Saturday, February 21, 2009

Daggerin our freedom of speech

I read Annie Paul's Active Voice post on the "Daggerin" controversy in Jamaica and felt inspired enough to put in my 2 cents. (her blog is linked on my blogroll)

I am not a huge fan of the current crop of lewd Dancehall music. I grew up with rockers and reggae but for the most part still cant embrace the edgier modern dancehall. Bawdy soca and chutney however don't even illicit a reaction from me, probably it's my culture and I have grown with this and Crazy singing "nanny wine" was not a far cry from some of the stuff going on today.

The point is that I would hate to live in a place, country, a region..a world where someone else was telling me that I could not listen to a bawdy song. I think everyone is free to criticise music that they think is distasteful and even mobilise boycotts against it. However, a STATE has no role in determining exactly what level of moral 'influence' I should get from my music.

The state should be seeking to address social conditions that create the environments where bawdiness proliferates. The state should be seeking to encourage responsible parenting where parents take a full interest in their kids activities including what they listen to and what they watch. The state should be helping to educate children to be responsible citizens and to take ownership for their own development and to make their own choices. The state should defend the weak and the powerless from bullying and discrimination and hate. If you want to the output of the society to look and sound better, solve the corrosive input into the system - don't try to regulate the only outlets for society's ills. Don't attack the symptoms whilst ignoring the causes.

That's why I bristle when I hear about any government intervening on radio broadcasting. Short of hate speak, banning transmissions over the airwaves is telling people what they can or cannot listen to. Movies, video games, talk radio, books . Governments are always looking for ways to keep the society stagnant (they say stable). It is about control, people.

The state should not...not now and not telling me what kind of music I should listen to.

Carnival Exile

I was a serious Carnival baby. No, I wasnt born in November but my parents both grew up with and participated in Carnival until they were well into their 50's. My dad is 70 and he still plays though he sticks to his Monday night mas with his favourite pan side. Goat doh make sheep so I have been playing carnival, hitting panorama, calypso competitions and tents, j'ouvert (oh yes..j'ouvert) since I was a very young teen. I was renown with my friends for being an 'all out' carnival man.

For the past 7 years I have been in Carnival exile. Reality of a marriage and kids hit at the same time the cost of carnival skyrocketed. Suddenly there was no more enjoying yourself with just a blue note in your pocket. From all-inclusives costing over $500 for a couple to two and three thousand dollar costumes, it suddenly didnt seem to be worth it. And, I am not the kind of man to do things in half measures. Its either all or nothing for me, especially with my beloved Carnival.

So, I removed myself from Carnival and resigned myself to watching the parade of the bands on tv and listening to panorama on the radio. I feel justified in my decision. My family has flourished and my finances are solid.

However, doubt sneaks in.

For one, Bandwagonist tweeted me the video for Machel's Wild Antz.

Now I have listed to all of the soca and calypso this year. Some good stuff but nothing has made me yearn and pine as much as hearing the Machel tune. I was actually in anti-Machel mode due to the stories coming out about his ignorant behaviour to staff and fellow artists. However, this tune took me right back to all the best fetes and all the best road experiences ever. Suddenly I wanted to back in "de ting" no matter the cost. this tune is roadmarch, I swear. Im not saying it is the best Machel song ever (far from it) but goddamn did it hook me into Carnival the way no Bunji, Fay-ann, Shurwayne or "roti song" can do it.

To add to my pain and suffering I found every soca video on youtube and played them. when I reached Machel's "Big Truck" I was in tears.

My mind is not changed though. I will not be paying $2000 for a costume and $20 for beer (at the rate I drink beer, several hundred will be spent before long). I have a family that I love and that I want to support in the best way possible.

I do recognise however, the power of the Carnival over me and that my soul still to be free from Carnival exile.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Growing up with dreams

I spent most, if not all, of my childhood chasing dreams.

Maybe it was growing up with a massive extended family. There was never a quiet moment in the house. Everrything was a vortex of cackling, tv sounds, music, calalloo and threadbare carpet. Great stuff having lots of family around but I also felt claustrophobic, I had no peace no time for me. That is, except when I was reading.

I travelled the world over and through time. At age eight I was reading novels, 'grown up' ones at that. I read everything I could get my hands on. Comics, classics, westerns, National Geographic & Readers Digest even Playboy. I read cover to cover, scrutinizing every article, every ad. Astral travel? Cant compare to reading.

I never equated reading with learning, though I did learn. Reading was pure undulterated pleasure. Reading inspired dreams. Reading was fuel for the imagination.

Kids need to dream. I read to my kids most every night. Sometimes Doctor Seuss. Sometimes Thomas the Tank Engine (an obsession in this house). More often though, it's a little more grown up than what one expects from 7 and 3 years olds. I read them the original Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and they were fascinated. J especially comes back days after with questions about the plot and characters.

It makes me happy to see my kids reading and enjoying reading. They are still very active and love to play and goof around, reading isnt going to make them angels overnight. I can see the impact that books have had on them through their interactions not only with their parents but with others, especially adults. They are not afraid to question, to enquire and to challenge. This does not fare them well with some of their 'old school' teachers but to me it is a very positive quality.

Read to your kids, even if not your kids, your nieces and nephews, your neighbour's or friend's child. Every child should grow up with dreams.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Twitter me this, twitter me that

Its Monday morning and my usual twitter time has been derailed by a major Twitter 'Fail -Whale": aptly named for the picture of the friendly whale that pops up when Twitter is giving problems.

I have been using Twitter for about five months now and am hopelessly addicted. Twitter is also one of those services that has become ubiquitous in an insanely short period of time, but yet has no business model (read: no ads or subscription fees) to support it. Thus, as with any pro-bono Internet service, outages often occur.

This is the first morning however that Twitter has not been there for me to reach out and communicate with my Tweeps (read: followers and followed) so I find myself meandering over to my blog.

Twitters power over me is strong. Effin' strong. I am typing this blog entry and am feeling the urge to ALT-TAB Twitter to send a Tweet (read: message): " Am updating my blog whilst having coffee". There's a Tweep called @ladawn (all twitter names are referred to as @xxxxx), who apparently twitters first thing after waking up, offering her kindom for a cup of coffee in bed. Another dude ritualistically 'offers' his coffee-pot around the Twitterverse (trini twitterer @sherwinravi outed me as a nerd for using this term). It's hard to convey the connection I feel with these folks. One of my tweets the other day was "making pancakes for kids whilst sipping in heaven".

Making social connections on the Internet is not new. Social Networking services such as Forums, Chat Rooms, Instant Messaging, Blogs and more recently the Myspace and Facebook phenomenon have allowed fairly in-depth relationships to develop between persons who don't know each other in RL. What makes Twitter different seems to be the Real Time nature of the communications and the limiting of the tweets to a lengthy blurb of 140 characters. The real reason is probably harder to pin down. Twitter just seems right. It doesn't have that creepy overtones of some of the other services (@anniepaul knows me as a 'elitist' Facebook loather) though it is a ravenous consumer of your time.

There's so much to share about Twitter that it would be impossible to do it all in a single post. I am also keen to close off this post as I am eager to read @jimmychung's inspirational morning Tweets; to see what great tech news @guykawasaki has sent out; and to see if @ladawn ever did get her coffee served up in bed.