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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Universal Language


Dear Editor

I am forced to write to correct a misconception some people might have got from reading the article, Why We Hate Steel Band Music published in The Daily Observer. Someone suggested to me that I was promoting classical music as being superior to other types of music, including our own calypso.

Nothing could be further from the truth. A lot of classical music, like a lot of any type of music, is plan rubbish to my ears. The point I was trying to make was simply that one type of music can inform another. A lot of classical music was commissioned by kings and persons of high office. This did not start in Europe. It started in Africa. So if we borrow from classical music we are simply taking back what we started.

Here is a simple example of how music and art carry universal themes. I once heard a provocative, some would even say erotic, rendition of music called Nights in the Garden of Spain by the Spanish composer, Manuel de Falla. Anyone could easily imagine from listening to the music, all of the nocturnal goings on in the garden, even though the composer was known to be a most pious man.

A few years later, I read a poem by Nobel Laureate, Derek Walcott, called Nights in the Garden of Port of Spain. It was the poetry equivalent of The Mighty Sparrow’s Jean and Dinah and the same nocturnal goings on that Manuel de Falla wrote into his classical music.

We are not as different as some of us like to think, we just look, talk and do a few things differently.

Dr. Lester CN Simon

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

School Daze


Dear Editor

This is an open letter to the most honorable prime minister, informing him that many of us would forego all the presents for Christmas, including the dollar barrel, if the government would work with us to usher in a fundamental and revolutionary change in education in 2008.

We have written, we have spoken, we have cursed and we have prayed about the unacceptable level of crime and about the equally unacceptable level of disinterestedness and hopelessness amongst our youths, particularly our school boys. When almost everything else has been tried and failure continues to stalk us, we have to consider structure or form to understand why our operations and results are so dysfunctional.

We are proposing a drastic reduction in the size and function of the Ministry of Education along with the decentralization of its functions to allow for the autonomous running of secondary schools. These schools should be run by boards comprising members of the community. Board membership should comprise people living and working within as well as without the environs of the school including parents and guardians of school children.

We need to feel and experience a more intimate sense of ownership of the elements of our development. Decentralizing the running of secondary schools will put communities in charge of crucial aspects of education and help to forge the necessary community spirit and expertise that running a school demands. Those who point to the fact that many parents do not attend PTA meetings should reflect on the proverbial chicken and egg question. People are not stupid. People first means education First.

We must stop the antiquated and unintelligent practice of promoting excellent teachers by moving them from schools to desk jobs in the Ministry of Education. This underscores the fact that were school boards in place and autonomous, the best teachers with the best results would have got the best job in the first place, attracted the best pay and remained in the best jobs doing what they love best. To those who will charge us with elitism, our response is as simple as the mind of an uneducated school child (an oxymoron): In times like these, we have to start at the top in order to show others where to go. That is why we are writing to you, Sir.

Who are we?
Dr. Lester CN Simon and a posse of potential thieves, thugs, vagabonds, duncy-head, crack-head, homicidal, suicidal, misguided, lonely and walking-jumbie youths in waiting.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Too Much Noise At My Head


Dr. Lester CN Simon

One of these days, someone will say there are a lot of people who hate steel band music. He has been holding back the bad news because he knows from personal experience that there are many types of music some people dislike; like country and western, or classical music. The keeper of this awful secret will let out the bad news because steel band music is not a musical genre. Steel pans are musical instruments. All genres of music can be played on the steel pan. The precise problem is that many people, including many West Indians, feel that music played on steel pans is nothing but a clutter of noise. He thinks he knows why.

It was round about 1966 when he consciously decided that classical music was the worse thing in the world and unworthy of his attention. He had recently acquired his first saxophone (from a cousin who introduced Andy Narell to steel pan). It came with a book of classical sounding music, which was as foreign to him and as distant from him as the premier moon landing a few years later.

Over 10 years later, he embarked on a journey to understand country and western and classical music. He was undertaking a music course and trying to come to grips with music theory and practice in all its forms. His epiphany came via the response to an interviewer who condescendingly suggested to a great jazz player that some musician played jazz like folk music. Charles Mingus responded that all music was folk music because horses don’t sing. Country and western music and calypso became thematically identical.

His about turn around classical music might lead to a similar turn for those who despise steel pan music. The vexing conclusion is that the main reason for your dislike of steel pan music lies primarily not with you but in a fundamental problem with many, but thankfully not all, steel pan music arrangers and players.

Despite becoming aware of music theory, he made a deliberate effort when he started to listen to classical music, to listen as he would look at a movie for the first time. Relax and see if he enjoyed it; if it made sense. To this end, he stayed away initially from the noise of the classical music symphonies. He started with the concertos, music surrounding a particular instrument. Loving the sound of the cello, he listened to many cello concertos. Fortuitously, the first one was Dvorak’s with the French cellist, Paul Tortelier. He swore he heard Tortelier played a run of notes in the allegro that was like dancing to calypso music.

Unfortunately, there is no equivalent of a cello pan or tenor pan concerto in steel band music. He thinks we need it. He does not refer to the cello pan playing a classical concerto. We need composers to write cello pan concertos for calypso music not classical music. This format will force the pan players to pay attention to the single most important thing that underlies the dislike for steel pan music by many West Indians.

His next stop was the classical string quartet. Here, he made a simple but amazing discovery. All four instruments of the string quartet have a similar timbre or sonority even though they have different ranges or pitches. The key to good string quartet playing is the interplay between the instruments so as to effect a musical conversation. Any composer, arranger or player of classical music string quartet or jazz saxophone quartet or steel pan quartet must understand that without this interplay and conversation, the result is nothing but cheap strings, noisy sounding brass and a cacophony of tinkling cymbals.

In steel pan music, we have a format near enough to the equivalent of the string quartet. It is the five-a-side format made popular by Moods of Pan. It comprises 4 pan players and a drummer. As he listened to Moods of Pan this year, he felt they should drop the drummer. We do need a drummer in the full steel orchestra with close to or over one hundred players. Steel pan music is in dire need of a steel pan quartet without the drummer, leaving the single tenor, the pair of double second pans, the triple guitar pans and the bass.

Such a naked steel pan quartet will force the arrangers and composers to rely on the interplay and the conversation that is at the heart of not just good pan music, but define the very soul of the only pan music worth listening to, particularly because of the nature of steel pans. This lack of interplay and conversation, leaving you with cluttering noises, is highlighted a hundred fold when you hear the full steel pan orchestra, unless you are lucky enough to hear the works of a master arranger. And they are few and far between.

Whilst mastering the interplay and the conversation, we must continue research into materials for the steel pan and the properties of the rubber for the pan sticks. If you think steel pan music is loud and noisy, ask some veteran steel band players if it is loud and noisy. Unfortunately, they would either say it certainly is not, or they would just look at you quizzically: Because they are deaf, or as we say here, “diff”, or “hard a hearing”. The ENT surgeon knows this. There is a lot of work to do to realize the potential of the steel pan.

Now, when he listens to some classical music symphonies or a classical orchestral playing Jerusalem by Parry, a quintessential English song, he can recall with emotional and motional quiver the days when his primary school teacher took them outside the concrete, multi-classroom jungle and sat them down on the grass. It was there that musical interplay and conversation defined what singing was all about.

To borrow a mixed metaphor from Professor Rex Nettleford, our steel pan musicians must harness and release the subterranean and submarine motifs of our ancestral folks to enrich our music with more interplay and conversation. In so doing they will help to remove the dislike for steel band music and summon the love and familiarity of all forms of our folk music, including the calypso of singing horses.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Christmas Play

A One Act Christmas Play
Dr. Lester CN Simon

Scene: The reception area of a small hotel in Antigua.

Jonathan: Joseph, I know it’s none of my business but I think you should do a paternity test on the child.
Joseph: There is no point in doing a paternity test. I know the child is not mine, in one way. But in another way, the child belongs to me and to all of us.
Jonathan: Yea right. So; since the child belongs to all of us, all of us want to know who is the real father.
Joseph: I know who is the real father and you know who is the real father.
Jonathan: Yes, but if you do the paternity test we can see what the DNA of the real father looks like. I made a call to the lab and they said that you and the child can do the test. The mother does not have to take the test since it is the father we are concerned about.
Joseph: We?
Jonathan: Yes, we. You said the child belongs to all of us.

Another worker enters.

Mizpah: Good afternoon. I see you two are busy chatting away as usual. Might I remind you that we are here to work? Look at how untidy the place looks. The reception area must be immaculate. It is the first place where the visitors stop.
Jonathan: That’s the very same thing we were discussing, Mizpah: The conception of immaculate reception; or is it the reception of immaculate….
Mizpah: Jonathan. I think you should leave Joseph alone and mind your own business.
Jonathan: But Joseph said it is everybody’s business; just like tourism.
Mizpah: Yes, and knowing your big, long mouth, the beach is just the beginning too.
Jonathan: Precisely. Imagine how many tourists we would get if the child not just walked on the beach but walked on water and came to one of our celebrity weddings and turned water into wine.
Mizpah: Pity you will not come forth after you drop down dead from all this foolish, ungodly talk.
Jonathan: What’s so wrong about Joseph and the child doing the test? The mother doesn’t have to know.
Mizpah: The mother is the legal guardian of the child. The lab cannot legally and ethically do the test without her consent.
Jonathan: That’s even better. All three of them can do the test. We will find out who the father is and who is the mother. You know what that means Joseph?
Joseph: Since you are the expert and you will tell me anyhow, tell me.
Jonathan: We might just find out that no DNA at all came from the mother. If none of the DNA in the child came from the mother it means that the entire DNA of the child must have come from the real father.
Mizpah: That would mean that the real father exists as male and female. Looking at such a DNA test result would be like looking into the very soul of....……I can’t even think about it. Drop the whole argument. Nobody is going to harass the young mother to consent to any DNA test. She has had enough to bear already.
Jonathan: I notice whenever arguments come up about man and woman business, you Mizpah are always defending women. I have to start watching you day and night.
Mizpah: Start watching me? I look like your daughter? Listen, Jonathan. Mind I don’t put my tongue on you.
Jonathan: Please Mizpah. Don’t threaten me. I am not one of your female friends. All I am saying is that good King Wenceslas is not the only one looking out. Do you hear what I hear? Your chestnuts are roasting on an open fire.
Joseph: This thing has gone too far; much too far.
Mizpah: Well talk to your friend Joseph. I work here during the day. Only shepherds watch their flocks by night; so tell Jonathan to just drop me at the foot of the cross.
Jonathan: It’s just a joke. Let’s get back to work.
Mizpah: You insult me and then call it a joke? Joseph; please talk to your friend, otherwise when I am done with him, he will want more than two front teeth for Christmas. I don’t understand you men. Every time women defend each another, it’s one big argument about power and sexuality. All I am saying is to let the young mother rest. She carried so much for so many. Nobody is doing any DNA test for paternity, maternity, fraternity or anything else. Nobody. Tell him Joseph.

After an awkward moment of silence.

Mizpah: If women don’t look out for each other, who will? My name, Mizpah, means watchtower. You read in Genesis that God said, “Let us make man in our image”. What do you think “us” and “our” mean? They must mean male and female. And yet, throughout the ages, the role of women, from biblical times to now, has been played down. Deliberately. Do you know there is a Gospel of Mary and that there are other Gnostic Gospels? Do you know there was a big, historical quarrel between Christians, with some calling themselves orthodox and branding other Christians as heretics? There was a deliberate attempt to wipe out virtually all the feminine imagery of God from orthodox Christian tradition, as the brilliant historian, Dr. Elaine Pagels noted. The revered Gnostic texts were omitted from the selected, canonical collection called the New Testament. Do you know that?
Jonathan: All I know is that Nietzsche, the philosopher, wrote that there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross.
Mizpah: And who brought him into this world? And who was there to the very earthly end at the foot of the cross with him?
Joseph: Enough. Let the whole thing rest. Please. All I have to say to you Mizpah and to you Jonathan is simply this: Mary Christmas. Mary Christmas to you.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Out of Africa


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Many black people, including those who fiercely defend the notion that they are West Indian and not Africans, become visibly upset when they hear that HIV originated in Africa. Some of them seek refuge in the theory that HIV originated in the USA in some laboratory. Ironically, it is the blind ignorance some black people have of Africa and the selective attention that others pay to Africa that lead to unnecessary misunderstandings.

Africa is the ancestral home of human kind. Africa has built much of the rest of the world by way of exploited materials and slaves. Africa is the ideal, in fact the perfect, natural candidate for the origin of HIV and many other viruses undergoing mutation and passage to humans. The story starts to become murky and unscientific when scientists speculate with no basis in fact. Or worse, use a combination of facts along with their prestige and racial proclivities to blind them to alternative possibilities.

Speculation: HIV jumped from monkey to man in Africa because of Africans eating monkey meat or through some other transmissible route such as scarification. The fact is, no one knows how HIV jumped from monkey to man but jumped it certainly did. It would be just as irresponsible to say that white colonialists in Africa engineered the transmission directly or indirectly from monkey to man.

Recent hard, scientific evidence about the route of HIV out of Africa has been published by Michael Worobey et al in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They tested archived blood samples from Haitian who immigrated to USA after 1975 and progressed to AIDS by 1981. This short time lag is consistent with presumed infection with HIV before they immigrated. The scientists conducted sophisticated laboratory analyses included DNA studies and alignment of the results with HIV molecular data.

Computerized statistics reveled that there were 0.003 chances in 100 that HIV went from Africa to the USA. This extremely low probability is virtually equivalent to nil. Alternatively, there were 99.8 chances in 100 that HIV went from Africa first to Haiti. The scientific work is so remarkable, the scientists estimated that HIV moved from Africa to Haiti some time around 1966 (1962 to 1970). They also estimated that the ancestry of most HIV stains in the USA originated from one common ancestor virus that came from Haiti round about 1969.

Speculation: Having done all the brilliant work, the scientists go on to speculate that based on the period from 1962 to 1970, HIV arrival in Haiti may have occurred with the return of one of the many Haitian professionals who worked in the newly independent Congo in Africa in the 1960s. How now brown cow? Knowing that black people (and all Haitians are not black) have no monopoly on travel between Africa and Haiti, it would be just as irresponsible of me to say that (to put it non-racially) someone other than Haitians brought HIV from Africa to Haiti.

Speculation: The good scientists also stated that the “most parsimonious explanation” for the pattern of the particular subtype of HIV seen in many other parts of the world is that it emanated from “a single founder event linked to Haiti”. No problem so far. But they speculate. “This most likely occurred when the ancestral pandemic clade virus crossed from the Haitian community in the United States”. A clade is a group of organisms believed to have evolved from a common ancestor. It would be just as irresponsible of me to say that HIV went from Haiti to USA via American tourists. Worse, the minister of tourism would probably demand my head on a platter if I were to remind us all that tourism (like HIV) is everybody’s business and, by the way, the beach is just the beginning.

When I hear the word parsimonious, I think of its noun, parsimony, meaning the careful or sparing use of money or other material resources. Immediately, my mind runs to my thesaurus and I recall its synonym, niggardly. And without any stretch of my imagination, I think of the unpronounceable, unprintable “N word”. It serves me right for speculating on scientific data and taking into account my ancestral background.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Umbrella Nation


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Imagine this. A supporter of a political party wakes up in the middle of the night drenched in dripping, cold sweat. He cannot go back to sleep because he dreamed another party won the next general elections. He decides to write down the details of his dream to warn his party.

In the dream, he sees a woman in a black hat getting off a bench, talking and passing sentence after sentence on the executive members of her party. She is telling them that, firstly and finally, even if there was no corruption in the party, they must admit that the charge had stuck and it must be removed to repair the party. To do this, they must understand why organizations become corrupt. There are similar causes of corruption in any small country. Checks and balance are replaced by bank checks and bank balance. The main cause of corruption in small states is not greed. Greed is universal. If channeled appropriately, greed is good.

Insufficient stimulating and challenging physical and mental work at early and crucial stages of personal and organizational development and the consequent idleness, slackness and lackadaisicalness are the fundamental causes of corruption in small and large developing states. This is true of all political parties and professional organizations, including security forces.

The other problems to solve are basic ones like healthcare, education, jobs, security and food. She tells them that one day she was in a Chinese supermarket and the solution hit her like a kung fu. She admires the thrift of the Chinese. Some of them we regard as recent arrivals have been here for over a decade and have Antiguan children. She recently met a Russian woman who lived here so long, she was proud to have an Antiguan born Russian child.

What about the trip a friend of hers took to England the very day after the 2004 general elections? On the same flight were at least 75 people of Middle Eastern origin. They all had Antiguan and Barbudan passport and spoke little or no English. Antigua and Barbuda is an umbrella nation. So many disparate and desperate people enjoy the shade of its parasol.

In the supermarket, she wonders how many of the so-called “ordinary people” it would take to set up and operate a co-operative supermarket in their community. Politicians must stop promising a rose garden to gain political power. We must empower the people to cultivate their own rose garden and choose and run the services they need. She tells them the party must empower the people at the local level because real freedom is the ability of people to choose wisely and become the authors of their own lives. She has their attention well locked up.

Money is already moving through the community. There is a long, proud, unsung history of box-money co-operatives. The real task is to convince the people that we must either swim together or sink one by one. And when it comes to security, just who is going to be bold enough or crazy to steal from and survive in a community co-operative environment with legal, community watch and citizen patrol? In fact, some of the reformed criminals, and you know how smart they were, will run some of the local businesses, knowing that other reformed criminals like them are watching them like a hawk. And she boasts that she knows the criminals from a previous profession. Security is no longer a problem. There is real, meaningful employment and empowerment. Real checks and balance are in, corruption is out. The community pride is sky high.

She continues to pass sentence. The central economic plan of one party is to make the private sector the engine of growth. But it is extremely difficult to facilitate the status quo private sector and at the same time bring new, grassroots private sectors on board so that businesses in St. John’s city and the various communities can be more reflective of the heterogeneous population mix. These are highly guarded, economic positions. People can get in serious trouble talking about economic reform on radio programmes and suggesting changes without due regard to the sensitive issues of nationality and citizenship.

Should we repeal person income tax? The community based projects and the demonstrable empowering of people will require decentralization of sufficient funds. If, outside of government, our party can get the community to do so much with what the people already have, imagine how much more we can do in power. We do not have to make unrealistic promises if our works go beyond promises.

Then the dream becomes a nightmare. The lady in the black hat tells them to reduce the number of government ministers by half. Who needs so many ministers when local government is so strong? But then it hit the dreamer. This must be a unique, truly reformed political party. The spoils of political victory must include walking away from old arenas and changing the whole course of political tribal war in small states.

Call it a tent or call it a parasol, no political party can do anything fundamentally significant for people without empowering them to form co-operative groups and build on family and other groupings already formed. Only then can we build a tent in our community and enjoy the shade of our parasol.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ali Baba and The Forty Peeves


Dear Editor

A remarkable thing has happened. The closing of the Tuesday night’s discussion and call-in program on Observer Radio is a signal moment in radio in Antigua and Barbuda. Charges of racism have been levied at the guests on Serpent’s show, particularly, I suspect, in reference to “The Third Man”. I recall in crystal clarity the precise moment The Third Man made a particular comment one Tuesday night and I knew immediately that the program was doomed in our bipolar and disordered Antigua and Barbuda. He said, in effect, that St. John’s city should look more like us, Antiguans.

The charge of racism is false, unreasonable and smacks of typical, offensive self-defense. As a frequent caller reminded us, black people cannot by definition be racist when they challenge the status quo to obtain equality at best, since racism means the superiority of one race over another. It is as preposterous as a simmering pot on a stove being accused by the stove of being fiery.

The counter argument that should have been legitimately levied at “The Third Man”, and Serpent and the other two guests should have pounced on it, was the central and essential question of nationality and citizenship. These are fundamental, crucial questions that all of us are trying to grapple with and debate at this mixed-up, pepper-pot period of our history. A civil, truthful and polite discussion about the sensitive, important subjects of nationality and citizenship is the only sensible, democratic way forward.

To stifle opinion because accusers are unwilling to come on radio or call in and defend their position against those who offend them is to turn Observer Radio on its head. The comment that it takes a difference of opinion to make a horserace will be as vacant as looking at masses of expectant spectators at a horserace with only a single, ambling, quixotic horse in distant sight.

Yours truly,

Dr. Lester CN Simon

Monday, November 19, 2007

Difficult Landing


Dear Editor

Almost everyone has assumed a position on the Barbuda Land Act. Isn’t it just lovely to see big brother finally coming to his senses because of the actions and claims of little sister? I come to everything Barbudan, including the Barbuda Land Act issue, with a history of ignoring Barbuda until it dawned on me over ten years ago that writing Antigua and Barbuda in my mailing address instead of Antigua alone, stopped my journals from ending up in some other country. I have been to Barbuda only once, on official, forensic duty for one day.

There are obvious flaws in the Barbuda Land Act. Yes, there should have been more public consultation and yes, the one-nation two-system policy faces a difficult or impossible evolution. Quite frankly, when we Antiguans have allowed our aerial, front-door lands, and others, to be sold to a private person and turn around, like Little Jack Horner, and remark how beautiful the airport looks, we have lost the right to tell Barbudans anything about public consultation on land. The fact that politicians committed the first sin of commission and politicians are again committing a second sin of omission, simply points to the inertia of the populace. Will we rise up now as we should have spoken out before?

For those who cannot get their heads around the very thought of our national, public purse paying for the advantage Barbudans enjoy over land, there is a simple answer. No, the answer is not that your head is not a rubber band; it would be an insult to say that. It is simply the retributive price of remembrance we Antiguans must pay for what we have allowed to happen to Antigua. Bring on the Antigua Land Act if Antiguans are really serious about public consultation about land and then we can try to amend the flawed Barbuda Land Act.

Yours truly,

Dr. Lester CN Simon

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pan Caribbean


Dr. Lester CN Simon

There has been much talk about the problem with boys and the need for men to stand up, step up and march to the beat of different drum. The main argument is that our boys see a short road to what we call success so they avoid the long, disciplined road of a good education in school. We argue that they miss out on the joy of having someone read to them, exercising their imagination listening to a radio drama and falling in love with the sound of words, etc. But joy comes in various guises and disguises.

Boys are not the only ones taking a shortcut to success. Many sensible, young women will tell you why they wittingly have children with a no-good man. They reason that they can fulfill their desire to have children without the messy problems they perceive running through some marriages. Obviously, these girls have decided to make one mistake and avoid the major mistake of missing out on education. Boys are making the humongous mistake with the only thing that ensures the formation of the whole person.

Music in general and pan music in particular is a guarantied way to bring men and boys, and indeed the whole family in whatever form, together. I will get a lot of stick, appropriately punned, for saying the following but so be it: Pan music cannot be the salvation if we continue to regard, practice and play the steel pan as we are doing. I want to tell you that steel pan instruments are pieces of the most scientific instruments ever invented and that they are the perfect teaching tool for music, logic, beauty, discipline, and many vocations seemingly remote from music, such as accounting and marketing, among others.

Volumes of data have been written in this newspaper and elsewhere about the singular geometry of the leading or single tenor pan. Its design is based on all of the 12 musical notes that exist in Western music, arranged in the cycle of fourths (clockwise) or fifths (anti-clockwise). This circular pattern is the roadmap of Western music used by everyone form Bach to Coltrane to Bob Marley and Maroon 5. No other modern musical instrument carries the blue print of Western Music so conspicuously in its design. None.

There is more. All 12 musical notes can be aligned in two rows of 6 notes each. In each row, every note is separated by the same spacing (the musical interval of a whole step) from its neighbour. There are only two such rows because any other row is just a displacement of any one of the two fundamental rows. These two rows of notes (the whole tone scales in music) are portrayed in the design of the double second steel pan. This scale was used by Mozart in his Musical Joke, in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade and by Stevie Wonder in the introduction to You Are The Sunshine of My Life, to give a few examples.

There is more. There are steel pan instruments comprising 3 pans. Common sense will tell you to divide the 12 notes such that 4 notes are assigned to each pan. Musical science tells us to arrange the notes so that in all 3 pans with 4 notes each, the individual notes are separated by an identical spacing (the musical interval of a minor third).

There is more. There are steel pan instruments comprising 4 pans. Again, common sense and musical science result in 3 notes in each pan and the individual notes in each of the 4 pans separated by the identical spacing (the musical interval of a major third). Similarly, the six-base instrument with 6 drums has 2 different notes in each pan separated by an identical spacing (the musical interval of a perfect fifth). Pan design is no arbitrary guess work, my Caribbean people. It is the perfect personification of Western music.

There are some steel pans with asymmetrical note spacing. These exceptions simply underscore the overwhelming, unique science involved in the symmetrical steel pan instruments. It is this symmetry, this new understanding of what it means and implies, as well as the reading of musical notation that we must teach in the pan yard. This teaching must embody science including the geometry of a circle and how Coltrane constructed an equilateral triangle in the circle. Also, we can invoke mythology and numerology to tell steel pan stories of 12 musical notes divided into instruments of 2, 3, 4 and 6 pans giving rise to sets of 6, 4, 3 and 2 notes respectively. We are fooling around with a unique, rich legacy that others can see.

We must redesign the pan yard to reflect the perfect, celestial architecture of the pan and bring to bear the disciple, love and caring that music engenders, being on the constant lookout for the negative associations that follow sterile music, un-sterile relationships and superficial knowledge. We may have to bypass those musicians and pannists who continue to resist change and beat pan intuitively without taking the time and making the effort to unravel the fantastic science involved in steel pan instruments. This new path will pave the way for the discipline that must be the new paradigm in a scientific, artistic pan yard in which we also consider the destructive effects of loud music on the ear and learn to caress or gently feel-up the pan.

Dorbrene O’Marde has sent me an e-posting from the Trinidad Express newspaper registering the positive effects of steel band thwarting teenage violence and school dropouts in a prototype project in US Virgin Island. The project was lauded by Harvard University and the Ford Foundation in 1988 as being among the Top Ten Innovative Programmes. This is tried and tested transformation of youths through music.

You may think that if all of the above is true, crime and violence should not be so rampant in the home and Mecca of steel pan, Trinidad and Tobago. Well now, brown cow; it remains the grueling, unenviable task of someone far more capable than I to disabuse you of your resident (dare I say constitutive?) stupidity and replace it with the stark consideration of just what the youths of Trinidad add Tobago would really be like were it not for an ideal teaching tool and the most perfect musical instrument ever invented: the steel pan.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Swimming Against The Tribe


Dr. Lester CN Simon

When was the last time you went to one of our 365 beaches? I know you can’t swim but that is no excuse. I used to go to the beach more often when I couldn’t swim compared to my rare visit now that I can swim. What’s the reason for the phobia that many of us, black people, seem to have for sea water? Can it be that race memory of the terrors of the dreaded Middle Passage has made some of us afraid that our drowned ancestors might pull us down below to meet them? What utter nonsense.

Trust me. If I can learn to swim, a stone on top of an elephant can swim too. Growing up in New Winthropes village, we would go to the bayside (as we called it) relatively often. But I was always warned by my grandmother not to go into the sea. When I was allowed to go to the beach, I was always in the company of big people. I soon realized that the big guardians could not swim either, hence the warning from my grandmother made sense, especially with the constant rejoinder that I was my mother’s only child.

So whenever we journeyed to Jabberwock Beach, my main pleasure was to follow the instructions written on a huge, wooden, seemingly abandoned building near the roadside about 300 yards south of Jabberwock. The name, Firestone, was emblazoned on its west side. No one had told me that Firestone referred to a brand of tyre. Being the most obedient child of my mother, if only because I did not want to be worthy of death, I simply pelted the building with stone, as the sign instructed.

At the seaside, I would wet my feet, make a few splashes, pick and eat some seaside grapes and whatever else we had taken along, sit on the sand and wondered what was hidden beyond the horizon. In the while, especially at picnics at more wooded beaches, a few big people would disappear and reappear with a strange glow on their faces as if they had gone sailing in the sea of bushes where something fishy had occurred. After a few hours at Jabberwock Beach and when they were all ready, we would trek back home and I would bid the poor Firestone building goodbye with a few passing salvos.

Many decades later, I was wading in the water at Fort James Beach one day when some beach cricketers tried to alert me to the ball that was hit into the sea. Since I had been in the water before they started playing, and finding it difficult to come out of the water and look like a non-swimmer, I had devised a plan for this eventuality. As the ball left the bat and soared overhead, I started doing some graceful, callisthenic exercises in the water from which I obviously could not be disturbed to fetch a mere, misdirected ball.

Then I found a good swimming instructor. I spent many lessons just splashing water onto my face to get accustomed to that sensation and coordinating my breathing with the presence of the water. After that, I would stand in the water at waist level, or above that, lean forward and turn my face to either side in and out of the water, initially holding my nose, then just holding my breath and breathing at the appropriate time. Truth be told, although I understood the lesson plan, it became so boring, I actually longed for the day when I would abandon the instructions and swim all around the island. Maybe that was part of the plan too.

Next, I would hold my nose or hold my breath and try to stay completely under the water. To my initial surprise, I found this very difficult. The water would literally push me back up as I tried to stay under. I kid you not. I almost ran out of the sea when I realized that was the same principle of flotation or buoyancy that Archimedes, the Greek scientist, had discovered in his bath and caused him to run out of his bathtub naked, shouting in the street, “Eureka (I have found it)!” There is a wild, adulterated version of what Archimedes actually found in the bath water, and what he must have been looking for in the first place, but that is for another time and another place since this is a respectable newspaper.

So after my Eureka moment, I realized that all that remained to learn to swim was to learn to coordinate my breathing with the movement of parts of my body. But, honestly, the hardest part of learning to swim as an adult was to overcome the initial fear of water (my grandmother had long passed on) and to get accustomed to the sensation of water on the face with my eyes opened, something we can try easily at home every morning.

As a result of learning to swim, you will develop a healthy and abiding respect for the sea and get much pleasure and many health benefits from swimming. You will obey all safety and rescue instructions, such as never to go swimming too far alone. But before you run off to find a good swimming instructor, you must learn to duly recognize and respect all of our ancestors on dry land so you do not have to worry about meeting them below sea level. What utter nonsense.

The Observer PM of November 7, 2007 carried the sad story of Jamaican man who drowned in a river in Suriname. He could not swim and neither could any of his family members who were all in the river when he ventured into deep waters.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Pumping Eye-on

Masturbation: The Eyes Have It

Dr. Lester CN Simon

Saturday July 12 2003 (The Antigua Sun newspaper, with addition)

I write to add another perspective to the article in Sun Weekend of 5 July called, "Can Masturbation Cause Blindness'. I do concur with the opinions of the two local doctors, Drs. Christian and Charles that masturbation does not cause blindness. However, I wish to note that there may in fact be a connection between masturbation and vision.

During sexual stimulation, a substance called nitric oxide is released. The release of nitric oxide leads to an increase in another substance called cGMP. The role of cGMP is to effect an increase in the inflow of blood into the penis. An erection requires increase in the inflow of blood into the penis.

Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on your wishes,) cGMP does not last forever. It is degraded by an enzyme called PDE5. If there is too much PDE5, there will be marked degradation of cGMP, less inflow of blood, and loss of the erection. Alternatively, if there is less PDE5, there will be little degradation of cGMP, more inflow of blood, and maintenance of erection.

The drug Viagra helps to promote and maintain an erection by inhibiting PDE5. PDE5 belongs to a group of substances called PDEs, which include PDE3 and PDE6 among others. PDE5 is found in the penis. PDE3 is found in the heart. PDE6 is found guess where?) in the eyes.

In manufacturing Viagra, it was important to find a drug that was highly selective for PDE5 compared to other PDEs. This selectivity was achieved to a great extent but it was not absolute and complete. Viagra has approximately a 4,000-fold selectivity for PDE5 versus PDE3. This is important because PDE3 is involved in the control of contraction of the heart. Why gain an erection via less PDE5 and lose control of the contraction of your heart via less PDE3?

Viagra is only about 10-fold as potent for PDE5 compared to PDE6, which is found in the eyes. This lower selectivity of Viagra for PDE6 (eyes) compared to PDE5 (penis) is thought to be the basis for abnormalities related to colour vision observed with higher doses of Viagra. Indeed, there may be temporary difficulty discriminating blue and green colours at certain doses of Viagra. However, evaluation of visual function at doses up to twice the maximum recommended dose revealed no effects of Viagra on visual acuity, pressure in the eyes, or the reaction of the pupils of the eyes.

Nonetheless, there is a link between an erection and the eyes. Different members of the same family of substances, PDE5 and the PDCE6 are found in the penis and the eyes respectively. Masturbation may not cause blindness, but there is a biochemical connection between the penis and the eyes.

In regards to the temporary difficulty discriminating blue and green colours, any confusion over the colour of the dress of one girlfriend over that of another will only be temporary. You can always blame it on the blue pill…..or is it the green one?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Stolen Moments


Dr. Lester CN Simon

There are at least two reasons for feeling cheated when something (or someone) is stolen from you. There is the value of the stolen item and there is the fact that some lesser idiot outsmarted a greater idiot. And these two reasons are not necessarily in that order of importance.

I can vividly remember the first time I was involved in a theft. Actually, I did not see it as a theft at all at the time. My very big (huge in fact), older and more powerful cousin, who was known to beat up people and strangle poor, little, innocent animals for less than nothing, had commanded poor, little me to take two shillings and six pence from our grandmother’s money pan.

He was set on using the money to gamble and he swore he would bring it back with a little something extra for me. He was so persuasive and I was so tearfully fearful, I totally ignored the fact that all the money in the pan at the time of his commandment, amounted to exactly two shillings and six pence.

On the bad Friday of my crucifixion, as the effects of licks from the packing of a tyre ascended from my bottom to my head and I sought refuge at the rear of the normally, humanly impassable, old stonewalled oven, then used as a fowl coop, I discovered that successful stealing was very hard work. It demanded so much patience, discipline and attention to detail, its requirements were similar to the qualities that were later written in my report card as head boy of the Antigua Grammar school.

Should I believe that really good thieves are born and not made? How else can you explain that infamous New Winthorps village thief who used to waltz into Miss Williams shop with an empty West Indian Biscuit Company (WIBISCO) tin and, without passing over a red cent or a blue penny, danced back out with a full one?

He was so good, he would provoke an argument outside the shop and swore that he would cut up somebody in fine slivers like WIBISCO biscuit and stuffed them in the empty (now full) biscuit tin, which he would sit on and pretend to kick about as if it was the same empty tin he had deliberately sat on and kicked about beforehand.

Another expert village thief was the shop hand who contrived a chronic cough to mask the popping sound of the opening of a bottle of soda pop. He was so successful, he was taken repeatedly to Dr. Wizenger, who thought he had discovered an unusual case of tuberculosis. The fact that tuberculosis was called consumption, did not alert the good doctor, who practiced just to the west of The Antigua Girls High School, that the poor feller was not consumed by tuberculosis but rather, the rascal was consuming the shop’s soda pop.

So how do you catch these thieves? You have to figure them out like a detective, especially if the police have their hands full. I recall the time when I was studying for a very important, final exam at university and someone stole my bicycle and then my clothes from the clothes line. There was no point in studying for a final undergraduate, pathology exam if the simple matter of a theft could not be deduced. Elementary, my dear Watson.

Careful, macroscopic examination revealed that the only remaining item on the clothes line was a tam or woolly hat. Obviously the thief, or thieves, was amongst the dreadlocks living up the hill nearby, who had more tams than Tam o’ Shanter in the poem by Robert Burns. But my dear Watson, it is one thing to deduce correctly, it is quite another matter entirely to go marching into Zion or enemy territory chanting, “Calling all dreads and dreadlings!”….Whatever a dreadling was.

Maybe the correct approach is to become a thief yourself; but only to steal from yourself; a sort of Robin Falsehood. After all, if you become renown as the thief who breaks into his own place, calls the police, lies on himself in court so that he ends up in jail, breaks out of jail with greased lightening speed (okay, ignore the grease), only to break into his own place again and again, who on earth would want to mess with you?

But all of this is for the petty, analog thieves. How do you plan to deal with the brazen, white collar, electronic, digital scamps who would steal your identity from under your very nose? And then have the nerve to ask you who do you think you are; telling you to identify yourself? They must be thinking that if you cannot smell a rat right under your nose, you certainly will not miss the cheese.

My response to the need for a solution to these modern-day, white collar, digital crimes, criminals and scamps, is that I am working on a sophisticated but user-friendly, digital plan. Suffice to say, that somewhere in the plan is an electronic, digital “bull-bud” (this time, really greased lightening fast), a.k.a. bull-pistle, a.k.a. a tough, long whip made from the penis of a bull (Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage). When the swanky, scampish, scalawags log on to my belongings the next time, my WWW dot com, becomes ”Whips, Whops, Whoops, that done”.

Sunday, October 28, 2007



Dr. Lester CN Simon

Once upon a time, we had a history teacher at the Antigua Grammar School who made history; for real. He would waltz into class and rattle off his stories of English kings as if he and Henry, Richard, George, Edward, William and James were drinking buddies and he had gained access to historical facts that were secluded from all the history books in all the libraries in all the world. He did no home work. He did no school work. He did no real work at all. He was such a good storyteller, he became an ambassador; for real.

Teachers are not just highly valuable, they are highly vulnerable. They stand before a class of ingrates and are expected to mold fine sculptures out of lumps of clay. All the while they are doing this, the little, snotty wretches observe their every move within and without the classroom. The teacher is the first and last lesson.

It must be that some teachers deliberately teach nonsense just to see if their students are really learning. It cannot be that teachers are so daft to unwittingly teach abject nonsense. What would be the object, the verb or the predicate, the cause or the adverbial clause of such a proposition? Why, I can recall a teacher telling our first form that for that one week only, no one must stand up when he entered the classroom, and that anyone who continued to obey the normal, stand-up rule would be punished. And punished some of us were indeed. What about the response from the recently departed, enigmatic, mathematics teacher, Ottway Davis, when our entire fifth form decided to be rude to him by remaining seated when he entered the classroom one day? Without a filigree of annoyance, he simply and kindly asked us to be seated and got on with the lesson.

Good teachers teach their subjects very well. All of their students love them dearly and many students imagined they were their parents or their future wives or husbands, since, while students get older, good teachers never grow old. The really great teachers are remarkably different from the good ones. The great ones get us to learn the subject just as well but, crucially, they allow us to study the object critically. They, the teachers, are the object. To really learn, the student must become better and greater than the teacher. This is only possible if the faults of the teacher are exposed; if the vulnerabilities of both the teaching-subject and the teacher-object are scrutinized and argued fiercely. This romantic war between student and teacher can lead to temporary estrangement. So be it. The time must come when the former student walks away from the erstwhile master-teacher, puts away childish things and becomes truly independent.

It is in this general context that Antigua and Barbuda must emotionally walk away from excessive adherence to the Father of the Nation to become truly independent. This walking away is not a negation of the father. No; no; no, my dear good Labourites. Au contraire. It is an acknowledgement of the great works of the father because those very great works dictate and mandate the walking away. How else can plants propagate if seeds and spores do not abandon the parent tree and rely on the mercy of the wind of nature to find new fertile ground, confident in the knowledge that their father provided them with the gift of lasting life? Indeed, the father would be stark-raving mad with himself, dejected and unfulfilled if we religiously adhered to him, to the detriment of the springing up of new life.

For valid, historical reasons, we showered virtually all of our affections on the Father of the Nation. Even his nemesis, Tim Hector, praised him highly, at least as much as he criticized him harshly. (And we must do the same to Tim). However, the arithmetic of emotions dictates that if we put all our love and affection into one national personage, we will shortchange the love and affection we have left for the country. Our wars of liberation naturally created heroes; and heroes we must have. But some heroes are so powerful, too powerful; we have to deliberately pull away, or take them in doses, admixing their good, bad and ugly qualities.

Could it be that after he would have done something wrong (he had his faults), the Father of the Nation was appalled at the way we would continue to praise him as if we were docile idiots? He must have felt that we were, at those times, the dumbest, most “foolie” people on earth to genuflect to his occasional rubbish. Where were the harsh counterarguments, the banter, the taunting viragos and the running, verbal battles that he loved so well; on which he had cut his political teeth? He must have wondered, as he wandered lonely as a cloud, over vales and hills, where, oh where was the crowd, the host, of golden Tims?

At 26 years of age, as we get older and wiser and hopefully more independent, we understand that we must cherish dearly all those who went before; all those slaves and all those free men and women, natives and foreigners of every hue and dye, who fought to build this blessed country. The only fitting epitaph to all our national heroes, sung and unsung, especially the greatest of them all, the Father of The Nation, is a declaration of independence to balance the equation of national emotions. Take some emotions away from him and put some of these sterling passions into the nation of Antigua and Barbuda, if only because that is precisely what he did and what he would have wanted us to do, to be like the best and noblest part of him.

Happy Independence.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

When Will We Learn?


Dr. Lester CN Simon

He remembers the days when liming was an art? To him, it was considered infra dig to appear even languid or, worse and much harder, appear indifferent, without taking an obscure, gallant stand and making a vague, valiant effort at it. He was such a naturally funny guy, he thought paradox was when you stood beside the dock of the bay. He would swear that Rasta was a colloquial expression in Italy for really bad pasta; after all Italy did invade Ethiopia.

He would also swear that he would never burn in hell because like his father, he was destined to be a carpenter. His father had philosophized that if he, the father, was mistakenly sent to hell, Jesus would call him up into heaven since he and Jesus were fellow tradesmen. Some sort of trade and workers union code, he thought. But somebody must have told him, the son, that the world owed him a living; so he exercised an extremely low level of his innate intelligence and became an imperfect idiot.

There were crucial stages in his development when he knew he was very good at doing some things, like quickly putting similar shapes together in kindergarten and understanding at once concepts like A and B are not just for apple and bat, but for Antigua and Barbuda as well. He was bored stiff in school, so much so, he would walk with a stiff bop and he had to cause trouble on purpose (and on other pupils) and make noise to stay awake. He was such a naturally funny guy.

Then one day, he met a man who told him how and showed him how to control people and make lots of money doing it. He was such a naturally funny guy in need of a challenge, he thought he would give it a try. First off, he had to learn the rules, not just to obey them but to know when to break them and replace them with new rules of his own making. For example, the customer is always right; my foot. The customers must be made to feel that they are always right whilst he, the seller, knows best.

Everyone is a customer or a potential customer because everyone has problems and it is his job to spot the problems. For example in the wake of a fatal shooting (some wake it will be indeed…I told you he was funny) near Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, an articulate and discombobulated woman called Observer Radio to suggest that some other name for the location be used to site the murder, so as not to sully the name of the great, living, national hero.

He was temped to call into the radio program but why enlighten the disturbed ones. He would have called to suggest that we say that the awful murder took place sort of south of Barbuda and sort of north of Montserrat. That caller was a potential customer in a state of denial; and many of us are in the same boat. This meant that with thousands of us in the same boat, we stood a very good chance of drowning ( I told you, he was funny).

He remembers someone in England responding to a riot by black people against injustice from the police some time in the seventies. It was said that black people in England were not a major problem since music, women and drugs would always pacify them. The Indian, Pakistani and Middle Eastern people were considered the real enemy since they had economic and scholastic power mixed with fervent religious practices. That was long before 9-11. Beware of still waters, he learnt, everywhere; and beware of stereotyping all waters. But isn’t stereotyping seeing people in at least two (stereo) ways? I told you he was funny.

So, to learn his new business well, he had to study hard and debunk some of the myths along the way. When it is said that the pervasion of drugs is due to people in desperation seeking economic opportunities, do not be fooled by the algebra. Desperation is relative. One customer may be striving for a single, well-balanced, decent meal on the table for his or, more likely, her family. The relative desperation is a brother or cousin (I told you he was funny) trying to buy a new jeep for his sixth girlfriend; ok, make it the third girlfriend.

He learnt that drugs are like electricity. Lots of people are connected; some more than others and some are not even aware of the current, or is it the currency (I told you he was….). Indeed, all countries have a drug problem. You think drugs can be in hell and Satan and his acolytes don’t know about it? In fact, in some countries the rich, powerful, professionals and officials are so connected and invisible, it is left to the black underclass to bear the brunt of the problem. That is one of the problems with some black people, he realized. They stand out. Some other people can steal so well, they even steal away your eyes from seeing them stealing. But some black people are such great novelists, they believe the dictum: Show, don’t tell.

And so, one major problem unnerved him as he set out on his new business venture. If all countries and all cultures have a drug problem, what was so peculiar about black people to make our drug problem so devastating? He refused to blame white people, if only because they need and do use electricity too. Is it our national state of denial that forces us, in understandable desperation, to turn the geography of Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on its head?

Freedom is a strange exercise. When it comes, from whatever or wherever it comes, it requires a new restriction, a new, hard working steadfastness to a responsibility and authority that is reminiscently contradictory since it harkens back to an ugly past. And this ugly past will remain ugly until we face up to it and understand slavery was firstly economic until someone did some clever race marketing.

And so, he reasoned, since we did not learn well the freedom from our first slavery, maybe if we become embroiled and totally immersed in a new drug slavery with all the killings and torturing with house slaves and field slaves all over again, we would escape some time in the future from this second slavery and learn our lesson well this time. He had always noticed in school, in every class bar none, that some people are hard of hearing and just have to be told twice; they just have to undergo an experience twice, before they understood. And so now I can tell you, we are all so naturally funny.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

All Dressed Down


Dr. Lester CN Simon

I like the one in front. I like the one behind. As a matter of fact, I like all the girls and I wish all the girls were mine. But not in these times. Jill and I were going up the hill to fetch a pail of water when my good friend Sammy asked me to help him plant a piece of corn in the gully. Quite sensibly and rightly so too, and moreover, being a farmer in a dell, Sammy explained that more water could be found down a gully than at the top of a hill. Plus, it was easier going down a gully than climbing up a hill. Furthermore, getting out of a gully was like going up a hill. So Sammy said I could bring Jill with me down the gully, if she wanted to come along, since there were plenty ears of corn to plant.

Shucks; Liza would have been a better companion down the gully. She was such a liquid, totally sweet-watery soul. So much so in fact, she drowned. Since then, every time I remember Liza, think about my nice girl Liza and wish Liza could come back, water comes to my eye. Liza. What a night, what a night, what a Saturday night. Long time girl since I haven’t seen you, I wish I could hold your hand. Long time girl since I haven’t seen you, I wish we could walk and talk.

But what about the brown girl in the ring? She looks like sugar and plum and she could show me her motion as she skip across the ocean. But silly me, I might get seasick, remember Liza and water would come to my eye. The trouble with Brownie was that her old lady went walking a mile and a half and she might just see us going down the gully to meet Sammy. Strange, Brownie had complained that every time she passed, we looked at her. Every time she passed we looked at her; so much so, she was going to tell her mother not to send her down there any more.

So it was Jill and I who went down the gully. But before I fell down and broke my crown, there was a strange sounding song coming from Sammy. Down the way where the nights are gay, the sun shines daily on the mountain top. Lord, see me trials. I got so frighten, my foot slipped out of the mango root-top, took a trip on a sailing ship and only when I reached Jamaica I made a stop. So I'm sad to say, I'm on my way and I won't be back in the gully for many a day. My heart is down, my head is turning around, I had to leave my little girl Jill before she came tumbling down.

Was it all a trick to get my girl, Jill, or was Sammy just different and greedy in an unusual becoming usual kind of way? After all, I remember when someone called him a black sheep and asked him if he, the black sheep, had any wool. He had said, yes sir, yes sir, three bags full: One for his master, one for his dame and one for the little boy who lived down the lane. Only the devil knows what is going on in Sammy’s, the farmer’s dell.

Rumor has it that Sammy’s son, Tom, stole the pig and away he ran. Rumor says the pig was eat, Tom was beat and Tom ran “crying” down the street. And recall when Sammy’s brother, Tommy Tucker sang for his supper? In these health conscious times, all he sang for was white bread and butter. How could he cut it without a knife? How could he marry without a wife?

So did Sammy plant the piece of corn in the gully? Did it bear till it kill poor Sammy? Is Sammy dead, really dead, oh? Although he stole my girl, Jill, it was not because he was a thief or usually unusual why Sammy is dead. It was the grudge, a greedy grudgeful thing for me and my girl Jill. That is why, like his father, Solomon O’Gundy, Sammy was born on a Monday, he christened my girl, Jill on a Tuesday, married her on a Wednesday, the wretched bastard took ill on a Thursday, grew worse on Friday, died on Saturday and was buried (in the gully) on a Sunday. That was the end of greedy, grudgeful Sammy.

So, like a lump of dump, I now sit on a wall. If, one fateful day, in remembrance of things past, I should have a great fall, please tell all the king’s horses and all the king’s cast of men not to try to put me and Jill and Sammy together again.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Ancient Lands


Dr. Lester CN Simon

I knew I had entered a strange and enchanting place. I dressed differently. I was in uniform, with a cap and a tie. The boys played a fierce, dangerous game called corkings. I had a little grip. I had a desk all to myself. I was given a book of Latin grammar. It was in fair condition. Someone joked that it had been used by all the old boys. Some of their pictures adorned a wall in a big form that I would enter in years to come. There was a family likeness about this unfamiliar place.

It became more unfamiliar when we were instructed to learn the declension of mensa, the Latin for table. As if that wasn’t enough, we were given a preview of the forthcoming conjugation of verbs. Declension of nouns, conjugation of verbs? These were big words in a big school for big boys, like me.

It started to get clearer when we were told that in Latin, nouns have six cases. I knew it. I knew it. This school was so special, even the nouns were different. And I would become different too. I will have my own declension. After all, my first name could undergo the same declension as mensa, with a minor alteration of course. So, with that incentive and the flair I had for recitation at my village church, I embarked on the singular form of the first declension of Latin nouns:

Unlike, recitations at church and reciting the golden text to every, single visitor to my maternal grandmother’s house on Sunday evenings, Latin grammar demanded detailed explanation and I had to proceed from the familiar to the unfamiliar to get it right.

In the nominative case, the noun is the subject of the sentence: The table belongs to the school. In the accusative case, now called the objective case, the noun receives the verbal action: The boy broke the table. The genitive case is now called the possessive case: The table’s legs are uneven (The legs of the table are uneven). In the ablative case, there is an indication of the means by which the action is carried out. In English we use prepositions such as by, with, from, in and on for the ablative case: The boy is standing by (or on) the table.

So far so good. To understand the dative case, I had to learn that verbs can be transitive or intransitive (or both). For an intransitive verb, the action begins and ends with the doer: I laugh. she smiles. For a transitive verb, the action passes over (transits) from the doer to another person or thing: The boy broke the table.

I also had to learn about the object in a sentence. The word that is affected by the action of a transitive verb is the object. There are two kinds of objects: In The boy broke the table, table is a direct object since the table receives the verbal action directly. An indirect object is indirectly affected by the action of the verb and it always comes before the direct object in a sentence: The boy gave the table (indirect) money (direct). The dative case or indirect object is often
eliminated by using the actual word, to or for: The boy gave money for the table.

Most troublesome of all was the vocative case. Why would I say, “O Table”? To me initially, it was all part of the strangeness of that august place. After some sarcastic addresses to the table (O table), to my adulterated first name (Lesta: “O Lester”) to other pupils (O Benjamin; O Samuel) and to our Latin teacher (O master), I put the vocative case in its place and got on with the business of learning and enjoying Latin.

Decades later, I discovered that none other than Winston Churchill (and many others) encountered a similar difficulty with the vocative case of mensa (O table). Winston Churchill enquired of his form master what it meant. He was told that “O table” would be used in addressing a table, in invoking a table or in speaking to a table. It is reported that Winston Churchill blurted out in honest amazement to his form master that he never spoke to a table.

In response, his form master terminated the conversation by invoking the whip and promised that we would punish Winston Churchill on his backside, and very severely too, if he continued to be impertinent. It is written that Winston Churchill recorded, “Such was my first introduction to the classics from which, I have been told, many of our cleverest men have derived so much solace and profit.”

The Latin for table is mensa. The Latin for land is terra. Both nouns undergo the same, first declension in Latin. Those who understand the vocative case and are bold enough to address a table, to invoke a table and to speak to a table, might very easily, like Winston Churchill, be heroic enough to address the land, to invoke the land, to speak to the land and come to understand the meaning and value of land.

Hence, if one the lions of the British Empire, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, a noted statesman, orator and strategist, knew that many of the cleverest men derived much solace and profit from Latin, we, Antiguans and Barbudans, will chant in the plural form of the first declension when they come for our lands: Terrae, terrae, terras (how lovely), terrarum, terris, terris. Terrae, terrae, terras (you get it?), terrarum, terris, terris.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Talk Talk Talk


Dr. Lester CN Simon

On my native island, where land and sea make beauty and people and people make ugly, nothing is what it appears to be; neither is it otherwise, according to a Zen master. An elder cousin, my first Zen master, said to me when I was little and pleaded with him for some of his pomegranate: “Who beg narn get and who na beg na warnt”. In these Zen circumstances, you have a trichotomy of choices. You can mope and do nothing, or you can walk away, call your favorite radio station and talk, talk, talk, or you create something new in place of the nothingness and plant your own pomegranate. It took me a long time to do a Columbus on that.

In a very incisive book called, Democracy and The Foreigner, Bonnie Honig invites us to change the topic from how to solve the problem of foreignness, to what problem foreignness can solve for us. Honig is a professor of political science. Grasping the meat of her insightful book is wonderfully aided by a review by Ellennita Muetze Hellmer of The University of Chicago.

At the heart of foreignness is the awakening of a familiarity of ourselves that can be illuminating or darkening, depending on the path we wish to follow. In fact, these two parallel paths must be pursued at all times for the good of society. The geometric fact that parallel lines do not have a definitional meeting place translates into the possibility that our love-hate relationship with foreignness may be a healthy one. It affords an essential and everlasting questioning and answering of the relationship between us natives and the state.

It is said that a foreigner is someone who makes us think we are at home. We are all familiar with the sudden intrusion of uninvited guests. Are we really upset with them or with ourselves? Can it be that they are simply showing up the tattered, open-sesame fence around our unkempt yard, the shaggy mongrel, or worse, the “licky-licky” pedigree dog that we cannot control, the garage full of junk and the absence of a clean, clear glass of “good water” even for ourselves? The fact that the place is dirty is not the glaring point. The burning shame is that they make it a little dirtier. The bed is unmade, chairs are all over the place, one of the toilets can’t flush properly, curtains are torn or absent and yet they come and “rample up” the place? Give me an aspirin; or the whole darn pharmacy.

Honig posits that debates about foreignness help to shore up our national and democratic identities. Anxieties, channeled appropriately, are one of the cornerstones of a good, democratic society. If we are anxious about foreignness and voice our concerns, it may help us to register other anxieties as well.
Societies must always be renewed in order to grow. The questioning of foreignness is actually a mirror-on-the-wall opportunity to compare our energies and attitudes and look at how we treat others and ourselves and how our government treats us.

But there is this local biliousness that makes us bitch against some foreignness (justifiably so in some cases), curse our government flat for not looking after us, and yet a simple community project in dire need of our almost effortless assistance goes a begging with a cold shoulder that will freeze a collar bone under a midday West Indian sun. The reason? It’s because we are disinterested. We just do not care and we cannot bother, until foreignness reminds us of what can be done with what we have. And even then we become more apathetic, if only to underscore the otherness of the foreigner.

Many types of relationships are empowered by foreignness (Be careful!) if we accept the ambivalence that foreignness brings. To this end, Honig urges an ongoing re-examination of the relationship between nationals and foreigners taking into account the natural and healthy suspicion and ambivalence that will lead to our re-examination of the relationship between all citizens and the state. Interestingly, overt attention to foreigners who look like the native majority and who are in great numbers may mask the possibility that a covert minority of others are eking out disproportionately more from the state.

In a remarkable touch of irony, Honig points out by way of an example that foreigners allow us to see a quintessentially democratic process at work. She contends that there are foreigners who give and foreigners who take. We natives love the ones that give. Ironically, the foreigners that take or wrestle away the rights of the state rather than wait for them to be granted are exercising a crucial democratic right that we the complacent natives allow to slip away or have long forgotten. And in our annoyance and defense of our rights, we abjectly refuse to claim and wrestle away these very same available rights. Why? Because politicians are supposed to deliver them to us gift-wrapped under a golden bow on a silver platter.

Foreigners and natives alike must come to accept that, like many good relationships, the contradictions and ambivalences, if earnestly exposed and espoused, can afford the growing and transforming of the relationship. This transformation should lead to incremental gains for all, even as new parallel lines with no obvious rendezvous emerge. So gird your loins and join the battle against fear, hate and poverty. The healthy debate must continue. The Zen master reminds us that it takes a wise man to learn from his mistakes, but an even wiser man to learn from others.

Monday, October 8, 2007

My Native Land


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Friends. Antiguans and Barbudans. Countrymen. Open your ears. Antigua and Barbuda is dead. Long live Antigua and Barbuda. The old country is passing away before our very eyes. A new state is coming into being. Ask yourself what it means to be an Antiguan and Barbudan. Ask yourself, because that is all you will do. You dare not answer the question. Not because you do not know the answer. But because you are afraid of the answer.

Well, let me tell you what Antigua and Barbuda means to me. My first sense of belonging to something other than my family, my church, my school and my group of friends came to me at a little corner in my little village of New Winthropes. On the four arms of this corner we had the church, the steel band, the shop and the union hall. I was proud to be a member of the juvenile branch of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU). I was ecstatic when, as a juvenile, I was given the key to open the union hall and attend the big-people-AT&LU meetings. How proud I was to hear a meeting called to order, proceed in order, overcome sprinklings of disorder, and end in order. Yes, it brought order to my wayfaring life. I recall the war between the sacred noise of the church and the profane bedlam of the steel band and how they seemingly settled into some sort of dissonant harmony.

What sense of growing nationalism I had, came tumbling down with the consequences of the fracture of the AT&LU over the estrangement of George Walter and Donald Halstead. In 1968, I witnessed the widespread labour unrest, the demonstrations and riots with the deployment of soldiers and fire trucks. A schoolmate got shot and wounded near Big Church. When I left here in 1970 for university, I was glad to leave. On the morning of my departure, I deliberately walked around my house and told all the plants, trees and animals goodbye and swore they would never see me in this land again. When I returned in 1983, friends from my last 3 years at Antigua Grammar School were so few and far between, I ran and hugged the first one I saw. Where had all the flowers gone?

To me, Antigua and Barbuda means separation. Seemingly, there are more of us outside the state than those of us living here. Historically, we have always been a transit state. Ironically, because of the flood of foreigners that have come in (to replace the flood of natives who have emigrated), we are now seeking more fervently than ever to find our national soul.

The leaders of this country have to understand a simple thing. They cannot cater to foreigners to the extent that natives continue to feel ignored or left behind. Let me say it in ways they can understand and that can be printed in a respectable newspaper. If you are in a relationship with person A, and (for whatever reason) you are courting a relationship with person B to the extent that person A is badly affected, you know what will happen. Person B will be smart enough (hopefully) to realize that the same estrangement between you and person A can happen to them too. In the final analysis, there is no relationship at all. This is where we are in this country right now; in a state of un-relatedness and disinterestedness. Some of us have become so disinterested, instead of using the active, grammatical voice to say we cannot bother, the passive voice saying we cannot be bothered is more suitable, literally.

Moses was born an Israelite but he was raised in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house. One school of philosophical thought says that Moses did not enter the promise land because his nationality was ambivalent. Leaders must understand that foreigners always know their place. When we are foreigners overseas or when foreigners come here, we all abide by this unwritten rule. But the same industry and drive that drive all of us to become foreigners also drive us to take whatever is available, even if that means taking over the whole adopted country or the promised land, unless rules, customs and burning bushes militate against this.
The stark irony that native Antiguans and Barbudans face is that we have to continue to seek to find our national identity whilst we embrace those foreigners who have helped to build this country. Some of them have been more patriotic than our very own. In this regard, natives and foreigners come face to face with an ambivalence that would make the causes of schizophrenia look like a pleasant Sunday afternoon beach picnic. The only way out of this national malady is to continue the healthy debate on what it means to be Antiguan and Barbudan. Natives must be the hypotenuse of this triangular relationship between us, politicians and foreigners. Otherwise natives, politicians and foreigners alike will perish and we will continue to define and redefine Antigua and Barbuda as a transit state.

The alienation of natives living in a transit state is in keeping with the ethos and pathos of our main industry, tourism. Frankly speaking, all this moko-jumbie talk about tourism being everybody’s business is making me sick. Who is everybody and what does everybody do? How can we take away Half Moon Bay from one owner and give it (the whole half-moon) to another? Were we natives born in a taxi or with serving trays and cleaning implements in our hands? The only sensible thing to do is to let citizens of this country (natives and foreigners) buy into it. This does not mean it will be run like some sort of insipid, pepperpot business.

There are successful ways, with the appropriate education and training, to run a hotel or any other business in which the people can invest their money and their pride. And for those who say it will fail, let me remind them of all those brilliant, foreign investors who have failed miserably. The future of APUA will help to define our ability to move from chaos to a new economic order. The rabid inability of two of our brightest and bespoken patriots to agree on the mode, pace and sequence of this transition is top ranking testimony to the lack of a clear, conjoint, pragmatic vision of the future of this transit state.

Imagine therefore my angst when I read in The Daily Observer a few days ago that, “A Cabinet subcommittee will meet with Sir R Allen Stanford … which time the billionaire investor will, once again, present his vision for Antigua and Barbuda……The latest meeting comes on the heels of the partial disclosure of the judgment on the Asian Village”.

First of all, my dear good people, let me say to all those jumbie-crab neaga who keep on saying that Antiguans and Barbudans knew nothing about these offshore islands and all of a sudden we are drunk with adulterated, moonshine nationalism, that they miss the proverbial point. The separation between us natives and the offshore islands is the very same separation between us natives and the mainland where we live. Separation is the constitutive, defining culture, the etymology, of Antiguans and Barbudans. Why then do we want to heap further separation on ourselves? The nascent nationalism will be totally extinguished forever.

It cannot be a coincidence that on the same day Stanford was reportedly due to meet with the Cabinet subcommittee, it was announced on Observer Radio that the mental hospital will be upgraded to the tune of 1 million dollars. Not nearly enough money, if you asked me.

An Unfiniished Symphony


Dr. Lester Simon

I write to associate my name with the suggestion made by Joanne C Hillhouse in The Daily Observer of Wednesday 19 September 2007 that each of us buy a block or whatever we can afford to finish the public library. The unfinished public library is a joke gone too far. A public library is not just a place for reading. We used the old public library on lower High Street over thirty years ago to socialize and chat up each other. We understood that we were in the presence of great men and women whose works and ideas were indelibly recorded and re-recorded when the unique scent of old paper whistled through the air and reminded us to be quiet; to be still and know. We learnt the meaning of silence in a crowd.

Many years ago in Martinique, I was admiring the library so much, someone suggested that I returned at night to see how picturesque it was and the throng of people congregated outside just to admire it and feel good about themselves. I declined the invitation on the grounds that someone would read my mind. Maybe, just maybe, the lack of a public library here, with the equivalent lack of respect for the value of paper, is responsible for all the paper strewn all over the place.

Seriously though, the most important reason for completing the public library is rooted in a very simple but profound lesson we all must learn in a library. When you borrow something, you must give it back for others to use or pay the penalty. Isn’t this what life is all about?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Gospels of John and Simon

The following letter appeared in The Daily Observer newspaper in response to my article. First and Second Corinthians.
Click for enlargement.

The Following reporsents my reply to John, posted the very next day.

Friday, September 28, 2007



Dr. Lester CN Simon

The good Lord knows I am a wretched sinner and I need all the help and prayers I can get. But I know He must have a good sense of humour. After all, it was in third form at the Antigua Grammar School that Father Brown, in his immaculate pastoral gown, posited that God was the greatest gambler of all to put a naked man and a naked woman in a beautiful garden, with a snake in the grass to boot. It was a long time after third form when I realized that all Father Brown was saying was that life is full of risks, challenges and temptations.

And so, I take no sides in the recent story of the excommunication of the young girl and her mother from the church consequent on the alleged matter between the girl and the pastor. Suffice to say that the good humour of Father Brown and the supreme humour of the Lord visited me with bountiful cackles when I heard the report on the reasons for the excommunication on Observer Radio.

The news was that the girl and her mother were excommunicated because, among other things, they did not seek the solace of the church to solve the matter, according to the first book of Corinthians chapter 6 verses 1 to 20. The chapter starts thus: “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?” Unfortunately, the family went to the police. In the same expiration (hold your breath), the church is saying that if the girl and her mother continued to make their presence felt on the premises of the church (or words to that effect), the church will seek (wait for it) legal action. What about chapter 1 verse 13 of the very same first book of Corinthians?

Dear Lord, why did you write two Corinthians? One for the family and the other for the church? Father Brown would probably have said: Though I speak with the tongs of men.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Wake Up


Dr. Lester CN Simon

An insatiable hunger stalks the land. It pangs in the way we talk to, and about, and love, each other; how we dress, walk, drive and park indiscriminately, or engage in conversation in traffic, oblivious of any code of basic manners. The gnawing hunger reflects almost all of the problems we have in school, at work and at play. There is only one aspirin solution to this singular ailment manifesting itself in diverse forms. Every child must be exposed to music from and even before the cradle. This exposure cannot be solely the simple, passive practice of listening to music. It requires learning and mastering a musical instrument.

The single tenor steel pan, also known as the leading pan, is uniquely familiar. If Martians were to take back a single musical instrument that best represents Western music, it would be the single tenor pan. The crux of Western music is distilled in a particular cycle of all 12 musical notes and this pattern is the defining outline of the single tenor pan. We must understand and celebrate our West Indian steel pans and steel orchestra. However, steel pans are not the most portable musical instruments.

Our children must also be taught to play string, brass, woodwind and percussion instruments. School children must own their instrument and be allowed to take them home to engender a sense of responsibility, caring and development. I know of no substitute for playing in a big band or an orchestra, other than longevity itself, to learn all the key lessons that ensure an emotionally rich and rewarding life.

Culture has to be the center of nation building as we define and redefine who and what we really are and what we really mean by culture. The commensurate education, instead of tourism, will perforce become everybody’s business. Tourism and all other industries will naturally follow because we cannot define and manifest our culture without exploring, understanding, developing and welcoming our very own. We can then embrace others as attachments when investments in culture, and music education for all, become the centerpiece of development. This is not an idyllic dream. It was done in Finland after the Second World War according to BBC Music magazine, which also noted that Venezuela’s system of music education for all was lauded by Sir Simon Rattle as the most important thing in classical music anywhere in the world.

There is much useful talk about computer literacy and the dissemination of information technology. We also need cultural and musical literacy. They provide that sense of awe and wonder that ensure our familiar is not taken for granted whilst we marvel at new, shiny things. They lessen our scant respect for nature and humankind and scoff at the occasional, annual, incomplete and half-baked celebrations of our human soul and national conscience. Attention to information technology in cultural isolation will leave us as empty and as emotionally naked, desolate, cold and hard as inorganic, metallic hardware. To embark on information technology divorced from cultural and musical technology is to decimate children into particulate elements.

There is nothing like playing music together to make mathematics and logic, and respect for self and others, come more easily and reside in you forever. If you think this is an idle boast, consider the training required to become a world-class conductor of an orchestra. The conductor is a maestro who understands the music, instruments and musicians and draws the music out of them with the simple sight and sleight of the hand. At the Royal Academy in Stockholm, the cost of training a conductor is more than training a fighter pilot or a surgeon. The contribution to society is priceless. A group in Trinidad and Tobago is making Pan In Education a sustainable business model for music, with impact on innumerable industries and businesses.

Music has its dark side. I almost wept when, in 1998, I heard that the 43 year old master pianist, Kenny Kirkland had died from a heroin overdose. The reasons for the dark side in music are many and varied, but they must be part of music education, as young musicians learn early that actions have consequences.

Music teaching and playing should not be confined to the school. Investments must be at the grass root level with community orchestras funded by government, private organizations and community functions. To this day I deeply regret not taking violin lessons with the village tailor, Mr. Richardson, in New Winthropes when I was a boy. However, I recall the sheer pleasure of listening to our North Star Steel Band practice.

Music afforded me immense joy and fellowship from playing on stage in a jazz orchestra. I will never forget the primal experience of playing my saxophone one Saturday afternoon in a yard in Jamaica in which there were woodwind, brass, double bass and other musical instruments playing and communicating, whilst others were cooking and talking and just being normal people celebrating life. It’s difficult to disrespect your community and your people when they bring you so much joy, peace and satisfaction. Music can make us kinder and gentler or rough and uncouth. The orchestration of music can help us orchestrate our social relationships. There is no beast that music cannot tame. Like time and containing time, music heals.

Adults cannot be left out. There are many adults who are rediscovering the joy of playing a musical instrument and many more are learning for the first time. Music can be humanizing to a fault. A conductor said he sometimes felt embarrassed conducting the music of Gustav Mahler because the music can become so personal, it probably should not be experienced by anyone other than the composer.

It is in the communal, orchestral playing of music by well trained musicians and in the listening and experiencing by a constitutively attentive audience all together in one architectural place that music, with myriad muses for its composing, itself becomes the muse of our existence and the conscience of a nation. The voices of our ancestors, Carib, Arawak, African, European, Indian, indigo and in between must not be left to sing alone, lest, as Luciano Pavarotti would sing, “Nessun Dorma”: None shall sleep.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

How You Could Sing So?


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Sting, the former teacher and world renowned musician from Newcastle upon Tyne was once asked when he knew he had really made it. He responded that it was precisely when he heard a window cleaner outside his hotel room whistling his song, Roxanne. I was in a local department store a few weeks before Carnival and I knew precisely then that we were in for a treat this year when a 5 or 6 year old girl, unbothered by the goings-on in the store and without the sound of music in the air, plaintively sang to herself, “Go Claudette”.

We have to understand the anatomy of “Go Claudette” to understand what we will be up against in preparation for the next General Elections. You have to be really hot and brimming with self confidence to start a song pledging that you come to run this place, again. It cannot be an idle boast. Think of the relatively few good, popular songs that carry or start with a boastful “I”. I Come Out to Play by Shadow; I’m Bad by Michael Jackson; I Was Made To Love Her by Stevie Wonder and I Got Rhythm, the jazz standard by George and Ira Gershwin. If you want window cleaners or school children to sing your songs, it makes good sense to start the song with a child singing it, as in “Go Claudette”. Some marketing expert is earning their salary.

In music, as in marching, there are strong beats and weak ones. A jazz singer once chided some members of her (mostly white) audience for tapping and clapping on the strong beats. She politely explained that the strong beats were already strong and therefore if they wanted to be hip, and humane and not cruel, they must accentuate the weak beat, not the strong one. So with the emphasis on the weak, second beat of “Go Claudette”, you add an upbeat after that same weak, second beat but before the next, first, strong beat, which is imagined but not heard. It is as if soldiers are no longer marching to Left-Right-Left-Right but to Right-and-Right-and, with the Left in the imagination only. The strong beat is suspended in ether and you are left totally weakened and rocking as the lady comes to “run this place again”.

Vanity is always a difficult subject to handle. If you are going to tackle human weaknesses such as the seven deadly sins, it is wise to take on one at a time, unless you are writing the classic novel without a hero, Vanity Fair. “Go Claudette” does this with masterful ease as she exalts her anatomy and becomes the ultimate mythical hero by turning us into her personal Narcissus. She delivers on the bald and bold declaration that she comes “to run this place again”. We enjoin the bliss of requited love responding with her hook line as she basks in the reflection from the pool of her vanquished fans.

This brings us to the other vain creature in our society: the politician. When an astute politician declares a mere couple of days after Carnival that he wants the Carnival Development Committee (CDC) to give the nation a detailed account of how the money was utilized, you can bet your ABST dollar he is doing a completely different accounting. His real concentration is on how to stop a ruling political party that will most certainly use “Go Claudette” at its political party meetings in 2009? Imagine a prelude of chanting, “Go Baldwin; Go Baldwin”, followed by PM Spencer proclaiming to his dear good people, “I Come to Run This Place Again”. The die is cast. Between now and next Carnival, the hunt is on for that unique song that can lift a singer and a party from second place to first.

There are many similarities between a singer and a politician. They claim to treat everyone equally at the very same time they make every one of us truly believe we are unique. They promise the world and say they would climb the highest mountain and swim the deepest sea to keep their promise. They cannot exist without us and we cannot exist without them. They are good story tellers even when, especially when, they tell untruthful stories. Their main aim is to get us to open ourselves to them. It is all part of the historic call-and-response phenomenon. They make the call and we respond. It does not matter much which way we respond initially, they can fashion the precise response they desire by repetition. They are like some televangelist in some ways, preaching their own vainglorious sermon. Oftentimes they take your collection money and perform poorly, if at all.

The task is not impossible for the current second place holder. Their researchers will have to study epic works like The Lord of the Rings to understand classical themes such as good versus evil, humility over pride and the heroic struggles against the great ring of power. More familiar territory might be a resort to the Book of all epics and the teachings of the true Master, whose themes personify repentance and forgiveness of sin as prerequisites to admission.

Religion was an enthralling force during the last General Elections. It will have a second coming. There is never a sight as noble as a congregation of contrite sinner rising from the depths of despair, earnestly testifying that they would do things differently if only given one more chance to “run this place again”.