Archive for October, 2007

October 31, 2007

Scary stuff.

Happy Halloween to one and all. Just got home after the radio programme and then popped over to Alvin’s place to eat some Indian food he that thoughtfully purchased for me at Divali Nagar. It was very nice – chataigne roti with coconut chutney and a pepper roti with fried caraille ( bitter melon) on top. I am far too tired and drained to write anything sensible now so I will keep it short…very short.

On the political front things descended to a sub-gutter level with the UNC-A’s Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj stating on the platform that his opponent from the COP namely Anand Ramlogan had sex with a goat when he was 11. Anand, for his part responded that he remembers the incident well and it wasn’t a goat it was a donkey and its face got twisted as a result and now that same donkey is running for the Tabaquite seat under the UNC-A flag. Just when you thought tackiness in politics couldn’t get worse we have to deal with that exchange. Elsewhere the UNC-A has started advertising its lineup for their last blowout rally on Saturday. The crowd will be treated to Salman Khan, Jesse Jackson, Jamaica’s Beenie Man and something rather generically billed as “Bollywood’s #1 Dance Troupe” – I guess in their haste to be numero uno they forgot to get a name. Oh, there will also be some politicians speaking, at least i think so, I better read the fine print again.

Off to howl at the moon while in a horizontal position on my bed, breathing rhythmically and with my eyes closed.

I was working in the lab late one night When my eyes beheld an eerie sight For my monster from his slab began to rise And suddenly to my surprise He did the mash He did the monster mash

Bobby Pickett


4 COMMENTS $manage-tooltip$


Howling at the moon, Vern? You could just quietly simper at the futility of it all. Though, as you know, I do encourage a controlled amount of noise by way of letting off steam at all times. Or, as I said to a friend of mine a couple of days ago: “I am not shouting AT you, I am just shouting” – this was on the phone. Shouting when someone is in the same room needs to be considered carefully – though shouldn’t be ruled out if the two of you understand each other. And that is one hell of a big if.

Yes , Vernon, goats and donkeys. You can’t but feel sorry for them. What I’d like to know is where this now leaves you with regards (I actually typed retards) to Anand.w.


October 30, 2007

Hotting up.

The usual radio and television combo today with nothing really that unusual to report. The television interview was supposed to be Nirad Tewarie ( former host of my show and now COP candidate) but he couldn’t make it…dammit..I was hoping to  confuse the viewers. It ended up being an interview with Dr. Sharon Ann Gopaul McNichol a woman about whom I have mixed feelings. She is running on a COP platform for Port of Spain South which is a PNM stronghold. Frankly, I would say she has as much chance of winning as Vin Diesel at a hair expo. She has rather a high opinion of herself and more degrees than merits mention here but normally I avoid having her on the programme despite her assistant calling my assistant once a week for six months. She spoke about threats of kidnapping being made against her and, to be sure, one of their candidates for Laventille was beaten into a coma a few days ago, so it is not outside the realm of reason. She provided many Barbara Walters moments during the interview including, but not limited to, teary eyes and eye wiping, hand flailing and earnest pleas direct to her camera. All with minimal effort from me. Not sure how useful an interview it was but in terms of sheer emotional content it was pretty good.

Our radio programme consisted of Tony and I chatting and commenting on news clips we played back. Tony’s take on Minister of Education, Hazel Manning’s  plan to provide not simply a laptop, as promised by the COP, but also a cell phone to every schoolchild was just plain good radio. Working with Tony Maharaj on a daily basis has the great advantage that we need only glance at each other to know what to say next.

Back home now and I have just consumed a clam cocktail I smartly purchased ingredients for earlier today. The key ingredient to me is always deadly hot pepper. Perhaps the most beatific occurrence in the process of evolution is that we humans evolved at the same time as hot peppers. I cannot imagine life without them. I read the other day that doctors are now using capsaicin during some operations. They have discovered the pure extract of hot pepper can be more effective at relieving post-operative pain than any other treatment. This is, of course, yet another tick mark next to the wonderful nightshade family. Trinidad has many excellent pepper varieties so I am usually quite happy with one choice or another. I gather the Indians have laid claim to the hottest pepper in the world in the form of the Naga. I will reserve my opinion on that one but here we have our own pepper strongman – the Seven Pot or Seven Pod pepper- which can lay waste to any palate so bold as to flick a tongue against it. The measurement for such things is Scoville Units which measures the hotness of a pepper. Most North Americans and Europeans are intimidated by the jalapeno pepper ( 5,000 Scoville Units)  and treat it with respect but in the Caribbean we scoff at such peppers. Our normal pepper, the Congo Pepper ( or Scotch Bonnet) clocks in at about 400,000 Scoville Units. The Seven Pot and Scorpion varieties run the gamut from 800,000 to over 1 million Scoville Units. My palate is quite happy in the hotter range. Anything culinary that makes my heart literally race and my endorphins go crazy is okay by me.

I wonder at the Nordic peoples of the world who have no sense of the excitement that capsaicin can bring to the table. Can I help them see the error of their bland ways? Is there any way I can convince them that gravlax is great but if dill meets hot pepper it is a marriage made in heaven? Probably not. I get the feeling, though, that people in the Northern Hemisphere are slowly beginning to enjoy the joys of chemically induced heat. In North America an array of hot sauces are appearing in gourmet shops but it seems it is more for novelty value as the names simply play on the idea of pain and death rather than taste. Peppers add incredible taste to any dish and should be respected for that instead of being relegated to the amusement aisle. There is a reason billions of people in Asia, the Caribbean and parts of South America find comfort and magic in these little treasures. My favourite of the precious fruit available here is the bird pepper. These are the original, un-hybridized, natural peppers of this region. They are less than an inch long and absolutely full of flavour. They pop up naturally and anyone lucky enough to have a plant suddenly appear on their land is usually besieged with requests from their friends.Is there any better taste than a Trinidad green plum used like a pestle to grind bird pepper and salt together on a plate and then eaten – I think not. By the way, if you are ever faced with a selection of hot peppers, some perfect in their waxy beauty while others look wizened and suffering from insufficient watering, pick the ugly pepper.  Peppers become hotter when they suffer environmental stress so the smallest and least of the children, in this case, is likely the most potent.

To end all this I should mention the title of this entry. Though we have inherited British English here it has not evolved as it has in England. To say “hotting up” on air here would result in derision despite the fact it is frequently used on the BBC. “Heating up” is the norm here but I am praying that one day, when I am reading news, I can be the first to say “the election race is hotting up”.

Hoping my blazing $64 USD 256K connection can upload this file before tomorrow.


October 29, 2007

Rush to the finish.

Kind of a weird day today but then again which of my days isn’t at least a bit weird?  I dashed to the Canadian High Commission to pick up my replacement citizenship card but given a lack of parking I ended up making the block 4 times before begging the Nigerian car park attendants for Trotters to let me park there…which they kindly did. I managed to make it to the counter with a couple of minutes to spare. The woman there is lovely and I just wish the Trinidad civil service could see how it is possible to smile and be efficient when dealing with the public – fat chance of that. After that I thought i could actually go home and relax a bit before heading off to a Flow Cable news conference as I didn’t have any interviews scheduled and I like to keep a finger in reporting  but it was not to be. I got a call from Tony asking if I knew there was a news/election meeting for both TV and radio staff scheduled at that second to which i replied in the negative. Turns out the person who knew about it, and who shall remain nameless ( Vashtee) forgot to tell me. So I threw on some clothes and made my way to the station. After that I ran around a lot doing things and then proceeded to the assignment with Beepath toting the camera. It is always fun being out on assignment and when one ends up in management it is an experience sorely missed. I had a chance to chat with some other media personnel ( I think I got one to come over to us) and we dished about other media personnel who were absent. It was sort of odd to see the expression on their faces, firstly because I was actually on an assignment and secondly because when they asked “how is ieTV” I responded “it is the best place to work in Trinidad media bar none”. They seemed to be waiting for a “but” .

The media conference ( we electronic media people get quite irate when they are called “press conferences”) was actually quite interesting as Flow’s parent company Columbus Communications announced that The submarine cable was in place from Trinidad to Curacao giving us a hardline to  ARCOS (Americas Region Caribbean Ring System) . This translates to us having access to seriously fast internet speed. Those of you living in developed countries may not see this as exciting news  but when you realize that home users here with the telephone provider TSTT must pay $64US to get a “high speed” 256k connection that, as i have mentioned in a previous entry, is frequently down, you may understand why my heart skips a beat or two at the mention of anything over 1 meg. The said TSTT has been advertising their new Blink upcoming service that offers 2meg and 6 meg speeds when they get around to it. Today Flow and their corporate chiefs from the US announced starting Nov. 1st, we will have 2 megs for $30 US and 6 megs for less than $56 US. Better yet, for the equivalent of $104 US we can now have 15 megs. Thank heavens for competition. TSTT is dropping their prices for their cellular service as a result of Digicel entering the market and now they are forced to scramble to keep Flow at bay. Interestingly, TSTT also buys bandwidth from Columbus so I would imagine Flow has a price advantage as they are buying from their parent company. To be sure I am no major fan of Flow as their customer service is pretty bad and i usually have to resort to calling my contacts to get anything done ( I was connected in 24 hours and have never signed anything) but at least i have an option. I think I will be switching over to them in the next few days simply because of the speed and the price. I suppose the fact that my station could not exist without Flow helps a bit too. In any case it is a lot of fun kvetching about both companies.

Off to bed now and hoping my blazing $64 USD 256K connection can upload this file before tomorrow.



October 28, 2007

Overflowing with newsy goodness.

I suppose someone who does not work in news cannot really understand the satisfaction felt after putting together a near perfect newscast with very few resources. Make no mistake, ieTV is not the BBC, CNN or RFI and we are never exactly overflowing with resources at our disposal. To be sure, we have fewer resources at our disposal than most of the local news stations but we can still pull things off because we have a team spirit that, if transformed into electricity could run a small town. Today my reporters were the inimitable Giselle McIntyre ( though I know she prefers to be called voluptuous) who can climb tall stories in a single bound and our newest perfect-fit reporter Ria Rambally who can enthusiastically whip through a mini DV pileup with nary a bead of sweat.

The afternoon started out with a modest lineup, which was ok because with election ads running we are getting 9 minutes of ads in each 1/2 hour newscast. Then, as happens sometimes, the lineup kept growing and growing with tapes being viewed, stories being written, edited and then cast into our editing pit where, like early christians our two editing lions Ricardo and Shiraz made quick work of them. Our cameramen Mookish and Beepat kept turning up with more stories and the process continued. By the end of it all we had a newscast that contained 17 stories most of which were packaged video. I even had time and remembered to insert the “some viewers may find images in this story disturbing” bit for a murder. Giselle read and it was as close to perfect as i could have possibly imagined for a small staff day. The content was good too…a nice balance with political stories, commentary on election violence, 2 murders, the airport being brought to its knees by a sickout and 2 road fatalities including an unfortunate child being killed by a speeding driver on the Priority Bus Route which he did not have a permit to be on. In case you are wondering – the driver is in police custody.

As a lover of both art and science i am always happy when one can help the other so imagine my excitement learning that one can now examine The Last Supper in greater detail than is decent to even contemplate. An enterprising Italian company using the name of our favourite computer villain – the HAL9000 has posted a 16 billion pixel image of the fresco that is unbelievably sharp and clear. For your enjoyment just click here. God I love technology.Oh..just noticed that the BBC has pictures of Nazis enjoying their time at Auschwitz here.  As if the world were not meshuge enough.



October 27, 2007

Chewing on this and that.


It was a typical day at work today with Giselle, Melissa and myself stringing together the newscast which, by nature of the season, primarily consists of political stories these days. We had no dearth of stories and put several stories on hold to use tomorrow –  even then we had to drop a story during the newscast and completely omit the week in review. Working with a small crew has a couple of disadvantages. While Giselle and Melissa could easily do sufficient stories for an hour newscast much less our 1/2 hour one the problem is with the end product – the news. The quality of the stories is fine but to the viewer it becomes obvious that they are only hearing a couple of voices for the entire newscast – not an ideal situation. There was some debate about who would read the news but I ended up doing it after studiously avoiding the virtual set thus far. It was surprisingly pleasant except the chair was uncomfortable but having A/C during the news was a nice compensation. I managed to screw up once by thinking I had already read a story and forwarded the prompter to the follow-up to that story when, in fact, I had not read it yet…so I went back to it shortly thereafter. Thank goodness the guys in control figured out what i was doing and ran the story as i read it. They did, however, manage to leave story audio under my voice for another story…I guess you win some you lose some.

At some point during the day Robin called and invited me to dinner saying he heard Batimamselle came in for high praise recently from another restauranteur. I adore Robin and I think all his friends do but when it comes to cooking he is seriously challenged – so much so that he hasn’t had a stove in his beautiful house for over a year. He makes up for the dinners he has at the homes of his friends by taking all of us out to restaurants occasionally. I was tired after work but, eager to spend time with him and try a restaurant that I may have to include in the guidebook, I picked him up after work and proceeded to the restaurant that is literally 1 minute from my home in Cascade. The decor of the restaurant has been toned down from the previous garish canary yellow and we were seated outside under a glass canopy supported by French metro style wrought iron – all very pleasant. I say ambiance 8 out of 10. The staff were all friendly though there seemed to be a lack of coordination as two different waiters came to ask what we wanted to drink and, shortly thereafter two waiters arrived in succession to ask if we wanted to place our order. Not a real problem as i would always choose too much service rather than too little. The prices were high which to me means a restaurant should be held to a higher standard. Starters aka appetizers circled the $100 TT mark which is about $16USD not a low price by any means. Suffice to say that despite the elaborate item descriptions for the appetizers none seemed even slightly interesting so we just ordered main courses.

What is it with restaurants and pretentious chefs that they insist on listing at least 10 things in addition to the main focus of what you are ordering? When you reach that number we are pretty savvy as customers and know we will not recognize or remember half of the items you promised. Maybe you are counting on that..we are on to you. Now I was informed that the new chef is Scottish, and, while I would never be so crass to note that despite the rebirth of the food scene in Glasgow, Scotland is not a nation known for great chefs, I had no preconceptions. Robin and I both ordered the same dish..which seemed the safest….steak. But, dear reader, it was not simply a steak, and I am stretching my tired powers of recollection here, it was more than a steak it had friends on the plate. We actually ordered dry rubbed steak accompanied by a mango ( I think) reduction, saffron sauteed onions, parmesan cracklings,  grilled vegetables in a chadon beni ( aka culantro) cup and a yam mash ( which is apparently different enough from mashed yams to merit the nomenclature). Raise your hands in the air and praise the brilliance of the chef who could conceive such a combination!  I suppose that would be the call of a food dilettante who spent no time thinking about the description. Who on earth thinks mango goes well with steak and what the hell does saffron contribute to onions? As we discovered – absolutely nothing.

The item we ordered was listed at $275TT or about $44USD so anyone but a food challenged local French Creole would expect something rather good. I added that proviso because in my experience local whites seem happy with novelty and have palates that have been covered with cement…they flock to new and trendy restaurants to see and be seen oblivious to the need for taste..and, of course, the local wannabes follow. When our plates arrived we were confronted with rather a different situation than I had expected. My steak was of inferior quality with large chunks of fat that suggested something less than restaurant quality and the whatever reduction was a dark substance with no definable taste but with an unpleasant granularity that added nothing to the bits of steak I managed to slice away from the fat. The rest of the elaborate promised creation  turned out to be an inedible hard pastry cup containing boring unseasoned vegetables and the yam mash was a round dense mass of some starch that seemed like a bad effort at a potato pie I could buy at any creole food place in Trinidad..just much, much, worse. I am still wondering where the parmesan cracklings were hidden and I am also puzzled by the unfortunate association of the name of my favourite herb ( culantro) with that dismal pastry thing on my plate. The saffron onion thing turned out to be non-carmelized onions with a vaguely yellow tint. There is no excuse for this. If you charge top dollar then you have to rise to a standard. When I asked Rob what he thought he said, always the diplomat, it was okay. I told him that based on the prices okay was not really good enough. He looked at me as if the owner of the restaurant was present at the table but I am am sure I saw a detectable nod. I was not helped by the fact my innards, in the midst of this overpriced travesty, decided to start rumblings that would normally require residents on the slopes of Mount Etna to flee in their Fiats. In all fairness, this may have been associated with my fried wonton lunch and follow-up Subway salad, but I had to resort to leaving the table to have a major regurgitation. In case you were wondering-  the bathrooms are lovely. After that meal…guess what isn’t being recommended for Fodor’s Caribbean Guide as our choice?

Grilling a steak is not a complicated business but the key is buying ( I am talking to you chef) good foundations. If you see a lump of fat toss it away…simple as that. The meal I had could have easily been beaten by a simple bit of avocado with some salt and lime. No promises of reductions and cracklings. A quick summation of the meal would be lower than mediocre..and I am being kind. The restaurant itself is, as I said, an 8, the food is, in a general review, a 4 and …based on the price…a 2.

Okay, I just noticed that Disney’s Ratatouille is now available on I the only person who cried watching it? I guess so…it must be the foodie in me off to bed now.

October 26, 2007

Friends and Family

It was an interesting day for me as it involved family – something I normally avoid like the plague – but in this case it was a family member I admire.My interview for tv today was with Gillian Lucky, the COP candidate for St. Joseph and previously the UNC MP for Pointe-a-Pierre who also happens to be my second cousin. I have to admit despite my cynical views of politicians I have long admired Gillian for her principled stands. This is quite apart from DNA as I genuinely think she cares about the country and has shown it frequently. I think she handled herself well though she was quite tired from campaigning.

Later this evening I spoke to my very close friend Bruce who is in a difficult situation in Nova Scotia dealing with his 80+ year old  father who suffered a broken hip recently. We chatted and, as with true friends, we picked up precisely where we left off months ago. He is handling it all remarkably well as he moved back to Nova Scotia from Toronto to take care of his father. One has to admire that sort of dedication. I may well have to do it for Mum or Karl one day..and I will do so happily as they have never hesitated to take care of me in my difficult moments.

As a follow up…Panday and Warner came back empty handed from their Mandela fetching exercise. Newsday headlined “Mandela blanks UNC” but upon their return the duo denied the obvious…according to them it was an errand for Warner to inspect football stadia in advance of 2010. What Panday had to do with that I have no idea. Thankfully, Mandela retains his dignity but who knows what may show up on the platform soon.

As I head to bed I think about the pride one feels in excellent family and friends. I am really bad at keeping touch with family ( except for Mum and Karl) but I truly am proud of them in general. My friends are a group of disparate souls that I think are extraordinary. I don’t have many close ones but the ones I have are reliable, unique and pretty damned great. I would only hope that others have the great fortune to have friends as good as mine.

Back to the newsroom tomorrow and I am sure there will be more to report.



October 25, 2007

Manifest Manifestos

Home at last and truly exhausted so I will keep it short as I just need to vent to myself really and somehow doing it here makes me feel better. The COP released their manifesto today and tomorrow the other two parties will do the same. I must say the COP one is quite comprehensive even though it is just the first of a trilogy. The next two will deal with implementation plans and a timetable for achievement. It seems the two most radical things they are proposing are the movement of many current government services to a community level and the right of recall which will allow voters to dismiss their representative should he or she not perform. Both excellent ideas in my book.

My ranting concerns the state of lawlessness that exists in this land of ours. There is a complete lack of courtesy that extends to how some people seem to regard human life and reaches its nadir on the roadways. I have to drive every evening at around 7 along the main East-West highway, the Churchill Roosevelt, to get from ieTV to 90.5FM, maybe a 15 kilometre drive. During that time I witness things that make my mind reel and invariably results in me having to take an Excedrin when I reach my destination. Because of the hour traffic moves briskly along the three Eastbound lanes and I am usually able to drive the speed limit with no difficulty. This does not seem to be enough for  about 50% of the people. They whip across lanes with nary an indicator light in evidence and then whisk back again for no discernible reason. While I am in the “slow” inner lane drivers come speeding up within inches of my bumper flashing their lights to get me to drive faster, presumably they are aware of some amendment to the speed limit I am not privy to. And mind you, the lane to my right is clear so they could easily switch. Cautious drivers, such as myself, keeping an eye on my right mirror and the rearview mirror have clearly also not been informed that what we know as the “shoulder” is really a high speed lane. Cars overtake missing headlights and once they pass it becomes obvious that taillights are also clearly an unnecessary accessory.

Driving in Trinidad is not a commute it is a local version of Russian roulette. What angers me most is that night after night facing this horror I have yet to spot a traffic cop or a police car waiting at the side of the highway. Apparently when night falls the entire lot of them vanish like an unsecured pet in a yard in Barataria. I need to know how a country that can afford a blimp for the police to do who knows what can’t ensure that citizens are safe when they drive themselves and their families on the nation’s roads? The National Security Minister needs to explain to me, as if I were a small child, why this situation prevails when he has billions of dollars at his disposal. Perhaps if he spent less time explaining that things are much better as regards serious crime ,despite that silly business of a murder rate of 280 as of today just short of last years 300 plus figure, he might me able to devote himself to dealing with things that actually make us safer. Maybe his human resource background seemed like the perfect qualification for his portfolio to the PM but to me it means his has no clue as he has proven over 5 years. Admittedly, his qualifications are superior to his predecessor ( who lasted a year) whose qualification was that he ran a nightclub. I think both choices indicate a contempt for the needs of the population. Rewarding party hacks and repaying favours seems more important than finding square pegs for square holes. Frankly, if i were the PM in charge of a National Security Minister who has proven to be the abject failure that he manifestly is, I would fire him and banish him to live in one of the areas with the highest murder rates…then I would apologize to the population and fire myself.

The main problem here is a complete lack of accountability on the part of those holding public office. In the case of the current government, and I hesitate to even bestow such a grand title on them, has spent around to 150 billion dollars of OUR money and what do we have to show for it?  We have large swathes of the country that do not have a reliable supply of water, bad roads in many areas of the country, traffic that means many people spend 4 hours a day commuting on an island that is not that big, people dying from incompetence and sleeping on the floors of the health institutions, no fully equipped  hospital in Central Trinidad, a ridiculous crime rate and a single digit “solved crime” figure, no burns unit on the island with several industrial parks and a lot of tall buildings going up in the capital. Hmmmm. What have they spent our money on you ask? well…again..a lot of tall buildings, some street lighting, some recently paved roads in some areas, a billion stadium at Toruba that is not yet finished which we simply had to have for the Cricket World Cup 2007 that is long gone and, of course, the blimp. Oh! I forgot, the 150 million dollar PM’s residence and “diplomatic centre”. Are these things worth 150 billion? You decide but I can assure you we can’t get that money back.

While I have been typing a moderate rain has started and I can tell you with 100% certainty parts of Port of Spain have been flooded. The perennial canard the government drags out is that this is caused by people dumping old appliances etc.  in the drains – attention government! There are no dumped appliances in downtown Port of Spain! It is a result of your incompetence. Can the opposition do any better? Who knows. The UNC had their chance and admittedly did a better job with water and the roads but 100s of millions are still missing as a result of an orgy of corruption and the combination of Panday, Warner and  Maharaj is about as stable as nitroglycerine on a Tabaquite road. The COP has no track record but has some good people though I have no idea if they would do what they promise efficiently. All I want is what is best for the great people of this amazing country.

As a side note, I had to drive Tony back to the office this evening and all I could think is “I am driving someone I admire intensely and who also happens to be the CEO of a multi-million dollar company and a major player in T&T’s largest conglomerate..oh god…let some idiot not run into me”. Apologies, I just noticed i said this would be a short blog and it has turned into a major rant. Such is the nature of blogs. Off to bed now.

Addendum: Peg I just got your email…I will check out the link tomorrow..too tired now…thanks for sending it.


October 24, 2007

Is it real or is it politics?

Another day, another quickly devaluing dollar. Back home from the radio programme and taping two interviews for the TV programme. On radio tonight Tony and I had Carol Cuffy Dowlat from the COP who arrived on time and managed to fit right in to the spirit of the conversation. I must say Tony was in fine form this evening poking fun at politicians and making remarks that only someone who can afford good legal representation can utter.

The two back to back interviews were with Dr. Hamza Rafeeq, UNC candidate and former health minister and the Dr. Tim Gopeesingh, CEO of the UNC and also a candidate. They are both of East Indian extraction, both medical doctors and both UNC members but in some ways they could not be more different. Dr. Rafeeq is diminutive, soft-spoken, simple and , to my eyes and ears, very earnest. Dr. Gopeesingh is towering, a smooth talker and much more a politician in the classic sense. I will give him one thing…he has an extraordinary memory. He rattled off a 5 minute list of the UNC’s achievements in health listing every ward opened and every machine ordered without missing a beat.

We also have news today that I hinted at in a previous entry but was unable to elaborate on because it was told off the record. The Co-leaders ( don’t ask me what that means) of the UNC Alliance, Jack Warner and Basdeo Panday, are enroute to South Africa on a private jet as we speak. Their mission – to elicit Nelson Mandela’s support for their electoral bid. There are rumours they plan to bring him back here bodily but I suspect not. Even if Mr. Mandela were to be swayed by Jack Warner’s influence in FIFA I doubt he would get on a plane to come onto a UNCA platform to bless them with his presence. Also, all logic would dictate that were they able to get the great Mr. Mandela to agree to come here they would not both need to get on a plane to retrieve him..the plane could just have picked him up. I think they are looking for a video endorsement from him that they can play incessantly on the platform and in TV ads. I can only assume they have arranged  this ahead of time and are sure they will get the endorsement otherwise their trip would qualify as foolish. I just wonder why, assuming it is already arranged, Nobel Prize winning freedom fighter Mandela would endorse a party in a foreign election. Yes, I know Warner has a ton of money from his FIFA gig, but surely Mandela can’t be swayed by something so temporal? If they do get him I suppose the PNM will have to get both the Pope and Bill Clinton to trounce them. The idealists of the COP, with their limited budget and inability to pay for $250,000 US jets will have to channel Mahatma Gandhi or Toussaint L’Ouverture to deal with this one.

Me, I plan to end this entry and channel Mr. Serta.


October 23, 2007

The business of communication

Back home at 10:30 from the radio programme this time Tony and I chatted with COP candidate Clyde Weatherhead who is a former trade union leader and now lawyer. He was unassuming and came across as earnest and well rooted in community which is always a good combination. I think his union background should help prepare him for the often ugly world of politics..we will see how he does in the Tunapuna seat.

Like several others in my family I gravitated naturally to communications as my preferred field. Currently I am working on ieTV 1, Radio 90.5FM and writing my assignment for Fodor’s Travel Publications. This blog, now almost two months old is purely a labour of love but then again so are my other jobs. Each medium has its own unique characteristics and I think they each serve an important function. Television is powerful and, when used correctly, can be a powerful way to get ideas across. It has entertainment value too, of course, but it is in news and current affairs it can be a force that can topple governments. It gives the fourth estate a way to not simply explain but also show what those in authority are doing or not doing. Much of this is affected by legislation governing what can be said or not said, and T&T has a woeful set of laws that needs updating badly, but even with these constraints television is able to effect change in a society.

Radio is a very different medium in that it relies on the use of intonation, and verbal content alone to get the idea across.When I first started in radio we used to scoff at television saying “radio is like TV but radio has better pictures”. In the hands of a good writer and announcer it is indeed possible to create vivid mind pictures and by doing so make the listener interested in the ideas being conveyed. Radio is also a more personal medium as the pictures created are generated in the mind of each listener and thus vary from person to person. While television requires the complete handing over of the viewers eyes and ears with radio it is possible to get news while driving or doing any variety of chores. Radio fills, in these instances, a niche that television simply cannot fill.

The written word has the considerable advantage of being endlessly re-readable. Complex ideas or deep insights into political or social issues are possible in print that would be impossible to get across in the electronic media simply because the reader can pause, start from the top , ponder, put down and then pick up again. You can take your newspaper, magazine or book into bed and read yourself to sleep – what could be more personal? Ok, fine, there are many things that are a lot more personal, but we are dealing with the media here. While my writing of late has drifted more towards the best souffle and who has the nicest pillows but I have also written more relevant things over the years…not to say cushy pillows are not relevant on some level.

Blogs or, more properly, web logs are a strange development that form part of that mysterious collection of things called “New Media”. They are essentially online diaries allowing individuals to speak to a potential audience of billions but in reality usually dozens. There is an abundance of blogs on the internet and some have huge readerships but those are normally associated with another larger organization such as CNN or the BBC when journalists extend their coverage via personal observation. The majority of blogs are uploaded by people who feel they have ideas to express, need a way to give voice to their frustration, feel they are voiceless and discover the internet gives everyone a voice and some are simply narcissistic extensions of the blogger. The wonderful thing about the internet, or, if you are George W. Bush, “internets”, is that it allows people to express themselves whatever the motivation. The key with the net is that people get to pick and choose what they read online. You may choose to read my blog or is that simple. It is simply my expression of ideas and completely personal views. I write what comes into my head after ( ok..sometimes..but rarely..during) work and whoever wants to read it does so.

I write this because while I started this blog with no comments feature ( I am really writing to myself so what would be the point?) I  was convinced by my dear friend Bruce that comments would allow readers to give a quick response and possibly allow interaction between readers scattered around the globe. I told him that it was a stretch that a handful of people could be considered a worldwide network of readers but he is always convincing despite my fears it could descend into a venting of spleen…other than my own …which was the whole point of the exercise. Today I had occasion to hide some comments which I felt were not in the spirit of the blog and best discussed via email which resulted in some recrimination via email. I am clearly not a fan of censorship and, to my mind, this being a personal exercise and not the New York Times, I feel I have a duty to monitor comments that I feel do not fit into the lighthearted spirit of this blog. I may well be wrong but if we regard this as an online diary, which to my mind it is,  and not a media house then i believe I am within my rights to hide comments that I think are not in the spirit of the thing. It really has nothing to do with opposing views and more to do with tone. The democratic nature of the internet is that anyone can post opposing ideas on their own blog. Censorship is not possible on the internet by its very nature.

I am exceedingly happy that this blog has resulted in further communication with people I have lost touch with to some extent over the years and I hope that will continue. It also serves as a happy stop-gap measure to make up for my busy schedule preventing me from communicating via email to many people. One of the reasons I came back to Trinidad was the Caribbean Free Radio blog that kept me in touch with the everyday life on the island. In fact, every page of this blog has been written on powerbook 12 inch…that I bought from Georgia when she advertised it on CFR. Jay Leno…my big Mac,  has become my secondary machine since I bought Tinkerbell.

Blogging may have dangers but my experience has been largely pleasant and I plan to continue. If people read it I am fine with that – and if they don’t and I am only talking to myself, that is fine too. If a tree falls in the forest…….

My opinions are my opinions and I need justify them to no one just as yours are yours. I say we celebrate our innate right to feel whichever way we feel on the worldwide web.



October 22, 2007

Death be not proud.

Back from the radio station where Tony and I chatted with UNC- A Pointe-a-Pierre candidate Wade Mark over the phone. It was interesting but unremarkable as Wade has been on the political scene for a long time and he has said pretty much all he has to say over the years. My TV guest today was Nadra Gyan , former head of the Wildlife Division and now running as the PNM candidate for  St. Augustine ( no irony there…nope..can’t see any). She is as enthusiastic as a fry cook at a Crisco convention. Nice to see someone so worked up about politics but who knows how long that will last after a few mat throwdowns.

While driving back from the station and negotiating the various new and wondrous diversions occasioned by the government’s last minute attempt to install an interchange that should have been built almost two decades ago, I pondered death and the problem it poses for so many of us. The exercise helped me keep my mind off the infernal beeping the Mondeo has been engaging in of late and was rich fodder for my brain. The reason we keep going on in life…the meaning if you will…is easy for me. As I may have mentioned previously, the answer is extremely simple – we want to see what comes next and, like humans for millennia, we fervently believe what comes around the corner is ineffably better than what came before. Death, however, is a different matter because it is inevitable and so completely final. As a non-religious person I do not believe I will have a consciousness after my demise and yet, to be frank, I am really not afraid of death per se. What I am afraid of is dying in boring, embarrassing or banal circumstances as most of us do.

There are those fortunate enough to die while dangling off a rock-face on Everest, addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations, rescuing a carload of orphans from a raging flood or whilst in an intimate situation with a member of the Swedish Royal Family. Most of us die in the bathroom dealing with bodily concerns, while sleeping, in a hospital bed or just keeling over while typing something at work. I know i will probably face one of these fates sooner rather than later given my favourite daredevil sport – smoking. What I would prefer would be to slump dead on the steering wheel of a Maserati and crash into a pylon wiping out power to the entire Eastern seaboard of North America. Is that so wrong?

Leaving a legacy is also important and when I was younger and, to a lesser extent, even today I thought writing a great piece of literature would be my way to immortality. Most people seem happy thinking their progeny are their easy road to immortality but that is such a facile solution it barely deserves comment. Suffice to say if a physical act and your family name is the best you can do then you are on the same wavelength as billions of people worldwide. I know I have a considerable body of broadcast work to my name but that is by nature a volatile legacy. My writing, similarly, is of a time limited nature. It is unlikely that anyone digging up a travel book or an article with my writing in it in 1000 years will find the hotel recommendations especially useful. My only consolation is that some of my work in the past ( not my current cable TV work ) is speeding into the universe at the speed of light and will eventually meet some civilization that can watch or listen to me a few decades after they absorb the intricacies of “I Love Lucy”. No doubt they will be shaking their heads.

As I go, in lieu of a useful closing line I leave you with a list of my ersatz dinner tonight since I didn’t have time to have any..

  1. 8 chocolate chip cookies.

  2. 5 Crix mini spinach and cheese crackers.

  3. 2/3 pack of roasted almonds.

  4. 2 Diet Cokes.

  5. 1 cup of Maxwell House™ coffee.

  6. 1 stalk of steamed asparagus I found in the fridge when I got home.

  7. 1 1/4 inch sliver of avocado sprinkled with salt cut from the bit I have in the fridge.

  8. 1 grape Gatorade™.

  9. 1/2 a leftover lager I had in the fridge from yesterday.

I laugh in the face of nutrition.