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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Goodbye Julian

I'm speechless. I opened my email inbox this morning to find two messages informing me that Julian Manduca had a heart attack and passed away yesterday evening. He was 46.
Journalist Julian Manduca
I first met Julian, whom we all knew as Choppy, about 20 years ago, and he was always a remarkable man. What a loss!

I need some time to digest this shocking that's it about Choppy's passing for now.

Here's the news report from


After thinking about what happened to Choppy last night for several hours, I am fondly recalling various wonderful instances where our paths overlapped, and I'd like to share some of them with you.

Earliest memory: meeting somewhere in Valletta to hear about the latest plans from Żgħażagħ għall-Ambjent. Although I cared for many of the environmental issues they were involved in, I wasn't as idealistic as he and his mates were. We didn't know each other before this, and I doubt either one of us believed we would meet much again. Then again, there's hardly any space in Malta for a couple of misfits like us to get lost in the crowd. And so on to the next memory.

Choppy at Sapienza's: "aw ras! ara naqra x'żewg kotba dawn..." One was by Aleister Crowley, the other a biography of Syd Barrett. The first of several interesting books I discovered thanks to Julian. Another two I still own and read from every now and then are Jay Stevens' Storming Heaven (what a book!) and an unusual publication on the music of Robert Fripp.

At his former girlfriend's birthday party in some fancy villa around Santa Maria Estate: "aw ras! trid naqra minn din ix-xarba li ħawwadt jien? ma ġietx eżatt kif xtaqtha imma l-effett xorta hemm qiegħed!!" I don't remember sleeping at home that fact I don't remember much else about that night except that it was also the first time I met the wonderful lover-of-life Carmelo Vassallo.

Julian and I were both mature students at the University of Malta between 1992 and 1994. It was at that time that I joined the University Film Club committee, where on Julian's insistence I served as Film Club president. Also during this period we were both elected to serve a term on the KSU executive committee. One campaign we worked on together involved an attempt to convince the pertinent authorities at the University of Malta to allow the installation of a condom vending machine in the restrooms at Students' House. The Film Club exists today in large part thanks to Julian's sense of organization in the late 80s and early 90s. Without that I doubt many people in Malta would have seen a film such as Derek Jarman's Caravaggio, the Film Club's largest crowd-puller for many years.

A fellow female student was quite infatuated with him. He wasn't interested in her. I was interested in her. She wasn't interested in me. I won't name her here of course, but if she reads this I think she'll know this is about her. Ah, the joys of enlightenment! I never managed to tell Choppy I thought he had testicular fortitude after this episode, but he did anyway.

The last time I saw him was by the Sliema Police Station in June or July 2001. I was off to meet someone in St Julians. He introduced me to Irene, whom he had recently married. He was happy for me that I had found my "groove" in New York, however, our encounter was brief and consisted mostly of small talk. We kept in touch by email after that; mostly he would email me to help publicize some theatrical production the company he had set up with Irene was about to present at St James Cavallier or wherever. The one time we broke this routine was when we had a brief discussion (still via email) about the Applied and Interactive Theatre Guide. Among other things, he asked me what I thought about his involvement in the Maltese theatre scene. Was I surprised that he was now involved in it? With Choppy I knew to expect unusual things. I also never excepted what happened last night.

I can only imagine what a tough time this must be on Irene. I hardly know her, but I'm sure you were a bright light in her life. Anyone who knew you will miss you, but your spirit will live on!

Anonymous John Camilleri said...

Sad indeed! Lives shouldn't be taken away at such ages. Sadly, they are. This can partly be blamed on the food industry, governments, and other interests. Food chains have become overly populated e.g. tuna being raised in fish farms filled with with high mercury levels, antibiotics and hormones, mc's succumbing to food industry lobbyists e.g. Men's Health excellent cover story: "I want get fat" and distributors seeking to make a quick buck. One should also read the excellent piece by Joseph Victor Rizzo in conjunction with the above, "The Paradox of Our Time."

p.s. The current obesity epedemic that has claimed 1/6 of the world's populace threatens to overtake the HIV/AIDS epidemic in terms of magnitude. This, like many other developments, can partly be attributed to the current status quo in which the United States reigns supreme over the rest of the world. While its days are surely outnumbered, the impacts it has had will surely be felt for decades to come. I was constantly amazed at how being of a slender build I was viewed as "he's sick." I was further amazed when people saw that my diet consisted mainly of plant foodstuffs. They views it as being backwards, of belonging to some lower classes. That Mountain Dew (It is beyond hysterical that such products have to feature prominently in various Maltese interactive mediums as if they were engineered for the collective good of the populace...Farsons surely wouldn't be appreciative of such comments) Cappriciosa and Magnum ain't doing you you much good! Until then live under Washington's and its multinationals propaganda whose concerns are the well being of some 400,000 Arabic descendants inhabiting a crop of islands in the middle of a non strategic geographic location. 

2:05 AM, May 19, 2005
Blogger Peklectrick said...

Well said Toni. Julian will be sorely missed by all. Rest in Peace Julian. 

8:41 AM, May 19, 2005
Blogger Roderick Mallia said...

John: sometimes things happen for no reason at all. Sure there are thing that can be attributed to what you said but other things that cannot be explained since they occur for no apparent reason.

And please note that this post was written in remembrance of Julian (RIP) not to stimulate a discussion about communist / pro-environment / no-global / anti-US ideologies . Spare such comments for more appropriate times. 

10:37 PM, May 19, 2005
Anonymous John Camilleri said...

Nothing happens for no apparent reason Rod. 

12:33 AM, May 21, 2005
Blogger Roderick Mallia said...

In your perfect world, people will still die because that's life. Even if you live healthily you'd still die. I know people well into their 90s who smoked like there was not tomorrow and never gave a f*ck about their health or anything. Then, there are those who try to live a healthy lifestyle and die of a venous thrombosis or heart attack at age 24. There are people who ignore all the health risk and don't die of cancer or heart disease. This goes on to show that life is most of the time unpredictable. There are things you can't control and just have to accept. 

9:27 AM, May 21, 2005
Anonymous John Camilleri said...

No one factor plays a decisive role. I know a farmer from Dahlet Qorrot who lights up six times daily. Yet he is way into his 80s. The key to his survival imo is his non-sedentary lifestlye and dietary habits. He toils about in the fields for a good 14 hours. He consumes significant amounts of goat milk, whole wheat foodstuffs, and plant foodstuffs (no potatoes...they're full of white starch). That is an increasinly difficult task in our modern world as none of us want to tailor about in fields (due to the fame and prestige associated w/ other disciplines) thus compensation is needed.

p.s. It all depends by what you mean by healthy? Do you mean eating the suggested portions of everything w/o exercising? Do you mean eating everything w/ exercising? Do you mean eating the suggested portions of everything good w/o exercising? That does not necessarily constitute healthy living. Other factors play a role e.g. stress. 

6:57 PM, May 22, 2005
Anonymous John Camilleri said...

True, we all die. (Actually, according to this guy, we will till 1000 years of age
But do you want to live a life in which you have to show up to the oconolgist's office every forthnight or take 20 pills to just keep you going for a measely 24hrs? Do you want to spend your hard earned fortunes on multinational produced medications fattening their wallets because of your careless actions? Do you want to see the health system collapse like the NHS because of the carelessness of the populace over their actions? (Actually, it is on the brink of collapse with demand outstripping supply at San Luqa) That is the type of world you are seeking to promote from my gatherings. 

7:09 PM, May 22, 2005
Blogger Roderick Mallia said...

You didn't get my point. Let me put it this way. Do you think that if you were to live healthily in a perfect, ideal world (ie. not the one we're living nowadays in 2005), do you think diseases will be inexistent? That cancer will not be a major cause of death? That cardiovascular disease won't claim any vitims? If you believe that I sincerely think you should re-evaluate your thoughts.

Of course I agree with the fact that things are multi-factorial with the greatest predisposing factor to disease being genetics. You said about people lighting up 6 times daily. I've know people who led a sedentary life, light up at least 20 times and eat junk and still live to a ripe old age.

The major risk factor for any disease is life. These diseases nowadays aren't a product of our day and age. Cancer has been around for as long as men first set foot on earth. Same goes for viruses, bacteria, etc.

Now I don't really know why you need to mention the multinationals in every single paragraph you write. Sure, I don't approve of them but blaming them for everything might be a bit too far-fetched in my opinion. And secondly, what do you propose to combat all these diseases and live to 1000? It might be my impression but I really think you dream too much. Perfection does not exist.

PS. Regarding being healthy if you want to know, I basically follow a diet which is devoid of sugars, processed stuff, preserved foods, fats, heated oils and pork. I only eat a limited amount of red meat. Apart from that I try to get some exercise but right know with exams just around the corner I had to discard my training schedule for the time being. 

11:19 PM, May 22, 2005
Anonymous John Camilleri said...

All the problems that exist in today's world are due to the actions of mankind. Every advance that has been made has been detrimental e.g. SUV's are agile, sporty, and comfortable yet they have impacted the environment negatively Cancer fits in the aforementioned logic. As industrialization and urbanization swept much of the Western wolrd, people were crammed into tenaments w/ no sanitary and other critical services. They were forced to purchase and consume what the industrialists sold e.g. petroleum being sold as cooking oil, etc. Other foodproducts suffered the same consequences at the hands of the almighty dollar. Diseases became rampant. Fast food joints were gradually introduced that sold food products that left much to be desired in terms of production (still do) KFC for once pumps gallons of hormones into its chickens in order to increase turnover & McDonald and Co. produce burgers that contain actual animal feces. Consult the excellent Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. If you disagree w/ the fact that these multinationals have exasperated the diseases that plague today's socities (from all the flavors of cancer to others) than you are mistaken about something. Sure, cancer has existed for a long time. But has it been widespread as it is today? Look at what is happening throughout much of the Far-East. These societies have been relatively immune from the various flavours of diabetes. In another decade, they will overtake the States as the biggest area rampaged by this condition. This has all occurred in the last decade when the gates where unleashed for the Western food giants to enter these markets.

p.s. I did get your point wholeheartedly. If we could live in a perfect, ideal world, these diseases wouldn't exist in the first place. If you read some of the research of Aubrey de Grey you find your inquiries to be redundant (Rectifying the effects of DNA mutations). Even if his research fails to avail itself we could mitigate such diseases. We could never eliminate them (We could come close. Who thought polio could be nearly eradicated in 1988? It has w/ the exception of the sub-Indian continent and Nigeria) as complexities arise, but we could come close. It all depends on our actions as humans.

p.s.2. Your p.s. is highly contradictory. You say you follow a diet which is devoid of sugars, processed stuff, preserved foods, fats, heated oils and pork. If you follow a diet devoid of sugars, what do you eat to get your carbohydrates since you eat no processed foodstuffs. That means you are left with veggies and fruits which all contain natural sugars. From where do you get your proteins if you only eat a limitd amount of red meat? You are supposed to eat read meat once every two weeks. Well, I presuppose your intake is not limited or your intake comes from somewhere else. I presuppose nuts which contain all flavors of fats (saturated, trans, polysaturated, polyunsaturated, monosaturated, so forth). Do you grow your plant foodstuffs yourself? If you do not, I highly suspect you buy your plant foodstuffs from overseas producers who constantly spray them with pesticides and other chemicals. Do you go out and grow your own olives and capers? I think not. Your olives and capers are processed. What about breakfast? Do you go out and about and pick the eggs to consume. I think not. Your eggs are processed. What about oatmeal? Do you go out and about and harvest it. I think not. It is processed. 

1:47 AM, May 23, 2005
Blogger Roderick Mallia said...

I don't think anyone would appreciate me giving a complete breakdown of my dietary habits on this blog.

Of course I know what contains what. I'm not that dumb. With a BSc and an MD currently on the way I'm quite confident I that I know a thing or two about nutrition. I've been interested in nutrition for quite some time now and I try to keep myself updated on current research and stuff. Just to let you know, this summer I'll be doing a literature review about the effects of green tea and black tea.

In my previous post 'sugar' was referring to the white stuff you put in your teas and cakes, i.e., sucrose. 'Processed' was referring to refined stuff such as white rice, white pasta, white bread, etc. As far as I know oatmeal isn't processe - if you buy the one full of ADDED sugars and stuff I can't really tell.

Anyway, I never said my intake is limited. I get plenty of veggies, fruit, nuts, egg whites, olive oil and fish in my diet. My diet is quite balanced so I really don't know what's the problem. However I do agree with you that most stuff is sprayed with pesticides but there's nothing much you can do except wash thoroughly in bicarbonate solution. And also try to differentiate between processed as in packaged and processed as in refined, bleached and packaged.

My 'PS' was only to tell you that I myself follow a balanced diet and that I'm quite knowledgable about nutrition. But my point was never on the fact about pesticides and what not - so of course I never contradicted myself. Of course you cannot always have it your way and you need to compromise in some way or other. I would prefer eating stuff that I know is pestcide-free and so forth, but until then I'll try to make the most of what's available. 

8:46 PM, May 23, 2005
Anonymous John Camilleri said...

Glad you clarified the whole processed issue. Even though you might not eat refined foodstuffs, you cannot really say you are on the safe side by eating unrefined packaged foodstuffs. For one, take the example of bottled water. Not really a food, but it is the only good example I know of. You might think it is harmless, but it is not due to the packaging used. Various molecules from the plastic packaging come off loose and dilute the water. These molecules interfere w/ sperm production thus contributing to a lower number. The implications are clearly known.

p.s. Not doubting your expertise, but I am highly critical of so called medical experts. All they want to do is sell pills in order to receive their commissions. Whilst highly critical of the UOM's Medical department, as imo they produce a bunch of woosies incompetent to fullfill their duties to the best of what is possible, some do actually come out w/ a brain. 

11:26 PM, May 23, 2005
Blogger Roderick Mallia said...


I agree perfectly with the points you mentioned in your last post. Regarding the whole plastic issue: I am totally against plastics and plastic containers. Apart from the environmental burden of plastic, there is the problem as you rightly said, of plasticisers leaching out into the water itself which might interfere with bodily functions such as sperm production (reason why plastic bottles shouldn't be refilled with water and re-used). That is why I find highly stupid and idiotic the fact that the government decided to introduce plastic containers instead of glass bottles. What's so wrong with using glass containers? They can be re-used over and over again and are quite inert.

And yes, you're never 100% safe by living 'healthily' (heck even breathing air is dangerous nowadays; carcinogens everywhere) but I try to do my best to minimise the damage in the best way I can. Although at this point another question crops up to mind: how far should you go in your attempt to better your quality of life as much as possible.

PS. Having worked in closed proximity with doctors and other so-called medical experts, make you highly critical of the service they give. And yes certain junior doctors are not capable of doing the job. But that's what you get when you don't have adequate teaching facilities. Imagine lecturers doing rounds in SLH, then tending to 3 private clinics part-time, and amongst all that they still find time to lecture students. But that's another story...
I too share your views of the medical experts, but luckily there are dedicated docs out there who are capable of doing their job well. 

10:10 PM, May 24, 2005
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Julian.. 

5:52 PM, May 29, 2005

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