Tuesday, 30 April 2019

GROWING PAINS: Little scores big on humour, valuable life lessons

FUNNY GIRLS: Hall and Martin as they appear in the new big-screen comedy.

SAD but true: success is no guarantee for happiness. Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall), the central character in Little, is a perfect example. Attractive, powerful and very wealthy, she runs her own tech company, employs a sizeable staff and has graced the prestigious cover of such magazines as Wired. But Jordan is a grumpy, unhappy woman, a boss from hell who bullies and belittles her employees, including her shy, well-meaning personal assistant, April (Issa Rae, superfunny). 

By all appearances, Jordan is cut from the same cloth as Miranda Priestley (The Devil Wears Prada), but she soon meets her comeuppance. When she insults a little girl who has a few magic tricks up her sleeve, a spell is cast and Jordan is mysteriously transformed into her adolescent self (terrific newcomer Marsai Martin) and is made to go back to school. 

What subsequently plays out is a hilarious sequence of events which gives Jordan a fine education about the golden rule – while vividly demonstrating how timid birds like April can finally learn to soar like an eagle. 

SNL alum Rachel Dratch (as a tough social worker) and Luke James as Jordan’s boytoy Trevor make appearances. 

Co-writers Tracey Oliver and Tina Gordon (who directs) clearly know a thing or two about women’s experiences in the vicious working world, not to mention what it’s like to be classified an angry Black woman. Where does this pain come from? 

Given the magic/fantasy/sorcery angle, the comparisons to last month’s laughfest What Men Want (in which Taraji P. Henson can hear men’s thoughts) are inevitable. But Little is way more instructive, tacking such themes as workplace bullying, overcoming self-doubt and how to rise from misfit to star of the show. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

NEWS & NOTES: Regional leaders salute McIntyre / New MP Ann-Marie Vaz working for her people / Gov’t announces plans for Labour Day

>> Ann-Marie Vaz pledges support for CASE, Port Antonio Hospital 
The Port Antonio Hospital, which is experiencing a shortage of equipment, and the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE), which is yet to achieve university status, are among the priority projects that Ann-Marie Vaz will be taking on as she commences her tenure as Member of Parliament. “An issue [at the hospital] is the [absence of] a kidney dialysis centre, something that I am going to pursue within the first year of me being MP for East Portland. People have to spend three, four days out of Portland because the dialysis machine is in Kingston. I intend to change that,” she says. “And I am pledging my commitment to ensuring that CASE becomes a university. The truth is we send our children abroad to university, [but] Jamaica has the climate that is conducive to education all year round, and we should actually look at capitalizing on education here.” 

>> Tributes pour in for Sir Alister McIntyre 
The passing of Sir Alister McIntyre, a former Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) and a stalwart of regionalism, has met with a wave of glowing tributes from academic and political leaders. “He was an outstanding Caricom secretary-general as we moved from a Free Trade Association into the Caribbean Community. His mastery of the complex technical issues pertaining to trade, finance and the development agenda provided the backbone for the ACP [agreement] throughout the Lome negotiations,” recalls former Jamaican prime minister P.J. Patterson. His close friend Sir Shridath Ramphal couldn’t agree more: “The region’s debt to Alister is payable only in a new enlightenment that makes Caribbean oneness the reality for which we lived.” A Grenadian by birth, McIntyre passed away in Jamaica last Saturday. He was 87 years old. 

>> Child safety issues getting special attention for Labour Day 2019 
For this year’s raft of activities being planned to mark Labour Day (May 23), special emphasis will be placed on the safety of the nation’s children. So says Minister (with portfolio responsibility) Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange. According to Grange, Workers’ Week (which starts on Sunday, May 19) and Labour Day come at a critical period for our children and other vulnerable road users, as they take place during Child Month and just before Road Safety Month. “We thought that the evolution of road safety onto this national community-based platform,” says Grange, “would deepen the impact of the existing public-private road safety campaign led by the National Road Safety Council, Ministry of Transport and Mining, Ministry of Education, the JN Foundation, and UNICEF Jamaica, among others.”

Saturday, 27 April 2019

POWER & PRAISE: NDTC dancers, singers and musicians stir the soul, lift the spirit at Easter Sunday recital

SING OUT: The choir's selections ranged from classical gems to reggaefied spirituals.

EWAN Simpson made way for Heston Boothe, who has now passed the baton to Dr. Kathy Brown. She brings deft arrangement skills to this pivotal role of (Acting) Musical Director of the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), with specific responsibility for the 15-member Singers, looking like Grecian artists in their full-white costumes with red strings at the waist. 

There was a vibrant sheen to their performance last Sunday morning, as they took to the stage at the Little Theatre for the traditional Easter Sunday Morning of Movement and Music. Not only was the blend of voices rousing, their suite of songs truly struck a chord.

Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” very commanding, was a solid success, providing accompaniment for the dancers (choreographed by Kevin Moore), as they opened the show. Soloist Kaydene Gordon gave an impressive rendition of “We Shall Behold Him,” followed by soprano Faith Livingstone and contralto Kimone Johnson offering a subtle, sublime take on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Pie Jesu.”

Led by Tah-je Thompson, the Negro spiritual “Done Made My Vow” also connected with its lovely three-part harmony. But the choir raised the bar with “You Made a Way” (led by Joshua Page), a reggaefied treatment of the Travis Greene hit. Newcomer Shane Wright, sharing the spotlight with Kamala Johnson-Nicholson, gave a solid account of his vocal prowess, taking the lead on the powerful “Bless the Lord (Son of Man),” popularized by Grammy winner Tye Tribbett.
By all appearances, the dancers poured their all into their selected pieces, and the audience responded accordingly. Clad in purple costumes, the quartet of Kerry-Ann Henry, Mishka Williams, Ashley Bromfield and Jada Buchanan offered an excerpt from Rex Nettleford’s thought-provoking Blood Canticles, which was later revisited in the programme for an excerpt led by Marisa Benain, Mark Phinn, Michael Small and Artistic Director Marlon Simms. 

Also on the programme: Kevin Moore’s Inward Stretch Outward Reach, done by a five-member all-male cast; the pas de deux Vision (from the Clive Thompson canon), rendered by the graceful Ashley Bromfield and Javal Lewis, which drew extended applause at the end.

Full of sprightly moves, Simms’ Homeland was a tropical splash of rhythm and energy. The penultimate piece for the morning, it made way for Nettleford’s Psalm 150, a live fusion of the sacred and spiritual, Noel Dexter music and earnest movement, bringing the curtains down on yet another memorable, quintessentially NDTC occasion.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

THE BEAUTY PAGE: Gracie-Ann Watson on loving life, her perfume collection, and her girl crush on Beyoncé

STRIKE A POSE: "This is me. I always be myself," shares the full-time mom and part-time actress.

Juggling two kids (11-year-old Unique and Tyreek, 8), a day job in the auto industry, a part-time acting career and club-league netball, Gracie-Ann Watson has a full plate. But she loves all that she does so much that she feels no stress, no pressure. Now in her early 30s (to be confirmed), she looks great and sounds like a woman in a truly happy place in her life. This season, Watson, who has made a name for herself doing films (Glory to Gloriana), plays (Mature Attraction), music videos (Wayne Marshall, Vybz Kartel) and TV projects (Royal Palm Estate), returns to centrestage for Sugar Daddy Wednesdays at the Phoenix Theatre.

>> Style icons and inspiration: Locally, I love actress Carol Campbell. She’s a beautiful and natural woman. Very pleasant and easy to work with. Fabulous actress. On the international scene, I love Beyoncé. I’ve always admired her style and how creative she is. And you never hear any gossip about her. She’s beautiful on the inside and out and such a great, positive role model for young women.

>> Hair/Makeup/Glam crew: I do my own makeup (Laughs). Some women will take like 30 to 45 minutes to get ready. I don’t need more than 10 minutes. I normally stick to a natural foundation, lipstick, eyeliner and some eyeshadow. I have two stylists who do my hair, Kel and Kerry.

>> My Ideal Look: This is me. I always be myself. If something is in style right now, I’m going to wait a while before I go with it. I always want Gracie to stand out from what’s happening in fashion. A lot of people think I’m Indian, but it’s because my mom has good hair. My favourite way to wear my hair is braided because it doesn’t show my age. (Laughs).

>> Must-have products: Apart from my makeup kit, I have a big perfume collection. Love, love, love perfume. Good Girl is a favourite brand. I also have DKNY, Desire and Chanel Blue. 

>> What’s beautiful to me: Being happy and comfortable with your life; that’s beautiful to me. Being natural, being real. That is what life is about. I strongly believe in that. You make life what it is. 

Glam girl! Keep up with Watson on Instagram @barbiegracie.

WOMEN ON TOP: Dahlia Harris’ ‘purposeful’ new role / UDC promotes Heather Pinnock to GM / Kathleen Moss takes over as JN Bank Chairman

PUBLIC SERVICE: Providing leadership for almost 1,000 professionals (spanning technical services, legal, finance and estate management), Heather Pinnock has been appointed General Manager of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC). A graduate of the University College of London (a Master’s in Development and Planning), Germany’s Dresden University (postgrad certificate in green economy) and Jamaica’s University of Technology (an architectural studies degree), Pinnock had been acting GM since September of last year. According to the UDC board, their top priorities going forward include such mega-projects as the Closed Harbour Beach Park in Montego Bay, for which ground was recently broken, and Downtown Kingston redevelopment, including the construction of the Houses of Parliament buildings, set to commence in 2021. 

FINANCE: In the wake of major changes to operations at the Jamaica National Group, Kathleen Moss has been appointed Chairman of JN Bank. A management consultant and chartered business valuator with Sierra Associates, Moss’ appointment took effect on April 17. Also occupying new posts within the Group: Elizabeth Ann Jones (new co-deputy chair); Peter Morris (Chairman of JN General Insurance Company Ltd.); William Mahfood (Chairman of JN Money Services Ltd.) and Parris Lyew Ayee (Chairman of JN Foundation and JN Small Business Loans). Oliver Clarke will continue to chair the board of the JN Group. CEO Earl Jarrett is pleased with the changes. “It is clear that JN has in place a great leadership team,” he says, “that will not only navigate the challenges of business but that will also carry on the legacy of its predecessors.” 

BEAUTY: As Weston Haughton’s new partner at Crown of Beauty, franchise holders of the Miss Jamaica World beauty pageant, Dahlia Harris wants to use the platform to bring meaningful and lasting change to the lives of young Jamaican women, buoyed by the ‘beauty with a purpose’ mantra. “Beauty with a purpose continues to be very important to us, and one of the things we want to do this year is launch the Miss Jamaica World Mentorship Programme,” she told the Observer. “If you list all the [past] winners and what they have achieved and how they have contributed, they truly represent Beauty with a Purpose. So we want to identify young women in their communities who are already actively involved in projects [and can] make a difference to national life.”

Saturday, 20 April 2019

TIME & PLACE: Painful secrets, family drama give Special Cuts its sharp edge

BUSINESS HOURS: Actors sharing scenes from the high-energy production.

Special Cuts (Dredz Productions)
Director: David Tulloch
Cast: Kadeem Wilson, Sabrina Thomas, Oraine Meikle and Aisha Davis
Venue: Phoenix Theatre, Kingston

THE drama and tensions and deep-seated resentments that can manifest when people attempt to meld business and friendship race to the surface in Special Cuts, the latest theatrical offering from the Rashiem Shepherd-led Dredz Productions camp.

Set in a modern-day barber-beauty shop, the play (cleverly written and very strongly acted) also looks at relationship dynamics, betrayal, the disabled community and bad parenting – raising poignant questions about some core factors behind the breakdown in family values in contemporary society.

A smart writer, wise beyond his 29 years, Shepherd (One Blood) manages to imbue the story with just the right amount of seriousness and humour, combined with powerful life lessons, giving ace director David Tulloch great material to work with.

In a nutshell, fans of Ice Cube’s Barber Shop and Queen Latifah’s Beauty Shop will feel right at home in the audience, as we follow these four well-developed characters on their bumpy rollercoaster ride.

Alex (Kadeem Wilson) and Tina (Sabrina Thomas) have a successful barber-beauty business going and a platonic, mutually respectful relationship. Alex’s physically challenged son AJ (a very convincing Oraine Meikle), who is determined to have a music career, regularly visits his pops. Together, the three of them crack jokes and reflect on the past, present and future and what they really want out of life.

Their sense of stability and unity experiences a seismic shift when former schoolmate Lisa (Aisha Davis) enters the picture and is given a job as their new in-house nail technician. But what was expected to be a smooth transition for the business quickly becomes a hot mess. Battle lines are drawn and long-buried secrets re-emerge, causing an emotional thunderstorm.  

It all feels very true-to-life, and this realness works in the show’s favour, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats as the action heads towards a shattering conclusion. All four actors do their director proud, especially Thomas, whose layered portrayal of the shrewd Tina is arguably her best yet. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

50-SECOND MOVIE REVIEW: Pet Sematary remake disappoints

SILENT NIGHT: Clarke goes searching for answers.

THE Stephen King classics we really want to see get a modern cinematic update are Misery and The Shining. But we don’t always get what we deserve. Alas, we have to settle for a new take on Pet Sematary, which packs some jolting suspense and hair-raising moments but lacks the requisite oomph for ‘waking the dead.’

Jason Clarke (Winchester) stars as ER doctor Louis Creed, who has just moved his family from Boston to a sleepy and secluded rural town named Ludlow for a change of pace and a fresh start. His wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz), infant son Gage (Hugo Lavoie) and bright eight-year-old daughter Ellie (Jeté Laurence) don’t mind the change of scenery. But when the strange occurrences start piling up, they begin to have doubts. 

Based in the woods right by their house is a cemetery where kids go to bury the remains of their pets. According to an old neighbour, Juds (John Lithgow), whom Ellie befriends, trips to the graveyard have become a ritualized tradition over the course of decades. What’s more, he confides to Louis, it’s not your average burial ground; it has the power to bring the dead back to life! When Ellie is killed in a bizarre accident, Louis realizes he has some tough choices to make, resulting in a most terrifying ordeal for his family.  

Clocking in at close to 100 minutes, the film (directed by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Windmyer, with a screenplay by Jeff Buhler) moderately succeeds in translating King’s haunting vision to the big screen. It’s an engaging plot and suspenseful narrative. But for a Stephen King-based horror flick, it’s a moderately scary and satisfying cinematic experience. Tyrone’s Verdict: B-

LOSING OUR BEST: ‘Over 500 J’can nurses migrated in 2018’ – NAJ’s Carmen Johnson

UP FOR DEBATE: Per Johnson, we are not taking care of our nurses.

NURSES are leaving the country in droves, and unless this alarming human resource matter is effectively addressed, troubling days are ahead for Jamaica’s public health-care system. So says Carmen Johnson, president of the Nurses Association of Jamaica, who says she is deeply worried about the future of nursing care in the country.

“Last year alone we lost about 500 nurses who have migrated. And it is projected that in the first half of this year we will lose even more,” the NAJ president told TALLAWAH during an interview at their Trevennion Road-based headquarters in Kingston. “So with all the big plans we have, if we don’t look at the human resource factor we are going to have a major challenge in the system.”

Between January and February, one hospital alone lost about 50 members of their nursing staff. “With so many nurses migrating for better opportunities overseas, it is negatively impacting the system,” Johnson emphasized. “And because of it, we now have a higher patient-nurse ratio in the hospitals, causing overwork and fatigue. We need the Government to show that we value the nurses and want to keep them in the country.”

There are several factors behind this mass exodus, not just monetary.

“The requisite legislation to govern the advanced practice of registered nurses, mental health officers, anaesthetists and other sub-groups has still not been passed. We’ve been lobbying for years and still nothing has come out of it,” Johnson, currently in her second term as president, explained. “We think it’s high time now that the Government gave it some priority attention. Other countries have passed their bills. So Jamaican nurses have been carrying out their duties without the proper legislation and anything can happen.”

Johnson says it’s a high-agenda item for the association going forward. “We are still hoping to say to the nurses, ‘Stay in the country,’” she said. As for a meeting with health minister Dr. Christopher Tufton to voice their concerns, Johnson says, “We are awaiting a date, so we can have discussions.”

Thursday, 11 April 2019

‘SUPER’ MAN: For his latest effort, David Tulloch takes on Jesus Christ Superstar

I AM: The legendary musical has been staged numerous times on Broadway.

DAVID Tulloch loves a fresh challenge. It’s the artist in him. He didn’t have to wait long for his latest showbiz project to find him. And it’s massive: directing a Jamaican staging of the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic Jesus Christ Superstar, just in time for the Easter season.

As we all know, JCS ranks among the most powerful productions in the history of musical theatre, and Tulloch regards this distinction with the utmost respect and humility. “It is iconic, and this is indeed a milestone moment in my career. For this production, the producers received the actual Broadway rights, so this is huge,” he tells TALLAWAH. “They want to put on a quality production, and they called me to direct it. So for me it’s a mammoth task.” '

But Tulloch, whose track record in Jamaican theatre speaks for itself, is far from backing down. What’s more, he knows the show like the back of his hand. “I played Jesus three times, so to be stepping into the director’s shoes now feels like a natural progression. I respect Webber’s work. He’s a master, and getting to direct and bring it to Jamaican audiences in 2019 feels special.” 

Tulloch admires the play’s fusion of religious fervour, musical splendour and controversial subject matter. “The story is Christ seen through Judas’ eyes. We get to see what Judas did and what he thought he did,” the director explains. “And what Webber has done is to tap into the more human side of Jesus. It’s graphic, but we see a more human side of him. The Crucifixion is a pinnacle moment and the moment when Judas hangs himself.”
To bring this spectacle to life and do it justice, the producers (led by Jodi Marie Smith) have assembled a large army of talents. In addition to Tulloch, the creative team includes the likes of Robin Baston (lighting design) and Antonio Dennis (choreography) and a cast comprised chiefly of actors hailing from Western Jamaica. 

Jesus Christ Superstar plays at Montego Bay’s Iberostar Hotel (which reportedly has a fabulous theatre space) on April 13 and 14 before moving to Kingston for shows at the Courtleigh Auditorium on May 18 and 19. 

The director is looking forward to audiences being riveted by the finished product. “The play is a legend. It opened in the 1970s, and in 2019 it is still in demand. It has been revived on Broadway countless times and been done in almost every country, even in Japan,” he shares. “When we had the launch recently, [Tourism] Minister [Ed] Bartlett said he was extremely proud that it is being staged here, and I promised that I would deliver.”

OPEN HOUSE: Customer satisfaction is key to the success of Suzie Q’s new real-estate venture

 A SENSE OF PLACE: The business woman shows property from Kingston to Ocho Rios to Florida.

PAULA ‘Suzie Q’ Bonner is truly a woman of many talents. Many of us grew up watching her on TV as she helped launch numerous reggae/dancehall careers as the affable host of the music countdown show, Reggae Trail TV. She took a break from that project and relocated to Florida, re-emerging a few years ago as a new woman in Christ – and the host of Gospel Trail TV, which she eventually brought to local audiences after a successful stint in the States. 

Seasons change, and Suzie Q is now on to fresh, rewarding challenges. Chief among them is the launch of a real-estate business.

How many of her longtime fans know that Suzie Q has been dabbling in the real estate biz on the side for years, even doing a stint with industry giants Century 21? Now, with years of experience to her credit, and steadily increasing demand for her services, she is intent on making Suzie Q Real Estate a force to be reckoned with, a major player, in the local and North American sectors. Call her ‘Jamaica’s property guru’. She likes that.

“I was with Century 21 up to last year, when I got the idea to open my own business, start my own company, and I spoke with a few people about it,” shares the hard-working woman who got her Jamaican license in January. “I’ve taken my time learning the ins and outs of the business, and I decided that I wanted my own office space. Because of the person I am, I want to do it right.”

She’s been seeing clients in her new digs on Haughton Avenue, a prime spot in New Kingston with a sweeping view of the business district. “This location is very central. I especially like the fact that I am surrounded by banks,” she says, chuckling.

But Suzie’s work takes her across the island and to Florida, where she still maintains connections because of her successful practice. A few weeks ago she was in Ocho Rios showing a property. Her growing clientele includes customers from several parishes, England and the States. “At the moment I mostly do listings. I deal with owners trying to sell their property or trying to buy a property,” she explains.

Given her expertise and longevity in the biz, what would Suzie Q say is key to success in real estate? “The key for me is to care about your clients. Don’t try to throw anything at them just to make a buck. Understand the needs of your clients and try to, as close as possible, meet those needs,” she advises. “Sometimes a client might want to downsize or sell that six-bedroom house because the kids have moved out, and you now have a big house that’s irrelevant. So you want to help them sell the property and find another property.” 

Along the way, there are those extra-special moments. “It’s great to see a home-buyer purchase their first property,” Suzie says, “and to see the joy on their faces.” 

Suzie Q has a few ideas for projects she’s toying with. For instance, she really wants to coach future real-estate practitioners and also open a home for abused women and children. But that will be in her next chapter. 

For now, she is acutely focused on building up her real-estate portfolio and growing the company. “Real estate can be a glamorous, elegant job you can grow old in,” says the doyenne, who declares that she is ‘still young, not quite 50 yet.’ “People get to build up a relationship with you. Your responsibility is to help them get the best price, the best deal for the money they have. Doing real estate is not about the commission that I get paid. My heart is in it.” 

>> Connect with Suzie Q online at www.suzieqrealestate.com.

NEW MUSIC REVIEW: Hot new tracks from Romain Virgo, Alkaline, Kumar Bent, Bugle and Etana

Bugle and Etana
“Show Love”
Two of reggae’s most respected contemporary talents team up on this easy-breezy number encouraging us all to ‘love thy neighbour’ and rise to higher moral ground. Etana, fresh from her first Grammy nod, and Bugle, who keeps racking up the hits, share a delightful chemistry that makes the song a tuneful experience. [B+]

Kumar Bent
“It’s Alright”
We could all use some emotional uplift in these turbulent times. The former Raging Fyah frontman makes his solo debut with this feel-good track about keeping the faith and striving against the odds. Bent’s vocals are as earnest and sincere as ever, whetting appetites for the body of work he’ll be delivering as he embarks on a post-boy band career. [B]

“Never Lose Hope”
The ace deejay, known for his hard-hitting rhymes, flips the script with this conscious, keep-your-head-up single, off the Made in Jamaica riddim, that ‘burns out’ corrupt practices and other social ills. At the same time, Alkaline is all about giving strength and courage and timely reminders to his fans about side-stepping the snares of the enemy. [B]

Romain Virgo
Black queens, Mr. Virgo is your biggest fan. He pours on the charm and appealing lyrics on this radio-ready jam that’s a celebration of Black beauty and chocolate goodness. While encouraging his fans to ‘love the skin you’re in’ and boost up their self-confidence and self-esteem, he’s echoing the timeless message that Black is beautiful. You better know it. [A-]

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

NEWS FEED: Jimmy Cliff gets major honour in birth parish + ‘Out of Many’ wins Houses of Parliament design contest

>> MoBay’s finest: The ‘Hip Strip’ renamed Jimmy Cliff Boulevard 
“Earlier this year I was in Africa, and they honoured me by giving me a piece of land. But I want to say it’s good to be honoured in the [Motherland], but here in the parish where I was born, it’s highly appreciated,” said Jimmy Cliff, moments after Montego Bay’s Gloucester Avenue (more popularly known as the ‘Hip Strip’) was officially renamed Jimmy Cliff Boulevard. Given the name James Chambers at birth, the star of the screen classic The Harder They Come and the voice behind such timeless hits as “Many Rivers to Cross” and “You Can Get it if You Really Want” was born at the old hospital 71 years ago. Tourism minister Edmund Bartlett said the re-naming is a most fitting honour for this distinguished son of the soil. “No other Jamaican has been able to span theatre, the big screen, the silver screen, as well as reggae and other musical genres like Jimmy Cliff has done,” Bartlett told the gathering at the ceremony. “And it is against that background that we honour him here in the parish of his birth.” For culture minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, Cliff remains “a musical genius whose creative imagination and forceful character have brought fame not only to himself but to Montego Bay, St. James and Jamaica land we love.” 

>> Job Well Done: Design Collaborative pockets $5M for stunning Parliament building design 
“Our seat of power and authority must also be a standout building that inspires our leaders and incites our people to achieve greatness. So we expect that this building will reflect that image,” says Evan Williams, leader of the Design Collaborative team of architects who are now $5 million richer, having won the Houses of Parliament Design competition. For their stunning design titled “Out of Many, One People,” they also won the People’s Choice Award. “[The building] should be a statement that everyone can relate to, not only locals, but when people living elsewhere think of Kingston they must think about this building first.” Construction work on the new state-of-the-art building, on the grounds of National Heroes Park, is set to commence in 2021.

BOOK OF THE MOMENT: Marlon James returns with captivating, fantasy-driven fourth novel

BETWEEN THE PAGES: James goes into the wild with his latest offering.

HOW does one follow up a Man Booker Prize-winning masterpiece? If you’re Marlon James, you seize the opportunity to take a creative departure. For his latest literary offering, the adventurous Jamaican storyteller has kicked off his new Dark Star trilogy with Black Leopard, Red Wolf, a fantasy-laden vision of ancient Africa.

Packing some 600-plus pages, the novel features a hunter for hire named Tracker, whose pursuit of a missing boy takes readers across landscape replete with warfare, sex, shape-shifters and no shortage of monsters and witches.

At the outset, James wanted to tell a story about the fall of a royal house and its mad queen, but when the character Tracker came to him, he decided to flip the script. “Not every story appears to you A to Z,” he tells the Associated Press. “Sometimes Q shows up first.”

In any case, Black Leopard is a hit with the critics. While the New York Times declares that “James’ characters will take their place in the pantheon of memorable and fantastical superheroes,” the Washington Post hails the novel as “an African fantasy as vibrant, complex and haunting as any Western mythology.”

THE FIRST THREE: James’ novels are engrossing studies of power and glory

> John Crow’s Devil: Set in the ’50s, the author’s debut was about rival church ministers in a small Jamaican village

> The Book of Night Women: Obeah and slavery were central themes in this haunting saga

> A Brief History of Seven Killings: The attempted assassination of Bob Marley in 1976 sparked this 700-page epic that became a multi-prize-winning international bestseller

CHAT ’BOUT: Bad men in politics … Getting the Reggae Girlz ready … Should men influence the abortion debate?

“Why can’t we legislate that all men wear condoms, which would not only eliminate unwanted pregnancies but also the transmitting of diseases such as AIDS and STIs? Those men who insist on policing women’s bodies need to understand they are encouraging flagrant disrespect for women’s autonomy, which is tied to an outdated, racist patriarchal ideology.” – Prof. Opal Palmer Adisa weighing in on the latest round of the abortion debate 

“I don’t believe that all politicians are corrupt. However, polls and research have consistently shown that people believe that they are the number-one set of corrupt individuals anywhere. People believe they are more corrupt than the police and more [corrupt] than any other professional group.” – Newspaper columnist and medical doctor Garth Rattray

“What we are now seeing is not a new strain. It has been here since 2009. We created the alert, announced the alert, indicated the symptoms, advised persons most vulnerable to get vaccines if necessary and, of course, asked those affected through the symptoms to seek medical advice… You never want to be complacent when you have those issues, so all the necessary precautions have to be taken.” – Health minister Dr. Chris Tufton on Jamaica’s capacity to fight the H1N1 and other flu viruses in the island 

“We’ve got a few technicalities that we got to wait on with FIFA, but once we get all that stuff sorted, we can finalize our roster. We’ll take 23 [players] for the games, but we’ll take 26 on the trip. That gives us an additional three players to be on that trip. And, obviously, if somebody gets injured we’d have those alternatives there training.” – Senior Reggae Girlz head coach Hugh Menzies on fine-tuning preparations for the Girlz’ trip to this summer’s World Cup Finals in France

“ISSA is always looking to make the meet better, and if we are going to make the meet better, we must employ modern equipment. We believe that the championships is at a stage where our student athletes must get a chance to feel what it is like when you compete on the international stage.” – Outgoing Wolmer’s Boys principal and ISSA president Dr. Walton Small on the future of Boys & Girls Champs

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

A CLEAR VISION: At 20, Eye Q Optical looks to enhance its formula for success

PICTURE PERFECT: Wohl and Lee Miles are all smiles at the in-store trunk show.

TWO decades in any business field is no easy accomplishment. Such a milestone is achieved by constantly striving for the best and giving your customers and clients the best. Eye Q Optical—celebrating 20 years of service to Jamaica this year, has perfected a formula for success grounded in this principle. “…we’ve always tried to stand out,” says CEO Dr. Aron Wohl, from behind his desk at the New Kingston office.

According to the good doctor—a University of Manchester-trained optometrist who moved here from the UK—the Eye Q Optical team is constantly coming up with effective ways of giving customers more. “We have fully qualified and locally registered optometrists to provide a higher level of professional care ... proper eye examinations and care. So everybody gets the best with affordable alternatives. I believe everybody deserves the best,” he shares.

By all appearances, it’s a fail-proof formula for how to succeed in business, especially when your product or service is top-of-the-line. “When we started 20 years ago, we wanted to raise the level of eyewear in Jamaica, giving the client great options to suit their optical needs,” explains Wohl, who worked for Vision Plus back in the day before striking out on his own. “So we invested in range and quality. We buy our lenses from the UK for better quality. We were the first to start promoting clearer lenses on the Jamaican market. And that’s what sets us apart.”

Today, Eye Q Optical boasts elegant, comfortable locations in New Kingston (at the Courtleigh Business Centre) and Manor Park, carrying a bounty of designer frames and chic glasses to suit every taste and budget.

“Now we’re in the growth phase,” says Wohl, 52, who is planning to branch out islandwide. “We’re looking to go to Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Mandeville … Sav is a good place. I think I’ve been disruptive in the industry, but in a good way, and I hope I have the fire to do it again.” 
Wohl and his team, including long-serving staffers like Elsa Figueroa and Heather Small, are always thinking of their customers. “I want to make it an experience when you come here,” the CEO notes, sounding optimistic. “I want people to be informed after they leave here – not just about their glasses – whether it’s medical information about their condition, the pros and cons, or other helpful health tips.” 

Providing eyewear for visually impaired and needy schoolchildren, via their Mission Vision charity project, and a series of trunk shows at their two locations are among the activities being planned to celebrate the 20th anniversary.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

CURTAIN CALL: Family and friends celebrate Aston Cooke’s legacy during lively, reflective farewell service

FINAL RESPECTS: Grange greeting members of the bereaved family.

DESPITE a lengthy power outage and steady showers, the thanksgiving service to celebrate the life and work of Aston Eric Cooke Jr. proceeded without delay inside the Douglas Orane Auditorium (Wolmer’s Boys School) on Saturday morning. As they say in the theatre, the show must go on.

With his close friend Dahlia Harris moderating the proceedings, glowing tributes and remembrances came from some distinguished Jamaicans, esteemed colleagues, relatives, friends and former schoolmates who knew Aston best. 

The overwhelming consensus: Aston Cooke, playwright, avid photographer, cultural authority and influencer, was a gentle giant, a warm spirit, who loved Jamaican culture so much that it came to define his life.

“He was no ordinary playwright. He understood and appreciated our Jamaicanness,” noted culture minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, recalling Cooke’s body of work that included such highlights as Country Duppy, Single Entry, Jamaica 2 Rahtid and scripts for the television hit Oliver at Large. “Aston leaves us with an outstanding legacy. Let us not take this for granted.”

Michael ‘Stringbeans’ Nicholson, Deon Silvera and Marcia Brown all recalled life-changing experiences that came with bringing to Jamaican audiences stellar productions created by Cooke. Quindell Ferguson (Schools’ Drama Festival) and Weston Haughton (Miss Jamaica World) took us down memory lane as they spoke about the Aston they knew.
Church brother Barrington Burke-Green remembered their years as members of the Anglican Youth Fellowship (AYF). Fellow Wolmerians Owen Sterling and Milton Samuda spoke on behalf of the Wolmer’s Trust and the old boys’ association. 

For Samuda, when it came to leadership, his departed friend was a natural. “Cookie took to leadership with the ease and comfort that many in public life should aspire to,” he said. “He showed early signs of the mentor he was to become.”

The Jamaica Youth Theatre (JYT), the Ashé ensemble and songstress Tulip Reid, a vision in canary yellow, gave moving performances in song and dance.

Cooke, who served with distinction such organizations as the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) and the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) passed away at his St. Andrew home last month. He was 61 years old.

Friday, 5 April 2019

THE BEAUTY PAGE: Neisha-Yen Jones talks about being a naturalista, her style icons and supporting local brands

MIRROR, MIRROR: Miss Jones works her fierce look for the camera.

Currently nominated for her first Actor Boy Award for performance (for her leading-lady turn in the dramedy What Goes Around) and her second overall (she previously won for choreographing the musical At the Barricade), Neisha-Yen Jones is loving this moment in her showbiz career. Here, the gorgeous Best Actress contender and Daytime Live co-host dishes on what keeps her always looking so fresh and fabulous.

>> Style icons and inspiration: Diana Ross. I love that she is so free and fierce with her style. She’s very daring; not afraid to rock the big hair. Lauryn Hill is also a style icon for me. She’s so unique in how she dresses. Very intricate. And I also love the Cleopatra vibe. Very Afrocentric. Locally, Emprezz and I are kindred spirits. Debbie Bissoon (left) always looks flawless to me. They both represent a sense of queenliness.

>> Hair and glam crew:There’s a young lady called Shauna Spence from Classic Kidz [at the Pulse complex] who does my hair. Nobody else touches my hair. I even introduced her to Shuga. I find that she gets me; she knows what I like. I’m all about a natural aesthetic, even when I’m wearing extensions, and Shauna does a great job.

>> Ideal look: This is my ideal look – Afro puffs and large earrings. The most beautiful thing about an African woman is her face, and I find that when I wear my hair up, my eyes pop. I’ve been teaching my daughter about embracing her natural beauty. We don’t straighten our hair. Natural curls, natural definition.

>> Must-have products: I mainly use two brands in my hair – Ettenio and Kumea’s. Ettenio has a great shampoo and conditioner and leave-in detangler, and Kumea’s gives your hair a nice texture. And both of them are Jamaican brands run by women, so I had to support.

>> What’s most beautiful to me: I love to make my daughter laugh because she is most beautiful when she’s laughing. I also find beauty among the trees when I go up to Hollywell. It’s quiet; it’s beautiful, so I always enjoy a drive up to the mountains. I have three kittens at home now. So cute. They bring me to tears.