Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year Pizza!

In the beginning...
Crust, sauce, pepperoni THEN cheese...
I'm thinking of starting a new tradition on New Year's Eve: New Year's Pizza.  Not buying a pizza, but making one at home. In my family, we've always boiled a pot of black-eyed peas with bacon and ate them at midnight, which is supposed to bring good luck for the upcoming year. So hey, why not pizza? Gerlyne and I are making a pizza from scratch this evening as a fun-together activity to ring in the New Year.  That to add to her own tradition of watching The Honeymooners marathon on Ch. 11 (WPIX) after the ball drop.  I guess I'm sharing this as a light-hearted post to end a year filled with strife, loss and unrelentingly negative news from all sides trying to overwhelm the  positive strides I've made in life.

Below is a quick account of what took place >;) 

 New Year's Pizza 

        • 1 ball of pizza dough (any size)
        • 1 jar of pizza sauce (Classico™ brand is great)
        • 1 bag shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese
        • Whatever toppings you like (I prefer pepperoni)

Yeah that's right, cheese last...
Preheat conventional oven to as high as it can go (with us it's 500 degrees and then broil; I'm not sure about broiled pizza). Knead the dough for roughly three minutes, more or less,  then flatten it out into as much of a round disk shape as possible. Brush lightly with olive oil, then add sauce, spreading around evenly with a spoon or whatever is handy.  Then you lay down the toppings you like, then cover and spread the shredded cheese over the toppings and sauce. This will make a nice blanket that holds your toppings in place and protects your toppings from overcooking (unless they are absolutely raw and you want them thoroughly singed). Put the whole thing on a pan or pizza stone (if you're lucky), or like the second one I made, in a skillet and let cook in the oven for 10 minutes.  The high heat will raise the edge of the crust just like you see in the pizza parlor.  It should be done within ten minutes, so take it out, let it rest until it's warm to the touch and serve.  You can vary it any way you like, but with simple store-bought ingredients it doesn't take more than 30 minutes (take that, Domino's and Papa John's!)
Yeah! Tastes as good as it looks, too! I guess this is our new tradition.
 Yep, turned out pretty good! I topped my slices off with oregano and crushed red pepper (I used to avoid until earlier in the year, believe it or not...) We used store-bought frozen dough that had to thaw for several hours, plus the other ingredients were pre-made, so it wasn't an authentic Pizza Parlor experience in the sense or making it totally from scratch, but for what it was worth it was easy, fun, cost effective and doggone good pizza and great for a last-minute dinner or treat, such as New Year's tends to be.  Being a pizza snob, I can spend a good amount of time analyzing the ingredients and techniques if I want to, but this is not that post; it's just about having a good time.  If you try it out yourself, let me know what you did and how it turned out.  Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Re: Dad's Conversations About Race: "Most White Kids Don't Get This Talk"

"When I watch the news (or worse, read comments on the Internet), it’s easy to feel like practically everyone in the world sees black kids as a threat. But that’s not true, and it’s not what I want them to think."
 - Calvin Hennick, "Dad's Conversations About Race: 'Most White Kids Don't Get This Talk' "

Calvin Hennick and Son, photo from Yahoo publication courtesy of Calvin Hennick
I was forwarded this article recently and asked to comment on it.  Written by a white father with a biracial son, the article details the bullet points of a conversation he intends to have with his young son, who shares an African American heritage with his mother, when the time comes that his son inevitably asks questions about the strange and likely different way he is treated from most of his peers.

It is a conversation he feels that not all parents apparently have with their children.  However, the writer implies, and I agree, that they very well should. Ignoring the issues that Black people face today simply because you or your children are not Black is doing oneself and one's children a great disservice.  Not because Black people should be singled out for special treatment or consideration, but because we are often singled out for mistreatment, negligence or cognizant dissonance.  This behavior has contributed directly to the tensions and strife that has never really gone away from American society since the Civil Rights Era of the mid-20th Century, but has recently resurfaced after an extended, gradual buildup of underlying pressure and activity that can easily be construed as a reversal of the consideration that, many think, or had thought, positively changed modern American sentiments (and progress) during that era.  

It's by no means an easy conversation to have with another grown person, never mind a child.  The dynamics are different: whereas with a child you are teaching, instructing and otherwise adding to their conscious awareness of an issue with wholly negative aspects that challenge their morality, but with adults it's also compounded by the awareness that they already experience, which could either support or deny the points of this discussion, and also has the risk of introducing shame in the event that a person realizes that they have never stood up for an issue that they morally support but consciously or unconsciously ignored or backed down from for various reasons.  I'm not writing to condemn such actions, but to support the awareness of these issues and to pass on any such knowledge that can lead to effective understanding and constructive building on these issues.  I found the article to be forthright and truthful, without the taint of misplaced moral superiority or reflexive anxiety that often undermines discussions of this nature. Take some time to read it and ponder what is discussed.

Take note also of what I quoted above; personally, this was the takeaway for me. I have been hesitant to add my voice to this and similar discussions because I did not very well see that it would be effective, but I'm changing my mind because I absolutely have to.  There is the specter of racial bias and hatred that proliferates the media and comments of many, if not a majority of internet sites and media outlets (Sony Films America being the latest prime example), but I personally know and relate to many people who are not of my heritage who do understand or are capable of understanding the dynamics that force this opinion on the willing, unwilling, complicit or unsuspecting consumer or visitor. There is a dynamic that forces citizens and non-citizens in the very same way to be compartmentalized by race, class and other categories and are then forced to battle one-another for survival and a false sense of superiority when in fact it does not exist except for those who pull these societal strings. Black people are the most obvious target, but by no means does this mean that Black people are or should be universally reviled, and especially not when vociferous media pundits and anonymous commenters proliferate the strongest forms of communication in society and force their ignorance and hatred on others to react to or learn and behave in similar manner.  To me, the continuation of such dynamics is force and acceptance; the willingness to accept such information and conformance to standards and status quo in return for acceptance to society and its benefits to scale (based on historically traditional notions of what is acceptable for whom).  I refuse to accept what bigots and tacit supporters say about me or my heritage based on longstanding hearsay or the basis of guilt by association, and neither should you.

To do so is to drive yourself insane or to commit hara-kiri to your moral compass, your self-respect and your immortal soul. 

All this from a simple discussion you can have with your kids.  What a bargain!

Friday, October 17, 2014

What's On Your Mind? "Facebook what?"

I don't update my Facebook status anymore.  It's pointless, really; only a few people actually react to anything I say and those are people who I could tolerate a phone call from.  The rest are people who just enjoy having me as a number on their list.  I don't get it, but I'm not that sociable to begin with, so it doesn't matter. I do like to check in with certain people who either educate or amuse me, but for the most part it's pure static. I have a static track on constant replay in iTunes on my desktop that I play at night to drown out annoying frequencies from outside or next door (or the next room), and the best part about that is I can turn the screen off and listen to the static in my sleep. My favorite is the brown noise; not the one from South Park, but remarkably resembling a television version of an earthquake-grumble, especially when I crank the bass all the way up...

But I digress. Facebook is fairly useless to me as a means of communication since few people read what I write there, and far more often than not I feel compelled to defend my beliefs than I do to express them. Therefore, I deleted the app from my phone and haven't updated since late August.

I noticed right away that the ads and suggestions that were constantly clogging my news feed virtually disappeared. Later, I noticed that regular updates from people on my friends list practically disappeared as well. Apparently since I wasn't generating enough activity on my own timeline, Facebook wasn't interested in me anymore.  Good, I'm glad we could agree on something.

Facebook to me has exposed so much hypocrisy about the current generation of citizens in this country and around the world that I almost get physically sick looking at the news feeds.  I'm guessing that this is what vegans feel about meat and dairy products. Or perhaps someone who quit smoking for long enough to have normal breathing and taste senses returned to them so that looking at a cigarette is like trying to obliterate it with your mind without it actually lighting up. There are lots of allegories and metaphors that suit comparison to giving up something that is ultimately bad for you, so take your pick and be creative.

At any rate, I find that I don't even feel like sharing my every waking thought even here, so don't expect daily updates unless my life gets really exciting.  I moved recently to a nicer apartment in a much nicer part of town, and I have a blog post in the works relating my experiences in the works, but don't wait up all night; I've got a class in general construction electricity that I'm taking on the weekends that I need to go to bed for, so we'll talk later.  G'nite!       

Saturday, August 30, 2014

There But For The Sake Of Education Go I!

Joe Hunt and Isaiah Page
Congratulations to my nephew Isaiah Page for entering a new phase in his life, college.  He is attending SUNY Delhi to become a full-fledged auto mechanic; they have a well recommended auto mechanic program and a very nice-looking campus on the north edge of the Catskills and close enough to the Finger Lakes.  I will miss him terribly as he is like a son to me, but I hope that this gives him the opportunity and the independence he needs to thrive as a young adult in a changing economy and changing world.  Were it me, I would grasp this with both hands; learning a trade is not the most direct way to wealth or even comfort, but it is a solid enough base from which you may launch your dreams from without having to struggle inordinately.  I have in recent years taken up electrician work to refurbish a foundation that began in art, and while I have certainly not abandoned the prospect of being a recognized auteur (certainly not!), I have come to terms with the fact that I have to be a self-made wealthy person if I ever do become wealthy, and for now the trades afford me the best opportunity to build wealth without being obligated against my will to causes or authorities I do not support or who would otherwise manipulate and marginalize me or the things I believe in. Is it a pipe dream?

No. Simple as that.  Others have realized their dreams working as hard as I have, and I hope to follow that to my own success.

But this is not about me, but about a boy with simple plans and bigger dreams.  I wish you the best, nephew, and will continue to be in your corner as we fight our way to the top. 

Uncle Joe, Uncle Chyll, College Man and Mommy

Monday, August 25, 2014

"If you ever wonder why most black folks don't smile in their pictures, it's simple... we're vaguely annoyed. If you have to ask why that is, then know that a lot of it does have to do with you."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Look At All This Dust

I used to eat at this Mickey Ds when I worked in Brooklyn no more than two years ago from this date.  Though I now eschew McDonalds (and never particularly cared for the service at this one), finding it waiting to be replaced by an 11-story condo building is rather disquieting... Photo Credit: Gowanus In Your Face 
In my ongoing efforts to distance myself from social responsibility and being a leader of my community as well as a respectable adult of the human species, I'm taking time to update my blog.  Yes, blog.  I know few people actually do this sort of thing anymore because you have Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and such, but I think hat's just why I need to do this.  I've always been the sort to distance himself from the crowd. Why, I remember in kindergarten I used to go outside and lie on top of the Snoopy house they had set up in the kindergarten playground, just like Snoopy would; meanwhile the rest of the class was inside doing whatever the scheduled group activity was (I dunno, nap time? Learning to read? They really needed to learn to keep up as far as I was concerned...) 

If this makes me arrogant, well then so be it. If you've read my past posts, you have a strong idea where that comes from. I guess that statement goes more for the random people who might be coming over here from Facebook after reading some of my status updates indicating that I was leaving Facebook, or replacing my profile with a link to his site.  I would suggest reading some of those past posts if you really want to get to know me, because they can be rather open about my thoughts.  I tried doing that on Facebook and got a lot of nothing for the most part.  If I really wanted that (and that's debatable at this point), why not do it somewhere I don't necessarily have to worry about the post being lost among millions of other voices straining for space on a limiting platform that will randomly censor me or redirect my personal information for its own interests? Maybe because doing so will require more work?

I've never been afraid of hard work, just working for nothing in return.  So I guess I have to make up a reason. How about the semblance of freedom? Unless I'm financially independent (which seems almost like a contradiction in terms), I'm not free in any capacity to do what I want.  But I am free to do what I wish during the times I'm not laboring for someone else's benefit and my meager recompense. I suppose I should assign an emotional value to that as well, as that would be the main impetus of my continued effort to purposely distance myself from social media. I'm not very social to begin with.  I know HOW to be sociable under certain circumstances, but not extroverted.  It's very draining, physically and emotionally.  I get headaches just thinking about it, which is often when I'm not doing anything challenging that will be of great benefit to me and maybe mankind (and being social is not the challenge I'm looking for, so there). 

I'll tell you what, I'm not going to be one of those people that fall off the grid entirely because they hate civilization or they committed a crime and have to live off the land until the heat is off. If anything, I am generous and engaging when the right subject is broached.  I'm just tired of all the noise.  You know what I mean, the noise.  I'll sit in my cyberspot for now and repost some of the content that interests me from Facebook or other places I visit throughout the day, and every now and then I'll throw in my own two cents.  That's about all I can do for now.  I don't have anyone that can inspire me to deconstruct the box I live in when I'm feeling like this, so I'll have to invent mind games or distract myself from my own thoughts with other's thoughts that I feel like processing without it having to be constantly crowded on me.  I don't like crowds, even when they pay.  But that's none of your business, right? >;)

Keep diggin' the dream, readers.  Sometimes you have to redirect and refocus in order to achieve.  I've never given up, even if you don't see me around.  I'm just digging in a different direction or straightening up the place.  For now.