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Monday, November 26, 2007

Feed me

I eat alot like most Dominicans. I dont eat crap, well black pudding and smoked snout (I have to tackle the pig thing sometime as a separate topic). I try hard to not eat imported chicken. The local butcher always complains that it doesnt matter because our local chickens are being fed on the same imported feed, but they still taste better. Ironic but true that free range chicken is rare here. Once you start to sell to make a buck you fall into the same cycle.

I dont buy any imported beef, very little pork, of course local fish only. I dont eat fastfood, unless fish from All Nations counts. I do get local rabbit (sorry Bugs).

The thing is Dominica has alot going for it but we import so much shit it isnt funny. And the other thing is that the price gouging is getting on my nerves. If I never set foot into a supermarket again I'd be a happy man.

My personal project is to setup around 4 acres of land for livestock and farming for a backup barter system and to get myself into a positive routine that isnt based around money like everything else I do. My only problem is that like everything else I do it will have to be micro managed. I know I will enjoy it. So I am goin to do it. And soon.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy Hour

Elections are coming in 2010 and we are approaching happy Hour. Its that time when politicians realise they need to start doing things, no matter how rushed and superficial to identify themselves as being productive and to have something to speak about on the platform.

The rep in the area I am from is now on a drive to create new drains / roads running through the area he is running in. Politicians in Dominica dont think much of the electorate and it may be that they are right. After all if your vote can be bought for a handout of plywood and fixing a road and a scholarship why should you inhabit a place of honor in the heads of those who are giving.

Not to mention the contractor is the father of a public official (conflict of interest is a foreign language here) and the last job he did, which was doing the sidewalks of Roseau was even more of a mess and explained away No problem . And I challenge anyone who has been to Roseau to say otherwise. But thats just how it is.

I grew up with these guys, and even went to school with many of them. In political parlance, its their time. Hence anything is possible. Meanwhile the population says and does nothing because everyone is tied into this game of 'dont vex the man at the head table'. What a world.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Virtual is Real

I have a friend. His nick is Southie. I dont know his real name and have never met him. Yet we exchange views all the time on everything from politics to economics, WI Cricket, to all kinds of wutlissness.

Last week my friend Southie found out his son and his sons gf were kidnapped and murdered in Jamaica. In fact he first communicated it on the forum were we all exchange views. Most of us, me included thought it was a joke until he pointed out the headline in the Jamaican newspapers. Another tragic story.

As the story unfolded it became clear that we interface with people all the time virtually and are so easily connected to them. Virtual is real. Sorry for your loss Southie.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fragile World

More and more people are starting to see the value of coming to an island like Dominica. The main reason is the lack of government interference in their life. Like it or not, in Dominica you could literally create your own domain, your own Kingdom. Especially if you have an independent income. Govt monitoring of the individual in places like the US and UK is at an utmost high. Big Brother lives. The violence levels in much of the developed world make you cringe and it gets worse as people get disconnected from the people around them. Dont know you, dont care about you.

We have water but our rivers are drying up faster than we are willing to admit (some rivers are literally gone and thats just in my lifetime), especially when you consider our rate of industrial develoipment is close to nil. In other words you can understand why a Trinidad and Barbados have depleted natural resources. Dominica ? Shouldnt happen. And if it does, then there is no reason to live here unless we become like everywhere else, and then there really will be no reason to live here.

I think I just made a case for protecting our environment.

I dont think unemployment, potholes and rampant cronyism should be a byproduct though.

Friday, November 16, 2007

CSME

What a joke this CSME thing is.

I watch with slight amusement as the traditional influences flow in one direction. What am I doing to change it ? Well I am trying. In our quest to regularise Outdoor Advertising across the region we have been tackling a range of people to get Outdoor ordinance setup from island to island.

In one country the meetings were going fine until I revealed I was from another island. Then it became a difficulty, and the sighs got deeper and the questions got more probing.

The deep complexes Caribbean people still have cannot be buried under Caribbean unity.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Chinese Check us

whilst I have the thought its best I run this as well. The Chinese announce they are injecting 500 million dollars into Chinese investors hands to explicitly invest into the Caribbean. Our local state radio station, government run and as intelligent a propaganda medium as a drunk man with a bullhorn proceeds to have this as a headline piece. The point of course is to show how smart we are for being with those 'rich and generous' Chinese.

The reality is very different. The Chinese are investing in China, and not in the Caribbean. Basically what happens is that the Chinese come in and invest and then proceed to suck the lifeblood out of local people whilst not actually investing much into the local economy.

Our economy is an advanced barter economy. Because of the size of our countries, money circulates in a commercial cycle. The Chinese immigrants are extremely hard working but they, scarecely employ a local soul, import low price poor quality goods from china and upsell locally, and spend as little as possible. They eat their own food, and do little immersion into the economies. Fine if you are an existing economy where you can just have a chinatown as part of your existing infrastructure. Not fine if your whole country could BECOME Chinatown.

I admire the work ethic and the strong community spirit. However we need to be wary of what happens next.

So it is

"So it is" is a way Caribbean people describe something which happens which shouldnt happen, but just does. In many ways it reflects a sense of powerlessness.

I travel around the region often and "So it is" happens alot. The main reason it does is because people generally have little confidence in themselves or in the way of the 'right'. Quite simply that they have seen the way of the wrong dominate and even prosper. In small Dominica, many of the current land owners literally stole their land from other people.The ironic thing is that people will clearly make the link to crookery and consider that a normality.

What we then have is a personality contest which judges not the morality of acts committed but of who did. 'So it is'.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

DIY

The Caribbean is a challenge for many types of business but for a creative shop on a small island, well you aint seen nothing yet. One of things that people try to understand is what differentiates x from y. Its after all understandable. However I am always amused by the fact that I will buy a Used Jap car from an import / export merchant and knowingly give them 30-40% margin at least for just being able to pick up the phone and the same person will find it incredibly difficult to pay a couple thousand US for creative branding to differentiate their offering in the market. They simply find it too much to pay because well, they can sell their used cars without doing it. Tough argument to beat.

The reason ad agencies worldwide are often hated is because they are big money relationships at the highest level, where commission on those relationships mean more than the ideas and work that grows business. The fact that you have a little known agency called Zimmerman, in Florida, with 2 billion dollars in billings alone (and they really are low profile), gives you an idea of whats possible.

However here, the level of respect for ideas (musicians and artists will tell you the same thing) is at an alltime low. We really do work for our coin here because in the end, everyone can say 'f it' and do it themselves. And guess what, ask the question "so who thinks they can do the marketing job' in any company and all hands go up.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Design at any cost

In the ad agency business you have to be very aware of competition. But sometimes it gets ridiculous.

The thing is that you have to make a concious decision not to be competing with people whose modus operandi is to use the suspicion of Caribbean people towards the value of creative work, to their favour.

Its an interesting phenomenon. Unfortunately what it means is that many businesses end up making no money because they price themselves out of the business. Its already come to pass in video production, and graphic design seems to be heading that way. The worst part is that standards of course are extremely low. Its a challenge you really dont want to take on. Of course ad agency work is really scarcely dependent on graphic design. Its a very small part of what we do. But its the low hanging fruit in the business. Everyone feels they can draw a pretty picture, and make a living doing it. More power to them.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

of Dogs and Black men

I have been looking at the Michael Vick saga in the US. I have two giant breed Caucasian Ovcharka dogs which I love of course. Vick was foolish and dog fighting is cruel. Even in lil Dominica we have dog fighting and even local police officers know about it as well. However the Caribbean mentality to animal cruelty is skewed as far in one direction as the US supposedly is in the other.

However, the destruction of Vicks career and the media attention it has gained is an eye opener. Over the last few weeks we have seen Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan stopped and charged on DUI, and of course Lohan was also in possession of cocaine. needless to say, DUI is serious given the amount of alcohol related accidents there are in the US. The cocaine possession is again big. No doubt a black man with cocaine AND DUI is looking at little options but jail. For those two stars the media attention is more about airtime than jailtime.

What the Michael Vick case has done is to show the rest of the world where black people lie in the pecking order of things in the US. Whether you are an animal rights fan or not, you must admit it is strange for other high profile people to walk away from these cases whilst Vick 'burns'. And Vick, as an extremely rich young black man, has means way beyond most avarege people. Well, and the liability of being dotish.

The rodeo business in the US is big business but it is nothing other than sanctioned cruelty. However the participants are mainly white and so is the hooting and hollering audience. No problemo then.

It took a set of cruelly treated dogs to remind the rest of the world what a hypocritical society AMerica is, but then again thats how it goes.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bid Closed

Dominica like many ACP countries is a beneficiary of EU funding. Its also the beneficiary of EU sponsored corruption. I say corruption because any system which is run by the criteria of lowest price is open to corruption in small Caribbean countries where everyone has a friend on the inside. The state of EU projects is a reflection of the selection process.

The creative agency I am part of is no longer bidding for any EU jobs. The problem with these bids is that the competent is often used as a stalking horse for incompetent people to be leaked your info, and then to simply underprice your offering. This is not some vacuous accusation. It happens. And the basic fact is we dont pitch in the open market based on price so its pointless. The last bid process had them stipulating a press sheet size larger than any press available in the Caribbean. Luckily we corrected them since the only tendering parties were all Caribbean presses :-)

One real ironic situation was that our national investment body, the now defunct NDC fought hard to make ACP countries ineligible for the rebranding of the Dominican identity (meaning FSI and no Caribbean agency could partake). Defy the Everyday from US agency GreenTeam (who actually were second in the bidding process, but won through because of pricing issues), was the result. Can you imagine that. The actual creative signature is here Dominica HomePage.

As the London Olympics proved, winning the bid isnt the hard part. Producing is. Whilst we wont pass comment on Dominica's rebrand, the Olympics logo for 2012 (as close to the swastika as you can get) is horrible, especially considering it cost 800k GBP to produce.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A sad state

Whether you believe in native rights or not, the state of the native people in Dominica is sad. Like the Aboriginals in Australia the state of our kalinago people is nothing to be proud about. They are the poorest of the poor, and in the social order of things that is as low as it gets.

Passing through the Carib reserve (there is no PC way to say it, they have their own reserve 'territory') you get to see an environment which just screams 'leave'. There is nothing for the average young person to do, the assimilation in mainstream Dominica is still difficult because of an inbuilt bias towards them, especially ironic given the chain of racism black people have had to shake off.

The level of abuse of young Kalinago women is something else as well, a byproduct of poverty meeting limited ambition. The amount of Carib children sent off into adoption or to work and live with some benefactor in the city who can do what they want with them is of course another situation.

They have so much to offer Dominica, yet Dominica cannot see fit to help elevate the Kalinago. The Government reflects the general populace with a disregard for them except when their votes are needed. In the meantime we do not see how this reflects on ourselves.

The Carib Chief can be over the top but he is technically correct when he refers to the neglect of the Kalinago people, even while we try to wrap their identity into the brand that is Dominica. Its not fair. We are working on a client communications project which actually ties in Kalinago products so hopefully we will give them some well needed support.

Of course many believe having their own plot of land to subsist on as a community is enough to be grateful for. Maybe those who think deep and far back can see the irony.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Perspective

Been watching the hype on the Iphone online. As a creative agency we have a fair share of Macs and I have an IMac G5 at home. I also have my fair share of toys like a Sony PSP, etc.

I like tech toys and cars like every brainwashed boy child. When I lived in the UK I used to part exchange my car every other year (its just a car, people). However to do the same in the Caribbean seems strange.

Maybe I am not describing it properly but the idea is that this is a different world, yet it isnt. As our social networks break down who wants to be stuck at home with a shitty Internet connection which never gives the bandwidth you pay for (and overpriced) and a budget phone. Well thats what the majority of people in our region are left with.

It used to be fun to observe that we didnt need those gadgets and the new model cars and other superficial things, because well...we had the Caribbean, we knew what real life and fun was about. Now ? With a society which is starting to do all the same things that drive the first worlders indoors I am not so sure. Well...when you think of it.

Anyway, Apple made a mistake imo. At&t ? Thats like giving a souped up athlete some clogs to run in.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Shot sah

West Indian cricket is a sore topic for me. I have gone through every ritual possible to try to ensure the mediocre could breathe easier. In the end though we know why WI are losing. We are just not good enough. I say we because the failure of WI cricket is a failure of Caribbean society.

Years ago a friend of mine in 1998 told a group of us a story about West Indian players she accompanied to dinner in South Africa not being able to use cutlery properly. Its not an unusual situation.

Most West Indian cricket 'fans' dont actually go to the first class games nor do they patronise the cricketers in their early years. So the average West Indian cricketer rightly sees no connection between the majority of fans and themselves. They are playing for an unassisted buck all the way from u15 cricket to the senior level playing to the applause of a hardy few and the neighborhood goats and sheep.

Then many of the Caribbean fans who are cussing their lack of committment, spend most of their day stupsing their way through work, with scant loyalty for country, employer or anything else for that matter.

Life is so logical eh.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

All that Glitters...

Here comes OffShore Payout. Dominica is a great place for offshore ummm investors. A government which isnt exactly savvy, a population which views anything with dollar signs attached as the metaphorical economic savior, and of course our great ability to move on from disaster to disaster without fingering anyone for the crime.

Offshore scams work because of greed. Greed on the part of the people who host and run them. And greed from investors who want quick cash. As such its kind of difficult feeling sorry for any party in this whole mess.

It is obvious that naivety combined with greed is a lethal combination. However the interesting thing about offshorepayout is that even as a locally registered IBC it is actually offering the same 'deal' to Dominicans. This changes the picture a little bit (Just a lil...follow me here). Its one thing if your govt is turning a blind eye to fleecing other people of the world. Its another if they dont mind jooking you, the people who elected them and who at least they should be working 'for', out of your cash too.

The fact that the Grenadian PM is being sued by offshore investors Hall of Shame shouldnt escape anyone. A government which enables theft, is criminal too.

The media raised the story based on a leak from someone posting on News Dominica forum. Otherwise, this thing would have been launched without a whisper. There is much more to this story of course, but you get the picture.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A question of faith

Religion scares me. In fact maybe its more accurate to say that the religious scare me. There is no superior morality to be engaged from believing in God. A mostly fundamentally religious Caribbean has no problem screwing, drinking and killing its way to the top of all the worlds 'bad' statistics. And neither is it restricted to us. Most fundamentally religious countries show a huge contradiction between what is supposedly believed and practised. The example as I have mentioned elsewhere of JAmaica having the most per capita churches and the third highest per capita murder rate in the world fits into this.

Incidentally, mostly secular states, like the Scandinavians, have much less violent, more egalitarian societies. Of course they will all burn in hell so all that is pretty pointless on their part.

The result though for the Caribbean and a small place like Dominica is a resigned fatalism 'quitter pour Bondieu' (leave it for God), to deal with problems that require thought and decisive action. Its an intellectual laziness. And it leaves our society open to crooks and charlatans (ok... politicians) whose only redeeming feature is their protestations about how much they believe in God. people throw their hands up and assume the creator will sort it out in the next round.

I am not an atheist. I am still learning about my own belief system. But it is an odd situation which is actually crippling the mindsets of people who least need it.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Just a lil bit more

I am no 'development' groupie. But so many of the back to earthers miss the point. A decent road network isnt much. A decent housing infrastructure islandwide isnt much either. We have the odd combination of shitty infrastructure and government officials driving round in first world limos and cars, for achieving nowt.

I look at Dominica not through the eyes of someone tired of 'big' countries. I look at it as a country trying to retain its citizens. And the state of the country doesnt inspire patriotism. It promotes flight.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Dont Cry for me

Just returned from the IN Network convention in Argentina. Its both energising and at the same time a reality check. There is so much work to be done for agencies like ours. We are slaves to our markets and the commercial activity in the Caribbean needs to grow so that we too can grow.

Everything is about relationships and I believe we are on the right track, even from our little unimportant cubbyhole in Dominica.

Big things will happen very soon.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The horse has bolted

Its not with glee that I look at the examination of the Caribbean by the world during this World Cup. Our cricket is not the issue. Most West Indies fans are brutally realistic about our chances, except when we are drinking. Hopefully this WC will help to refocus ourselves on things that are bigger than cricket and yet which link back into our cricket.

Unfortunately it may be too late. The many people who expected this to be a windfall with Caribbean vendors gouging an unsuspecting tourist population (with the ICC's backing and goodwill of course), are now looking at running home to count their losses.

Meanwhile countries with real problems at even spending on sports in school have constructed stadiums and spent money which can all be traced to poor planning and greed. The opposition parties regionally must be licking their chops.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Things you notice

I have been reading the old fan the flame articles from tim hector (who died some years ago) and though I dont believe in his political ideology in the main what Hector has said is very very poignant.

The Caribbean hasnt actually developed if you look very deep. There are no culprits. Only victims. The politicians are limited in intellect and morality, the old money is limited since they did not become rich through excellence but because of everyone elses mediocrity and now, the average person in the street would rather give a pint of their own blood than to see one of their own transcend it all. So in the end, plenty happens, but nothing is happening.

I now get a better understanding of why VS Naipaul was so caustic about the Caribbean being someone who saw it first hand himself.

Ignorance cannot be bliss. Its just less tiring.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Eco Friendly Oil refinery

Great news ! Dominica is about to have the worlds first eco friendly oil refinery. The details are not clear but then again they dont need to be. You see we had elections two years ago and we are a democracy so we will just have to trust Skerro and crew on this one. The most eco friendly fact is that it will bring 300 jobs. Take that you environmentalists!

The venezuelans are of course managing the facility and paying for it, and by a happy coincidence they are also doing the Environmental Impact Assessment. Early reports indicate that they foresee no problems whatsoever. Arent we lucky to have such nice friends.

I wonder when we will officially hand over Bird Island and persuade the rest of the OECS to abandon this silly struggle against venezuela for our waters (ts really theirs). Maybe after our green oil refinery is done ?

Cynicism lives.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Chavez and Oil

Was in Dominica, pushing the Axis of Poor Peoples.

Chavez is interesting. First for a would be fan of global collaboration, not being able to even speak English is always something I find funny (almost worth a cartoon). At least show your superiority over the American infidels by being multilingual.

Secondly, the 'people' movement in his country and in Cuba is very seductive for politicians looking for a ready made formula for long reigns. Except it has a catch.

The formula is to engage support of poor people by giving them as much 'free' as you can. Free health care, free housing, free education. However that can only exist as long as they are poor. Result. Your poor population stays loyal to you through elections and indeed they stay poor throughout. If by any coincidence they do get affluent, its usually because they migrated away, and then they become grateful financiers to the formula (if they didnt have to leave through the back door that is). And of course the education is canned.

The catch is that you have to have a macro economy ala oil to fund the whole 'poor is good' campaign. After all, to convince people that it is beneficial to be poor with no aspirations to be rich (cause then you become a fat cat working against the state), you need plenty dollars to spend to get that freeness going.

What Chavez is doing is mixing up messages. George Bush has made disliking America almost fashionable. The social inequality of the world is there to see and it is driven by a selfish agenda which Chavez is correct on. However the socialist agenda is no better (even when it is backed up by voting). Domination by a few in a party hierarchy which assumes that most people only need the basics to be happy, is not sustainable either. The pursuit of affluence is natural and is what has driven human development from day one. The grail that is adopted is still one of control. Whether we prefer our economies and our lives to be controlled by Chavez agenda rather than the G8 one is probably the most important question we have to ask ourselves.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Fitness

Been tryin to get myself back into shape. I am pretty decent but now I am doing basketball every morning for 2 hrs from 5:30.

Not having played in a while my body feels like its been put through a rack but i am surprised at my ability level though not by my lack of fitness. I am blowing like a horse pulling a plough every 30 minutes. Of course I have gotten better over the last couple weeks but my fitness is still pretty bad.

If I consider myself to be better off physically than the average person who never exercises, then our population is in real trouble.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Who can you look up to ?

In his blog Brands of the Year Greg Hoyos tries to feature the brands of the year in the Caribbean. With all fairness to Mr Hoyos he is left to pick at a slim group and has come up with a list that is very shaky. The reason is quite understandable. It really isnt about advertising, its about substance. There are no centers of excellence in Caribbean business. Caribbean writers have raised the point that this is why we were so fanatical about our cricket. It was actually the sole center of excellence with its home and roots in the Caribbean (though you could argue that Kerry Packer and country cricket forged it and we had little to do with creating that steel).

This in my opinion creates a huge opportunity in 2007. My commentary is that there isnt any company in the Caribbean which has created a paradigm for business excellence and therefore is able to create a brand which people can look up to. Some people may feel shortchanged by this but it also feeds back into our political leadership and social development as nation states. We are struggling for icons and because of this even awards and reviews are lowering their standards to scrape the floor for 'winners'.