Thursday, April 17, 2008

What's so bad about a loose upper lip?

Unlike Jamaicans, the English love to make their lives uncomfortable.

Why be warm inside when you can be chilly? Why drive an automatic when you can drive a manual? Why have a mixer on your bathroom taps when you can fling your hands between the boiling hot and freezing cold? Why have the butcher remove the nasty stubbs of inedible chicken feet when you can pay for the extra weight and then deal with removing them yourself? Why buy bacon without the inedible rind when you can buy it with? Why have cable tv when you can limit your view to 4 or 5 pathetic stations?

The list, I'm sure, goes on.

Why have AC in your shops or offices when you can sweat during the summer heat, for example?

Give me a loose upper lip to a stiff one any day.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Internet banking

I am looking at opening an Internet banking account - one which denies me access to it via the branch, to be rewarded instead with a higher interest rate.

Argument for - higher rate of interest. Argument against - I don't get to stand in a long line (queue, excuse me) waiting and waiting to get access to my hard-earned cash.

Seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

High economics

I read a report in the news recently that Guinea-Bissau is now considered to be the world's first narco-state, thanks to becoming a major cocaine trafficking point on the Colombia to Europe route. The previous route went largely through Jamaica - which because of its positioning in the middle of the Caribbean is perfect for drug trafficking - particuarly to the US.

But recently we have applied more pressure - no doubt with big-time assistance from the US and UK - to the traffickers - and we were no longer as convenient as our geography would suggest. So a new route was found, and Guinea-Bissau - with its multitude of small islands, weak to non-existant sea-border policing and the fact that its as near to South America as Africa gets -is now a major point. In just a couple short years, Colombian drug lords have pretty much taken over the state, and now live free to show off their wealth, albeit with the protection of body guards.

So just how much money Jamaica must have been making from the cocaine trade I don't know - but it must have been much more than I thought. I guess we dodged the bullet of becoming a narco-state. And the money that was flowing in must have allowed us a higher standard of living than we would otherwise have had. I knew this to a certain level - but I wonder now if the cocaine trade helped us to sustain our economy and keep it afloat - as did the ganja trade in the1970s.

And now that we have lost - at least the European trade - it is interesting that our economy does not appear to have suffered a steep decline.

Perhaps the cocaine money was not distributed much in the economy, and went only to the benefit of drug lords and their middlemen and 'facilitators'. It appears this might be the case in Guinnea-Bissau, where the economy appears to remain dreadfully poor - despite this new trade.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Slug fest

Big vote tomorrow, which could either see Obama basically become the Democratic candidate - or see a continuation of the slug fest. (Quickest soloution for a slug fest? One part water to one part salt).

Meanwhile, Castro has been replaced with Castro - no big change there.

In Jamaica - its a return to the 60s. But the 40s (soon to be 50s) are eagerly waiting in the wings.

Everywhere else, most countries seem to be moving to a younger generation for their leaders. Russia's new guy is 42 or something. Oz. France. Canada. Will the US be next - or will they buck the trend and go the Cuba route?

And now Chavez is upping the ante - moving troops to the Colombian border. Surely Venezuela has something better to do than have a war with Colombia? This guy makes Bush look sane.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Dis and dat

One of the disadvantages of this blog is that I have no idea if its actually being read. Is this just spinning around in the vast space of the 5th dimensional universe that we call the internet?

The option to run a poll is a great thing - and I've got one or two responses which suggest that there is somebody else out there. But if there's only one response - that means its me. So now you know - I support Obama. In fact, I almost wish I was an American so that I could vote for him. Though I suppose, in time, should he become president, he will be revealed to not actually be the second coming of Christ, and turn out to be a bit of a disappointment. Or perhaps a major disappointment.

Anyway, I have a blog on another site - which is populated by half-crazed crackpots who are politically just right of Atilla the Hun. So getting comments isn't necessarily great either, as you may find yourself defending your sanity to people who have no problem in being over-the-top obnoxious just because they can get away with it.

Now I could say something here about Kern Spencer - the Jamaican politician who has found himself in hot water. But I think I'll save that for another blog -as he is now facing a court. I ain't saying his guilty and I ain't saying he ain't. But I would like to say that assuming he is a scapegoat for the PNP, that I hope he becomes a singing scapegoat - and implicates all those who may have been involved in this great scheme. Perhaps that way he could reduce the prison time he may face - as well as allow us the chance to help persuade future politicians to think 20 times before they think of robbing the tax payer of his hard-earned cash.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Obama train

Its time for a new generation in American politics. England has had their Tony Blair - and now David Cameron. France has their model-hugging president. Oz has thier new wizard.

Vietnam is over. Time for Obama - who is inspiring anyone that leans towards the Democratic party, and more besides - just ask any Jamaican. You only have to look at the exicement everywhere he goes - 20,000 supporters going mad at the thought of getting a gaze from him. He's inspiring them to believe that they can make America a better place, and the world whilst they are at it. Creating enthusiasm for a new Peace Corps, for helping the less fortunate. He has the potential of being a cross between Martin Luther King and JFK.

A 72 year old McCain - can he really compete?

I never thought that a black (or half-black) man with a name like Barrack Obama really stood much chance of becoming president of the USA. But it looks like I was wrong.

But when it comes down to the crunch, are Americans open-minded enough to vote for him. Or will Racism prove too big an obstacle? I beleive that enough Americans are now over the race segregation of the 1960s and 70s - and that they will vote for him en masse.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bland soup

Well, I spoke way too soon in my last bolg - and I'm now writing to you a full 12 pounds lighter than the last time I wrote to you . Thanks to some bug I acquired last week with gastro attached. I'm back at work - but still haven't had a proper meal since atleast last week Monday. Last night I had half a bowl of tomato soup. I suppose the tomato sounds brave - but I've gone off the idea of chicken noodle soup- as I had some last Tuesday which I think made matters ratherworse, and am now associating with this illness. Will go out on the prowl today for something like butternut squash, potato and leek or some other blandish soup.

Anyway, as a result of not eating for more than a week I am feeling quite feak and weeble. But I'm here feeling somewhat better than last week.

My time in Trinidad was great and busy. Lots of parties. Dancing in costume in the street. Little sleep. Came back on Ash Wednesday feeling quite fine - as opposed to most others who were down with coughs or sinus problems. I thought I had escaped. But perhaps I had weakened my immune system - resulting in my Tuesday cough and sniffles followed swiftly by the works including extreme fatique by Wednesday afternoon.

Slept for 16 hours on Saturday (Feb 16) and was on Dr's orders to do nothing on the weekend, so didn't. I suppose that helped significantly. Start to question one's own existence however, when you've been out of the loop for so long....

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Kingston vs. Port of Spain

Trinidad seems to be the hurry-come-up sibling of Jamaica. After a week of partying there for Carnival, and seeing some of the country during trips to parties and back to the house, I think I can now qualify as a Trinidad expert.

Port of Spain seems both richer and poorer than Kingston. Smaller too - but with much worse traffic jams (but maybe that was just Carnival traffic). Where as in Jamaica everyone has to impress with their wheels, with SUVs and BMWs being the order of the day - everyone in Trinidad seems to drive second hand Nissan Sunnys. Much of their buildings seem a little delapidated and not terribly attractive - picture Vineyard Town. But gleaming skyscrapers are now being built. Their hills would be impressive, if our mountains weren't more so.

The climate was not as hot as I expected - which is a good thing. And the neighbourhood we stayed in was very well kept, with green grass on the sidewalks and large homes on small lots. There seems to be more shanty type buildings and less mansions in the hills overlooking the city than is the case in Kingston.

I had a feeling of greater security there than here - although the opposite is the case for wealthy Trinis who visit here.

Yes - the two cities - if not countries are definately related. Jamaica is more beautiful - but they have more money. And money improves the looks of just about anybody.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Amber of the Gods

If we accept that rum is the amber nectar of the gods, then the gods or God himself must be a Jamaican.

In Trinidad, I'll be getting into this carnival as much as my spirit will allow. I, like all Jamaicans, firmly believe that we produce the best rum - and that we also have a huge variety.

Barbados and their Mount Gay and Cockspur - are better than Trinidad. But really there is a great range in flavours around the West Indies. Martinique's rum is unlike those of the English speaking islands, because they (I understand) make theirs straight from sugar cane - and not from molasses. Molasses is the by-product of sugar - making rum a by-(by?) product of sugar - even though it now makes far more money than sugar.

Guyana has a very good rum called El Dorado. Cuba's 12 year old Havana Club is good - smells great. Haiti has a great rum too - the name slips me at the moment. But Jamaican rum stands in a class by itself - particuarly aged rums - there is an Appleton 21 year old, which should be drunk like a brandy. There is also Edwin Charley Black Label - which I think is kind of whiskey like. Younger Appletons. Gold Label Trelawny Rum - which used to be very popular in the 1970s and 80s, but lost out to Appleton special in the 90s. We have a new rum brand called Port Royal.

On top of this we have darker rums which are mainly for export (all the ones I have listed here are gold rums). The dark rums include the ones that the English are probably most familiar with - which are no longer for the Jamaican palate - Captain Morgan, Lambs Navy Rum, Myers. Coruba is dark and sweet and is the most popular rum in New Zealand.

We also make a white rum which is very popular with the masses - called J. Wray and Nephew Overproof. It is akin to lighter fluid - but smells worse. I am embarrassed to admit that many of my own friends have switched from Appleton Special or Appleton V/X to white rum - many mixing it with cranberry juice or coconut water.

You will note that I haven't mentioned Bacardi, which no self-respecting Jamaican would ever consider to be even remotely related to rum - and would place it further down the ratings than I place our white rum.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Wining, whining and rum

I'm off to Trinidad this week. Carnival! Trinidad's is reputed - at least in this part of the world - to be the best on the planet. I think it probably deserves that reputation - though residents of New Orleans, Rio and Venice and God know's where else may disagree.

I am a Trinidad Carnival virgin. But I have been to carnival here in Jamaica quite a few times and to Notting Hill a few times as well. Notting Hill seems to me to be much ado about nothing - with an audience of millions. Jamaica Carnival is fun - much smaller - and quite artificial. Well for us its just a reason to have a party - nothing to do with lent. Nothing at all, as it is actually held in the Easter period. And also, Soca music, though fairly popular, is not ours. Reggae and dance hall are our music. We do get some Jamaican music in our carnival - but Soca is the driver.

As for the tipple - everyone knows that Trinidadian rum is almost undrinkable - so all Jamaicans are expected to carry as much Appleton - or dare I say Gold Label? as they can carry. But I intend to give the old Royal Oak a try - really I do. Anyway, now that the Trinis have bought Lascelles, I guess they will finally have a decent rum. Its kind of sobering that Jamaica no longer owns its rum - but on the good side - at least I've got a good price for my shares.

Anyway - don't know how I'm going to survive a week of partying, drinking, wining and whining. But I'm gonna give it my best shot.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Take care Best Care

I have just been to the 'Best Care Chidren's Home' here in Kingston - not knowing what to expect.

The home is near to New Kingston - but hidden on a back road. Quite a large plot of land with a pleasant enough building with faded murals of flowers, cartoon figures and butterflies and the like. My first sight was a man with a wide and fixed grin walking along all the while trying to free his hands which were quite loosly tied behind his back.

Inside we went to the dining area, where little children - the smallest being about 9 years old but looking like a slight three year old - were being treated to a meal of sweet and sour chicken, rice and peas, vegetables and cups of juice. Many of the chilren were unable to speak or feed themselves. Many were reaching out to get some sort of human affection, even from strangers like me.

I saw another man who also had his hands tied behind his back. Why, we asked? The nurse in charge told us that the first one had a tendency to remove his trousers - which she was sure we wouldn't like to see. The other had a tendency to dig into the rubbish and eat food from there.

The first man eventually managed to release his hands, and first took a big handful of food from a bowl of food that was unattended. Later, he seemed to alternate between trying to put his free hand back into its cloth strap and trying to remove his trousers - which the staff had purposely put on him back to front, a trick which seemed to do much as the second line of defence.

Later, the children went off to the classrooms at another section of the building, while the older residents - many in their 20s came in for their lunch. Many of them were in a very sad state, unable to walk, some in wheel chairs, some basically pulling themselves across the floor, severely challenged both physically and mentally. Drooling, crawling, making noices but not speaking - but peaceful - and not in a drugged sort of way, just naturally peaceful.

We saw their dorms - the beds all made very well, with large stuffed toys on many of the pillows. Tv's and fans on the walls.

Its tragic to me, but heartening to know that we have such a place for these orphans of the state. The care they are getting may or may not live up to the name of the home, but on the limited resources available, at least they seem to be happy enough. The range in ages was surprising - but there is nowhere for many of them to go as they get older.

The home gets by on some aid from the state and donations from various businesses. Out of sight, these people are out of our minds - but thankfully are not completely forgotten, even in a country where human life often seems so cheap.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sticks, stones and words

Five people are killed by police Tivoli Gardens. And the talk in Jamaica seems not to be about the deaths themselves - but whether or not a policeman said that 'innocents' died. It appears that it was the reporter who said it and not the policeman - but who should really care?

People died - who may or may not have been innocent. Investigations will hopefully tell the truth. Few people believe the police at the best of times - so why should they assume that the policeman would be telling the truth on this occasion.

The point is not what the policeman said - the point should be what is the truth.

The question should be, was it right for these people to be killed by the police - innocent or not?

But words, it seems, are far more important than actions.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Global bad news is local good news?

Stock markets globally are falling, thanks to fears of an impending or existing US recession.

Meanwhile, the Jamaican stock market seems to be doing quite well - proof of the contrary nature of our economy.

It should be a roller coaster year, but perhaps our market will boom this year, as 'Altertative Investment' investors seek safer harbour, and as our economy continue to buck global economic trends, whether they are positive or negative.

Given that we managed to accomplish negative growth when the rest of the world was booming, a global recession might be great news for us, as our economy may now grow. As long as no pyramids tumble, and as long as mother nature gives us a break - we may have a chance.

The alternative, that we will do even worse than the rest of the world, is not worth thinking about.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

All a flutter

New government, new year, clean sheets - true there's a bit of wind and a lot of hot air - but let us not dwell on that.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Holy to Unholy Fun

Christmas is over - it seemed to go buy a little more pleasantly this year. Its a great time to be in Jamaica - especially if you have the bucks for all the big parties - Boom, Utopia, Frenchmen and more. But even if you don't there's plenty more going on - Maiden Cay if you are off work and can get a ride to the sandbank. Maiden Cay is a pretty good name for it, given the fine lassies that pack the little spit like sardines in a can.

But now that the holy season is over in Jamaica, its time to think about the unholy one in Trinidad - namely that sin-packed bachanal known as Carnival

Well - I presume its sin-packed. In sun tan oil. Don't know for sure. I'll be heading to T&T at the end of this month to find out for sure.

With all the jumping and dancing and walking and standing and what not - I hope that Port of Spain doesn't become a Port of Pain.