UNSUNG JEWEL

I had only met her once before, briefly, but even in that moment, it was clear that Jewel was a charismatic individual with a deep social conscience. Between that single meeting and the stories I had heard about her from my S.O., I had the idea to film a conversation with her. Even then, I thought it would just be an exercise in posterity – something to post on my YouTube Channel, but it soon became more than that. In talking to her, (special thanks to M for helping out btw), I was inspired to find other people who are trying to improve the communities within which they live. Thus, UNSUNG was born.

I’m not doing it for any fee or anything like that. But simply because I believe that there are people doing positive things out there who should, IMHO, be heard. In telling their stories, maybe others will be inspired to work for social justice. That can only be a good thing.

Check out the very inspirational Jewel Singh-Bhairo, after the jump.

Superman is Selfish

That scene always bothered me. You know the one in Richard Donner’s Superman (1978), where the titular character flies around the Earth at what is presumably light speed in order to reverse the rotation of the planet. Somehow this impressive (read nonsensical) feat has the effect of turning back time and bringing Lane, who had previously been killed in a catastrophic disaster, back to life.

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Superman Cries Super Tears.

It is not the scientific lunacy of this sequence of events that bothered me, After all, the story of Superman is that of a solar powered humanoid alien with super strength, super speed, flight, invulnerability, X-Ray vision, heat vision, ice breath, super hearing and numerous other abilities writers have found reason to give him over the years. Rather, it is that Superman, (despite a warning from his father), did not spare a thought for the repercussions his actions might have on the lives of others.

Superman 1978

Superman Reverses Time, Somehow…

Consider for instance, the man who had in that moment completed a particularly hard shift at work. He is happy that the day is finally over and he can go have a beer to relieve himself of the traumatic effects of the meeting with that incredibly obtuse client. Then all of a sudden, he’s returned to the start of said meeting.  How would that man feel, knowing it was all Superman’s doing?  In a more abstract sense, what about the young couple who had been undergoing fertility treatments in an ongoing attempt to have children? What if in that moment they had managed to conceive their first offspring, only to have Superman undo the deed. What of the homeless man planted atop a bridge making the right decision not to end his existence but to try to stage the mother of all comebacks? What of the police detective who had just made a major breakthrough in a case, or of a scientist who had just experienced a eureka moment? What if one of these erased things completely changed the course of their history and indeed the history of the planet?  Did their goals, ambitions, dreams and decisions deserve to be erased so that Superman could continue his co-dependent relationship with Lois Lane? How incredibly selfish is that?!

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Superman Doesn’t Care About Your Problems Right Now

In truth, I should blame Richard Donner and his team for this fiasco. For some reason (read movie executives), they didn’t see it fit to have Superman actually fail. Clearly, in 1978, heroes, least of all Superman, were not allowed this relatable characteristic. They were perfect, and even if they do not manage to save the day, they could simply press the reset button. Or maybe they had just written themselves into a corner and someone asked “Can we have Superman reverse time? That would fix it.” – And the rest is history.

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Some guy dressed like this asked, “Can we have Superman reverse time?”

*Please note that I am not being entirely serious here.

Unfinished Stories Episode 1 : The Littlest Hobo

Social interaction had always been a mystery to me. The fact that my family was constantly relocating made me see friendship as a transient thing I suppose.  I mean, what was the point of bonding with the neighbourhood children if you knew your presence was only temporary.  Back then, there was a TV show about a surprisingly well groomed German Shepherd who wandered around helping people in bad situations. He always left them at the end of the episode, never even sticking around for a pat on the head. I could relate.

 That isn’t to say that I never tried to make friends; I did once. In Primary School, Mario De Souza, Leslie Phillips and I had this weird thing where we would duck out of class and go running around the block. “Flickin’ Daily Exercise” we called it- and it was grand. I have no idea which one of us started it, or how we decided that that was the name for it but we did it faithfully – until some parent or other saw us on the streets and called the Principal. That was the end of that. Soon afterward, my friends turned on me. Maybe it was the lack of exercise, or maybe it was the fact that I started wearing glasses- but Instead of daily workouts, there was daily abuse. Initially, I would return their insults, but my resistance only fuelled their trolling. I would end up in tears mostly.

By the time I was in secondary school, I had learned not to cry-not to show emotion.  Silence became my weapon for coping with abuse- and it was effective- to a point. There were some days where I wanted to lash out. 

Today was one of those days.

Dexter slapped the Physics textbook out of my hands and of course it landed face down on its pages. Predictably, he made a point of stepping on it-slowly grinding it into the classroom floor. It didn’t help that this was the rainy season and the old tiles were covered with muddy footprints.

“Waays, you takin’ that,” Bobby barked.

“You is a real bobolee dread,”  Rishi chimed in.

Dexter seemed inspired by Rishi’s comment and took the opportunity to slap me across the back of the head, my glasses almost coming off with the blow.

“Leave me alone nah,” I pleaded as I put my specs back into place. The lenses were covered with my fingerprints now, the result of me scrambling to catch them before they fell.

“Wha’ yuh go do?”  Dexter challenged, kicking my book across the floor and slapping me a second time behind the head.

By now a small crowd of boys had gathered around and a chorus of oohs started as my physics text skidded to a halt. My patience was now at its limit.

“Ask yuh mudda,” I replied.

Instinctively I stood up, pushed Dexter out of the way and moved to retrieve my book. The sudden burst of laughter clued me in to the fact that he had fallen on his ass. That everyone had seen me embarrass him like that enraged him.  His fists clenched even before he got to his feet.

I knew what was coming.

 

 

Picture Credit: http://www.brainpowerlearning.com/TheBullyAroundtheCorner.html

Cause and Effect

One story from what I hope will be a compilation of short stories. More on that later ;) See more of my scribblings on scribd.

He had done a pretty good paint job; the gun looked real – real enough to fool Mr. Wong and the three customers by the register. Wong didn’t recognize him, the mask ensured that- and as the old shopkeeper took the cash and placed it into a black plastic bag, Johnny felt a certain amount of remorse. The old man had always been kind, letting him take a few items on credit- even giving his daughter free snacks whenever they came to the grocery together.  But today that didn’t matter.  Johnny was four months behind on his rent and had to pay by Friday. A few snacks couldn’t change that.  Items taken on trust wouldn’t help him to sell his art or get a “real job” like his mother wanted. Things had been salty for a year now- not because he wasn’t trying. A combination of unsuccessful interviews and people offering to pay him with “exposure” had crushed his spirit. For all his promise, all his talent- by society’s standards he had become a thirty year old nobody.

The cake and chocolate ripple ice cream were a welcome change from the depression of sardines and rice that had become the norm- and although Johnny couldn’t afford the bike his daughter wanted for her birthday, he knew how to improvise.  A rusty frame Ms Ragbeer down the road didn’t want, some used tyres, black spray paint (Cherisse loved black), a few stickers and voila! Soon the nine year old was zipping around the two room apartment trying her best not to knock over her father’s collection of “junk”- old boxes filled with spare parts, toys, masks and other things of interest that Johnny thought might be useful in his artistic endeavours.  On the other side of the room next to the small TV, some of the paintings and sculptures he hadn’t sold leaned against a wall.  In another corner, encased in a plastic sheath, hung the clothes he wore to his last interview- the clothes he would wear to his next one.  Trying to re-insert himself into the Matrix had proven to be problematic.

“Daddy, can we go outside with it?”

“No, never!”

Cherisse recognized her father’s ironic tone and giggled as she moved towards the door. Before she could open it, there was a knock. A bailiff had arrived.

Wong’s old hands quaked as he packed the last of the cash at Johnny’s urging. It wasn’t a lot in truth- a thousand at most. Not enough for rent. Johnny wondered how people even survived on petty robberies, the idea of marking the store foreign to him.

“Doh stick old man!”

“Alright, just stay calm.”

As he grabbed the bag, Johnny took his eyes of the convex mirror mounted above the register. He didn’t notice Mr. Wong’s son approaching from behind with a bat. In a split second of violence the old man was ducking behind the counter and the customers were running for the door. With the first strike, Johnny’s arm went limp. The toy gun hit the terrazzo and broke into two pieces, each skidding in different directions. The plastic bag slid towards the exit. As more blows and curse words fell, Johnny willed himself to move. In a blur of blood and adrenaline, he grabbed the money and sprinted until his lungs burned.

Soon he was cradling his arm by the river near his daughter’s school. The spot was fairly secluded, and he had often gone there when seeking inspiration. As he sat catching his breath, he could hear the voices of playing children in the distance. School was over. His phone rang.

“Yes Miss Ragbeer, thanks so much for picking her up”

“Yes, that’s fine.”

“I’ll come get her in about an hour- running a little late.”

“Thanks again. Bye”

An hour would be enough to clean up and figure out how to hide his swollen and possibly broken arm. In the meantime, he rationalized that the money he now had could buy him another month. Enough time to sell some work online or on the streets and maybe secure another interview. Things were going to be alright.  He reached for the change of clothes he had hidden in some nearby bushes.

It was only then that he realized he had lost his mask.

The General Manager seemed more interested in whom he knew than in his portfolio. Johnny knew then, that this was a dead end. As he entered the apartment the patronizing interview replayed in his head. He slumped to the floor trying not to break down. 

“How the ass he go ask me dat!”

Angrily he ripped off his tie only to be bombarded by thoughts of the bailiff. The enforcer at least had a conscience that could be activated by a blue note- the last one in Johnny’s name.

 “I only started working this week. I need more time.”

“Not my problem boss”

Johnny looked into the big man’s very dark shades. He only saw his own reflection.

Please…”

He looked at the bailiff’s nametag.

“Please George, ah beggin’. Ease meh up.”

George thought about it for a long second. He scratched his face.

“Gimme something and we could talk after that.”

Johnny reached into his pocket and produced the bill. The bailiff scoffed but grabbed it anyway.

“Dat only givin’ yuh until Friday.”

Both conversations cycled through Johnny’s mind and he grew more and more frustrated with each pass. He thought about asking his family for help but he had relied on their charity enough over the last year. He couldn’t do it anymore. He could only take so much emasculation.  Besides which, the “real job” talk would come up again. He definitely didn’t want to endure that. The apartment began spinning around him. His artwork, remnants of the birthday party, Cherisse’s bike all became annoyances. On the millionth spin, his eyes settled on his collection of junk- a toy gun, a gorilla mask and the rest of the black spray paint he had used on his daughter’s gift suddenly stood out.

Cherisse lay on the floor next to her bike. She had her English textbook open and was working on some sentence correction. This was her preferred homework position for today and Johnny didn’t challenge her on it. Once she got it done, it was fine by him. He sat nearby on the old couch, attempting to extend his injured arm. It wasn’t as swollen now, but moving it was agonizing. As he reached his pain threshold, he hoped he would never have to tell his daughter what he had done. For now, a long sleeved jersey concealed his shame.

The Police had been around -but as of yet, nobody had knocked on Johnny’s door. It was an uneasy peace.  Was his face on camera? Were they just waiting for the right moment?  Was it some procedural glitch that had granted him a temporary reprieve? Whatever the case, he planned to avoid the grocery indefinitely. The trek to the one in the town would be inconvenient-but he was fine with that. That was better than the guilt and fear he felt every time he thought about what he did. It was all for naught as well- after everything he had been through, another payment was due in a week. George wasn’t as sympathetic as he thought.  The room began to spin again. Cherisse interrupted his daze.

“Daddy?”

“Yes baby”

“Is it cause and affect or cause and effect?”

Effect is correct.”

“Just making sure. Thanks.”

“No problem.”

She put her head down and continued with her work, while the fear of the inevitable continued to torment her father.

 

The Greens

The day came and I put on my shorts and a nice t-shirt and headed to the venue to meet the crew. As a novice, I didn’t expect to see the stampede I found at the gates. Channa Bottle Syndrome* came to mind as fifteen million (not actual figure) people tried to filter into the enclosed area via a few very narrow channels. Up to now I don’t know which line I was in but after a few minutes of claustrophobia I was suddenly inside. All around me were tents, buckets, coolers, women and- mud, lots and lots of mud. “Shouldn’t have worn those white sneakers, idiot”, I said to myself as the faces I was looking for came into view.  After greeting my “peeps”, we stood near the entrance for a while, waiting for the rest of the lime to show up- simple enough. I’d get to gape a little bit- nothing wrong with that.

My pleasant thought was interrupted by the severely intoxicated man that bumped into me. He was apologetic though, offering me a “bounce” in apology.  I was game; extending my closed fist to him. The touch was never made though. He started falling backward in what appeared to be slow motion. Soon he was on his back and his crew, all dressed in blue chose to laugh at him; one even gyrated on his face as he struggled to get up, you know- as (male) friends do. The most amazing part about it was that not a rice grain from the plate of pelau our inebriated partner was holding fell during all this.

The last of the crew soon arrived and the afternoon/evening turned into a session of walking around, watching soca acts, some good, some not so good- “tiefin” a wine or three on a female coworker and on other sexy women whom  I happened to know -or pretended to know in the crowd. There was not a note of pan though- as happens during pan related events.  As is customary during these things, I got separated from the group at one point- and finding my way back to where everyone was proved exceedingly difficult. It might have been because I am directionally challenged, OR because by then I had consumed a half of Black Label.

Unable to find anyone for a while, I decided to make my way to the portable toilets which were of course overflowing. I mean, why would an event with so many people gathered in a small area have toilets that were actually clean and functional? That would be ridiculous!  As I walked along the plywood stained with brownish liquid that led to the toilets, I remember thinking“this is not mud”. Quickly I made a retreat as the fragrance of the broth began to hit me hard.  I left use of the portables to the ladies behind me, unlucky for them, they had no choice- but as a man,the world is my urinal!

Soon I was in an area that was the border of “greenstown”. The plywood walls that kept the stormers out had been turned into a bathroom. I mean- it was bound to happen. With the police vehicles nearby and the large number of young men with spread legs present, there was a certain irony to the scene. As I pulled up to join the tinkle crew, I noticed one woman squatting between the police vehicles. For that moment, she was one of the boys…or something.

A short while later, I found my friends again- had some more drinks and some more wine (not the same thing). By then, I had decided that this would be my first and only greens experience.  From now on, bonding with my colleagues could happen by the bar after work.  “The Greens”, I’m afraid- was a toilet.

I’m glad they didn’t have a pool that year.

*Channa bottle syndrome: 

If you open a full bottle of channa and turn it upside down,none exit out because of the crowding that occurs as they try to  escape from the small hole.  This analogy was used in the (Ministry of Transportproduced?) 80s Trinidad TV series “Nice Folks on the Street” to describe how traffic jams are created by drivers illegally using the shoulder as a lane.

Smallman

The name might suggest a film that deconstructs the super hero genre that is currently dominating the Hollywood landscape but “Smallman” is actually a feature film, written by Anthony Blackburn that in some respects, deals with the inner workings of the criminal underclass and overclass that unfortunately contribute to the rotting Trinidad & Tobago landscape. The word landscape here does not refer to trees and beautiful beaches or anything of the sort, but rather to societal dysfunction. As any Trinidadian or Tobagonian (who doesn’t wear rose coloured glasses) will tell you,things in this would be Paradise aren’t that great right now – for many reasons. A spiraling crime rate and an arguably aloof and corrupt Government are amongst the challenges being faced by a Nation celebrating its 50th year of Independence in 2012.

With these things in mind, I treated the footage here in the manner you’ll see after the jump. The idea of paradise lost – or a paradise just out of reach, I thought, was important to make this scene work. This is only a test. Hopefully, Kevin, (who is the star of this scene and does an exceptional job IMHO), Anthony and myself will be able to generate interest and enough funding to actually do the entire film in the not too distant future. Special thanks to those who helped out with our humble project.

Check it out.

Freeze Frame or Sheep Don’t Wear Boots

Well it has been ages since I’ve posted here and I do apologize to my dozens of readers…OK I’m exaggerating, I only have three or so readers :( . Anyway, self belittling aside, I’ve been very busy over the last few months, navigating my way though the world of Advertising while simultaneously trying to undertake some film/video projects on the side.  At this point I’m not sure if I’m satisfied with my life balance but I can say that I’m in a better position than I was a year ago. 

But to end the Freeze Frame that this blog has become I have decided to begin posting here on a fairly regular basis starting now. The entries will continue in the same vein as they have before, featuring random musings, journals about my adventures in film-making and semi-autobiographical or purely fictional stories.  Additionally, I’ve started a second blog called “Sheep Don’t Wear Boots” which will feature a few samples of my Advertising work.  Maybe I’ll explain why I called it that in one of my posts here – in the meantime, check it out.

In other news, I tried my hand at some typography recently, doing a lyrics video for my friend Nandelle. The thing about this is that I accomplished all the effects using simply a word cloud capture and Adobe Premiere Pro CS5. It was a challenge I didn’t quite decide to give myself. It was simply that I didn’t have access to any motion graphics programs at the time. In any case, I think it came out pretty well. Coincidentally, the song is called Freeze Frame. Check it out after the jump.