Monday, 12 May 2014

Murder, he wrote

MURDER, he wrote

Margarita dances in the background
And he wrote about it so well.

In fiction, villains provide thrills for great entertainment, but how do we treat real life villains who are also the artists who we admire? 
Do we stop reading their books and watching their movies? 
Do we take their work out of galleries and off radio playlists? 
Do we ignore their talents and their works?

March Madness bacchanal took over Kingston in 2014 when a popular entertainer and celebrity was found guilty of the murder of a man. It was not a crime of passion or an accident, it was murder as a part of business. His fans were of course distraught by the verdict, and even now, after the passage of three months, some are still in lamentation. They grieve not only because their hero is not with them, but that the justice system did him wrong; that the system put an innocent man in prison.

As the fans do this, others who are not fans wonder how their sensible family members and colleagues could ignore the compelling evidence. How can anyone allow himself or herself to admire a man's talent so far that it blinds them to obvious facts? It is indeed hard to turn away from things that we love.

What has happened to other artistic rogues of history - the ones who committed murder? Did the blaze of their talent put moral outrage in the shade?

These thoughts came to me as I watched a documentary about the life and work of the Italian artist Michelangelo Caravaggio (1590s - 1610). His contemporaries said that he was a man who walked and looked for trouble, and who loved weapons. Some of his best known religious works show the weapon in the act of, or immediately after being used in manslaughter. Judith Beheading Holofernes is typical of his grisly approach.

The artist killed a man during an argument then went on the run to avoid being punished. He did not need to hide too carefully as wherever he stayed, he received important commissions to paint altar pieces. His talent seemed to overshadowed his crimes, rich patrons ignored the wrong that he did.

On New Year's Day 1965 in Kingston, a great reggae trombone player killed his lover. He was found guilty and committed to a mental asylum. Poor fellow, he was mad, is the sternest reproach that we give to Don Drummond; and no one stopped dancing to his music.

The vibrant, macho writer, Ernest Hemmingway committed a different kind of killing, he killed himself. Why would a person who saw life so lucidly, who was able to draw friends into his circle want to end it all? The reasons put forward are still being discussed, but that is only of mild interest to his fans. 

Hemingway was influenced by what he saw of World Wars 1 and 11, the Spanish War of Independence, the bullfighting culture of Spain, and Caribbean deep sea fishing culture. Hemingway wrote about how closely life and death rub against each other.

In his book The Old Man and the Sea, he wrote of one man's epic struggle to catch a fish 
“Fish," he said, "I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends.”

So what of our local genius, the wordsmith, the lyricist; how is his body of work to be treated? 
Caravaggio's works were aligned with the religious culture and its goals. He illustrated scenes from scripture, which allowed people to separate him from his work. It also helped that he did not sign most of his paintings.

Don Drummond's work was integrated into his band, the Skatellites, so his work could blend in with the sounds of his his genre and his era. No effort needed there, no discord felt in either loving his music or not.

Of Hemmingway who killed himself, we say, "what a pity" and aside from persons writing biographies on him or literary criticisms of his work, his death is easily separated from reading his fiction and articles.

The points of view held in the work of our lyricist, our writer, are deeply accepted by many young people in our society as representing a truth that they somehow identify with. Then again there are many others who do not accept his thoughts as anything related to them, they just enjoy his musical flow.

For others who pay attention to his words, his thoughts are deeply offensive and are rejected. 

This artist is indeed a polarizing figure and it is only time that will be able to pass judgement on the artistic value, or not, of the body of work. 

Coming in Summer 2014 - Young Heroes of the Caribbean

Young Heroes of the Caribbean is a work of fiction that has historical figures in make believe circumstances.

Living in a dynamic place, like the Caribbean, makes every day an adventure for me, and the stories of valour, hope and heroism of our young people inspires my fiction writing. Our youth have a wonderful capacity for caring, and I tried to capture some of that spirit.
I also cannot help but see the threatened beauty of our Caribbean islands, and, to me, the marine environment is like a character in the book.

The hero of this book is Ramiro, whose father decided that the racetrack was a better scene for his ten-year-old son, than the beach. 
Ramiro has to navigate the tension between his parents as he finds his place in the world. 
At fifteen, Gail has already learned how to fend for herself without the support of a family, but with Ramiro gone, she thought that maybe she could adopt his mother, who is now more concerned about losing her home. 

Using the "tale within a tale" technique, I bring the mythical strength of seven young heroes from back in time prepare the family for their common destiny, and the hidden challenges that are coming. Young Heroes of the Caribbean is intended to offer a contemplative read.


ISBN 978 976 8246 31 8

Friday, 2 May 2014

Adult parties in the guise of a parade

Adult Parties in the guise of a parade
MAY 2, 2014

Some thoughts that will be unpopular. 

I remember being very relieved when the Broadcasting Commission moved to stop the broadcast of what it considered to be inappropriate content. The persons who stood to lose objected very strongly, but the rest of the society quietly welcomed the change and the policy has continued. I started to listen again to popular music format radio stations, and remain grateful to the brave executives who enforced the change.

The commission's statement of February 6, 2009 said in part:
"...The Commission assures the public that it continues to actively work with broadcast licensees, the Minister of Information, the Media Association of Jamaica, the Jamaica Association of Community Cable Operators, the Entertainment Fraternity and other stakeholders to bring a halt to the deluge of inappropriate content on the airwaves. The public will have already seen and should continue to expect strong disciplinary action against those who fail to cooperate and comply with the broadcasting regulations...."
Today, I pose a question that will be directly objectionable to a certain segment of party goers, but I believe that the rest of society would welcome the change to what is now a norm.

I ask, was it reasonable for a road closure permit for Class A and Class B roads in the parish of St Andrew to be issued for an adult street party to run across eight hours of daylight on Sunday April 27, 2014?

The lineup of alcoholic beverage sponsors shows that it is an adult themed event and under part 11, sections 39 (2) and (3) of the Childcare and Protection Act the operator of a nightclub has to ensure that children are not exposed to goings on in a nightclub. There is no difference between the behaviour of patrons in a nightclub and those in an adult street parade. In the first instance, patrons are in a fixed place, in the other, it is a movable dance floor and bars serving alcholic beverages in party cups. 
(2) An owner or operator of a nightclub who permits a child to enter into, or remain in, the nightclub commits an offence: Provided that no person shall be guilty of an offence under this section if he proves to the satisfaction of the count that at the time of entry and while the child was permitted to remain on the premises, the person took all reasonable steps to ascertain and reasonably believed, that the person was not a child. 
This permit for this adult entertainment, in the guise of a public daytime parade, could be interpreted as permission to make offences under the Town and Communities Act in a public place:
Section 3 (k) : indecently expose his or her person; (This means exposing genitals; breasts are not genitals)
(l) : ....sing any profane, indecent or obscene song or ballad, or write or draw any indecent or obscene word, figure, or representation, or use any profane, indecent or obscene language; 
(m) : use any threatening, or abusive and calumnious language to any other person publicly
There are also others wrapped in sections 5 (h) and also 8 and 9. This act was last amended in 1997, long after adult party parades started, so if the members of the country's parliament had thought that these sections were no longer relevant, or had wanted to put in an exemption for these types of parades, I imagine that the matter might have come up for debate. 

The behavior that includes explicit portrayal of adult subject matter are picturesquely captured and publicised for a general audience in the printed press and across social media. Persons take their small children out to the event; and school-age teenagers beg to go. 

If our society has reached a stage where we accept that on one day per year - or specific days per year - persons in a particular adult parade can ignore expected behavour in public places and exposure of children to aspects of adult entertainment, then perhaps it is time to put it in the regulations to make these clear exemptions.

The exemptions might look like this:
Notwithstanding the provisions of sections (....) the Minister responsible for Transport and Works on the advice of the Children's Advocate will issue a special permit for an annual adult street parade to be held on the first Sunday after Easter in the parish of St Andrew during which time nightclub products and behaviour can be freely exhibited between the hours of 10AM and 7PM. 
If we do not think that we like the idea of a particular parade or parades to be exempted from laws that help to guide public behaviour, then the authority should stop issuing permits to the organisers of adult parties to have parades on public roads.

I believe that the parade is an abuse of the Town and Communities Act. I remember the year that the parade was broadcast live on television, the station's master control had difficulty finding appropriate content to transmit into people's homes.

With regards to the Obscene Publications (Supression of) Act, if the fine is still J$40, self-restraint will be the only deterrent to publishing obscene photos for a long time to come.

The parades generate discussion about women in tantalizing costumes in contact with men wearing jeans trousers and polo shirts, but I am not going to stroll down that gender garden path now.

The photos of the 2014 adult party parade along St Andrew's main roads that I saw showed no grand spectacle that dazzled the senses with a showcase of high craftsmanship and artistry of costumes. The events did not state any connection with raising funds for deserving public causes. It promoted no social movement for Iustitia, Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. There were no dancing displays of trained movement and coordination. It was open season to see normally unattainable, beautiful women - those young and those young at heart - scantily clad, and hopefully engaging in sexually explicit poses and sexually arousing behaviour. These are the reasons people go out to see the parades, and so, to me, it seems to be observance of commonly held public decency en flagrante delicto.

I propose that if the granting of the road closure permit considered points that were outside of traffic management; if the official who signs the permit considers a set of shared values about how to handle matters that should preferably be limited to mature individuals in a setting where it would not offend others; then the organisers should not be issued a road closure permit again. The partygoers can have adult fun in a licensed entertainment venue and have the parade on private property. One day, I might even buy a feathery fascination, get me some boots with the fur, and pay to wuk-up me waist and jump.


Edit April 12, 2015
Edit May 3, 2014
Edits to include a point about the Childcare and Protection Act and also an explanation of what exposure means under the T&C Act.