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Friday, December 31, 2004


It's finally the last day of 2004. I say that with some desire to see the year end sooner rather than later. All in all it was a good year, but it was also quite an emotional rollercoaster of a year.

This blog has helped me keep track of some of the ups and downs, even if Matthew Vella's Where Are They Now? did quite an OK job in itself as a souvenier of some of things that dominated 2004 for me.

Anyway, here's a partial, most subjective, list of blog entries from 2004:

As for things that happened in Malta during 2004, I believe that the round-up feature from the MaltaMedia Online Network covers most of the memorable moments. Have a look at the final version of 2004: A Year in Review, which was made available to the public earlier today. This year the people who worked with me on the annual round-up feature are (in alphabetical order): Mario Axiaq, Antoine Busuttil, Ruth Davies, Martin Debattista, Joe Meilak, Pierre J. Mejlak, Roseanne Sammut, and Mark Vella Gera. Life is not perfect, but with work companions such as these we can almost turn water into wine online. If you don't believe me just subscribe to the newsletter.

Bottom line for the end of 2004: Many thanks for reading my blog...I wish you a very happy new year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

It ain't over till it's over

2004 is still with us, but unfortunately Susan Sontag is not. I heard about her death on NPR this morning. She was one of the important voices I listened to in my formative years in academia, yet she was so much more than an academic.
Susan Sontag
Her position on the 9/11 attacks was very refreshing, especially since she was an American. Claiming that what happened on 9/11 was not a "cowardly attack" on civilization but "an act undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions" made a lot of sense to me and anyone else who was not willing to buy into the nonsense that the Bush administration fed (and continue to feed) to the masses.

Thanks to Susan Sontag I came to appreciate the works of Antonin Artaud better. Her introduction to the anthology of Artaud works she edited explained the complex mind of that amazing Frenchman in ways that no one else was able to do for me before her.

To say that she will be missed is to state the obvious. What a pity she will not be equally missed by many of the people who should really take what she had to say more seriously.

With her gone, there's now one more reason for not wanting to live in New York City anymore.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Save a prayer

Work on the 2004 year in review feature is almost complete. We've been working quite hard this year to produce what has become an annual affair for the MaltaMedia Online Network. More about all that when it's been officially launched for public viewing.

Meanwhile, like most other people, I'm recovering from post-Christmas celebrations. Well, they're not actually over yet...and it'll be at least another week before things start coming back to "normal" again. I must say though that this year has been one of the most laid back festive seasons I've had in quite a while. Truth be told, I like it better this way.

I was never one to celebrate the end of year merriment as if it was something extraordinary. As a child my parents always worked harder on holidays, so I never really spent any quality time with them during the festive season until my mid-teenage years. As a teenager I was active in the local music scene and so most of my time was spent with my band or some sort of related environment. Then later, with the theatre and club DJing, I too started to work (harder) during the holidays. So for me staying at home with a loved one, or going for a quiet stroll on the beach, makes for an interesting way to spend the holidays.

Oh well, I suppose it will all be over soon enough! Once things get back to "normal" I'm sure something else will come up that will make things as all over the place as I expect them to be at about this time of the year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Do they know it's Christmas?

The Christmas 2004 Newsletter is now no longer on my "to do" list, but work on the review of 2004 continues at a steady pace.

It snowed a little here in Scarborough yesterday and for some reason that made it feel like Christmas. I'm not sure why, but perhaps I've bought into the whole northern White-Christmas madness after the amazing amount of snow we had in New York a couple of years ago.

Now it's bright and sunny again; not exactly warm, but still a beautiful day. A little walk is a must later today...if for no other reason, just to remind us why we've chosen to live in Scarborough.

Christine is here with me for the next couple of weeks so we're now sorting out the rest of those 114 boxes and packages we had delivered from our home in New York. There's still quite a bit to go, but not a lot. Most of it was endless sheets of crumpled paper to prevent the fragile stuff from breaking.

Anyway, I can't seem to get to the obituaries this year. Too depressing! Especially because of Mario, Louis, Maggie and Pullu. I've asked my good friend and MaltaMedia colleague Pierre Mejlak to help me out. And he did, until he went off to Paris with his girlfriend. We should be back on track when he returns to his current base after this weekend. All ends being equal, we'll still manage to get the 2004 round-up ready for public viewing by this time next week.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Gone (you can keep this suit of lights)

At about this time of the year for the past 4 years, Mario Axiaq and I have been putting together a list obituaries for people known for their public life in Malta. It is an exercise that works hand in glove with Mario's project to chronicle Malta day by day and MaltaMedia's round-up of the year gone by.

Here's the list for this year, so far:

Tony Mallia, Media Executive
(24/09/1942 - 15/01/2004)

Fr. Carmelo Zammit SDB
(28/04/1931 - 16/01/2004)

Mro. Carmelo Zammit
(16/04/1907 - 09/02/2004)

Robbie Buttigieg, Footballer
(27/11/1936 - 16/02/2004)

Mro. Paul Arnaud
(27/01/1911 - 22/02/2004)

Anthony Montanaro, News Editor
(23/05/1921 - 10/03/2004)

Frank Portelli, Artist
(b.1922 - 13/03/2004)

Victor Galdes, Broadcaster
(06/05/1923 - 17/03/2004)

Ġużi Mallia, Writer/Broadcaster
(21/06/1917 - 10/04/2004)

Arthur Podesta, Olympic Aquatic Sportsman
(27/12/1928 - 06/06/2004)

Willie Apap, Sports Entrepreneur
(16/04/1919 - 12/06/2004)

Kan. Dr. Amante Buontempo
(15/10/1920 - 20/06/2004)

Joe Aquilina, Footballer
(21/07/1943 - 07/07/2004)

Mario Ellul, Singer/TV Producer
(08/09/1963 - 31/07/2004)

Maggie Borg, Activist
(Died 03/08/2004)

Louis Naudi, Percussionist
(Died 09/09/2004)

Joe Zammit Cordina, Actor
(29/09/1929 - 12/11/2004)

Publius Micallef, Recording Engineer
(02/10/1943 - 12/11/2004)

Darren Dimech, Motocross Racer
(26/12/1982 - 29/11/2004)

Ġużeppi Schembri, MFA Kit Manager
(09/05/1921 - 02/12/2004)

If you think there's anyone else we should include in this list, please contact me. We'd also appreciate any corrections to dates of birth/death as listed here, because we don't always get things 100% right.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Running to stand still

These past few weeks I've been blogging fairly regularly. Now, for some strange reason, I feel like I can't really focus on what to say next. I believe that part of the reason comes from the sort of stress related to the work I always have to do towards the end of any university semester. Another part is the transient aspect of my current surroundings.

All this has set me thinking about what I'm reading in the news these days. To me the international news scene seems to be experiencing a sort of mediocre predictability. I don't mean the blast at the American Consulate in Saudi Arabia, but things like marking the military's 1000th combat death in Iraq and almost everything else that's been going on this week. I don't really know how to explain it. And if you know me beyond this blog, you can really understand how unsettled all this makes me feel.

Looking at the local news scene in Malta I see a pretentious story (Balzan Community Radio in Guinness World Record attempt), an interesting statistic (go mobile customer base reaches 140,000 mark in four years), an embarrassment for the prison authorities (Cocaine discovered in Corradino Corrective Facility), and another laughable management fiasco by Maltasong (Malta Song for Europe 2005 selection delayed). At least the usual fuss about the Budget seems to have died down a little bit.

A New York Times editorial published today makes me think that I really did the right thing leaving New York earlier this year. Thinking this way explains a little bit of what I mean by the title I've given today's blog entry. Read the main text of the editorial and you'll probably see what I mean.

There is no historic preservation district or landmarks commission for hawks' nests. But if there were, the red-tailed hawk's nest at 927 Fifth Avenue, overlooking Central Park at 74th Street, would surely have qualified. Until Tuesday, the nest stood on a 12th-floor cornice with a sublime aerial view of the urban forest in our midst. Since 1993, 23 young hawks have been raised there, sired by a bird called Pale Male. Thousands and thousands of bird-watchers over the years have followed the lives of the hawks in that nest. But this is not an homage to bird-watching - it's an homage to birds.

On Tuesday, workers took down the nest and, apparently, the metal anti-pigeon spikes that had helped hold it in place. So far, no one from 927 Fifth Avenue has spoken up to defend the co-op board's decision to remove the nest. Perhaps residents were annoyed that the hawks didn't do a better job of cleaning up after themselves by using a pooper-scooper or putting their pigeon bones in the trash, the way a human would. Perhaps they simply wearied of the stirring sight of a red-tailed hawk coming down out of the sky to settle on its nest.

It's always tempting to think that a city like New York has utterly effaced the natural ground on which it was built. Most of the creatures that lived on Manhattan Island several centuries ago would stand no chance of doing so now - not in these new canyons of steel and glass. But the presence of a nesting pair of red-tailed hawks, sequestered on the edge of an apartment building, feels like a memory from a past this city has long since forgotten.

The hawks have gone out of their way to learn to live with us. The least the wealthy residents of 927 Fifth Avenue could have done was learn to live with the hawks.
Pale Male and family in New York

Friday, December 03, 2004

Red red wine

This morning I woke up with the sound of the Neil Diamond's song that gives its name to this blog entry. I don't mean that I heard it on the radio or anything like that; not even the UB40 version that was so popular about 20 years ago with its excellent toasting sections.

Red wine is a substance I have come to appreciate greatly over the past few years since I was told over and over by my dear friend Antoine Camilleri that (in moderation) this ancient beverage is good for the body. Apparently our hearts enjoy some antioxidant or other than controls free radicals. So red wine, olive oil and unsalted peanuts (in moderation) have become a staple part of my diet, especially since about 2000 when I was diagnosed with borderline hypertension which eventually led to the discovery of my having WPW syndrome this past summer.

Last night I tried an Italian wine: Terra Viva. I was never a big fan of Italian wines. Most of the red ones I've tried are too robust for my taste. I'm now wondering whether it is this actually the Sangiovese in the Terra Viva that has driven me to write what I've written here today. In vino veritas, I suppose.

England is not exactly a great place to find good red wines; especially in Scarborough. There are imports from all over the world, of course, but I find the selection less invigorating than what I had become accustomed to in New York. Still, I've managed to find a nice French Bordeaux as well as an interesting blend of Cabernet and Merlot from Chile. I originally became a great fan of wines from Chile back in New York, where the selection was mindblowing.

My father, who knows a thing or two about wines from his many years working in bars and hotels, tells me that there's a nice selection in Malta too now. So on my next visit I want to see if this could be the first thing that I'll chalk down as better in Malta than it is in Scarborough. I hope this doesn't become a problem. It shouldn't!

Now I hear the bells of St Mary's Church across the street from my bedroom, but when I look out the window I see that the actual church bells are not tolling.