Parable of the Talents

I do not seek out Science Fiction books but did love Station Eleven. My son or daughter told me to read Parable of the Sower a few years ago. They both read it in college. I read Parable of the Sower and Kindred, both by Octavia E. Butler, perhaps one of the best Science Fiction writers of all time. She was the first Science Fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship and a multiple-time winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Both of those books are outstanding and relevant today.

My brother, whose kids also go and just graduated from Wesleyan, asked me if I had read Parable of the Talents, the sequel to Parable of the Sower. I hadn’t, and he said I must read it…and so I did.

Written in 2012, she saw the future. There are climate issues, a Trump-like President, a Christian Right, and except that the return to Hitler-like camps now exists in the US and Alaska succeeding, plenty if almost believable that it could happen, and perhaps some have.

I took this screenshot of the book. Does the first paragraph sound a bit familiar? This guy also keeps saying, “make America great again.” Ends up not so great.

Highly recommend the read.

Graduation

We went to our niece’s Wesleyan graduation this past weekend. We are long Wesleyan in our family.

College graduation is an incredible rite of passage. It is a significant turning point. You just spent four years of your life going through massive change. You have been on your own, met a whole new group of people who chose the same college experience, expanded your mind, and are ready to enter adulthood.

The graduates in my niece’s class spent two years living through covid as students—lots of rules and regulations to not getting sick. Socialization was a different ball game. Now, these young adults are entering a world that is in massive change. We could say that about countless graduating classes who entered the world during other crises, but somehow this one feels very different.

What these graduates of 2022 do, where they go, and how they embrace the world will be worth watching.

Food Stamps

Freelance is on the rise in every industry. Companies are getting out of the business of paying for full-time people. They do not want to pay for healthcare or any over costs of having full-time employees.

When I think about food stamps, I assume it is more prevalent in underserved communities. Wrong. Professors who are not tenured and artists whose work is in major museums such as MOMA are all on food stamps. Think about how much money has been raised to build a state-of-the-art building for educational coffers, but their adjunct professors are on food stamps. Artists who have works in top museum collections only get paid once for their work; although the secondary market is enormous, they never see a dime.

How did we get to a place where accomplished people at the top of their careers can’t afford to eat?? None of them have health insurance, and keep in mind that Obamacare costs $1000 a month. That is a significant number.

Something has to change. Why aren’t we spending more time focusing on these inequities in our country that are growing daily? There is a reason that workers are embracing unions.

We are in strange times, and the future is murky. Something has to give. What, I am not sure.

Movies

I saw Happening at Sundance this past year. I have continued to think about this French film, particularly now with the unfortunate turn of events we have all learned of through the Supreme Court leaks’ desire to overturn the right to an abortion. The film is currently in the theaters.

Happening is based on a memoir of a young college woman desperately trying to terminate her unwanted pregnancy in France when the procedure was illegal. A young, talented student who is the first of her family to go to college has one evening when she gets pregnant.

We follow each week as she tries to find someone to help. In France, in the 1960s, similar to the insanely egregious laws they are passing in Louisiana, anyone that knows of or even involves themself in abortion, including the woman, could end up in jail. I highly recommend seeing this film.

The other film I just saw this past week is Our Father. An Indianapolis fertility doctor inseminated countless women with his sperm without them knowing. 23andMe shed light on grown children finding out they have countless siblings and their father is not their father.

The craziest thing is prosecuting someone for this is not easy. No precedent.

Both of these films are crimes against women. In 2022, it still feels like 1960. Why do white men have all the power? When will this end be? I can’t take it anymore.

Is this what the NRA asked for?

Why are the Democrats so shocked about the daily shootings across the country? Not one person in our Government is willing to do what needs to be done to get guns off our streets and in the hands of angry young men. The Republicans wanted this, but the Dems took the cash too.

Shooting has become an epidemic. Is this what the NRA was hoping for? That we would have fear and mayhem on our streets and in our schools?

This has been slowly building for decades, just like anti-abortion has. 

Why? One reason is that the majority that controls the Senate, regardless of party affiliation, does not represent the majority of people by a long shot. It might have worked a hundred years ago, but it doesn’t anymore. Eighty percent of Americans live in cities. Think about that.

A future loaded with guns and fear where you can’t get an abortion is not a country I want to live in. Either is one feeding disinformation through social media.

 If we don’t have some massive change soon, we will begin to look like the Philippines, where an old regime returned through disinformation and the ignorance of the youth.

The shootings. My heart bleeds for all those families, and unfortunately, there is a new one every day.

People Who Follow When They Should Lead

In every industry, some people follow when they should lead. Unfortunately, many appear to be leading, but the truth is they are just following. I could give countless examples, but I will hold my tongue.

I am a fan of crypto and believe it will create change that we have yet to realize. As for Web 3.0, I am all in, once again hoping that technology will level the playing field. It didn’t happen in Web 1.0 or 2.0, but perhaps Web 3.0 will be the breakout changer. Blockchain technology allows us to own our information with peer-to-peer nodes. Not great for Facebook, but maybe better for all of us.

The government certainly won’t solve any of the inequality issues. As always, change must come from the public. In the past few years, the government has continued to disappoint. Currently, there is such a divide that it is impossible to move forward.

I have only one concern with Web 3.0: we will always need leaders. I looked at a deck in the music industry built on blockchain technology, and it made me wonder, is that the end of musicians like Taylor Swift or Beyonce?

I have never been in a situation where decisions are made without someone leading the pack. Regardless of the massive underlying changes happening around the globe leading us all in a new direction, we need more strong leaders who represent each industry. Followers should also do a little more diligence before trailing behind some of their leaders off a cliff.

Celebrating Jewish Mexican Heritage Through Food, Fany Gerson, Podcast #171

Fany Gerson is a chef, consultant, speaker, and cookbook author known for a unique approach to food that deeply respects her Mexican-Jewish heritage while also innovating by offering her own personal and modern twist. She is also the owner of Fan Fan Doughnuts, a Mexican-inspired American doughnut shop, and La Newyorkina, a Mexican ice cream shop. We talked about her entrepreneurial journey and the challenges she faced in the food industry at large as a Latina woman.

Follow her latest moves on Instagram at @fannygerson.

You can also listen to the podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud.

Our next guest on PGG will be Amanda Feilding, the scientist, drug policy reformer veteran, and lobbyist behind the Beckley Foundation

Shifting Non-Profits

A friend of ours recently got back from the Ukrainian border, where he went to help organizations find safety for people whose lives are being upheaved by the war. His stories are incredible but what stuck with me is the new organizations rising to the challenge.

A perfect example is Jose Andres, who has put old school organizations to shame. He has proven that he can rally faster, get more accomplished quicker and feed more people than any Government or old school organization.

Our friend noted that the Red Cross and other organizations of that ilk were nowhere to be found unless the media was there.

Various new organizations are shifting and have learned how to keep change moving positively. I have always been a fan of Prep for Prep. What makes them unique is that they are always there for students who go through their organization. Prep for Prep helps their students from early on to post-High School, through college, and even get jobs after college. That is how the impact is made.

This past week, I went to a Strive luncheon and heard a handful of extraordinary women talk about how Strive changed their lives. Women who couldn’t get jobs were in hard times, and some couldn’t even speak English. Having an organization where the people not only lift you up but are available to you forever makes a huge difference. You know that there is always a family looking out for you if you fall off the wagon, lose your job, or go through a tough time, whatever it may be. That is how change can take place.

Giving people a hand, a door to walk through, an opportunity to make their life better, most will grab on and hold tight. We need more organizations that are thinking differently. After all, if you have saved one life, you have changed the world.

Cannabis Taxes Make Little Sense

New York has yet to roll out their “rules and regulations” for people interested in applying to get dispensary licenses. Kathy Hochul believes that NY State will collect $1.25B in tax revenue over the next six years. The Federal Government could generate $12B. These are huge numbers.

There are a few issues here. The biggest one is how cannabis is taxed. Considering cannabis has been illegal for decades through a false narrative, it makes zero sense that it is now being taxed so that any dispensary operator can not be profitable. The only entity that will benefit is the Federal Government overtaxing a brand new industry. Keep in mind the legal dispensary owners are competing with an illegal market that does not pay taxes which means the cost per product is dramatically lower. What is the point of that? Has anyone in Government thought this through?

Cannabis should be taxed just like alcohol, although it is a wellness product if you read all the data coming from cannabis research. Americans are now consuming fewer pharmaceutical products with access to cannabis.

I plan on applying for a cannabis dispensary license when the time comes. If we get the licenses, our stores will have profit sharing for all, and we are committed to hiring people from NYCHA and those who have been incarcerated. We have a social mission that is extremely important to us. We want to give 10-20% of the EBITDA back to organizations such as Strive and Medgar Evers that impact those hurt by the war on drugs with programs and education. How can we do that if the Federal Government makes it impossible for us to be profitable?

NY State and the Federal Government would be well served to talk to the experts who have been involved since day one in other states, or NY will look like California, which is a mess. Most experts in this space care deeply about social equity, and their frustration with how the Federal Government has rolled out the taxes angers everyone. If the Federal Government doesn’t change the tax laws so we can make money and give back or just turn a profit, the opportunity for everyone to prosper from a new industry will fall into an abyss.

Fruit Upside Down Polenta Cake

I saw a beautiful upside-down cherry polenta cake on Insta from King and had to figure out how to make it. I read a bunch of recipes and came up with this. Low and behold, it worked!

I could have just doubled it, but I wanted to be safe. The recipe called for an 8″ cake, so I just made it twice. This could be made any time of the year using the fruit of the moment, even caramelized oranges or lemons.

I used a 12″ heavy (too heavy) cast iron pan.

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • lemon zest
  • Two eggs at room temperature
  • 1 cup cake flour (I did not have and used 1 cup flour minus 2 Tbsp and added 2 Tbsp corn starch)
  • 3/4 cups cornmeal
  • Two teaspoons baking powders
  • One teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups blueberries, 2 cups of strawberries sliced (just enough to fully fill the bottom of the pan)
  • extra sugar and butter

Preheat the oven to 350.

Mix the butter, sugar, and at least a tbsp. lemon zest. Beat for 5 minutes, until creamy. Use a standing mixture and a paddle attachment.

Add each egg slowly at medium speed, then crank up to high and beat for a few minutes.

Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a separate medium bowl. In another separate bowl, combine sour cream and vanilla.

Add half the flour mixture and half the sour cream mixture, and repeat until fully incorporated.

Melt a few tbsps of butter in the pan, sprinkle sugar over the melted butter, add the fruit, and shake the pan to soak the fruit with butter and sugar. With cherries, you want to add some balsamic vinegar.

Spread the cake evenly over the top. Put in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes until done.

Take the cake out and let it cool. I let this cool for a few hours. Before flipping it on a plate, I warmed the pan on the stove on low heat so the fruit wouldn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Put a plate over the top and flip. Make sure you can do it yourself. My cake slid off the plate, so it is a bit of a puzzle, although it appears to be one piece. Next time, four hands.

It is delicious, served with whipped cream or creme fraiche.