New Sunday Arts Magazine reviews

My reviews of R'Kardo St'Von's concert of jazz flavored reinterpretations of calypso classics is posted here,
A review of Anthony Joseph's powerful spoken word album, Time,
is posted here.

Carnival commentary checklist

A complete listing of my writing about Carnival 2014...
Mas Colloqium Talk: One. Then five to fifteen.
Video: Carnival Stakeholder Conversations
BitDepth#929: A Carnival Coda
BitDepth#927: Lessons from the Socadrome
Guardian Editorial for March 10: More transparency in Carnival
PhotoBlog: Why I have nothing to say about your Facebook Carnival gallery
BitDepth#926: Carnival's stuttering progress
Guardian Editorial for March 02: The Geography of Carnival
BitDepth#925: How I would fix Carnival
Guardian Editorial for February 26: Elitism or Entrepreneurship?
BitDepth#924: Carnival Copyright Redux
Suggestions to the NCC for accreditation improvements.
Narend Sooknarine's experience with the NCC accreditation team.

Local Lives #17, a look at the production process of the band Tribe on the occasion of their 10th anniversary,
is posted here.

BitDepth#924 posted

BitDepth#924, a consideration of the resurgence of copyright woes in Carnival accreditation, is posted here. Also relevant are posts archiving my suggestions to the NCC in their deliberations on accreditation and the account of Narend Sooknarine of Zorce when he tried to pay for passes last week.

BitDepth#923 posted

BitDepth#923, a look at recent Facebook changes that affect marketers using the service, is posted here...

BitDepth#921 posted

BitDepth#921, a contemplation of the last thirty years of Macintosh and the last 24 years I've spent with them, is posted here...

BitDepth#920 posted

BitDepth#920 considers Microsoft's CityNext project, which it would like the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to embrace,

BitDepth#919 posted

BitDepth#919, a contemplation of the career and work of Therese Mills, is posted here...

Elize Rostant interview

My interview with young jeweler Elize Rostant for the Guardian's Sunday Arts Magazine is posted here. A photoblog post about my experiences photographing her in close quarters is here...

Bitter Seeds Review

My review of Bitter Seeds, a film about genetically modified agriculture is posted here...

Return to the Singh's Divali celebration

While I've visited the Singh's Divali celebration several times as a photographer investigating deyas and as a guest enjoying their generous hospitality since I shot Local Lives 05 in October 2006, this was the first time I've returned to the family's celebration as a photojournalist.
The gallery has been expanded with the new images and the stories that accompanied the photos are to be found here and here. It wasn't designed as a Local Lives installment, but the layout of the images was good and a PDF of the published pages can be found here.

Photography portfolio updated

Shoemaker fixing shoe business. Finally got around to fixing broken links and revamping the content of all the galleries in my photography portfolio, which you can find here. The Womanwise gallery is gone, the best of those images folded into the updated Editorial Portraits section and I've added new galleries to show my work with Panoramics and Architecture.

Copyright Conversation

Online discussions about copyright are rarely useful and almost never result in a satisfactory outcome for the copyright owner.
Here's an example of how that tends to go...

BitDepth#906 posted

BitDepth#906, a report from a talk by film set photographer Rafy about the business, is posted here...

Mail from Google

Here's my very first piece of mail from Google. Oddly enough, the all-digital company insists on sending a hard copy card to a physical address to verify a business listing on its service.
Naturally, that document doesn't have the savvy of Google search, so it quickly ran afoul of the expertise of TTPost, who sent it off on a tour of El Socorro before finally bringing it home.

Samsung roundup

My stories from Samsung's Berlin launch of the Samsung Note and Gear are all online. My news report on the new Note and Gear, a BitDepth look at the new Gear smart watch and a consideration of Samsung's business profile and plans for the Caribbean done for the Business Guardian..

Chutney Soca portfolio

My portrait series on local Chutney Soca singers is in the current issue of Caribbean Beat and available for viewing online here. The photographs are also on the home page slideshow of this website where they can be viewed much larger.

Photography talk posted

I've posted streaming and downloadable versions of a talk I gave last Wednesday at Antony Scully's Studio 30 about photography career issues. You can view the video, a rehearsal recording of the talk, here
A Trinidad Guardian review of the live talk is posted here
Juma Bannister's photo gallery from the talk is posted here. I particularly like his photograph of Guardian reporter Josh Surtees and myself, which makes us look like real tough guys looking for action.

Photography career talk

View this and many other intriguing slides on Wednesday August 14.

On Wednesday I'll be giving a talk about my career experiences in photography and with all the related engagements I've had along the way at Antony Scully's new photography space, Studio 30.
There will be a vidcast of the presentation, as with all my other talks, but you don't get to ask me difficult questions in person that way.

You'll find the space here…
Studio 30
30A Warren St., Woodbrook
(Opposite St. Theresa's Church - Cor. De Verteuil & Warren Sts)
Contribution: $30
Time: 7:00pm
Refreshments after the session.

On Jeffrey Chock

Photographer Jeffrey Chock passed away on Thursday, some thoughts on the photographer are here...

Judiciary's loss

The Judiciary lost one of its finer members last week, some background on my involvement with that sad process is here...

Conversations 3

A review of the third installment of the Conversation with the Elders 3 event at the Art Society’s headquarters last week is posted here...

It's July 27, do you know where our terrorists are?

Oh, I know, they are engaging in a peaceful protest march on the streets of the city they almost brought to ruin 23 years ago, that's where they are.

As someone who personally had a Muslimeen gun pointed at his head on July 27, 1990 while in pursuit of my duties as the first Picture Editor of the Guardian, I've got to say that watching Yasin Abu Bakr and his cronies stroll along the streets of Port of Spain escorted by the police, I felt a real annoyance and resentment.

But then, that's what we fought for back then. Whether it was manning a large gun in response to the insurrection or publishing a newspaper from a building frequently peppered by gunfire, the only civil response to terrorism is ultimately the practice of constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, which include those that allow us to gather and represent our points of view, as unwelcome as they may be.

So Yasin Abu Bakr applies to the Police Commissioner for permission to march in the city, not only gets permission, but a protective escort. You may see affront. I see a success for democracy and free speech. We win.

Some other words on the subject...
A story for the Guardian in 2010 looking back on the coup attempt on its 20th anniversary.
A blog note from 2008, recalling the insurrection.
An editorial leader I wrote for the Guardian that year.
My review of Raoul Pantin's book on the coup attempt, Days of Wrath, written for the May 2008 edition of the Caribbean Review of Books.

Sugarfingers records again

Felix Roach, the popular Hilton pianist, has a second professional life as a choir coach and pianist in church. Read more here

Mr Clean

A note about a recent still life product shoot is here...

Guiness' brew

My "Click Here" story for the Sunday Arts Magazine of June 09 about Christopher Guiness' new short film Captain T&T is posted here. You'll find my interview with him about the film here.


A scene from the Differentology video directed by Nigel Thompson

I know now that I'm not the only person to declare themselves disappointed with the Black Ice Studios video for Differentology, Bunji Garlin's defining song for Carnival 2013.
It isn't just that it looks so much like this old 3 Canal video for Mud Madness, it's that it aspires to become something as mighty and evocative as the song and fails so dramatically.

I kept looking at it and thinking that it looked like one of this dreadfully ordinary photographs that people think get ennobled by dramatic Instagram filters.
Of course, that might be because so much of the video is layered with pointless color grading and hokey directing decisions.

Even a potentially powerful shot, of Bunji staring square at the camera, intense despite the goofy helmet and the mud people suddenly appearing to spring out of his body like a kind of exploding centipede doesn't have the impact that it should. They kind of sputter out from behind him, unsure of where to go next.

It's kind of weird looking at it. All the elements to create a good video are there. A dramatic location, costumes from K2K and Tribe, people willing to wallow in mud and get buried in earth, an attractive local MMA fighter in a loin cloth, swords and axes and a blasted horse, for goodness' sake.
It's a grocer's list of funky stuff that seems to have gotten stuck in a bad episode of Will it blend only to defy the whirling blades of in Nigel Thompson's edit suite.

I don't have any illusions that a music video should make sense. I have no problem with warriors from two entirely different centuries clashing in battle (though they mostly circle each other, waving swords about). Nobody makes videos that make less linear sense than Tool and their work is consistently fascinating and involving. Nothing about this video is any of those things,
I'm a big fan of Bunji, writing one of the first major evaluations of him as an artist in 2000 when I became thoroughly smitten with his five releases that year.

His work with Nigel Rojas on Differentology wasn't particularly surprising to me, though it pleased me as much as it did everyone else. I'd seen this side of young Mr Alvarez ever since that break-out year in his dramatically under appreciated collaboration with Walker, Woman. That was the first time I'd heard rock merged with rapso and I really liked it even if virtually nobody noticed it in the year of Bad Man and Gimme the Brass.

I submit that the backlash, growing quietly by the second, apparently, against the Differentology video isn't that it's a bad video, it's that it's the wrong class of video entirely for the song. For virtually any other song this season, the video would actually be just fine, maybe even a little ambitious. But Differentology demands the absolute best we have to offer in visuals, because for most of us who loved the song, it stirred our jaded souls and encouraged the very best in us.
Far from different, it's just too damned ordinary and that probably what grates on our collective nerve.

Gail, gone

Gail Massy photographed at Lonsdale, Saatchi & Saatchi by Christine Punnett.
Photograph used by kind permission of the author.

Losing Gail Massy is a lot like losing a percussion instrument in a good band. The band can play on, but somehow, things never sound quite the same and the band never keeps the same tight rhythm it once had.
Who was this player? Most people knew Gail as a quiet, solid performer, someone who could be depended on to do exactly what she promised with skill, dutiful care and no small amount of talent.

An enormously private woman, you knew exactly as much about Gail as you needed to in order to work with her. I’d flown to St Vincent on assignment with her, sat around for hours waiting for clients to get their act together to be photographed throughout the country and a bit further in the past, watched her run one of the tightest sub-editors’desks in this country at a newspaper at the Express.

I think about Gail now, and I’m infuriated with myself because of how little I knew her. I know that I’m not alone.
Her employers would have liked her. She did her work efficiently and without fuss, meeting deadlines and managing staff with a skill that made her look as effortless as a hummingbird at a flower, every bit as beautiful and elegant and working just as hard to hover there, apparently help up by magic.

But the people that she worked with loved her. She had a remarkable ability to manage up as well as down, winning the respect and trust of her staff who admired her skills and appreciated her firm but generous manner.

She had the rare position in my life of overseeing the publication of the first two years of my column BitDepth when it began its life as a commentary column on the Express’columnist’s section and then again took a leading role in wrangling my photographs when I returned to professional photography full-time in 2005.

I know, without any doubt at all, that Gail pressed for my presence on several of those early jobs at the agency she worked for and I tried to reward her trust in me by doing my best, doing it promptly and giving her work that helped to build her department.
It was on one of those projects that I shared in two Addy wins and Gail’s early efforts at championing my work led to my winning and holding on to several accounts who continue to make use of my services to this day.

One of the last things that Gail did before she retired from Lonsdale Saatchi & Saatchi was to write and e-mail me a very kind and utterly unsolicited testimonial about the work we had done together.
Of course, I managed to lose it (along with pretty much all my e-mail from 2011) and I had to call her and ask if she could find and resend it.
It took a couple of weeks, but she did exactly that.

When I heard that she had passed away on Wednesday, the first thing I thought of was that phone call. I’d asked after her health, she’d brushed it off, gently but firmly, and promised to resend it if she could find it in her sent mailbox. A week later, it popped up again. I sent a short note thanking her and that was that.

When we spoke, it seemed like she had mentally added my request to a long to-do list she was working through.
I am so sure that many people had pretty much the same experience with Gail in these last few months of her life. Not the type of woman to chase a last ditch bucket list, Gail probably spent her time tidying her life and preparing for the worst possible outcome.

She was a staunch and steady friend to those that she welcomed into the fullness of her life. I know her friendship with Willys Marshall, a mutual friend, was a true and trusted one over the two decades that I’ve known them to be buddies.
I wasn’t in that circle, but the richness of my own relationship with Gail, who always rewarded a quick visit or a hail out with that big, bright, absolutely pleased smile, does not leave me envious.

Now, she is gone. That clear voice of purpose, that silencing sound of sanity that kept many projects on track when they were hellbent on derailing, is gone.

When this country needs more such cowbell, there is now, measurably less.
Your time with us was appreciated Gail Massy. We are all the richer and better for it.

Get some bread

A review of the sparking new EP from Gyazette, Bread, is posted here...

On Winning

After getting my copy of the book signed by Professor Robertson. Guardian journalist Michelle Loubon is at centre.
Photograph by Peter Lim Choy.

A few weeks ago, I accepted (with no small concern) an invitation from NGC Bocas Lit Fest Programme Director Nicholas Laughlin to chair a talk by Professor Ian Robertson, who would be speaking at the Big Idea lecture on his book The Winner Effect. After reading most of the book, I wrote the following introduction for the eminent neuroscientist for his talk on April 28, 2013.

There's a really good chance that you aren't here to explore the literary merits of Professor Robertson's book. This is a book, after all, which has been titled The Winner Effect, and subtitled The science of success and how to use it.

There's the distinct smell of publisher enthusiasm about that title and the charming turtle with a rocket strapped to its back all but screams "self help" book.
But who, after all, doesn't want success. Wealth, women/men, fame, lasting glory. These aren't words that tend to send us into a depressed funk.

Unless, of course, we're considering just how far we are from attaining any of them in any sustained way.

So here are some interesting things that you should know about The Winner Effect.
First up, this isn't a self help book. It may help you, but it won't hold your hand and seek to assuage the agony you feel about your personal doldrums.

It is a work of science.

There's nothing I can use to convey this more clearly than to note that along with the thorough index, there is a footnotes listing with 193 links back to the reference works and publications that constitute the background findings that Professor Robertson has referenced for this work.

Second. It is a book, not a paper. It is written engagingly and often wittily, the author seeing both the charm and the quiet horror of some of the conclusions that science has reached about the way that brains work.

In this work, you will read the tragic story of Paulo Picasso, the strategy of Don King and the researcher who goes by the nickname Genghis Dan, all of whom contribute bricks to this remarkable literary construct about the way our brains manage the influences and inputs we think we're handling all day long.

It isn't the work of a journalist making sense of science. It's the work of a neuroscientist putting in his best effort to make the staggering science of the mind read like English and to engage a general readership in contemplating its nuances.

Some of it will seem headslappingly obvious. Damn, you'll think. So Norman Vincent Peale was right? I really should think and grow rich?

As you'll discover, most of the answers to the imponderables we've been living with since birth aren't answered with a simple yes or no.
There's a lot of "it depends" in here, an acknowledgement that every individual brain responds to wildly different external stimuli not only according to the specific chemistry and DNA sequencing that underlie each of our own, personal thinking organs, but also because we've all been conditioned to think about life and its problems differently.

There are answers in here, but these aren't easy answers. You won't come away from the book with a list of ten to-do items that will guarantee you future success, though I imagine that Professor Robertson's publishers would have been thrilled to advertise such a thing.
What you're most likely to do is put the book down. Pause to consider it for a bit, and say, "Wait, what?" and begin flipping back through it again to review a chapter or two.
I know I did.

 A writer who can do this hardly needs someone to mediate between him and his audience, so I'm here to have fun right along with you.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Professor Ian Robertson, Professor of Psychology at Trinity College, Dublin, Professor at University College London and Bangor University. Scientist at the Rotman Research University of Toronto. Trained clinical psychologist and neuroscientist and I can assure you, a man who writes.

Hair today...

Portrait by Darren Cheewah. The animation reveals the original self-portrait the art is based on. Reload the page to view the animation again.

For the first time in a very long time, I managed to draw blood while pulling a razor across my skin.
I don’t have a lot of facial hair, since “grass don’t grow on bottle” as we say in these parts.
Still, stubble ain’t sexy and untended, it can lead to ingrown hairs, so every couple of days, I’ve been in the habit of running a razor across my face to clean up the straggling bits of growth that crop up rather casually.

Lately, though, particularly among folks who take note of stuff like one’s Facebook avatar, some may have noticed over the past couple of months that my normally close haircut has gotten a whole lot closer.
The change was dramatic enough to spawn a short thread on my new profile photo on the social media website.
Most dramatically, ace illustrator Darren Cheewah posted a lovely piece of vector art based on the new photo, a drive-by drawing, I quipped that was far superior to my rather smug bit of self-portraiture.

This public intervention by a few kind folks came as a bit of a surprise, rather like discovering a debate over my preferred brand of cornflakes (I eat a perfectly horrible breakfast of oats and chipped dried fruit, thank you) and stoked my curiosity about how folks respond to apparently pointless personal details offered online.
My razored head happened quite by chance. A couple of years ago, my longtime barber closed up shop, admitting that his eyesight wasn’t as reliable as he would have liked.

He could probably have continued doing my haircut for years more, since was basically an even stroke from front to back with the clippers.
The household management offered to take over the task, and I bought a hefty pair of Conair clippers after reading several reviews for competing products at Amazon.
So until February this year, we had a regular date roughly three times a week to cut 21 days of growth back to something manageable.

Last year, though, my barber noticed that after cutting into both sides of my hair, a funky mohawk remained. I’d done a mohawk decades ago for Carnival, and we decided that 2013 would be a good year to do it again.
We both forgot, and on Carnival Sunday we were back to the same place we were the year before, the planned mohawk blowing across the floor.
“Hey,” the management said, “why don’t we shave it off?”

So I did, and I’ve been doing so for the last couple of months, discovering what it’s really like to shave through hair.
First, I found that double bladed disposable razors wouldn’t, and you must excuse this, cut it. They worked just fine for my sparsely populated cheeks and neck, but faltered badly on fast growing scalp hair.

A sample triple bladed razor in my big pack o’disposables offered a hint of the solution though. So my next purchase was a five-bladed Fusion razor. Score. The five bladed beast sliced through my head growth leaving behind nothing but smooth scalp.
Until Sunday night, when I decided to push an old Fusion cartridge too far and discovered just what a razor past its prime does. Pressing down a bit too hard to get more bite into the five-day old growth, I managed to lop off a neat centimeter’s worth of scalp and start a boxing class flow of blood down my forehead and into my eyebrow.

After a couple of seconds of examining the wound the mirror and imagining myself a sa cinematically bloodied Apollo Creed, I hustled off to get the Dettol.
So after years of shaving, I’m learning how to shave for the first time. First lesson? Replace the damn razor when the indicator says it’s done and don’t try to be cheap. Second? Don’t keep the antiseptic all the way in the back of the cupboard anymore.
More lessons to come, I’m sure.
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