Saturday, December 27, 2008

Blogging in a World without Peace

I’ve been frittering away my time finding creative ways to do nothing the last few days; I don’t know-- it seems a suitable way to wind an old year down. Frustrating though because I really wanted to write this blog a day or two ago. Actually the day Harold Pinter died. His death reminded me of a speech Gunter Grass made in Berlin at the PEN International Congress there in May 2006.

It was a mere few weeks before the World Cup was to begin in Berlin when I had the good fortune to be sent to that city with Niki Johnson to represent Jamaica in its bid for membership of this august body. The keynote address was by the celebrated German author and Berlin resident, Gunter Grass. In keeping with the theme of the Congress Grass called his talk “Writing in an unpeaceful World.” Grass's speech was an eloquent disquisition on war and the lack of peace through the centuries; he quoted Pinter’s scathing critique of the United States only recently delivered during his Nobel address the previous year. Pinter's sentiments were so strongly expressed, so uncompromisingly critical that the American and British media had panned it and if Grass had not lingered on his words i would have been unaware that the Nobel Laureate had been so outspoken.

The Israeli strike on Gaza today makes it a particularly apt occasion to recall Grass’s heartfelt rumination on war and the role of writers in times of war. His speech pointed the finger at the United States and the unjust and protracted war it was conducting in Iraq. Within the year Grass found himself accused of being a Nazi sympathizer. Coincidence? Who knows?



While Grass did not explicitly mention bloggers (perhaps in 2006 they were not as omnipresent as they are today) everything he had to say about the responsibility of writers can and should be applied to us. Here are some excerpts from what he said:
There has always been war. And even peace agreements, intentionally or unintentionally, contained the germs of future wars, whether the treaty was concluded in Münster in Westphalia, or in Versailles. Furthermore, preparations for war do not solely depend on weapon systems that have to be continually modernized and replaced: making people dependent and acquiescent by controlled shortages has been a proven method, from biblical times to the globalised present. In his inaugural speech at the United Nations Willy Brandt referred to it in no uncertain terms: ‘Hunger is also war!’ he shouted more than three decades ago, at the time of the Cold War. Patterns of mortality as well as hunger statistics confirm his dictum to this day. Those who are in control of the market for basic foodstuffs and therefore able to manipulate surpluses as well as shortages by price policies have no need to fight conventional wars.

But what about writing in a world permanently without peace? The literati, i.e. all those scribblers and wordsmiths and sound acrobats and tracers of suppressed screams, the poets constraining themselves by rhymes and those using free verse, all of them, the men and women of verbal activity, they carried on, from Troy to Baghdad: lamenting in metre, soberly reporting, pleading for peace here, greedy for heroism there. The platitude ‘Where weapons speak, the muses remain silent’ is easily disproved.

. . . Today we find ourselves at the mercy of the hubris of only one superpower – a fact that has not proved beneficial – whose search for a new enemy has been successful. Armed force is used by this superpower to defeat the terrorism which, as it helped – take Bin Laden – to bring it forth, it is responsible for. Yet the war deliberately started in blatant disdain of the laws of civilized societies produces still more terror and will not end.

This is not only true of the war in Iraq, now in its third year. Dictatorships – and there are plenty to choose from – are referred to, in turn or simultaneously, as rogue states and threatened vociferously with military strikes, the only effect being to stabilize the fundamentalist power systems in those countries. Whether or not the term ‘Axis of Evil’ is used to refer to Iran or North Korea or Syria, the politics could not be more stupid and hence more dangerous. Even the repeat of a war crime, the deployment of nuclear weapons, is threatened.

Meanwhile the world is watching and pretending to be powerless. At most, participation in foreseeable new wars is refused. Three years ago the French and the German governments took an exemplary stand and said ‘No’, and later the Spanish government joined them when they withdrew from their complicity with the United States and engagement in the inevitably criminal activities of the superpower. yet despite lies having been exposed and the disgrace of torture being all-apparent, the British government continues to feign deafness and to act as if the tradition of the British Empire, the merciless colonial rule, has to be adhered to – even under the leadership of a Labour government.

Such submissive loyalty cannot but provoke dissent: in December of last year Harold Pinter’s speech as Nobel Laureate was published. In his admirably straightforward text the dramatist spoke first as a writer, then as a British citizen. When his bitter speech, sparing no one and exposing all our failures and our considerate hushing-up, was made available it gave rise to vehement attacks, originating in this country even in the arts section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Mr Stadelmaier, a renowned theatre critic, tried to ridicule and dismiss Pinter as an old leftie whose plays were a thing of the past. The disclosure of truths that had lain hidden behind mollifications and a web of lies caused serious resentment. Someone, a writer, one of us, had made use, in our unpeaceful world, of the right to accuse.

I quote from Harold Pinter’s speech:

“The United States supported and in many cases engendered every rightwing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

"Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.

"It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. you have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”

In the course of his speech Pinter poses the question: ‘How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal?’ This question cannot easily be dismissed as merely rhetorical, for it aims at the West’s established practice and hypocritical method of counting, the body count. Although we meticulously keep count of the victims of terror attacks – terrible though their number is – nobody bothers to count the dead caused by American bomb or rocket attacks. Whether the second or the third Gulf War – the first one was fought by Saddam Hussein with support from the United States against Iran – rough estimates put the figure at hundreds of thousands.

Clearly every single one of the carefully accounted-for 2,400 soldiers killed so far in the present Iraq war is one too many, but this list of casualties cannot serve as the retrospective reason for a war that was started illegally and is fought by criminal means, nor can it offset the untold number of women and children killed and maimed, whose deaths are trivialized from a Western perspective as ‘collateral damage’. In Western evaluation there are first-, second- or third-class citizens not only among the living, but also among the dead, and yet they are all of them victims of the mutual terrorism.
Copyright © 2008 Universal Press Syndicate

Today the United States has a second chance with its new President, Barack Obama, to turn away from war and steer the world toward some kind of peace. I’m not taking bets on whether war or peace will prevail although Barack is the one holding out hope as a very slim lifeline. Let's see what 2009 brings.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

That Infernal Online Password

Who hasn't gone through this? i just had to change my NCB passwords yet again a few days ago--and why do you have to start from scratch each time? i mean if you get one letter wrong, it erases all the info entered obliging you to type it in again...and again...and again--

This Indian comic really expresses that exasperated feeling we all know so well.

software, usability, security, registration, password, rules, security vs usability

Fly You Fools - Indian Comics about Life.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dance Lessons Anyone?

The Rickards Brothers Strike Again!

Proverbs 24:10 from firstjamaica on Vimeo.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Man of the Year...Muntadar al-Zaidi


Muntadar al-Zaidi
A shoe in the hand is worth two in the Bush! Congrats my yute! The most inspired (and inspiring) act of the last few years...al-Zaidi shoes Bush on behalf of "the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq". What an eloquent protest! Bush must also be congratulated for his restrained response...if only he had been as restrained about 'the war on terror' and invading Iraq--


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Locating Blagojevich: A Nation of Shopkeepers?

image by Zina Saunders

Prices Slashed!
"To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising up a people of customers may at first sight appear a project fit only for a nation of shopkeepers. It is, however, a project altogether unfit for a nation of shopkeepers; but extremely fit for a nation whose government is influenced by shopkeepers."--Adam Smith
Well, Adam did try and warn them but who was listening? They took on board his free market theories and jettisoned the cautions he issued. Blagojevich was the eventuality. Zina Saunders captures the moment brilliantly in this irreverend cartoon.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Making sense of the Mayhem in Mumbai


Dec 3, Cartoonscape, The Hindu

I was always more of a Dilliwalli (Delhi woman) than a Mumbaikar though Bombay was just an overnight train ride from the city I grew up in—Ahmedabad—and we frequently visited my cousins who lived in that monstrous metropolis. Today all Indian cities seem equally monstrous to me sprawling over the landscape spewing noxious fumes and toxic trash, dwarfing the insect-like citizens who inhabit them.

For the last twenty years I’ve lived in Kingston, Jamaica, another monstrous city, a miniature one in proportion to its Indian counterparts of course. Still there were many things about the mayhem in Mumbai that I could relate to as being part of a common trend we find ourselves in as citizens of postcolonial nations that haven’t exactly distinguished themselves in independence. Where were the safeguards one expects the authorities to put in place in cities threatened by warring gangs or ‘terrorists’?

For instance exactly two weeks ago there were 3-4 attempted break-ins/robberies in my Kingston neighbourhood. Ever since a colleague and resident of the area was murdered in his house last year there’s been an increase in security guards on the compound. Unfortunately this hasn’t significantly deterred robbers and thieves from plaguing the area.

If I hadn’t heard about the incidents via my helper and a passer-by on the evening of the attacks I wouldn’t have known that anything had happened. Neither the security company to whom we pay millions every year nor the University from whom we rent these premises considered it necessary to send out a bulletin informing all residents of what had happened, exactly where and under what circumstances, so the rest of us could take all necessary precautions.

I was glad then to be invited to a ‘security meeting’ on December 2nd where I thought I could express my concern and find out more about what exactly had happened. The session was also to discuss putting together some kind of neighbourhood watch to thwart/repel any further such attempts to part us from our earthly possessions.

The meeting turned out to be a farce; apparently I knew more (via the yamvine) about the various attempted burglaries than most people there, including the President of our Association. When people started turning to me for information and the campus police started giving us inane advice on keeping our handbags and jewellery out of sight of windows and doors I suddenly found myself thinking: I wonder if this is how and why the terror attacks in Mumbai happened?

I mean here we are living in Kingston (not Lausanne or Dubai), with an escalating crime rate and Christmas approaching and no one seems seized with a sense of urgency about how to organize and protect ourselves in the face of utter apathy and inertia on the part of the authorities concerned.

Officials in Mumbai it turns out were warned of impending attacks and suspicious activities by everyone from local fishermen to the US government. In spite of this security measures at both hotels and the main train station in Mumbai were downgraded the week before the attacks. Three very senior police officers were killed in the first few hours of what turned out to be an almost three-day siege. According to news reports corruption in the tendering process for police equipment resulted in faulty and substandard ‘bullet-proof’ vests being issued to police personnel; the vests were incapable of repelling bullets even from a hand gun much less an automatic weapon like an AK 47.

‘Mumbaikars’, or residents of Mumbai, reacted with anger and disbelief in the wake of the attacks. Politicians have come in for heavy criticism especially after the Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, toured the Taj in the company of prominent Bollywood director, Ram Gopal Verma. A number of political leaders including Deshmukh, his Deputy, the Home Minister and the Head of Security have since been forced to resign.

An SMS text addressed to film directors made the rounds saying “A humble appeal to Mahesh Bhatt, Ram Gopal Verma, Sanjay Gupta, Rahul Dholakia and Apoorva Lakhia, Sirs, what's happening in our beloved Bombay is terrifying and sad. Don't insult us by thinking of making a 'realistic' film glorifying or capitalising on this situation. God please save our country from such terrorism and such filmmakers."

Further South the Chief Minister of Kerala, V S Achutanandan, belatedly tried to pay a condolence call on the Bangalore home of the parents of one of the heroes of the Mumbai attacks, slain National Security Guard (NSG) commando Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan. The Major’s grief-stricken father refused to let the CM enter his residence prompting the Minister to make the gratuitously callous comment that had it not been the home of Major Unnikrishnan not even a dog would have wanted to enter it. Public outrage was so great that after initially refusing to apologize the Chief Minister lost face when he was forced to do so to pacify the citizenry.

The Mumbai siege uncovered unexpected heroes such as the seven South African bodyguards who were at the Taj providing protection for cricketers playing in the Indian Premier League tournament. They helped lead 120 hostages to safety armed only with knives and meat cleavers, even carrying a traumatised 80-year-old woman in a chair down 25 flights of stairs.

As Shobha De, Mumbai’s celebrity writer and blogger commented:

“The grand, old Taj could not provide the Marcos (’Marcos’ is short for "Marine Commandos, an elite special operations unit of the Indian Navy,) with a map of the premises – they were sent in cold – while the terrorists possessed a detailed floor plan all along…There was also a spectacular lack of co- ordination during the entire operation, especially during the first few crucial hours, when all the people involved seemed to be bumbling along without clear directions from one central body. We still don’t know whose orders were being followed, nor who was in command throughout. It became equally obvious that neither the city, nor the hotels have a crisis management programme in place that provides an immediate plan of action in an emergency. Look at how efficiently and swiftly the South African body guards swung into action … and saved so many lives. There was discipline and arduous training behind the drill they followed. Our brave men used their hearts, when minds were needed far more.”

Meanwhile the Hindustan Times reported that the government had “threatened action against television channels repeatedly broadcasting scenes of the Mumbai terror attack saying it may evoke strong sentiments among those affected by it.” The directive ordered that ‘Gory scenes should not shown, tragedy should not be replayed’ for fear of “the terrorists feeling that their operation was successful”.

According to the Hindustan Times the advisory stipulated that “News coverage pertaining to the event should project that India is not demoralised and has risen despite all terrorist attacks as normalcy has been restored. News coverage should project that India is a global power which has full support of the international community”.

Why is it that nations always try to save face before saving lives? Why do politicians instinctively do the wrong thing in the face of disaster, trying to maximize photo ops and free publicity rather than provide meaningful intervention? Why do the authorities always wait for disaster to strike before putting in place the necessary safeguards? These questions are as relevant in Kingston as they were in Mumbai…

Saturday, November 29, 2008

26/11--Mumbai Murmurs


There is a lot to be said about the shocking series of events in Mumbai that finally--too late--drew to a bloody and violent close. I may eventually get around to articulating my own views on the subject but for now I offer a collage of quotes from a range of sources, all from the blogosphere, mostly the Indian blogosphere. I think they convey more eloquently than I ever could the confusion and complex disquiet Indians of every stripe, colour and creed are experiencing in the wake of 26/11.

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Tab, The Calgary Sun

What has struck me forcibly from watching the news unfold on CNN and the BBC and from the blogs and other online sources I’ve read are the numerous accounts of selfless and gallant behaviour from subordinate staff at the hotels and restaurants. Look even at Chabad House where the two-year old child of the hapless Jewish Rabbi and his wife was rescued by his Ayah who apparently faced down all obstacles in her path, escaping to safety with her tiny charge.

In two of the accounts that follow, Sonia Faleiro and Amit Varma, a pair of prominent Mumbai authors, both express their gratitude to a security guard who scooped them and their friends back into the hotel from the street when all hell started to break loose there, and the hotel staff who put them up for the night refusing to accept payment the next day. Shobha De, the writer and socialite, tells why the Taj, built by Jamshedji Tata "to let the British know that there can be a magnificent hotel built by Indians, for Indians" is important to her. A man named Patel is almost inarticulate with rage over the callousness of news coverage on all channels, whether Indian or foreign while Dhiren explains why he never liked the Taj Palace. A Sri Lankan gives Indians cogent advice from that country's decades long problem with 'terrorism'. On an economic and financial note Danusgram warns that the loud sucking sound we hear "is the sound of the big vacuum cleaner sucking the jobs you guys took from American back to this country." Taken all together these comments allow a multifaceted perspective from which to view the recent mayhem in Mumbai.

November 29, 2008 2:09 PM
HOBO said...
I cried a lot and switched off the Television.

November 29, 2008 2:30 PM
hitch writer said...
Should we say Wake up India ....
One of the biggest problems with our country is we tolerate a bit too much....

Thursday, November 27, 2008
Sonia Faleiro [This excerpt and the one following by Amit Varma are twin versions of the same series of events by writers who were together that fateful evening around the corner from the Taj Hotel]

Children of Bombay
And then we attended the exhibition and to celebrate Nyela's wonderful success we went to Indigo Deli in Colaba, a restaurant which is behind the Gateway of India, behind the iconic Taj Hotel. An hour later a man stepped out of the deli and terrorists shot him dead. Terrorists stormed the Taj, they took hostages, they killed people, they set the dome on fire, blood poured down the stairs.

The Deli was full so we walked down the street and turned left to the Gordon House, a boutique hotel where the guests speak in iPhone's and teenagers wear suits. We ate stir fry and drank campari and then we said, where now?


We stepped out of the hotel and bullets rang in the air, people screamed, a tidal wave raced down the street and the security guard said 'Inside! Madam, Inside NOW!'

We ran inside and I messaged my friend Chandrahas. 'Encounter. We're staying in for now.' We thought then it was a gang war, and it would end soon and Rahul and I looked at one another and we thought: This is what we're bringing our children into the world for.

Even then though there was no fear, only worry and stress. This is Bombay we said to ourselves, we fear no gangs, they are part of our bloodstream.

…When dawn broke, we walked down through the empty hotel, front door barred with chains and locks. Outside the street was silent, and I thought I smelt smoke in the air…The security guard, a tall thin Sikh gentleman, who had ushered us back into the hotel when the shooting started, was walking down the street with a friend. His shift had ended. I went up to him, and shook his hand. It felt amazing. 'You saved our lives,' I said to him. 'You didn't have to. We had paid our bill, we were leaving, not entering the hotel. We weren't your responsibility.' He smiled at me, the smile of a little boy. 'Thank you, madam,' he said.

This too is Bombay, I thought to myself. A city where a stranger who owes you nothing will do anything, everything for you.

27 November, 2008
From The India Uncut Blog
Published by Amit Varma

A Night Out In Mumbai (Updated)

This is turning out to be one crazy night. A friend of mine had an opening of her art exhibition a few hours ago, so we ventured to South Bombay for that. We attended the exhibition, sipped the litchee juice, nibbled on party snacks, and then six of us headed out for dinner. First we tried Indigo Deli, which is a couple of hundred metres from the Taj. We were told there would be a 25-minute wait. So we headed to All Stir Fry, the restaurant in the Gordon House Hotel in a lane down from there. They told us we’d have to wait 20 minutes. We stepped out again, and as we did so, we heard gunshots, and saw people running towards us from the left side.

One of the hotel employees rushed out and told us to get back in. “There must have been an encounter,” he said. “Get back in, you’ll be safe inside.”

We followed him in. We waited in the lounge-bar upstairs for a while. The big screen there was showing cricket. India won. Then someone changed the channel.

That’s when we realised that this was much more than a random police encounter, or a couple of gunshots. We heard that terrorists with AK-47s had opened fire outside Leopold’s, the pub down the road. We heard there was firing elsewhere in the city as well, including in the Taj. We watched transfixed, and as the apparent scale of the incidents grew, we realised we couldn’t go home. We asked if they had a room vacant; they did, so we settled in, switched on the TV, and watched in horror.

…I was on Larry King Live on CNN about three hours ago. They called me and asked me to be on the show as an eyewitness, at which I protested that I hadn’t actually seen anything, I was merely in the vicinity. But they’d read what I wrote in this post earlier, and they wanted me to talk about that. So I agreed, and came on briefly. King asked me if I’d actually seen any terrorists—I felt guilty that I couldn’t offer him any dope there.

Deepak Chopra was also on the show, speculating that the attacks had taken place because terrorists were worried about Barack Obama’s friendly overtures to Muslims. (I know: WTF?) That sounded pretty ridiculous to me, but such theories are a consequence of our tendency as a species to want to give gyan. A media pundit, especially, feels compelled to have a narrative for everything. Everything must be explicable, and television expects instant analysis.

…The kind folk at the Gordon House Hotel did three important things for us last night. One, they ushered us in when the gunshots began, assuring us that we’d be safer inside than outside. Two, they got us a room for the night, and extra mattresses and so on. Three, in the morning, they refused to accept payment for the room, insisting that we were their guests and this was their duty.

We left them a hefty tip out of gratitude, but I’m still in disbelief about their kindness. I often complain about the poor service in the hospitality industry in India, but never again about All Stir Fry or the Gordon House Hotel. What guys!

Friday, November 28, 2008
Shobha De [India’s most glamorous writing socialite]

Cry, my beloved city

The sight of the Taj burning, is the one that will remain forever etched on my mind – a ghastly and tragic reminder of this city’s vulnerability…. and also it’s grandeur. That is where I was courted, got married. The place I consider my second home. Taj is family. That is where my daughter is getting married ten days from now… or that was the dream…. the plan. Till last night. Today, that beloved heritage building – Mumbai’s pride and joy - is a monument to death and destruction. The Taj has always been an inspiring emblem of India’s defiance and glory when it was built in 1903 by a great son of Mumbai, Sir Jamshedji Tata, to let the British know that there can be a magnificent hotel built by Indians, for Indians. As I watched the flames engulfing the top floor, my tears flowed for those incredibly brave men and women from the hospitality industry who performed such a stupendous job, along with the others, in saving as many lives as possible. The terrorists picked their targets well – by hitting Mumbai’s most-loved symbols of wealth and prosperity, cosmopolitanism and progress, they succeeded in their mission of demonstrating to the world just how simple it is to attack iconic institutions and hold a teeming metropolis to ransom. Yes. My daughter will get married. And yes,the ceremony will be at the Taj -- burnt…. but not bowed. We will always love it. Terrorists may destroy a structure. But our souls are our own.

2008-11-29 11:41:47
Dhiren said:
I hated that hotel, twice i had gone there as a kid and twice my mother and i had arguments about etiquettes needed in such hotels…. i was always not suauve….

But some how all those emotions aside, the day Taj re-opens i would surely want to go there… and stay there, lets not allow these terrorists to terrorise us….

November 27th, 2008 at 2:01 am
Patel:
Well Done Media.. Like CNN IBN. They covers Full STORY. I have just watched the CNN IBN live on their website. They show the open firing, the injured people taken to the hospital.

BUT,…B..U..T, How the hell you are covering it. For covering the NEWS, these shameless people put the camera over the HEAD of Military people, who are helping out the proces… Pushing those Military/police people and making more work for them. Reporters are Rushing to the Injured People.. Just to take a Picture of they injury? Like They are a Monument?

If you see one of the footage, in which they show the terrorist are firing from the Police van. In the end of the footage, one person got injured on his hand and he was running here & there for help. The camera person sits besides him and covers this NEWS. Camera man moves this other hand, which is supporting the injured hand and try to Cover the FUll BLOODY HAND in his NEWS.

So, What is more important… NEWS Covering for the People sitting at HOME OR Helping the GUY suffering infront of You?

November 27th, 2008 at 9:20 am
hetfleisch helmut alb.:
we are verry sad,about the situations you country has now.verry verry sorry to all the people of india and mombai.strange world.i hope your touristbussines-will not be toucht to mutch.sad sad sad. Helmut

November 27th, 2008 at 10:17 am
Sunita Parida:
Shame on the Religion of Terrorism……….This is to all the terrorists and Jihadis …………please stay away from this lovely peaceful world……if you want to go to heaven then kill yourself and do the needful….but do not try to kill the innocent people…
VOICE OF INDIA AND THE WORLD

November 28th, 2008 at 11:44 am
Aparna:
I might as well go ahead and accuse CNN-IBN of aiding the terror-mongers. Its 5:00 PM in India and CNN_IBN has George Koshy reporting LIVE on the grenade launch by the NSG at the Taj in such details and focussing their camera images at the target and the NSG launcher that such information can be of help to no one except the terrorists and possibly harmful to the security or the public.

November 28th, 2008 at 14:37 pm
Ruhie:
Zee news has a foreign news edition, they had a news piece on the mumbai terror attacks, to my horror they sensationalised the news, used pre-recorded gun shots noise and, kept using as back ground sounds…bang-bang-bang-bang…disgusting, stop making a mockery out of it, absolutely ridiculous!

November 28th, 2008 at 15:37 pm
Rakiah:
these British and American news channels have shown in this crisis, how they see “non-british” and “non-american” as, they have shown that if you are not an american or british then we dont give a damn about you! I mean, the tragedy happened in India didnt it? then why in the world are they concerned about its impacts on the American and British people. why arent they showing the Indian aspect; the ones who lost everything!

November 28th, 2008 at 15:43 pm
Madhulika:
Many ppl here in chennai are not able to catch the news as the tv s are not available due to continous rainfall for over 3 days .
I m actually catchin all the news on CNN , where there is live tv and its from there that i found live news on CNN-IBN
So actually CNN-IBN themselves do not have a live tv and i thank CNN international here

November 28th, 2008 at 16:24 pm
NKM:
To see what is happening in India today is to look in the rear view mirror of what we did wrong in Sri Lanka. When we suffered terrorist attacks, we blamed it on foreign interference, namely India. India does the same today: the Prime Minister in a televised message blamed a “group based outside the country”. Both countries have failed to realize that the root of the problem is not outside our shores; the problem lies within. Messages from the Indian public are scrolled continuously on NDTV, most of them blaming the government for inadequate security and calling for a severe crackdown on terrorism (as if they weren’t already trying all this time). Not one message asked the question: “what drove these Indians to do this to other Indians?” …

So here’s a word of advice from a Sri Lankan to our big neighbour. Don’t go down the path we have taken. Don’t be tempted to sacrifice the freedom of another for your own safety. Be smarter than us. Look within and find the disease that is causing this fever called terrorism. For now, your terrorists seem to be ad hoc groups of lethal young men. With every attack in your country a new terrorist group with a new label takes credit. That’s how it starts. The day will come when a determined and motivated leader manages to coalesce the many fingers of extremism into a hard-hitting fist, with an ideology as compelling as it is evil. When that happens, you will pay a price in blood and sorrow for generations to come. We know this because we have seen it all before.

November 28th, 2008 at 19:52 pm
danusgram:
Message to all of you over there hear that sound that is the sound of the big vacuum cleaner sucking the jobs you guys took from American back to this country. No corporation is going to use your country for workers it is too dangerous and yes that is our concern as these are american concerns not Indian in so you can stop attacking the Americsn news media they have go report this based on our investments there. Say bye bye to your outsourcing scheme….that has hurt so many American families

November 28th, 2008 at 23:42 pm
Karen P:
Some American’s are just idiots. There are many people who do not hold Indians responsible for taking American’s jobs. Do not listen to the idiot posting prior.

We feel for you and your country, just like you felt for us when we were under attack.

Stop using this attack as a way to spew hateful talk and creating more resentment to American’s worldwide.

We are so sorry that extremism has once again hit your shores.

Anonymous said...

INDIA - A Sitting DUCK

The news telecasts for the past three days have been like watching Hollywood thrillers and Bollywood action flicks unfold at different places. The only unfortunate part is that the heroes did not emerge without any damage to innocent civilian lives.
…Expectedly, the quotes from the political class were hopeless & spineless. One cannot help compare an extempore inspiring speech by Mr. Obama with a totally damp squid speech by our PM. What was needed was an extempore and heart felled speech peppered with bold talk. This would have helped warm the cockles of the heart of a worried nation. As usual the politicians pointed fingers towards Pakistan? Does it matter who did it? First we don’t do anything to prevent these kinds of attacks from happening but are ready to point fingers right away. Does pointing fingers get protection for your country? Why not focus on getting things organized at the scene of crime. Let a politicians family member be in those hotels, then see how organized the fight becomes. We have had so many bombings in India that we should have been prepared. But who will tell these politicians. Now all we would see will be the visuals of those coward politicians lining up to meet the families of the dead- promising to make them martyrs, giving false promises of not sparing the terrorists, announcing compensation packages, etc.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Mumbai on the fly

Taj Palace Hotel and Gateway to India

I don't know what the protocols are here but i thought you all might like to eavesdrop on this Indian conversation about the tragic and yet to be concluded events in Mumbai. Nikhil is the son of an old friend and schoolmate. He's a designer and I have a rich relationship with him via Facebook from where i clipped this conversation. At the end of this thread is an excerpt from and link to one of my favourite bloggers anywhere, Domain Maximus. Named Sidin Vadukut when not in the blogosphere he lives in Mumbai and has an amazing post on the last normal hours at the Taj because he was there interviewing an Israeli CEO approximately two hours before it all began. And personally i think the main targets of these attacks were the Israelis who were in Mumbai for trade talks...so read on.

From Facebook at 8.15 am Jamaican time:

N. ..It is high time India stops sending missions to the moon and starts focusing on national security.4 hours ago

VR at 3:32am November 28
inappropriate man.

N at 4:19am November 28
this is inapproproate and your counter strike CS: mumbai comment was appropriate. What da?

SS at 4:24am November 28
science has its place and so does defense. They're unrelated..stop comparing the two.

N at 4:35am November 28
It's important to get priorities right in the life of a nation. Cool, kudos to the science. Where is the defence? It's like a half baked pie.

N at 4:36am November 28
And for that matter. I would rather have my taxes cut for defense and the militaryand their families than the moon. So there.

A at 4:38am November 28
your taxes will be cut nonetheless......even if they are sending shit to the moon...or giving the terrorists a safe passage....u are paying

VR at 4:47am November 28
I dunno how to explain to you how wrong you are in so many ways.

N at 4:48am November 28
Let's just say you're suffering from NOT IN MY BACKYARD syndrome.

N at 4:49am November 28
it's called NIMBY by the way. Sounds cool doesn't it? Just like CS: Mumbai.

S at 4:51am November 28
Agree with you N...not with what your friends have to say :(

SS at 5:02am November 28
nikhil...why don't you name one country where terrorist attacks have been prevented by cutting costs on other things? You call me a maaru but you're acting like one right now..you'll have to pay taxed regardless..!! I honestly don't think its that easy to prevent such attacks, however strong the defense, on the contrary I think the army and the hotel staff have tried their level best to get the hostages out. its really not the time to blame..

VR at 5:17am November 28
i was just trying to be funny, you are just being crass. That's all i have to say.

N
at 5:29am November 28
I was just hoping to be serious, you are just misunderstanding it and being venkat. That's all i have to say. Come on man.

VR at 8:48am November 28
I'm in Mumbai. You're in Delhi. Go figure. I have had enough.

and from Domain Maximus:

The lobby is not as busy as usual. As I wait, a suitably socialite looking woman speeds down the lobby followed by an older woman who reassures her that “It is okay to wear shorts here baby!”

I recognize no one except for a Mr. Wickmann. (My memory may not be precise on this.) I know his name because of the quaint and subtle way in which the Taj summons people waiting in the lobby. Someone walks around with a little whiteboard, with a name on it, stuck on top of a stick There are two small bells on the stick which jangle as it is carried about. Around 6:20 or so someone comes looking for a Wickmann. Wickmann is a tall, white-haired man with spectacles. The staff member escorts him away somewhere.

The publicist picks me up around 6:35 PM from the lobby and we walk down the corridor that connects the new Taj to the old one. To me that walk is the shiniest part of the Taj. The windows and floors and lights all combine to make it this shimmering tube of light. I noticed little of the walk, though, as the publicist made small talk about the global economy and recession and what our paper thought and so on. In fact the only thing I did notice was a show window. It was empty except for a bottle of Dom Perignon on a little stand in the corner. At the time I thought it was a very poor display for Dom Perignon.

We went up the lift to the sixth floor of the heritage building and then took a left, over a flight of stairs to the CEO’s suite in the corner. I was too strung up for the interview to notice the wooden barristers and ornamentation of the corridors of the old Taj.

Our interview started late but lasted for just over an hour. She spoke about her life in the industry, her weekend pastimes, the Indian market and how she once served in the Israeli army. Then it turns out that she has dual citizenzhip: Israeli-British. I quietly admire the cosmopolitanism of it all and then sip on a black coffee. She offers a few hotel chocolates and biscuits but I refuse.

We get up after I switch off the audio recorder and exchange business cards. We shake hands and then she tells me that she’s off to meet a few local business associates for dinner. We share some small-talk and then I finally leave after a short but interesting interview.

For the rest of this post click here

Taj Palace at Mumbai by aratib.
Photo of Taj by night by Aratib.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mumbai...

I mean when you think about it hotels are quite vulnerable. i've yet to enter one with a metal detector and guests are constantly arriving with suitcases which could be full of anything, guns, weapons, bombs--y'know??

Just spoke with my parents who live in Bangalore. they mentioned that there is speculation that the target could have been a group or groups of Israelis who arrived in Mumbay for trade-related meetings.

The following is taken from Sajaforum, in turn arrived at from Sepia Mutiny:

MUMBAI ATTACKS: Terrorists attack Mumbai + webcasts

[If you are an editor looking for a freelancer in Mumbai, PLEASE CLICK HERE to see the listing of freelancers in South Asia]

UPDATED 7:20 p.m.

Here is how you can follow the attacks right now.

Follow thousands of twitter feeds on Mumbai here. Hundreds of new feeds are coming up every minute. Refresh to see new feeds.

CNN-IBN has been tracking the attacks all along. Click here to see their coverage.

You can watch the live coverage here.

Here is how some of the local blogs are covering this:

Mumbai Metblogs

India Uncut

Global Voices Online
if you go to Sajaforum you can get links to the various media mentioned above...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Oddly Sure and Banksy Redux: Cool Runnings All the Way


Just to let you know that despite the global financial meltdown and the downfall of another wall--Wall Street--WE ARE NOT IN PANIC MODE in Jamaica. Don't worry, be happy, Audley Shaw, our Finance Minister seems to be saying. Are things snowballing? You think we have a snowball's chance in hell of making it? Fret not, remember our prowess at bobsledding? We will survive man! Think positive! NO! NO! Not HIV Positive! Positive! Positive!
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy......
Bobby McFerrin got the idea for his song from the oft-repeated saying of an Indian mystic, Meher Baba, whose most famous utterance apparently was, Don't worry, be happy...just thought you'd like to know--

And speaking of the downfall of another wall my young friend Peter Dean Rickards (The Afflicted One) has struck again. The man who 'outed' Banksy last year is now giving away a piece of wall that the graffiti superstar left his tag on when he visited Kingston some years ago. Not only that--he's selling 10 photos of the wall being taken down for US$100,000 on eBay. If you buy all 10 you'll be the proud owner of the ex-Mona Pub wall as well...check it out.


The Afflicted Yard: The Rock from firstjamaica on Vimeo.

Friday, November 14, 2008

JAMAICA LAND WE LOVE

Greetings from Guangzhou everyone. i'll be back next week. in the meantime here's a poem by Dingo to hold you...

JAMAICA LAND WE LOVE

I woulda cuss some claat if it coulda draw attention to Jamaica land we love
An if dem neva start charge artiste fe it….
I woulda cuss some claat if it coulda draw attention to Jamaica land we love.
Jamaica land we love hobbling along on three flats and de-spair
this gearbox stuck in reverse is so….. “anti-forward”.
So I’m in this bourgeois café, listening to her bourgeois bullshit
An she goin on an on about her last trip to Europe an I’m perplexed
because she keep referring to us as “dem” , keep referring to us as “dem”
an mi confused cause I not sure who she calling “these people”.
An I figure she mean the ones catapulted from oppressed wombs to suck struggle at the nipple.
who with little conviction hold lengthy debates with their stomachs about the ills of overeating,
who no hear say slavery done so nuff a dem still a work fi nuttin,
who’ve been given bran new highways, so now di homeless can live in style,
In Jamaica land we love.

Where the middle class who have hit the oil slick on the mobility pole
Would start another demonstration if they hadn’t so effectively removed their feet.
Right now dem couldn’t galvanize……
Zinc fences used to mek me nervous one o’clock ina di morning,
this bwoy from country a blaze the streets of Kingston
from Bay Farm to Vineyard Town to Arnette
where roadblocks to prevent drivebys would meet wid the zinc fences to discuss mi fate.
Towering over me like coliseum walls, but with less romance to it.
Concealing, conniving, threatening, an sometimes if you search hard enough inside helplessness
u find calm, even content if you realize the ghetto is not a physical place
an if it is, it probably start uptown
where some big pickney take time a crayon di whole flag black.
And we suffer these leaders and dance wildly to the beat of their inconsistent snares.
Upright treacherous vipers with forked tongues
which facilitate the use of both sides of the mouth,
sponsoring the tools of tribalism as they posture and piss on tyres.
Shattered ambitions conspiring with hardened backs
and servile minds to start personal revolutions
and a fist still a raise an a bell still a ring an a tune still a sing
say common people like you an me will be builders for eternity
an me nah feel da vibe deh y’nuh rasta.
And commissions of enquiry are needed to find the burial spots of,
former commissions of enquiry
Because we understand dat di bigger heads is loyal to them friends.
But is Jamaica, and justice is limber
and truth is just a empty word written in blood on the still trembling walls of a portmore dwelling,
and our heaviest burden is still our legacy of silent acceptance, in Jamaica land we love.

Home of the church,
where one can easily be ambushed by a “Praying Mantis” decked in a Joseph like coat
but with trick pockets,
concealing the tools of the trade: confusion, grand wizardry and placebo effects.
Dark solicitous eyes weighing truths with immigration intensity
in vicarious contempt, like jealous jeanies.
Can’t save those in the hospitals but at night become tent healers
cockroach feelers sensing naivety of prey
an salvation did always make good company for despair, here, in Jamaica land we love.

A defiant air now seeps from cockpit hills, caressing the knees of maypole dancers
and bounces colorful expression off the tongues of ample bosomed coronation vendors
firing and glazing the vision of Garvey into a collective spirit, and lord, we got to keep on moving.
And somewhere along that thick line between information technology
and the coconut brush is where u will find me
romancing her majesty to lamplight, an celebrating the freedom of weed expressionism,
in Jamaica land we love
Still an enchanting isle, whose seemingly tethered sun still sets on breathtakingly beautiful beaches,
though survival can be a cataract.
in Jamaica land we love.

DINGO

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Obama rules!


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Reproduction Rights, Remembering Rodney and Ataklan's Sun Starts to Rise

Life happens. That’s what. And blogs have to take second place at times like that. A lot took place in the last few weeks. On the 10th I went to Miami at the invitation of Dr. Patricia Saunders to give a talk at the University of Miami on Entertainment Report as an archive of Jamaican popular culture. They were launching their website on Caribbean Art and Visual Culture "As Far as the Eye/I Can See" and celebrating the fifth anniversary of Anthurium, an online journal produced by the Department of English Literature.

I had with some difficulty managed to obtain copies of ER footage from TVJ but the quality was variable (much of the footage was unusable because the volume wasn’t consistent) and they had locked it so that I couldn’t go in and extract the clips I wanted to show during my presentation. Fortunately I had enough material to cover the gaps where I had intended to play the clips and the talk was a great success. I understand TVJ’s legal department’s zeal to ensure that their footage is not abused in any way but I think they are penalizing the wrong parties in the process.

I mean how likely is it that someone who writes asking for permission to use video clips in a presentation at an academic institution, providing all the supporting documents necessary, is going to turn around and sell the footage and violate TVJ’s copyright? Even if that had been my intention the quality of what I was provided would have been enough to render it useless for such purposes. Meanwhile I hear that multiple DVDs of TVJ’s hit series Rising Stars are freely available on the streets of downtown Kingston. A case of misplaced zeal and priorities?

I would recommend that the legal eagles at TVJ and other media entities take advantage of the fact that the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations (IFFRO) is holding their 37th Annual General Meeting at the Ritz Carlton in Montego Bay from Oct. 26 to the 31st, next week to be precise.

Now the ‘Reproduction’ in their name is not a reference to biological reproduction or cloning but ‘reprography’ or the legal reproduction or copying of copyrighted works whether textual, artistic, musical or any form of creative content. Their mission statement explains it best: “IFRRO works to increase on an international basis the lawful use of text and image based copyright works and to eliminate unauthorised copying by promoting efficient Collective Management of rights through RROs to complement creators' and publishers' own activities.”

JAMCOPY, the Jamaican Copyright Licensing Agency (on the board of which I sit), is the local organization responsible for organizing this prestigious international meeting here. All week long international policy for the licensing of musical works, newspapers, visual material, digital products, amongst other things is going to be discussed and signed off on right here on our shores. One hopes that the local legal and media fraternity will take this opportunity to bring themselves up to date on these issues of intellectual property; IP as it is called for short is one of the most important products of the twenty first century and its licensing and regulation are going to be key components in the future welfare of nations.

I returned to Jamaica just in time for the Walter Rodney conference that was held from October 16th to the 18th. Rodney as many of us know was a Guyanese historian who taught at the University of the West Indies in the 1960s. What made him unique was his activism, his insistence on making education available to the poor, his focus on rehabilitating pride in things African. As Wikipedia has it:

Rodney was sharply critical of the middle class for its role in the post-independence Caribbean. When the Jamaican government, led by prime minister Hugh Shearer, banned him, in October 1968, from ever returning to the country, because of his advocacy for the working poor in that country, riots broke out, eventually claiming the lives of several people and causing millions of dollars in damages. These riots, which started on October 16, 1968, are now known as the Rodney Riots, and they triggered an increase in political awareness across the Caribbean, especially among the Afrocentric Rastafarian sector of Jamaica, documented in his book, The Groundings with my Brothers.

The conference, organized by the Institute of Caribbean Studies in collaboration with the Centre for Caribbean Thought at UWI, was held to mark the 40th anniversary of the Rodney Riots. One of the stand-out moments came when the floor was opened for discussion after Honorary Professor Edward Seaga, a former Prime Minister and leader of the Jamaica Labour Party which had been in government when Rodney was made persona non grata made his presentation. Mr. Seaga held forth for 45 minutes instead of the prescribed 20 and talked about Garvey and Rasta and everything it seemed but Walter Rodney, disappointing those who thought they were going to hear a personal aside on the events of the late 1960s. While he did eventually touch on the subject of the conference Professor Horace Campbell of Syracuse University and author of the book Rasta and Resistance got up during the discussion period to say that had Mr. Seaga been one of his students he would have given him an F. To his credit Mr. Seaga accepted the criticism graciously.

Another memorable moment for me was the opening talk by Pat Rodney, Walter’s widow. Walter Rodney was killed in Guyana in 1980 by a bomb disguised as a radio transmitter. He was attempting to run for political office there. For many on the African continent and elsewhere Rodney was a figure of the stature of Malcolm X. For instance my friend Achal Prabhala, read his writings in Bangalore, India and was moved to go all the way to Guyana to find out more about him. Read his “In Search of Walter Rodney” which appeared in Transition magazine.

Surely a Rodney memorial at UWI is overdue? I visualize a beautiful mural by Ricky Culture on one of the blank walls at UWI.

Finally I returned to find that Ataklan’s song Sun Starts to Rise (Ataklan is one of the most nonconformist, critical voices in Caribbean music today), complete with music video is now available on YouTube. Apart from being inspirational and simply brilliant, it has special meaning for me because it was born in my house about six years ago. I was hosting Klan on his first visit to Jamaica from Trinidad and woke up to hear him belting out the first few lines of the song. When he mentioned that his dream was to do a song in Jamaica I took him to Mikie Bennett at Grafton Studios where the initial production was done. It’s taken a while (at periodic visits to TnT I’ve had the pleasure of being treated to intermediate stages of the song) but Klan has finally got it off and it really is a beauty. The video is minimalist but eloquent. Do watch it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Produce-ing Laughter?



These were doing the email rounds; my friend Yaba Badoe sent them to me and i was about to forward them to various friends then thought this was an easier way to do it...

How on earth do people think of such things? talk about creativity--the creative parer! is this what they mean by 'new media'?

Apparently these images are all from Photobucket--The best place on the planet to store all your photos and videos--










Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dragons CAN dance!


till i'm back...enjoy this...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Raising the Bar

The world's fastest men and women were feted this weekend in Kingston, Jamaica for their breathtaking exploits in Beijing this summer. The Government produced floats, big trucks pumping music, throngs of joyous people, and keys to new cars and the city of Kingston for many of them. We're not exactly sure what the latter will unlock; surely a little like giving someone the keys to Pandora's Box.

I feel like a dog with ten tails, said a woman in the street, beaming with delight the day Usain Bolt returned from the Olympics. And all of them wagging full speed no doubt-- what could be more evocative than that? As Brazil is to football, the most stylishly competitive track and field in the world will always be to Jamaica and young Usain will likely occupy a similar place in the firmament as the legendary Pele.


I was going through the newspapers that had piled up on me during those glorious Beijing days and found some really great visual material in them. If the print media routinely lets us down in terms of sloppy writing and poorly conceived and executed texts (no world beaters here, alas!) our cartoonists and advertising agencies rose to the occasion effortlessly demonstrating their world class skills in a series of brilliant cartoons and ads celebrating and commenting on the feats of the Jamaican athletic team.


In this post I've reproduced what i thought were the most creative print ads in local newspapers and one of my favourite cartoons by Las May of the Gleaner (apologies for the quality of reproduction, its entirely due to the technology i employed). What price that image of the public awarding a big zero to the antics of the two PNP contenders? (above). Adwise I thought IRIE FM won hands down (see immediately below) with its image of the receding heels of an athlete wearing the Jamaican flag like a cape. No prize for guessing what it says in Chinese--"Usain Bolt run things"--I'm sure.


Congratulations too to Maurice Smith (who has various friends of mine drooling over him); the captain of the team, he is an outstanding decathlete and his role as leader should not be overlooked.


Sorry now to have to drag you from the sublime heights of Olympic stardom to the dismal depths of print journalism in Jamaica but i need to revisit my post of a few weeks ago, Pronounced Dead, (September 5 to be precise) in which i lamented the kind of shoddy writing that passes for reportage and commentary in this country. I return to it now to quote from some of the incisive responses that post received which really bear being quoted and highlighted.

According to V.
the most worrisome part is that, other than illustrating the sloppiness of local editorial practices, the "pronounced dead" narratives also reveal an appalling intellectual dishonesty. Our newspapers know perfectly well that those routine police reports conceal more complex and sordid stories and they should make more effort (correction: MUCH more effort) to uncover and report them.
As Bitter Bean pointed out:
The truth is that those who run the papers care more about the advertising than the editorial content. Articles are just included so that all the ads don't look overcrowded.
On September 22nd the inimitable Long Bench left this:
I noticed today that the NYT actually created an online page to address the errors that editors and readers find --

http://topics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/22/when-spell-check-cant-help-a-quiz/
Well, well, well. So my post was a timely one. It's not only in Jamdown that the print media is being critiqued by its readers for the numerous errors purveyed in their pages. The difference is that being Jamaica (read third world? provincial?) newspapers here have completely ignored all criticism, undeterred in their determination to pepper their prose with the most careless and egregious errors.

The Gleaner shows marginal improvement. In last Sunday's paper ( all the examples cited here are from September 27) the only thing i could find at first glance was this line from Ian Boyne's column: speaking of Portia he said "...the odds have been stocked against her..." A good proofreader should have picked that up, odds are stacked against someone not stocked.

From the Herald there were several bloopers: in Garnett Roper's column I read "What Jamaica faces is an economy which has almost grounded completely to a halt." Later in the same column "People are wondering around lost because of mounting bills." Today's editorial in the Herald is titled "Why Journalists must be troublemakers" and makes the case for aggressive newsgathering and storytelling. i completely agree; the Herald is virtually singular in taking such an uncompromising stand in the quality of the stories it carries. It must also display utmost integrity and intolerance of errors in the language it employs to tell its stories.

Finally the Observer had some priceless ones in its editorial titled "Will somebody please answer Ms Verna Gordon-Binns?" The editors seem quite incensed that Ms. Binns' proposal that ganja or marijuana be used to make ethanol instead of food staples was unceremoniously laughed out of parliament. Quoting from an unnamed document they refer to 'mitigating the environmental fallout from anthropological activity'. Now mind you this is a quote but the Observer retails it without commenting on its putative meaning. what on earth is being implied here? That anthropological fieldwork has somehow been destructive enough to cause environmental fallout? where, when and how? is the quote correct? Anthropology is "the science that deals with the origins, physical and cultural development, biological characteristics, and social customs and beliefs of humankind." I'm at a loss as to what link there might be to the health of the environment here.

Why don't all three papers take a leaf out of the book of The New York Times? Mind you the level of incorrect language used in the NYT pales in comparison to the local newspapers yet in contrast the NYT had the grace and humility to acknowledge its shortcomings. Here's how their article on editorial errors started:
Even in the rush to publish, writers and editors at The Times strive for polish and precision in our prose. Sometimes we succeed.

But sometimes, after the dust settles, we are dismayed to see painful grammatical errors, shopworn phrasing or embarrassing faults in usage. A quick fix might be possible online; otherwise, the lapses become lessons for next time.

Will the local print media do the right thing and start paying more attention to copy editing what it puts out in the way of editorial matter? Jamaica's Olympic team has raised the bar very high but will the Press Association of Jamaica take even a baby step towards demanding (and attaining) internationally benchmarked professional standards in journalism from its members?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Overtaken by the bré bré?


These days I seem to spend all my time sprinting from deadline to deadline, hurtling over the added hurdles of blog posts--pacing myself--hoping even briefly to attain the grace, elegance and power of Olympian Melaine Walker. Sigh. One of these days….

In the meantime there’s much to talk about. With the potential meltdown of the financial architecture of the United States occurring in the background it seems picayune to return to the PNP power struggle that came to a head last weekend--on the 20th to be precise. But it bears talking about for several reasons. For one the outcome left a number of Jamaica’s leading talking heads and pundits with egg all over their faces…again (the diatribalist also focuses on this, read his Errata).

For another, Portia Simpson-Miller, President of the Opposition People’s National Party, represents to the elite and middle class in Jamaica what Obama represents to white, bible-thumping, gun-toting mainstream America. Thus she comes in for the same kind of demonization and denigration that is often directed at Obama in the US. Which is worse I wonder: To be black (socially speaking) in a black country or to be black in a white country?

Nationwide’s Cliff Hughes, who had predicted that Bruce Golding would win the 2007 election by a landslide, again misread the political landscape a year later. Both he and co-host Elon Parkinson called it for Portia’s rival, Peter, the day before the September 20 election. In this they were echoing the Gleaner’s sentiments as well as the Observer’s. The latter’s chief columnist, Mark Wignall, also convinced himself that Phillips ought to pull it off; in 2007 he too like Messrs Hughes and Robinson had thought that Golding would sweep the 2007 elections.

How to explain these failures on the part of Jamaica’s leading journalists? They all to a man seem to have substituted wishful thinking for objective journalistic analysis allowing their prejudices to inform their professional opinions instead of hard intelligence. What is worse, having made such gaffes, all concerned proceeded full steam ahead with their Portia-bashing, berating the newly elected PNP President for not mentioning her opponent’s name in her post-election address and continuing to cast aspersions on both her and the delegates who had elected her.

“The PNP is in danger of being overtaken by the bré bré…” proclaimed Hughes on the Monday following the election. Bré bré I understand is a word meaning ‘much, many, plentiful’; when used in the way Hughes employed it it signifies what Don Robotham means when he says ‘lumpen proletariat’ or what Upper Saint Andrew is fond of referring to as the ‘Buttoos’.

On Oct. 24th on the TV show, Impact, Cliff Hughes continued his prosecutorial harangue against the PNP leadership wielding the whip of political correctness against the hapless Simpson-Miller. Portia should have immediately checked the delegates when they booed Harry 'Pip Pip' Douglas, one of the losing Vice Presidential candidates, and she should have graciously (and with remarkable hypocrisy) acknowledged Peter Phillips by name and offered him a role in the opposition ranks (az cawdin to Hughes).

Not having done either she had once again (in the view of these journalists) demonstrated the lack of 'leadership qualities' Hughes and Co. have been accusing her of for some time now. Never mind that the delegates might have been expressing legitimate grievances when they booed Douglas. When he lost his seat in the 2007 general elections one of the newspapers explained why:
Douglas, the politician who some St. Mary residents have alleged honks the horn of his SUV more often than he represents them, has been driven into the political wilderness by the voters in South East St. Mary. He was popularly called 'Pip Pip', an indication that he did not even give a full blast of the horn whenever he drove through the constituency.

One might ask why Portia Simpson-Miller should have censored or otherwise interfered with the delegates freely expressing their view of a politician who clearly, judging by the above, had done very little for them.

The open contempt expressed for the rank and file members of the PNP has been breathtaking. On the day of the election Messrs Hughes and Parkinson characterized the votes in favour of Portia as coming from the ‘heart’ rather than the ‘head’. In other words according to the hosts of Nationwide the delegates had hung up their minds and allowed themselves to be moved by emotion rather than reason.

In an article titled “Who are these PNP delegates?” Horace Williams, a human-resource specialist, gave quite a different picture from that of the die-hearted Phillips supporters masquerading as journalists:

There has been much debate as to why the Arise and Renew team did not win the PNP's presidential elections, given the large sum of money provided by the private sector, and the moneyed class, their level of organisation and level of intellectual input from the middle class, the backing from sections of the media and the overall level of advertising and media exposure. It is also felt that the Arise and Renew team presented a vision of the future for the country, which was clear, rational and evident for all the delegates to see.

What appears to have happened, in my estimation, is that all those so-called ordinary black, uneducated, unsophisticated, ill-informed and short-sighted persons who voted for Mrs Simpson Miller are singing a different tune from the so-called educated, visionary, upper class, intellectually sophisticated and far-sighted Jamaicans.

Over the last three or so decades, the lot of the ordinary black people in this country has not changed substantially. There has been some improvement, but much more could have been done. They have voted for successive governments, but all that appears to be needed of them is to dip a live finger in the ink on election day. After the party has been elected, ministers of Government who then move into upper-class neighbourhoods in St Andrew are appointed, are provided with multimillion-dollar luxury vehicles, and are provided with all the trappings of modern life. Their friends and relatives are allowed to plunder the resources of the country for their own benefit…

…So, Mrs Simpson Miller's win may be seen in the context of a drowning man clutching at a straw. In my estimation, the delegates are saying to the owners of capital, the intellectuals, sections of the media, the browns, whites and the other class: "You have not helped us so far, or much more could have been done". Let us cling to Sister P who is one of us, whom we can trust. In my estimation, they are saying: "We do not trust you; we do not trust your company; you want us at the back of the bus; your only intention is political and economic power for yourselves."

This is hardly an example of people voting with their hearts instead of their heads is it? On the contrary the PNP delegates calmly and rationally examined the lay of the land and coolly decided where to cast their vote. Those who were swayed by emotion rather than rationality, their hearts rather than their heads, are all those media VIPs who called it for Phillips and the Arise and Renew campaign despite the political portents to the contrary. How credible are they now?

Photo by Varun Baker, http://www.varunbaker.com

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Patwa Grammar



Today's a big day in Jamaica. The People's National Party (PNP) which held power from 1989 to 2007 is undergoing a power struggle which culminates today when party delegates will decide whether the incumbent party leader, Portia Simpson-Miller, continues to lead them or if contender Peter Phillips will get a chance to take the helm. An unbelievable amount rides on the outcome of this race for each candidate is seen as representing a different class. what we're seeing is nothing less than a class war though there's a lot of resistance on the ground to calling a spade a spade. Much of this class struggle expresses itself linguistically and Carolyn Cooper had a boss article called "Nuff tings a go gwaan" on the subject in last Sunday's Gleaner (see below). Read it; i'll be back at the end of the day when the results are announced to add my two paisa worth. till soon!

Nuff tings a go gwaan?

Prime Minister Golding spoke straight from his heart when he was asked how the nation was going to honour our Olympic champions: 'Nuff tings a go gwaan.' Then in response to Jacques Rogge's reprimanding of Usain Bolt for celebrating victory in typical Jamaican style, the PM's passionate assessment was: "Is pure red eye and 'grudgefulness'."

In classic dancehall fashion, our prime minister dismissively sent a message to all bad-mind people: "Tell dem to tek weh demself." Incidentally, that's ungrammatical Jamaican. It should have been 'fi' instead of 'to'. And in the sentence above it should have been 'a' instead of 'is.' And then 'grudgefulness' adds an over-correct English 'ness' which wouldn't usually be there in Jamaican. These are good examples of English interference in Jamaican grammar. Bilingual speakers sometimes get their languages mixed up, especially when they are in a highly emotional state.

8.10 pm

Yessssss! Portia prevails! by 350 votes--

Photo credit: Pepper swimps by Varun Baker (who happens to be my sun and a great photographer, check out his website)


Friday, September 12, 2008

When a picture is worth a 1000 words...





This is the work of Zina Saunders--talk about illustration with an edge...The reference in the Hunter image is to Palin's fondness for aerial hunting of wolves, bears and other hapless creatures.

Friday, September 5, 2008

‘Pronounced Dead’ Resurrected Three Years Later...

It may interest you to know that in 12 years of writing for a Jamaican newspaper, the only time i was censored was when i sent in a column mocking the execrable language used in both print and broadcast media here. That column mysteriously never made it to print and i knew better than to make a fuss about it at the time. There is nothing though to prevent me from publishing it here three years later--just keep in mind that the dates referred to in this piece pertain to the year 2005. Oh and i should mention that i was reminded of the existence of this column when i read the Coffeewallah's latest post on hoof-in the mouth journalism in Trinidad and Tobago. Coffeewallah! great name that--

'Pronounced Dead'

What I wanted to talk about this week were the distortions of the English language one frequently hears and reads in local media reports starting with the much abused phrase “pronounced dead”. This term often appears in radio newscasts recounting police shoot outs where “shots were fired”, “the fire was returned” and then “the injured men” (rarely members of the police force) are taken to hospital, where “upon arrival” they are invariably “pronounced dead”.

In fact “reports have revealed” that those lucky enough to somehow survive such encounters are often left “nursing gunshot wounds” while hapless “motorists” in the vicinity “are urged to exercise caution”. In less deadly encounters we hear that a grade 10 student allegedly “traded blows” with her principal; naturally “a tussle ensued”.

I don’t know how many of you have been “pounced upon” by a duppy or a gunman yet but no doubt we have all been exposed to situations where knives are “brought into play”. The best story I ever heard though was actually in a TV newscast some years ago; it seems two cars had collided and the policeman who took the reports was then himself involved in an accident when on leaving “the scene” he was “pounced upon by a number of cows” apparently intent on colliding with his car. Fortunately for the policeman in question his injuries were minor and he escaped being pronounced dead “upon arrival” at a nearby hospital.

Weather reports are little better and we often hear that one island or another is “being lashed by” wind and rain. To make matters worse weather reporters seem to specialize in weird accents so that in the height of the hurricane season I’m sure I heard a headline that said “American Golf Course braces for Category 4 hurricane”. Another one announced that “Hurricane Rita is heading straight for the American Golf Course” while “Part of Spain” was also “preparing for a possible hurricane hit”. Fortunately my Trini friends in Part-of-Spain were spared the worst of that storm…(of course now, three years later, we’re about to be beset by Hurricane Hike).

The newspapers, all three of them, are some of the worst offenders in terms of purveying bad English, not merely circulating quaint or hackneyed language mind you, but the most egregious errors. Let’s start with this paper (Sunday Herald) which on December 4 informed readers that “the case lied dormant for four years…” A columnist in the October 16 edition averred that “In the face of Rita, 20 senior citizens similarly infirmed perished in a bus, as it burned, caught in a gridlock outside Houston caused by those trying to flee the possibility of Katrina par two”.

If you think that’s bad check out these bloopers in the Observer; their proofreader must have called in sick the week of August 14 if one is to judge by the following howlers: “There has been an expulsion in the number of providers of such services over the past 15 years. From the days of one television and two radio stations.” Another column urging people not to distort the facts of the Air Jamaica hub didn’t hesitate to distort the English language. If the airline continued to “loose money” in a period of prosperity asserted the writer it would probably have lost money even under the best management. “It is even more sad that a hotelier who clearly benefited from the extraordinary growth of the airline and more importantly an airline that gained the confidence of the tour operators and travel agents. A hotelier who new first hand that…”

A Gleaner writer, not to be outdone, wondered in a November 6 article why we couldn’t be like Japan,“Why did your ancestors turn a blind eye to the plight of my ancestors and did nothing to help?” he beseeched. Well, probably because the Japanese would commit hara-kiri before allowing a blunder like that into print. The Gleaner’s proofreader was definitely out to lunch that week for in the same edition an article on ‘Ritchie Poo’ Tyndale claimed that the fugitive, considering himself safe in the remote village of Black Shop, “soon adopted to rural life”.

If only the Gleaner and the other papers would adopt a proofreader or two…in all these cases its hard to blame the writers, for depending on the pressure under which stories are written errors are bound to creep in. That is why the humble proofreader exists and for a small fee she or he will keep such errors to a minimum. Proofreading and copy editing are standard practice in newspapers all over the world so it is not clear why the local media is trying to economize in this essential area. One can only hope that this habit of not proofreading the news will soon be pronounced dead. Upon arrival, of course.

PS: The Bitter Bean's critique of the current Gully mania, Hurricane Gustav and the Politics of Hot Air, is worth reading. Check it out...