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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Sampling Malta in Britain

One of the many things that attracted me to leave NY for the UK is the fact that my good friend Aldo Gatt has made this country his home. He is also the creative brain behind the cartoon series The Brave Cissies, which appears on MaltaMedia. Aldo and I have known each other since 1978 when we both started attending St. Paul's Missionary College. I called him on his mobile earlier this week, and he managed to calmed me down as I dealt with the natural culture shock that comes with any major move, such as mine.

During that phone call he also told me about a very interesting phenomenon: just a few days ago he saw a huge PN flag flapping in the wind on the roof of a well-known gay bar in London. When I told him that this was incredible he even sent me the photos to prove it. Here's what he had to say in his email:

Trezza Azzopardi's brilliant first novel sets her dysfunctional family within the Maltese community of Tiger Bay in Cardiff while gossip has it that SOHO's most disreputable bars were breeding grounds for a Maltese "mafia" in the sixties. Soho has been transformed into a much more savvy place since then but it seems the Maltese still own the place. It is not the first time I heard the Maltese language spoken loudly (not an articulate specimen unfortunately) in a Maltese owned pizzeria in SOHO but I was surprised to notice the Maltese conservative party's flag fluttering on one of Old Compton's Street's major gay pubs. Wonder what the story behind it is!
I'd love to hear from anyone who can shed some light on this.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Other blogs in Scarborough

Tempus brevum est! This latin phrase was engraved on a grandfather clock at St. Agatha's Convent in Rabat, which is adjacent to St. Paul's Missionary College where I spent about 5 years in secondary school about 25 years ago. For some strange reason I keep getting flashbacks of that grandfather clock and that latin phrase as I walk down Filey Road after almost everyday I'm spending at the University of Hull's Scarborough Campus these days.

About this time last week I was writing about other Maltese blogs, so perhaps its appropriate that I augment that with some comments about a handful of blogs I discovered by other people who live in Scarborough. This came to my attention after Jamie, someone I've never actually met, wrote a kind little comment on one of my Scarborough related entries.

Besides Jamie's blog, I managed to find 4 other blogs from people who live in Scarborough. I should say that I don't know any of these bloggers in person, so my comments about their blogs are purely based on my impressions of what I see online.

The most prolific of the Scarborough bloggers is a teenager called Kayleigh Beat. She has two blogs! One is called Notes of a Dreamer and the other is [Insert Name Here].

The most interesting Scarborough blogger I've found so far is Jane x, a former Project Engineer who is now a full-time adventure traveler. I think she's actually in Brazil right now and she's blogging from there quite regularly. Pretty nice. Her blog is called The Great Escape!

In some way I feel like I'm on a great escape too...but this is mostly because I really don't feel like I've even begun to settle into this new life I've chosen to have in Scarborough. This blog is helping me to calibrate my past, present, and future into a twisted narrative that some may chose to call my biography.

Having a blog is a truly wonderful, life-altering experience. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Other Maltese Blogs

Part of the reason why I started this blog about 5 months ago was because there weren't any substantial Maltese blogs. This is not to say that no Maltese person had created a blog before I started mine. Far from it!

A small number of web enthusiasts had created a couple of blogs through the blogger service. Something tells me that there are probably also some blogs created via LiveJournal or some other blogging community, but I don't really have the time to research them right now. Anyway, my point is that as far as I know these pre-May 2004 blogs are all personal blogs.

One of the most active of these blogs is Jenny's. She started blogging last May, but her most recent entry was on the 15th of July. I wonder what happened to Jenny. Her blog contrasts beautifully with Maria Calleja's, which was only started last month. Maria's blog is quite active and carries the titillating title: Following Maria's adventures and endeavours!

Last week I discovered that Joseph Micallef has created the Acoustika Blog for the Acoustika Trio. It was through this blog that I discovered the sad news about Louis Naudi's demise.

Then there are a couple of political blogs that show great promise, but it appears that thus far their creators are still figuring out what blogs are all about. The first of these two blogs comes from Mark Vella. I have known Mark since 1992 when he worked as a radio presenter on Malta's first privately owned talk station: Radio One Live. His blog is called Ix-Xifer. I am also quite pleased that unlike my blog it is written in Maltese. If/when Ix-Xifer takes off, perhaps I should contribute some comments in Maltese to the blogosphere. The other political blog "advocates individual freedom and responsibility, limited government and the defence of Western political values" under the unusual title Malta, 9 Thermidor.

One of the pre-last-May blogs has disappeared completely. It was a radical right-wing blog by a young man from Dingli, I believe. I wonder what happened to him and his blog. Something tells me that there's some link between him and Jenny. Then again I think it's best to stop here because the rest is just gossip.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Goodbye Louis

I was surfing the Web just now and discovered that another old friend of mine has passed away. Louis Naudi died last Thursday after being in treatment in the UK for many months. Like Mario Ellul, Louis was in the original Fog line-up about 20 years ago, and I was lucky to have played with him many times after that between 1986 and 1992. I even have some of it on tape somewhere. He was a very generous person and a dependable percussionist. This is how I will remember him. Rest in peace, Louis.

The price of education

As I begin to (slowly) settle into my new job as lecturer in performance and creative technologies at the University of Hull's Scarborough Campus, I realize that I am spending quite of bit of time thinking about the differences between the way things are done here and the other systems of higher education I'm used to in the USA and Malta.

Most prominent in my thoughts these past few days has been the politically-loaded issue of the graduation fee at the University of Malta, which hit the news in Malta these past few days.

I think that this is a political issue in the strategic sense rather than in the social sense. Looking at the actions of the two protagonists in the shootout against the University of Malta, the Education Minister and the student organization PULSE, clearly indicates that while they're wearing the social welfare of the financially challenged on their sleeve, they are also involved in very partisan matters too.

PULSE will of course find every way it can to show the Nationalist government in a bad light, while the Education Minister must do all he can to make his party regain the electoral popularity it once enjoyed

I am a strong proponent of free education for all. However, when an educational institution is in financial straits I see no problem with it imposing a relatively small fee for things like admission and graduation, particularly one that does not charge a tuition fee.

At the same time I also believe that rather than impose a ridiculous 50% fine or additional charges on late payments, the University of Malta would have shown greater compassion if it offered a waiver or some sort of financial aid arrangement for anyone in a position to demonstrate that paying a one time fee of Lm10 would create some sort of hardship. Any student who drives a car, smokes, uses a mobile phone, and/or goes to the cinema more than once a month, would naturally not qualify for either the waiver or any financial aid.

Without any partisan prejudice or personal attack on any of the UoM's employees I ask, am I the only one who believes that (a) the University of Malta is mismanaged, and (b) Maltese political animals only really speak for the good of their partisan agenda even when it apparently benefits a large number of people?

Saturday, September 11, 2004

War Is Not the Answer

Today is the third anniversary of the day that changed all our lives. Some of us were affected more than others, of course, but I believe that everyone's life has been touched in one way or another. Sometimes in very indirect ways.

I was in New York City on September 11, 2001. I still lived there during the first two anniversaries. So it feels a little weird to be away from New York on September 11 for the first time since 2001. As a matter for fact, this is my first September 11 away from New York since 1996. I'm sure that some of that plays into the unusual feeling I'm experiencing today.

More upsetting, however, is the evergrowing number of fatalities in what I believe, like so many others, is a misdirected war or terror. I was very pleasantly impressed to hear this morning that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that runs the site of the World Trade Center, is suing Saudi Arabia for that countries involvement. How ironic that the Bush administration has done nothing but appease the Saudis regardless of the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers from 9/11 were Saudi nationals. Incidentally, never forget: none of the hijackers were Iraqi.

Starting today my blog will display a body count meter from the so-called war on terror in Iraq, courtesy of and, as well as a cost of war estimate from

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

It's already been one week

I've already been in Scarborough for a whole week. This time last week I was sleeping off my jetlag. By the weekend I had recovered completely, however, I'd say I'm still a couple of weeks away from really becoming comfortable about living here. I'm still living at a guest house in town and my computer set-up still needs a bit of tweaking.

While I could turn this blog into my personal journal about my first days in Scarborough, I feel that I should stick to the original spirit within which I created it. It's been a little odd not commenting about what's going on in/around Malta and beyond these last couple of weeks.

So today I want to blog a couple of news items that I know I'd bring to this blog if my private life was a little less hectic right now. Here goes:

  • University administration withdraws graduation fee - It's good to see that the wonderful idea of "free" education for all lives on in the 21st century, even if it always felt like the right socialist to do when I was growing up.

  • Almost 400 illegal immigrants reached Malta in one month - I started commenting about this troubling phenomenon a couple of months ago. I still believe that the worst is yet to come, particularly when you keep in mind that this past months influx equals about 0.1% of Malta's population.

    I still want to comment about the recent Broadcasting Authority report, which among other things mentioned the streaming of Maltese radio station signals on the Internet. And even more importantly than that there's this amazing statistic today about the fact that over 1,000 Americans have died in Iraq since March last year while dozens of international aid agencies are considering quitting Iraq following the abduction of two Italian women. This staggering death toll should be considered in light of another fact: more than 10 times as many Iraqi civilians have also lost their lives in the so-called liberation of Iraq.

  • Saturday, September 04, 2004

    Now I'm here!

    I'm now in the spectacular seaside town of Scarborough, North Yorkshire in England. The weather is unusually sunny and warm so the town looks most attractive. I haven't settled my computer and Internet setup yet, but at least I've managed to access my blog to post this little note for the regular followers of my blog.

    I hope to work on organizing my new office this Monday. If all goes well, by Tuesday it should be business and usual. That means I'll also start blogging away at my usual pace again.

    The picture you see here is an actual view of Scarborough showing the location where I am writing this slightly off to extreme top left. I'm sure you agree that it pretty gorgeous! You can also see a couple of amazing 360° panoramic views by clicking here.