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Friday, September 30, 2005

The National Identikit

J.G. Vassallo takes a historical look at Malta's national identity and asks a number of pertinent questions:

The Maltese State is 41 years young, but the Maltese nation has roots that are lost in the mists of earliest times. Who were the first inhabitants of the Maltese Islands and where did they come from? Was Malta first colonised by the temple-builders who put up the megalithic temples even before the Pyramids were built? Were there others before them? We know nothing about those people as persons, although we know a little about how they lived.

We know that Malta was invaded, occupied, pillaged by successive waves of different nationalities. Our heritage from different periods is sometimes scanty. Sometimes it is rich, particularly when the heritage, sadly neglected, is in stone. But was there a Maltese Boadicea or a Spartacus who stood up against the early invaders that ruled over our people? Or was there, at least, a Maltese Homer who sailed to horizons unknown? We have no clue..

What we know is that the Maltese are a nation unto themselves with their own language, traditions, and physical and other characteristics. The evidence suggests that the art of building in the far-off Stone Age reached a degree of skill and refinement unsurpassed in other megalithic and Neolithic locations. During the Roman period, Malta had the status of a “municipium” and we have it from Cicero that Malta was flowing with honey if not with milk..

What meaning do we give to our national identity today? What is the moral force that animates us today? Now that the doors of permissiveness have been thrown open, when the apostles of pluralism are claiming unlimited rights, when political polarization seems to have grown deep roots in Malta’s political and social milieu, is Malta held together by the cement of a long-established national unity, or is the cement disintegrating so that Malta will not be the same again? And will that be for the better or for worse? Is the Maltese nation the same united family it used to be or has it adopted a new set of values?...

David Ellul

From the Ob.Blog:

If you happen to be in Malta this Friday night, as I’m sure you’ll want to be, go see my friend Dave perform at The Labyrinth. They get it bang-on with this description:

The Labyrinth is introducing the incredibly talented Canadian singer and songwriter David Ellul as the resident artist on Acoustic Fridays. David’s repertoire is extensive and ranges from blues to rock and soft rock with some impressive mod-folk numbers of his own that are reminiscent of Bruce Cockburn

To get to The Labyrinth just head on over to Italy, turn right past Sicily to the first major land mass you see, land in Valletta and ask for Dave. Tell him Chris sent you.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Malta News Digest - September22-September28

Wednesday28: From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy-Malta bilateral meeting in Rome this October; Gianfranco Fini in Malta to discuss illegal immigration; From the Daily Telegraph, Malta appeals for EU help to stem invasion; Controversy surrounds the elections for the GWU leadership; Malta – a case study for the impact of land use policy; From New Zealand Stuff, New Zealand has negotiated an additional 1000 tonnes of beef access to Europe to compensate for markets lost in Malta and Cyprus
Tuesday27: EU delegation to investigate Malta crisis of illegal immigration; Malta’s fiscal deficit third highest in 2004; Anthony Manduca talks to the new US ambassador; 'Valletta compact' proposed for CHOGM, report on at cpsu.org.uk
Monday26: Airshow airplanes give last show on their departure; 209 illegal immigrants brought ashore; Michael Falzon interviewed by Gerald Fenech; Celebrating 20 years of environmental activism; Kitten in search of new home; Out of Africa by Klaus Vella Bardon; Ix-xelter tad-Duluri minn Daniela Attard Bezzina
Sunday25: From Reuters, Malta cancels all $8 mln of its Iraqi debts; More than 75 percent of Maltese women over 30 are overweight - WHO; MEPs attendance in committees; Ryanair chief tired of discussions that ‘go nowhere’; Fresh debate follows dead Constitution by Sharon Ellul Bonici; Malta to host EUTO tourism convention; Autumn leaves on the old arena by Lino Spiteri; Michaela Muscat speaks to Dutch anthropologist Jeremy Boissevain about the 1960s Church interdiction, and more; James Debono talks to GWU chief Tony Zarb; Michael Falzon (MLP) dwar il-preokkuppazzjoni tal-Maltin; 30 sena ilu: Wish You Were Here - Neither Here Nor There minn Kevin Saliba
Saturday24: Malta applies to join OECD as full member; Malta benefits from EU budget 2004; PN at sixes and sevens by J.G. Vassallo; Is-Serkin minn Wenzu Mintoff
Friday23: Reinventing our tourism by Alfred Mifsud; Barometru ta’ frustrazzjoni minn Argus
Thursday22: Foreign Minister appeal at UN on refugee rights; Celebrating Independence Day; Anthony Licari on the state of the country; Safeguarding Malta’s heritage by Christine Buttigieg

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Influx continues

More coverage today by the UK's Telegraph on the Maltese immigrants crisis:

More than 200 stowaways arrived on the Maltese coast over the weekend, most of them on board a fishing boat whose engine broke down near the shore. "The landing of 235 immigrants in Malta is equivalent to the arrival of 23,500 people in Sicily," said Mr Borg. The island's only centre for the migrants is currently housing more than 1,400 people, police said. The Maltese government is putting up tents and will open a new centre soon, "but if the influx of migrants continues at this pace, this will not be sufficient," he said.
Sinking Fears - David Rennie for the Telegraph; Three persons in court over arrival of 181 illegal immigrants; Gianfranco Fini in Malta to discuss illegal immigration

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Non Serviam

J Magnus Ericsson has just completed his stay in Malta about which he has been blogging regularly. He has written about his first impressions; the Merlins over Malta events; his visits to Gozo and Comino and to Valletta and about his mobile phone worries in Mdina and Rabat. In this entry, he blogs about food, transport and religion:

..Personal displays of Virgin Mary, and Madonna & Child abound. Even bus drivers adorn their driving compartments with biblical scenes and sayings: Verbum Dei caro factum est!. I cannot get over the feeling of kitsch when I see Virgin Mary decorated with a string of electric lights that would mostly be found in cheap restaurants and in christmas trees. Churches are similar all over the island; Two belfrys surrounding the entrance, and sometimes the midship of the church has a cupola. The work of Gerolamo Cassar, the St. John Co-Cathedral, was so successful it was copied by every village parish.

Tha pastime par preference for women in Malta was said to be bingo. Still I was amazed to see a bingo party gather at the hotel, and bingo discussed on the bus by old and young women. Apparently there was something on the network TV, but I missed most of the conversation in Maltese.

What about the title of the posting then? For dinner at a good maltese restaurant I ordered quail for starter, and rabbit for main course. Typical maltese dishes. Through some impenetrable conversion on the way to the kitchen, the starter became snails, proudly presented to my table! Well, they were quick about acknowledging the mistake, but there had been so many misunderstandings this day, so I let it stand as a typical end of the day...

Conclusion of vacation

Monday, September 26, 2005

Muriel Pavlow's Malta Story

A protagonist of the 1953 film The Malta Story, Muriel Pavlow is back in Malta for the first time since filming the British drama that focused on the crucial battle for control of Malta during the second world war. The Malta Story tells the story of Peter Ross, a Royal Air Force reconnaissance photographer who gets shot down over Malta while flying to Egypt. Since he cannot get off the island, the British forces make use of his talents in their war efforts against the Germans. Ross sets out to find and photograph the location of the Nazi forces attacking the island and he ends up falling in love with Maltese girl Maria played by Muriel. The film mixes archival combat footage with documentary-style reenactments to create a realistic portrayal of the historic battle. Muriel Pavlow spoke to Fiona Galea Debono of The Times about her career and her impressions of Malta:

Cameras click and fans ask her for autographs outside the Malta at War Museum at Couvre Porte, where the protagonist of the 1953 movie The Malta Story is being taken on a tour... down memory lane. It is Ms Pavlow's first visit to Malta since and, half a century down the line, she finds the island used to be "much rougher in looks, but still retains a unique quality and personality. I hope they won't alter it too much. "I wanted to come back (after making the movie), but it just never happened. My husband was an actor (Derek Farr) and we were both very busy. Short holidays had to be grabbed and it wasn't quite as easy as it is now to book a quick flight..

In The Malta Story, Ms Pavlow starred as a local girl, Maria Gonzar, and actually looked and sounded Maltese - which is hard to fathom, given the petite lady is an English rose, speaking Queen's English. As regards the accent, "it wasn't easy and I couldn't do it now. (Well, I could if I studied.) But I had help and was introduced to a very nice girl, Maryann Kissaun, with whom I've made contact and am hoping to meet again. "They had flown me out here about 10 days in advance and I had spent that time with Maryann, listening to her. I'd read a couple of lines from the script and if I was doing something really awful, she'd tell me."..

There may be nothing very diva-like about Ms Pavlow, but neither has she forgotten that she was an icon, and still is, for many a man who, at the time of The Malta Story, were young boys. She is not in the least bit surprised by the attention, but still finds it "touching". "As a matter of fact, however, I do get very worried when someone is introduced to me, and hope they are not thinking of me as Maria, or in one of my roles in the doctor films, or in Reach for the Skies," as she wouldn't want to disappoint...

Muriel Pavlow's Malta visit was made possible by Merlins Over Malta, in conjunction with the Malta Tourism Authority, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. The film is being screened at St James Cavalier this Wednesday 9.30 a.m. during the launch of the Malta Historic Cities Festival; more from MaltaMedia

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Calypso's isle

It is widely believed that Gozo is the island of Ogygia, where the beautiful nymph Calypso kept Odysseus as a 'prisoner of love' for several years. In Homer's poem 'The Odyssey', Calypso promised immortality to Ulysses if he would stay with her, but Ulysses rejected her and escaped to his wife Penelope who had remained faithful despite numerous temptations. 'Calypso's Isle: The Experience of Odysseus' was written by Boston based Greek mythology teacher Tracy Marks as a reflection on the Calypso chapter in Jean Houston's The Hero and the Goddess and Alicia LeVan's online Calypso and Circle. From Calypso's Isle:
During his stay on Calypso's isle, Odysseus is never able to fully accept his situation. His body is alive, but only in regard to sensuality. Calypso holds him so tightly in her embrace, that he is not free to embrace her in turn. And because of his unresolved grief and trauma, his heart remains closed. In book nine of the Odyssey, he says of both Calypso and Circe, "They never won the heart inside me, never."

But at the same time, Odysseus is also compelled to surrender. Only in surrender can another part of himself emerge and lead him forward once again. Only in surrender can he feel and release the deep grief he has been carrying all these years, and own the feminine energy within himself. And by the seventh year, he is ready to move into the next stage, what Houston refers to as the stage of active longing. He weeps ceaselessly, for Ithaca and for Penelope.

The waters are his own now - his tears. The island is his own making - his loneliness. The feminine is within him now - his own deep feeling. At this point, he begins to own and express his own anima .... and in this emerging wholeness, a new voice, which encompasses both the masculine and feminine can begin to exert its authority...
Geography in the Odyssey; Cleysi from Italy fell in love during a Malta vacation and hopes to have more luck than the legendary Calypso

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The right to admit people?

Granting refugee status, EP Civil Liberties Committee; The Foreign Minister at the UNGA; MLP calls for EU help; The CNI position

Mike and Michele's Global Wanderings

Malta is the latest stop on Mike and Michele's global wanderings. In this post they discuss a visit to the Cathedral and to the Hypogeum:
..Malta is a bit like Italy, which makes sense considering the location of the country. On the first day we rested quite a bit since we got up at 2:00am to catch the flight to Malta. The next day we went to an incredibly ornate church where I had to wear a borrowed skirt and shawl since I had on shorts and a tank top. Of course when I went to mosques in Turkey I would wear a head covering, pants, and long sleeves, but I didn’t think to do this in Malta. Turns out that 98% of the country is Catholic and understandably, they want you to show respect when in a church by covering your legs and arms. Everything in St. John’s Co-Cathedral was decorated and I mean everything. Every bit of the floors, walls, and ceilings had paintings...
Goodbye Turkey, Hello Malta!
Mike and Michele's webshots
Update: Check in only at noon

Friday, September 23, 2005

Throwback to the past

Potossolo is not too impresed by Malta. It reminds him of Italy fifty years ago:

...I maltesi sono essenzialmente strani, sono la stranezza per antonomasia, sono una eccezione emergente. In questo sta il succo della faccenda, e forse anche l'interesse. Tutto il resto è Italia fine anni '50, anzi, addirittura Italia 54, prima che nascessi io. Un tuffo nel passato prossimo, nelle commedie in bianco e nero, con Totò e Fabrizi.

I maltesi sono forse anche un po' "montati". Un po' spocchiosi, come quelle chiese enormi che costruiscono in tutti i loro paesi, quasi uguali. Si vede che è difficile pensare, di se stessi, di essere "qualsiasi". In un certo momento capita di essere in situazioni favorevoli (capita prima o poi a tutti) e subito a pensare di essere dei ganzi, dei prediletti, dei predestinati. Bisognerebbe pensare solo: oggi è capitato a me, poteva capitare a te, e non sarebbe cambiato granchè. Tale è la caducità e l'insussistenza del mondo!
Pomeriggio a Gozo

Saveguarding Malta's heritage

Christine Buttigieg of The Malta Independent spoke to Pierre Cassar of Heritage Malta. He tells her about the limited resources available for the upkeep and protection of Maltese heritage sites. Some excerpts:

I think that along the years there has been more awareness amongst the public regarding the uniqueness of what we have, particularly our megalithic temples. Despite Malta’s small size we have three listings in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Valletta is one of them, the Hal-Saflieni Hypogeum has a stand-alone listing, and the megalithic temples of Malta and Gozo are grouped in another listing. Technically this is what we have to offer to the hundreds and thousands of tourists who visit our island. Sea and sand can be found anywhere in the Mediterranean but the megalithic temples are unique to our islands.

Let’s get back to the public’s perception of our heritage. The turning point came in early 2003, if I’m not mistaken, when acts of vandalism were committed on the Mnajdra temples. Here we realised that our cultural heritage was at risk and that eventually led to a specific focus by the government to protect these sites and to basically bring them to the top of the agenda in cultural heritage. Nowadays we have a lot of interest from schoolchildren and we believe that if we invest in children we will be on the right track to safeguarding our heritage..

Security was stepped up in practically all sites with specific focus on the megalithic temples because we believe that what happened was a disgrace to society. Not just to local society but to international society at large. We are currently in the process of stepping up security not just through human resources but also through technology. But these things do come at a price and our budget is quite limited. So we have to establish priorities and our priority at the moment is to upgrade our sites while making them more accessible to the public..

..I think there are some upcoming artists who have a particular liking to archaeology because of the megalithic temples. It is interesting that people, particularly foreigners, request to have private meditation sessions in the temples. They believe that the temples have a strong spiritual aura and they travel from all over the world to experience this. Some local artists have made it a point to focus their themes and works on the rich archaeological past of our islands...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Malta News Digest-September15 to September21

Wednesday21: From the Daily Telegraph, Malta in the grip of immigrants tragedy; Malta marks Independence Day; Ryanair would guarantee 2 million passengers to Malta; Times poll backs EU action against spring hunting; Reno Borg dwar dak li jghaqqad lill-Maltin; Malta injorata fl-UE; Malta applies to join OECD
Tuesday20: New measures of financial aid for the agricultural sector; Opposition leader lists 23 reasons for Cabinet reshuffle, more by Alfred Sant; New roads financed by Italy, and MLP criticises road design; EU tourism policy to be unveiled in Malta; Kenneth Zammit Tabona on the sorry state of Valletta and St James Cavalier; Jose Herrera on the national interest
Monday19: From Xinhua China View, Senior Chinese official arrives in Malta for good-will visit; Like Germany, like Malta by Marisa Micallef
Sunday18: From the Financial Times, Malta cashes in on patent quirk to take on drug giants; Malta has lowest rate of sexual assault-UN; Czech Republic answers Malta's appeal for help on immigration; James Debono interviews Manwel Micallef about his GWU ambitions; EU kicks ball into government’s court over Spring hunting; Karl Schembri on the looting of underwater heritage artefacts; More on the politico-religous unholy wars of the sixties; Bubble, bubble, is the Akkademja tal-Malti in trouble? by Noel Grima, and a response by Trevor Zahra; In less than six years, our borders will be open by Daphne Caruana Galizia, and more; Lessons from Japan by Alfred Mifsud; B'daqqa ta' pinna mohbija, minn Charles Flores; Nafdaw l-Ewropa iktar mill-gvern Malti - intervista ma' Robert Micallef
Saturday17: From Canada's auto123, Brazil's Pizzonia in Malta for Formula 1 public relations; False pretences by J.G. Vassallo
Friday16: Government’s 50,000 additional tourist target ‘unachievable’ by David Lindsay; John Dalli jikkritika lill-gvern; Michael Parnis dwar Malta fl-UE
Thursday15: The editorial of the Malta Independent discusses the latest Eurobarometer survey; Experts urge Europe to set up pandemic flu task force; Prime Minister addresses UN General assembly; Euro website launched

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sinking fears

Malta fears it will sink under growing tide of migrants from Africa, writes David Rennie on today's Daily Telegraph. He states that the European Commission recently cautioned Maltese ministers in private not to expect to resettle large numbers of refugees in the rest of the EU:

The holiday island of Malta is in the grip of an accidental tragedy: it is directly in the path of a growing and potentially vast flow of asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa to southern Europe. Its proximity to Libya, 180 miles to the south, threatens the identity and culture of the islanders. Thousands of refugees have made the crossing in recent months. Libya has said that there are 1.5 million sub-Saharan Africans on its territory and many have their sights set on Europe. Many asylum seekers are fleeing persecution in Darfur and Somalia and unknown numbers drown as they cross the Mediterranean.

The invasion of Malta is accidental: the boats are heading for the Italian islands of Lampedusa and Sicily, which offer direct access to the rest of Italy. But many of them run out of fuel or are hit by bad weather and seek a haven in Malta instead. Boats have reached the island almost every night this summer. Under European Union law, asylum seekers must stay in the European country they first arrive in. Although Malta is no bigger than the Isle of Wight, it is a sovereign member of the EU, so anyone who lands is stuck there.

Malta joined the EU last year and is now sounding the alarm in the hope of receiving urgent assistance from the union. Government leaders and military chiefs told The Daily Telegraph that their island was being swamped. Tonio Borg, the justice minister, said: "What was a problem has evolved into a crisis." Five years ago Malta received only 24 illegal migrants. This year's total stands at more than 1,100 so far, with about 30 arrivals a night - the equivalent of 165,000 asylum seekers reaching Britain...
Smugglers profit as Libya opens up to the west - David Rennie writes that Maltese officials are sceptical about Libyan efforts - "The proof can be seen in Valletta's tiny naval base, tucked under the city's medieval ramparts. The base is unseen by the British and German tourists thronging the elegant piazzas and limestone arcades of the old city only yards above. Down at the quayside, a stone's throw from a marina packed with gleaming yachts, the latest arrival bobs on the blue Mediterranean waters..."

Barbara Haworth-Attard

Barbara Haworth-Attard is a novelist living in Ontario, Canada with her Maltese husband. She blogs at Barb's Journal. According to this note, she is currently busy writing a Malta inspired ´nannu/nanna´ story. From Barbara´s website:

Barbara Haworth-Attard is a native of Elmira, Ontario, presently residing in London, Ontario with her family.June 1995 saw the publication of her first junior novel, Dark of the Moon. Since then she has written twelve novels in the historical fiction, fantasy and contemporary genres for middle-grade and young adult readers. Her thirteenth book, "Forget-Me-Not" a sequel to "Love-Lies-Bleeding" is due out this Fall 2005 from HarperCollins Canada. Also this fall Henry Holt and Company will be bringing out the US edition of "Theories of Relativity." This book has also been sold to Editions Thierry Magnier of France. Barbara also writes short stories, her most recent being in the Red Deer Press 2005 anthology The Horrors.

Renaissance roots

The literature of the new EU member states is a remarkable testimony to Europe's shared heritage, writes Julian Evans of the Guardian:

The words for "mother" and "writing" in Maltese are semitic, the words for "father" and "literature" from Romance roots. But 200 years of English influence have supplied Maltese culture with irony, understatement, nuance (and class snobbery). As a literary idiom Maltese superseded Italian in the late 19th century in the work of Dun Karm Psaila, a priest and Malta's national poet. Today, poets such as Immanuel Mifsud and Maria Grech Ganado write in Maltese and seek English translations; Mifsud is being translated by the Irish poet Maurice Riordan. The first literary novel in Maltese, Anton Manwel Caruana's social-political Inez Farrug (1889) was succeeded by a craze for Gothic tales with titles like Maria, or the Baron's Vengeance .

Maltese independence in 1964 may have liberated its writers finally to explore what being Maltese means - but until EU-supported translation funds allow them to be read in other languages, our best glimpse of Maltese life is in Trezza Azzopardi's unsparing but lyrical novel of a Maltese immigrant family in 1960s Cardiff, The Hiding Place.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Erika Brincat

Malta born lawyer and poet Erika Brincat is the author of three books of poems: ‘Gateway to Infinity’ is about mystery, magic and love while ‘The Bridge between Heaven and Earth’ is an account of her travels in Malta, Atlantis, Egypt and India. ‘Leela’s Game’ is her latest publication. Earlier this year she had a conversation with the late journalist Julian Manduca. She gave him an account of her views on sprituality, eroticism and writing poetry:

Every individual should have the freedom to create their own religion, incorporating all that is in tune with them. Modern day lives have become so complicated, so intricate, we need to recreate our own guidelines. But no, I don’t follow any particular spiritual direction. For me it’s not about choosing between Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism or Paganism but embracing all of them in some way. The essential message remains the same. Anything that celebrates life and adds some spice to it is spiritual in itself. Some people don’t philosophise about it, don’t write or read about it - they simply dance it, enjoy it and live it!..

I started off writing poetry purely for myself. It just happened. If I did not put pen to paper I would not be able to sleep - I would be a very restless soul! But then something propelled me to share them and I have no regrets whatsoever. Some poems are purely personal, others are universal, and anyone can relate to them in their own way. I like to think we are immortal beings having a temporary experience! Why bottle up all our fears and emotions till they poison us inside? Better to express them, to share them, release them and let them go..

Frans Sammut wrote about you: “The young poet strives to explain her feelings and ideas by making use of myths carrying erotic connotations precisely by deriving lofty spiritual meanings from their voluptuousness.” What can you tell us about the erotic qualities of your poetry? Life would be very dry if it had no love, no eroticism in it! In essence we are all sexual beings. Both men and women yearn to be whole, and naturally eroticism has a great part to play in that. If poetry is the yearning of the soul, than without doubt it will have some erotic qualities to it. It seems I have managed to avoid the question! Maybe the poetry speaks for itself...
Frans Sammut on Erika Brincat

Monday, September 19, 2005

Storming the beaches of Malta

An article by Charles Flores about this summer's jellyfish invasion has caught the attention of David Loewinger, a student dentist blogging from Baltimore, Maryland in the United States. In his article, Flores insists that the authorities can do more to keep the jellyfish away from Maltese beaches. From The Jellyfish, my dentist and I:

Is it not symptomatic of this nation, caught as it is in its present lethargic and laissez faire frame of mind, that while others find no difficulty in inventing unique ways and means to keep the big, deadly shark away from their popular beaches and bays, we have let the innocent-looking, squidgy, little jellyfish terrify our swimmers and holiday-makers for most of this summer?

It really has been a summer when the innocent pleasure of swimming has been reduced to a catch-me-if-you-can game with the invading jellyfish. “We have such beautiful water,” one irate acquaintance bellowed the other day, “and yet most of us seem afraid to go into it. It has never been like this.”..

The same jellyfish problem has occurred in most of the popular beaches in Malta and Gozo this summer; it is a phenomenon that has badly hit the Mediterranean, a long-suffering, moribund sea for too long subjected to national and international abuse. On one particularly bad day, it was maintained that the endless rows of jellyfish came in at eighteen feet deep. The spectacle of children netting them up in their multitudes and watching them dry out and shrivel to death on the beach was a familiar piece of entertainment for frustrated swimmers who quite understandably refused to go into the sea.
Diving amongst jellyfish - Wired Temples

Taking on drug giants

Malta cashes in on patent quirk to take on drug giants writes Andrew Jack for the Financial Times:

In a chilled low-pressure room that contrasts sharply with the humid Maltese weather outside, a poster reminds the white-coated staff of Actavis that they have just six weeks to finish work on a new drug.

Every day counts as the 320 employees of the generic-drugs manufacturer finalise their latest launch, exploiting an anomaly with patents that is turning the tiny Mediterranean island into an unexpected investment location for the pharmaceutical industry...

McFarland's Malta

Nathan McFarland, who blogs at nmcfarl, posted this observation about his Malta visit:

We've made it to Malta - after a very very long plane ride, interuppted by a few very very plesant hours in London. Malta is hot - and old - and largly being replaced with apartment blocks. The hotel is very very nice. The Capital, Valletta - is pretty amazing, quite a bit more fun than the Clubbing district of Paceville that the hotel is in --- though clearly Paceville is the draw for most of the huge tourist population here :) ...
Tapestries at St John's Cathedral from nmcfarl

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Observations on Maltese wildlife

Nick and Maisy from London blog together at 20six. They visited Malta a few weeks ago and in this review Nick blogs about the odd buses, the UK high street stores in Sliema and the rip offs at the airport duty free. In her Malta review, Maisy writes about timeshare salesmen and her difficulties in finding Maltese food at the restaurants. She says that Maltese people are obsessed by door knockers and balconies. In this other post, Nick comments on the 'Maltese wildlife':

Malta has only three major animal types: the Cicada, stray cats and horses. The first are EVERYWHERE and make a god-awful racket all day long. I never realised a couple of fat moths could make so much noise without apparently moving. Give me the friendly chirrup of a grasshopper any day. The pests manage to get away with their behaviour because of observation part 2: there are (almost) no birds at all on the island.

Other than a few foul pigeons in the capital and the occasional sparrow, Malta is barren of aviaral life - even in the so-called bird sanctuary. This was very odd to experience, especially the lack of seabirds given the bountiful supply of fish. Apparently any birds are regularly hunted down by the locals, which kind of explains some of the food being served up in the local cafes.

This has, in turn, lead to the local cat population surviving almost exclusively on the generosity of hotel guests, though survive (& survive well) they do. Most seemed to be cute gingey ones, which obviously has come about as a result of natural selection and the hotel patrons preference of marmelade cats to black ones.

The only livestock anywhere on the island were the drawn looking horses drawing horse drawn carriages. Poor things looked to be kept in shoddy conditions in most cases. Whilst we sometimes smelt manure, we never once saw any cows, sheep or goats - odd, considering one of the local delicacies is goats cheese.
Cat enthusiast Helen writes about stray cats in Malta

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Eating on the balcony

'You just wouldn’t believe how much history a small group of islands can have', writes Richard deMeester, a travel blogger at "any way the wind blows …":

..The lady at the B&B said she had a nice room with a nice view. Talk about underrating. Amongst the cheapest accomodation in Valleta (the capital) and with the best view we have ever had from a room. Directly opposite the magnificent Fort St Angelo, built in the 16th century by the Knights of StJohn. The whole historic harbour lay before us, so no wonder we stayed six nights and ate quite a few meals on the balcony. Some local wine and cheese was also consumed...

Friday, September 16, 2005

BootsnAll Travel

Fred Parry writes for BootsnAll Travel, the 'ultimate resource for the independent traveller':

I was getting apprehensive, having seen little but snow-covered mountains - French, Austrian, Swiss and Italian - stretching as far as the eye could see. So it was with profound relief that I finally spied three tiny dots of land in the middle of the Mediterranean which, as we descended to land revealed the walled fortress city of Valletta, and other places of potential interest. I would spend two weeks in the island nation of Malta, generally unknown on this side of the Atlantic, in spite of its supreme importance in the history of western civilization...

There are three, quite different islands: rocky, rugged and historic Malta; tiny, green fertile Gozo; and minuscule sandy Comino. Malta is about the size of Martha's Vineyard or the Isle of Wight, and all three together could fit into Montreal Island. The total population is similar to Calgary or Albuquerque, but there are many more expatriates living in Australia and North America. Everyone speaks English as well as Malti. I was initially attracted by Malta's incredibly rich history...
Malta Tags from BootsnAllTravel

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Malta News Digest - September8 to September14

Wednesday14: From Reuters in Valletta, Europe urged to create influenza task force; From Cambridge Evening News, Island's pride as Spitfire flies again above Malta; Professors all by Alfred Sant; Dalli vs Gonzi fuq Radio 101
Tuesday13: Malta ‘needs yearly growth of 2% more than EU average until 2025’; Spaghetti Western by Leo Brincat; The story of Don Ross by Henry Brincat; Dorothy Dunnett fans to discover sites of historical novel; Wara s-shubija ta’ Malta fl-Unjoni Ewropea: Il-poplu Malti tilef il-pacenzja – Tonio Fenech; Il-vizzju minn Toni Abela
Monday12: Preserving the history of transport by Gerald Fenech; Majorities and entrenchment by Giuseppe Mifsud Bonnici; Gavin Gulia talks to the Times on illegal immigration; Imfakkar l-eks-Ministru n-Nutar Guzè Abela
Sunday11: Gaddafi visit may coincide with CHOGM by Noel Grima; Malta cautious about Europe’s glasnost by Karl Schembri; Getting the EU down to people level; Evidence of a new awakening by J.G. Vassallo; 350 or 35 words? by Marisa Micallef; Wellman goal brings praise from Swede internet gamers; For whom the bell tolls - and more on Lino Spiteri and Guido DeMarco - in the 60s by Michaela Muscat; The lost battle on hunting; Pre-1947 Cultural identity, history and myth; Malta's regional problems by David Borda; Emmanuel Micallef dwar x'se jaghmel; “Pin, int qatt rajt lir-Regina?” u Il-qaghda llum: 1987 Revisited minn Charles Flores
Saturday10: Eurobarometer survey finds support for Malta's EU membership continues to decline, more from MaltaMedia and L-Orizzont; European Influenza conference meeting in Malta
Friday9: 89% of respondents in Times online poll want a change in Government cabinet; Malta registers lowest rate of female employment in Europe;Riot at Ta’ Qali Stadium condemned by Croatian media; Euro changeover website launched; Flying or falling by Harry Vassallo
Thursday8: Maltese Islands celebrate the 8th of September; From CNN International, Croat 'shame' after draw in Malta + 103 Croatians arraigned following violent outbursts; Dutch and Maltese seek bilateral collaboration on illegal immigration; Famous Eastenders actress in Malta; A difficult speech by Ranier Fsadni; Rispons baxx ghall-ghajnuna lill-Amerikani

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Maressa's thoughts

Maressa Zahra from Zebbug is a staff member at The Tattoo, a global journal for teen journalism. She also writes for The Writing Kid website. In two weeks time, she will be a fresher at university studying commerce. In view of her passion for writing she recently started a blog. From one of her posts:

I am one of those incurable bookworms who can't tolerate reading one book at a time. Currently I'm reading three - one is about journalism by a famous journalist herself, Jill Dick, another is Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, and the other is a transcript of the speeches at some World Youth day. The latter book set me thinking - especially one speech about freedom.

Let me not beat about the bush - I don't agree with the system that sends people to prison if they've been found guilty of whatever they've been accused upon. Why, you may ask? Well, I really don't believe two wrongs can make a right ( ie. that a wrong can mend another). Is prison mending the wrongs these people have done? If you've been robbed, you still have the shock; if your brother's been killed, he won't come back, just because the murderer is in prison...The system is failing. Rather than focus on taking away the freedom of these people, why not focus on teaching them life-coping skills, and preparing them for their eventual re-entry into society?...
Teens can make awesome writers...if they are willing! by Maressa Zahra

Scorpion Tiger Attack

Kim Kyung Su/Peter from South Korea who blogs at Scorpion Tiger Attack recently visited Malta to speak at a conference. He blogged about his visit:

Malta. Don't know what to think of this place other than the hotel staff seems to be quite nice. Taxi-drivers make the ones in Seoul seem like a bunch of pussies by overcompensating for the fact that they are manning a family sedan and perhaps it's the unpleasant realization that their dream of becoming a stock-car racer has fizzled away like a bottle of Pellegrino that's been left uncapped for a few hours. I digress again.

My only notable experience here (so-far) was when I was waiting in line to have my passport stamped at the airport and a trio of middle aged Germans pulled out a rather salty little comment out of their backpacks about how Malta and Morocco were indistinguishable from one another. This prompted the official to bark back... I remember thinking how Koreans back home have this completely misguided stereotype of Europeans being 'refined' and something to admire...Everyone on Air Malta looked like they were from Paramus, New Jersey or Columbus, Ohio...
Some thoughts on Malta and more

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The return of an ex-bomber

Graham Phillips, an 85 year old ex-bomber pilot who fought to ensure that Malta did not fall under Nazi control, is to return to Malta with 600 other veterans. It will be his first visit in Malta since December 1942. Andrew Robinson writes for the Yorkshire Post:

He flew missions on D-Day, bombed Germany and strafed enemy positions at the victory at Alamein. But for former Flight Lieutenant Graham Phillips these missions cannot be compared to the suffering and heroism he witnessed on Malta – dubbed "the unsinkable battleship" by Churchill.

Now, over sixty years after he completed his last drop of food to the starving Maltese, the ex-bomber pilot is to return to Malta with 600 other veterans who ensured this strategically vital island never fell under Nazi control. Mr Phillips, now 85 and living in Leeds, who has not set foot on Malta since December 1942, made numerous supply drops to the island over two years. He and his crew were attacked several times in the air and on the ground.

He recalled: "Dropping food on Malta was bloody dangerous. We just did not know when Jerry was coming over. We just got in and out quickly. We were just doing our bit to help Malta." During the war he flew dozens of dangerous operations over Egypt, Libya, Germany, France and Crete during stints with 162 Squadron and 109 Squadron, and was tasked with special duties such as locating and destroying communications posts.

He says the Maltese showed particular bravery and deserved their George Cross. "Malta had a terrible time. I wonder to this day how they survived. People were nearly starved out – their in-built courage was extraordinary. "Long after the war, I met a Luftwaffe veteran who told me that he and his comrades dreaded being sent on an operation over Malta. That says it all – the Maltese and all the Allies fought so hard to save this small island."...

Monday, September 12, 2005

Blogging at the European Parliament

The European Parliament is officially acknowledging the increasing power and importance of blogging. As part of the activities that will accompany the launch of its new website, the European Parliament has decided to hold three round table debates today and tomorrow dealing with the fast-moving developments in digital society. The first will be held this afternoon with the title 'Web logs: competition, challenge or chance? Who's afraid to open Pandora's Blogs?' Participants in the debate will include several well-known journalists, bloggers and experts in the field with an active interest in the relationship between digital technology and democracy. The event will be broadcast live here on the EuroParl website this afternoon starting at 3pm via web streaming. More on the round table debates:

To mark the launch of the Parliament's new website, on September 12 and 13 EP live will be broadcasting three round table discussions on issues related to the internet. The panels will consist of leading European journalists, academics and MEPs who will offer their expertise on the opportunities and challenges of the internet age.

"Deutsche Welle" journalist Guido Baumhauer will moderate the first debate on blogging on Monday afternoon. This will look into a range of issues from the massive explosion of personal content on the net to the rise in citizen media and the relationship of the citizen with the traditional media. The panel will also take a look at some of the ethical issues arising from weblogs, including privacy, how companies regard blogging and potential conflicts arising from traditional journalists who become bloggers...
Parlament Ewropew - bil-Malti

England - Italy relations

The Fifth International Conference on Anglo-Italian Literary and Cultural Relations is being convened this week by the Institute of Anglo-Italian studies at the University of Malta. From TMIS:

“At the dawn of the 19th century, Italy had, for 200 years, been the universal art gallery, wunderkammer, museum, classroom, repository of Europe’s heritage,” writes Roderick Cavaliero in his recently published book Italia Romantica, a lively and vivid historical account of the Romantics’ love affair with Italy. Indeed English writers, artists and scholars have drawn so extensively on the culture of Italy in the field of literature, art, architecture, painting and music that it has become difficult to assess and evaluate the nature of this extraordinary influence.

A number of eminent British and Italian scholars will assemble at the University of Malta to read papers on the influence of Italy in English literature and culture. The Fifth International Conference on Anglo-Italian Literary and Cultural Relations is being convened by Professor Peter Vassallo, Head of the Department of English and Director of the Institute of Anglo-Italian studies at the university. The conference will be held in the University House Conference Room on Thursday 15 and Friday 16 September from 9am to 4.30pm. Scholars will focus mainly, but not exclusively, on a variety of topics relating to the central theme of Anglo-Italian cross-cultural influences.
Anglo-Italian Conference details here

Sunday, September 11, 2005

9/11 attacks podcast remembrance

The fourth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States was commemorated today by the MaltaMedia Online Network with more podcasts by Toni Sant. From MaltaMedia:

These include eyewitness accounts from New York. “It gives me great pleasure to announce the first podcasting series in Maltese from the MaltaMedia Online Network,” said Toni Sant, MaltaMedia’s founding and creative director, in his blog. “Our first series deals with 9/11 from a Maltese perspective. The podcast series is based on the various webcasts that appeared on MaltaMedia.com in the wake of the attacks on the USA and eventual so-called war on terror. Click here to access the podcasts.

At the time of the attacks Toni Sant was living in New York and saw the tragedy unfold in front of his eyes. The new series consists of 23 podcasts with a new file is being made available daily. Although the recordings have been available as part of MaltaMedia’s special feature on the September 11 attacks, these are being transformed into the popular new podcast format. The series starts with seven reports from the first week after the attacks in September 2001... Toni Sant's participation in the Bed-In for Peace organized by Amy Burk and Andy Cox in New Zealand is the theme of a podcast released on September 11, 2005...
More from Toni Sant's blog

The latest Malta Eurobarometer

The latest Eurobarometer survey about Malta was published Friday morning by the European Commission and was widely reported by the Maltese media. The report oulines a number of key public opinion trends on key issues such as EU membership, the European Constitution, trust in Maltese institutions, the economy and life expectations of the Maltese people. The two political party radio/TV stations both led their news bullettins with the findings and conclusions of the report but obviously looking at them from different angles. The PN media focused on the Maltese people's support for the Euro (50%) and Turkey's European dimension (57%). The MLP media focused on the negative opinion about the Maltese economy (77%) and the lack of trust in the Maltese government (From 57% trust in 2003 down to 40%).

The most detailed reports were carried by L-Orizzont and by The Independent both of which were cover stories. Church newspaper Il-Gens also had a cover story but unfortunately the paper does not have an online version. The links and titles of some of the reports that appeared this weekend:

Malta Independent - 'Results of Spring 2005 Eurobarometer survey published: Support for EU membership falls further to 40%'
L-Orizzont - 'Stharrig Ewropew ta' l-opinjoni pubblika Maltija: Pessimizmu ekonomiku'
The Malta Independent on Sunday - 'Negativity on the increase in Eurobarometer survey'
MaltaMedia - 'EU membership support in Malta down to 40%'
Di-ve - 'Maltese think the country should adopt the EURO, Eurobarometer suggests + press review
Maltarightnow - Jizdiedu l-Maltin favur il-Euro'
In-Nazzjon - 'Jiżdiedu l-Maltin favur l-Euro; 57 fil-mija jahsbu li t-Turkija hi geografikament parti mill-UE'
Il-Gens: 'Jonqos l-appogg tal-Maltin ghall-UE'

Read the latest Eurobarometer Malta report here

The Year of the Mediterranean

The adoption of the Barcelona Declaration on November 28, 1995 marked a turning-point in relations between the European Union and its Mediterranean neighbours on the southern and eastern shores. A partnership was launched on a basis of joint ownership, dialogue and cooperation. In commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Barcelona process and following a Tunisian proposal, 2005 was declared The Year of the Mediterranean. From a speech by the Maltese President while hosting his Tunisian counterpart two months ago:

In their own way, Malta and Tunisia have continually strived to promote the aspirations of the peoples of the Mediterranean in international fora, such as the United Nations and its agencies, as well as in regional diplomatic conferences, such as, the Euro-Mediterranean (Barcelona) Partnership, the Mediterranean Forum, and the Conference of the Western Mediterranean Countries, also referred to as the Five-Plus-Five Initiative.

I stress Malta’s belief in the ‘centrality’ of the Euro-Mediterranean (Barcelona) Partnership as far as the EU’s policy for the Mediterranean is concerned. With this year being the Tenth Anniversary of the Euro-Mediterranean (Barcelona) Partnership, Malta hopes that the Summit scheduled in Barcelona this November would focus on tangible deliverables so as to bring about a real partnership. This implies enhancing the Partnership to enable it to address the economic, social and humanitarian, as well as security issues that countries in the Mediterranean are facing in the contemporary situation.

Malta believes that the Five-Plus-Five Initiative should be an informal, pragmatic and a visible forum. My country also intends to examine with its partners in which manner the European Neighbourhood Policy/Action Plans could be used to strengthen the social welfare systems of partner countries. I am pleased that Malta and Tunisia will submit a Joint Paper on Culture and Development. I am also pleased that the meeting will discuss the Tunisian proposal on the Year of the Mediterranean...
Anna Lindh Euro Med Foundation;

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The snowman

International Noir Fiction is a blog that includes reviews and ideas on crime novels mostly from outside the U.S. In this post about German Noir the author reviews a Malta located novel called The Snowman:

Bitter Lemon Press, who publish Black Ice, has also recently published a couple of other apparently classic German noir novels, one of which I liked and the other not so much. The Snowman, by Jörg Fauser, is an on-the-lam-from-drug-dealers tale of a down-and-out German emigre who is eking out a living in Malta by selling old Danish porn magazines, but suddently finds himself in the possession of a large quantity of the best cocaine in the world. Fauser's novel is a road movie of violence and the underworld, very graphic, funny, and enjoyable...
More on the The Snowman from Barbara Nadel's Shotsmag review:

I have a confession to make: I am a sucker for losers. Men obsessed by dreams, men down on their luck and a tad melancholy, men who smoke and drink to excess - men very much like Seigfried Blum the 'hero' of this remarkable book. Although a German citizen by birth, Blum is just as much at his ease, or not, in a seedy hotel in Malta or a brothel in Holland as he is in Munich or Frankfurt. A not very successful wheeler dealer, Blum has, over the years, peddled antiques, pornography and various other odd commodities around the globe.

Always on the edge, legally, he was once arrested in Istanbul but managed to evade conviction on that occasion. However, by the time he arrives in Malta, at the beginning of 'The Snowman', he is very down on his luck indeed. He can't shift any copies of the Danish pornography magazines he's been carrying around for ages, he's been asked to leave Malta by the local police and he is just about to hit forty. It is at this point however, that he comes into possession of five pounds of cocaine...

More from the Guardian

Divine intervention

Mark Peters from Newfoundland, Canada blogs about the theories of divine intervention that are being attributed to the Katrina hurricane disaster. He brings St Paul' s Malta shipwreck into the picture and concludes that such blame games are useless:

The latest speculation floating around religious circles is that God may have sent Hurricane Katrina as punishment for US support of the Gaza withdrawal. All manner of parallels are being drawn between the two events by "scholars" and laity alike, with some absolutely convinced Katrina is the finger of God imprinted on southern USA. I, for one, think people need to exhibit more prudence in declaring random acts of nature, such as Hurricanes, to be absolutely the explicit wrath of a vengeful God..

We also do well to look at the whole of Scripture. The Lord did not send the storm that shipwrecked Paul on Malta, nor the one that precipitated Jesus calming the raging seas. In the Old Testament, as in life today, there were famines and hardships that were not always the product of God's divine will, rather just the reality of living in a world that is under the curse of the Fall. Part of that curse is that mankind will struggle to live in this world. It's life, people!..

Attempts at trying to ascribe a Divine element to a horrendous event in order to justify political opinions on a divisive matter are deplorable and utterly useless. That is what I conclude these hypotheses to be. Religious people (and here I speak to myself) would do better to do what we can to help in the recovery. There will be a time for speculation on such matters later, but it ain't today.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Croat shame

The incidents at the Malta - Croatia World Cup qualifier and the arrest of 103 Croat football fans were widely reported by the international media. A Reuters report stated that the Croatian media condemned both the Croatian team and their fans following the disappointing result in Malta. The same report was picked up and prominently featured by CNN International. In addition, Singapore's Today Online and The Turkish weekly reported that the Maltese police arrested 103 Croatians for causing stadium violence. Russia's Pravda concentrated on the efforts by the authorities of Croatia to track down the soccer hooligans after the riots.

The response by a few of the Maltese football fans yesterday at the stadium was far from meek and my sources tell me that the police are considering the arrest of a number of Maltese hooligans as well. Meanwhile, today's Times editorial concentrated on another shameful aspect of the evening at the Ta' Qali national stadium. From today's Times editorial:

But there was another significant incident, a sub-plot, if you like, involving press photographers - both Maltese and foreign - and a number of uniformed police officers and men in plain clothes who at one time claimed to be police officers.

Without showing any identification documents, these men ordered the photographers to hand over to them the memory cards of their digital cameras. This, they insisted, was to ensure no damage is done to the country. The photographers were told they should hand over the cards voluntarily or else they will be forcibly taken away from them or "taqilghuha", a warning in Maltese which the photographer of The Times at least interpreted as a threat of being beaten up!

Eventually, The Times photographer was approached by a man, who identified himself by name and said he was a security officer employed by the Malta Football Association, who again demanded the memory cards. This incident can by no means overshadow the violence that occurred on the stands but, apart from raising serious legal and human rights issues, reveals a group of people who, although charged with ensuring safety and security, are evidently ill-prepared to handle such situations.

Ordering a journalist in a free and democratic country to hand over images is a very serious matter, a move that attacks head-on the freedom of the press. Because of this, the untrained "security men" have given visiting, and Maltese, journalists a reason why to point an accusing finger at the Maltese authorities. Steve Wellman's equaliser was thus turned into a defeat in this case. What a pity! The courts may have to look into more than just the behaviour of football supporters.
MFA assesses damage plus Swedish delight

Impressive Malta catch Croatia cold - from UEFA.com and more from maltafootball.com

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Malta News Digest - September1 to September7

Wednesday7: Prime Minister Laurence Gonzi appeals for support to Croatia in their bid to join the European Union; Films of national events to be digitised; Rudolf Ragonesi on Hurricane Katrina; Id-deputati parlamentari Maltin m’ghandhom l-ebda forma t’assistenza, skond Jose Herrera; Malta draws with Croatia in World Cup qualifier.
Tuesday6: From the Cyprus Financial Mirror, Cyprus & Malta local authorities sign co-operation deal; Proposals to amend hunting and trapping regulations; EU urges Malta to modernise profession services; Maurice Cauchi says that for generations, Malta has had an insular mentality to match its geographic position.
Monday5: From the Qatar Gulf Times, human trafficking network operating between Libya, Malta, Italy; Statement confirms claim of fabricated Lockerbie evidence ; Maltese urged to help New Orleans’ victims; Spearheading Malta's tourism product; Marisa Micallef say that the Maltese have ignored the Katrina hurricane; Massimo Farrugia interviews the president of Nature Trust Malta; Lino Spiteri on 'eyes of naked prejudice'; Ghad ma nhatrux ufficjali ghall-fondi u programmi ta' l-Unjoni Ewropea; Daniela Attard Bezzina dwar ix-xoghol tal-monasteri.
Sunday4: Maltese Falcon historic ceremony brought back to life, more from the Independent; Right-Wing movement ANR founded; Daphne Caruana Galizia says that Maltese people are 'without exception the descendents of immigrants to the islands', and criticizes the Church for ignoring the issue of racism; J.G. Vassallo says Maltese public opinion is becoming more inquisitive; Alfred Mifsud writes that the EU should invest in a proper detention centre in Malta; Arnold Cassola against mega-projects; Branding Malta Romwald Lungaro-Mifsud; Vanya Walker-Leigh talks to Michael Zammit Cutajar on climate change; Anton Buttigieg: il-liricista tal-Qala minn Rodrigu Bovingdon.
Saturday3: No more trapping allowed in Malta after 2008; Influx of illegal immigrants reaches 75% of Malta's birth rate, says Malta's foreign minister + more from the Times; Industrial confidence wanes, survey shows; The government's 2006-2010 pre-Budget document titled A Better Quality Of Life is hotchpotch and a cut-and-paste exercise, says Leo Brincat; Harry Vassallo ikompli jikteb dwar il-helsien fuq l-Orizzont.
Friday2: From EUObserver, Malta raises alarm over illegal immigration; More than 1,000 illegal immigrants repatriated; The coolest August in 29 years; Do we have a housing bubble, asks Alfred Mifsud; EU website on citizens' rights; Malta uninvited to EU conference on illegal immigrants, writes Anthony Licari; L-Isqfijiet Maltin se jibqghu sa 80 sena?; Konsultazzjoni ta’ veru minn Alfred Grixti; Tisbih u tishih ghat-tempji ta’ Hal Tarxien minn Daniela Attard Bezzina.
Thursday1: From whitehouse.gov, President Bush to welcome Maltese Prime Minister to the White House, more from Russia's Pravda; From Ghana's Accra Daily Mail, Emirates SkyCargo transports Malta-built AC cars to New York; Pension reform moves step forward.

Goodbye Misfits

Jacques has mixed feelings about the closing down of Misfits Bar, one of Malta's favourite alternative night spots. From J'Accuse:

I read on Gybexi's blog that Misfits will be closing down in three weeks. I was never really the Misfits type. This notwithstanding I still have a Misfits poster in my office at the ECJ in Kirchberg, Luxembourg. My little contribution of Maltese in this world of corridors decorated by kitsch posters of home countries is a cool advertising poster of a series of long-forgotten nights at Misfits. As I was saying Misfits was never my place. Socially I always felt a non-conformist but Misfits always seemed to be full of the wishy-washy socialists or the musically enlightened who did not quite tickle my fancy.

Misfits was a place where a hypocritical charade was acted out almost daily. Its customers were of the kind who would not be seen dead in Paceville (to be pronounced with disdain), so ... they went to Paceville. They found their little bastion of non-conformity which sort of highlighted them as different to the rest. It gave them the chance to peek around the town on Saturday nights since it was only a walk away and, if anyone asked, you could always say that you were off to BJ's or for a hotdog at Jimmy's...
Playground Football - Jacques on football nostalgia and the achievements of the national team

Coping with new neighbours

MaltaGirl has entrusted her family and friends to fill her blog while she is away for a few days. Zemploid Mike, one of her guestbloggers, writes:

I’ve lived in a small village in the centre of Malta for my entire life. No, I’m not going to pretend I’m in the thick of it. I live in one of the newer areas of the village that sprung up in the late 60’s, in much the same way that most areas mushroomed around Malta, creating the urban jungle that we are. Still, I’m not a Sliema boy (with all due respect to the Slimiżi). I grew up, thankfully, in a time when it was perfectly possible to ride a bike around the place with impunity and almost absolute safety; when there were still enough fields and surrounding countryside that allowed for building of huts and camps and BMX dirt-tracks while Majsi the farmer turned a blind eye; when it was possible to spend all your pocket-money on fireworks from the Three Villages Bar, or on sweets from Lucy tal-Merċa. We were part of the village. We were an integral part of village life. We understood what made the village tick and never questioned it. I never felt an alien to anyone else in the village. It was taken for granted.

I’m now in the middle of moving from my home village to the Greatest Village of All. Yes, home of the people with allegedly flat buttocks (and Malta’s heaviest and largest bell, wont to making people fall flat on said buttocks); Malta’s most populous town; its statistically most polluted; yet, one of its prettiest, its quaintest, and earthiest, all at once: Birkirkara. And for the first time, I’m the alien. I’m the one who must necessarily go through all the motions of integration with one’s neighbourhood. And it’s interesting to say the least...

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Malta Travel Pod

Last day in Malta, from TravelPod:

Today was my last day in Malta...We took it easy today and went to the Museum of Archeology in Valletta. They moved all the real carved megaliths to the museum and put replicas at the temples which I didn't know about until I visited the museum...It was just interesting to think about how this cultured flourished and built massive temples and traded with all the surrounding islands and then just disappear. I guess they are not the only ones to pull that one since the Indus valley civilization did the same. If only I could have a device that allowed me to watch what happened to all these civilizations and all the ones we haven't found yet.

It is also sad that the Maltese didn't really care for this prehistory until recently and had done little to preserve it. It was not until I read the book Underworld by Graham Hancock when I heard about Malta. I don't recall learning about temples pre-dating the pyramids that were built with massive stones ever in any of my world history courses. Ah well, now I know. There could be many more such temples lying under the cities and dirt that we won't know about until someone starts looking and the Maltese don't seem to be in much of a hurry...
Comino and back to Gozo; Hypogeum and Tarxien; All over Gozo; Moving Day; 'Malta the Puerto Rico of EU but slightly better'; Hagar Qim and Mnajdra; First day in Malta

Other TravelPod Travelogues from "Malta"

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Digitizing culture

Matthew Mizzi refers to French efforts to push Europe into “seizing its place in the future geography of knowledge” and to establish the European Digital Library with a view to preserving European knowledge online. He questions the lukewarm response by the Maltese National Library and states that "this is a weak sign of the George Cross Island’s commitment towards the preservation of European cultural heritage including Malta’s own heritage". From Mizzi's Malta Daily blog:

..Given its size, Malta is adorned with a wonderful number of books and manuscripts describing the archipelago, its history and its people. If they are not put online they are not made accessible to everyone and are thus risking intellectual extinction. There needs to be a co-ordinated and committed effort from the Maltese public and private sectors alike to preserve and promote our heritage – and also to make it accessible to scholars worldwide. We cannot afford any lag in the process of development as Google announces it will be improving its Google Print service.

We have already come a long way through in the provision of an efficient and effective e-Government service but we really need to keep up the momentum and move on to promote our knowledge heritage worldwide. Will De Soldanis’ description of Gozo, or Megizer’s notes on Malta, or even Dun Karm’s romantic poetry ever be made available online ready for anyone to read and appreciate? I really do hope so.
Czech National Library wins UNESCO award for pioneering digitisation work

Monday, September 05, 2005

Surviving Hurricane Katrina

Anthony Gatt was a member of the Maltamedia news team before leaving for New Orleans two weeks ago to attend the fall semester at Tulane University. His plans to study there were abruptly dropped since the Fall semester was cancelled by his host university. Anthony Gatt started a blog last July and it is a pity that he has not been able to use it as a platform to share his experiences. It would have added a whole new dimension to the Maltese blogosphere. Toni Sant made amends for this lost opportunity by reproducing in his blog an account sent to him by Anthony who had already posted these initial comments. According to Anthony, the Tulane campus was not severely hit and he was able to travel safely to Dallas, Texas via Missisippi. Toni Sant has been blogging about Hurricane Katrina which has killed thousands and is the largest natural disaster in the modern history of the United States. From Toni Sant's blog:

A few days ago I shared my thoughts on Hurricane Katrina and the situation in New Orleans with my blog readers. Among other things, I expressed concern for our friend Anthony Gatt. Thanks to comments he posted on this blog, we heard that he's OK, even if a little shaken by the experience.

As the sadness of the horrible situation on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico continues to unfold, I'd like to share an email Anthony sent to the MaltaMedia News team yesterday evening. I am reproducing the text of his email exactly as he sent it not to show Anthony as a sloppy writer, but to preserve the angst of this young Maltese man in this unusual situation. His account is the only relevant Maltese perspective on this major disaster.

There may be other Maltese people who experienced Katrina first hand, but so far we have neither heard from or of them.The text is written partly as an eyewitness account, partly as a news report, and mostly as a personal account of someone overwhelmed by his current situation...

More about Anthony Gatt's story from The Dallas Morning News (Texas) and The Shreveport Times (NW Louisiana) - via Toni Sant's blog

Hurricane Katrina - Wikipedia

Sunday, September 04, 2005

My Top Ten Maltese blog entries - August 2005

- in alphabetical order -

Carnival2 + Carnival3 + Bajtar tax-xewk - MaltaGirl

From Phnom Penh + more notes - Peter Buttigieg's travels

Ħarsa msaħħra, ħarsa mħassra - Antoine Cassar on Arabic

Inti Djamant - Mejlak's tribute to The Tramps

Kelmtejn qabel immorru - Hgejjeg u l-blogosfera + Bob Dylan

Monti to the Full - Matthew Mizzi proposes Centre party

Seafood - Mistoqsija confronts prayer blogs + clarification

Start me up - Toni Sant's first podcast tests and first series

Those nice Lampedusans - Majistral on illegal immigration

Xejkspijer - Nigredo on Shakespeare and Italian football

A special mention goes to the following blog entries:

Australia Rocks - Mirane Vella
A weekend to remember - Thea's Africa
Cirku Bertu Funtana - 10 snin wara
Destruction of Malta's heritage - Athena
Dmax - Letter to Fr Ray
Forum - on blogging
Il-Kriżi... u kif tegħlibha - Erezija
Immanuel's Blobb + Blobb2 + Blobb3
Ix-Xatt ta' Pinto u Swar - Fehmti
Il-ġazz u l-mjuwżik - Mark Vella's jazz polemics
Look and work - Girl about life
Manipulazzjoni tal-kommunikazzjoni? - Ajjut!
More Podcasts from Fahmu and MaltaGirl
Never did no harm...
- Matthew Vella
Out and about... - Sharon in London
Poeziji - Nemxa
Reminixxenzi - Sandro Zerafa
Shabi bhas-shab - Il-Merill Kwiet
Solidarjeta' Dejjem u Kullimkien - Solidarnosc
Strummin'4peace - Kenneth
Visit to a small(er) island - Hsejjes
Ta' Cenc - Rupert Cefai

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Maltese Falcon to Fly Again

CIVITATENSIS is a Canada based 'eclectic commentary about random political and social issues'. In this post, kaqchike expresses surprise at what 'appears to be an EU-endorsed event':

A Maltese falcon will tomorrow start its journey from Malta to Spain after it is handed over by the ‘Grand Master’ to the Spanish Falconry Guild’s Chief Falconer to take to the King of Spain. The ceremony, which will be held at Victory Square, in Vittoriosa, was an annual event when Malta was ruled by the Knights [of St. John]. The tradition of giving a falcon to the King of Spain started in 1530 when Malta was handed over to the Knights by Emperor Charles V. This continued until the Knights left Malta in 1797, more than 200 years ago..
Maltese Falcon for the King of Spain - Wired Temples

Ousted historic ceremony brought back to life - MaltaMedia

Getting to know Malta, by the numbers

New US ambassador to Malta, Molly Bordonaro's domain is full of fun facts, writes John Foyston for The Oregonian:

Molly Bordonaro, Portland public relations executive and onetime Republican candidate for Congress, had weeks of State Department briefings and ambassador school to prepare for her new gig as ambassador to Malta. For the rest of us, here's a Harper's-style index to the Archipelago of Mystery (not its real name).

0: Number of mountains and rivers in Malta.
1: Number of World War II bunkers in the backyard of the ambassador's residence
103: Rank among 226 countries in value of exports, according to the CIA's online World Factbook. Behind Iceland, ahead of Macau and Cameroon.
2: Position in the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest attained by Maltese singer Chiara Siracusa
2.85: Value in U.S. dollars of one Maltese lira.
3: Number of inhabited islands in the Maltese archipelago. (Malta, Gozo, Comino.)
398,000: Number of people living on those islands.
16.77: Distance in miles of the longest dimension of the biggest island, Malta.
58: Malta's location in the Mediterranean is miles south of Sicily. On the map it looks like a golf ball just kicked by Italy's boot. Its location has made Malta of outsize strategic importance through recorded history, and it remains so today.
1530: The year Holy Roman Emperor Charles V gave Malta to the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, from whom we get the Maltese Cross and Maltese Falcon.
1: The number of countries awarded the George Cross in 1942 by King George V for withstanding intense attacks from Axis forces. Which is why Malta's red-and-white flag is adorned with a small cross.
10: Date in September 2005 when Malta Day-UK will be celebrated in London.
12: Reported number of future ambassadors who attended ambassadors school with Bordonaro.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Masterpiece in Malta

Raymond John explains why he chose Malta as the site for his mystery novel, The Cellini Masterpiece by quoting Somerset Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence - "..Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. At last he finds rest.” From TMIS:

“Why Malta” is a complicated question to answer. It’s difficult to explain how a tiny bit of limestone southwest of Sicily should hold such an interest for an American. I am nearly 65, but I fell in love with Malta sight unseen as a 10-year-old in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I was a stamp collector and bought one of those cheap worldwide stamp packets, with one stamp showing Verdala Palace in Malta. Somehow it grabbed my interest, and a few years later I started reading about Malta until I had exhausted the local library collection. The chance discovery of a stamp led me to one of the most geographically and historically significant places in the world. Literally the crossroads of the Mediterranean, its Neolithic temples pre-date the Pyramids. It has been occupied by nearly every world power since the ancient Greeks. I’m a historian, for heaven’s sake. Why wouldn’t I be interested?..

I finally had a finished draft of the novel in 1985. An agency decided to represent it but was unable to find a publisher. The manuscript went back on my shelf to languish for nearly 10 years before I finally came to Malta for the first time at age 54. I stayed at a bargain accommodation, the Soleado Guest House in Sliema. What a great location to set the novel! I dusted off the manuscript and started again. My first change was to give the sidekick Rick, my hero, a sex change. My middle-aged male cab driver was now a sexy young woman. The real-life manager of the Soleado, Joey Bugeja, also got a gender change to become the fictional Josefina. How could I miss?...
Malta as Ground Zero - from Wired Temples

Gonzi goes to the White House

From the WhiteHouse website, President George Bush to welcome Maltese Prime Minister to the White House:

President Bush will welcome Maltese Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi for a meeting at the White House on October 3, 2005. Malta has been a valued partner in the fight against terror, helping to safeguard shipping in the Mediterranean Sea and promoting U.S.-EU political and economic cooperation. The President and Prime Minister Gonzi look forward to discussing how our nations can strengthen our bilateral counterterrorism cooperation, as well as how the United States and the European Union can work together to advance freedom and prosperity in the Broader Middle East and North Africa.
Bush to meet Maltese PM - Russia's Pravda

Top of the table

From UEFA.com, Europe's football website:

The one-time coach of Maltese side Naxxar Lions FC has given up football to try to conquer the world of Subbuteo. UEFA B License coach Massimo Cremona is currently No2 in the International Federation of Subbuteo Table Football (FISTF) rankings. "Becoming the FISTF No2 meant a lot of hard work, great dedication and a lot of sacrifice," he told uefa.com. "I train two hours a day and I also undertake an intense physical programme as well as making sure I get into the right frame of mind for a big game." Having long since overwhelmed all opponents on Malta, the 32-year-old moved to Italy to play for Catania and then on to Belgium, where he joined top-flight side SC Temploux. This season, he has become the first foreign player ever to sign for the AC Milan of the Subbuteo world, SC Reggiana, who won table football's UEFA Champions League in 2003. A Liverpool FC supporter, Cremona's sides always take the field in the red kit of his footballing heroes. Should he succeed in becoming world No1 this year, it could mean a unique Champions League and Subbuteo double for the Reds, and a first European crown for Malta.
Subbuteo World; Subbuteo Nostalgia

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Malta News Digest - August 25 to August 31

Wednesday31: Maltese student caught in Hurricane Katrina; Malta could miss out on EU cohesion funds ; EU information service in Maltese; New Malta-Libya friendship society
Tuesday30: Second public consultation on National Reform Programme; Henry Brincat interviews the MFA's general secretary; Confrontation is outdated, says GWU deputy; Ghadhom jinghu u jokorbu, minn Gavin Gulia; From Pakistan's Daily Times, the foreign minister holds official meetings in Malta
Monday29: Turning Valletta into a city for all seasons; Three black men and the Mona Lisa by Kenneth Zammit Tabona; Herman Grech interviews Jason Micallef
Sunday28: Concern rises over abortion language in UN draft treaty; Malta may buy oil from Libya at special rates; By CHOGM, illegal immigrants may outnumber police and army; Government mum over ‘vetoing’ of Vanessa Macdonald’s appointment by OPM; Maltese falcon to be offered once again to King of Spain; Juan Ameen on the 'old boy' network; Daphne Caruana Galizia says that Minister Tonio Borg spoke as though illegal immigrants are inconvenient crates of cargo irritatingly delivered to the wrong address; J.G.Vassallo says that the government is tired and is showing signs of senility; Between God and Caesar, Fr Charles Vella interviewed by James Debono; Il-gmiel u s-seher tal-Port ta' Malta minn Charles Flores
Saturday27: Malta appeals to UNHCR for support on immigration crisis; Spitfire and Hurricane in Malta next month; Pied Piper minn Wenzu Mintoff
Friday26: EU to safeguard its members from avian flu; MLP aims to reinforce Malta-Australia relations; Living contradictions by Alfred Mifsud; Malta has highest minimum wage among new EU states; Packed agenda for Gaddafi's visit; Il-mestier ta’ l-informatur minn Aleks Farrugia
Thursday25: MIA ‘must not lose opportunities such as that presented by Ryanair’, according to GRTU; Illegal hunting and trapping ‘occurring during the closed season’ claims BirdLife; A view from the precipice by Ranier Fsadni; From Outlook India, Malta Boat Tragedy Probe Mission to visit European countries; From WebIndia, Commonwealth to focus on trade at Malta summit