Archive for June, 2008

June 29, 2008

In the wilderness

 

 

Once again I find that a week has elapsed since my last entry and I find myself typing more out of guilt than any desire to impart sparkling insights into various aspects of life. Actually, truth be told I have no idea what the heck I am going to write about so you and I are in the same boat when it comes to guessing what comes next. 

 

I will confess that I have been in another depression trough for the past few days but on the bright side I am truly touched and impressed by the level of support I have been getting from not just friends but my work colleagues. Sometimes just knowing people are there for you in whatever way they can is a major help. I will, I am sure, pull out of this shortly, but now I see what great people surround me.

 

To cut a boring entry short. I am now looking forward to seeing WALL-E. There are few companies that hone perfection to a fine edge. Apple Inc, Hermes, Brooks Brothers and Pixar are on my list. Interesting that both Pixar and Apple were founded by the brilliant tyrant Steve Jobs. Pixar has never really had a miss in the movie area even with Cars that I didn’t adore but appreciated for its cleverness. The Incredibles was a brilliant film as was my favourite of their offerings – Ratatouille. It takes a lot for an animated movie about a rat to make me cry every single time I see it. There is something about Pixar films that takes them into a realm beyond normal moviemaking. The great scripts, the attention to every little detail, the artfully crafted pop-culture references and the recognition that the human condition is paramount seem to be the main ingredients in the Pixar recipe. 

So I am looking forward to seeing WALL-E. I have seldom seen a film hailed by so many critics as a masterpiece especially when the first 30 minutes has no human dialogue. Last time I checked rotentomatoes.com had WALL-E at a 96% positive rating and it managed to beat the new action film Wanted handily at the box office.In Ratatouille I forgot I was watching an animated film and gave myself up to the story I am hoping WALL-E is the same experience. Knowing Pixar I am pretty sure it will be. 

 

In a world of mediocrity it is good to know there is still some excellence in the world and how strange that a company like Pixar can make films that feature characters like Remy who have more feeling than most human actors. Well done.

 

June 23, 2008

Close to the bone

 

 

 

It was an odd day today. I know, most of my days are odd but this one was odder. It was a news producing day  today and things were looking bleak by midday. We simply had no stories and I was, as usual, worried and verging on panic despite the amazing Giselle ( who I would steal and take to any company I ever work with) kept reassuring me that things would be fine and in any case she was reading so no matter what developed she would be the one on camera to suffer. Then it happened. While searching for regional news to pad that section I found a story that rather flummoxed me. I found something that suggested there had been another massacre in Guyana. 

 

I was a bit surprised because the story apparently did not have any legs. I could not find it on any of my standard news sources. How could a major story – another massacre in Guyana – not be everywhere including the BBC? A few calls to our sources including a Minister who hung up on Nadine Hackett led us to believe the story was real. Even more strangely a quick internet trip to the usual Kaieteur News and Stabroek News sites showed the story was real. How the heck did this story not make it onto the radar? Even more strangely, speaking to one of my colleagues in another media house, without mentioning the story we had discovered, revealed they had no clue. I might have had a moment of guilt in not telling someone I truly respect about the story but a local exclusive is an exclusive after all.  Welcome to the world of friendly competition.

 

We decided to go with the story as a lead. Nadine called our sources in Guyana and we cobbled together a story which might have not been the best but, given our lack of footage , worked out rather well. Amazingly, to cover the voice of the reporter in Guyana we managed to find her picture on Facebook…who knew it had an actual use? News time arrived and Giselle and I got ready wondering if we would have yet another exclusive. She read and I sat in control and produced. When we reached the weather I ran upstairs to watch the other stations…thank heavens our news is 1/2 hour before anyone else. Not surprisingly Gis ran out of the studio as the news finished to join me. We watched TV6, CNC3, CNMG and as each started their news we crossed our fingers we would not hear the word “Guyana”. Shock of shocks each newscast started with no mention of a massacre. 

 

There are few rewards in journalism other than feeling you have done the best story. Despite the silly concept that there is some glamour in what we do it is usually just a decidedly boring exercise. There is one great thing that excites us usually and that is a scoop. In as much as this is another horror for a great country it was hard to not have a moment of satisfaction when we realized all the other stations had missed the story. Our first headline was “another massacre in Guyana as 8 miners are found dead in Lindo Creek”…it was a risk and I am happy we took it. 

 

Sadly, as crime becomes unavoidable here, I vetted a murder story only to realize when I looked at the story in the editor’s area, that it was someone I knew very well. I never knew him by his real name when I encountered him at work but I just want to say – Trail…I am sorry you are yet another victim.

 

June 22, 2008

Another apparent massacre in Guyana

News coming out of Guyana indicates that the 8 men have been found burned and shot in Lindo Creek, Guyana. The police there don’t seem to have much information and the local press seem to be much more on top of the story. There are full details of what is known so far on both the  Kaieteur News and Stabroek web sites.

June 19, 2008

…and one more thing

 

In addition to the numerous offline comments I have had about the Nawab I have also had several about  my favourite foodies. While this may not count as a true entry I am hoping it has a little value as a space filler. 

 

My favourite food writers of all time is a question I get asked a fair amount. I would think the answers are obvious. In chronological order. Andre Simon was brilliant and his magnum opus was undoubtedly A Concise Encyclopedia of Gastronomy. It sets the bar for food writing and is enormously entertaining. He has recipes for just about everything including rat and elephant. How can one not respect that? As a good aside his recipes ( though I never actually follow a recipe – it makes me feel cheap) are pretty spot-on as well. Elizabeth David is to me the greatest food writer who ever lived. She captures places and foods with a clarity that is astounding. I never thought much of women and food until I read her work and it truly changed my world. I will never squeeze a lemon again without bowing my head to a woman who changed how I think about food. Of course, Anthony Bourdain is a quasi-god to me. Here we have a heterosexual man who understands food and writes in a style that is both refreshing and unique. I don’t know if he knows it but he is one of the best writers on the planet. The man cooks and yet he is able to write like someone who  should be writing the next great novel.  He understands and appreciates his subject. There are not many writers who have mastered that fine craft and he has done so amazingly. More importantly, I care what he writes and I believe it. The humour is an added benefit. Anyone who has not read Bourdain is missing out in life. I have never eaten in his restaurant(s) but I am certain his legacy will not be in his eating establishments but in his prose.  Of course, I would be remiss to not mention the greatest culinary work I have ever worshipped which  remains Larousse Gastronomique. The greatest book ever written on the subject of cookery.  When I watched my fave animated film of all time – Ratatouille – I asked myself if it respects Larousse. It does. 

 

The very first time I read Larousse I thought…this is my bible…it remains so.

June 19, 2008

Get Smart

 

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.

 

June 12, 2008

Night without end.

 

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.

ADDENDUM

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.

June 9, 2008

Why me?

 

I am enough of a Mac addict to admit that I have, for far too many years, been glued to the annual  Apple Worldwide Developers Conference to hear the latest announcements from the mothership. Today, however, the revelations about the latest developments from Steve left me shaking my head. The iPhone is great and lovely and I still don’t want one – making it the first Apple product ever I have not had any interest in buying. This may not seem like much of a declaration but keep in mind I still own an Apple Quicktake camera and two Newtons. The startling thing for me was the announcement that .Mac which is what I use to host one of my blogs and where much of my digital life is firmly planted is about to be  replaced by “MobileMe”. I don’t know what drugs Stevie is taking but I don’t want any part of them.

 

I have paid for my .Mac service for many years and, while I admit it is overpriced, I enjoy the geek value of having a dot mac email address and having all my Macs synchronized. If I change a bookmark on one or add a contact Lo and behold the others reflect the change. Apparently, Apple thinks I really want a globewriter at ME.com address. Nope, I don’t. It really is not all about “me”. I understand I will be allowed to keep the original @ mac.com address but I pity all the poor fools who have to now  accept a  joeschmo@me.com address. Why on earth would Apple think that was a cool email address to have? I love the fact that when I give people my email address they always say “ I love Macs they are so cool” or things similar – what are they supposed to say now – “I am really glad you love yourself”?. I can assure Apple that when I am also assigned ( as apparently I will be shortly) a globewriter @ me.com address I will only use it to post replies on strange boards I don’t care about. Note to Apple…. it is not all about me…that generation is over. I am also sobbing about the announcement that iCards will soon be no more. I have sent Apple iCards to everyone I care about and loved the fact they were not full of flash animations and annoying musical numbers. I suspect I will miss iCards the most.

 

In response to Ursula’s comment on my previous entry suggesting I should be more careful what I write because this is ( no denying it) a small country I feel I should spend a few words. I am not from the sort of family that is easily cowed by those in authority. My Mother is a writer and once lost her job at a newspaper because she wrote something that annoyed a Prime Minister. My biological  father  continues to disparage those in authority on the air and my Stepdad, who I adore, could not be kept silent by anyone. Freedom of speech is, to me, the most important liberty imaginable. I would lay down my life for two things only – my friends and family and my right to speak freely. If it ever reached the point I had to give up my freedom for my freedom of speech I would do so gladly. I am a journalist but I am also a rebel ( is there much of a difference?) so I will continue to speak out when I need to. I am intelligent enough to separate the two. When I produce or present news my personal views are of no importance but as a human I have views so to pretend otherwise is folly and I will continue to state the obvious in my blog and in my other writing arenas. If it gets me in trouble I am prepared to face the consequences. To co-opt the AIDS slogan of the 90s – Silence=Death.

When people stayed silent about Auschwitz then or Darfur now they are complicit in genocide – I refuse to stay silent.

June 8, 2008

Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse

I work in news and when I have to produce a newscast on a weekend with my usual dream team of Ria, Nadine and the powerhouse that is Giselle it is normal to call before I head to the newsroom to ask if there were any overnight murders. What is not normal is hearing that one of the latest murder victims is a 5 month old infant. Things have reached a really sorry state in this country when a 25 year old father is getting out of a taxi with his baby boy and they are both gunned down. There is no indication the father had any involvement in anything illegal and by all accounts three bullets were pumped into the child as his father tried to shield him. Giselle did her usual excellent job on the story and we devoted 4 minutes to it but I am still shocked and most of all very angry that such an event actually happened in this country that is rolling in money and should be a tropical paradise. Knowing that the sorry excuse for a National Security Minister will sit there defending his performance at some future media event and the PM will tacitly show his own poor judgment by keeping him in office is more than I can reasonably comprehend.

 

We also had a late arriving story of Dr. Keith Rowley giving his latest take on the scandals involving UDeCOTT and the government’s continuing attempts to explain some decidedly strange accusations from the Opposition concerning alleged nepotism and tendering inconsistencies. As I have said before I have a begrudging respect for Dr. Rowley mainly because of his clear intelligence and spunk. He may not be taken very seriously since he was part of the administration for many years with nary a peep but I like seeing him speaking and I admire his bulldog spirit. Basically, in his hour and a half speech, he said I am not apologizing to anyone and the government is taking us all for fools. At one of the recent get-togethers at my place someone said the PNM has done some good work. I don’t deny it and I honestly can’t say any of the opposition parties would have done any better but I know that even an abject idiot with billions to spend would do some good. Hell…a gang of monkeys punching keys to spend billions of dollars would have accomplished some good. 

 

At this point I only know one thing – this country is in a sorry state and there is no cavalry on the horizon.

June 6, 2008

Happy Together

 

 

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.

 

June 3, 2008

Happy Mac

 

And a little addendum to my previous entry on older technology still having a place in my life. I love music and films and my favourites reside on one or the other of my iPods so I can enjoy them at will. Yesterday, the external firewire drive that holds my music and video library decided to go wonky resulting in music not being able to be transferred to my iPod and a rather unpleasant error message. After some fiddling around trying to fix the problem and thinking my 80gig iPod Classic had malfunctioned I ended up with both a naughty firewire drive and an empty iPod. Losing my music and treasured films was the equivalent of the average mother having her baby stolen by a dingo with not even the consolation of film rights. I tried dragging the files off the external drive to my desktop only to have OS X give me some silly message that the drive could not be read or written to. I launched Diskwarrior that heroic rescuer of endangered Mac drives and it could find no problem with the drive. It was a bleak moment in the life of Vern. As I sat reconciling myself to having to listen to BBC World Service radio and bad music from my friends for the rest of my life I suddenly looked at Sybil ( my dear Power Mac dual processor) sitting next to me as I fretted over the iMac and remembered my previous blog ode to OS 9. Would my staunch defence of the virtues o fthe last true Mac operating system make the Mac Gods smile at me? Could I even hope for such a miracle?

 

I cranked up the old girl and, after hearing the familiar “bong” of OS 9 starting up and seeing the Happy Mac icon, her 5 drives mounted on the lovely clean OS 9 desktop followed by the demonic firewire drive. So far so good…at least the firewire drive was showing up. I opened the finder and dragged the movie and music folders onto one of Sybil’s drives. Was I greeted with an admonishing and curt warning about being unreadable? Nope. OS 9 , eschewing the fussiness of OS X/UNIX’s concern about file corruption, happily started the process of copying the folders. All my music and film is now safe and my iPod has been refilled with days of listening and viewing goodness. As they say in Trinidad “ a good working old ting better than a new ting” and OS 9’s Happy Mac face has now brought a big smile to mine. Cheers to the Apple programmers of the late 1990s for actually choosing to  “think different”.

 

 

Here’s to the crazy ones.

  The misfits.

    The rebels.

      The troublemakers.

        The round pegs in the square holes.

 

The ones who see things differently.

They’re not fond of rules.

     And they have no respect for the status quo.

 

You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,

     disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.

      Because they change things.

 

They invent.    They imagine.    They heal.

  They explore.    They create.    They inspire.

    They push the human race forward.

 

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

 

While some see them as the crazy ones,
   we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

 

Think Different – Apple Computer ( TBWA/Chiat/Day) 1997