Saturday, August 03, 2002

Circular No 38

Newsletter for past alumni of The Abbey School, Mt. St. Benedict, Trinidad and Tobago, W.I.
Caracas, 3 of August 2002. Circular No.38
Dear Friends,
A few lines from Robert Lee on his memories and his actual work for the young.

Dear Cheche,
Welcome to the Old boys network. I am pleased to hear that you have accomplished a great deal in life as a lawyer and that you have a wonderful family including grand children. I do remember you, sort of curly sandy colour blond hair well built guy. Probably grey at this time.
Laugh laugh..
You were a senior at the time. I believe the intent of this website is to put former colleagues in touch with each other, some reminiscing and if a business opportunity arises it's a bonus.
What ever happened with Leoni? His father was the president of Venezuela. I had the most memorable birthday, 30/01/53, which is the same day as Leoni´s. I would quietly enjoy this day as the attention went to him, I avoided the infamous Mount tradition on your birthday "sampat". The 747 that would bring the chefs and food from Venezuela! Then there was Cantores whose father would circle the Mount with his plane before landing at Piarco
On a personal note, I am the international manager of a Factoring company in Toronto, Canada. I am blessed with having a career that has allowed me to travel to some of the most exciting countries around the world.
I recently accepted a nomination to the education committee of Factors Chain International,,  160 banks and financial companies in 59 countries. Our first task was to write a manual on running a factoring company in the early stages. We are also charged with the duty of, course material, setting the questions for a correspondence course. We are trying to bring Factoring to Venezuela, I believe that the banking infrastructure is not ready. There is some interest in Venezuela.
Anyways, the real passion of my life is baseball. I am involved with amateur baseball and it consumes 5 days a week of life.,  I take my hat off to you for your commitment to running. New York marathon 2X incredible!
If I get a chance to take some time off later this year I might just head down to Puerto Piritu. My in-laws own a condo in Puerto Piritu.
Robert Lee
As for the first few circulars, I am reconstructing them. You would not believe it, I am missing circular No.13 from the set, it was overwritten when I tried to place them in order. So please any one out there who has circular No. 13 please send me a copy!!!!.
Continuing the Who is Where, thanks to Roger Henderson:
27. Richard and Stephen Webster are in Trinidad.
To my friends in TT, specially those that have answered my last two circulars where I mentioned my upcoming visit to TT. Thank you for your support and hope to see you soon.
The date has been set, Wednesday 14 of August I arrive at Pier No.1, with my daughter Viki, 13 years old, after a boat trip from Guiria. I shall be staying at a friends home, Mr. Carl Vaughan. There my telephone number there would be 637.4487.
I hope to be able to meet some of my classmates and you, those that have kept up with my effort to muster the alumni. Please leave a message at Carl Vaughan, so I may call you back.
God Bless
Listado: C38.xls
Photo: John 03 Gioannetti
8 Queen´s Park Savannah
Column: 020714 wvb Hanging from the family tree
Hanging from the family tree

Sunday, July 14, 2002
TO begin with, an erratum. In last week's column, 'Following the Money', I thought I had written - and my computer confirmed I had - the phrase 'shot its bolt', which phrase appeared in print, however, as 'shut its bolt': clearly the doing of a too-assiduous proofreader, 'correcting' where no error was.
It reminded me: in my very first months as a trainee journalist in Trinidad, back when the world was young, what I thought was a clever application of a phrase from Shakespeare's MacBeth, 'in one fell swoop' - the speaker is MacDuff, the phrase likens MacBeth's killing of MacDuff's children to a hawk crashing down from the sky upon its prey, but in MacBeth's case somehow managing to kill all of MacDuff's children 'in one fell swoop' ('fell' deriving from the Latin word for felon, and meaning villainous or deadly in Elizabethan English) - was trenchantly 'corrected' to 'in one full swoop'.
Similarly, the expression 'shot its bolt' (which, I have since discovered, isn't generally familiar to Jamaicans, though in moderately widespread use elsewhere in the English-speaking world) refers to the short thick arrow, or bolt, shot from a medieval crossbow, and it's meaning is fairly rendered today by the related expression, 'has already taken his/her/its best shot'. The sentence in my column, therefore, should have read: '...all the available evidence suggests that Al-Qaeda has shot its bolt for the time being.' 'Shut its bolt', by contrast, suggests 'closing up shop': something quite different.
While on the subject of last Sunday's column, I'm glad to see that my concluding recommendation was promptly acted upon. My paragraph read: 'The loud threats emanating from Washington last week that US forces will be withdrawn from their 'peacekeeping' roles around the world unless exempted from the jurisdiction of the newly-established International Criminal Court are the threats of a bully and a coward, and the international community should call Washington's bluff.' Last Thursday, a story by Associated Press writer Edith Lederer headlined 'US Backs Down From Immunity Demand' read in part:
'The United States on Wednesday backed off from its demand for permanent immunity for US peacekeepers from the new war crimes tribunal, proposing instead a ban on any investigation of its peacekeepers for a year. In the face of intense criticism from countries around the world, including close allies, US Ambassador John Negroponte circulated the new proposal to the UN Security Council...
'At the open council meeting, ambassadors from nearly 40 countries criticised the US demand for immunity, saying it would affect peacekeeping and stability from the Balkans to Africa...Canada's UN Ambassador Paul Heinbecker warned that the United States was putting the credibility of the Security Council, the legality of international treaties, and the principle that all people are equal and accountable before the law at stake.'
And so, dearly beloved, to our theme for this Sunday, provoked by the following news item from AP:
'In what may be the most startling fossil find in decades, scientists in central Africa say they have unearthed the oldest trace of a pre-human ancestor: a remarkably intact skull of an apelike species that walked upright as far back as seven million years ago. The thick-browed, flat-faced skull was found in Chad, 1,500 miles west of pre-human discoveries in east Africa.'
Now, it goes without saying - or it should - that this column is no Christian fundamentalist platform doggedly pushing an infantile Creationism. Even if it isn't the whole truth, Darwinian evolution is manifestly a large part of the truth of how we - and all life - got where we and it are today; and my own reservations about it stop well short of disowning that fact. In the main, however, those reservations are:
1. *There are species, eg, a kind of beetle, that had to go through several maladaptive mutations before the sum of those mutations proved selective. What are the odds of that happening in a 'survival of the fittest' world, I ask myself.
2. *In the evolution of some species there appears to be a drive towards aesthetic expression which occurs despite being maladaptive. It's hard to explain the extraordinary and subtle visual glory of a peacock's fan as simply a sexual display (if that's all it is, the peahen must be the world's greatest art critic!). And a certain moth, eg, first reproduced two big round 'eyes' on its wings - which was fine, in that by suggesting eternal vigilance it may be presumed to have discouraged predators; except that it then went further and spoiled the effect by replicating them: adorning itself, for symmetry's sake, with four 'eyes', which rather ruined the camouflage. What principle was at play there?
3. It sometimes seems that there's a considerable mimetic or copycat 'instinct' at work in evolution. And while this can generally be explained by the selective value of camouflage, in particular instances it seems insufficient. The moth that replicates on each wing a waterdrop so realistic that the line that crosses it is 'refracted', exactly as it would be if it were a stick in water, smacks of an inutile but finical perfectionism.
4. The generally accepted graph of human evolution - barely inclining upward for five million years (actually, since last week, seven million), and then, since the Pleistocene, shooting straight up to arrive at, ta-dah! you and me, in our sudden, lonely and hubristic splendour - that graph seems to seriously under-imagine just how long seven million years are, and how many times the human story could have been told and retold, and retold and retold, in that time. In particular, we who, uniquely in primates, replaced bodily hair with subcutaneous fat; who, again uniquely, developed nose bridges (to keep water from forcing itself down our nostrils while swimming) and, in the female, long hair (for the young to hold on to in the water); whose females, again uniquely, developed breasts and fatty hips (for extra insulation of, respectively, their milk and foetuses in the cold medium of water); who retain vestigial webs between our fingers; whose newborn can swim instinctively (though they soon lose the ability); who have a primordial terror of sharks, rivalling our terror of snakes (or, in the case of Jamaican women, lizards); whose hair on our back is hydrodynamically shaped; and who, above all else, still exhibit an inconsolable need to 'go to the beach', even if, as in temperate countries, all we do there is sit in our cars and stare nostalgically at the sea - where, in the palaeontologists' graph of the ascent of man, is our epoch as seashore-dwelling, quasi-aquatic mammals?
5. Finally - and this may well be dismissed as mystical mumbo-jumbo - there seems to be an exuberance in nature, an espousing of riotous colours and intricate forms for their own sake, which leads to the sensation that life is good, and not merely a dour and violent struggle for survival.
And now I see that, with that last observation, I have described the Jamaican paradox. The reality, which is that life in Jamaica in our time is generally nasty and brutish - even when not short - is perfectly counterpoised by an irrational belief that life is good; and that belief, far from being a mere nationalistic lash, is expressed from the very centre of your Jamaican.
Just yesterday I passed a young woman walking on the pavement of Barbican Square. She was from that socioeconomic class where she must have known deprivation of one kind or another since birth, and the odds are she will also have seen violent death close up and personal at least once while still a child. Her present situation cannot be easy, and her prospects (weighed down herself in a few years time by several children and different baby-fathers) must be considerably worse.
And yet, in her expression, in the way she held her head, and in the trenchant exuberance of her stride (what in Trinidad would be referred to as 'flingin' de ting!') I saw, writ large, the bone-deep philosophical conclusion that life was good. Like the coat of the ocelot, declaring through its pure resplendence that life is good, is a festive thing, a carnival - no matter how the creature itself stalks and rends its prey, and snarls inconsolably at the moon.

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