Archive for January, 2011

A short story,

He ran…

Even though the violent bursts of charged light which championed his pursuit traveled at the staggering speed of 186,000 miles per second, and he (even on his best day, and only after he’d gone to the restroom), could barely muster a brisk 8 miles per hour, he ran with the fervor of a man whose life was on the line.

Coincidentally it was…

And so he ran…

George was an idealist. He stubbornly believed that human beings should remain human, and not become some freakish race of technologically enhanced cyborgs. The rest of the world made it clear that they disagreed, or at least the elite who’d been chosen for the program had, as out of the millions who’d been offered that clandestine deal George was only one of fifty people who’d ticked off the “No” box on that year’s census.

For the fifty of them there would be no silent surgeon in the dead of night…

For the fifty of them there would be no scar on the brain…

For the fifty of them there would be no chip…

Melding with the machine was not their destiny…

He, and the rest of the group along with him, had opted out of mankind’s greatest evolutionary leap (that’s what the news called it anyway), and would come to be called by the masses in the years that followed as: “The Half-Breeds”.

Generally as a rule, society shuns those that are different. They take comfort in drawing their pathetic lines in the sand: “Black or White”, “Fat or Skinny”, “Conservative or Liberal”, “Good or Bad”, and perhaps most of all; “Us or Them”… It’s imperative to their shallow state of being that these sheep know where “they” end, and “others” (frightening for their uniqueness, and unpredictability), begin. This is why people like to be part of a herd; they like to believe that by being circumscribed within the accepted societal norms of the zeitgeist that they’re safe.

They’re not – Shepherds abound

Ironically the Half-Breeds had been cast out of society not because they were inherently different from the others (although that element had played at center stage throughout the duration of the ongoing drama), but because they hadn’t the proper equipment to enable them to move on to the next great frontier with the rest of society. Now, because of their ideals and lack of circuitry, twelve of them were dead, and it would seem – as the energetic beams of light shattered the pavement in the wake of his step and the collective of Droids which pursued him actively adjusted their trajectory as they rapidly learned to become on-the-fly security guards – that George was next.

He needed to get away, for the sake of the sheep, the shepherds, and the Half-Breeds alike…

Many had tried – and they had all failed – but he had to succeed…

The World needed to know what he had learned…

This could change everything…

And so he ran…

He had found it; it was in his hands (well, technically it was woven into his shirt). After all their tireless years of searching he was the one who’d finally found the damming evidence that would surely crumble this sinister establishment in an instant like the mighty wrecking balls of yore. He envisioned himself standing at the heart of a mighty tower, crafted of charcoal tinted glass and flimsy metal, as it splintered, cracked, and collapsed in all around him, shattering into a million pieces as he cried tears of joy, never to be put together again.

Mankind would know its freedom again, and the Half-Breeds would be their unlikely savior. Their kind would be vindicated once and for all – praised even for their foresight – and would no longer be hunted. Collectively the people of Earth and The Belt above would once again remember the feeling of a breeze, the smell of the air, the look of a sky, and the taste of the ocean.

But only if he could escape…

Right now that was a big if

George was running an unusual (hopefully unpredictable), back and forth, juke-like pattern to try to do just that…

He glanced over his shoulder at his enshrouded pursuers hoping to see the same three lumbering amorphic blobs that had begun chasing him as he’d escaped the facility, but found instead that they’d finally taken shape and had grown wheels. Fantastic… Their approach hastened greatly in the brief moment that he watched (they were undeniably adept at mastering the physics behind their new shapes), and it terrified him to his core. Not that it assuaged his fears whatsoever, but he knew to expect this: The Droids were ubiquitous things in the modern world – they worked for everyone and no one at once – and right now he was technically a criminal, so he guessed that they were presently working for the “everyone” category.

Meh.

He wondered idly which bit of technology the multitaskers had mimicked and perverted from our wealth of preordained knowledge to take their current form, as they knew nothing of creativity and could only craft something which had been established before them.

Not that it mattered, he just wanted to know what it was from our past that was going to kill him

The sound of his heavy footfall had been, up until this point, mostly silent, but as he boarded the dock (which was crafted of wood rather than concrete), the pitch changed, and the beating of his heart redoubled in response as he let himself believe that he just might make it after all. If he could only get into the sanctity of the waters (as polluted and corrupted as they were, the term “Water” had to be taken loosely here), off the end of the pier, than he might have a chance to escape with his life in tact and his critical information in tow. Sure the Droids might take to the sea after him, but they would be forced to sink to the bottom before changing their shape, and the bay was deep. Surely within the time-frame of this transition he could affect his escape.

Then again they might split up…

One in, two out…

Rut-Roh…

Oh well, there was no time for second guessing his one and only plan. He was nearly at the edge of the pier now, and was certain that he would make it into the bay, whether or not he would be alive upon hitting the water was still up for debate, but up until this point the fledgling marksman behind him had been woefully off their game.

He had to think it…

The charged bolt might have sliced through his midsection to intersect with his heart had he not been running his insane juke-like pattern from left to right, but luckily for George he had and the beam instead pierced through the jiggly bit of fat that resided happily (up until this point at least), under his right bicep. He prayed that his sleeve was not the particular bit of his fabric that had held the information which the world needed to see, but knew there was nothing he could do about it now: he had reached the end of the pier.

He knew that it was now or never…

He had never learned to swim…

He dove into the Bay…

 

Hey there creative peeps, how’s everyone doing? So sorry that it’s been so long since I’d updated, I’ve been working a bit since the “Your Mom’s a liar” post was added (yay!), and haven’t really been home for a few days. This short story is one brief episode in the life of a couple of characters from my forthcoming novel, “Welcome to the Future”, and will have more installments added as I find the time. With any luck you’ve not only been entertained, but inspired, and if you find yourself yearning for more George, Droids, and cryptic language: subscribe, and also instantly grow an inch taller!

(*Individual results may vary*)

As always; be observant, never judgmental, and strive to create something every day!

~J

 

 

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Your Mom’s a liar!

Posted: January 25, 2011 in Uncategorized
Good creative people, look…

I’m sure your mothers are wonderful people who raised you to the best of their abilities. I’m sure that they were kind, forgiving, and loving to the nth degree. I have no doubt that they went to each and every one of your athletic events, and were undeniably the loudest ones in the crowd. For sure your mothers are great; there can be no two ways about it – but they’ve been lying to you for years.

Still, it’s not their fault. No, really. They did the best that they could with what they had to work with. The lessons that they’d taught to you had merely been passed on to them by their parents. And before you ask: NO, it’s not your grandmother’s fault either that you’ve been lied to… but she did contribute to the hereditary vitriol. Grandma was taught to raise children the same way that your mom was; through the generation before her. The same can be said for your great-grandmother, and your great-great-grandmother (who we all know was a drunk), and your great-great-great-grandmother, and so on… Surely you can see where I’m going with this – It’s a vicious cycle. What am I talking about, I hear you ask? Oh you’ll see…

Tell me, do any of these sound familiar?

“Don’t make that face or it’ll freeze in that position, “~ Mom

“Money does not grow on trees,”~ Mom

“What’s meant to be, is meant to be”~ Mom

“It doesn’t matter what you accomplish, I’ll always be proud of you”~ Mom

“If you fall out of that tree and break your leg, don’t come running to me”~ Mom

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”~ Mom

“I swear, you’d lose your head if it wasn’t screwed on.”~ Also Mom

If you’re anything like me than you’ve heard these common idioms more times than you can count (even though you can only count to twenty, and that’s only when your hands are free and your socks are off…), but now that you’re an adult, or at least consider yourself one (I don’t judge), take a fresh look. Not all of these little pearls of wisdom turned out to be as accurate as ole’ Mommy dearest would have liked, did they?

Today I would like to say in response to Mom’s everywhere: “My face will NOT freeze in that position; money IS made from trees; what’s meant to be is NOT written in stone, it’s what I decide; it DOES matter what I accomplish, and it should matter to you too; how can I RUN to you if I just BROKE my leg; you most certainly SHOULD look a gift horse in the mouth, they’re might be a bunch of angry Greeks inside!!; and finally, first off: you shouldn’t swear, and second off: I will not lose my head (at least I don’t think so… )!

Oh the humanity! The deception! The depravity! When will it end?

Today good creative people; today. With your help, we can begin to combat mommy fibbing worldwide, and it all begins with a little honesty (and possibly a donation of $9.99… Where’s Sally Struthers? Get her in here).


Honesty is a scary thing

I get that, I really do. I even empathize with those among us that are smart enough to realize this, but nevertheless prefer ambivalence (and kudos to those of you who can keep that up; that’s a full-time job). Self reflection is painful, sometimes harsh, foundation shattering even, and it certainly has the potential to rock your world. However what I find to be even more frightful than living honestly, is the alternative: a generation of people living out of touch with reality. This brings me to my next “Mom-isim”, which is arguably the most dangerous of them all…

 

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, than don’t say anything at all!” ~ Mom

 

Let’s just be quiet for a moment and let that last one sink in…

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If there’s nothing nice to say, then don’t say a thing… It’s simple, it seems full of good intent, and it’s easy to agree with.

Which is exactly why this idiom is the most dangerous of them all!

It’s like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, think about it: it certainly seems all sheepish and innocent at first, it fits in nicely with the rest of the herd (of other truth’s you have stored in your mind), and it behaves just fine… until one day – BAM! – the whole farm’s gone, and you’re left with nothing but a big steaming pile of bloody wool, *Ahem* Bull, and good look selling that bloody wool at the market.

As a creative person you must be in touch with reality to succeed. If you’re good, you’ll be marketable, and if you’re bad (regardless of how hard you work, how much you try, and how good your Mom claims that you are), you’re not. This is why honesty is paramount when it comes to creation: we need to know if we’re REALLY any good. Each one of us is far too close to the things which we create to see them through anything but rose-tinted lenses. We’re biased because we’ve worked so hard. This is why we so often seek outside help from others in our creative community. We need a dose of reality, a spattering of perspective, a dash of honesty, and “Nice” just can’t cut the cheese (seriously, who did that? That’s nasty!)

If we were to follow Mom’s insipid advice, and find only positive things to tell one another, no real work would ever get done… anywhere. Hitler would still be roaming free, the Berlin wall would have never fallen, the original Mona Lisa would still have a humongous honker, Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture’s wang would still be there (OK, bad example. Censorship=Bad), that Geico caveman show would still be on the air, Carlos Mencia would still think he’s funny, and Bush would have been elected for TWO terms (legitimately)…

Baby Dub'yah

 

Why am I writing all this?

Because today I had to suffer for their transgressions. Today, some mother, somewhere, who wasn’t honest with her kids, made me a victim to her lies. Today my taste-buds were the fallen soldiers in this war of attrition, which we fight each and every day against the dishonesty that runs rampant through our streets like a chupacabra on a goat farm when the sun’s gone down. Today I was a guest diner on a soon to be released episode of “24 Hour Restaurant battle.

Even though we weren’t told, I’m pretty sure that the theme was Deli Food, because that’s what each side of the studio had offered (for those of you who’ve never seen the show, they give two sets of entrepreneurs 24-hours to open a restaurant under a common theme, and they duke it out to see who has the best food. In the end the judges decide the victor, but they like to interview the guests anyway, and gauge our reactions on tape, to aid in the eventual dissemination of the show’s final message of who won to its viewers). I had two choices to pick from: one side had a do-it-yourself menu, which seemed to lack creativity, and the other had cute names to their food, well thought out combinations, and a whole lot of promise.

Mom, why did you lie?

It was awful! Someone should have told this person that they can’t cook a long time ago…  I had two appetizers; one was blander than a Crayola crayon smothered in Elmers glue, and the other; aside from being lackluster in its own rite, and something that my Mom (one of the good ones), makes phenomenally well, had a rather large EGGSHELL in it, which I swallowed part of, had to spit out the rest of, and which also garnered the attention of the production team – who proceeded to swarm me while I was still choking to interview me about the faux pas.

All in all I had a bad meal (I sent back both entrées for having the palatability of chewing gum more-so than pastrami/Corned beef), I was harangued through the duration of it, I nearly choked to death, and I left hungry… All because some Mom, somewhere, just had to lie to their kids…

However, despite it all, Mom does still have one good trick up her sleeve, and it’s another “Mom-isim”;

No not this one, this is another lie that the (wo)man will tell you!

 

“Honesty is the best policy”

Amen to that!

~J

In the business of creation, when’s a good time to quit?

I get it. You’ve had enough…

Enough of the rejection, enough of the unrelenting and tiresome focus, enough of the continuous and persistent  judgment, and plenty of pouring your heart onto the open page, canvas, stage, boardroom, classroom – or anywhere you create – only to be met with failure time and time again: you’ve simply had enough!

You love to create, you say it all the time, but your enemies are so clearly stacked against you – and in such greater numbers – how could you be expected to go on? You couldn’t! Surely no reasonable person would expect you to!

Wouldn’t it just be so much simpler to change professions? You could learn the stock market, or the housing market, or the exchanges, hell you could even land a part-time gig at McDonalds; anything to bring in a quick buck aside from your “passion”. You’ve thought about it long and hard, you’ve been considering it for a good while, and now you’re certain that it’s high time to throw in the towel. So now it’s time to quit right?

Right

In a situation such as this: Yes, Quit! I got you there, didn’t I? I know what you were thinking; you thought (probably because this blog is so often positive and uplifting), that i was going to tell you all, “No, don’t quit. It’s bad for your soul, it’ll ruin your life, and you’ll be infected with brain eating mites!”, aside from the fact that you will be infected with brain eating mites (Scouts honor… Don’t bother looking it up), if these are the thoughts that rule your mind on a daily basis, and they’ve been torturing you like this for a while, than why bother? I say Quit!

Do it sissy! What are you waiting for? Do it now! Why are you still reading this? Go look for work elsewhere. I’ll wait.

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Well what the hell man? I thought it was all over for you. What are you still doing here? What? What’s that you say? You’re not sure…

Well that changes everything!

Holy tartanium Batman... That's a lot of tongue

Good creative people, doubt is an essential tool of the mind. Don’t ever ignore it.

Doubt is crude form of communication between you and your brain – picture it like two cups and a string – and it gives the wrinkled organ a voice and air so that it might ask you, “Are we taking the best possible course of action here?”

If you’re developing something, anything, whether it’s a relationship (tell him already Batman), a business, a project, an idea, or heck – even a case against a certain electronics Co. for a full refund rather than a partial one (for those of you who care, the inverter I purchased to fix my computer arrived late and wrong, so I’m still working within an inch of my television monitor, and I’m not sure that my poor eyes can take much more) – so long as you’ve conducted yourself and your business in an upstanding, honorable, and truthful manner – don’t just give up and quit – REEVALUATE!

Perchance you’ve heard this saying before:

No not this one, the one below it

In any given situation there are three actions that a person can take, and if those actions were to be listed in their order of value to all parties involved, they would be; the right thing, the wrong thing, and then nothing

Notice that doing the wrong thing is listed before nothing. I would completely understand it if some of you found that to be odd, but trust me (and the quote, the quote knows all), action of any sort is far preferable to non-action. Don’t believe me? Well then let’s put this euphemism into a real life scenario for a test.

Let’s say it’s the 13th of July, and you and your best bud Bobby make plans for the 18th to go to a disco (yes it’s a 60’s example, get over it!). Bobby agrees to drive (what a sport), because you lost your license in that tragic hot air balloon incident – don’t ask. On the 16th you call Bobby to tell him that there’s a dress code, and he doesn’t answer his phone. But no biggie right? He’s probably just busy – Bobby’s a very busy guy. By the 17th however, you can’t help it but to start fretting; Bobby still hasn’t phoned you back – but he’s a good friend, and it’s likely that he’s preoccupied, so you dismiss this as too anecdotal. Now the night of the 18th rolls around, and guess what? Still no Bob-oh…

On the fateful day you’re left standing in your living room with your groovy platform shoes, your extra-wide parachute pants, your deep-deep-V (I’m talkin’ to the floor), and your groovy “Peace” emblem that dangles around your thick tuft of manly chest hair. You might look stunning – but you have no way to get to the club.

Thanks Bob

So now you tell me, which two of the three following actions would you have preferred Bob to have taken?

1- Right– He stay’s true to his word, and shows up right on time (wearing his Travolta best). He apologizes profusely for not returning your call, as his smart-phone had some crazy virus which made him phone-less while it was in for repairs. Now that he’s arrived he’s completely prepared to get his funky on.

2- Wrong– He calls you back on the 16th to tell you that he’d been mugged by a troupe of thugs dressed up like the cast of Austin Powers, and because of this he unfortunately wont be able to make it to the club for fears that he might totally freak out man.

3- Nothing– Exactly what he did: he never returned your call (even a text would have been fine Bobby, come-on!); he completely destroyed your well laid plans, and gave you no chance to make others; he in essence did nothing – well he did find a really creative way to show you that he couldn’t give two Lamb-kebab’s about you – but other than the one measly brownie point that he get’s for this (hey creativity’s creativity), he’s a complete jerk, and I personally would never call him again.

Now if you’re anything like me, or the rest of the world for that matter, you will most certainly not have chosen #3. because;

Even when we do NOTHING it’s still SOMETHING!


Think about it. When Bob choose not to phone you back he made a decision, just like when you choose to ignore that pestering prodding arthritic finger of doubt that incessantly jammed it’s spiked tip into your shoulder over-and-over across the years, you made a decision.

Reevaluation of the self is – without a doubt – one of the hardest things that can be done as a creative individual, but if you want to be creative (and the least bit successful), than you absolutely must, not only learn to deal with evaluation and critique, but to love it!

It’s how we hold a mirror to our actions and judge whether we like what we see of not. It’s the only chance that we get to change. It’s the great white hope. It’s slapping five on the black hand side. It’s cornbread, biscuits, and gravy on a Sunday morning. Seriously now, it’s our life blood, and without it, you should just quit.

That is if you actually enjoy what you do. This is what the reevaluation is all about. If you don’t like what you find when you take an honest peek inside Pandora box, then you have to either change it, or Quit. It’s as simple as that. But, if you want to claim insanity (or creativity, either way, they’re pretty much the same thing), as your state of mind, than you need to really, really…really like what it is that you do.

Even if your craft does have to take the backseat to things like a day-job, or family, or responsibility of any sort, you MUST still find the time to do what you love. It will make you a more robust person, and just plain more likable to others, if you have a rich internal life and you’ve mastered the balance of the essentials of being.

So in closing, knowing when to quit in life is vastly important. Never. You should never quit doing something that you love. The only way that it can even be put on the table in the first place is if your worried that you took up the task on dishonest grounds. And if that’s so; if you’re feeling lost and disconnected from what brought you here in the first place, don’t just quit, reevaluate. You might be surprised at what you discover. It just might be the real you.

I feel like I should say Namaste here today, but instead I’ll just close as I always do:

Good creative people – be observant, never judgemental, and as always stay creative.

~J

Good creative people, I am not a Chef.

I’ve never been to cooking school, I do not own an over-sized floppy white hat, and I positively refute the idea that every ingredient must be uttered with the inflection of its native tongue (motz-eh-relehha cheese being my one exception… I am Italian after all). That being said, I do know a thing or two about being poor. Gourmand status notwithstanding, this state of mind has led to more penny counting, and improvised meals than I’d care to admit.

However, I’ve always believed that blogs are not the socially acceptable places for modesty. If some of my tactics for keeping my head above water can help out a few of you, far be it for me to hold out the goods. So today, good creative types, I’d like to open up my kitchen to you all, and share a few tips about how your own kitchen just might be able to help you weather the poverty storm (regardless of how long this confounded recession lasts).

Plate cost

You heard me, Plate Cost. And before you ask: No, I’m not speaking about the second mortgage that your Aunt Sally took out on her home in Maui (purportedly), so that she could buy you that set of china-wear dishes and cutlery, which you’d never asked for, and that you use on a daily basis rather than the recommended once a year guideline that she’d unfairly imposed upon you when she’d given you the gift (and before you’d unwrapped it even, she’s got some gall I tell ya!). I’m talking about the cost – to your pocket – for each plate that you put on the dinner table.

Aunt Sally on her day off

Plate cost is the first and foremost factor when it comes to saving money with your meals. Are you serving each guest at your table $10 Dollars worth of food, or are you serving them $2.50 worth? With three meals a day, over a seven-day week, that $7.50 discrepancy will add up to more than $150 Dollars in your pocket, Cha-Ching!

Contrary to contemporary thought, the production of good food at home does not have to cost as much as contemporary art (really? A million dollars for three vertical stripes of red?). The average dish that grazes the tables at Casa-De-La-DiCroce costs me about $2-3 Dollars, and if you’d ever been over here for dinner ( and you soon might… more on that later), you would know that i certainly don’t skimp on the flavor. This already incredible number is amazingly diminished farther by the fact that I always find ways to incorporate left over parts of meals past into wondrous, pre-flavored, tremendously character endowed offerings/aspects in subsequent banquets.

For example:  let’s say you get a craving to serve Mac-N-Cheese for a side-dish/diner one night. Should you buy the Kraft pre-packaged brand, which will last you for one meal (and – if your anything like me – one portion), or should you purchase some pasta, cheese, and milk separately, so that you might make your own and wind up with some left over?

MAKE YOUR OWN

OK your honor, I’ll admit it: I was leading the witness. But seriously, homespun Mac-N-Cheese is $.99 cents for the noodles, plus about $.25 cents worth of cheese, another $.25 cents worth of milk, and – if you’re feeling frisky – another $.25 cents worth of butter (plus about $.03 cents worth of seasoning). So let’s see, you go my route and the cost to you is less than $2 dollars – for roughly 8-10 servings of cheesy, creamy awesomeness. Or you can go Kraft’s route, and get (what they claim is)- 2 servings, of bland, powdered sugar and cheese underwhelmedness (yes it’s a word, I’m querying Oxford to appeal it as we speak). The numbers speak for themselves creative peeps, and the flavor is only limited to your imagination, so get creative… creative peeps.

What to do with your left overs?

Well since we’re already talking about it, and because I cant read all your minds (some not all, and in response to Gary in Wisconsin: no that’s not a good idea for your leftover PB&J: put away the sandwich, and tell the dog to go lie down), let’s stick with the Mac-and-cheese example.

Oftentimes with Mac-N-Cheese I will take my left overs, one portion at a time, and mix it in with stir-fried beef (Buy in bulk quantities, separate into patties, place in freezer safe bag – being careful not to overlap – suck out the air, seal, freeze, and you now have quick burger-sized meals ready to go in a flash. Re-use the freezer bags ad infinitum; another great way to save). Beef needs almost nothing in the pan with it to cook, and takes nearly no effort at all.

Steps;

1-Place in pre hot pan

2- Salt and pepper to taste

3-Mash up with a wooden spoon, and ensure that nothing is sticking to the pan.

4-When it’s browned, it’s ready! Add to nuked left over Mac-N-cheese for a quick tasty meal.

I also enjoy adding taco seasoning to my meat to give it a good punch. I.E.; salt, cayenne pepper, ground cumin, and paprika (the basics), feel free to squeeze in a lime or lemon, toss in some steak seasoning or chicken seasoning, or even start onions in the pan before hand for extra added flavor.

How to eat out/in

Don’t let the state of your finances prevent you from indulging in the simple luxury of eating out or ordering in once in a blue-moon. There are plenty of places, that I’m sure you can find, with great prices, good portions, and ingredients that you can recycle again and again into subsequent meals. For me, It’s a local Indian place in the neighborhood called, Seva. Ordering from this amazingly tasty restaurant, which normally takes only about 1/2-hour to arrive, costs me $20 bucks, feeds me three full meals – and if you remember our plate cost talk, that’s only $7 dollars a serving – and the gratis leftovers, e.g. the mango chutney, their three sauces (sweet red, savory green herb, and yogurt white), give later meals that I cook irreplaceable, and, at least for me (remember I’m not a cook), unrepeatable flavor, which extends its life even further.

Poor Man’s cookbook

Now that we’ve talked extensively on WHY to cook at home, I would undoubtedly be bereft if I didn’t equip you with WHAT to cook at home.

This part of the blog is something that I hope to continue on writing for many posts to come. My basic idea behind it is this: I will provide you all with a recipe I’d recently used to create a cheap, delicious meal in my own kitchen. Later on (And god willing) I will have a friend of mine, who is a sous-chef at a respectable restaurant in NYC, come on the blog and “correct” my noobish mistakes, to tell you all how to turn average – into gourmet. This same person has expressed interest in writing guest blogs on the site, so in the comments below please tell me if that is something you’d all like to see in the future.

In either case, and whether or not I’m eventually joined in this exercise, I am now going to regale you all with a recipe that I’d recently concocted (and am presently eating… Yum): , which involves soup, some chicken, some spices, and a delectable turnout. (I promise to have pictures next time 🙂 )

You will need:

Protien~1-2 large Chicken breasts, thawed.

Vegetables~ 1 Large Vidalia/Spanish/White onion, a bunch of celery, 3 large carrots, 1 can of beans (optional), 1 can of corn (optional), and 3 cloves of garlic (optional).

Spices~ 2Tbsp Ground cumin, 2Tsp Paprika powder(the smokier smelling, the better), 2Tsp Ground Coriander, 1Tsp sea-salt, 1Tsp black ground pepper, 1Tsp cayenne pepper (optional as substitute or in addition to black pepper).

Also~3Tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive oil.

Preparation:

Start by heating a large pot (that has a matching lid) on your stove over high heat. Once the pot is hot, add 1Tbsp of Oil.

Meanwhile: Slice the onion, celery, and carrots into similarly sized pieces (no need to be professional here, just make sure that they’re small enough to get on a spoon later on), mince the garlic (cut this up too – just very small), and open the corn and beans, placing them to the side and out of the way.

By now: the oil in the pan should be hot, and you can lightly salt the outside of your chicken breast(s), and drop them in the oil, turning after 1-2 minutes on each side (you want it to brown a little bit in the bottom of the pan). Once this is completed, remove the chicken, and place it aside to rest, leaving the remaining  juices in the pot.

Now you should Take the other 2Tbsp of oil and add it to the pot.

Once the oil is up to temperature (slightly smokey), lower your heat to medium-low, add your onions, carrots, and celery, and cook them until they are translucent, around 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally (just so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan).

Once this is done, add the garlic for about 1 min (until you smell it), then add in all the spices, stirring them to coat all the veggies in the pan.

Once everything is gelling nicely, and the kitchen smells awesome, add back in the chicken breasts, fill the pot with water until it covers them in the pan (maybe more if you want, this liquid will be your soup), pop on a lid, and wait 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes has passed, remove the chicken and let it rest for at least 10 minutes (if you cut it open before then all its juices will run out), meanwhile add the beans and corn to the stew, and stir up the fixin’s from the bottom, replacing the lid when you are finished.

Take 2 forks and “pull” the chicken, using one to hold, and the other to shred it, until you have a nice cutting board full of tender delicious chicken tidbits. Once this step is completed, add the chicken bits back to the pot, and let everything simmer on low… as long as you want. The longer you cook, the more intense of a flavor you will get.

And then…

Be creative (it’s what you do best!). Feel free to heat up the fruit of your labors as a soup, use the liquid to flavor other dinners (as stock), or even to scoop out only the fixin’s to make taco’s. In the world of cooking, there are no rules, and the sooner you start experimenting, the sooner you will get the hang of it.

At the end of the day, “Poor”, and “Rich”, are merely states of mind. Always remember that your reality is only ever limited to your imagination, ingenuity, and proactivity.

That’s all for today folks. Come around again soon and hopefully we will have some great guest writers for you (fitness, health, and cooking are lined up so far), as well as the usual fun inspiring brain fodder you’ve come to know and love.

Now get in that kitchen and whip me up something nice (and cheap!)!

~J

Hey there creative peeps.

What’s the happy-happs? (<-Donald Faison from Scrubs… Turk… Turkelton? No? no-one? Scrubs was a good show dangit! Ugh! Just TiVo it.) I Hope this post finds everyone well, in good health – and preferably not looking like the frozen Popsicle stick I myself had resembled after a recent grueling walk through our latest New England snowstorm. If you’ve not gone out there yet, you’re lucky. Stay inside and be creative, trust me on this one – it’s hostile out there – Burr!Anywho… I figured, being that this is our special 17th anniversary post  and all – yes I remembered, and I bought you a star in the sky for a gift (It’s the bright one, like practically at your zenith, look it up) – that I should break format a little bit today, and slide you a special slice of life, directly from my own kitchen, right on across the table to where you’re sitting. Be warned, it’s lemon-meringue; bitter at first, but ends on a sweet note – just wait for it.

Good creative people, as this blog evolves – as all good things must do if they plan to stay on top of their respective game – I will undoubtedly run out of inspiring quotes, fancy pictures, and timely videos. That inspirational side of me is not easily exhausted, but, well… what can I say? It happens. It’s simply the nature of the beast. You can only give, so long as you have something of value in your possession. As much as it sucks: Life, and the subsequent living of it (at least as it pertains to the exposure of things which might inspire), unfortunately comes with a price tag.

Some days, like today, I will find myself simply defunct of the very empowering foodstuffs that I normally have in ample reserve. Some days the words I attempt to regale all you with, so that you may nurture your own creative ideas, and ideals – in hopes that we all might grow as a community – simply called out sick to work (and it was totally a fake cough when they phoned). Some days, I get down. Some days I run out of luck. Good creative people, today was that day…

Today started out just like any other. I had done the MLK post the day before in honor of the holiday (and a great man of the past), so I didn’t have to worry about churning out a blog. I had a promising interview lined up, to be in a forthcoming film (which legally I can’t name), that would seriously help my hemorrhaging bank account, biding me enough time to perfect the edits on my premier novel, submit it to publishers, and start a wondrous fresh new journey in another creative aspect of my life.

So it was that I walked to Kaufman Astoria studios with high hopes this morning, wearing a suit too thin for the weather (and showing up looking like that Popsicle I mentioned earlier), to stand in a room alongside a good hundred or so of similarly looking individuals, only to be told at the end of the day… that I didn’t get the job. Great.

But wait, it get’s better.

After walking home through equally abhorrent conditions (where the cheap $2.50 umbrella that I had purchased – not but three hours prior – turned inside out on me and blew away to become one of the elusive NYC tumbleweeds), having come from not getting the job that would be my financial saving grace, I arrive at my warm apartment in solemn hopes of saving the day by spending the rest of the afternoon draining a pot of coffee, working on the 2nd Novel in my series, and intermittently (when I get burnt out), taking breaks to polish my query, ladder pitch, and synopses – 3pg and 5pg alike… So I sit down to my trusty computer, with a sentence or two held at bay, raise the lid, thinking up a new promising plotline, wiggle the mouse, and consider ordering some food to keep me, and I’m greeted to… Nothing. A blank screen.

Huh??

I close the lid again, wait for it to fall asleep, raise it once more (aren’t I an expert troubleshooter?), and, once again… nothing. A quick check on my cellphone’s internet informs me that I have a bad inverter; something like a $200 fix at a repair shop. I can’t afford that. Seems like misfortune’s catching these days (did I mention that the day before my heat just stopped working? It came back today inexplicably. Cant wait for that one to come back around and bite me in the…). A little more snooping around the ole’ interwebs, and i discover that the part I need can be had for only $8 dollars, so long as I do the delicate labor myself. Oh and I might destroy my LCD if I’m not careful. Wonderful. The part wont arrive for 3-5 business days (wish me luck), so now I cant even work for that long. Glorious!

All I wanted to do was curl up into a little ball and die. I can’t afford the installation of an inverter at a shop, much less a new laptop if I botch the job while doing it myself. Speaking of jobs – I need one – lest I go completely broke and end up running this blog out of a Starbucks. I want to start submitting my book to publishers, which might eventually bring in some revenue, but I have some important edits that need to be done first (I have to make the best impression possible), and currently the thing is out to pasture, in the delicate hands of friends and family ranchers, who will, after tending to the beast, tell me all about how it behaves, so that I might flog it into shape accordingly. At this point I knew, despite my overactive brain’s fearsome denial of the fact, that my most prudent course of action; was to wait.I have to wait the 3-5 days for the part before I can continue working on my writing. I have to wait for my friends and family to complete a sci/fi book that I wrote (no pressure or anything…), before I finish editing, and submit it to a publisher. I have to wait to hear back from another job I went out for, to see if i got the part, so I might be able to pay my rent. I have to wait and see when my heat will crap out again. I have to wait, I have to wait, I have to wait…. It’s enough to drive a guy mad!

As if this all weren’t enough to be concerned over, my brilliant mind thought that now might be a good time to flood my every waking thought with the promise of failure. The dastardly creeping fears of uncertainty worked their way into my brain like a sly vampire hell-bent on sucking me dry (we spoke about this once, didn’t we?), and before long had me convinced that: my life had been a waste, I had been traveling down the wrong road all along, and that, most likely, I would have had a more promising career in life had I merely chosen to be the guy who scrapes barnacles from the sides of boats. I still knew where I wanted to end up in life, and was/am working hard to get to that foregone conclusion, but it’s all this stuff in the middle that’s getting me down! How can I ever hope to get where I’m going with so many obstacles in the way?

This is why I love family

It was at this point that my phone rang. It was my Uncle Steven. He’d started reading the book. He likes it so far. He tells me that my style reminds him of Douglas Adams; the author of the wonderful Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy trilogy (hello boost to ego, nice to make your acquaintance), which are great reads – all 5 of them (yes there are five books in his trilogy). He want’s to know how I’m doing. “Well”, I tell him, knowing full well that I’m about to hit him with an airliner full of baggage, “I’m broke, I lost a 5 day job to an interview – which I didn’t land – my heat’s out, my computers messed up, I ruined my dress shoes by walking in the snow, and, as I was trying to resolve some plot points in my new novel, I hit a complete brick wall – I know where it ends, but i have no idea how I can get there.”

There was a pause on the other end of the line.

All i could think was: Oh god, I’ve killed him with my contagious depression. Then, rather than feeding me the customary, “Don’t worry, it’ll be alright’s”, or, “the night is always darkest before the dawn’s” (neither of which would have been the least bit of help to me), he simply says, “Write the end of your story”.

“I read a lot of fiction,” he says, “and if I like an author I read about them too. Oftentimes I hear that authors know where they’re headed with a plot, and they certainly know where they currently are, but have no idea how to fill the gaps in the middle to get them to where they need to be. So, my advice to you, is to write the end of your story, and the rest will find its own way to happen.”

Then it struck me. My uncle was right. I had to write the end of my story.

It was so simple, so obvious: write the end, and fill in the gaps later. Duh. Just make sure that you know where you’re headed, and eventually you’ll find your way there. Wow… I had been weak. I hadn’t been thinking clearly. I had obviously let my emotions get the best of me, and now i knew them for what they were: emotions, nothing more.

There will be work. Whether I have to get a waitering job, or scrape barnacles: I will find a way to pay rent. The computer will be fine (right now I have it hooked up to a tv so that I can continue to create), and if it’s not, I’ll work at a library. The heat will warm the house, or it wont, there’s always throw blankets and bathrobes. All these minute issues had added up to become the sum of all their implicit nuances combined: I.E. a fearsome thing. But, in the end, they meant next to nothing, and it would be a severe waste of time to dote on them. Even though they were (and are) legitimate fears, which have to be handled, I couldn’t let them dominate my attention. I had to find a way to get past them, if ever I wanted to get back on track toward achieving my goals.

Good creative types, I think that sometimes – when life get’s particularly overwhelming, when we feel helpless, when we feel lost, like I did today – that it’s all to easy to keel over and give up. To throw in the towel. To raise the white flag. Problem is, the only person that’s suffers from this loss in the end… Is you. This is why it’s so important to always bear in mind the end’s to our own stories. For how can we ever expect to get where we’re going, if we don’t know where we’re headed?

We can’t

Today good creative people, might be a rough day. Things might not have turned out quite as you’d expected. Maybe it’s your power that’s out, perhaps your dog had a mishap on the new white carpet, or, possibly, your daughter came home with a tattoo. Today it just might feel like the world is plotting against you. Like what you’re creating doesn’t matter – or never did – and neither do you. Today, you might be convinced that you’d never had an ice cubes chance in hell to succeed in the first place…

Well today – creative types across the globe – I’m here to tell you all: you do have a chance, you do matter, and what you’re working on is worthwhile.

Heck, giving up is easy. Lots of people can do that. But working through issues, hardships, and misfortune: these are things that only a select few will have the fortitude to be able to overcome. These obstacles are, and will always be, the tests that creative people need to pass if they ever expect to achieve in life.

Be the achiever. Succeed. Find a way.

As for me; I’m still working despite it all, I’m still waiting for that inverter to come in the mail, and I’m still holding my breath till I hear some feedback from my friends and loved ones about my novel – but I’m not quitting. That would just be too easy.

If anyone has a good story about a way in which they triumphed over the hardships of life to succeed, that would be a nice thing to share with the class 🙂

As always be observant, never judgemental, stay creative, and never give up good people. I promise you I wont. See you at the top 🙂

~J

Hello Creative people!

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

Today we celebrate the life of one of the worlds greatest children by honoring him on around his birthday (it was the 15th, but we celebrate on the 3rd Monday of every Jan out of convenience). King was a great man of color who indeed saw the harsh shades that divided our world, but, in a time when it would have been all to easy to choose a side, decided that he would make a stand – nonviolently – for all humanity.

Indeed the very quest for equality and civil rights in America, for people of all ethnicities (a quest which survives to this very day), can find its roots buried deep in the fertile soil of Dr.Kings actions throughout life. So – needless to say – as far as this blog is concerned, I can think of no better person to honor; for his beautiful vision of man-kinds collective peaceful future, his steadfast resiliency in the face of extreme opposition in the past, and his contagious creativity which inspires even today (heck, it inspired me to write this very blog), than the late, great, Dr.Martin Luther King.

“Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better” ~Dr.Martin Luther King Jr.

Can you feel it good creative types? You should. He’s talking to you. I’ve always known that the road to happiness (for more on that see yesterday’s blog), is paved by creativity, and traveled along by means of the subsequent expression of it. So it only stands to reason that when you dedicate yourself to something as noble as creativity, you will, almost always, find a way to better the world. Dr.King did. Often. On many occasions Dr.King stood up for what he believed in. Not with knives, or guns, or high-tech sharks with frickin’ lasers on their heads, but rather, with his words, and with his creativity.

“Human Salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted” ~ MLK

Now if that one doesn’t just plumb speak so near and dear to my crazy creative soul, than I can’t figure what ever would. He’s talking here to those of us who sometimes – just don’t get it. Traditional society that is. I myself, am guilty of the crime. I’m about to get personal here good creative people, you might want to get that mouse-a-hovering over that little “X” up at the top right side of the screen before I say this… I, as odd as this may seem to some of you, am that rare breed of man – the sasquash if you will, or nessie – who doesn’t get involved with sports.

I KNOW! Crazy right? I just don’t. They don’t hold my interest. Never have. I can play sports; now that’s great fun. I even wrestled for a good number of years, and I’m a huge advocate of that. I just can’t seem to get absorbed in them like so many of my friends and family can. If I were being honest with myself; I probably rationalize the situation too much. I cant figure out why I would ever want to dedicate so much of my time and effort into learning something that has no real standing on an intellectual level (not to mention something that changes every season)… So I simply don’t. When i try, at a friend’s place or on festive occasions, I find myself longing for the computer in the back room, where I can learn something, enrich myself, and grow as a person.

Some would say I’m maladjusted. As a matter of fact, all throughout my life, they have. But do I care? Heck no. I would say (and I do), that it frees up more of my time to work on my creative endeavors. I don’t need to feel like one of the gang to survive, i don’t need to feel like i belong – I know that I’m one of the gang, and that I’m valuable, I know that i belong, and that, as they say, is that. Dr. King knows what I’m talking about :).

Good people of creativity, embrace your differences: in the end it’s what makes your perspective, and your condition, something that’s worthy of sharing. Dr.King could have let the shade of his skin define who he was, a definition that he had no chance to change at the time, but he refused to be defined, he refused to be lumped into an “everybody else category”, and I don’t care if your Black, White, Asian, Spanish, European, Samoan, or purple with yellow polka-dots, that’s a message that’s worth your time to heed, and incorporate into your day-to-day life.

As always my awesome creative following, stay happy, stay healthy, stay different, and be you. At the end of the day, your creativity, and unique nature will be what defines you, and, if you’ve done your job, that will be the best legacy you could ever hope for.

Check out Jay Smooth’s 2008 dedication video to Dr.King below for more inspiring King Quotes, and remember to subscribe to the blog so that you always know when a new post has come out. You can also check out Jay Smooth’s website (as I’ve got to give his video some of the credit for my inspiration to write this blog today), and he can be found @ www.illdoctrine.com. The guy does good work, and you should check him out.

Anyway, that’s all from me today. If you have any traits that make you stand out from the crowd, please share them with the class in the comments below.

Happy MLK day!

~J

Happiness

Posted: January 17, 2011 in Creative Inspiration
Tags: , , , , ,
Good morning good creative people,

Today I would like to speak with you all about happiness


Is seems to me that happiness is quite the popular buzzword these days: Feeling down? It’s not your fault! Take this pill and finally be happy! Need to lose some weight? Is it effecting your mood? Well not to worry – it’s got nothing to do with you – simply try weight watchers, and feel happy again in weeks – guaranteed or your money back! Coffee should perk you right up out of your slump and make you happy all over again, remember, America runs on Dunkin’! Grab some McDonalds french fries – happiness awaits – *ba da da da daaaa! Cheerios, be happy be healthy! Sound familiar? Are we really to believe that are the these we need to make us happy?

Don’t be a sucker

“Happiness does not come about only due to external circumstances; it mainly derives from inner attitudes”

~ The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet~

Picked up that little pearl of wisdom on the Dalai Lama’s twitter (I know i couldn’t believe he had a twitter account either), and let me tell you good creative people, he’s right.

The fact of the matter is, our bodies are very complex and highly sophisticated things. When you feel depressed, or fat, or tired, or hungry, or lazy, or anything that seems… less than perfect, don’t panic (and step away from the french fries), your body is merely trying to send you a message.

This is a good thing

It is, even though the mainstream media has programmed us to believe otherwise. In America today, we seem to have developed a standard of perfection; a gauge, if you will, that clearly points out what it means to be “normal”, or, “Happy“, and, well… everything else. To ensure that we are Happy 24/7 we will routinely pump our bodies full of pills, or feed ourselves with god-awful fuel, we will go to any seminar, take any class, and just generally blame every-which-one but ourselves! This is madness!

I’m not quite sure how this condition has come about, where we’ve created a standard for ourselves to live up to, but it’s completely unrealistic, and wholly unsustainable for long periods of time. The first thing we need to do in order to break this longstanding spell that has been cast on us all, is to accept that – sometimes – we will be less than fresh (is it just me, or does that sound like an advertisement for a… down there product?). Let me rephrase.

To be human, and to grow toward being truly Happy with our lives, and how we live them, we first must learn to live with the full gambit of our human emotions. Love, hate, envy, lust, fear, trepidation, insecurity and the like, are all essential parts of what it means to be a member of the species – get used to it.

Embrace it. Learn from it. React to it.

These delicate emotions are NEVER things to be medicated away; the proverbial equivalent to sweeping them under the rug. Do you think that “medicine” makes these emotions go away? No. Never. Illogical. When you do this, when you ignore the signs that your psyche is feeding you, signs that if heeded can lead you to a better, happier place, you forfeit the very thing that can help you make the change. Worse yet is that these emotions, when ignored, will always – without fail – come back to haunt you (and I don’t know about you, but I sure can’t afford a shrink in this economy).

“The Journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step.”

~Lao Tzu

I got that one off the “N” train yesterday on my way into the city. Basically, the message that I’m trying to impart onto you, good creative types, along with the help of my buddies Dal’ and Tzu’ (we’re a crew now, we chill like… all the time), is that sometimes, being happy starts with a change.

Depression might be an indication that something’s wrong. Your not unhappy because you have some chemical imbalance (regardless of what some doctors might tell you), or because your neighbor has a nicer car then you, you are likely longing – whether you know it or not – for something else. Something inner. Intellectual perhaps.

Ask yourself the hard questions. What are your passions? What do you want to do, who do you want to be, and how can you take the first step on your journey towards getting there. Today theses are the questions I would like you all to start asking yourselves. But be prepared, as oftentimes when we are honest with ourselves – especially in the beginning –  it means that we’re in for a big change. That’s OK, my friend Lao Tzu has something else to say on that subject.

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading”

~Lao Tzu

I tell you, that Tzu’… he’s one smart cookie.

As always creative people, be observant, never judgmental, and always strive to reach for the stars. The only person who can hold you back, is the person who’s at the steering wheel. Who’s driving you?

 

If anyone has recently made any big changes toward living a happier, healthier life, please share with the class in the comments below. We all love a good pick me up, and will surely rally behind the cause if at all possible. Be well.

~J