the utilization of some sort of costume, uniform or device, particularly of a military nature. 

As in, "By donning his uniform, the warrior morphed from a man of regular appearance and qualities to a faceless instrument of warfare. In this his form became overtly acquiescent in regard to the motificial symbology of morphological transformation. He was no longer a man, but a machine."

Saturday, November 5, 2016

From the Writer's Studio: Characters

Characters in a story, novel, script...what have you, must fit together like intricately locked puzzle pieces, each boasting their own complicated shapes and surface color patterns. Even in tales that do not feature an ensemble cast, the primary character must be defined by the parameters of his or her reality and the other persons / characters, however limited in number, which he or she interacts with.

I find that where many scripts and films fail, is due to the writer, and subsequently, the director, not fully grasping the nature of the infrastructure that he or she has designed. Honestly, who hasn't found it super-frustrating to watch a film where all the characters are defined by their basic bio, or worse, their employment, and not WHO THEY ARE as people. The term usually applied is "cardboard characters", and for good reason, they are flimsy and disposable, cut from a ready-made mold. This is not to disparage banging the archetype gong, for surely, Neo as Jesus-Buddha, or the almost ancient mythological epic arch of the Star Wars reality are not to be trifled with.

At this point, I have either created, or co-created, a vibrant array of characters numbered literally in the multiple hundreds, and I have set them in the dozens and dozens of universes I have likewise constructed, along with the developing episodic story architecture or act structure of the work. I possess a great affection for the vast majority of them, and I often imagine what one of them would do in a given situation versus another character, sometimes even swapping out incompatible universes in my mind. 

Characters should have a life of their own. As a writer you should find yourself quoting them as if you overheard something they said in the past, and that you find clever and fresh upon remembering it.

Is that nuts on some level? Sure. Without a doubt. But, if you are the god of your universes, then, at least for me, I am a god who allows characters to grow organically once their seed is planted. Likewise, I expect the character to experience further growth when an actor contributes his or her input in executing the creature in the visual medium.

Let's look at a simple example. There is a spider scurrying across a table top. Why is it scurrying? What is he or she thinking about? Is there an insect on the table top that he or she is hunting? Is there another spider he or she wishes to mate with, or is fleeing from? How old is the spider? What brought it to this point? Is he or she the last of his or her brothers and sisters? And, most importantly, what is the temperament of the spider. Clearly, the spider is not just a spider, but you get the idea. Don't focus on the fact that the spider is a spider, we all know that!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away

Happy Samhain 2016. In honor of the roots of the festival season, and a rather inane discussion betwixt my offspring, today's 391 & the Army of Astraea's Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away features a little ditty published on BandCamp entitled "Faerie Bomb". Please do enjoy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My Dictionary; Word of the Day


noun (mis-hom-iny) English from the fusion of the Greek misos (hatred) and the Latin homin (man).

The dislike, hatred, contempt or ingrained prejudice against men or boys. The inverse of misogyny.

As in, "When Robert entered his feminist themed short film in a film festival that focused on female-dominant subject matter, he was nevertheless concerned that he might be rejected because of his gender. It was a common type of reverse sexism that many deny exists, but when his film lost in every female-themed film festival he entered, but won in over 60 neutral film festivals, Robert strongly felt that he was the victim of mishominy." 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away

Hosted by BANDCAMP, I've decided that the Gauntlet will, from time to time, feature pieces of "give-away" electronic music created by 391 & the Army of Astraea or other tunes produced by Stubborn God Productions.

The title, "Gladiator-at-Law", is taken from the title a 1955 satirical dystopian science-fiction book written by Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth, one of my father's favorite reads.

This platform may eventually evolve into multi-genre cross-marketing of Nevekari score albums, experimental music, or 391 Singer-Songwriter driven Folk-Pop, as well as a more mercantile presence at some point, but as for now, it's just a listen and enjoy kind of thing.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Pinhole Photography

Last April 24th was Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day.

What is Pinhole Photography, you may ask? Well, it's a lens-less technology derived from Camera Obscura, whose product are photographs in their most basic form. To elaborate, an exposure is made through a pin-sized hole cut into a receptacle of some sort, usually a can or box. The length of the exposure, and how bright the surrounding light is, determines the image captured on the photo paper, and unlike modern digital photography, the image is only presented after development.

Thanks for the concise artsy definition, Gauntlet of Balthazar, but why mention it?

As it turns out, I mention it because my Nevekari Enterprises partner, Kevin Lennon, and I, taking a break from our script-righting endeavors, just so happen to have attended Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day on Staten Island at the Alice Austen House Museum.

In light of the diversity of this blog's posts, and our ramping up to get behind the camera and shoot our multi-nominated web-series pilot, "Asymmetric", I decided that the Gauntlet might be a good forum to display a couple of pics we took that day.

Not bad for first attempts, we think.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

No Fly Zones and Drone Strikes

As I touched upon power, specifically women's power, in an earlier installment of the on-going screenwriting thread of the Gauntlet (From the Writer's Studio), I thought in light of the imminence of election day, now might be a good juncture to elaborate on another facet of power relating to women's issues: the world of politics.

Gender politics have come into hard-play in this election cycle, all the more lurid since voters lack attention span, are not inclined, nor do they understand, the more complex issues relating to the economy, international relations, and our rights as citizens of a republic. Thus, we are forced to endure two sixty-some-odd year old children hashing out school yard rhetoric that isn't really relevant, excluding the slight grains of truth that do occasionally slip by.

Face it, we had a chance for a Cruz-Sanders race where political philosophy, instead of the cult of personality, would have been front and center. But you, America, as usual, chose image over substance. Is Donald Trump a bit of a douche-bag blow-hard, with an egomania gloss-over? Sure. Is Hillary Clinton a Washington insider tethered to a corrupt system by a million points of nepotistic light? Sure.

So, who would be better for the nation? The fact remains that even the most ardent supporters of either candidates would prefer other choices. The numbers don't lie, they are not trusted. Though, admittedly, Clinton does score even more abysmally on that scale than Trump. I imagine that women will continue to be pressured to stand behind their genitalia, and minority groups will be told that the only viable choice is the "liberal" female candidate. Meanwhile, hawkish Hillary has already told us what she wants to do about Syria, and I frankly find her plans terrifying.

Aside from our government recently announcing that they are to endeavor on a slew of cyber-attacks against Russia in the coming months (we can only assume as a reprisal for the DNC incident) we have a "No-Fly-Zone package" on the table. Apparently, the Democrats believe that simply announcing a No-Fly-Zone will magically solve the Syrian Civil War. I personally think that they imagine it's like putting a sign on the lawn, and other nations will just "keep off the grass", but that's not how it works. In order to establish a No-Fly-Zone it must be enforced or it, well, isn't a No-Fly-Zone. So, what is it they think will happen the first time the U.S. military shoots down a Russian airplane over Syria? I don't know, what do you think? This isn't a trick question.

Somehow, we avoided going into a direct war with the Soviet Union from 1945 to 1989, and then the Russian Federation from 1989 to 2016, but these amazing dullards in D.C. have been instructed that Russia isn't with them in their vision of U.N. one world globalism, and they've got to be brought on line. This is why Iceland and England's leaving, or in the latter's case, not fully joining the E.U., drives the globalists mad. In fact, the U.N. recently called for U.S. citizens living abroad to vote for Clinton, since they are anti-Trump. They have no right to even propose such, nor to interfere in the domestic policy of any member nation. They should feel shame, but they have moved far past that. Their agenda is all too important. After all, they need to control the entire world. Needless to say, Russia sees no reason to embrace the Euro, or to honor the Petro-Dollar (the real cause of Saddam Hussein's fall), nor to share foreign policy with N.A.T.O., and frankly, who can blame them? They have their own agendas and strategies.

I'm very afraid that Public Enemy #1 of a Clinton regime will be Vladimir Putin. If only she can tear herself away from ordering drone strikes on Wikileaks Julian Assange long enough, which, by the way she has mentioned casually in passing, and with a smile, then we have our hands full. Even though these actions are fully hawkish, I'm sure that, like her predecessor, if elected the globalists will expedite her Nobel Peace Prize, in this case awarded by virtue of her possessing a vagina. But that's okay, because the mutual admiration society gave one to Barak Obama for "peace" when he was conducting three wars.

Perhaps the women of America should vote for Clinton, so they can learn the hard way that just because a woman is the "right" candidate doesn't mean she is the best candidate. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

My Dictionary; Word of the Day



Verb, Adv. (from the fusion of the Latin prefix dis - >  Old Fr. Des > M. English - APART, and the Latin > Med. Latin > Trepalium > O. French > M. Eng. > Travail (noun), Travailler (verb) - WORK)

The act of voluntarily engaging in the cessation of labor with the possibility or expectation of amicable return. Simply put, to cease work in contrast to being fired, laid off, or being dismissed, as well as, quitting (to permanently vacate), resigning (to give up) or retiring (to end one's employment, usually at a specific age).

As in, "Phoebe left her job." "Was she fired?" "Oh, heavens no, she distraved. She's welcome to come back whenever she likes. Her employer and she are cool with that arrangement." 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

From the Writer's Studio: Bionn An Fhirinne Searbh

On the occasion of Nevekari Enterprises receiving its 19th & 20th Screenwriting awards, I thought it might be a good opportunity to launch a new feature on the Gauntlet - one about our writing, entitled "From the Writer's Studio". So, in the future, all analysis or critical commentary about writing in general, and our writing, etc., etc., will be searchable under this tag.

As the post name says - Bionn An Fhirinne Searbh (it's Gaelic and it's pronounced something like bean-ah-nerain-yeh-sharoo), and it translates as "The Truth is Often Bitter". This is not to say that this feature is a complainatorium, but rather, that the writer's struggle, as well as the manipulation of the reader, or viewer's emotions, comes at a cost. One could say that writing is simply about delivering entertaining catharsis. But, we must always remember that there are those who prefer fantasy to unpleasant truth in life and not being in touch with their emotions. So, it's like pulling teeth, but in a nice way. In my opinion to be successful story-tellers we must break the delusion with an illusion, in order to reveal the actuality of life, the actual truth.

So, onto the first topic...

What both of the scripts that received these most recent awards share in common is that they feature strong female protagonists. I personally prefer writing women over men. The nuances of how they wield their power, or lack thereof, can be fascinating, and surely their interactions between one another are generally much more layered. Simply put, men are simple, while female characters require a deeper commitment to understanding who they are. This is not to say male protagonists should reset to basic archetypes, just that the cause-and-effect of the male psyche is a little more predictable.

The lead of our tech-crime web-series, "Asymmetric", Yua Katayama, and our science-fiction feature, "Classical Ideal", Lily Goslicki, have literally almost nothing in common. Yet, they are both leads with a substantial presence. Yua is plucky, puts up a hard exterior, and has issues with patriarchy, fighting herself as much as the powers that be. Lily, on the other hand, is demure and reticent to embrace the new self she is evolving into, not grasping that she possessed that power all along. She treads lightly where Yua storms. If the two were to meet, it is doubtful that they would truly like one another, then again...that just gave me new idea. Clearly, they couldn't really meet because they live in different realities, but even if they couldn't meet it's the idea that counts, and pretty much, that is what writing is all about, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

My Dictionary; Word of the Day

From time to time there comes, well a time, when a new word occurs that fills the gap where a word "should be". In today's case that word is...



Adj. Adv.  from the fusion of the noun: \ˈbak\ and the colloquial \ˈjak\ (Ger. > O. Nor > O. Eng. > Eng. + Celt. poss. Welsh > Mid. Eng. > Eng.)

Back-Jacking is the act of intentionally, or unintentionally, retro-actively appropriating an established concept, style, or work created by another, and claiming it as original. 

As in, "That was a good film, but half the sequences were back-jacked from Hitchcock.", or, "He sounds just like that old school rapper, but he said in an interview that they grew up together, and that he came up with the sound first. What a total back-jacker! Yeah, back-jacking at its finest."  

Monday, October 3, 2016

Otis Rediohead - Creep on the Dock in the Bay (Stubborn God Productions)

So, two posts on the same must be a Monday, and a new blog. Anyway, let's get started with some lite fare, shall we.

A recent brainstorm, or was it a headache, led to this little piece of audio and video wizardry that I'm calling Otis Rediohead - Creep on the Dock in the Bay.

To be honest, as simple as it sounds, syncing Otis Redding's "Sittin' on the Dock in the Bay" with Radiohead's "Creep" was no easy matter. Sure, there are musical similarites, and certainly others have noted the shared chord structure, however there are issues in parsing these two songs. Firstly, there is no video footage of Otis performing the track, live or otherwise. Secondly, the beats have to be in time. Lastly, Creep is almost twice the length of Sittin'. Saying that, I think it came out swell, not that it has received the massive views of Nirvana meets Rick Astley, but I have faith that it will, someday.


Welcome to the Gauntlet of Balthazar, a blog designed to chronicle the artistry, achievements, successes, setbacks, and overall musings of Nevekari Enterprises and Stubborn God Productions. Articles, press excerpts, video clips, media files, photographs, music, and graphic art in all their manifestations, will in some way make their way to this space for, well, mostly our edification, but hopefully also for your entertainment. Please do enjoy. We look forward to seeing you return, to visiting our other sites and pages, and we hope that you will support us in our upcoming projects. Thanks.