One hundred years ago you would probably have been chased out of your hometown by cousins brandishing pitchforks if you proclaimed that a century later we would have tiny boxes that tell us where to turn as we drive around in larger boxes shaped something like a carriage, but without a horse.
Imagine what those cousins would have done to you if you said there would be a small, flat contraption—a mirror of sorts—that lights up and allows you to not only see but speak to someone on the other side of the planet!
At my college’s end-of-year meeting last week, my dean gave all his faculty members such a mirror—brand new iPads! While I knew about the various functions provided by iPads as I’d come close to buying one a few months back (thank goodness I didn’t), the next day when I got my first Face Time call from a very good friend, I was thrilled to be able to see his face while I shuffled around my bedroom with my personal magic mirror in hand.
While most of you in our tech savvy generation are probably rolling your eyes over my amusement, think about what this means for our future and the exciting and useful ways technology can move us forward in upcoming decades. Imagine what our grandchildren will take for granted that will have us gripping our walking sticks in shock.
Also intriguing is the way that technology can inform and energize our spirituality.
I’ve always taken Jesus’ words with a grain of salt when he says in the Book of John that we will do “greater works” than him. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m still not anywhere close to walking on water. And while I do believe that without the benefit of one byte of technology we can accomplish things we can’t even conceive, it seems that in another manner we are fulfilling Jesus’ promise every day through the amazing gadgets we’ve created for ourselves.
So after all this talk about Jesus, magic and miracles, my latest venture has been trying to figure out if I should get Angry Birds (not, I’m sure, what my dean had in mind when he gave us the iPads). Any thoughts? Is it really addictive?
May 20, 2012 1 Comment
While growing up in Jamaica I was painfully sure that my life was not the real deal. My father’s ancient Austin Cambridge sputtering along Red Hills Road; my unruly hair that began escaping from its plaits the moment my mother put down the brush; and mosquitoes that sounded like helicopters hovering over my ears while I slept were never part of the lives of the authentic girls who peopled my favorite books (like Nancy Drew) and TV shows (like Scooby Doo).
As a teenager, I wanted this fictional life more than ever. I wanted to somehow make what I had, mosquitoes and all, into a remotely acceptable version of what it was supposed to be, and my chubby, black body became the site for this phenomenal transformation I longed after.
Meadowbrook Pharmacy was just a short walk down the street from my house, and the pharmacy became my arsenal of supplies defining what a “real” teenaged girl’s life should be like. A small magazine rack huddled in a corner near bars of Cadbury chocolate and bottles of Limacol, and each time new issues of Seventeen appeared on the rack, I was first in line. I’d eagerly rush home and inhale all those images of beautiful (white) girls whom I must have imagined that I could one day look like: shiny long hair, a svelte body, perfectly applied makeup.
Seventeen and its army of fair maidens, their images embedded in a web of ads for tanning lotions and articles on how to select the right shade of pink lipstick, did little more than aggravate me, but year after year I kept on reading. Then one day my heart sputtered when I came across a picture of a gorgeous girl with short hair and dark skin! She was in a swimsuit posed on the sand next to a foamy ocean, and her skin glowed as if she’d been coated in pixie dust.
In the weeks after I got the magazine, I’d flip through the pages each day and marvel at the photos of this girl. I guess I kept checking to make sure she was still there, a girl as real as me and not some river mumma causing mischief. It was not until years later when I’d gone off to college and Whitney Houston became a household name that I realized she was the girl who had magically emerged from the depths of the oceans; and now she’s gone back there just as suddenly as she came.
February 13, 2012 2 Comments
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a coincidence as “the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection.” Another definition that I find even more useful comes from Deepak Chopra in his book The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence where he explains that a coincidence is God trying to get our attention. Isn’t this idea that God actually takes the time to chat with us simply spectacular? My son recently had one of these conversations with God. No, he didn’t receive guidance on how to create world peace, but still…
So, my son, Dean Jr., returned home from college a few months ago. He’s at that early twenty-something stage when everyone expects that you should have your life together and be zooming ahead in a straight line towards professional success. But like his mother when she was that age, he’s still figuring out precisely what to do with himself.
He could go to grad school, but isn’t in the mood at the moment. When I mention the GRE and possible graduate programs (which I have mentioned many, many, many times) he looks like I suggested that he should eat a poisonous caterpillar for lunch, so I’ve stopped (I think). He’s considering changing his career focus from film, radio, and television production to the visual arts, but isn’t sure. And though we love and support any career choice he makes, I’m haunted by visions of him still living at home at 58 while trying to market his first animation project (a fear I’m very ashamed to admit given that I’m a creative soul myself).
From time to time he’s mentioned starting a business with his friend Mitch—I think he said something about video production services—but alas, about this he doesn’t seem quite sure either. So to solve his dilemma he’s gotten a job at Starbucks, where he spends his days serving lattes while he contemplates his future.
When he lived at home (oh, but he lives at home now)—when he was kid and lived at home, we had him enrolled in all kinds of stuff, including Taekwondo. He did it for several years and eventually earned his black belt. He was good: broke boards and all that super hero business. So recently he and his friend Mitch (the one with whom he hasn’t started a business—but might) decided to begin doing Mixed Martial Arts. They considered taking classes but could not find a school that was affordable, so they were going to begin by practicing at home. Dean Jr. planned to order the equipment they needed online, but he says that out of nowhere he had the thought that he should go to an actual store (what a novel idea). He did, and had the sense that the guy at the counter seemed familiar. The guy at the counter thought my son seemed familiar too and that maybe they went to high school together. Turns out they didn’t.
During my son’s next visit to this martial arts supply store, he thought that the familiar guy perhaps used to teach at his Taekwondo school way back when, but he decided not to bother mentioning this as he could be wrong and the young man may think he’s crazy. But last minute he decided to ask him, and lo and behold the young fellow did teach at Dean Jr.’s old school. They chatted for a little then this guy told my son that one of his past teachers just opened a school nearby. My son went to visit this school and saw his teacher who’d been in business for all of two weeks. The rates were affordable, plus he gave my son a free two-week pass to attend classes! On top of this the teacher mentioned that just a couple weeks ago he was chatting to his wife about our family and wondering how we were doing. So there you have it: voila, Dean Jr. is about to begin his second life as a martial arts champ and he got a little help finding a school.
In the scheme of things I’m sure this is not the most dazzling coincidence you’ve heard about, but I still find it fascinating how things muddled together for my son, and my guess is that he’s been led to the precise place where he should begin stage two of his martial arts journey. I’m also reminded that when our own mini-miracles occur, we have to take some time out to think about why the Universe might want to grab us by the shoulders and give us a shake at that particular moment and how we can use the nudge we’ve gotten to make the best decisions for ourselves.
January 14, 2012 No Comments
Or you’re relaxing on your couch, unwinding from a busy day, when you see David Smith (of Olint Investment fame) or Bernie Madoff (no explanation needed) in handcuffs, and you realize your life’s savings are not only down the toilet but flushed all the way to the Arctic Ocean—in other words, gone forever unless you can befriend a polar bear to help you find them.
Who would have [Read more →]
October 4, 2011 3 Comments
Several weeks ago, parts of Jamaica experienced extensive flooding after days of heavy rains that rivaled the deluge which set Noah’s ark afloat some millennia past. Bridges, roads, homes and businesses were washed away, leaving residents in various parts of the island stranded, unable to navigate flooded streets, swollen gullies, and overflowing rivers.
Jamaican television station TVJ covered the floods in the Mavis Bank area of Jamaica in the parish of St. Andrew, and reporter Dara Smith’s interview with a bystander and resident of the area, Clifton Brown, is now perhaps the most famous TV interview in Jamaica. In the interview Brown offers an earnest, thoughtful, and passionate explanation of the challenges being faced by residents of Mavis Bank and the surrounding communities, including Robertsfield and Davis Hill, and he elaborates on the dangers posed by the flooded Yallahs River. Brown’s colorful and animated conversation is further characterized by his attempt to speak with a foreign accent (in this case American), known in Jamaica as a “twang.” Here is the most comprehensive version of the interview I could find, despite the unexplainably interspersed images of Bounty Killer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWIkX9c23M4 [Read more →]
July 13, 2011 2 Comments
Tia Dalma is featured in the second and third installments of the series, and she is shrouded in magic and mystery. She lives in the remote interior of a creepy swamp, her home a sinister tree house with a massive snake loitering in a branch at its doorway. Our initial encounter with her is occasioned by Sparrow’s terrifying but urgent trek to see her and solicit her help with getting information about a certain key. As Sparrow anticipates, Tia Dalma is able to explain the origins and purpose of the key.
Sparrow leaves Tia Dalma satisfied with the outcome of his visit. However, by the close of the movie Sparrow has a new set of troubles: he and his ship have been dragged into the sea by the Kraken, Davy Jones’ sea monster. Dead Man’s Chest closes with Sparrow’s crew and comrades returning to Tia Dalma for refuge. She consoles them and promises to lead them on a journey to rescue Jack from the underworld. At World’s End begins with that rescue mission. Tia Dalma has joined Jack’s crew and repeatedly uses her intuitive powers to help guide the crew to Jack. Before the film is over we come to understand that Tia Dalma is in fact the sea goddess Calypso, bound in human form, a lynchpin in the film’s plot, and the cause for Davy Jones’ monstrous embodiment. [Read more →]
June 10, 2011 2 Comments
Below is an excerpt from my paper that I will present tomorrow morning at the Caribbean Studies Association Conference in Curacao.
My paper today is concerned with Hollywood’s representation of the Caribbean in film, specifically films that feature a supernatural or fantastical element. These films include early efforts to render a haunted Caribbean such as White Zombie and I Walked with a Zombie, to more recent productions like The Serpent and the Rainbow and the Pirates of the Caribbean series. In a region where literature, music and its own film production have been significantly influenced by Hollywood, where the eyes of the Caribbean voraciously consume an infinite number of moving images created outside of the region, how do the creators of these images that have in some ways transfixed the region’s gaze, gaze back at us? This paper is part of a larger project that contemplates representations of the supernatural Caribbean and more precisely part of a book chapter that explores Hollywood’s representation of the Caribbean in films that feature a supernatural or fantastical element. While the completed chapter will probe a range of films, including crime thrillers, like 007 Live and Let Die and Marked for Death, both profusely garnished with Obeah and witchcraft, my paper today focuses on Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean series. [Read more →]
June 1, 2011 4 Comments
This month the so called “burqa ban” went into effect in France, the first European country to enact such a restriction. Women wearing burqas (or any other garment that veils their faces) are now subject to hefty fines of around US $200; men charged with forcing a woman to wear burquas may face a fine of US $43,000. Yes, forty-three thousand dollars!
Some critics of this law suggest that it has racist underpinnings and little to do with the security concerns or women’s rights offered up by its proponents. While racist or anti-Muslim sentiments may have a role in the ban’s enactment, I have to admit to feeling less unhinged about this trespass on a woman’s right to choose how she dresses than I might under other circumstances. Quite simply, it’s difficult to see the burqa as anything but yet another instance of women being given the age-old responsibility as their brothers’ keepers—keepers that is of men’s sexual choices. [Read more →]
April 26, 2011 2 Comments
I’m not usually a big photography buff, but each spring I fall in love with the fallen poui blossoms in my front yard ; this year I just had to take pictures. I’ve also been thinking about the crisis in Libya and what I want to say about the whole mess that it is. For now, seems all I can feel is plain old sad. “Flight of the Poui Carpet” is how these two subjects of my attention over the last week or so have somehow merged. Special thanks to my great friend and poet extraordinaire, Geoffrey Philp, for his editorial suggestions!
Flight of the Poui Carpet
Yellow fairy blossoms swirl
giggling as they glide
over rooftops and cars
swoop through branches
and tease birds—
they kiss the grass,
then frolic all morning.
A spring carpet of fairies.
In Benghazi and Misrata, Bin Jawad and Ajdabiya,
bullets pierce the skies,
screaming past a little boy eating bazin,
a girl eating asida,
hailing an Arab spring.
No magic carpet to whisk them away.
April 1, 2011 4 Comments
The eye of the Vybz Kartel storm seems to have passed, but late as it is, I have to weigh in. For anyone who has not been following the feverish debates, Vybz is a popular Jamaican dancehall artist who is no stranger to controversy and known for some of his more salacious songs like “Rampin’ Shop,” performed with Spice. However, he has recently been in the news because of the ways in which he’s chosen to modify his body over the last few years through a combo of tattooing and skin bleaching, the latter of which he claims he accomplished through the use of cake soap (a soap usually used in Jamaica as laundry detergent). These images posted on the website Mad News show the dramatic changes in Vybz’s complexion and pretty much tell the tale of what brought the whole brouhaha to a head.
March 25, 2011 7 Comments