Samsung Ditches The ‘Gear’ and Introduces the New Galaxy Watch

Samsung released its first smartwatch, the  Samsung Galaxy Gear in the fall of 2013. Every iteration thereafter included the word “Gear” in its name. Just like the mobile giant has used “Galaxy” in the branding of its smart devices, the “Gear” brand was specifically for their smart watches. That is until now.

Samsung has rebranded its smartwatch category with the introduction of the Galaxy Watch at its “Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2018″. Event this morning at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn (the Note 9 smartphone was also unveiled as well today) . The Galaxy Watch is the direct successor to 2016’s popular Galaxy Gear S3 (although the Gear Sport was released in 2017, no one really considered it to be in the same class as the Gear S3). Samsung is getting in front of the competition with the Galaxy Watch considering that both Apple and Google will release their latest generation wearables sooner rather than later.

Design

The new smartwatch has an updated design and looks and feels very premium. It now comes in two sizes: 42mm and 46mm. The Gear S3 is a large watch and appears to swallow smaller wrists, so the Galaxy Watch will have the same effect. It has an AMOLED display that is crisp and vivid as on the Samsung smartphones and has military-grade Gorilla DX+ glass.

A new color was also introduced: Rose Gold. It looks simply amazing. The Galaxy Watch will have three colors in all – Rose Gold, Midnight Black, and Silver. The silver will be limited to the 46mm size and the Rose Gold and Midnight Black will only be available in the 42mm size.

 

Features

Samsung not only designed a gorgeous timepiece in the Galaxy Watch, but a fully functional one as well. Samsung has been pushing the health features of their watches over the last few years and I didn’t expect anything different this time around. It’s new processor was designed specifically for smartwatches. With a larger battery than its predecessors,  Samsung says that you can get “several days” of battery life on a single charge and it is water-resistant up to 5 ATM.

The LTE models have a standalone GPS to log your distance when cycling or running. With Spotify as a returning feature, you can enjoy your jams while away from your phone. The LTE versions are only available from T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint in the US and you can order directly from Samsung upon release.

The Galaxy Watch tracks almost another 40 exercises and a few of those start tracking automatically based on movement and heart rate.The Galaxy Watch’s focus on wellness adds more value to the device and encourages people to live a healthier lifestyle. It can track your sleep and give you an idea of the quality of rest you had the night before. Additionally, a new addition to Samsung’s feature set are breathing exercises. While the Apple Watch and Fitbit, both have this feature as well, Samsung’s version ties it to your established baseline heart rate to give you an idea of how much stress you are under at that moment.

Pricing & Availability

The Galaxy Watch will cost $330 for the 42mm version and $350 for the 46mm version (bluetooth only).The LTE version pricing has not been revealed as of today. The Galaxy Watch is available to preorder Friday, Aug. 10 and will be released Aug. 24th.

Stay tuned for our full review after the Galaxy Watch is released.

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Dangerous Masculinity

“If you start listening to your heart and using your head to facilitate it, you’ll start getting shit done.”

-Ryan Niddel

Why do we let things hold us back? As men, we’re supposed to be decision makers. We’re supposed to be leaders. We’re supposed to be the ones to get shit done for ourselves and for the people who matter most to us. We will often allow external factors prevent us from reaching our peak potential. We let influences outside of ourselves dictate what we do and what we don’t. Rather than doing what we know is right in our heart, we allow people and circumstances make our decisions.  We ignore that nagging feeling in our gut and let the world shape the decisions that we make when, ultimately, the outcome ends up benefiting someone else while we are left with the short end of the stick.

Imagine what masculinity would look like if we listened to what our inner self is guiding us to do? That inner self could be God, Buddha, the Universe, intuition, or whatever it is you believe. That kind of masculinity would be absolutely dangerous. And it would change the way we view ourselves and the world.

Dangerous Masculinity

Instinctively, we are built to lead, to protect,  to love, to build, and to win at life. We are warriors and kings. Providers and conquerors. However, sometimes our greatness gets blinded by relationships, jobs, and a lack of self-fulfillment due to the confines of our society and what we are expected to be. It gets lost in all the noise.

Truly being your own man. Doing the right thing because it is the right thing. Imagine for a second that we could love those that we love openly and honestly.  Imagine if we had the courage to get rid of the baggage that holds us back and keeps us from reaching the heights that we were designed to reach. Society would have us believe that following your heart is being weak. Men are supposed to be rational, intellectual, decisive, and clear headed. All of these things may be true, but we let the clutter of our lives and circumstances steal that clarity like a thief in the night.

Own Your Manhood

F*** that! It’s time to reclaim it. It’s time to own it. It’s time to take it to the next level, brothers. What’s holding you back? What’s keeping you from taking back your manhood? Don’t blame it on your circumstances. Don’t blame it on another person. The only person holding you back is you. If you fail to hold yourself accountable, you are certain to fail to achieve the maximum YOU. I’m not preaching to you, brothers, for I am guilty as well. Since I have come to recognize this about myself,  I strive everyday to refocus and break the chains that are holding me back. To live a life of purpose. Men are supposed to lead from the front, not follow from the rear. Rather than do what we know is right and following that inner voice, we let our head(s) determine our actions, thus our outcome. We’re supposed to be the one to make things happen to better ourselves and those around us. We cannot continue to let external forces define us. How dangerous would our masculinity be if we follow what our subconscious is screaming at us to do?

The Heart of a Man

Dangerous Masculinity is the  concept of following the heart of a man. Imagine if you could be totally free from the limitations that are placed on us everyday. We must teach our sons and the young men in our lives that the only real masculinity is dangerous, but how are we to do so if we don’t know how to live dangerously ourselves?

There are some action steps that we must take:

  1. Look at yourself in the mirror and be honest with yourself. First and foremost. Recognize where you are failing yourself and those that you’re responsible for. Own it. Acknowledge it and then work to correct it. We may not be able to change the mistakes of our past, but we damned sure can change our future.
  2. Make amends to those whom you have hurt and damaged. Dangerous Masculinity includes being humble enough to tell someone that you were wrong. To tell them that you are sorry and to tell them that you will actively work not to repeat the mistakes of your past.
  3. Forgive those who have wronged you. Forgiveness is not for the other person. It’s only for you. Forgiveness is such a release because it allows you to let go of the pain and the damage that was inflicted upon you.
  4. Listen to your heart. Use your head as the compass to execute what the heart is telling you. Internally we know right from wrong  and we know good from bad. Life is not always black or white, but we do know there’s just some shit we shouldn’t be doing. So listen to your heart and then use your head to execute the game plan. Your spirit will lead you to greatness if only you listen and the beautiful mind that the Creator has given you will allow you to respond in order for that greatness to come into fruition.
  5. Be purposeful. Work to identify your purpose and come to understand what it is you were meant to do and why.  Your purpose not only serves you, but your purpose is designed to serve others as well.

Dangerous Masculinity revolves around the heart. With the heart comes passion. Let that be the thing that drives you. A desire to be a better you. To be better for those you love. Take the time to discover yourself so that you can be the fullest, richest man that you can possibly be.

This is the first article in the series on Dangerous Masculinity.

The Ribs of Summer: Cured Thai Style Pork Ribs

Cured Thai Style Pork RIbs

Summer is upon us. This year it is filled with relentless heat, bored children, and an overwhelming desire to smoke foods for hours on end.

There are few things better, culinarily speaking, than preparing, smoking, and consuming delicious meats and washing them down with your favorite beverage. It is even better when you can dazzle your friends and family with a twist on a classic.

In my introductory post here, I waxed extensively on my preference to prep my meat several hours to even days in advance to ensure the best flavor, seasoning, and texture. The recent 4th of July holiday was no exception. In addition to my standard barbecue rubbed ribs, I decided to mix things up a bit and cure several racks in an effort to replicate some Thai style pork ribs I had at a restaurant in Charlottesville, Virginia.

After acquiring enough racks of ribs to feed my guests, I set a few aside to cure for my highly unauthentic Thai style pork rib experiment. The next step in the preparation process was to remove the papery membrane on the back of each rack. Now, this isn’t entirely necessary, but that stuff won’t render out while cooking and at this point removal is part of my standard operating procedure.

The next step was determining the appropriate amount of salt to use to cure the ribs. When it comes to sausage making or dry brining larger cuts of meat like a whole chicken or a brisket, I tend to season aggressively between 1 and 1.5% of the final, trimmed weight of the meat. However, there is a larger ratio of bones to meat with ribs in comparison to most other cuts. I decided to halve the lower level of my brining ratio and went with .5% of the weight of each rack of ribs.

With the salt applied to the meatier side of the ribs, they spent the night uncovered on a wire rack over a parchment covered sheet pan in the refrigerator. The next day I took them out while my smoker was getting up to temperature, roughly 30-45 minutes.

I smoked the cured rib racks by themselves (no other rubs, seasonings, or sauces) for about two hours before I began layering a Thai style glaze on them, lightly coating them each hour over the remaining cooking time.

After testing for doneness at the five hour mark, I pulled the racks from the smoker and applied a fourth and final coat of glaze along with some coarsely chopped cilantro, finely chopped chives, red chiles, and chopped roasted peanuts for garnish.

I’ve made a lot of ribs and these were instantly my favorites. The following recipe for the Thai style glaze is enough to apply four thing coats to three racks of baby back ribs. These are the same proportions I used, however, I could have used more heat, so adjust to your tastes where necessary.

Cured Thai Style Pork Ribs

For the cure:

  • 3 racks of your favorite style of ribs (I used baby back)
  • Salt (.5% of the weight of each rack of ribs)

For the glaze:

  • ¼ cup of honey
  • ¼ cup Shaoxing wine (or Mirin, if you need to be gluten free)
  • 2 tablespoons roasted red chile paste (I used Thai kitchen)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or Tamari, if you need to be gluten free)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely diced lemongrass
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (or grated with a fine grater)
  • 1 inch chunk of fresh ginger, minced (or grated with a fine grater)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

For garnish:

  • Coarsely chopped cilantro, to taste
  • Chopped roasted peanuts, to taste
  • Finely chopped chives or scallions, to taste
  • Finely diced red chiles, to taste

Assembly

  1. Remove the papery membrane covering the back fo the ribs. I use a paring knife to help it break free, then use a paper towel and my fingers to remove it. With a little patience it will come off in two or three large sheets using the paper towel for better grip.
  2. Flip racks over and place on a wire rack that is on top of a parchment paper or paper towel lined sheet pan.
  3. Apply salt evenly over the meatier side of the ribs, then store in your refrigerator uncovered overnight (but no more than 24 hours).
  4. Take the ribs out of the refrigerator 30-45 minutes before you plan on cooking them.
  5. Smoke (or grill on indirect heat; or bake wrapped in foil) at 250 degrees for about two hours
  6. While the ribs are in the first two hours of cooking, put all the glaze ingredients together in a mixing bowl and whisk until completely combined.
  7. After two hours of smoking (or grilling/baking), lightly brush the ribs with the glaze (if using an oven, open the foil wrapping and leave uncovered for the duration of the cook).
  8. Repeat after third and fourth hour of cooking to develop a nice mahogany colored shell
  9. When the ribs are done (you should be able to lift them in the middle of the rack while the ends remain on the grates of the grill and there will be a slight give to the meat, it shouldn’t completely be falling off the bone), remove them from the smoker (or grill, or oven) and apply the fourth and final coating of glaze along with any garnishes to taste

The Anatomy of ADHD and Relationships

“Ask me about my attention deficit disorder, or pie, or my cat. A dog. I have a bike, do you like TV? I saw a rock. Hi!” – Author Unknown

“How could you forget to pay that bill?”

“I can’t seem to count on you when I need you!”

“Can you ever be on time?”

“Why do I have to continue to repeat myself with you?”

“You are so messy! For the last time, please clean up!”

Have you ever heard any of the above or something similar? I’ve heard it and much more throughout all my life. It wasn’t until my early 40’s I found out a major part of my issue was adult ADHD. As I looked back over my life, I was able to better understand the chaos, which resulted from untreated ADHD.

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. People dealing with ADHD struggle with inattention, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, or a combination of these. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that, “about  60 percent of children with ADHD in the United States become adults with ADHD; that’s about 4 percent of the adult population, or 8 million adults. Additionally, less than 20 percent of adults with ADHD have been diagnosed or treated, and only about one-quarter of those adults seek help.”

According to Webmd.com the top 10 signs that could mean Adult ADHD are as follows:

  1. Trouble getting organized
  2. Reckless driving and traffic accidents
  3. Marital trouble
  4. Extremely distractible
  5. Poor listening skills
  6. Restlessness, trouble relaxing
  7. Trouble starting a task
  8. Lateness
  9. Angry outbursts
  10. Prioritizing issues

Webmd.com concludes, “often, people with adult ADHD mis-prioritize, failing to meet big obligations, like a deadline at work, while spending countless hours on something insignificant.”

By looking at this list, many can say these are normal traits of any person at one time or another. However, what we neglect to recognize are the effects when these, and other symptoms of ADHD, are not diagnosed in one’s lifetime.

When you are married or even in a close relationship, your shortcomings are exposed and magnified. It takes constant communication, compromise, patience, and understanding to work together. I have struggled a lot with communicating with others in my life. This has negatively impacted relationships with my parents, teachers, employers, spouse, and even my children. It affected every aspect of life. The breaking point was the eventual separation from my wife and family… and only then did I decide to get tested. My diagnosis was a blessing in disguise. Not only was I able to reunite with my family, but I learned more about myself and how to manage my ADHD. It is a day-to-day process, which my wife and I handle together.

If reading this article makes you take pause because you are experiencing the symptoms mentioned earlier in this article, then speak to your partner and loved ones.  Consider getting yourself tested for ADHD. It was very difficult for me to go for testing, but my quality of life has only gotten better since I was diagnosed. If you have experienced similar lifelong hardships, then consider getting evaluated for ADHD. Understanding the problem gave me the tools to regain my happiness and that of my loved ones. Knowing the cause provided me with the keys to the solution. My life is better for it and yours can be, too.

Kendrick Lamar Accepts Pulitzer…Hip-Hop Was Long Overdue

Grammy nominated rap artist and modern-day poet Kendrick Lamar accepted the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music today. Lamar won the elusive prize for his 2017 chart-topping album, DAMN. 

K-Dot, as Lamar is also known, has been nominated for a Grammy three times, but has never won. This year, DAMN. fell to another monster of an album, Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic, in the “Album of the Year” category.

It could be argued that the Pulitzer win for Lamar is far more prestigious than the Grammy due to the fact that he is the first rap artist to ever win the prize. In fact, no other artist has ever won the Pulitzer who wasn’t a Classical or Jazz musician.

“The time was right,” Dana Canady, the administrator of the awards, said in an interview after the winners were announced. “We are very proud of this selection. It means that the jury and the board judging system worked as its supposed to – the best work was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.”

While the time may have been right, the question that comes to my mind is, “Was the time long overdue?”

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Kendrick is well deserving of this award. His lyrics are clever and insightful and his music has certainly cleverly weaves between politics, religion. However, he isn’t the first rap artist deserving of this award. The Pulitzer for Music, has traditionally been an elusive and exclusive award for classical and jazz music; two genres that are worthy of recognition, but are no longer influencing the larger society as they once did. Hip-hop has been influencing society and culture for nearly four decades.

How the Pulitzer for music is awarded is kind of ambiguous. The category, as defined on the Pulitzer website, simply states, “For distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year.” Let’s examine the first part of this statement, as broad as it may be.

“For distinguished musical composition by an American…”

There have been many American artists, both known and unknown, who have met this standard. The word “distinguished” is subjective, so allow me a bit of liberty here. Hip-hop artists such as Eric B. and Rakim in the 1980’s and their classic album Follow The Leader delivered lyrics and beats that made your head spin in their delivery. Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions elevated the social consciousness of young, black minds, fusing politics, pride, and power into the souls of the oppressed and disenfranchised. They offered hope and strength at a time when killing young, black men was fashionable. Albums such as De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising, was called a hip-hop masterpiece. A Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory is another watermark album that elevated thought to jazz-centric beats and savvy rhymes that made you think. As dark as Eminem’s music has been at times, there is no question regarding his lyrical dexterity and clever wordplay. Jay-Z’s 4:44 album and, in particular his joint, The Story of O.J.spoke volumes on the state of black America today. Any one of these examples (and several others) would fit the bill of “distinguished” and uniquely”American”.

Other artists in other genres meet this qualification as well, but the poetry and pain of  rap and hip-hop speak to the heart of our societal ills and the wounds that we have experienced. The impact is undeniable and Kendrick Lamar is but the most recent example of that impact. The fact that no other genre outside of classical and jazz music has met the Pulitzer’s standard for this award tells me that the standard needs to be changed and redefined. Lamar’s winning of the award is a start, but hip-hop was long overdue.

Review: The Avengers: Infinity Wars

Marvel has released its newest movie Avengers: Infinity War and it did not disappoint. Infinity War continues to shatter box-office records around the world. The movie did a great job of blending comedy with dark moments as well as an understanding of personal sacrifice. Infinity Wars is one of those movies where you can watch and enjoy even if you didn’t see the previous films that led up to this third installment. Marvel did a great job of making sure this movie follows the same formula that has worked in the past which is humor mixed with relatable life situations that leaves the consumers wanting more. The only slight I have against the movie is this question: Was the ending necessary or was it rushed?

All the main characters with their powers and egos were on full display in Infinity War. Tony Stark and Doctor Strange spent the first 20 minutes of the movie trying to figure out who was the smartest person in the room, and I guess they came to conclusion that it was both. Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy shared a scene that made you appreciate the comic relief that that they brought from both of their previous movies, and of course all of the Avengers had to go back to Wakanda because the fans can’t get enough of learning about that place.

One knock against Marvel movies have been that they don’t have the great villain that all superhero movies need.  Well, that box was checked by introducing us to Thanos. Thanos is what happens when the Incredible Hulk and The Joker have their genes combined in Dr. Strange’s laboratory. He is strong as well as smart, but throughout the movie you also learned that he is not as heartless as we are led to believe he is. He believes that his cause is a worthy cause and it’s also necessary even though it will kill half of the population. He believes that nobility only comes with sacrifice.

If you are on social media, you have seen several memes and comments about the ending of Avengers Infinity Wars. The cliffhanger of an ending leaves the audience asking, “was that necessary and what the hell just happened?” I’ve always felt that Marvel movies didn’t have a dark side and that kind of kept the average fan away. Co-directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo not only walks A:IW over to the dark side; they ran head-first into it. I guess I got what I asked for, but I wish they did it with a clearer reason. Was all the death at the end necessary? How does this play into the bigger picture of the Marvel Universe? These questions were left unanswered for me.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie despite the fact that it was 2 1/2 hours long. Every minute held my attention. Infinity War  left me wanting to see the next Marvel movie the next day just to watch it all play out. The Marvel Universe’s first chapter is coming to an end. I have to admit that they have the world on a string and all of our attention. Well done!

Opinion: The Reformation of Hip-Hop

This is the second in a two-part series on this mixed bag we call “Hip-Hop” focusing on the second question raised by a reader:

“Can you suggest any ways to protest some of the messages in hip hop while still enjoying it as a type of music?”

Below is the question in its entirety:

“I’ve been a longtime fan of hip-hop. But, through the years, I’ve noticed a troubling trend of hip hop lyrics that objectify women to the point of being misogynistic. It seems like some of the songs that are easily found on Spotify or Pandora such as Too Short’s “Ain’t My Girlfriend”,  Lil Baby’s “All of a Sudden”, and “Booty” by Blac Youngsta, encourage men to see women only as sexual objects. While you see these types of lyrics in other genres, it does seem more extreme and pronounced in hip-hop. Do you think that there is any way to change this trend in hip-hop? And can you suggest any ways to protest some of the messages in hip-hop while still enjoying it as a type of music?”

For hip-hip fans who were around at its inception, the music and the sound has changed dramatically. It has shifted from party and dance music, to violence and the gangsta lifestyle, to highly sexual and misogynistic mumble rap. This is difficult for those of us who love the music, but don’t care for the messages being delivered. We are unable to share the genre we love so much with the children around us for fear that it may shape their attitudes toward sex, violence, drugs, and alcohol.

What are our options? There are ways to protest the current state of hip-hop. It’s not a new solution: just don’t buy it. As with anything, money will make or break the cycle of negative influences in music. As diligent as we are when it comes to young, black men being unnecessarily killed, we should raise the awareness about the lyrics that are hardening the spirits of our youth. We have to find a way to make it less attractive to the current generation and the generations to come. Individually, we can choose not to buy it, but as I mentioned in the Part One of this series hip-hop is a part of our culture, so it isn’t as simple as not giving the industry your money. The hip-hop culture needs to change.

Changing a culture that rose so quickly in our society is not a simple task. Many people did not believe that the genre would last when it first came onto the scene in the late 1970s. We all watched it grow. At first, skeptics  predicted the demise of hip-hop before it truly got off the ground. It was described as “black music” or not even considered music at all. Today, some variation of rap and hip-hop exists on every continent on the globe. In the U.S., the National Basketball League is permeated with the hip-hop culture. As young basketball stars grow in stature and popularity, so does the hip-hop culture in which they were raised in. Kids of all races, demographics, and backgrounds are spitting lyrics and emulating the look, style, and swag of the hip-hop nation.

One Sunday afternoon several years ago, my oldest son and I are on our way home from church when I decided to put on some of Will Smith’s music (current and when he was known as “The Fresh Prince”). Songs like “Summertime” and “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” caught his attention with the smooth rhymes and the party rhythms. So I said, “Do you like this?” He gave me a look and a smile that let me know he was getting his groove on. It warmed me to see the same look in his eyes that I had when I first heard Run DMC twenty years ago. Clean. Fun. Music. Fast forward a few years later and the culture has taken hold of his playlists. Banging beats that make you move and that stir the emotions within, but lyrics that  make you cover your face in shame.

There are artists, some familiar and some not so, that produce an alternative to the mainstream. There are numerous popular artists such as Lecrae, Common, and Lupe Fiasco, as well as some lesser-known rappers such as Talib Kweli, and B.B. Jay, whom you may have never heard of, but are bumping their beats with the best of them.  B.B. Jay, one of my personal favorites, sounds like a clean version of the Notorious B.I.G. The beats are funky and the rhymes flow like butter, but women are elevated and there is no profanity or violence.

Not all rap music is misogynistic. Nor does all hip-hop glorify drugs and alcohol. I am a hip-hop head who loves the music, but not the content. We can still enjoy hip-hop without all of the negativity that currently comes with it. Hip-hop started as a party anthem. No reason it can’t return to its positive roots. We need to affect this change in our own homes by modeling behaviors that make the negative aspects of hip-hop (and other types of music) unattractive and distasteful to our kids. Also, don’t make the negativity taboo. Be willing to talk to your children honestly and candidly about the bad in hip-hop and how it has the potential to erode society. The more the next generation knows about the harmful effects, the less likely it will be that they will partake.

We can filter out the negative influences as adults, but children generally cannot.  Teach our children, protect them, and do our best to guide them to the right choices. This is how we squash the industry from exploiting our women and corrupting the innocent. If every village does this, this will be our protest. We are not protesting the genre, but we should strive to influence it in such a way that it enriches our communities. We want music that we can enjoy with our children, not protect them from. This is how we change the world of hip-hop. It took years to get to this point, so we should not expect that it will be an overnight process.  It starts with taking responsibility for ourselves.

11 Essential Things Every Guy Should Carry

Women seem like they are always prepared for life’s daily obstacles. Maybe they seem more prepared than men do because they carry a multitude of essentials in their handbags. Anything from toiletries to tech and make-up. Guys need to think about the essential things we should have with us at all times. This is where the right bag or backpack comes into play.

It has become more common over the last few years to see dudes stepping up their bag game. Man bags, man-purses, or simply known as murses. The discerning man has come to realize that not everything can be stuffed into his pockets or wallet.

 

We’ll cover the best bags for a guy to tote around in another post. For now, here are a few items that every man should carry at all times:

  1. Smartphone or Tablet – These devices have become essential to our everyday lives. From using Google Maps to get you from place to place to having an eBook on your Kindle app during lulls in activity, a smart device is the essential to the man on the go. 
  2. Earbuds or headphones – when in transit, keep a pair of headphones on hand so that you can drown out the busy city sounds.
  3. Small first-aid kit – You never know when you might have to tussle with a bear or wrangle an alligator. It’s comforting to know that you have the basics to properly treat those scrapes and bruises.
  4. An Umbrella – Be prepared for unpredictable weather and for keeping that pretty girl you just met in SoHo covered from the rain or rays. Should be small and compact as well as neutral in color.
  5. A water bottle – If you’re ever in a pinch and can’t find a place to hydrate, a bottle of water is literally a life-saver. Be sure to periodically switch out the bottle with a fresh one.
  6. Pocket knife or Multi-tool – A pocket knife has many uses and a multi-tool with scissors, a screwdriver, and a file could also come in handy.
  7. Portable charger – This is a necessary item to keep with you. You don’t need for your laptop, tablet, or smartphone to run out of juice. Especially if you are using your phone as a flashlight. 
  8. Keys – You won’t get very far without them.
  9. Self-defense item – Self-explanatory and whatever your local laws will allow.
  10. Cash and Identification – Carry enough cash as you feel comfortable with, but enough to get you out of trouble.
  11. Emergency gift for the wife or girlfriend – Did you forget that birthday or anniversary? This one doesn’t have to go in your bag, but its good to keep one on hand. Avoid the backlash by being prepared.

These are just a few items and many more could be added to the list. You have to know your needs and lifestyle to determine what you personally have to have with you at all times.

Opinion: The Dangerous Side of Hip-Hop

This is the first in a two-part series on this mixed bag we call “Hip-Hop”. This post will discuss the first question raised by a Dear Mister Man subscriber:

“Do you think that there is any way to change the trend in hip hop where women are viewed as purely sexual objects?

I’ve been a longtime fan of hip hop. But, through the years, I’ve noticed a troubling trend of hip hop lyrics that objectify women to the point of being misogynistic. Some of the songs that are easily found on Spotify or Pandora such as Too Short’s “Ain’t My Girlfriend”,  Lil Baby’s “All of a Sudden”, and “Booty” by Blac Youngsta, encourage men to see women only as sexual objects. While you see these types of lyrics in other genres, it does seem more extreme and pronounced in hip hop. Do you think that there is any way to change this trend in hip hop? And can you suggest any ways to protest some of the messages in hip hop while still enjoying it as a type of music?

I am a product of the 1980’s. This is where I spent my adolescence. I became aware of hip-hop during the early part of the decade with the likes of Kurtis Blow, Afrika Bambataa, and Grand Master Flash. The music and beats grabbed me. Then there was Run-DMC with jams like “King of Rock”, “Hard Times”, and “Rock Box”.  We were breakdancing and having fun because the music was fun. Other groups influenced my tastes as well (BDP, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Eric B. & Rakim, and Public Enemy just to name a few of many). This is music that I let my kids listen to today.

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, the rap scene began to change. My attention was drawn to the more “dangerous” side of rap music. Groups like N.W.A., Luke Skyywalker and The 2 Live Crew, Sir Mixx-A-Lot, and Too Short (yes, he’s probably the oldest rapper alive) were coming from the underground into the mainstream. Songs like “Fuck the Police”, “Cop Killer”, “Pop That Coochie”, and more were attracting the hearts and minds of millions of kids. Kids from all walks of life (including me) were drawn by the smoking hot beats and the “thug life” mentality that came with it. “Drawn to it” would be an understatement. This type of music has become a part of our culture influencing everything from television to clothing.

Let’s not forget that the ’80s birthed MTV and the music video. This is when my pubescent mentality when into hyperdrive because of the images of scantily clad women moving in ways that I never imagined. I was a hormonal teenaged boy still not clear on the responsibilities of manhood, which include not glorifying violence and not viewing females as sexual objects.

Nearly four decades later and I have since grown up. I have kids of my own. Hip-Hop has become even more ingrained in our society. I get ill when I hear teenaged boys of all races calling each other “niggaz” in the same way that you and I would call each other “brother”. I am deeply disturbed when I see a young girl, maybe 13 or 14 putting on display and showing parts of her body that should be reserved for a deserving mate.

To answer the reader’s question, the objectification of women in Hip-Hop–and other forms of pop culture–is not a trend. It is the norm. Foul language is prevalent on television and the radio. It was a trend in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but its wide spread acceptance of it has made it a part of today’s culture. Most music seems to follow the generation that grew up on it, but the hip-hop culture has been passed on to the generation that exists between us, our children, and their children.  It has permeated our sports, television, video games and movies.

My point is that society as a whole has accepted the dangerous side of Hip-Hop as a part of the norm. I don’t think that the practice of sexualizing women and glorifying the trap lifestyle can be reversed. I do believe that it will continue to evolve and something new and possibly more dangerous will come along to replace it. The decadence will only be removed from our society when we stop buying it.

But we have been buying it for almost forty years now and it still is selling.

I am a fan of Hip-Hop. However, I am torn between my love for the music and disdain for the lyrics and the imagery. I will at times listen to some of the “harder” hip-hop songs when I am alone, because the music I love also shames me. My kids listen to Run D-M-C  with me when we are driving in the truck. We also listen to the Fat Boys and others that represent the days when the worst thing you heard in Hip-Hop was “My Adidas”.

Stay tuned for the next article in this series called, “The Reformation of Hip-Hop”. 

Notes From an “Unauthentic” Kitchen

I love to cook. It wasn’t always that way. Throughout college and shortly after, I cooked as a means of survival and little more. It wasn’t until it dawned on me that my roommate used his kitchen skills to impress women did I start to take more interest in learning to cook things beyond assembling what came in a box.

Fast forward many years later. I prepared a nice dinner for a woman I was seeing on our fifth date. After dinner, she looked at me and said that she would never be able to cook for me. Nearly 14 years after that dinner, I’m still cooking for her, as well as our two children.

The mantle of family cook became firmly mine and my repertoire had to evolve from occasionally fancy date night food to family dinners for picky children, and, ultimately, to the realm of gluten free living in order to accommodate my daughter’s food allergy. Because of all of this, I think the best way to describe my cooking style is “unauthentic”. 

Cooking unauthentically means, for example, putting fish sauce in my bolognese. Or using liquid aminos and miso paste in my brines to add different elements. I avoid substitutions to force things to be gluten free that I know probably should not be. Or, maybe, I’ll float dried shiitakes in my chicken stock when it is done cooking, but still warm to enhance the savoriness of the final product.

I am by no means a pro, but over all this time I’ve learned many things about cooking. I love to share my knowledge and, for my first ever post here, I thought I would share some advice I’ve gleaned and some things I do in my home to always put the best I can on my family table.

Season as you go. You can always add more.

As a confirmed night owl, one of my very first cooking influences was watching Emeril Live on the Food Network (my favorite channel before it devolved into unrealistic cooking competition central). The first, and best, piece of advice I ever took to heart was to season dishes as I cook them and to remember to do it in small amounts, tasting in between. The mantra of knowing I can always add, but never take away is forever in the forefront of my mind whenever I cook.

Acid and salt are your friends

Building on the first piece of advice, a chef I know here in Charlotte would constantly remind us during his cooking classes that acid and salt were our friends when cooking. If you feel like your food is under seasoned, then a hit of lemon juice or a dash of salt will likely rescue the dish, elevating it to what you had originally hoped for. I always keep a lemon or two on hand for this very reason. And, to echo the wise words of celebrity chef and Food Network personality Alton Brown, “There are no unitaskers in my kitchen other than the fire extinguisher”. So, those used lemons always come in handy to scrub my cutting board along with a little bit of kosher salt.

Dry brine your meats

In keeping with the seasoning theme, one of the absolute best ways to put a juicy, well seasoned piece of meat on your dinner table is to salt it before you even cook it. When it comes to beef, I’ll take it out of the fridge, trim it up, and season it on both sides with salt anywhere for 45-60 minutes before I plan to cook it. I do the same with pork or chicken, generally about 30 minutes before if it is broken down into parts like chops or breast, and put it back in the refrigerator. Unlike beef, raw chicken and pork must be placed in the refrigerator post seasoning.

If I’m doing a whole cut of meat, like a brisket (whether it is a flat, a point, or the whole packer cut), I’ll season it up to 24 hours in advance. I weigh the cut, and then measure out 1% of the weight of the meat in kosher salt. That is a great starting point for a large cut like that, and I use very little to no salt in any rubs I may apply before cooking or smoking.

Baking soda: not just for baking

Baking soda is really a wonderful thing. It’s great for baking, it’s great for keeping your kitchen clean, and it is also great in savory cooking as well. Whether roasting whole chickens on a rotisserie or pan roasting skin-on chicken breasts or thighs, adding a little baking soda to your salt brine will significantly help make the skin crispier and more delicious.

For a whole chicken, which typically run 3-5 lbs. depending on where you source them, I use 1 tablespoon of kosher salt to 1 teaspoon of baking soda mixed together and liberally apply it to the skin of the chicken the night before I plan cooking it. The baking soda helps dry out the meat and, as it is absorbed, raises the pH level of the meat enabling it to retain more moisture. That way if you are prepping other elements of your dinner and you forget about the chicken in the oven or on the grill, your chicken will still come out moist and delicious even if it is a few points higher on the thermometer than necessary. Leave the whole chickens uncovered on a wire rack over a baking sheet in my refrigerator overnight after seasoning. The next day, you can see the dramatic changes in the color and moisture level of the skin.

If I’m pan roasting skin-on chicken breasts or thighs, I use the same ratio (1 tbsp salt/1 tsp baking soda), but I apply it a few hours before I cook, as the cut is much smaller and doesn’t need as much time. I may do it in the morning while I’m getting the kids ready for school, or even just a few hours before dinner if I forget or run out of time. Either way, it has always been a great tool in my arsenal to make a great tasting and looking chicken dish.

With that, let’s end things here for now. Stay tuned for more as we’ll delve into other topics designed to enhance your cooking and even help save a little money, like buying whole chickens, making your own stock, and grinding your own meat. We’ll even have a little fun with different techniques and creating dishes on the fly using only what I find at the farmer’s market on any given weekend.

I look forward to sharing more unauthentic cooking tips and hope you’ll join me for the ride!