Had a wonderful day at the beach today with friends and friends of friends. A wonderful weekend in general.
It is that time of year in the Caribbean again when the winds of change and the bluster of politicians are upstaged by the power of nature. Hurricane season normally puts most Caribbean residents on edge as the nature of our territory lends itself to being vulnerable to the raging power of one the the greatest forces in nature. Generally, we are small islands dependent on agriculture and with an infrastructure that is usually fairly rickety. Of course, as with most things here in Trinidad ( and to a much lesser extent Tobago) we think we are an exception to everything. We are fond of saying that “God is a Trini” and pointing to the fact that we never get hit seriously by any of the storms that sweep through. That is not entirely true as though direct hits are a rarity it is more a matter of lucky geographic location than divine intervention.
Right now, as most readers will be aware, we are in an unusually active period of disturbed weather in our region. Hurricane Gustav has pounded Jamaica, the Caymans and Cuba and is now setting its sights on the Southern US having reached Category 4 strength and with all indications it will strengthen even further. A measure of the power of this storm is that Katrina ,which devastated New Orleans in 2005, came ashore as a CAT 3. To make our region even scarier we also have Tropical Storm Hanna malingering to the North just behind Gustav and another weather system forming in the Eastern Atlantic. This may not be a pretty season for our region and we can only hope nature and the atmosphere conspire to help things improve.
In other news last night was the final night for Alvie’s nighclub Sky. For three years it has been an oasis for all manner of people who needed a place to call their own ( and a convenient place for me to have conversations with Alvie) but as with all things it ran its course. I attended last night as I have had some involvement over the years helping with logos, flyers and the like. It was a strange experience with a huge but motley crew of people belonging to every imaginable race, orientation and age. Every time I turned my back to talk to someone it seemed that another throng entered until it reached the point I wondered if there was going to be enough oxygen available.
It is always sad seeing a groundbreaking idea come to an end and Sky certainly was that – a dream that turned into a social phenomenon. I salute Alvie for his vision and know that he will soon be allowing another of his ideas to take wing. Sometimes I am just so darned proud of my friends and then I realize I chose them well.
On a recent drive I happened upon the pictured specimen of the cannabis sativa plant. It was a wee little fledgling but I have never seen one before and I was amazed at how pretty it is. Frankly, they should legalize the thing just for those beautiful serrated leaves. Sad to know that it will probably be weeded out and tossed in the garbage lest the long hand of the law reach out to touch the person on whose property it apparently decided to spontaneously populate.
I have always felt the battle against weed/cannabis/ganja was a foolish one. I personally hate the smell of it when it is burned but anything that can be grown easily is not a good candidate for eradication especially when so many people are keen on using it. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that alcohol and cigarettes probably kill more people and have far worse long term effects. It is human nature to want to escape which explains nicely why virtually every culture has developed alcohol at some point.
I only tried weed once when I was much younger but it didn’t really appeal to me. Maybe I am just too much of an elitist and think that a Pernod and water has far more cachet but I defend the right of others to get tipsy in whatever way they choose. Also, it should be noted, marijuana has quite a few medical benefits while Pernod only serves to prime me for early diabetes. I say legalize the thing and let’s just learn to deal with people with red eyes munching Pringles ( remember they are not crisps) and sporting silly t-shirts.
News was great today and despite having to read news when I really didn’t want to I ended the day at 8:30pm quite satisfied. Every day lately I have been noticing what an amazing group of news people I have working with me. They are all totally unique and yet we work really well together and have fun doing it?
The personal life continues to shine so I shall reserve comment on that except to say that there is a lovely Trinidad expression “to put goat mouth on something”. It basically means to jinx something by talking about it . So if you say your career is going really well and then you get fired you can say you put goat mouth on yourself. I am not a superstitious sort but one never knows. It brings to mind the famous atheists prayer….Oh God, if there is a God. Save my soul if I have a soul ( attributed to Ernest Renan) . I believe that pretty well says it all. And thanks to Bun for the advice to speak in generalities.
Well here we are a week after my last blog entry with lots of news and personal water under that oh so strained proverbial bridge. Let’s start with the weather as we are now well into the rainy season which is my favourite especially since, unlike winter in other places, you don’t die if you walk outside in swim trunks. We are at the very edge of the hurricane belt so we don’t really ever experience the worst of the inter tropical convergence zone but we have had some pretty spectacular weather this past week. On Saturday I got scared out of my skin when Cascade got hit by what felt like a microburst with the sudden arrival of torrential ran and winds so high they toppled a few trees and blew my dining table on the balcony back two feet. Still is there anything better than being at home in the rain or listening to the sound of raindrops on nearby galvanized iron roofs?
I shall ignore the serious business of news for the time and pledge more of an effort to blog this week and move on other things. My personal life has taken a huge swerve into better waters and I have been feeling really great about things this past week. Being me, however, I am just waiting for the iceberg to slam into my hull. Ah well, if it does maybe I might have a few good clinging onto a board moments.
The trick for me is learning to at least step a foot out of my comfort zone. As Steve rightly pointed out there isn’t much chance of anything if my life consists entirely of my place, work and the supermarket with almost zero detours. Good Lord! I just realized Steve said something that makes sense. I guess the whole world really has gone mad.
It was a mixed day today so let’s start with the positive which is that avocado season has started and soon junkies such as myself will have our fill. Known here as zaboca by all but the most uppity nosed types from Westmoorings, our version is somewhat different to the puny Haas variety normally found at the fruit and veg stands in North America and Europe. Ours are bigger and with a lighter texture and can get decidedly large. Because we do not import avocados from other regions it is very much a seasonal treat that is much anticipated. While other cultures come up with clever ways to use the avocado in creative dishes here in T&T we like ours served just the way it is – either just sliced and served or eaten with local crackers.
I shall start this next bit by explaining that a quenk is a wild pig that lives in this part of the world. After work I dragged myself to the gym in a torrential downpour and made my way up the steps to the gym with my $5 in my hand for my traditional bottled water. There was a newish young lady at the desk so I smiled and asked for a bottle of water offering my money. Getting the water and continuing with my normal routine with Clyphil would have been far too simple a scenario though. Oh no. The wretched woman at the desk asked me where my membership card was. I politely explained that because I always lose mine it is kept at the front desk and pointed to where it was. This wasn’t good enough for her as she insisted I take it with me. I told her that for all my time at the gym this had not been a problem for anyone before and, in fact, it was reception who suggested I leave my card there. This too wasn’t enough for her as she asked if I could not read the sign on the door saying that all members show their card. I politely expressed surprise that she was able to read the sign on the door and that I was showing her my card by telling her it was on her desk. She went on to say that she was following procedure which prompted me to suggest she should have sought employment at Dachau instead.
By this point in the proceedings i was starting to nose breathe and was on the verge of going into full verbal assault mode. I told her that whatever floated her boat was fine with me but I was not changing my plan to leave the card at the front desk. Did she go into customer care mode? Nope. She proceeded to tell me that her boat was floating just fine which led me to inform her it must be a pretty strong boat since it was obviously carrying a lot of extra cargo. Sadly, at that point Clyphil heard the ruckus and told her he would hold my card for me – though even that led her to keep babbling something about procedure as the two of us walked away into the gym proper.
It turns out that the other four guys in the gym at that time had also had problems at the desk that day and one of them was actually fit to be tied. Why do some people work in jobs that clearly don’t suit them. I am sure there was a prison guard position she could have filled. I would never dream of doing something outside my range of abilities like coal mining or teaching daycare. We need to get back to the state where customer service really falls on the shoulders of those who are able and trained to handle it. Good luck with that I guess. I would probably have better luck if I went outside and prayed for 1957 Chateau Lafite to fall from the sky.
It is a genuine pity that blogs are not self-sustaining entities that, like cacti, can live happily and bloom with no intervention. It has now been a full week since my last entry and I am here more out of guilt than anything. Not, I hasten to add, that guilt is normally a great motivator with me. It was an odd sort of week anyhow and I spent much of it fuming over The Happening. Nothing irks me more than bad art – I swear. Actually, that is not entirely true as reading some reviewers expressing thoughts that this was really a good film sets me off slightly more. Roger Ebert, a critic I normally respect, is way off the mark on this one. I wonder if MNS craftily slipped something into his popcorn?
Work has been the usual slew of murders and the rather macabre spectacle of the Minister of National Security screwing his face up in response to a question from a reporter at the post cabinet briefing and saying “don’t you think this situation pains me?”. Ummm. The question is not how you feel about crime the question is what you are doing about the homicides right now…not in three years or next year. Sure there are many things that need to be done socially in the long term but people want the carnage to at least slow down now. I don’t understand why the goodly Minister can’t understand that a good plan involves stemming the leak in the dam immediately while at the same time building a replacement for it upstream. He simply seems not to get it.
I had Kevin Baldeosingh on the programme this week and he is always one of my favourite guests. He is an author, columnist, raconteur and genuinely funny person. He is also a secular humanist which fits into my world view just fine and means I don’t have to roll my eyes back too often in an interview. I am hoping we can get him more involved in television as people that smart and funny are pretty thin on the ground in these parts. This brings me to the title of this entry which is also an artfully crafted reference to the new Get Smart movie that will, no doubt, be less funny than the original TV series. Things in life and especially my life seem to come in spurts. It will be a drought of something and then I will find myself surrounded by it. Of late this has been the case with highly intelligent people…geniuses if you will. I am not a slouch in the IQ department but I happily recognise there are many people more intelligent than me. Sitting with Kevin and chatting on the programme was great because he has a tremendous range of knowledge and, simply by using his insight, is able to shed a different light on a number of topics. His take that the start of the current crime wave is traceable to the sudden importance of the Unemployment Relief Programme ( aka Government make work project which is riddled with nefarious activities and undoubtedly questionable spending) was a clever and analytical approach to the problem. I am not sure he is smarter than me but he certainly thinks differently. Then I had Dr. Roodal Moonilal the MP for Oropouche East on the programme. I never realised it before but the man has a PhD done on full scholarship at The Hague. As far as I know those are not handed out willy nilly.
It is an odd coincidence that my cousin Peggy ( just realised that sounds like My Cousin Vinny) was also here recently and she is a bona fide genius. I thought she was probably the smartest person I would ever encounter until I met someone recently ( who shall remain nameless for privacy reasons) who is also a certified genius. Intriguingly, while they are of different genders, they are quite similar in both temperament and making me feel that I am a few steps behind them. They also both possess that annoying feature of true geniuses that they are able to do so many things astoundingly well their only problem is in figuring out what to focus on. They were both child prodigies which is a blog entry by itself. Strangely, they are also both able to read music despite one being in science and the other in the arts .
Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows that I generally keep younger people at a great arms length since I simply have no interest in talking about what is happening with Britney. Thanks to The Nameless One I now have the odd experience of speaking to someone who is much younger than me about the finer points of particle physics and the relevance of the repo rate to the bigger economic picture. What is even stranger for me is accepting the fact that I am dealing with someone who beats my IQ by several points and is definitely smarter despite a more than **ahem** 10 year difference in age. I will never be able to fully understand Chaos Theory in anything but the most rudimentary way ( though I know it is extremely important) and it rather freaks me out that there is someone I am talking to who can look at the formulas and see sense.
On the bright side, while I must accept my own limitations, I can see that there are people who can truly change the world in their own fields. As someone who is frequently surrounded by self-important people with jacked up views of themselves it also heartens me to know that these smart people have no airs and are all amazingly humble. I feel privileged to have encountered both Peggy and The Nameless One in my lifetime. I am the better for it.
WARNING – VENTING ALERT!!!
I have just returned from being subjected to another awful M. Night Shyamalan film. Actually, based on recent experience with his films it is redundant to use that particular adjective but this one is so egregiously bad that words almost fail me … but not quite. I hadn’t planned to go to the movies but Alvin, Binky and Alvin’s cousin Amshad said they were going and would pick me up for the 9:15 showing of The Happening. Warning bells should have gone off in my head but since my flu/cold/terminal disease has kept me a virtual recluse lately I went. Foolish move.
Those who know me even slightly well know that i love the medium of film but nothing irks me more than a badly made film. In this case M or Night or whatever his fans call him has achieved the previously unachievable task of making a film where there is simply nothing good about it. SPOILER ALERT!!!
I found it strange that the film opened here in Trinidad before the official release date of Friday 13th in the US ( gosh what a clever release date) but I am sure once the critics rightly savage the film on Friday it will be thrown straight on to DVD. Actually, in my view that would be a waste of a DVD blank. The premise of this travesty, in a nutshell – and not to put too fine a point on it – is that the plants get annoyed and decide to kill us. But they don’t actually kill us themselves, oh no, that would be far too simple and a bit too Day of the Triffids, what they do is release a “toxin” in the air that makes us kill ourselves in a variety of creative and colourful ways. We throw ourselves off buildings, shoot ourselves, slash our wrists, get run over by lawn equipment and even bash our heads into walls. Oh gee..I almost forgot…we also jump into lion cages and tease them until they bite our arms off as it is captured on iPhone video ( despite the fact iPhones don’t do video) . If we take this incredibly stupid premise that the plant version of Google Labs suddenly figured out this clever formula and pair it with some of the worst and most stilted dialogue I have ever heard and then throw in some incredibly bad acting we end up with a recipe for an instant headache.
When I say bad dialogue I don’t mean just bad dialogue I refer to the sort of dialogue that would make your eyes roll back into your head and never want to emerge again. We are talking lines such as “don’t let the wind catch you” and “if I have to die I want to die with you” and I, of course ,paraphrase because I was having a hard time staying conscious. This sort of thing might work if it is done tongue in cheek but M N S takes himself so damned seriously with what I gather was meant to be a morality lesson about the environment.
The acting made me think they just rounded up a bunch of people and dropped them on the set. Mark Wahlberg makes a fine underwear model but i swear his range makes Keanu Reeves look like Larry Olivier. Zooey Deschanel, the female lead, seems to have been given some sort of pupil dilating drops and then pumped full of medication before being let loose on the set. The only person who seemed to have escaped this film with her career was Betty Buckley who at least managed a camp crazy lady performance.
So, to summarise, people start dropping like flies within the first 5 minutes, then for the next 6 hours..ok fine…1.5 hours …we have to listen to bad dialogue as people try to figure out what is going on and “run from the wind”. I am all for freedom of expression but I shouldn’t be lured into having to sit through a grade Z movie. I can see no reason for this “film” other than wasting time and effort and making cinema enthusiasts feel ripped off. I read with alarm that M N S is about to embark on making another movie. Please M. Night do film a favour and put down the pen, fold away the director’s chair and step away from the camera.
I’ve slept on it and decided I was too kind last night. This film was not just bad it was monumentally bad. It is an affront to bad film. It is the Burj Dubai of bad film making. It is, in short, the gunk under the toenail of bad film making. Those writers who dare to liken M N S to Hitchcock are off their trolley. Hitchcock was a genius and a tremendous talent. M N S should not even be allowed to say the name Hitchcock. I want my 90 minutes back and Alvin wants his $180 back.
It has been an interesting week thus far culminating with me sitting here nursing a sore throat and a fever. I don’t handle illness well and I tend to take a strange approach to handling it. When I woke up this morning convinced that someone had forced me to swallow a tennis ball coated with glass shards I went into my normal mode of action. I downed as many pills as I could drank several cups of coffee and headed to the shops. I bought every medication known to man, several gallons of gatorade and a slim volume of poetry by Rimbaud. My solution to such health dilemmas is to follow my Mum’s advice….over medicate and read something interesting. If this entry is a bit disjointed you can either blame it on medication or Rimbaud…much the same in the long run.
Wednesday I hosted a little soiree for Peggy which turned out rather well. I decided that I was not going to stress myself with elaborate plans and thus even the cooking was approached with little or no plan. I had purchased about $1,000 worth of stuff for the party the day before and basically tossed the whole plan out the window. Peggy and Steve arrived early and we simply engaged in excellent conversation ignoring the arrival of others. At some point Peggy managed to make a Rajasthan beef dish and I cobbled together a quick tiger shrimp and mussels balti and some basmati rice. It also learned that my cousin Satu Ramcharan was also coming over in addition to Alvin, Binky and Kavir. All I know was that the evening turned out to be a lot of fun with Peggy and Satu keeping everyone entertained. I had never spent any time with Satu before but apparently the gene thing makes for great company so the three half caste cousins fitted together perfectly. Things were so animated I never actually got around to serving the Haagen Dazs. Who knew that Steve would be so interested in politics that he and Satu would almost have to step outside to have it out? I tell you he might be my friend but he is also a cameraman and they are a strange breed.
On Thursday, with my fever beginning to start I had my old friend Monique Tosello-Pace over with Peter and Naz for another smaller soiree. She is here from France and sadly my state of health and burn out from the previous night resulted in us just having roast beef and watching Hitchcock’s The Birds . Still, it was good seeing Monique again if only for a brief time. At least we managed to consume the Haagen Dazs that was unused the previous night.
Back to the murders tomorrow as I have to work ( I believe we have had 10 since I last wrote) but there may be changes in my work situation coming around the corner. I know that I will have to have both Peggy and Satu over again soon and, if I am lucky, perhaps I can have Peg do a short reading from Jahajin for us. I have said many times in this blog that I am not a family kind of guy (except for my immediate family) but having known for decades that Peggy was something special I am now wondering how I could have not noticed Satu. Are there other interesting half-castes in my family ( and we all are) that I could have overlooked?
The final good but not surprising news is that when I bought the Rimbaud I asked the sales clerk how Jahajin is selling and she said “really well”. Apparently certain people in this country can still have great taste.
Amazingly, it really doesn’t feel like a full week since my last blog entry but the calendar doesn’t lie I suppose. It has been a busy week and , despite the two public holidays, I have been working 7 days a week but the end is in sight so I am un-frying my mind to upload a quickie here. Not much point talking about the latest in homicide as the murder count keeps shooting upwards and we are now well over 200. There was a disturbing development over the past week involving 8 year old Hope Arismandez. She went missing and upon interrogating her mother’s boyfriend he confessed to killing her and led police to her body. The tragedy is sufficient to not require comment from me. One wonders what was going on in the mind of Sunil Ali that would have led to the event. I may lose my temper from time to time but I tend not to give in to my more unpleasant instincts which explains why members of parliament do not have bruises on the backs of their heads.
The aberrant mind is largely a mystery to the rest of us and sometimes there is at least some good to be gleaned from such incidents in that we are able to get valuable clues to help us protect society in the future. Sometimes, of course, there are no clues to be had and no lessons learned but there is always the hope for some insight however vague. In the case of Mr. Ali we will never know. He was charged and placed in a cell under a suicide watch but was found dead less than 24 hrs later. The details seem to vary from one source to the next with one newspaper saying he hanged himself with a clothesline that was ( conveniently) in the cell in addition to slashing his wrists with a razor blade. Our sources at ieTV suggest that , while he had some lacerations on his wrists indicating he tried to cut himself he actually hanged himself with bed sheets. The papers were, naturally, replete with headlines about him taking “the easy way out” but I think any sensible person must be led to ask some questions. Ignoring , for a moment, my complete lack of comprehension about how suicide could possibly be an easy way out of anything one wonders what sort of fools we have working in the prison system. If someone is on a suicide watch I assumed they were to be supervised constantly and not given access to anything they could use to do themselves in. Now if we are to assume that the custodians of our prisons are not complete imbeciles then we can only conclude that someone decided he should be either given the means of killing himself and conveniently allowed to do so or else his demise was somehow assisted. Neither possibility sits well with me. We have an inefficient justice system in this country but it is still there for a purpose. People are entitled to their day in court and, presumably, justice prevails. When incompetence or some sort of warped vigilantism supplants the law then we have a serious problem.
The prisons have announced that an investigation will take place but I would bet top dollar that nothing will be forthcoming. As is usual here the perverting of justice will be swept under the carpet and everything will go back to looking glass normal. This is not about defending an apparent killer…it is about due process and about lessons that could have been learnt to prevent such incidents in the future. Of course the same idiots who keep electing idiots of various parties are the ones now telling the TV cameras..” He saved us the trouble..I’m glad he did it”. I can only shake my head and hope that the next generation is a little more circumspect. Mind you it may be a misplaced hope since as far as I can gather many UWI and UTT graduates cannot even spell “circumspect”.
In other more pleasant developments Peggy’s interviews on my programme got a lot of very good feedback and quite a few calls asking when we are going to air them again. She has been busy using her time to explore the Trinidad she has missed for 10 years and, no doubt, collecting more fodder for her next literary foray. I am hoping to have her over on Wednesday night to meet some of my friends and there has been something of a demand for invitations. I will try not to break my rule to never entertain more than 6 people for dinner as I find anything more than that prevents good conversation. I may not be Sir Noel Coward but I will look for a cigarette holder and try my best.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that I also attended one of the strangest events of the year on Thursday night – Peter’s Pink Party. Peter Sheppard, having turned a certain age, decided to hold a party for himself a month after the actual event. The only rule was that everyone wear pink t-shirts emblazoned with the logo of the party on them which he thoughtfully provided via special delivery. It was the usual fun combination of people and Naz pulled all the culinary bits together well ( though much of the food was made by the excellent Wings Restaurant) including such thoughtful touches as pineapple chow and pink champagne. The diversity of their friends never ceases to amaze me and yet everyone gets along perfectly. I am sure if crabby old me had such a party I would be safe with my six person limit…in fact even that might be a stretch.