Thanks to all of you who visit this hodge podge of a blog. This song is something of a personal tradition with me. Have a wonderful and peaceful holiday season.
As we slogged through the morass of tepid news stories today I had pause to ponder on the nature of what we consider news. Too often it seems that we view stories as fodder to fill a half hour rather than worrying too much about the quality or even, heaven help us, the freshness of stories. This phenomenon is especially acute on weekends when our newsroom is pressed for staff and the stories available are not what I would politely call – earthshaking.
Even at the best of times in a small country such as this where most stations run on shoestring budgets the news is usually 80% based on press conferences and what government is ostensibly doing. Because of the constraints and the rather tricky libel and slander laws these stories usually are what passes for news. In a larger, more developed country there is the chance to do investigative pieces, hurl innuendoes around with gay abandon and generally find a wider palette with which to work but here we are rather stuck within a fairly rigid framework. This is not the happiest state and we certainly try to put in the odd bit about HIV or other topical subjects but there are only so many around. I would also suggest that the in-depth sort of look at a subject is generally not what the public wants. Based on newspaper sales and general feedback it would seem viewers want who was killed, who is heading to jail and what politician is in the doghouse.
If we look at the recent attempts by government/Caribbean Airlines to purchase a private jet which by all accounts will cost a ton of money and be primarily used for the benefit of the emperor apparent the limitations of our abilities as an industry become painfully clear. The reports in all media are primarily based on what the government/CA says and what the opposition says. Government speaks of the matter almost exclusively on on official platforms and any attempts to ask pertinent questions about the cost/benefit analysis of the purchase are brushed off as being “confidential” business matters. The fact that the purchase is costing taxpayers a figure North of $400 million plus we still have to pay to book the silly thing are mere piffles apparently. The latest news indicates the deal with Bombardier may be scrapped in favour of leasing a jet..who knows what will go on with that deal? There is no point in even discussing the strange explanation that we were paying $10 million US more for the jet because someone else wanted it – sort of like a Wii on eBay at Xmas time I guess. Apparently with the US economy in a downhill slalom there are still dedicated buyers who will pay millions more for a jet from what is , it seems, the only executive jet manufacturer on the planet ( it seems Learjets and Gulfstreams are passe).
Back to the news in general. When filling 30 minutes of news time it is sometimes a matter of just finding things to supplement the actual news that rears its head on that day. Generally speaking the important stories go in the bit before the first commercial that we call the “first section” and the other “stuff” goes after the break and before the regional news. Sometimes, a really good story ends up in the swampy ground of the second section because of editing time constraints or waiting for a last minute addition to the story but generally the section is populated by sloppy seconds. These can be ho-hum stories that are not really of any great import or even leftover stories that weren’t able to be aired the day before or even days before. Is this news? Probably not but the exigencies of filling air time can lead us to adopt the attitude that if some of our viewers never saw it before it is probably news to them.
Now from a marketing point of view it would make sense to pepper the duration of the newscast with hot stories to keep the viewers tuned in. This would lead to the US style of saying “ coming up later in the newscast ..a baby killer could be in your neighbourhood..stay tuned” but sadly this doesn’t work too well here. It might work if you are 100% sure nobody else has the story but otherwise you will be scooped by the other news houses who place the same story higher in the news thus making you look stupid for placing it at the end of the second section to keep viewers glued.
I could talk of how we choose the order of stories but that is material for another blog entry.
It is raining now in Toronto which, given the weather of late, is something I actually find somewhat comforting. I was walking back from a fairly fruitless expedition to Future Shop ( if their name is any indication forget Blade Runner, the future will be filled with disinterested store clerks and loud noise) when I got to musing about life in this part of the world. It used to be my life but now I can look at it from an outsider’s perspective. As I dodged ice patches on the sidewalk, and battled against a fierce cold wind in near darkness at 4:30pm I thought to myself the closest analogue to this is a freezer. The temperature is the same and it sees about as much light in a 24 hour period. I know I did it for a large part of my life but really i don;t see what sort of existence this is. The average person wakes up, turns up the thermostat, gets ready for work, warms the car up, gets in it and drives to work risking slipping and sliding to certain death on the 10 lane highways, works for a company that doesn;t give a hoot about them, heads to the mall to buy self-worth and then goes home to start the cycle again. As Bruce mentioned in his comment yesterday the human interaction and being regarded as a valuable person even by strangers is totally missing.
I am not quite sure why I am feeling this way this trip perhaps it is the Victor/Melanie fiasco, or maybe I am missing people I have become attached to or maybe it is just my mental state but the dreariness of it all is really getting to me. And it isn’t just winter as I can assure you if you dropped me in London or Paris right now i would be in a much cheerier state. I have trouble with a combination of awful weather and a society that runs almost entirely on materialism. I like to think there is a point to life…even if only to see what comes next…and here and now I am confronted with a society whose whole point seems to be to amass things…great hordes of things. When I was at Future Shop to get my camera battery i went looking at the new iPods and the newest Macs and I thought ..how lovely…they are probably more feature rich than mine and certainly faster…but do I need to toss out the ones i have that are running fine…Nope! It is very easily to be caught up in the “latest and greatest” mindset here. When I get back home I know I will be working and using my remaining time to relax and spend time with the people I care about. Will a faster gadget enhance that experience in any way? The answer is clearly no.
I was also thinking of my patterns in Trinidad and imagining exactly what would be happening right now if I were back there and all the other players were in place. During the day I would have been at work screaming about the year in review and joking with Gis, Mel, Wong, Ria and Steve. I would undoubtedly talk to Peter Police three times on the phone, Omar at least twice, Alvie and Binky twice each, Robin once and Peter Sheppard once. I might even have thrown Astrid some shade on facebook. Then I would have gone home and started working on cleaning up my Fodor’s chapters and, depending if Omar was popping in for a Wii match with or without Astrid in tow en route to a party, I might fix a small dinner. At which point I would make up Astrid’s room. At some point Peter Police would call to check in and then Binky would call from Sky Bar to find out how I was doing and I would fill him in on the latest developments. After that I might be convinced to go out with O & A or just stay home in my shorts on the chaise with the cascade night breeze keeping me cool. This is not earthshaking stuff I realize but it is very human stuff. I don’t just work I work at a company that i KNOW likes me and appreciates me, I don;t just make polite conversation with the crew we genuinely enjoy each other, when I talk to my friends these are not faux friends they are real friends and when I sign off with Binky I often say “Love ya Binks” and he always responds with “Love ya too Rocco” ( don’t ask..he invented it). We interact as people are supposed to. Oh sure, when I say “Love ya Alvie” or “Muz” depending on my mood there is a good chance he will respond with “Yeah, yeah…whatever” but that is part of the fun of knowing each other so well.
There is a truism in news that we usually call “First World always trumps Third World” meaning that given a choice of two headline stories one being 1,500 killed in Bangladesh floods or 4 killed in elevator accident in Manhattan…the elevator always wins. I think it is true to say in my view right now…sometimes the Third World trumps the First World handily.
Think of it this way. If you are thrown outside wearing only your D&G underwear in Trinidad in January you might be a bit hot and possibly embarrassed ( depending on how you look in them) but if it were to happen to you here in Toronto..You Die!
What a day. It started with the usual coffee and cigarettes and as I gradually regained consciousness it started to be filled with family drama. I don’t mind dealing with problems but when they have been going on for years, as is the case with my brother, my brain starts to shut down. I can only do so much and if after years of advice about his relationship he continues to put up with nonsense that would have had me using a few choice words and telling the other person to get the hell out of my house…then my sympathy evaporates. At that point it becomes co-dependency and the sickness and derangement applies to both parties, though not equally. I am amazed that I am the “normal” sibling…even my Mum now says she never expected that I would be the one she considers the sanest in the family. I may have my little dramas but I keep them away from my family and take measures to deal with them.
I had a bit of shopping to do so I ventured into downtown and the Eaton Centre. I now realize how much I hate crowds. Why is it that people tend to wander about aimlessly, stop suddenly while walking, turn for no reason whatsoever and hesitate while walking? It drives me to distraction. When I walk I know where I am going and I move like Alexander heading to war. Having to dodge rubes, mentally challenged people, suburbanites and tourists only raises my blood pressure. Am I the only person who plans a shopping trip with surgical precision ( no offense Kirby)? I found my attempt to get to Aldo Shoes ( how I love them), the Apple store, Buffalo ( by David Bitton), and Mexx stymied at every turn by fools who were apparently dosed with 20 mils of Valium.
At some point on the expedition I realized that the distorted world of the mall can cause the mind to switch into a strange mode of buying for gratification. Maybe it is the awful Canadian winters with their bleakness and grey vistas that makes indoor shopping so hypnotizing but I want you all to know I stoutly resisted. Even after playing with the iPod Touch in the Apple store and surfing the net I did not plop down $329 for the pleasure. In Trinidad I only have WiFi at home and since I use my main computers there what really would be the point? Than being said I made sure to buy more memory for my Samsung D900 and I am not entirely convinced I do not need a new iPod Nano.
On the way home on the subway I looked at the people around me – all carefully not making eye contact – and i was reminded of my high school English teacher saying that North Americans were zombies following some strange predetermined path in their lives. He may have had a point. In Trinidad we look at each other, we talk, we ( so I hear) make dates and generally enjoy being human. In Toronto it is a rather different matter. I am not simply saying this because I was out on my own as I have been out with Trini friends in Toronto before and we noticed exactly the same thing. There are benefits to being in a polite society where things just work but right now I will pick my disorganized society where people talk about you and bad mouth you…but also care about you.
I am a bit depressed for several reasons. I haven’t made a dent in my shopping for friends and I will be missing several key friends when I return. Alvin and Binky are in London/Paris/Barcelona, and Omar is sailing in some crazy place in the Caribbean . Alvie and Binky have called checked on me a few times from London already and Omar has been extremely good and called me several times a day. Thankfully Robin, Peter 1, Naz, Peter II and Astrid will be in Trinidad when I return. I assume I will be immersed in work so maybe my ieTV family will distract me. I doubt it though…Muz and Binky and Omar are quite important in the great scheme of things.
Hopefully there will be no snow tomorrow and I can make a dent.
It was a kind of weird day today. I learnt that my cuz Peggy was on facebook which took me a while to figure out until I realized her daughter Shivani is in the US now at university. I also learnt that I now hate the cold after getting used to the tropics.I ventured to Bloor Street earlier with Mum and after she abandoned me I discovered that after purchasing $130 CAn in hair products and some asparagus I was cold and exhausted so I returned to base.
Somehow I also bought a groovy Roots sling bag…but I love it so I am happy I did. I came back home to hear of more family drama which I ignored. When you have a ton of hair products and clever vegetables how can one even think about family drama? it is amazing how one adjusts to the place considered home. Today I spoke to Omar, Astrid, Binky and Muz ( who was actually pleasant because he is in London)…I longed for that connection to Trinidad. I immediately felt connected to my home base and the world was normal again. I must contemplate this concept of belonging in another blog. I know for sure that there are several types of family most obviously the one you are born into and the one you adopt. I think I have the best adopted family in the world.
Tomorrow I will venture into downtown and see what I can get for the family back home ( never thought i would refer to Trinidad as home). I have a serious shopping trip ahead of me as I bought nothing for anyone for Xmas and birthdays included Omar, Robin, Giselle and Astrid is around the corner. Must remember to stop for a martini tomorrow.
Best wishes to all today as I drop my cynicism for a nanosecond. Xmas arrived on a predictably bleak and depressing Toronto day with unbroken cloud cover and piles of dirty snow all over the place. I awoke…muttered at my folks and proceeded to down several cups of coffee and brave the lovely outdoors to have a few drags – all in order to get myself into a civilized state. After this ritual I was able to wish a Merry Xmas to anyone within earshot. My cell, at this point, had scads of text messages from well-meaning folks who seem unaware of the great quicksand field that is mobile roaming. It must be the exuberance of the season that people would assume I would be awake at 8am to get their expressions of holiday cheer. By this time it was around 11am Toronto time the phone and Skype calls started and i got to chat with Peter Police and Omar..which was fine despite my aversion to telephones…both calls were under 3 minutes. Then it dawned on me that I had been elected to do dinner and I had food to deal with so downstairs to the kitchen I went.
Somewhere along my trip to the kitchen I learnt that my brother was sleeping in the basement and that all was not well in married town…a cook cannot be daunted by such distractions. I proceeded to appraise the Australian lamb leg, the ham and other items with a gimlet eye. Given that it would most likely be only 4 of us eating and Mum is basically a vegetarian the quantity of flesh seemed a bit excessive but I formulated my plan of action and moved to the next step. This would normally be assembling the ingredients but it turned out my next step was realizing that my cooking gene does not come from my mother. There was a paucity of what i consider basics and enough counter space to possibly fold a small napkin on but little else. My quick assessment of the fridge and the pantry revealed: no garlic, no rosemary, no balsamic, no cream, no onions, no shallots, no chives, no balsamic, no cilantro..well..you get the picture. So, like an actor who has had his script blown away when someone opened the stage door…I improvised. I had left a few strange things behind from my last visit so the lamb leg was eventually scored and rubbed with olive oil, pickled sushi ginger, mint leaves and dijon. Don’t knock it…it worked quite well thank you. The ham got a bath in dark soy, diet coke and sugar. Mum volunteered that the neighbour had left two organic acorn squash with her when she went on vacation so those were split, seeded, brushed with olive oil and placed in the oven to caramelize. There wasn’t a fresh vegetable in the house and with Mum consoling me by telling me that frozen veg has the same nutritional value or better than fresh I was only able to gently mutter “but the texture sucks”. I settled on her frozen cauliflower figuring if I under cooked it slightly and bathed it in a cheese sauce it might be passable. There was a brief moment when I asked for a cheese grater and one could not be located that Mum fled upstairs in tears..but I was able to deal with that by pointing out that with our family… a missing cheese grater was the least of our worries. Thank god I didn’t ask her for a nutmeg grater! The potatoes available were small Yukon Gold so mashing was out of the question…so I boiled the suckers…then split them, tossed them in olive oil, sprinkled some ( shudder) dried parsley on them tossed them in the oven to brown. The caramelized squash was mashed with butter. All in all not my best work but given the resources it came out rather well.
Vic eventually emerged looking forlorn made a few cell calls and sat around until he announced that the kids were being readied and would be here by 6pm. This quite naturally caused a general panic since Quinlan at least can be a handful and my nerves and kids are not good flatmates. So as he drove off to collect his progeny the remaining three of us quickly chowed down aware that eating with two kids running around made a family dinner impossible. It was a good plan because he eventually returned with the kids and the rest is a blur to me. I had an instant headache and consumed a goodly portion of wine and cigarettes on the porch just to stay sane. There was wrapping paper everywhere, lots of demanding and a general lack of the peace and quiet that fuels my life. By the end of it Mum, Karl and I barely escaped with our lives and higher brain functions intact.
What was good about today? A few things that I am grateful for.
I heard from people I truly care about.
Bruce called this evening from Yarmouth fresh from his trip to St. Martin.
I heard Mum on the phone to about 5 people saying my iPhoto hardcover book was the best present she ever got.
One shop was open on Bloor Street today and I got Diet Coke.
I spoke to the office and it was like ET calling home because I got Giselle.
I lived to tell about it.
There was no plethora of gifts today as Mum is too busy dealing with Karl ‘s health problems and Victor’s ongoing drama and Karl is basically blind and cannot move around very well since his toe amputation…that was fine with me…I am really not into gifts at this stage of my life.
A few random thoughts now. Thank goodness for Skype. I miss my alternative family of Alvin, Binky, Peter, Naz, Peter Police and Robin a lot. I am really glad I don’t have to deal with Toronto winters. Who knew that Omar would develop a fondness for D&G underwear? I am now on facebook.com but is it just me or is seeing that my new gal pal Astrid has been “Super poking” sound just a little bit off colour? It is probably just me.
Merry Xmas to all and to all a good night.
Yes, I know I am wearing the same shirt as I wore in the previous blog but it was at the function yesterday so I have an excuse. I promise this will be the last pic of me for a while..I just have so few of me that I wanted to show I actually exist and having shots taken of me over Xmas proves the perfect opportunity.
I am now in Toronto after crawling out of bed this morning and hurling things into my suitcase it was off to the airport for my Caribbean Airlines flight that was scheduled to leave at 12:35 so I was at Piarco by 10am…in mortal dread of long queues. As it turns out the airport was very quiet and the lovely young lady at the First Class counter called me over and cheerfully checked me in. Duty free..which was to be my substitute for Xmas shopping was mercifully free of crowds and i was seated in the departure lounge in no time. More amazingly still we boarded early and took off ahead of schedule. It was a completely uneventful flight and after a few bumps, some not bad airplane food and about 15 pieces of Nicorette Gum I was in the frozen tundra that is Toronto in December. My brother Victor was there to meet me which ruined my Xmas tradition of arguing with limousine drivers saying I will only be driven in a Lincoln and get that damned Caddy away from me…I don’t care if you are the next driver in line…one has to have SOME class.
So here I am sitting with Karl chatting as Mum has gone to bed. I swear she didn’t stop talking to me from before I even stepped into the house until her bedroom door closed. Must be pent up information. Apparently i am cooking tomorrow…what a shock. Mum was absolutely thrilled with the Apple iPhoto book I had made and sent to the house in advance…of course it led to much sobbing and hugging…precisely the anticipated effect.
Enough obligatory blogging for now…there is a vanilla vodka martini with my name on it that i will need to consume before stepping outside into sub zero for a ciggy.