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josephrileyland’s 20questions, june 2010

June 29, 2010

my life

I’m working. A lot. And that’s a good thing. Thank you, Pollen Nation, Billie’s Black and the people who use me for graphic design/writing/etc. I appreciate you. So does my landlord. The greeting card line is developing quite nicely, with new designs coming soon. If you know of a cute boutique in your neighborhood that might want be interested in selling them, please let me know. I also have branched out into custom-designed wedding invitations, doing everything from the RSVP cards to the menu cards for the tables to the thank you notes. So, if you’re getting married or having an event that requires such work, let me know. Also, there’s a new line of tees coming to my closet and possibly yours – sofaWEAR. Check them out.

sample wedding invitation

sample: birthday

sample: birthday

Hmm… after reading the above paragraph, I see that I’ve been a busy guy. No wonder I’m sleepy.

josephrileyland’s 20questions

1. Remote controls hold two. Flashlights might hold four. Rarely do you ever need six at the same time… so why do batteries only come in 12-24 increment packages? Especially if they want to claim to be long lasting.

2. If you get money for helping snare one of America’s Most Wanted, are they going to charge you taxes on it?

3. I fully support Oprah’s No Phone Zone pledge… but do you really think O drives? I saw Oprah and Gayle’s Big Adventure.

4. Why do people send you a message to call them, and then not answer the phone when you do? Didn’t they JUST tell me to call?

5. Someone told me that they couldn’t get into soccer because it lasts so long and they don’t have the attention span to stay with it, but I really wonder… have they ever watched baseball? That is one boring sport. Sorry, Richard Douglas, C.J; just sharing my opinion.

6. Don’t you hate it when, while you are a good cook, absolutely nothing appeals to you – and you’re hungry?

7. Hot in Cleveland debuted to the biggest ratings ever for TV Land. Do you think Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendy Malick love Betty White for bringing the audience or hate her for stealing the show?

8. Does anyone else hate the Blackberry Storm like I do?

9. Whether you love, loath or are indifferent to the series, wasn’t the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy a series edge-of-your-seat thriller? Okay, the shooting spree went on for too long, but the scene when the killer pulled Bailey from under the bed makes me forgive. My heart was in my throat.

10. Who else is excited about the Leonardo DiCaprio/Christopher Nolan movie Inception (in theaters, July 16) not only because it looks cool, but also because the entire movie isn’t shown in the trailer?

11. Has there ever been an ensemble as confusing, yet enticing as the basketball jersey-dress and jeans with a white… du-rag/turban-esque head wrap with a fedora worn by True Blood’s resident fashionista, Lafayette?

12. Speaking of Lafayette, don’t you love him, despite his inability to conjugate verbs?

13. Has anyone else realized it’s worth watching (ie – fast-forwarding through the first 40 minutes) Mo’Nique’s show just to get to the musical guest part? With artists such as Sy Smith, Leela James, Janelle Monae, Lalah Hathaway, Van Hunt, Jill Scott, Raheem DeVaughn, N’Dambi, Alyson Williams, and a whole host of others, Mo’s impressed me.

14. In response to my list of possible additions to the Real Housewives franchise, Emily wants to see The Real Cabana Boys. That’s fair. Have you seen Omarosa’s new show? There are some cabana-quality guys on there.

15. Does it make any sense at all that all of the good foodie shows – Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, Who Wants to Be the Next Food Network Star* (Aar-ti! Aar-ti! Aarti!) – are aired in the summer, traditionally a time in which people try to eat less? Even the NASFT’s Fancy Food Show convention is held in June. What gives?

16. What in the hell is up with that annoying-ass Kia commercial with hip hop rats? I hate it. PS – I know they’re hamsters and not rats. But, they’re annoying enough to call them rats. PSS – Yes, the cursing was necessary.

17. Is there a better late-night fix for the munchies than a bowl of Waffle Crisp cereal?

18. With authors like Jennifer Egan publishing powerful books like A Visit From the Goon Squad, is there a chance that people might one day fall in love with reading again?

19. With Coca-Cola’s decision to reintroduce Mello Yello outside of it’s foothold in the South (and what appears to be a warm welcome), should we anticipate other oldies – like Cheerwine, RC Cola, Nehi Grape, Sun Drop… – to come out of the Carbonated Beverage Witness Protection Program?

20. With The New Adventures of Old Christine being unceremoniously dumped by both CBS and ABC last month, is it time to say goodbye? A few classic moments:



* I know the name of the show is The Next Food Network Star, but my version is better.

unpaid commercial break

Sy Smith, onstage

“Welcome to (welcome you), welcome to (welcome you), welcome to cyberspace…” So begins Sy Smith’s second album, The Syberspace Social. If you don’t have it, run to Moods Music if you’re in ATL, go to Amoeba Music if you’re in Cali, head to Kemp Mill if you’re in DMV and if you’re in NYC, you’re options have dimmed since I lost the space for MY record store (cross your fingers, cross your toes, throw up a prayer and chant a few nam-myo-renge-kyos for me that something positive happens on that front soon). You can also find her on CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes. While you’re there, snag her follow-up album, Conflict. If you haven’t heard Sy’s music, and you haven’t read my love letter to her, then you need to do both. Sy’s albums are in heavy rotation for a reason – good melodies, great lyrics, catchy hooks, superb production… I think you get the idea. Now, go get the CDs.

yum.

Lemonade – It’s summer and it’s hot. Very hot. What better way to cool off than a nice glass of ice-cold lemonade? The sugary-tart combination always refreshes me. It is the ideal beverage to have in-hand as I sit on the stoop, watching life walk by… (or, when I lived in the South, on the porch, watching… not a lot, but I loved that too). Make your own; don’t waste time with a mix, which never tastes as good anyway. Go to the market, get 8 lemons, squeeze the juice out of them, add some sugar and fill with water. That should make a gallon, which sounds like a lot, but you’ll drink it. It wouldn’t hurt to throw some smashed up raspberries in there. Or, blend up a couple of peaches and toss them in. For some reason, my NYC friends think that’s country. I think it’s gourmet.

EMW (right), after finding Chikezie and Melinda Doolittle from American Idol

A veritable Human Google, Emily McWhorter Williams can find anything. And when I type anything, I mean any thing. I post on Facebook that I’m looking for a rabid monkey with enough etiquette for a little girl’s tea party, and she comes back in 3 minutes with links to a monkey’s website. I say that I need a 6 foot tall lesbian housewife with electric blue extensions who can hotwire a car and samba dance while speaking Vietnamese to Floridians in the middle of the Everglades, she finds me one. And do you really understand how hard it is to find a 6 foot tall lesbian housewife with electric blue extensions who can hotwire a car and samba dance while speaking Vietnamese to Floridians in the middle of the Everglades? If you don’t know her, learn her. I just gave you her name; look her up on Facebook and friend her.

on the sofa

an interview with super-principal Kelly Johnson

Kelly Johnson has principles. This is evidenced in how she carries herself, how she speaks, how she lives her life. Kelly and I have a mutual friend, Adriane, who owns Harlem’s best soul food restaurant, Billie’s Black, where Kelly and I have run into each other fairly often over the past few years. Recently, I started picking up shifts and I realized that not only does Kelly come and support the restaurant, she also lends a serious hand to making sure things run smoothly on any given busy night. Kelly starts off on a barstool at the end of the bar, a plate of beef ribs and Billie’s famous You Wrong For That! Mac and Cheese® in front of her. By the middle of the evening, she’s getting customers glasses of water, wiping down tables, delivering dirty dishes to the back, and helping provide the structure that helps Billie’s pull through a dinner service.

That’s how I have known Kelly. Upon learning more, I realize how my scope was both wildly inaccurate and decidedly on point. Kelly is so much more than the lady who helps Billie’s get through a night, but the strength she displays and way in which she firmly takes charge comes directly from who she is in her day life. And who is that? Kelly Johnson is the principal of The Baccalaureate School of Global Education in Astoria, Queens, New York. She was hired as the assistant principal when the school first opened and held that position for five years before becoming the principal in February 2007.

Kelly and I had a conversation last week about the school and how it has evolved into such an academic powerhouse. For the 2009-2010 school year, US News ranked the institution at #35 in the United States and #1 in New York of all public high schools. Placing students in schools such as Sarah Lawrence, NYU, Columbia, Emory, American, Pace, Rutgers, Howard, Vassar, and so forth, is no small feat. Add in the fact that the average class falls somewhere between 60 and 70 and you see why college admissions staff members come calling in droves.

Some excerpts from my conversation with Kelly:

joseph riley land: Congratulations!
Kelly Johnson: Thank you, thank you… but it is the kids. They work so hard.

jrl: So is this a magnate school?
KJ: No, this is a very mixed school – academically, ethnically, economically – with an extremely diverse student body. We just have a challenging curriculum that encourages our students to push themselves harder most of their peers. This school is not a magnate school, not a charter school. The students aren’t taking AP classes, like many high schools offer. We don’t go through and select the crème de la crème of our students and give them a heavier course load. Instead, everyone takes these courses.

jrl: Everyone takes the courses?
KJ: Everyone takes the courses. Our juniors and seniors delve in deeply, with a very rigorous approach: they take philosophy courses, community action (with a required 150 hours of service, literature, foreign language (where they are tested for verbal, phonetically and written), mathematics, advanced sciences, history of the Americas and art.

jrl: No sports?
KJ: We do have sports, but it is a small program. Our focus is academics

jrl: It sounds very “liberal arts.”
KJ: It is.

jrl: And what about testing? Are the tests just as rigorous?
KJ: Yes. Actually, we have comprehensive exams at the end of each semester that last up to 6 hours per course. If they score high enough, they pass. If not, they don’t. But for me it isn’t about passing or failing: it’s about the journey. They are learning the whole time.

jrl: Do the get college credit?
KJ: Some do. The students who pass the comps often will get a full year of credit. Some who don’t pass still get up to six months of credit just because the schools recognize how hard our program is.

jrl: What kind of support do you get from the parents?
KJ: They are amazing. Again, you need to understand that this is such a diverse group of students. The fact that their parents are pretty much all on the same page with our direction is really impressive. An example: in this past year, I had a student who took on abortion as her art project. Her work was graphic, yet amazing pieces of art. I knew that it needed to be a part of the art show, but I decided to bring it to the parents’ committee. They immediately said to include it. They were so supportive of this students’ expression of her beliefs. I really appreciate my parents.

As Kelly is talking, her face lights up and eyes brim with tears. It’s clear that she has a serious connection with her students. Obviously they mean a lot to her and have talking about them has affected her greatly. It’s beautiful. And with that, I let her go back to her dinner.

on the stove

In honor of the World Cup’s host nation, I called my good friend (and recently announced member of The Clinton School’s Class of 2012) Nicky Hamilton for a recipe. Hamilton, who hails from Johannesburg, has cooked many a meal for me with dishes that embrace the flavor profiles of her native South Africa. One, in particular, her chicken biryani, is so good that it the first thing I thought of when I cooked up the idea to include an African dish was Nicky’s biryani. I remember Nicky making me eat it with my fingers, telling me that that’s the way they do it in SA. I also remember me thinking that she was crazy and just didn’t want to wash the flatware.

Nicky called me with the recipe, starting the conversation with, “ Do I have to give you measurements? You know I don’t do those.” With that, you’re really getting a list of ingredients, but you’re intelligent folks; I’m sure you can figure out what to do with them.

Chicken
Saffron
Unflavored Yogurt
Diced onion
Fresh garlic, grated
Fresh ginger, grated
Turmeric
Cumin
Masala
Coriander
Cinnamon Sticks
Cardamom Pods
Salt
Mint
Cilantro
Lentils
Frozen Green Peas
Water
Olive Oil
Basmati Rice
Potatoes

Looks intimidating, huh? It is. You’ll be fine. Now, some of the ingredients are a little harder to find than others. Whole Foods should have them. Or, the farmer’s market often will as well.

Coat the chicken in the yogurt. I recommend boneless skinless breasts because that sounds easier. Add the saffron, onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cumin, masala, coriander, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods and salt. Let it marinate for a long, long time. Watch a movie. Have a snack. Then, come back to it. Cook the chicken in a hot pan, adding the mint and cilantro at the end. You will also add about a cup and a half of water to thin out the mixture as it cooks.

Cook the rice. Add the frozen peas just before it finishes. Set aside. Cook the lentils. Mix with the rice. Set aside. Cube the potatoes and fry. Set aside.

Layer the rice mixed with lentils and peas with the chicken mixture, like a lasagna. top off with the fried cubed potatoes. Bake for 20 minutes at 300 degrees. Cool. Eat. With your fingers.

repeat

I debated back and forth about using this quote… but the entire concept of the quote section is something that you heard someone say that you feel must be repeated. And, this one deserves repeating. It’s catchy. It’s dirty. It offends. But… more importantly, it completely fit when John Goodman‘s Creighton Bernette from Treme – who is slowly going through Post Traumatic Stress Disorder without really realizing it – starts railing against, well everybody, and screams out, “Fuck you, you fucking fucks.” It was a cry for help. Would he have committed suicide had someone caught what was happening? Is there a more succinct way of expressing the desperation he had inside of him? I didn’t want to use it because I was afraid I would offend, but I realized that the writers for Treme wrote those words for a reason, and it wasn’t to offend nor shock. They were meant to wake us up.

until next time…
lovepeace&chickengrease –
jrl

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Emily Williams permalink
    June 29, 2010 9:34 PM

    Awww….I’m feelin’ the love!! BTW, I did have a clawfoot tub, but it was in Alabama. 😦

  2. June 30, 2010 8:31 AM

    Ha! My parents have one too. In Tennessee.
    And you felt the love cos I feel it.
    Thank you mama!

  3. July 5, 2010 3:27 PM

    Great to meet you, Kelly Johnson. Bravo–you walk the walk in the highest profession and know how to be a good friend and eat well. What more is there to living? And Joseph is your friend. Lucky lady.

    Thanks for the Chicken Biryani recipe, Nikki. Do you toast any of those spices at some point?

    Joseph–an excellent piece. Put up Pollen Nation pics.

    • July 5, 2010 3:49 PM

      Dr. Kolka – “What more is there to living?” sounds exactly like you. I will check with Nicky about the spices. You can tell that the recipe was an over-the-phone, scribble-what-you-can attempt. The final result, though, is fabulous.
      I will post a few Pollen Nation pictures, however, we do not publish our work very often.
      I knew you would approve of the Kelly Johnson piece. =)

    • July 5, 2010 9:56 PM

      Nicky says the masala is toasted. … and that you can get a Biryani mix at the Indian store. who knew? what about Penzey’s?

  4. kathy guthrie permalink
    July 6, 2010 11:15 AM

    Sure great to read your 20 questions sounds like things are going well, like Sandra I appreciate the new chicken dish. Hope you come to Atlanta to visit, remember the Inn is always open for your stay Wishing you a great rest of the summer.

    • July 6, 2010 11:25 AM

      Awwwww…. I miss the Guthrie Inn. We always have the best food there… and the pillows are amazing! It’s funny. I associate summer with salad at your house. I add Basil to every salad I eat now. AND…. oh, and Sandra doesn’t know this yet either – are you reading Kolka? – i am now, officially, Italian. yeah, one of my distant cousins traced my great great grandmother’s roots to Italy. We all knew it was the case, but now we have proof!

      Thanks for continuing to read… I appreciate the support.

  5. Ashley permalink
    July 6, 2010 4:50 PM

    *loves* 20 questions

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