Review of “Ex Machina” (Spoiler Discussion Below Review)

Robert Keaton Maxwell

There was Chappie last week. Then there was Ex Machina yesterday. Then there is Avengers: Age of Ultron on Thursday. The artificial intelligence damning humanity plot-line is pretty popular these days, it seems. ex-machina-poster

Here’s the thing: out of those three movies I listed, Ex Machina’s probably going to be the best one. It is good, really good, and keeps getting better in my head the more I think about it. Not that it’s revolutionary or anything, but just because it’s done really well and knows what it wants to be right down to every single word of the screenplay.

Without spoiling anything yet, as there is a LOT to spoil, the movie really only stars four characters, only three of which have speaking roles. So, in short, this entire project hinged on them being great. And, well, they were. They were phenomenal, all three of them. Oscar Isaac and Alicia…

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The Many Uses of Beautiful Bamboo: A New Jamaican Training Program

The Many Uses of Beautiful Bamboo: A New Jamaican Training Program

Petchary's Blog

When I was living in Japan, many moons ago, I discovered bamboo. On walks in the mountains outside Tokyo, bamboo groves arched across the path, graceful and tall. Then I began to notice how much the Japanese incorporate this tree into many aspects of everyday life. You could buy almost any household item made from bamboo: baskets, of course; furniture of all kinds; kitchen implements; and of course, entire houses and parts of houses. We sat on bamboo benches outside, had bamboo mats and bamboo window blinds inside (none of these things were expensive – there was plenty of material). I was also amazed to see bamboo scaffolding on buildings under construction! This wood is incredibly strong. Nowadays, you can even buy rather beautiful bamboo computer mouses (mice?) and keyboards!

Music speakers made of bamboo. Music speakers made of bamboo.

In Jamaica, the non-native bamboo (bamboo vulgaris) is seen as an invasive species. It spreads…

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Jamaica’s Poet Laureate to Lead Second Annual Writers’ Retreat in Lime Hall, St. Ann

Petchary's Blog


Last summer I participated in The Drawing Room Project’s first retreat led by Christine Craig, along with poets from Jamaica, the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. It was an extraordinarily fruitful and enriching experience, and I wrote about it in this blog. This year, the Retreat will be led by our very own Poet Laureate at the Liberty Hill Great House and Spa in Lime Hall, St. Ann from June 5 – 7, 2015. Full details are below. St. Ann residents are especially encouraged to attend and participate. By the way, I was a complete novice last year – and learned so much! APPLY TODAY! – note the deadline is APRIL 30, 2015.

The Drawing Room Project   Tel: (876) 793-5970

Jamaica's Poet Laureate Professor Mervyn Morris. Jamaica’s Poet Laureate Professor Mervyn Morris.

April 10, 2015

“A reading man and woman is a ready man and woman, but a writing man and woman is…

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UWI’s New Ganja Plantation, A Cable Debacle and a Sign Disappears: Friday, April 24, 2015

Petchary's Blog

Well! In just a few days since I last wrote, we have seen some interesting developments. I have been dashing up and down the city in the ever-growing heat (is it really still only April?) but will backtrack a little now and go over some of the mini-dramas that have occurred meanwhile.

Minister of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining Phillip Paulwell is assisted by principal of the University of the West Indies, Mona, Professor Archibald McDonald (left), and Government MP Raymond Pryce in planting the first legal ganja tree on the university’s campus. Standing at left is Minister of Justice Senator Mark Golding. (Photo: Aston Spaulding) Minister of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining Phillip Paulwell is assisted by principal of the University of the West Indies, Mona, Professor Archibald McDonald (left), and Government MP Raymond Pryce in planting the first legal ganja tree on the university’s campus. Standing at left is Minister of Justice Senator Mark Golding. (Photo: Aston Spaulding)

Hyper-ventilating: Government ministers and academics alike became wildly excited over the planting of some ganja plants (from an unknown source) on the University of the West Indies (UWI) campus on Monday. UWI and the University of Technology are now licensed to grow the plant…

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Do We Ever Think About Where the Waste Goes? Tourism Action Clubs Have Some Answers

Petchary's Blog

The Tourism Enhancement Fund continues to provide tremendous support for the Jamaica Environment Trust’s (JET) campaign to make Jamaicans more aware of the damaging effects of careless solid waste disposal on our environment…and on the environment our visitors see. Recently, Tourism Action Clubs across the island participated in a special research day to track where our waste ends up when we dispose of it thoughtlessly. The results were impressive; moreover, club members took the “action” part of their mandate seriously and organized cleanups in their respective communities. Well done to the students and teachers involved.

JET’s CEO Diana McCaulay reminded us that gullies (which is where much of our waste ends up) are not “self-cleaning.” When it rains, the garbage is just shifted somewhere else. We all have a personal responsibility to keep our environment clean, with the help and support of the Government. And on that note, she added, “Big…

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Freedom of Expression is particularly Expensive

       The state of Jamaica’s state media is a reputable one. Jamaica is internationally recognised as a sovereignty which encourages freedom of expression via any desired medium. As President Obama stated in his recent ‘working-visit’, “No one should face criminal prosecution for their right to expression, especially under democratic political arrangements.” He alluded to the fact that such situations, though not culturally specific, still exist in a more open world and open global economy. “Countries which persecute public or private expressions of freedom are to be educated into progressive change rather than secluded,” the President further stated. Several Democratic and non-democratic nations, whether autocratic or otherwise, supply information to their public throught state controlled television, radio and tabloids. This practice predates the original and principal publications of the printed press, but natives should have the freedom also to choose from which medium to have his/her news delivered to him/her. Authorities partaking in orchestrating the flow of information compel journalists to conform to their economic or political agendas and I do commend brave, rebellious journalists, employed or independent. However, some exaggerate their capacities to an insulting extent. Freedom is relative but is certainly not a one-way avenue and certainly applies to how citizens, nationally and internationally are informed about day-to-day happenings in close or distant proximity. Repetition is a key tactic used to en drench the minds of the public with misinformation, however, with the introduction of technological innovations like the internet, consumers can now choose and refuse how they are to be informed. The more celebrated news agencies are not exempt from exhibiting similar brainwashing strategies as mentioned, although their superiors might have no say in the matter.
       Do not misconstrue my sentiment toward state influenced media. It does not have to be a ghastly ordeal, if conducted with a measure of moderation. In Jamaica, the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), accepts the responsibility of educating and entertaining the public on a day-to-day basis of topics ranging across the board. It is a viable option for the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) and its underlinings to effectively communicate with the public as a whole. The implications of being updated by the political electorate as the sole source of information are self-explanatory. Members of these parliamentary ascended might even be defendants in criminal or constitutional lawsuits, details not privy to the wider public. To blindly entrust more than your legislative representation but also your educational fuel injection is absolutely absurd, considering said representatives mainly represent themselves and their interests. Citizens of the world entered the world with access to information as a basic human right; even though several handcuffed professions have emerged henceforward, I am afraid it has become an individual responsibility to seek and find accurate information. If history has taught us anything, it is that the truth can be stretched far enough to fabricate a new truth.
       I am of the view that the most prominent media houses in Jamaica suffer from a deficiency of essential informative vitamins which do not always exist on the surface. These bits and pieces of information are much rather like minerals existing deep beneath the mantle which need unearthing, mining and then some. I will avoid being label specific but not of their lazy approaches to delivering accurate local and international news. People from all walks of life, of varying professions and circumstances experience successes and challenges daily. It is not only milestones, redundancies and deaths which need to be announced. The notion of investigative journalism seems endangered, if not already extinct. Whatever is physically visible or occurs should not be the only thing writers or videographers can relay. Like crooked politicians and policemen, reporters often seek to expose and utilize their talents towards their networks and interests. Working in the field of media has taught me how important, if it was not previously transparent, punctuality is. Editorials, magazines and newspapers collectively rely on precise publishing along with taped broadcasts and prime time airings. I believe that in a scramble to meet the appropriate deadlines, our custodians of communication have been and still are omitting crucial information on a daily basis. When amassed, conceptualize all the overlooked information we may be oblivious to. As opposed to sitting behind a desk, in an office, on the ground reporting has always been the most fruitfully productive whilst maintaining source anonymity.
        The Government of Jamaica proudly boasts of its role in Jamaica being highly ranked among the list of countries with gender based equality as well as freedom of expression. Prejudice is seemingly frowned upon wherever highlighted and sanctioned. I used the word seemingly in the previous statement to underscore how thin the frown lines may be meanwhile the occurrences of discrimination are frequent enough for a permanent frown to be worn. A few notable examples include: artistes speaking against homosexuality through the creative and performing arts, practitioners and lecturers of science being silenced by forced resignations and journalists being manhandled, accosted, arrested and restricted interrogatingly. I perceive that both those being featured in newscasts and those conducting the interviews have etiquette to adhere to.  Wherein either of those parties’ human rights are breached, sanctions should follow suit. Specific to investigative journalism, I can remember several established programmes, encompassing: Your Issues Live, All Angles, Hotline and Live at 7. Sponsored Outside Broadcasts are a prevalent practice as well seeing media personalities directly interacting with commuters and their everyday activities. The RJR Cross Country Road Invasion is a much wider series of such events hosted by the RJR Communications Group.
          With all this being said, I conclude by charging our various information media to be bold and more probing as seen in the past. Approach reporting critical information with harder hands-on tactics, with critical being relative to what is relevant and current. I understand that this hilly and mountainous island poses a significant challenge with regard to accomplishing such tasks but as coverage becomes more accessible, so does the possibility of thorough Media. Media Houses ought to appropriately equip their employees towards their specialized niches. Much more in depth extraction, production and analysis can and should be done of the vital information to the very last second. Much of what a person consumes determines their reactions and also who they are. Whether reporters are conscious of the essential roles they play in that or not, married to the profession is certainly a responsibility to curb that in the right direction as they would an accelerated vehicle.

Aviators playing with lives like Toy Aircrafts

Aviators playing with lives like Toy Aircrafts






       Travel by air has been eternally rumoured as the safest way to travel since the Wright Bros’ innovative acts of aviation in the early 1900s. The world has recently been illuminated by exhibits  contrasting such a perception wherein at least three multi-carrier commercial flights have either disappeared or rapidly sunk to calamity. Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 allegedly disappeared from radars mid-course over the Asia-Pacific and flights of Caribbean Airlines & JetBlue Airlines experienced an almost runway run in at the John F. Kennedy International Airport. Lufthansa owned German Wings carrier flight 4U9525 departed Catalunya bound for Dusseldorf, Germany. Andreas Lubitz (28), co-pilot, is reported to have intentionally sunk the aircraft at 3000 ft per minute diverting it off course into the French Alps. It is quite unfortunate that while looking to a speedily growing and revolutionizing industry, namely solar powered aerial engineering and venturing; the aviation world and globe at large has been rocked by said man-made disasters. Despite having 630 Hours of flight experience, Andreas Lubitz was diasnosed to be of ‘no-fly’ conditions by his personal doctor. Severe depression was named as the main deterrent. Of this, Lubitz was not pleased. So much so, that he failed to educate his employers of his medical conditions. Unaware, Lufthansa subsidiary, German Wings’ superiors cleared him to fly with added supervision, as is custom. Lubitz’s ex-girlfriend flight attendant, Maria W, testimonied to possessing knowledge of his shortcomings. She added, he mentioned of having a desire to ‘change the system’ in a significant way and often complained of unsatisfactory working mandates.
       Aviation policy reform has now occurred as a reaction as opposed to anticipation of the worst possible outcome each time an airplane flies. Maybe because of the high success rates experienced since moving from cruiseliners to airliners as the more popular mode of travel, these intricacies have been overlooked. Ignorantly, might I add, because due to a common understanding among passengers of the risky business of flight, whenever a pilot successfully taxies a plane, there is a deafening round of applause on board. This understandably happens because to my knowledge, in attempt to accurately navigate a runway, the approach must be optimally planned with the requisite velocity and must also be sanctioned by the air traffic control tower. On entering the airstrip, which is much more difficult to see at night, the pilot must apply the brake immediately as the plane touches tarmac so that the nose can imitate the rudder. If a runway is congested the incoming carrier should encircle the airspace in order to open enough of a window for a correct approach and landing.  The previous statement refreshes my mind  of the American Airlines flight 331 scheduled to arrive at the Norman Manley International Airport which over stepped its boundaries and crashlanded on the Palisadoes strip with the plane’s fuselage decorating the Port Royal shoreline and roadway en route to Port Royal. I know and have heard of several average and high-profile persons shying away from air travel. I always presumed them to be a bit edgy but recent events force me to lean towards their perceptions of the journeying method. Several private plane pilots, passengers and owners have lost their lives as well, especially in the last 18months. Helicopters have also been having head on collisions with buildings. Trains have derailed widely in the past and up to modern records, but what is to account for the sudden spike in aviatory mishaps?
        According to the BBC World News, the  Sri Lankan Government has launched a criminal investigation into the country’s national airline after several allegations of corruption. In an official release from the Office of Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister, it was said that an inquiry uncovered major security breaches at Sri Lanka Airlines. During the previous administration, a $2.3 BN purchase of 10 aircrafts was conducted despite the availability of more cost-effective alternatives. The airline is divulged between the state and its staff, both commanding 95 % and 5 % of stakes, respectively.  Additionally, the airline was accused of trying to conceal two serious flight mishaps, details of which are not forthcoming. Nisantha Wickramasinghe, former chairman of the airline, is the brother-in-law of the preceding president Mahinda Rajapaksa, both of whom have been fingered as power hungry and abusive. In the case of the Missing plane, Malaysian flight MH370, all 227 passengers and crew did not turn up at the destination, Beijing Capital International Airport. Relatives and loved ones were simply told to go home without explanation. Kuala Lumpur International Airport, the location of departure, reported no signs of turbulence before or after takeoff. The blackboxes which record flight data and analyze course outline s were never recovered. The indestructible blackboxes from German Wings flight 4U9525 were analyzed and revealed evidence of panic and tension on the plane among passengers and stewardesses. A memory card was salvaged from the wreckage which contained footage of the captain trying to pry open the cockpit door with an axe and passengers screaming on seeing their eventual fate. German Wings stewardess, Maria W, recalled Lubitz having horrible nightmares and quoted him as saying “One day I will do something to change the whole system and all will remember my name.” Investigators found evidence of Lubitz’s ailments from a doctor’s note that would have kept him off work the day he killed 150 people.
       Lubitz did realise his callous dream, though not being alive to witness its fruition. New policy, internationally standardized, stipulates that two people must be present in the cockpit at all times. That would have been the case, had not the captain need to answer nature’s call, of which he complained shortly after departure. American Aviation Authorities had already put such measures in place after the gruesome unfoldings of September 11, 2001. The German Wings aircraft had only just reached a safe altitude for which the captain of flight 4U9525 could use to take a small bathroom break, unwittingly giving Lubitz a window of opportunity to enact his devious intentions. I strongly recommend that instead of mandating two persons at all times, three able-bodied pilots should be on board always. Maybe, a bench or folding bed of some sort for the third, of requisite flight experience; who is to be paid based on performance. Planes ought also to be strapped up with enough varying survival gear to be distributed  evenly among passengers and crew members. A stewardess might be able to oversee cockpit conduct, but what of impending danger? Who will steer the plane and its passengers from peril?

Images provided by: Getty Images, GOOGLE