October 9, 2008
It has been a while since my last entry but trust me when I say the title for this entry was not hard to choose. I sit here typing this entry on my iMac as my trusty Tinkerbell has had a serious incident and will have to undergo emergency heart surgery in the next few days. It seems her hard drive has finally bitten the dust and though I probably haven’t lost too much since I tend to backup frequently and .mac or .me or whatever the hell it is called now will resynchronise all my contacts and email accounts once I get her back up and running but it is still a traumatic time. I take Tinkerbell ( my 12” powerbook) everywhere so I have lost all interest in the internet since she went into a coma. Honestly, I have not logged on to MSN, uploaded a blog or even checked my favourite RSS feeds. Bless her incapacitated 12” soul but she is my primary machine and is in use all the time in our newsroom too.
As I writer this I am not unaware of the turmoil afflicting world financial markets and as I look at the web I see that it is now down over 10% a troubling development in an already upsetting week. Markets are tanking the world over and yet I am still seeing TV analysts asking if we are on the verge of a global recession. I believe the answer is a very definite yes and having lived through quite a few I know it will last a few years. The markets falling is, of course, a symptom of a slight panic on the part of investors but it is a state of panic in the face of some piss poor economic results being seen from a number of countries around the world. Ireland, long the economic tiger of Europe, is now in recession and the economic tiger of Asia – Singapore – has just joined it with GDP down over 6% for a second quarter. We are in for a very bumpy ride and I see large job losses and a general tightening of belts in our future. It will certainly get worse before it gets better and anyone expecting a turnaround soon is a few nuggets short of a happy meal. We are in for a trying time as markets readjust and the economy finds new firm ground to stand on. Funny how we never learn a lesson from past mistakes as it always comes down to easy credit. Read a bit on the Great Depression and the similarities become rather disconcerting.
In other personal news I have been afflicted with a sort of technological blight in the last two weeks. It started with my Mondeo not functioning properly and a missing mechanic who had to set some things right. It moved on to my beloved Samsung D900 being unable to charge owing to a poorly designed charger port which is now in a repair shop and don’t even let me get started on that fiasco but it still leaves me without my 2000 contacts easily accessible ( they were mirrored on my laptop but she is not able to help me either). Then, while trying to resuscitate Tinkerbell I started feeling a bit warm in my living room and realised my groovy electronic fan had conked out. I think I need a voodoo doctor to stop me before I kill more tech.
Just watched “Life on Mars” the new series on ABC. I like the weird premise of a police officer being transported back to 1973 but in the midst of my new technology snafu it has made me even more depressed. Watching the character getting used to everything in the world of 1973 I realised that, though I was not quite a teenager yet, I remembered the music, the cars, the references, Richard Nixon, 8 tracks and even the bad hairstyles. Suddenly my memories make me dated – a virtual dinosaur in the modern world. I should have seen this coming when chatting with one of our 20-something IT people not too long ago I casually mentioned that I remembered how annoying using punch cards for input was and he looked at me like I fell from space. He had never heard of punch cards and card readers and told me that he never knew I was that old. I guess i am.
October 1, 2008
Our Parliament is never a place for the quiet and dignified exchange of ideas. It exists somewhere in the murky region between the UK Parliament and the Korean Parliament. We don’t actually have fisticuffs but we have been known to have the odd teacup tossing during the break. This past couple of weeks has been something of a thrill for political observers such as myself. It all began with the doze worthy laying of the 2008/2009 budget last week and has been a virtual amusement park ride ever since.
We had the opposition response presented rather well by the always animated Kamla Persad Bissessar and the subsequent debate. Basically the opposition ripped the budget apart and the government spent hours saying what a great job they are doing. Frankly, watching the National Security Minister standing up and lauding his accomplishments and the government’s vision in the face of a 400 plus murder toll was a bit too rich for my blood…but I am sure it had a certain macabre dramatic value.
The highlight of the week of parliamentary shenanigans was undoubtedly the stellar presentation of Dr. Keith Rowley, the maverick PNM member for Diego Martin West and former minister. As I mentioned in an entry way back when he fell out of favour with the PM and was cast into the political outhouse. He came out swinging on Monday with what amounts to one of the best moments I can remember in the Parliament for the past twenty years. Speaking from the government benches he called the PM to task for a lack of accountability and for questionable practices. It was gripping and resulted in surprising desk thumping from both sides of the house.
In his closing of the budget debate the PM lashed back yesterday. After convincing the Speaker to suspend the standing orders for him to speak for an unlimited time – unheard of and most peculiar – he went on to attack Dr. Rowley in what might best be described as unstatesmanlike and at worst as mean spirited. He even suggested that $10 million had gone missing from the Ministry of Housing under Dr. Rowley’s stewardship. Why he waited for over a year to make the accusation or how he failed to notice that as PM at the time he was also accountable I have no idea. I am looking forward to the fallout in the coming days.
I am now watching the finals of America’s Got Talent and as soon as either Eli Mattson or Nuttin’ but Stringz wins I will post the result and hit the publish button. If anyone else wins I will shake my head and wonder before pushing the publish button.
Ah well they picked Neil E Boyd..the one who breaks into tears every 3 minutes. God help them. Eli will get a recording contract in 2 seconds and much more than the million dollar prize.
Oh God…if they vote this way in the elections the world will shudder….oh right…Dubya got in with them too.
September 22, 2008
Just a short note today as I only just got home from broadcasting our analysis of the 2008/2009 budget that was delivered today. It was supposed to be the first budget to be delivered by a female Finance Minister and also one of the shortest budget speeches . I will freely agree it was delivered by a female Finance Minister but at 3.5 hours it was surely not even competition for the 35 minute speech during the UNC regime. Worse still those of us enduring it in the newsroom had to reapply facial moisturizer several times because we could feel the dryness of the delivery dehydrating our faces. The entire presentation was ineffably boring.
I had my views and our panel basically just reinforced my beliefs that this budget was just a rehash of last year’s. Nothing new, nothing exciting, nothing original. The only new ground this budget broke was in managing to spend $50 billion dollars of taxpayers money. Maybe it is just me expecting miracles but I think when large amounts of money are involved those spending it should be visionaries. I am used to Steve Jobs at Apple who, despite his almost innumerable faults, gets people excited about plans. Surely, when it is a country involved, people should feel involved and look forward to the future. I honestly don’t feel even interested in what is being planned. There must be something wrong when $50 billion is spent in a country of only 1.3 million people and I can see no immediate tangible benefit. Indeed, the government says that agriculture is a priority and is still spending less on it than it is giving to Tobago with 80,000 people. Feeding a two island nation of securing Tobago votes …. I guess the government has made its decision.
On a side note it was an interesting day for family today. I hosted the budget discussion with my cousin Gillian Lucky being part of the panel since I was actually using her time since she normally hosts Just Gill ..her programme …in that time slot. I love Gillian so I was fine with that. Even more interesting, while Gillian and I share the fact we are both fully Lucky family members ( mine changed their name) I was shocked by a comment I received today from the only true bearer of one of my family names . Blogs are a minefield of surprises. It seems that my cousin Johnny found this blog while in Switzerland. I didn’t even know he had moved to the land of ridiculous prices and ridiculously high mountains …oh..and Heidi.
So basically..it was a really boring and expensive budget and I got closer to two family members. A mixed bag but to my mind a really good one. And I will freely admit I would love Gillian as Prime Minister.
Wait a minute…that wasn’t short.
September 19, 2008
In pondering the recent devastation visited on the Caribbean and the city of Galveston in Texas by Hurricane Ike I thought of that wonderful song by Glen Campbell. Without discussing any of the dates the first two record albums I ever got as a child were Galveston and Go Moog. The latter was famous for only the song Popcorn which was pretty amazing at the time since it was done entirely by an early synthesizer but Glen Campbell’s song still sticks in my mind today. There was something really haunting about it even with the rather bizarre line “I clean my gun” – only in the US of A I guess. And even then it is slightly less bizarre than Glen Campbell’s drunk driving police photo.
The retrospection also led me to think about my interviews on the station. Today I had Winston Dookeran the leader of the COP which was a first as he has never been on the programme before. A conspicuous holdout in the pantheon of guests. Then I thought about it and it dawned on me that I have literally interviewed hundreds of guests so far. It is startling when I think about it as I literally have hundreds of hours of interviews under my belt for one station never mind the thousands of hours for my career. I am pretty sure there isn’t a person of significance in this country I haven’t interviewed. That is an odd statistic to deal with but I guess it is reality and so I must. I am actually very grateful I have had the chance to talk to some of the most interesting people in the country. It isn’t always easy but I am happy I do what I do. Strike that..I am very happy.
Life is a weird thing but I can honestly say that I have chosen a career that makes me happy. I may not be rich but I look forward to every single day and can honestly say if I died today I would only wish I had done more interviews.
September 8, 2008
Though my intention is to write a bit about the Caribbean as a region I must say today was not a shining example of what most people would expect from us in terms of sun, sand and rum punches. It was a work day so that pretty well puts paid to the alcoholic beverages and being at the office pretty well eliminated the sand thing though my office desk was feeling a tad gritty.
It is my custom to walk straight to one of my Macs upon waking to check my newsfeeds and check the weather satellite images at the lovely NHC site. Today I was faced with an inadequate level of info about Turks and Caicos and how they fared and with what appeared to be an ugly red weather system about to descend on Trinidad. By the time I rounded the Queen’s Park Savannah on the way to the office I could see ugly black clouds emerging over the tips of the Northern Range. While disturbing it was also possessed of a terrible beauty that almost led me to crash the Mondeo ( well, that and some interesting human sights on the savannah). I phoned Mookish the cameraman as I was about 30 seconds from work and told him to catch the clouds as they would make useful archive shots for any storm coverage we might want to do. As I parked I met up with him and we managed to capture some great shots including lightning bolts in action.
It turned out that that was just the beginning of a day of extreme weather for us. It poured to the point that much of Port of Spain was underwater and our offices turned into an island of sorts as flood waters reached all the way up our driveway. After that it poured some more and didn’t stop pouring for several hours. Apparently we had the lead story for today and, as it turned out, we got off easy as roofs blew off houses in some parts of the country. I must say our crew got some amazing shots of submerged cars, flooded streets and, yes, our shots of black clouds sneaking over the Northern Range complete with lightning. It was still a pretty hectic day and I only got the news script finished four minutes before I had to run into studio to read. Thank heavens for Wong who can view a tape and write a story faster than most people can deny having viewed porn in their browser.
I came home looking forward to a quiet evening of quality Food Network programming only to discover that Alton Brown has a new programme called Feasting on Waves. It is an interesting programme for several reasons not the least of which is that Alton Brown, for all his annoying foibles and smugness, has an amazing knowledge of food. The programme has him and his crew sailing the Caribbean ( at least it seems to be based on our region) and investigating the foods of each island. It was fascinating to see him investigating the foods we take for granted such as soursop, lemongrass, dasheen and salted cod. His first programme was set primarily in St. Kitts which is an interesting island that manages to bridge the dominant influence of Jamaica with the rest of the Caribbean …just hearing their accent was a treat. There is something remarkably pleasurable about watching a food expert like Alton drinking something as Caribbean as bush tea made from lemongrass ( also called vetiver or fever grass here) and enjoying it. I love being reminded that the things we take for granted are considered exotic by much of the rest of the world.
Alton said an interesting thing. He described the history of our region and the various races and ethnicities that make up the wondrous pastiche we call home and he noted that we are probably the first part of the world that understood and embraced fusion cuisine. I don’t necessarily agree as I am pretty sure Southern Europe beat us to the punch but he has a point. The food of our region is spectacularly diverse. We think nothing of dining on a mixture of African, Asian and European cuisines. Many a time I find myself ordering lunch at a nearby fast food establishment and having a container full of curry, creole root vegetables and macaroni pie. To be honest, one of the reasons I moved back here was that I missed the food and the amazing ingredients. One of my greatest joys is turning classic French or Italian cuisine on its head by substituting local ingredients. I draw the line at screwing with some dishes such as cassoulet but many other things are fair game.
I am happy to hear now that Turks and Caicos did not suffer as badly as they might have and I am hoping that Cuba ( despite my normal distaste for the Latin world) escapes with minimal damage. I have to say that floods, hurricanes and corrupt politicians notwithstanding we are still an incredible part of the world and I am happy I live here.
Now when will Anthony Bourdain deign to come here and make my life complete?
September 5, 2008
I blog this evening after I called Toronto to speak to my folks only to learn from my brother that they were on a tour of the Eastern Provinces. I vaguely recollect them indicating they would be going on a trip but I was a bit shocked that I had missed their departure. This job of mine makes time warp into a blur of homicides and interviews. My dismay at the trip is predicated by a minor childhood trauma . I was in my early teens and my parents decided to move house without informing me of the development. Imagine my puzzlement when i came home from school to discover an abandoned house? And people wonder why I am slightly neurotic.
In any case, my brother rebuffed me for not updating my blog. I was surprised that he seems to read it on a regular basis but I now feel sufficiently guilty to fling together an entry.
My brother and I have a quirky relationship that has had a few ups and downs over the ..ahem..decades. I will be the first to admit that, as the older sibling, I may have been a tad ungentlemanly over the years and done things to him that might, in retrospect ( and the eyes of the UN) amount to cruel and unusual punishment. I recall an episode involving me locking him in a steamer trunk atop an armoire that might possibly qualify me for prison time. Nonetheless, despite our widely different lives and personalities we got closer as we got older and, though the love was always there, we now have something approaching a healthy bond. The fact he is now twice my size may possibly also account for the detente but I like to think it is just the grinning face of death awaiting us just a few corners away.
My other thoughts are revolving around the fact I should make more of an effort to insist on having regular off-days. For the last several months there have been far too many times when I have gone over 10 days without a day off. Working weekends doesn’t help but I will henceforth insist on having at least one (or preferably two) days off every week. I don’t see why I should be the only person working abnormally long weeks.
August 30, 2008
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.
August 23, 2008
It rained today and by rain I do not mean a few piddling drops of dampness but a full-fledged rainstorm that would lead anyone to drag out their nearest cubit measuring stick and start thinking about livestock. The cause of this day long deluge is a system moving slightly to the North of us that might or might not turn into a depression and then a hurricane. No stranger to tropical depressions ( or temperate ones for that matter) myself I can just enjoy the sound of rain on the tin roofs and thunder reverberating off the shrouded Northern Range.
Trinidadians are able to party till they literally drop and consume alcohol at levels that would have a Russian wrestler reeling but when it comes to weather they are a particularly effete lot. While North Americans and even Europeans will slog to work through metres of snow and sleet Trinis get quite weak when faced with even a slight dampness in the air They will call in sick or late to work, complain of ague and generally mope about. If they happen to be at work during a rainfall there will be early sniffling and a request to leave work early with dire mutterings along the lines of “see you tomorrow..depending on my health…I got wet…so you never know”.
Another strange phenomenon in these parts is that traffic might be moving along at a fair clip but once water hits asphalt it is a guarantee that gridlock will result. The cause of this is not certain and it may well be an interesting exercise for scientists. One thing is sure it can’t be safety because that is a word that doesn’t cross the mind of the average Trini driver.
Here at work I have just been subjected to viewing a tape of the Prime Minister attempting to sing to students and giving them a lecture on the bible and his views on Christianity. How such a thing can happen in a pluralistic and ( nominally) secular society is beyond me. Bet your bottom dollar that if that had been a PM espousing the many virtues of Allah all hell would break loose. Such is the nature of this strange land.
August 14, 2008
Never a nation to pass up a chance for excess the PM has , of late, been indulging in a veritable orgy of entertaining. We are not just talking about a few cocktail parties for visiting dignitaries we are talking about oodles of taxpayers dollars being spent on actually encouraging the heads of various economically important states to visit. We have had the President of Ghana here because obviously that is a big economic powerhouse nearby that we simply must pin down so as to even out our balance of trade.
More recently we have had the PM of Barbados, the PM of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and as of this writing the ever important Prime Minister of Grenada. Apparently, the PM is fearful that we will be short of nutmeg with the Yule season so fast approaching. Acting in the National Eggnog interest he threw caution and our money to the wind and sent a rented private jet to get PM Tillman so as to ensure he is comfortable on the arduous 20 minute flight. There was a guard of honour, a grand banquet , the usual cultural events and the requisite meeting at the Hilton. Now only a silly pragmatic person would note that Grenada is not even important in the Caribbean and of no economic or cultural importance to the rest of the known universe. In short, to paraphrase Gloria Steinem on why women need men – we need them like a fish needs a bicycle.
A more cynical soul would think all these state visits are simply there to make our PM feel even more self-important – though that would be hard to imagine. Late tonight we learn that he has announced that Trinidad & Tobago will be in a union with some of these small economic solar panels by 2011. The Guardian reports:
“Trinidad and Tobago and three other Caribbean states—Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia—last night signed an agreement to achieve economic integration by 2011 and political integration by two years later”.
I was just praying that our oil and gas rich country with a strong industrial sector would be able to avail itself of the many benefits that would accrue from joining with other states that barely have economies, suffer from high unemployment and are stuck in a time warp. Now we can look forward to being aligned with an island that is famous for nutmeg, another famous for bananas and the third that looks like Dolly Parton doing the backstroke.
Strangely, based on the European example and several others I always thought that such sweeping changes required the consent of the population via a quaint little process called a referendum. I wasn’t aware that one man would just take it upon himself to enter into agreements that fundamentally change our economy and society but I suppose, as we learned in Germany and Italy not that long ago – we should always trust our leaders to make our decisions for us. Father , after all, knows best.
August 7, 2008
Well I survived my Minshall interview(s) and apparently the feedback indicates it made for excellent TV. It is never easy interviewing someone you have known for a long time and who you know is not just a local creative genius but a creative genius who has made the world gasp in wonder.
I chose to wear black knowing that he would too and when I picked him up to drive to the station ( forgetting the station vehicle shutting down on me) he was, in fact, dressed in his trademark black. I assessed his mood as he can be rather mercurial and determined that I would allow him free reign. Minsh can either hold back and force you to pull things out of him or he can just be in a mood to express – this was an expression day and there was no way i was going to get in his way. As it turned out he hadn’t said all he wanted to say after the first interview so we immediately decided to do a second interview. They basically consisted of me introducing Minsh and asking a question or two and the rest was just pure Minshall. I am not one of those interviewers who thinks it is essential to make my presence felt every minute by jumping in with interjections for no good reason. People tune in to hear what the guest has to say and since Minsh is not involved in spending public funds or causing suffering by poor management it was fine to let him talk. What ensued, upon looking at the broadcasts yesterday and today was akin to an extemporaneous performance of King Lear done by Olivier. Minshall is gripping on camera.
In other news, as shallow as it may seem, I have been addicted to So You Think You Can Dance on Fox for the entire season. I watch each episode zealously and end up crying several times because I love dance and when it is done well as it often is on the show it moves me deeply. From the very beginning I picked an unlikely favourite – Joshua. He is a street dancer with little training, his butt is too big for a dancer, his body is not a dancer’s body but he had spirit , an incredible gift and tremendous power. Joshua did jumps that seemed impossible and did presses and catches that seemed to have been accomplished by computer graphics. He is a brilliant dancer and left me breathless several times. Amazingly, this evening he won the competition and i felt like an Apple stock investor again. I assumed a cute white boy would win the vote based on the masses of white suburban girls voting but I was wrong. Apparently in this case democracy worked. I am still not a complete fan because G. W. Bush has been President of the U.S. for two terms..but I had a moment of doubt this evening.