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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Ghost in the tomato

Happy Halloween!

My father sent me these two pictures of a tomato he just cut up for some traditional Maltese ħobz biż-żejt. He just couldn't resist saying Happy Halloween with this. So, a Happy Halloween to you too. Boo!

Now, go BOO!

OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: This post is not to be considered as an endorsement of Halloween, which is the second most commercial festivity after Christmas.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Jumpin' Jack Flash

I have finally managed to get my new TV. I'm so glad the saga is over. The final chapter in this drama was written thanks to my work-mate Stuart Andrews who agreed to accompany me to the Brunswick Shopping Centre to pick up my new telly. Thanks Stuart! I owe you one, even though you said you believe in paying it forward.
  The new TV
Now that this amazing piece of furniture has entered my new home, the place is slowly but surely becoming more than just a place to sleep, make some home-cooked meals, and use a private bathroom.

The first thing I watched was the BBC evening news. The EU constitution signing ceremony was supposed to be the top story of the day, but it was clearly upstaged by reports on Arafat's bad health and the new video from Osama bin Laden. Heavy! BBC One's light entertainment programme Have I Got News for You with Robin Cook seemed quaint in light of the new bin Laden video...especially because it made no reference to it.

I did not watch TV all evening because I needed to do some work for the upcoming Popular Culture conference I'm attending next week in NY. After that it was great to wind down the day with one of my favourite movies from the 80s: Jumpin' Jack Flash with Whoppi Goldberg. It was on Channel 5 (i.e. with commercial interruptions) so at one point I drifted away to ITV for about half an hour to watch a repeat of Going Home with John Peel.

What a great way to end this week. I've now been living in Scarborough for two months.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Teenage Kicks (in memory of John Peel)

The top story on the 2pm BBC radio news today was about John Peel's death from a heart attack while on holiday in Peru. What a loss! He was truly a unique person who can never be replaced...and I say that not as a cliche about someone who just died, but because he changed the way many of us listen to music. There's so much music I know I'd never have heard if it wasn't for him.

Although I listened to his radio programmes for many years, I only met him once, briefly, in London in October 1988 just outside BBC Broadcasting House at the top of Regent Street. I can still see him shoving a bag full of records into the back of his car as he prepared to drive back home. His producer, the late John Walters, was one of my tutors at the BBC Training Centre just up the road.

John Peel was still at it at the age of 65, of course. Unlike most other people who are still at it at that sort of age, he never became pathetic or a caricature of himself.

John Peel

Listening to his Radio 1 show exactly two weeks ago on a bus from Manchester to Scarborough I realized that he was still possessed by the spirit of the avantgarde: on a continuous quest to discover the musicians who are capturing the sound of their time away from any mainstream compromise.

Thankfully the BBC has great archives and the Strange Fruit record label has already given us access to some of the best Peel Sessions. His record shed should be turned into a world heritage site.

Sunday, October 24, 2004


Matthew Vella from Newsworks interviewed me a few days ago. The interview was for a feature in TRUE magazine, which is published with the Malta Today Sunday newspaper. If I understood Matthew correctly, the article was supposed to appear today. None of the news agents in Scarborough sell Malta Today. So much for Spiritus Mundi.

I've posted the original text of the interview on my personal website for anyone who wants to compare it to whatever was published...if it was published today. I'm always fascinated by how things change by the time they are printed, to say nothing of how they are interpreted by each reader. There's always more than simply meets the eye, even in what appears to be a simple text.

Here's a little tidbit that certainly did not appear today: about 11 years ago Matthew was a young pupil at Stella Maris College and I was one of his teachers. I can still remember the look on his face when the lesson of the day was to question everything: authority, reality, and most of all, the media.

Do you believe what you see or hear in the media? How can you be sure that what you believe to be true is true for everyone? Do you really believe that it matters for everyone?

Is that Jacques Derrida I hear rolling in his fresh grave?

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Get it on!

As the anniversary for my second month in Scarborough draws near, I find that I still have not slowed down to the pace of doing things the way they're done here. Case in point: I bought a new TV set a couple of weeks ago...but it still hasn't been delivered. Well, not exactly. Let me explain.

I bought a very cheap TV from a company that sells things through a shopping catalogue rather than huge store displays. At face value, there's nothing wrong with this. However, this company relies on a different company for its deliveries. What's worse is that the delivery company is based in a small town over 100 miles away from Scarborough!

They tried to deliver the TV at least once within one week after I bought it. However, no one called me to confirm that I'd be there at the time of delivery. When I ordered the TV the lovely lady who took my order assured me that someone would call me before the delivery to make sure I was in when the delivery was scheduled.

Long story short, I called last Monday and set a delivery time for Tuesday afternoon. No one showed at that time with my TV. What a waste of time! I called again and was promised that the TV would be delivered on Saturday morning. I stayed in all morning today waiting for the TV and, you guessed it, still no TV.

Breathe in. Breathe out. It's only TV...and nothing will happen until Monday anyway.

So now I'm off to make my first dish of baked rice in the UK: traditional Maltese ross fil-forn with minced textured vegetable protein instead of minced meat and/or corned beef. And yes, gotta have peas! World peace.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Ride The Wild Paramecium

I just discovered a blog called Ride The Wild Paramecium. It's quite fascinating reading. It reminds me of all the beauty in diversity.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Déjà vu

This past week I was reminded of two earlier posts in my blog. The first was last Monday, when the Information Technology Ministry announced cheaper broadband access for all. The other was a couple of days ago, when the Urban Development Ministry announced that the government is preparing to publish a report regarding the viability of rebuilding the Royal Opera House in Valletta.

Last May I commented about how the Malta Communications Authority and Maltacom are contributing to the digital divide in Malta. This week's announcement coincides with the launch of the annual IT fair in Naxxar. I believe that it is a step in the right direction, but I seriously doubt that most Internet Service Providers are happy about this move.

It's quite interesting to observe that the Minister's announcement included a proclamation in favour of the erosion of dial-up internet access. Thinking of Broadband Internet as a necessity rather than a luxury is certainly most welcome by anyone who believes in the welfare of the working class and those struggling to make ends meet financially. However, ISPs are businesses who like all other businesses do what they do to ensure that their bottom-line remains black.

I am not surprised that the government has moved in this direction, but to be quite honest I did not expect this service to be rolled out so soon.

On the other hand, I was totally expecting the announcement that the best use of the old Opera House site is for a new parliament building. Royal Opera House in ruins during World War IIMaltese culture is oversaturated with party politics. The fine arts and the performing arts are almost all mimetic in Malta. And the media is dominated by the political parties. Therefore, it stands to reason that in such a country the prime location formerly dedicated to the performing arts should be rebuilt as a house of representatives.

Forget opera and theatre. The most vibrant live performances in Malta are in parliament. I will not make any reference to brilliant performances in the past, or even recent history. Just wait until the Budget debates start next month. Best of all you'll hear better use of the Maltese language than you do on radio or TV at most other times.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Sweet leaf

A press release issued last Friday by the Health Department gives advice about the registration of traditional herbal medicinal products. It actually refers to a document written toward the end of September. At face value this may look as just another boring government press release. On closer inspection, however, this is a really interesting issue.

Traditional herbal medicinal products include medicinal marihuana. Malta is nowhere near approving this substance, but it has been a very controversial topic in North America for the past few years. Medical marihuana is legal in Canada. There are states in the USA where it is legal to administer marihuana as a medicinal product. Just take a look at this website from Professor Lester Grinspoon at Harvard Medical School. The issue is controversial for understandable reasons: money and politics.

Will this matter join divorce and reproduction rights as a complicated legal issue on which Malta takes a different position from most other EU countries?

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Here comes the rain again

It's been just over a week since my last blog entry. I've never kept away from my blog for so long since I started it last April. The reason for my lack of writing is related directly to my new life in Scarborough. I moved into my new home last Saturday and it's been one whirlwind since then.

I keep being asked "how are you?" and I'm often at a loss for the appropriate words to use in answering the question. I'm not too concerned with being asked how I am casually. I just say fine. Yet I can't answer just fine to anyone who asks how I am because they really care about me, beyond quotidian niceness.

Anyway, it has now hit me that this new life I've chosen is closer to a new start than a continuation of my years in New York. My new apartment is in a wonderful location. It's good for my soul...and I'm not saying that just because it's across the street from the church at the top left of the picture you see here.Scarborough's South Bay from Oliver's Mount
My wife came to Scarborough this past week in preparation for her move here. It will not be easy for her to give up her job in the USA. Hopefully, her company see her for the valuable resource she is and arrange for her to be transferred to their UK division. On one level that's easier said than done, but on another level it makes sense all around.

One of my favourite songs from my teenage years came on the radio as we were driving through the Yorkshire countryside a couple of days ago. While its clearly a new romantic love song, I think its also an ode to uncertainty. I've chosen that song as the title of today's blog entry because the words crystallize the emotions I'm experiencing right now.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Better than Cat Stevens

A news item in The Guardian today reminded me how much I miss Dina, my cat. DinaThe story concerns Malta too because it deals with pet passports enabling EU citizens to take their pets with them when they travel to other EU countries. I find the passport idea a little excessive, especially after a regular passport didn't even get Cat Stevens into the USA last week. What a farce that was!

I like the idea that there's a way to travel with pets without having to abandon them in quarantine for six months. The microchip system works and makes sense. I just hope no one gets the idea that microchipping is also a good idea for humans as part of some weird security measure at airports. I wonder what Dina thinks of her microchip...if anything at all.

Also in today's Guardian is a report about Prime Minister Tony Blair's heart condition. What a coincidence that he and I have the same heart condition. It's also interesting that they don't call it WPW syndrome here. Perhaps that's because his Supraventricular Tachycardia is a slightly version different of the condition from my Atrioventricular Reentrant Tachycardia. The symptoms are very similar and the treatment appears to be the same.

I'm glad my life is not as stressful as his. Do you think his pets need a passport? Does he even have a pet? If not, now would be a good time to get one. I always find time spent with Dina as some of the best therapy available anywhere.