Last week, we lost “Bunny Rugs” – let’s talk about Third World a bit.

Last week, we Jamaicans lost a well-loved voice and reggae ambassador – Bunny Rugs.

Every time I hear his real name, I forget it again within minutes… even so, what other name you need other than ‘Bunny Rugs’? Besides, you should know who I talking about when I say it… if you don’t, it is unlikely you know him by his real name. William ‘Bunny Rugs’ Clark was the lead singer for Third World; probably my favourite reggae band ever, assuming you were going to force me to choose a favourite.

I remember when I jumped onto the Third World wagon – it was during their “Committed” tour sometime in the early 1990s, and it was probably the first and only time I bought tickets to a music concert … ever. I don’t think I’ll ever do that again. ( I actually went to the concert alone too – imagine that!? )

(Note: my sincere apologies if you are having difficulties viewing the videos in this post; apparently YouTube is enforcing restrictions across regions and platforms now).

Now that I’ve listened to the song again, I think “Committed” might just be my favourite Third World song too.

For someone who claims to be one of their fans, I am realising that I know very little about them. Some personal recollections include the first time I heard the names “Cat” Coore and “Ibo” Cooper – those names are so unique that they’re hard to forget. Further, I remember “Cat” Coore because my father used to mumble stories about the Coore family when I was younger. I remember his father was in politics …  the Wikipedia page says his father was actually the Deputy Prime Minister under Michael Manley – so of course, it was in the midst of political drama in the 1970s.

I was never a big reggae music fan, as I mentioned last week. Partly because my father continually described it as “noise” and refused to tolerate it playing in his house. If it happened to come across the radio, he would change the station. If I even thought about playing it myself, I would get a stern lecture about what music is and how I should be “edifying myself with more uplifting sounds”. Yeah, yeah … I know. He sounds quite the stuffy elitist. And he actually kind of is … in a few different ways, but I digress.

Even though Dad despised anything reggae, he did manage to find a semblance of tolerance for Third World’s sound. Probably because it was mild, mellow, and easy to nod your head and tap your foot to. Their style is known as “roots reggae” and is described as a sub-genre of reggae which incorporates real life concerns (spirituality, poverty, etc.) into the music. More than that, the sound is less hardcore than the more popular dancehall style, with smooth and easy-going rhythms that incorporated more worldly sounds such as jazz and r&b into their music. Something some Jamaican artists were uncomfortable with and I’m willing to bet they got quite the earful about how much they were “sellouts” because they dared to reach out to the world with their music. If you are Jamaican, you know the criticisms Sean Paul got when he first hit the scene. In any case, maybe that is why I got around to liking them – at least I could listen to them at home if I wanted to in those days.

Third World has taken reggae to all corners of the world; even in doing this piece, I discovered they were here in the Pacific Northewest, where I am, as late as just last year.

Imagine that?! Wish I’d known – I might have bought my second set of concert tickets ever if I had. (No; probably not. Seattle crowds are still a little much for me.)

Their accomplishments include 10 Grammy award nominations, the 1986 Peace Medal from the U.N. among various other awards and accolades in the music industry worldwide. Their tagline has ever been “Reggae Ambassadors” and in true ambassadorial form, they have championed the cause of reggae the world over for 40 years or more. I guarantee you -any money spent on their music now is still money well spent. Their music is ageless and sounds as good to me today as it did 15+ years ago.

The Latest Third World lineup: Cat Coore, Richie Daley, Bunny Rugs, Norris Webb, and Tony Williams

The last Third World lineup: Cat Coore, Richie Daley, Bunny Rugs, Norris Webb, and Tony Williams

February is Reggae Month for me, not Black History Month.

I think I am going to forego the Black History Month thing this year.

I mean, it isn’t like there has been a year when I give it any extra thought at all. I have no way to relate to the notion of Black History Month. It’s not something I have ever had any investment in or any experience with.  I think the reason for that is that for me, and for many Jamaicans, the Black History Month celebrations tend to center around U.S. centric milestones, heroes, and accomplishments. In fact, I put in a search in Google just now for “black history month jamaica” and the article that was at the top of the search results was a piece our Carolyn Cooper wrote back in 2011 saying much the same thing:

So we’re celebrating Black History Month again. Like Valentine’s Day and Halloween, Black History Month is yet another commodity we’ve imported from the United States.

Tidbits like this one “Many of us still don’t know, for example, that Africans came to the Americas before Columbus” are not known to me. In school, I was taught that “Columbus discovered the new world”. Even then it felt odd to me that black people were standing up in a classroom full of mostly black students telling them that the Amerindians who were here before Columbus didn’t count as “discoverers” because the only people capable of “discovering” lands and countries were the Europeans. It felt so very wrong even then.  And now, my own historical knowledge is sadly lacking. I keenly feel the gap in my knowledge about my true ancestors and the history of my country; my region; my people. I have been starved of education. Is a good t’ing we nuh need knowledge to live – don’t?

I have nothing against the U.S. or their celebration of Black History Month. I have no comment or opinion about it. It’s just not something I think I have the right to have a comment or opinion about. So don’t get me wrong – I am not decrying the practice in any way.

No, my issue is simply that I have no frame of reference for the celebration as it is currently framed. I was born and raised in Jamaica. My frame of reference for black history is a far different ball game. Our heroes were heroes of the slave rebellion and the abolition movement back in the early 1800s. In the 1930s, a whole century after slavery was abolished in Jamaica, the United States was still struggling with inequality and prejudice on a level that I can only begin to imagine … this for several reasons outside the obvious. The most glaring reason is that I grew up in a time and a place where race was not an issue for us as much as class was (and still is, to a large extent). We aren’t struggling, in Jamaica, against racial bias; we are struggling with ‘colourism’ or ‘shadeism’ and ‘classism’ – a separate but somewhat related struggle.

In Jamaica, our heroes are Marcus Garvey, Nanny of the Maroons, Sam Sharpe and the like – the people who fought for an end to slavery in the 1800s, not people who fought against prejudice and racism in the 1950s. It is a whole different cultural dynamic let me tell you.

But I get it. I get it and I step back respectfully because just because it is not in my frame of reference doesn’t mean I cannot respect the idea and the ideal. Usually, I just nod and smile in silence. This year … instead of keeping quiet, though, I think I am going to do a little “going back to my roots” thing. The Jamaica Tourist Board is running a month-long promotion called Reggae Month. They have tons of activities and stuff lined up. I can’t participate physically, but I can get into the spirit of it. So I am going to do a weekly thing where I talk about reggae music stars who have made an impression on me and who I think deserve worldwide recognition for their contribution to reggae and to Jamaica’s legacy. I am not a huge music fan and I am certainly not a big reggae fan either. But I think I can call on a few names who have caught my ear over the years …

I’ve missed a Monday … so I’ll make it up maybe next week with two artists. Today is Bob’s birthday though. There isn’t much I can say about Bob that isn’t already out there. Well, except for the fact that he was born a few miles away from where my own mother was born. She is a bit older though, and they never met – so that fact is trivial at best.

Still, I will just leave this here:

An iconic Bob photo for you.

An iconic Bob photo for you.

It’s that time of the year again …

The hubster found one of those memes on Facebook this morning saying “It’s almost 2014. Time for that new year new me crap.” The image was of Robert Downey Jr looking like someone had pooped in his cereal. I kind of feel the same way.

I’ve written about New Year Resolutions on this blog before and I haven’t really stuck to that process either. For me a new year is just that … a new year. Like a new day. It’s an opportunity to live some more. Maybe this is how I live the Taoist life – just flowing through life and taking the opportunities as they come. Or maybe I am just making excuses for myself and my laziness. But the thing is that aside from a few issues, I am happy; content. I want for nothing in my life. There are a few things I’d like to have, some will come, others won’t – I am not too worried about it.

An old friend with whom I reconnected this last week told me she got to cross something off her bucket list this year. I paused for a few minutes to think about what might be on my own bucket list that I wanted to cross off. And … I realised that I really don’t have a bucket list. Strange? Yeah – I’d say so. There is nothing that I absolutely must do before I die. And it’s not that I “have it all” … far from it. There are a ton of things I wish I had; just as much as a ton of things I wish I could do. I guess I feel no urgency to pursue them and I … am not entirely sure why.

An acquaintance once told me that I lack ambition. At the time, it felt like a put-down. I think what he meant to do was inspire me. It doesn’t much matter what he meant or intended – I agree with him. I don’t. Or maybe my ambition is simply to strive for harmony and balance (as much as I can) in my own life and help others achieve the same in theirs. (Still a work in progress with me, incidentally – I ain’t perfect. :D)

The thing is that I wake up every single day with one key thought: today I must do only good. I must strive to touch someone else in some way meaningful and if not, I must do no harm. I don’t know how lofty or meagre that goal is, I just know that most days … I nail it.

It’s the last day in 2013. I’ve had tons of ups and downs this year – made friends, lost friends. Made realisations about myself and the world around me. I’ve learned new skills, re-learned one or two I had forgotten about, and made up my mind what hobbies to focus on and which ones to leave by the wayside (Because one can have too many interests. How to know when you do? When you don’t have time for them all. /nod)

What am I vowing for 2014? Much the same like 2013, please. If I get more, yay! It not, yay! I’m still good no matter which way the wind blows. If 2014 ends up being sucky, I’ll figure out a way to find my lessons in it anyway. If it ends up being better than ever, I’m sure I’ll be happy with that too.

 

Sensationalist, so-called “educational”, and chain-letter style emails

My mother just sent me an email that made me cringe. Although I understand why she forwarded it to me (we had only just had a discussion about switching to butter from margarine within the last few days), I wish she had done some homework before she’d mass-mailed that nonsense out to others.

But here’s the thing: I know how my mother works, I know how she thinks, and I know what she’s thinking more than half the time. We have a bond that goes beyond your normal mother-daughter bond. We are synced in ways that scare me a lot of times. If I have a particularly bad headache for no good reason, chances are it’s because my mother is having some kind of headache as well. We’ve proven this on so many occasions that I don’t have to second-guess anymore. I take it for granted.

Emails that come from our friends and trusted acquaintances, and even from some respected officials are in “black and white”. They are comparable to the “written word”. If it came from my church pastor, it’s got to be legit – right? Especially since this person is normally a intelligent person. And for most people, that’s enough for them.

The problem is that my parents, whether deliberately or inadvertently, taught me to question everything. And I do mean everything. I take absolutely nothing at face value unless my husband, father, or mother is telling me about it in a situation where long deliberation and research is unattainable or ill-advised. (And even then, sometimes, I have to go looking for information after the fact, just to quell the noise in my head.)

When you’ve been playing around online as I have for as long as I have (I think I might be just past my second decade), some things become familiar. Anything sparkly and colourful online is likely to be an advertisement or rubbish designed to look like gold.

And by the way: another thing my parents taught me: all that glitters is not gold.

So when an email comes to me designed in bright colours, with multiple images, and emphasis in places (like red, bolded fonts to make a statement stick out) I am immediately suspicious. Solid verifiable information online is usually boring black and white sans-serif text on a white background; couple that fact with my instinctive desire to question everything, and what you get is a snotty bitch who thinks she knows everything.

My response to Mom’s email: a reply-to-all (I considered replying just to her, but the probative value outweighed my feel-good instinct) which said “Not all entirely true and some of it misleading and sensationalist in nature.” with a link to the explanation on snopes.com.

Yes; bitch I am indeed. Though no malice was intended, nor did I want to sound arrogant and egotistical. I simply wanted to say “Thanks; appreciate the thought. Here’s me thinking about you in return: get your facts straight before you spread ‘em.”

And all that to say this: just because it makes its way into your inbox/snail-mailbox/front stoop from some trusted friend, family member, or official does not make it gospel. Question everything. Let everyone know you aren’t easily fleeced. Say “I don’t believe it”; then go read up and say “I should have believed you; you were right” or be able to say “I was right;  it isn’t to be believed.”

Know for sure; then make it known to others. Sounds like a good motto – no?

Gun control = extreme constitutional violation? Yeah – right.

DISCLAIMER: rampant political incorrectness and blatant tongue-pulling ahead. I am ranting. I am being ridiculous. I am sarcastically advocating for extremes that might be offensive. Proceed with caution!

Continue reading

A powerful piece of writing …

Lee Child is my new favourite author. This is a stunning conclusion for me to make since my lifelong favourite has thus far been Stephen King. Child does not compare to King in any way, shape, or form other than to say they are two highly accomplished authors.

King is outstanding to me for several different reasons but the most significant reason is that he weaves humour and horror together in an almost indecipherable pattern that works in ways that are phenomenal. I will never ever forget laughing my head off while cowering in fear at Pennywise the clown as I read through It. As annoying as Richie’s “beep-beep” moments got, as tired and old as it got, I laughed every single time. Even in the midst of the most horrifying moments crafted in writing … ever.

Child, however, has managed within the space of a few paragraphs to surpass all of King’s awesomeness. In one scene, he has summed up the most difficult confrontations in history … ever.

His main character, Jack Reacher, finds himself at odds with a particular special forces unit and decides he needs to counteract their bullying in a very visible and unrepentant manner. He walks into their domain, and pushes through their non-verbal bullying gestures. A room filled with hostile and highly-trained men, all silent, all watching him, all moving to obstruct his passage through their domain. He pushes through it all to one end of a long room, turns around and pushes through back to the door. It’s about 10 paragraphs describing maybe 5 minutes of activity – something Child excels at in ways I can only hope to rise to in future. He describes every muscle movement, every breath, every thought in detail … and when he’s done you feel as if you’ve just experienced it yourself.

At the end of this narrative, Reacher’s companion (a black woman MP), says to him “Now you know.” Reacher asks “Know what?”

And her response is dead simple. She says:

“How the first black soldier felt. And the first woman.”

No judgement. No indictment. Just powerful observation.

What’s more potent is that in reading the book, one discovers that this sort of reaction to Reacher is as unfounded as it is against all people of colour, all women, all sexual orientations. There’s no reason to bully people because you think they may be guilty of something you classify as heinous … because more often than not when the facts come to light, you end up having to eat your words.

In short: you may feel wronged; hell you may even be wronged. It doesn’t give you the right to wrong me.

Product warnings are a waste of resources

You heard me. Product warnings are a waste of time, energy, ink, and effort.

It occurred to me as I changed the garbage bag in my trash bin just now that the bag itself has a large written warning on it: “Choking hazard”. The warning itself says something more, but I didn’t read it. Which is telling because I’m a big reader. I read everything. I read things that most people don’t even realise are there. I read the product labels for all my meds and I read the tampon leaflet almost every time I buy a new box. That I didn’t bother to read the warning on the garbage bag this time told me something.

And it got me thinking about the average person. How many of you really read product warnings anyway? How many of you can say that the reason why you know plastic bags are choking hazards is because your mother or father (or some other responsible adult) told you it was?

And further, what does it say about our collective intelligence that we have to put product warnings on plastic bags anyway? This is a debate I had with my friends in high school: if you have to tell someone how to use shampoo by placing detailed instructions on the bottle or how to eat peanuts, then what does that say about the people who are using the products?

Back then, as teenagers, we thought it was hilarious. Now I think it’s just plain sad.

Amazon vs. BandN: the difference a day (or two) makes

I have been a member of Amazon.com since … well, the first order in my order history is listed as being placed on March 15, 2000. I have dim shadows of a memory that goes back about 3 years earlier than March 2000, but I can’t find any proof.  Nevertheless, that’s still a 12-year-old relationship. Remarkable, yes?

Here’s the thing with me and Amazon: I joined when the whole concept of the global marketplace was still new. A few places shipped to Jamaica, but most of them ceased to do so within the following few years after the ’90s. Amazon soldiered on, however. I was able to continue to place orders for a wide variety of products with Amazon for years using my Jamaican based dual-currency credit card. I like to think it was because we had a trusted relationship, Amazon and I. In reality, I know better. Simply put, Amazon recognized that my money was just as good as anyone else’s. It’s a realization I wish other entities in this brave new world would make.

But the main reason why I stay with them, is that they have phenomenal processes. Buying a book on Amazon gives me the opportunity to get that book to me by the next day (if I order early enough on the day before). It’s guaranteed. (I am a Prime member). It almost never fails; and when it does, I hear about way ahead of time. So whenever I have to deal with other merchants, I realize just how spoiled I am.

I got a gift card for Barnes and Noble for my birthday this year. Being the big book fiend that I am, I didn’t waste too much time finding and ordering books. For the record, I am also a member of Barnes and Noble – I have always loved that bookstore experience and despite having converted most of my library over to digital form, I still love that bookstore experience.

Being a member means I get “Expedited Shipping” (with the obligatory disclaimer that it has to be “on select items”). I was excited. My new books could get here before the long weekend! I ordered enthusiastically, was told my order qualified for expedited shipping and to stay tuned to my inbox for shipping dates and delivery estimates.

That was 2 days ago. Today I hear my delivery estimate for 2 of the 3 books is next Wednesday and the other one is USPS mail – so no telling when that one will get here.

The disappointment is almost tangible. Had I bought at Amazon, the books would most likely be getting here today. Instead I get to wait a week, at best.

Amazon has a good thing going. It’s like a drug. Once you get hooked, every other experience is measured based on the standards they have set in stone. This is why the other book store chains are dying a slow, torturous death. And this is why everybody is out to get them any way they can.

Here’s my question: if Amazon can do it, did do it, doesn’t that say that others could have (and maybe still can) tap into some of those resources and do it too?

Incidentally, that I love the bookstore experience, but failed to walk into the brick and mortar store is an irony that is not lost on me. Had I walked into my neighbourhood Barnes and Noble, I might have the books in hand now. Maybe that’s what they’re trying to do? Force the bookstore experience back into mainstream in as big a way as they can? Or is that being a little too conspiracy-theorist?

Bigotry will never die; it’s part of the human condition

I believe that bigotry will never die because it is integral to the human condition. We either make the conscious effort to work through the issues ourselves and thereby become an enlightened, functioning member of the human race, or we stick close to our prejudices, embracing them as we would that warm, cozy, blanket of familiarity.

Today was the first time I thought to look up the exact words uttered by Mr. Dan Cathy, President of the Chick-Fil-A chain of restaurants here in the US. At first, I wasn’t in the least bit concerned about what he said for many reasons, not the least of which was that I respect the rights of others to come out and say whatever the hell they want to say, whenever they want to say it. My only condition be that they abide by the consequences of their actions. With regards to this latest fiasco, I have never eaten at Chick-Fil-A, and by the looks of things, I never will.

My initial impression to the whole brouhaha was that as usual people think the right to free speech is limited only to sentiments that do not elucidate a dissenting opinion. As it turns out, it seems as if my initial reaction is not that far off from the truth.

From all I’ve been reading, his stance on this matter has been speculated about for a while. Even store policies seem to underline said speculations. However, coming right out and saying what they stand for is apparently a faux pas of uncommon parallel. I might agree that voicing such an unpopular opinion is likely to spurn the very people this corporation wants to woo (“our mission is to create raving fans“). However, at worst Mr. Cathy’s statement and the subsequent clarifications of same only say that Mr. Cathy takes his right to free speech seriously.

It might be hypocritical to suggest that certain statements be kept under wraps for the good of the business, but if the business is what you care about, then it doesn’t seem an unreasonable suggestion to me. It just seems fundamentally capitalistic; which in this country is perfectly acceptable – yes?

However, if what you care about is, as Mr. Cathy has stated, is the “biblical definition of a family” (I cannot emphasise how nauseated that phrase makes me feel), then he and his company have every right to shout their views from all the mountain tops… so long as he realises that doing so is going to inherently affect his popularity ratings and the success of his restaurant.

What I don’t get is why people are protesting so violently against Chick-Fil-A. Wouldn’t it send a much potent message to just stop supporting them? If people feel so strongly about their statement and their stance, just don’t support them anymore. Believe me, they will feel the effects of that decision far more strongly than if we were to stand in front of their stores and yell and pace. Besides, doesn’t standing in front of their stores yelling and pacing seem to spit in the face of freedom of speech on some level?

To be completely honest, I am in two-minds about what he actually said. If you can stand to read everything that has been said surrounding this nonsense, and take the whole thing in its entirety, it is easily seen that he is expressing his personal feelings about gay marriage yet stating that he respects the right of others to feel differently from him. If that is not the true essence of free speech, then I don’t what is.

Look here – money talks. My bottom line is this: if a corporation states equivocally that they do not stand with you in your cause, then take your money to those who do support you. Mr Cathy has the right to his opinions and beliefs and we ought to be able to recognise and respect him for exercising of his right. Even if that means respecting it right out the door and over to KFC, or any other fast-food, greasy-spoon chain, instead.

A little morning politics with your coffee?

I noticed 3 things about a news item this morning. You know; that one where President Obama is pushing Congress to extend tax cuts for people who earn less than $250,000 a year.

The first is that Obama has to petition Congress to make a decision that is likely to benefit a huge cross-section of the American population. I would like to point out that the current makeup of the U.S. Congress has the Democratic Party representation outnumbered by the Republican representation. That should mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. It really shouldn’t since the nation and its best interests should be free of political rancor.  I mean, it really should be, shouldn’t it?

Unfortunately, that just tells me simply that with the agenda the current crop of Republicans seem to have – which is “throw Obama out no matter what because he is the worst thing to ever happen to the great United States of America” – then there is very little the President can get done that is likely to be of any use to anyone.

I keep telling my mother that politicians remind me of the playground spats I used to witness as a kindergartener. It doesn’t matter what the “odd kid” is doing or even if he’s doing anything at all; the big kids, the older ones, the ones with “more experience” are going to haul the “odd kid” into the sandbox if they have to, just so they can dramatically throw him out later on.

The second thing I noticed about this news item this morning is that the Romney camp is insisting that it’s an all or nothing thing and they will not stand by and allow only a partial extension.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with petitioning for an all or nothing – at least not on the surface; but thanks to a Twitter peep of mine (thanks @Jherane_), I read an article that suggests that an extension for the big wigs is not something we really want; that historically, when the rich are taxed at higher rates there has been stronger economic growth.

Now here’s my question to you: why in the name of all that is good and gracious would you want to oppose something like this? Oh wait … for the same reasons that you want to oppose a healthcare insurance bill that benefits far more people than it hurts any one person or group of persons. Spite is a helluva thing, my dears.

So anyway, the third thing I noticed is that this is timed strategically within the short term memory span that is required if you want voters to remember it when it’s time to go to the polls. And this is the sad part: as much as I despise this current trend of browbeating on the President for all kinds of stupid reasons, I maintain my cynical view of “once a politician, always a politician”. Doesn’t matter how much good any one politician does or gives the impression of doing; for me, they will always be the lying, cheating bastards they have always been. I would like to know why this couldn’t have been petitioned two years ago as a medium-term fix to the economic situation.

Bah – who cares what I think or say anyway – right? I’m just a migrant and a soldier’s wife. I know nothing about any of this shit. In fact, I know so little about it that I think I’ll just shut my mouth right here and now.