March 9, 2008
Little did I know when I posted yeterday’s entry ( on my globewriter.com site) that it would elicit a flurry of thought provoking responses. Sometimes I get a whole different insight into the topic when I see what the comments say. Generally, though I must say the comments are quite reasonable as would be expected when someone actually bothers to read a blog on such a topic. As regards the difference between “preference’ and “orientation” as explained by Bruce I think it is an important distinction. There is a world of difference between preferring one thing over another and having no choice in the matter. That being said let’s move right along to the topic at hand.
All this recent talk about the Boissiere House and the constantly changing face of Port of Spain reminds me of how little respect Trinis have for their built environment. The Government and some sectors of the community seem to think that anything old is best torn down and replaced with something bland and concrete so that we seem “modern” ( whatever that means). The other night I was spending a few moments at Alvin’s lounge and glanced over at downtown to discover that it was suddenly sporting taller buildings and, for reasons that escape me, some sort of strange colour changing light display on one structure. Either the builders were nostalgic for Shanghai or someone had a serious fixation on Las Vegas. The display is so completely un-Trinidadian and so blandly representative of thousands of buildings around the world it almost made me want to cry. Port of Spain was never the prettiest capital in the world, even a browse through the Harpers Monthly archive will turn up some disparaging comments about the city dating back over 150 years, but it had a certain disorganized Caribbean charm.
Today, as I drive around the Savannah and environs I am shocked at the state of some of our classic architecture. Stollmeyers Castle ( aka Killarney) is in complete disrepair largely as a result of the PM’s office using the grounds as a car park. Whitehall is looking ok but the PM has indicated that he wants something different and is planning , last we heard, to move into the parliament building once he finds a convenient place to move that pesky democratic institution. Millefleurs is looking like a shabby tramp despite it being a heritage building. Roomor, that brilliant bit of ironwork is rusting slowly away as the family living there seems unable to maintain it as their ancestors did. The only three buildings that are bucking the trend are the Archbishop’s house which is kept in perfect condition, Queen’s Royal College which is still in use and is being renovated as we speak and Knowsley which is home to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and which still looks pristine. At least there are some gems that have been kept for future generations to see we once had some style and grace. Otherwise they might be forgiven for thinking we were a bunch of brain dead Philistines who didn’t appreciate what we had. I shudder to think after virtually destroying the Queen’s Park Hotel ( a deco gem) , razing Bagshot House ( still nothing built on the site) and turning the George Brown house into an appendage to an office building, that one day parents will point to the Hyatt and tell their kids that it is the pinnacle of Caribbean architectural excellence.
There are other bits of Trinidad that used to define the place that are also disappearing or have all but vanished already.Civility and hospitality are still around but becoming increasingly rare. They still pop up occasionally when they are least expected but they are becoming the exception rather than the norm. Street vendors selling tonka beans and plum chow have been replaced by pirate music and DVD vendors. There is still the odd oysterman around Trinidad but they are certainly not as ubiquitous as they used to be. The once common sight of dapper older gentlemen in suits oblivious to the tropical heat wandering the pavements has been replaced by swaggering thugs and inconsiderate drivers. The Trinidad of old is vanishing fast and I suppose such change is an inevitable part of development but I cannot help but think we are tossing away some of the best things about life on these little
islands in exchange for a golden future that is , in fact, rotten at the core.
March 9, 2008
I am still fighting a cold but managed to drag myself to work today and get the news on with the two Melissas and Robin. My day started off strangely, however, as I checked my usual list of RSS feeds and came across a link on Caribbean Free Radio that led me to a blog from a Jamaican journalist about homophobia in Jamaica. It so alarmed and upset me I took several minutes to regain my composure and immediately called Alvin to have him read it. Alvin takes such things very personally and he vowed to read it immediately. I think most people would be living in a cave if they didn’t realize that Jamaica is a hotbed of hatred when it comes to homophobia. Time magazine voted it the most homophobic place on earth…no mean feat in a world that includes Iran and Afghanistan.
It is easy to think that Jamaica is miles away and they are easily avoided but that is hardly the point. I have always operated on the “no man is an island” principle and by that logic no island is immune from observing the norms of civilized behaviour. The conduct of many Jamaicans when it comes to this issue is a shame on the entire Caribbean. I was horrified to read that upon discovering his son was gay a Jamaican father urged his schoolmates to lynch him. Of a policeman who very bravely announced that he was gay and was so threatened by the public and his colleagues he had to seek refugee status in Canada. This sorry state of affairs is encouraged by a religious establishment that refuses to tone down its message in the face of people being killed and a musical establishment that seems to rake in money from encouraging such violence. The entire structure of Jamaican society from the politicians to police seems complicit in encouraging such hate crimes. I wonder if they would feel the same if the subject was changed from Gay to “black” – another pesky genetic trait.
I am not averse to picking a fight with those who are religiously inclined though it is usually not very satisfying as it only ever ends up in the brainwashed mantra “because the bible says so”. Attempting to point out that the same book also says lobsters and shrimp will land you pretty darned close to the 5th circle of hell will inevitably result in a blank look or a reaction that Jesus changed those rules. Moving on to ask what the New Testament view is on the subject ( given it is never mentioned despite it being such a big deal to God) will almost always result in an invitation to a church in order to save my eternal soul. The whole thing is pointless. The fact of the matter is that someone choosing to believe whatever they want does not give them the right to impose their beliefs on anyone else. If someone wants to believe homosexuality is something people choose, apparently because it is a more attractive option, that is their right – but if I believe that all left-handed people must be painted blue it does not give me the right to walk around with a gallon of paint attacking them.
By all accounts many Jamaicans are obsessed with homosexuality.They seem to spend all their free time being disgusted by whatever gay people do in bed and plotting ways to stop this gash on their psyche. A psychologist faced with someone who spends all his free time thinking about something unrelated to him and fixated on stopping it might draw some fairly easy conclusions. It is a form of mental illness. What can be done about a nation suffering psychosis? I am not sure but the message needs to be hammered home to them from both the international community and by economic force. It is no good pretending you are a reggae version of the magic Kingdom when some of your citizens are being beaten and killed behind the scenes.What makes the whole scenario even more maddening is that the sanctimonious attitude of Jamaican’s towards this matter is undermined by the fact it is seen almost universally as a sex and drugs destination.
Is the rest of the English Caribbean any better? I would say yes because it could hardly be worse. Speaking for Trinidad & Tobago I know there are archaic laws on the books but in everyday life there is little evidence of violent homophobia. There is, of course, general violence that affects everyone but at least the perpetrators have the good grace to be even handed in their mayhem. None of my gay friends have ever told me about any unpleasant incidents relating to them living their everyday lives. There are a few gay establishments in Trinidad and they seem to be doing well without any problems other than normal business hurdles. Trinidad is not perfect and there is an urgent need for politicians to develop spines and implement the appropriate equal rights legislation but at least in practice this society is remarkably quick to just accept people for what they are. Perhaps Jamaica could start by at least heading in our direction as imperfect a direction as it is.
Until such time as our Jamaican cousins can grasp a firm hold of common sense and realize that hatred of anyone because nature made them a certain way is odious I will do my small part by not buying anything with “Made in Jamaica” printed on it.
March 8, 2008
Never a place to shy away from ridiculous controversies that manage to obfuscate real issues T&T is currently embroiled in a tempest over the planned purchase of a Bombardier private jet. It all started with jet envy when the Jamaican PM at the time Portia Simpson Miller paid us a visit and arrived in a private jet. Our PM looked most perturbed at the time that he hadn’t thought of such a nifty means of transportation. The look on his face expressed such pain and envy that only the blindest of observers could fail to notice. I suspect the plan was hatched at that point but not too much later Manning took a “demo” flight on a private jet courtesy Bombardier. This caused a bit of a flare up from the opposition benches but they were assured that it was just a joy ride and nothing should be read into it.
Cut to the present. We now learn that Caribbean Airlines which takes its orders from the government is buying a Bombardier jet using $60 million of government aka taxpayers money so that they can “make it available to the regional market”. Uh huh. Naturally, Mr. Manning has said he will need to make a great deal of use of it for his ACS duties etc. You would think he was conducting shuttle diplomacy rather than just wasting time on a number of make work projects for associations that will eventually accomplish nothing. The opposition and several other interest groups are now up in arms about this planned development. I suspect they are happy because after Caribbean Airlines backed down on their ill-fated plan to place the PNM party symbol on the tails of their fleet it left them with no obvious distracting subject to concentrate on. The government is literally spending billions on numerous mega projects all of which are, no doubt ,riddled with corruption but it is more interesting to argue about a plane. Such is the nature of Trinidad politics and our national attention span.
The rule of the game is if you are mucking up royally and not addressing a myriad of social problems or ensuring that all citizens have equality under the law then by all means waste a small amount of money in a really ostensible way. It is the political equivalent of a farmer throwing some feed to the pigs so he can sneak into the pen and do whatever he has to do.
I suppose now that he has the Moorish architectural monstrosity that only someone with no taste could love as a residence he needs to be able to ferry visitors in so they can play twister or whatever in the grand ballroom.
March 6, 2008
A couple of days without blogging which i believe is a record for me…ah well absence makes the heart grow fonder. Basically, between developing an intense Wii addiction and the lack of anything useful to write about I took a rest from blogging.
As you might be able to tell from the picture attached to this entry HRH Charles, Prince of Wales and his pet albino monkey..oops..sorry..Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall are visiting our fair crime-ridden shores. Since their arrival they have done all those useful things the royals are famous for; they have smiled a lot, humoured the natives by attempting to play the national instrument, walked around nodding sagely and retired to their yacht to count the minutes before they return home.
The trip has been billed as an example of HRH’s devotion to things green as he flew over first class on a commercial airline rather than using the royal jet or whatever it is they normally use. The ever critical British papers have latched on to the fact the rented yacht he is using as his accommodation and inter-island transport had to sail empty from Europe to be here for his convenience which equates to someone flying 260 times across the Atlantic. How dare they hold the royals to the same standard as everyone else? Surely the flag currently flying everywhere Charles goes is not the only Royal Standard he is entitled to?
On a side note I am a bit puzzled that a country that seems to lavish Mercedes and other luxury cars on the most minor of Ministers seems content to ferry the royal couple around in a Nissan. I agree it is a new Nissan but surely if the aim is to impress we could do better than something that looks like it was picked up foreign used in the Bamboo?
March 3, 2008
There was no blog entry last night because, shock of shocks, I was at a social engagement. It was Johnny & Amado’s joint birthday party ( at least I think it was) and the theme, as I mentioned before, was mismatched. I can’t say that Robin and I won any prizes for our outfits. I thought a Burberry waistcoat and a timberland shirt would do it but apparently it sort of matched. Robin’s entire closet consists of colour coordinated pieces so he had to resort to an unfortunate tie. Still, we went. I can’t say anyone was especially awfully dressed but i suppose we all had the fear that we would be caught in a traffic accident and have to be in hospital looking bad so hedging seemed the order of the day. The party was the usual J&A mix of disparate types of people but it somehow made sense in their home..where disparate is the order of the day.I had gone to the party in Rob’s car but when we all decided to leave i went off with Alvin to another party just to burn off the high i had from drinking too many diet cokes. That worked out fine and I met Peter there who eventually dropped me back to get my car. It was an evening of musical cars.
Despite my late night sojourns the lack of any drinking meant I was in perfect shape to produce news today as planned and eventually read it at 6:30. It has reached the point now that I can blandly say there were only two murders today and the rest of the news was pretty well run of the mill…all capably handled by the two Melissas, Nadine and the editors. The only problem I had today was that in my quest to avoid calories I opted to eat a rather strange assortment of items for lunch since the slimfast was not doing a damned thing. All I can say is do not,and I mean DO NOT eat a bag of salted prunes, a bag of dried apricots and wash it down with Gatorade. I have one more combination to add to my expanding list of combinations to avoid. Amazingly, I managed to read the news without grimacing even once.
At least in my quick drive to pick up the explosive combination i was able to stop around Port of Spain a bit to take some shots that I can use in this blog . Tomorrow, in addition to the usual interviews I am supposed to do a radio programme at night as well…oh joy. I am looking forward to starting the digital media course tomorrow. I got word from Knights Media that i was accepted for an online course on the subject and it sounds like avery worthwhile undertaking. I note with interest that blogging is a key component of the course so we will have to see if anything i learn ( or not) will be reflected in my blogs. I will keep you posted.
And before I forget I now have one less reason to leave the couch. I used the Wii store online to buy the Wii internet browser and I can now surf the internet on my television. Was there ever a happier reason to celebrate my beloved Wii? I think not.