Sunday, December 23, 2012

Notes - 2004

These were all carried as voice reports in the news on i95.5 FM in 2004. They were transcribed from one of my steno pads. I've always loved stationery and I find Steno Pads to be very useful as well, more so than a diary for me. Anyway it was nice to see some of the events of that time. I don't have dates and they appear in the order that they appeared in the notebook.

The Trinidad and Tobago Haulier’s Association is calling for greater efficiency from the Port of Port of Spain. Workers representing 50 trucking companies have switched off their engines as a sign of protest against the situation on the port which they say has been going on for years. Ramesh Garib of the Hauliers Association this morning described the situation as ridiculous where truckers wait on the port for three days before getting 1 container to transport. The hauliers have been striking for just under a week and they say the operations of the port are being adversely affected with no export or import containers being moved resulting in a huge backup of the systems. They say more equipment needs to be brought and management needs to be improved.

Constitutional expert Dr Lloyd Barnett this morning attempted to absolve Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Patrick Manning and his cabinet from primary responsibility in the dismissal of then Chairman of the Unit Trust Corporation Mr Hubert Alleyne. Dr Barnett today traced the line of correspondence leading up to the October 9th announcement of the decision. A Jamaican national, Dr Barnett is responding to closing statements made by Dr Claude Benbow, attorney for Mr Alleyne at the ongoing hearing before Justice David Myers in the POS Civil Chamber Court. Representing the Attorney General, Dr Barnett said it was regular practice that the Governor of the Central Bank communicate with the President through the minister of finance. Central Bank Governor Ewart Williams penned his views on the dismissal of Mr Alleyne in a letter to Mr Manning on October 8th preceding the announcement by then Acting President Dr Linda Baboolal. Mr Barnett said a court cannot inquire into Presidential decisions.

Roger Mc Clean of the Department of Economics at the UWI has identified three pillars that the media must recognize in response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Mr Mc Clean was a panelist this morning at the Press Freedom Conference organized by the Caribbean Journalists Association. Addressing the gathering which consisted of media workers and students Mr Mc Clean said the three building blocks are awareness, change and care. Mr Mc Clean called for a wider response. Journalist Tony Fraser lamented what he described as a peeping tom mentality where more concern was placed on who has the disease rather than on how they got it and how it can be prevented.

Caribbean workers are being called upon to do more to show that they care about reducing stigmatization and discrimination regarding HIV/AIDS. A delegation headed by the National AIDS Coordinating Committee recently returned from the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand. At a press briefing by some of the local delegates this morning Public Relations Officer for the Caribbean Epidemiology Center, CAREC, Jones P Madeira said Caribbean leaders need to be seen as embracing people living with disease. Mr Madeira also said there was a flicker of hope in the turn around of the epidemic in the region. Technical Director of the NACC Dr Amery Browne said one of the first steps of the committee at this point will be to initiate a sensitization program aimed at health care providers and parliamentarians.

The problem at the North West Regional Health Authority is said to be one of management. It was recently revealed that the NWRHA owed the National Insurance Board in excess of $100 million in PAYE and Health Surcharge. At a news conference this morning Minister of Health John Rahael said the Authority’s management broke down years ago. It was said this morning that the debt went unnoticed for such a long time because the ministry does not micro manage. Permanent Secretary in the ministry Reynold Cooper said the monthly financial reports do not guve a breakdown of what is owed rather a global figure. Minister Rahael said he does not believe that any of the NWRHA’s management benefitted financially as a result of the non payment of the taxes. Addressing the issue of protesting pharmacists, Minister Rahael said he held an emergency meeting with some pharmacists this morning and he was given the assurance that they would return to work today. Minister Rahael said the hunt is now on to find two CEO’s one for the North West and the other for the North Central Regional Health Authorities.

A full compliment of Government ministers turned out this morning to pay their final respects to former Minister of Public Administration, Gordon Michael Draper. Mr Draper died last week in London, England. This morning he was hailed as a man who made an indelible mark on the international community. It was said that the Public Sector Reform Program developed by Mr Draper was adopted by over 25 countries. Health Minister John Rahael described Mr Draper as a great and humble man who he knew from as far back as their days at the Arima Boy’s Government School. He said Mr Draper was an ambassador par excellence. Representing the Commonwealth Association of Public Administration Managers Mr Art Stevenson said the organization was working on finding a way to honor Mr Draper’s work. Also among the scores present this morning were M.P. for St. Agugustine, Winston Dookeran and former parliamentarian Carlos John.

President George Maxwell Richards, Former President ANR Robinson, Ministers of National Security Martin Joseph and Fitzgerald Hinds, Commissioner Trevor Paul along with former Police Commissioners Everald Snaggs and Hilton Guy were among those who turned out to pay final respects to slain Acting Inspector Edward Williams at the Trinity Cathedral this morning. Officer Williams was shot dead last Tuesday while on duty as the bodyguard to former President Robinson. During his eulogy Mr Robinson likened the events of last Tuesday to his experience during the coup of 1990 when he was ordered to lie on the floor to avoid being shot by intruders to the Red House. Mr Robinson described the fallen officer as a hero who should be honoured accordingly. During his address Canon Knolly Clarke decribed Officer Williams as one of God’s martyrs whose death must not be in vain.

The role of the magistracy in the non serving of justice was raised this morning at a meeting of the Joint Select Committee appointed to inquire in to and report on Municipal Corporations and Service Commissions. Chairman of the Police Service Commission Christopher Thomas raised the matter after acknowledging that absenteeism by police officers when matters come before the courts was leading to the dismissal of many cases. Chairman Thomas suggested that a network of information be established to ensure that such instances can be avoided. The issue of recruitment and promotion within the police force was also raised with Senator Roy Augustus suggesting that nepotism and cronyism still plagued the service. There was a suggestion that a vibrant human resource unit be established not just for the police but the public service at large. Mr Thomas this morning said that they will be suggesting to cabinet yje formation of an oversight committee to monitor the action of the Police Commissioner as it relates to responsibilities delegated to him by the Public Service Commission.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Friday, November 16, 2012

An ya know what ah mean!

If the high point, at least till then, of Issac Mizrahi’s career was the 1994 movie Unzipped then the nose dive of his business and transition from high fashion to affordable fashion with his line for Target was I’ll say not as high a point, at least till then. The next big fashion moment for me was when actors Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen launched lines that wrested design from the hands of designers and in so doing perhaps gave  American fashion a new lease on life: inclusion became the order of the day. Unprecedented access was given through Fashion TV broadcasting shows and the online airing of Victoria Secret’s annual show. Mizrahi has landed on his feet despite the vagaries that loomed for a period.
                Enter Anya Ayoung Chee and the question of a proverbial second wind again comes to my mind. The academic study of Fashion Design includes Fashion History. Anya has studied Graphic and Interior design, no doubt with its history. What she does though is build upon that to do what every creator aims to do, make something new. You can’t make the history new though and I sense that is what has happened with this video Haute Caribe.
                The project managed to get some of my favorite and admired fashion personalities to agree to say that the local fashion industry is linked to Carnival. I find it to be a well presented thesis but it’s not entirely true and while it may be a wise choice I can’t say that it really captures either Fashion or Carnival. I mean if history will allow Minshall on the one hand or Bikini and Beads on the other to define Carnival then fine. If we accept that like fashion Carnival prefers people with lean bodies that can stand the glare of a camera flash then fine. If Fashion is like Carnival we are saying the more money you spend the better you’ll feel, fine. If you’re saying it means that there is only room for so many at the top then fine. But then like in Fashion you would be ignoring a lot.
                I may have too much to say on this and I may have even lost my way saying what I wanted to say but suffice it to say that if I continue with it I’m sure I would eventually get back on ya know what ah mean.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kees and David!

King David Rudder and 2011 Groovy Soca Monarch Kees Diffenthaller of Kes The Band in studio working on the recently released Live yuh Life (Like Yuh Playin Mas). The song is available for download at

Photos by Darryl "Inahfrenzy" Willoughby courtesy Question Mark Entertainment.

Minshall's Being

Redwing, Acrylic on board. 12"x12" (c) 1980.

I don’t remember how I got it but among my most beautiful and valued possessions is a book by Peter Minshall. Written totally in Trinidad vernacular it is a mythical story , Callaloo and de Crab. There are no “th’s” and no “ing’s”. It is Trinidadiana! It’s a white book with a black illustration on the cover from Minshall’s Everyman series.
                It was a spontaneous moment a couple Fridays ago when I went with one of my besties and colleague, Tamara Williams, to Minshall Miscellany. It was just some days before the exhibit at Y Gallery closed. Walking in ahead of us were Judy Chung Dennison and her husband and business partner, former sport journalist Anthony Dennison. Judy a former flight attendant and television host has what can only be described as a perfectly pitched voice. Mr. Dennison equally blessed with an iconic vocal acuteness. Tamara has worked for their media production company JCD and Associates. Their clients include the Barbados Tourism Authority and Caribbean Airlines, they have long been the producers of the airline’s in-flight video magazine feature Caribbean Essence.
The Coloured Man, Crayon on paper. 12"x12".
                As we chatted they remembered they were looking for a male voice and after expressing an interest in having me do a demo, Judy says soto voce “out of sight out of mind.” It was said as if she was sorry that she forgets me as available voice talent.
                Co-curator of the exhibition, Frame Shop owner, band leader and artist Ashraph Ramsaran was at the gallery and we spoke to him next. It was beautifully serendipitous as Ashraph is a lot of fun and was able to walk us through parts of our visit. He mentioned that Minshall’s Everyman was inspired by an image the young Minshall saw on a costume by the late great George Bailey. If they say anything they resolutely say Bailey was the greatest of his time. Because of my mother I also have a respect for Harold Saldenah, Sally as she calls him, who created in Bailey’s era. She enjoys talking about playing mas with Sally. She most often played, Wild Indian or it might be that Sally only brought Indian mas. I say this in part to say that there is more visual history of Bailey in my mind than Saldenah.
Head Piece, Acrylic and crayon on card. 20"x30' (c) 1986.
                Bailey was great at replicating images he saw in encyclopedia and history books to make a mas of all sorts of wear. His bands included Ye Saga of Merrie EnglandByzantine Glory, Somewhere in New Guinea and Bright Africa. Minshall comes along a little more than a decade after Baileys reign and joins a Carnival in transition. The focus began shifting in the mid 70’s perhaps given the revolution of the early 70’s that served as a gestation period for a departure from Bailey’s realism to a kaleidoscopic, psychedelic approach to color and form. It must be noted that this is not without the acknowledgement of the constant Traditional mas which still informs the mas that traditionally changes.
Top to bottom: The Cloths of Tantana: Fyzabad, Acrylic on Paper 24"x24" (c) 1993. The Cloths of Tantana: Black Rock, Acrylic on paper 24"x24" (c) 1993.
Dry Leaves of Grass, Acrylic and fern leaf on card. 14"x20" (c) 1986.
                Minshall caught my eye in the late 70’s as a young boy with his King, Devil Ray. It was Carnival of the Sea that year and he had taken Sailor mas to another level bringing new colors and embellishments to the white bell bottom uniform, sailor caps, fire stokes and all. Danse Macabre came after and was our introduction to what some see as the dark and evil Minshall. He goes on to grow with the controversy as he launches an attack on convention but with some concession by producing colorless monochromatic bands. There was other fascinating work happening at the time but Minshall was always different in a memorable way to me. 
                Conversations with Minshall reveal his complexity which he sums up as Caribbean. He was born in Guyana and grew up in Trinidad and Tobago. His success has not made that easier as paternity matters in building a legacy and protecting inheritance.
Face Off (the artist sober and the artist drunk), Crayon on paper. 28"x24".
                As you entered the gallery to the immediate right was the first piece according to the list with work descriptions and prices. Item #1 was a 1972 set he’d done for a stage production of Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf? Having seen the exhibit we end up at the door to the gallery where Face-Off (the artist sober and the artist drunk) hangs: across the doorway is item #1.
                The movie version of Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf? stars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. From my recollection, having watched it once, it is a treatise on marriage and alcoholism. I remember the Upstate New York couple getting drunk every evening over dinner at home and having raging arguments. That may have just been one scene, as I said I don’t quite remember. It struck me at the moment, though, that the two pieces at the entrance to the gallery, one to the left the other to the right, refer to drinking. The set design piece is beautiful, detailed autumn toned crayon on black card, on the other side an animation like whimsy again in crayon, capturing what may be just two sides of the artist who gave us Everyman.

Images  from the catalog of Minshall Miscellany.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Health and Care

I sometimes think, physicality is the new religion. The body has become the temple and so more people run, walk, do yoga or workout. Churches of Spin, Zoomba and TRX have sprung up like the Open Bible churches did in Trinidad and Tobago which was previously dominated by Roman Catholic and Anglican churches and in some part mosques and temples. It is said to have mind, body and soul benefits. Not being a part of the new religion can make one the modern day equivalent of a pariah. This becomes more acute among the ageing who associate sex appeal with physical form.

                I recently paid good money to a health facility for services I’d say I’m yet to get. But this is not the issue that concerns me. My boss, in his mid to late forties had quadruple bypass surgery this week. He wasn’t over weight, drinks only occasionally, doesn’t eat meat and has an exercise regime. He had been hospitalized with chest pains a couple times before but it was only on his last visit two weeks ago that blocked arteries were discovered. I’m confused.

                The thing is that all his visits before were to one of the best private health facilities in the country. I’m wondering no tests done showed that he was at risk for heart disease? It had to come to what has been termed a minor heart attack for a doctor to realize he needed urgent heart surgery? That institution failed him! How do we get accountability from health professionals? Is that not a serious question?

                Another failing of the health evangelists, whom I view with the skepticism of all other crusaders with a life saving message, is that they don’t respect your right to interpret health. It may be necessary to say that my earlier point is that even those dedicated to health can fail to achieve it, more the institution than the individual. This is no indictment as I do believe most things are folly but that’s another story. Money doesn’t bring happiness, love does not mean peace and all things are uncertain, this is what I mean by all things are folly.
                It’s not easy to have quadruple bypass surgery, though, and the recovery is at its own pace. I wish my boss a full and speedy recovery!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hot Topic: Obey Yuh Thirst!

I wouldn’t say I bow to the pressure but sometimes things does fall by your garden gate and even though it not in your garden you does feel is yours to do with as you please. So I minding my business, as per usual and people asking about the soca artiste said to be found by his woman in bed with a man. As the reports go the wife of the new father and husband has been telling anyone who’d listen about her discovery.

I mean the story would be a lot more interesting perhaps if the star was bigger or even a sex symbol. There is a greater betrayal and so more public outcry when those found on the other side of the fence are desired by many, we then get to vicariously engage in their sex lives as jilted fans who thought that the love was real without realizing that performance is not reality, unless performing under the covers and with someone of the same sex.

I remember how stridently a certain female soca artiste denied the viral image of two females kissing was not her. This particular artiste is big; she also has close gay male friends and even talks off the record about her love for gays and how much support they give her. It’s funny though that when her name became embroiled in the scandal her position was not “it’s not me and so what if it is?” It was more like “Its not me!” This is a loose paraphrase of what went down.

This recent event comes on the heels of more attractive versions of discovery after a debut hip hop artiste posted prosaically about his first same sex love at the age of 19. It doesn’t get sexier than that, a good looking black star, athletically built, rich in US Dollars and connected to the who’s who of modern urbanity talking about a preadolescent romance.

The local tale is not one of a king sized bed in an air conditioned apartment with high ceilings and champagne in the refrigerator and a Jacuzzi in the corner with a sport car downstairs waiting to take the two on a cruise along the coast post coitus. I got no details of the alleged encounter but I’m sure that’s not how it went.

Well looking ahead with soca season not far off I can imagine the race is on for the tell-all scoop that will be history by the time the talented protagonist of the tale releases his 2013 selections. I can’t say for sure how it will play out because to me at this point it’s all rumor. I do remember a time when the retort to questions about a man’s sexuality was “but he married and he have a child” and the counter response “that is no vaccine”, given developments in medicine it seems its not a vaccine but a slow release gel cap, I wait.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

New York - Life on an Island

Jason Campbell
A few years ago we started witnessing a growth in popularity and then size, of what we have now recognized and redefined as the lounge. There is the classic Lansky which is nowhere the hybrid that has become the lounge. Even though they are now charging at the door some nights, the once hard to get in to Spy Bar has managed a level of respect or at least business. Check it out on Wednesday the new home of Home Cookin’, Bill Spector, Mark Levanthal and set, music by Mark Ronson and Jules. Take a spin through the new Chaos at the old Bank space on East Houston, also happening on Wednesday and Sunday if you get in, life has no guarantees, you know.
Magnum at 357 W. Broadway does a cool Sunday night groove. Hosted and produced by Jacques and Pascal (Crème and Sugar) and Sorin, the party is described as a sing along attitude flavoured with some of those new faces. Music by Shorty, must be fun!
Looking ahead, club impresario Steve Lewis, is again set to do his thing. His latest project, Spa, attempts to inject more fire into the hotbed that is Union Square. Spa, known in the past as The Grand, System and most recently Ki Club might be about to witness its last incarnation. Scheduled to open this spring, we anticipate every square inch. Congratulations to Steve Lewis. If all goes well, we’ll prove that you can’t keep a good man down?
Moving west, Mark Baker and Jeffrey Jah have combined forces with Will and Dave of Union Bar to do a Meat District (downtown’s latest ironic oasis) venue to rival all venues, Lotus.  Still left to be seen who’ll be handling the front and who’ll be handling the back end of things. With all the newness in the air, its too still left to be seen whether or not the Mayor relaxed and decided to bestow the kind people some cabaret licences.
Until such time Centro Fly is a hot destination, the kitchen might be still working out their kinks but the action on the dance floor is on, pick a night…any night. We favor Thursday, Subliminal, industry dance party presented by Rob Fernandez and Eric Morillo, hosted by Kevin Aviance – international roster of rotating house music dj’s. Centro Fly also happens on Friday when Erich Conrad does his thing. Start your night off there and end up at Vinyl where Danny Tenaglia keeps the tempo up till you cant take no more.
Saturdays are good for exploration. Rumor has it that Junior Vasquez has been experiencing moments of “sheer genius” at Twilo. Could it be magic? For something different find the G Train and ride it to Green Point Avenue, Brooklyn. Walk a few doors down to 132 Green Point Avenue and enjoy Splendid Bar. Definitely off the path of the madding crowd, this is a gem of a space. Unaffected and comfortable, it’s the same old concept, well priced drinks and a mix of Polish émigrés and loft living artists. The owners love the idea of using the space to showcase art. Check it out!

Foreground Sascha Lewis and Mark Mangan of Flavorpill

Back on the island…there are all kinds of exciting conversations surrounding the endless possibilities that are imaginable with the advent of Digital Cameras and MP3’s and live broadcasts and behind the scenes access and downloading remixes that you dance to and spending time watching what other people do with their time, hey it worked as T.V. With enviable alliances between new media and public spaces we clue you in to a hot happening. Sponsored by, Krispy Cream happens at Parlay, Avenue A just off 12th. Every Wednesday. Eclectic sounds weaved by Netset vibrationist. Sascha, hosted quite aptly by Miss B.
To be sure your week is taken care of, suffice it to say that we went were at Sway dancing until 4:30 the other Monday after we left Lot 61 and the only reason we stopped was that the police came at which point all we could say was “please officer don’t shoot.”
As if there wasn’t enough to look forward to, word on a virtual merger of downtown personalities. Lesly Bernard, the face that helped make Pravda, proprietor at Clementine and man about town has got into bed with Michele Jean of Circa, Restaurant 147 and the ill-fated Orient. Their first project, a South African themed restaurant is primed to become a jewel in the Meat District crown, coming soon after the much anticipated reopening of Orient. Left to be seen what summer really means in the year 2000, all we can say is buy the clothes, they will throw the parties.

Note: Reproduced with permission of the author. Originally published on The e-commerce pioneers behind the venture Jason Campbell went to establish the jcreport while Sascha Lewis and Mark Mangan formed Flavorpill

Friday, May 4, 2012

An Estranged Woman

I feel partly obligated to write about the Lord Street Production, Miss Miles. There is a recurring observation: the need for more review of creative work in Trinidad and Tobago. Even if the only person who says it is dancer/choreographer Dave Williams, he’s said it enough times that it has attained critical mass in my mind. I can agree critique is critical to the arts.

Having said that, I got to the final night of the second run about twenty minutes late, the scene was of a young Miss Miles; it’s a one-hander, practicing her Catholicism. Her repeated, exaggerated rituals of the church disturb. Her story is testimony to belief in Christ or religion promising no salvation in this life, particularly given that her fate is already known to most of the audience.  She went from toast of the town to being taunted. She returns from the afterlife to tell the story.

In this scene the audience is also introduced to her parents. They interact with her responding to them in a way that lets you know what they said or asked. This “dialogue” gives a sense of the rigid principles inculcated in the young woman who would go on to be a whistle blower, to her demise, as her father was in both regards.

I was, albeit slightly, hesitant about seeing the play. I was unsure about how it would portray the People's National Movement. The legacy of the party is inextricably linked to the story of this country's progress and development as relative or subjective as that is seen. This is acknowledged but overshadowed or underplayed in the production and rightly so as it is believed her career and life were sabotaged by the party, or part thereof or in part.

She was romantically linked to the legendary Mr. O'Halloran, the same one of Rudder's Panama, his scandals some say in the tens of thousands.  To this day Johnny O remains a reference to the corrupt history or some would say element of the party.

Miss Miles takes great pains to inform the viewer that the P.N.M. was founded on principles of integrity and a vow to end corruption in public office. She did this in wondering how she could be possibly vilified by this very party, to the audience given her life long adherence to ethics, path of virtue and the party’s ethos.

What it may have failed to do was give insight into why this conscientious, dedicated public servant was the one left unprotected, all things considered. In this sense it reinforces a political view that either reflected a lack of research, a preference for the salacious or a subconscious bias, benefit of the doubt given. This is not to question the veracity of what can be seen as a legend akin to the likes of Marilyn Munroe.

Did Miss Miles betray Mr. O’Halloran using pillow talk to bring him down? Was she unfaithful to him? More than once? There are moments when the very proper, respecter of no persons, as she refers to herself,  writhes and wines on the stage floor giving a glimpse of her inner jamette.  Was her demise really orchestrated or the burden of her conscience?

The play gets more merit for its theatrical devices than it does for its script which failed to provide new information or insight that would have added dimension to already well known characters.

It’s in some sense an adaptation of Anthony De Verteuil's The Story of Gene Smile and the Gas Station Racket but augmented and stylized effectively with an original sensibility and miles of appeal.

Some have said the play was too long, a common criticism when the Producer is the Writer and in this case, too, the Director. Some have described it as a “tour de force” for the very experienced multiple Cacique Award winning actor/actress, Cecilia Salazar.

If you, like me, are tickled by a convent girl accent, Miss Miles does not disappoint.

If you want to know the story, I humbly suggest you catch it if it’s ever mounted at a theater near you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Does Rani make it sadder?

So the ad for the new product from Coehlo’s is on heavy rotation. Every time I hear the jingle, which I think borrows melodically from a popular chutney song one line sticks out, “no more an' tawah”. My initial reaction to the line was anger. This is because I like tradition. Buisness, however, is about innovation and increasingly more so. The new best practices for businesses are found in the world of technology.

I think, though, we can all agree that the line from the ad leaves us divided as we consider that yes, store bought sada roti is convenient and an innovation but at what point do we start to value tradition over those things?

We all but lost public phones. Which came first the chicken or the egg? Is it that TSTT wanted us to buy cellular so they stopped maintaining those now relics of the past? Or did they foresee the market going cellular and so diverted resources to the development of that area of business? What about the person who lose they phone but still can’t wait to get to a land line as we used to? If I don’t have a cell should I not be able to make a call unless I’m at home or somewhere that would allow me to as they did back in the day given it had to constitute an emergency? Or maybe we were nicer then and generally less concerned about money and so you could have been allowed a call that wasn’t a matter of life and death. And no, I haven’t forgotten that some places allowed strangers to make calls for in some cases as much as two dollars if memory serves me right.

So now we have sada on the shelf. Did the writers of that ad think that saying “no more bilna an' tawah” is a desirable state of affairs? Maybe they did a focus group and nanis and Ranis across the country say they tired sweating over the hot stone jus so the family go have fresh home made roti. I hear the product in no way compares to the real thing. So now we have what is being called by some a sub-standard product and if all goes well for Coehlo, a day to come with no bilna and tawah.

We have long known that the price of progress is high but it raises a difficult question, does Rani make it sadder?

Disclaimer: The writer of this blog enjoys whole wheat sada, a hot shower, a cup of hot water in 60 seconds and other modern conveniences.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Segue - Joni Jackson

many flowers have met untimely
deaths at the hand of the lovelorn
during attempts to ascertain
in a most unscientific way whether
he loves or he does not
the thread of thought curves round
income statements and balance sheets
to a poem about the rain in Ireland
that due to a clever line break takes you, in
a word, from illicit images to the mundane
walking home from grocery shopping
with someone you love in the rain...

Taken from So Much Things to Say - 100 Calabash Poets

Choices - Edward Baugh

You chose to leave; that's fine by me.
"One's country," John Milton said, "is wherever
it is well with one." You're still my friend.
Is true, poor people catching hell
and the middle class sleeping
with panic button under their pillow;
but when you fly down to visit
and enjoying the old veranda lime
after dinner, don't spend the time
trying so hard to get me to say
you did right, only a loser would stay.
I wouldn't say I would never leave,
but if that's what they call ambition,
then right now I sticking with love.
River mullet still running in Grandy water,
and the busu soup simmering, keeping warm till you come.

Friday Night - Sally Henzell

why don't you come to me
as calculated as the regulated ticking
of a clock
the love of a quiet man
a weekday man
a man that brings me roses
but not orchids
a kind man with friendly eyes
and regimental habits
but I have been seduced
by Friday Night
neon lights
and muted jazz seeping up
from dingy doorways
car horns
and lovers quarreling
loud and unashamed
a streetbulb reflected in a puddle
garbage cans
and yesterday's newspapers
and love
given widely
chance meetings
and flirtations of the night
asking nothing more
than that Friday night may end
as Friday night began
taking with her
all she gave
and leaving nothing
for tomorrow

Taken from So Much Things to Say - 100 Calabash Poets

Breakfast - Makesha Evans

With you I'm over easy
sliding down
spreading sunshine
for sticks of toast
golden then gooey
on a protracted Sunday morning.
You are chef and connoisseur
preparing and consuming
because you can
because I let you
because I want you to.
See, I was scrambled before
adulterated by other than
what I am,
confused by complex recipes
for what-should be
on rye
drawn to exotic and farwaway flavors
that dont quite fit
with eggs.
But you
break me open
see me as I am
and love with me
a little heat
so that I can simply be myself
over easy
and with you.

Taken from So Much Things to Say - 100 Calabash Poets

Friday, February 3, 2012

Jeans and Ethics

In recent years two trends in male fashion have been very troubling for some sectors of our societies. Call them fitted jeans, pencil pants or skinny jeans they have some people uncomfortable. The other is the low waist style which allows varying degree of underwear to show. I find them troubling because they always draw my attention. The problem is a little graver for others. The former is a perceived threat to masculinity and consequently the domain of women and the latter speaks to this sense of decency that black men must subscribe to as they must do nothing to further their marginalization in societies that have more reasons to deny them work, respect, love and acceptance than not.

I remember after my trip to Suriname in about 2004 someone explained the slim fitting pants that were everywhere there then, as the Dutch influence, it was an expression of the liberal male found in all of Europe least so England. Holland is known for its liberal attitudes, in France the men kiss, in Italy they walk down the streets hugging each other. The closer silhouette naturally followed the flat-front pant, just as a point of interest. In Suriname, though, the young men were all wearing close fitting pants. It stood in stark contrast to the still pervasive baggy finish associated with the global Hip Hop image elsewhere, it was therefore not American.

After Suriname I spent three years in Jamaica. The fitted silhouette was there before it was in Trinidad and Tobago by my observation. One of the things that I believe influences Jamaican trends is its proximity to Miami. Many boutique owners shop in Miami.

By now the L.A. punk style that really some say ushered in the age of skinny jeans, had reached New York, Miami and London. They were no longer in types of denim but now bright colors in the these places. It was around then too that metrosexuals went mainstream, a characteristic of this being a new masculinity that put taste before allegiance to norms of accepted men’s attire.

I see less of them being used to “dress up” as we say here, and more so casually, it suggests that the trend is running its course. One person even commented to me last weekend that skinny jeans were out of fashion. This despite another person recently complaining about men wearing a women’s brand, PJ’s which seem to be made of stretch denim, giving an even closer fit.

Emerging trends in jeans seem to be the stone- washed grey which is more a color statement than one of fit and partially bleached blue denim. It must be also noted that some high end brands post True Religion and Evisu have also been capturing a market that is loyal and visible.

The other trend of the sagging pants speaks to values. Some are to a degree repulsed on one level to be seeing a man’s underwear. He is said to have no self-respect, no ambition, be appropriating a foreign culture with roots in the jails where belts are taken away and so pants sag. I even saw a campaign by an U.S. politician to have it banned. President Barack Obama has spoken against it. I heard, too, that male some tourists disembarking a cruise ship in Grenada were sent back on board by Prime Ministerial decree because their underwear was showing. I can’t confirm it but I took no time to doubt it.

From as far back as the 90’s Mark Whalberg, then Marky Mark modeled Calvin Klein in magazines with his underwear showing. I can’t say I remember the response of the politically correct but fact is that that was over 20 years ago, we don’t yet accept it and still make it a problem.

Perhaps even earlier male Rock musicians and Punk stars were wearing skin fitting jeans.

I read in a historical account of “gayness” in Trinidad and Tobago of some of the ways the community existed. It described same sex sexual relations among men as “a gentleman’s vice”. The term "gentleman" was reserved for certain members of the society, we know we were not all considered gentlemen. It speaks of a man of stature, a man with a lady, a man of society. So in examining the history of homosexuality in Trinidad and Tobago some are outside the notes of history. Even if those interactions were between “gentlemen’ and those of a lower class the article does not mention any other sector of Trinidad and Tobago in that period.

Its Carnival and Singing Francine has a song I’m sure we’ll hear at Calypso Fiesta warning about the societal ill that wining is when done by children. Ok, not sure what my position is on that. One Red Cross official has also been known to admonish against lewd behavior by children at the junior parades of the bands.
Yes it is a disturbing sight for me to see young girls, particularly, gyrating as they parade. However, there is a part of me that doesn’t see wining as vulgar, despite how it looks. The fact is it feels good to do it. What it connotes is really imaginary to the person doing it almost. Too, most times I have seen a young girl wining a female guardian was close by. I may protest too much but while I don’t think it something to encourage I’m not sure the reasons why it should not be encouraged should be encouraged either, as silently articulated as they are or may be.

For me this Carnival I’d like to wine. I have tried to “wuk up” as the men do in Barbados and realized how bound I was by the Trinidad and Tobago limitation on how much a man can wine before becoming suspect of partaking in the vices of gentlemen. I don’t need anyone’s permission but I would say that I too find myself trapped by ideas about how I should behave. I’m not sure though if how I wine and wear my jeans are not in fact genetics.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Losing Game by Amy Whiner

There is no point in playing a game you know you’ll win, it’s part of the thrill of the thing. Amy Winehouse said Love is a Losing Game yet we play it over and over. I agree with her but that is based on my experiences at least in romantic love, its not a department I’d say I have had success in. There are other games we play, though, even if we don’t want to it seems that we have to.

I got an invitation to a party today from a friend. I immediately responded and said I wont be attending then I thought to myself that he invited me because he wanted me to come so I then sent another message saying I may come.

Now I have been accused of making much ado about nothing as a rule but I respond by saying who feels it knows.

This is Trinidad and Tobago where the nation trumps all. As a small country every birth counts and so procreation is revered above all else. It has implications for the future labor force, attendances at fetes and numbers in carnival bands and pan sides. Most of us accept this and so the national dialogue has little room for anything else.

How then do I explain to my friend that…you know…straight fetes cause problems for people who are not straight not exactly in the same way that not straight fetes only attract not straight people but akin.

So here I go agreeing to play that game that always sees me losing. The game of silence when so much has to be said, like “wow he's fine”, “did she really wear that” and other things that only non-straight men say.

This in no way really gets to the depth of the hegemony of which I speak but it does suggest that in the interest of nation many compromises are made.

The funny thing is that my friend, like many who may be at the fete, knows that not all of us are straight and to an extent the attendance of non-straights at straight events is a but of an endorsement as non-straights are thought to be of discerning taste on one level and too such a rarity that they can also be seen as an attraction. You’re allowed to disagree with that last statement.

So in deciding to go out in a country where for the most part the heterosexual hegemonic are only second to the closeted cartel it is with the knowledge that we are engaging in the game, one I don’t feel that I win. Maybe, just maybe it’s the game of love.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Queen's English

I remember in the 80’s, while still a teenager, they’d speak of the “royal lisp”. It was a condition thought to afflict gay men where a slight tied-tongue would give a quality to your speech that the likes of the late Stephanie Hospedales would be happy to help you with. Everything was to be corrected, buck teeth, riders, bandy legs anything that was not a feature the majority of us shared. Before I lose my point though, the “royal lisp” was considered a sure sign that one was ac/dc, a popular euphemism for gay back in the day.

I moved to New York and it was there that the queen’s English became more significant. It was a code amongst a downtown set that does what all language does, it unites as much as it gives color to the expression of a sub-culture. One popular House song would later ask Do you Know the Queen’s English?

In Trinidad and Tobago we can still say that the Queen’s English is the preferred mode of communication. Some eschew it all together and speak dialect. I practise what Linguists call, code-switching. It’s characteristic of many Caribbean people, to flow seamlessly from Standard or Queen’s English to dialect in one sentence or depending on the circumstance. Like when a neighbor approached me last night and asked how I was the only answer to give was “normal” as opposed to my usual “I’m alright thanks.”

It was at my home in Brooklyn one day many years ago that my brother, Kevin, questioned me after he heard an exchange between me and a friend where we repeatedly referred to each other as “bitch” as in: “bitch please I never told you that”. He found the use of the term unnatural between men and at that moment began another level of disassociation with a life style or culture if you will which I had found my self a part of quite comfortably.

If a queen says to you “you’re tired!” it has nothing to do with you being exhausted well not directly. It’s a statement about an action or position they don’t approve of. Example: a: I just bought a WonkaDonka shirt. Cost me a thousand dollar but its fierce! B: Miss thing that’s not fierce that’s really tired, why would pay that for a shirt? This example carries many examples of queen’s English but also shows that not all queens are willing to shell out the asking price for fashion, that would require a blog entry all its own.

It would be some years before I left New York and while Kevin takes a lot of licks as my older sometimes domineering brother, I want to say the loss of that learned tongue, queen’s English helped dislocate me in a sense and in part facilitated my leaving New York. I was no longer speaking the same language as my tribe, the values of the tribe questioned, I was moved to a no man’s land in some senses. The implications have been heavy. It was akin to the loss of a mother tongue. It has possibly led to a stasis on many fronts.

I have been accused of not living my life fully in the past ten years by some who know me. Part of the problem is that there are aspects of my past that I don’t care to relive and having changed I feel estranged from a world I wonder was ever for me.

I’ve been reading up on ethnography for a workshop I have to do this trimester and it speaks of the elements of culture, cultural knowledge, cultural behavior and cultural artifacts. When an observed group agrees on these or exhibits them routinely enough they are believed to share a culture. It doesn’t take an anthropologist to know what happens when an individual is removed from a culture.

Part of the struggle for me in being back in Trinidad and Tobago is which cultural grouping do I belong to? My best friends have for the most part all become parents. We share knowledge, behavior and artifacts. I cant say that it doesn’t still leave me sometimes lost for a sense of identity. Last Carnival I was a Wotless Trini, this year I find myself sometimes a Bacchanalist, A Baddess and in a chorus singing Mr Fete? I want to leave myself with options for my Carnival Tuesday portrayal but I’ll most likely be found in the Vulgar Fraction, a bit poetic if you ask me. These are all partial representations, though, as the vernacular of Carnival is seasonal.

Migration and repatriation are not without their issues for me. The process of cultural assimilation following migration and then disengagement can leave one feeling like many. The point may not be clear but suffice it to say we are united by intangibles, language among them, as well values. Both of which are inconsistent in my expression. I just wish there was a place like a dictionary or grammar book to help me know what is standard, as when one speaks the Queen’s English.