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Sunday, July 31, 2005


Last week I announced that something I wrote a few years ago will be appearing in Tabellina very soon. My Sunken (Is)land/s appeared on the Tabellina website today.

I originally wrote Sunken (Is)land/s for a non-Maltese audience. I had already lived away from Malta for many years, and since I had engaged with the English language at a rate well above everyday conversation (that's what happens when you spend some years doing doctoral research in an English-speaking environment) I had come to a stage where I was able to not only read and write in English, but also think in English.

Immanuel Mifsud has translated Sunken (Is)land/s into Maltese. The Maltese title is Artijiet Mgħarrqa; I love how this Maltese title evokes subliminal thoughts about ruined artworks in my twisted mind. Manuel has produced quite a faithful translation; I take this occasion to thank him publicly...I don't think I've ever done that before. I honestly feel that he has written a much better piece in Maltese than I would have written had I composed Sunken Is/land(s) in Maltese. This is not just because he is a better Maltese-language writer than I am, which he is. Nor is it because my command of the Maltese language is not as good as it was when I was the managing editor for the Maltese bilingual radio and TV guide (Gwida/Il-Ġimgħa) between 1989 and 1991, or when I wrote my notorious weekly Sunday newspaper column called Fil-Vina from early 1993 until I left Malta in May 1994. It's just that the process of thinking in English and the process of thinking in Maltese simply produce different written results. Pierre Mejlak alluded to this indirectly a few weeks ago when he explained why he blogs in English rather than Maltese, even though he is a published Maltese-language author as well as a professional Maltese translator in Brussels.

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I prefer to speak and write in Maltese whenever I can. This is not so much because of nationalistic pride as it is because of the cultural identity I have embraced for myself. Just the fact that I insist that my name is spelt Toni rather than Tony should be clear enough that I am proud of my Maltese cultural heritage.

I am very impressed by the bilingual structure of Tabellina. I believe it will continue this way; unlike Immanuel's personal blogging, which ceased to be bilingual on Saturday, May 28, 2005. It takes too much time and effort to keep up a prolific output in two languages unless you have a small army of translators or copious amounts of free time.

This week I plan to start writing extensively in Maltese. None of these Maltese writings will appear on this blog. All this new writing in Maltese is for a project I've been thinking about (in Maltese) for many years. Mikiel Galea's recent memoirs about our teenage years, which continue to appear on his blog, are very inspirational for the exercise I'm about to start this week. Perhaps I'll bring glimpses of my new project to my blog readers sometime in the near future, but so far I have no plans for that.

Meanwhile, visit Tabellina and enjoy some of the best Maltese writing currently available on the web. If you don't undertstand Maltese visit Tabellina anyway, because everything is also available in English, even though (so far) my piece is the only one originally created in English.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


I've just returned to New York after a three-day visit to Miami. I had no plan to blog any details about my visit, especially because this was meant to be a mini-vacation. However, I bring up my visit to Miami here today to share some thoughts about vacations.

Moving around Miami in a rental car for what sometimes felt like endless miles reminded me of Jean Baudrillard's America. I read Baudrillard's book about 10 years ago, when I first decided I'd spend some years living in this country. His point of view is hard to grasp at first, but once you understand his neo-Platonic notion that whatever we consider to be real is merely a simulation his work becomes quite intriguing.

Visiting Miami for such a short period of time also brought to mind the tours organized by so many tour operators for tourists who prefer to have their vacations planned for them by someone else. I can never understand how a 7 day tour of central Europe leaving from London can cover Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Luxemburg, Brussels,and Paris in less than a week. To me, that sort of tour sounds more exhausting than the stories of woe you hear from professional traveling performers who often lament that they see nothing of the cities they perform in except airports and hotel rooms.

As you can probably tell by what you've read so far, I didn't enjoy my mini-vacation in Miami very much...mostly because I spent most of my time there either in a car traveling on the never-ending highways or inside my hotel room hunched over a computer trying to fix various MMON websites that were messed up during a mis-scheduled server upgrade. Still, I'm sure it could have been much worse.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Space Oddity

Yesterday morning I left Scarborough for New York via London. Passing through central London on my way to Heathrow Airport was less problematic than I thought it would be. After my GNER train from York pulled into Kings Cross train station, I headed out towards Euston Road station. The Piccadilly tube line is still closed at Kings Cross, all the way to Hyde Park corner. So, I needed to getting on the Piccadilly somewhere in SW London. At Euston I boarded the southbound Northern line to the Embankment, where I changed to the westbound District line. At Baron's Court I hopped-off the train to Richmond and waited for the Heathrow-bound Piccadilly line just across the platform. Easy peasy. It's good to travel light.

Today's post is somewhat unusual because it relates to rather personal affairs. Yet I'm fascinated by how whatever is going on around us inflects our personal lives in so many ways. The space shuttle Discovery is off to outer space today after a lengthy hiatus in the shuttle program. And since the launch pad is in Florida, and I'm off to Florida myself today, to spend a few days relaxing in Miami, I couldn't help but think about the space in which we live. Gentle reader, please forgive the reflexive tone of what I've written here today.

Outer space exploration is something I have mixed feelings about. On the other hand, inner/personal space exploration is something I find myself thinking about more and more, more often than I was aware of before I wrote these few words you just read.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

It Won't Be Long

A few years ago, just as I finished writing the first full draft of my doctoral dissertation, I decided to write something short and non-academic just to clear my head from all the research I had immersed myself in for my PhD. To move as far away as possible from writing about the internet as an alternative broadcasting medium - not to mention the economic and political issues related to all that - I wrote some conversation notes in the form of three short essays, mostly about Malta and Atlantis, under the title Sunken (Is)land/s.

A few days ago, just as I finished my first year of lecturing on creative technologies in the UK, I gave a copy of Sunken (Is)land/s to my good friend Immanuel Mifsud. I asked him to see whether this was something worth publishing in Tabellina, since he is one of its editors. Originally I had submitted the piece for publication in Connect, the quarterly journal from Arts International, which disappeared in the arts funding downturn after 9/11. The editors at Tabellina agreed to publish Sunken (Is)land/s, but edited it down to about 1000 words. Of my original three short essays, the first (about Paul the Apostle's shipwreck in Malta) has been reduced by about 80%. The other two essays remain intact, and I've even been given the opportunity to update them with a couple of minor amendments.

All in all the Tabellina version of Sunken (Is)land/s is not too different from the original version. The experience of having something so short shortened even further has raised an interesting question: how long is too long for text that appears on the internet?

In preparing Sunken (Is)land/s for Tabellina, I've had the pleasure of communicating with Sharon Spiteri again; she is one of Tabellina's editors. Sharon insisted that people "do not like reading on computer screens." She also reminded me that I should think about whether people will print out my article and "read it in peace when they have a chance" or start reading it online but give up when they get fed up of the looking at their screens. I've thought hard about the latter point and I don't know that I've made up my mind yet. However, regarding the assumption that people don't like reading from computer screens I recently read a really interesting article in CSM on how the web changes your reading habits.

Just as an example: looking at Wired Temples I can say that the daily total number of words is often far too long for me to read everything Robert posts. Then again, this may be partly because Wired Temples is produced in such a way that people can pick and choose whatever interests them, exercising selective inattention without any harm done to anyone.

To anyone who wants to read Sunken (Is)land/s: it won't be long before it appears in Tabellina. I'll be in Miami or back in New York when it appears. I'm not sure where I'll be because Tabellina doesn't seem to have a fixed da/y/te for publishing new articles, even though they've been appearing somewhat regularly every two weeks this month.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Man on the Moon

Today marks the 36th anniversary since Neil Armstrong became the first human being to walk on the moon. The event in itself is quite amazing, but I have always wondered what good it did for life on earth. Google marked the anniversary with a cute logo and a nod to the myth about the moon being made of cheese. Meanwhile any doubts about whether the moon landing was a hoax continue to make life back on earth interesting and bearable. After watching Capricorn One on TV a few weeks ago, I cannot say that I don't have a reasonable doubt about the authenticity of the 1969 moon landing.

Back to my point about life on earth. I don't know that I need to dwell on the recent events that have left (or attempted to leave) a mark on our way of life as much, if not more, than Armstrong's "giant leap for mankind". I am personally more excited about the changes brought about by the things that Mikiel Galea is blogging about these days. I wrote a little bit about this in my most recent post. The more I think about it all the more I find myself tempted to abandon other plans I made for this summer and dedicate some quality time to writing about things that can help me understand my present and possible future/s better.

Mikiel's approach is quite different from mine. He writes as one of many. I almost envy the sense of community he expresses in his storytelling. My experience is quite solitary. I always felt alone, even if I never really felt lonely. Maybe he and his mates had better non-mainstream social skills than I did in my teenage years. I believe that some of this comes from the fact that I'm an only child. The whole only-child-experience is significant in its own right. As an only child I learned to cherish my own company and create fantasy worlds that were completely inaccessible to anyone else. I believe that other people who have no siblings will find this resonates with overtones of familiarity.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

All Those Years Ago

I don't consider myself a very nostalgic person. Like Bertolt Brecht, I prefer to tackle the bad new days than long for the good old days. This is a quality I admired in John Peel, whom I miss terribly. It is also the spirit I find most attractive in avant-garde art that follows the legacy of Futurism.

Mikiel Galea is a name I remember with great fondness from my teenage years. Known as l-iStordut (the dazed) he was never someone I socialized with. This was mostly because he is a few years older than I am, but also because he was part of a different crowd than the one I hung out with in the early 1980s. Last week he started blogging about his gang in the early 1980s, which he has dubbed Ic-Cirku Bertu Funtana. He does this in a very eloquent way, devoid of indulgent nostalgia but appreciative of a different time for what it was.

The Imperial Cafè in Valletta's Merchants Street and City Gate feature predominantly in Mikiel's stories. This is not the only place where our paths overlapped, nor was it the most memorable one. He has already mentioned Tigné, where I spent countless hours playing in bands (with names like Structure and Artwork) as well as making theatre at Ateatru with Immanuel Mifsud among others. There are other things I believe he'll write about that I cannot but see as alternative narratives of my teenage kicks in Malta. I haven't written mine yet, but I've been thinking about working on a Toni Sant biography for some time now.

I'm really looking forward to the next episode from Ic-Cirku Bertu Funtana by l-iStordut. I hope he eventually follows Archibald and Antoine Cassar in the audioblogging universe; it seems like he has some real gems on cassettes that are begging to see the light of day again in digital format.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Sound of Silence

The two-minute silence observed today at noon was a very eerie moment for me. I was at home at the time, but I felt in touch with all those who like me, to some degree or other, have had their life altered directly by terrorist attacks since September 2001. I don't refer to those people who have lost loved ones in the attacks. Nor do I mean anyone who was physically injured or lost personal property. Those are the people who were unlucky enough to be hit directly by the attacks, but there are others...and we are not afraid.

Refusing to give in to the mildest sense of terror I chose to focus on something trivial in my previous blog entry. To my surprise the topic raised a number of comments about file-sharing. This is a subject I've been interested in for a number of years, as much for the thrill of P2P technology as for the joy of observing the topic discussed in academic circles.

I want my response to remain soft, at least for now. So rather than engage head-on with the comments my readers left on my blog over the past few days, I prefer to turn my attention to audio-blogging. I do this in direct response to five things that crossed my computer screen this week.

(1) From The recent emergence of Web sites that encourage the public to upload copies of their own video and audio content is highlighting the difficulties of controlling the illicit spread of copyrighted material. The new sites are coming online at a time when technology is making it increasingly easy for ordinary people to copy, record, edit and upload video and audio content to the Web.

(2) From The Independent: The BBC has been lambasted by classical music labels for making all nine of Beethoven's symphonies available for free download over the Internet. This week the BBC announced there have been more than a million downloads of the symphonies during the month-long scheme. But the initiative has infuriated the bosses of leading classical record companies who argue the offer undermines the value of music and that any further offers would be unfair competition.

(3) From USA Today: Podcasts from ESPN, CNN and ABC News now constitute some of the most popular iTunes downloads, replacing the low-cost productions that until recently ruled the radio genre. Podcasting "went from underground to mainstream overnight," says Ted Schadler, digital media analyst at Forrester Research, and a showdown between big and small podcasters is expected as interest in advertising and subscription fees increases.

(4) From Wired News: Video blogs, featuring content as widely varied as that of cable-access programming, are turning media consumers into media creators. Also known as vlogs, the forum allows users to create and distribute a program without relying on TV or mainstream media.

(5) The Maltese blogger formerly known as Archibald revealed his true identity, offering his first audio blog. I enjoyed it thoroughly on various levels, not least because it raises issues related directly with the item from I mentioned above.

How fitting that some of my thoughts on Web 2.0 appeared in the Technology section of The Times today. I really need to get cracking my plans to do more audio-blogging and get to vlogging, since I've already mentioned the people behind ANT on my blog twice.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Tiny Dancer

This month has brought with it some very intense days, and it's not even half way through! I still haven't come to terms with the 7/7 London bombings and it looks like it'll be a while until Central London returns to any semblance of normality. I'll be going through there in a couple of weeks and I must admit that I'm not exactly thrilled to be part of the city's subdued chaos so soon after the disaster.

Live 8 and the apparently "defiant" G8 seem like a distant memory already. All this has also overshadowed the terrible epic tragedy at the Zebbug Fireworks Factory. So, in a desperate attempt to clear the air (short of burning an olive branch or a bunch of sage) I'm turning my attention to something more trivial.

Tonight Ira Losco is the opening act at Elton John's only stadium concert in Germany this year. The show takes place in Bielefeld. This must be quite thrilling for her, not least because Elton John is still a major act, so opening for him at a stadium gig is possibly the largest non-Maltese and non-Eurovision audience Ira Losco has ever had. I liked much of the work she did with her band Tiara before her Eurovision supernova. I also liked the show she gave at the Malta Song for Europe festival the year after she was Miss Eurovision. But I don't have personal copies of any of her songs; except for a bootleg of a very bluesy live TV appearance she did with Tiara a year or two before the Eurovision adventure.

Following the storm in a teacup raised over my comments after this year's Eurovision Song Contest, I don't feel like getting into another fruitless wrangle about Maltese pop music. I admire my former student and occasional-interviewer Matthew Vella for speaking his mind about Winter Moods, even though I think his words were probably more brutal than any write-up I could ever muster. Maybe that's because I've been raised to believe that you should say nothing if you can't say anything positive. I know, I don't always hold myself to that belief.

A few months ago I received a CD from Luigi Pellegrini: Beangrowers' Dance Dance Baby. Luigi is someone I've know for many years. He has been involved in the band's management since they started out, but I knew him about 10 years before that. Back in the mid-1980s, he was one of the many teenage listeners I drew to my radio shows like a UV lamp fly-trap attracts tiny insects. I have great respect for the man as a promoter, so I do whatever I can to help him whenever I can. It would be even easier if I liked the music of the Beangrowers as much as I like that of say the Subverts or even Freddie Portelli. Still, the Beanies have done quite well for themselves: a multitude of gigs outside Malta, making their CDs available for sale at record shops in various countries, two appearances at the SXSW festival in Texas, and featuring on a Wim Wenders' movie soundtrack. If only they had the sort of spark I just heard in newcomers Xtruppaw.

Meanwhile, the underground train tunnel between Russell Square and Kings Cross remains a disaster zone, every day 30,000 children continue to die from preventable causes in Africa, the aid gap in post-tsunami SE Asia rages on, Birmingham is under "a real and very credible threat" and somewhere in some other fireworks factory another fatal accident is just waiting to happen.

So far it's been a cruel summer, but then again I'm just a madman across the water.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Streets of London

Echoes of this morning's blasts in London rock my memories of the horrific attacks in New York in September 2001. This time I'm at a safe distance, in more ways than one. It takes longer to drive or get to London by train from Scarborough than it does to fly there from Malta.

The terrorists seem to have more sophisticated media manipulation techniques than some people are willing to give them credit for. The finger of suspicion is pointing at the misguided holy warriors we've been hearing about on a daily basis since September 2001.

The fact that the G8 Summit started this morning cannot be a coincidence. Nor is it a coincidence, I think, that London was selected as the host for the 2012 Olympic Games just yesterday.

Russell Square is at the centre of this morning's attacks. Immanuel Mifsud and I stayed at a hotel in Russell Square when we first visited the city together back in 1988. The picture you see here with this post was taken a couple of months ago on my return from my most recent trip to New York. I was planning to send this to Manuel because I know he still has fond memories of our sojourn in Russell Square all those years ago. As it happens now, I'm putting it up on my blog in remembrance of a time when a different bunch of holy warriors came to London. In those days they came from a place closer to that part of the world Manuel visited just the other week.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Vamos a la playa

Throughout the non-summer months I often say something or other I'd like to do will make a great summer project. The still-to-come "writings" and "music" sections on my personal website are one example of this. The redesign of the main page (and possibly more) at is another. Let's see if I manage to get to these summer projects this year. I say this because they've been on my to do list over the past two or three years, maybe longer.

For some strange reason I never manage to do all those things I'd like to do during my summers. It's not because I take it easy and/or go to the beach regularly. I know that last summer I was quite busy getting ready to move from New York to Scarborough. I was also slammed with the news of my arhytmic heart. I guess that took up enough time by itself to justify not getting to the summer project I had planned earlier.

Still, throughout all this I blogged...and continued to blog. Not only did I blog, but some of the issues I just mentioned gave me even more reason to blog. Against my better judgment my blog turned more personal than I ever wanted it to be. My opening up has brought me in touch with people I hadn't heard from in years, so I definitely don't regret it.

Over the past few weeks I've observed that some of the bloggers who contributed regularly to the blogosphere in recent months have slowed down in their output, even if the number of bloggers is on the rise. I wonder why. There are exceptions, of course. My good friend Immanuel Mifsud is blogging more frequently than ever these days, perhaps because he has neglected to keep his bi-lingual blogging up-to-date. Pierre Mejlak has picked up the pace too. And Wired Temples continues to delight with its daily postings. I mention these not because they're the only prolific ones but because they're blogs I read regularly.

So, back to my current concern: what's up with the lame excuses for not blogging or the slow down in activity on the Maltese blogosphere? I will refrain from pointing fingers (links) because I really can't be bothered with the aggravation this may cause. At the same time, I can (with some difficulty) accept Ġużè Stagno's reason for not blogging: he wants to focus as much of his keyboard time to his new novel. I can begin to forgive Sandro Zerafa and Oliver Degabriele for not blogging because they're marooned in Malta for most of the summer. I can even respect people who don't blog because they have nothing to say that anyone cares to read. However, as I see it, bloggers who fail to post at least once a week over a period of more than two weeks risk either disappointing their readers and/or fading into the long list of "dabblers" I've been thinking about recommending/creating for our blogroll.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Pride (in the name of love)

Live 8 rocks the world, but will it help the poor? This is the title of the first news item I read this morning. It was actually written last night, as was another report entitled Crowd of 200,000 in Scotland urges poverty action.

Debt relief for Africa was announced some days ago, ahead of Live 8 and the G8 summit. This is a step in the right direction that follows years of campaigning before Live 8.

A doubling of aid to African countries was also announced a few days ago by the USA. The Make Poverty History campaigners want other countries to follow suit...and for America do give even more aid in the future.

Fair trade is the other item on the Make Poverty History agenda and so far it seems like little if any progress will be made on this in Gleneagles next week. Live 8 will only have done more than raise public awareness to all these issues if/when the G8 becomes as interested about fair trade as it is about free trade.

I watched most of Live 8 on TV and online yesterday. Sharon was bummed that I didn't make it to London so she didn't go to the show even though she lives within relative walking distance from Hyde Park. (Next time Sharon. I promise.) Josh (whom I'd have been with had I gone to London even though we didn't have any concert tickets) sent me a couple of pictures via his mobile phone, which I'm reproducing here. He called me half way through Bob Geldof's performance of I Don't Like Mondays to tell me they made it into the park without a ticket, but somehow I still think I had a better time in Scarborough than if I went to London this weekend. Yet I wonder if Edinburgh is where I'm really meant to be. I know I'd be there if I didn't have work commitments I can't get out of this coming week. I have one last ace up my sleeve. I'll play it on Monday or Tuesday and if it works out I may go to Scotland on Wednesday/Thursday after all. If not then I'll just keep in mind that you can't always get what you want in life.

The concerts had their great moments, of course, but left me with quite an empty feeling. I wanted much more of the opening by Paul McCartney and U2, even though Macca gave a corker of a set at the end of the day. Bono seemed very tired and not in top form; I can't understand how he or anyone else thinks he's still a great (live) singer...especially if you compare him to Sting, who gave a blinding performance of old songs from The Police. (In case you need to know, I'm a great fan of both U2 and Sting.) Coldplay showed they're true big league players by including a nod to Status Quo's Rocking All Over the World, even if Gwyneth Paltrow drew far too much attention to herself and Chris Martin's baby during their set. Annie Lennox blew everyone away with her performance and Madonna's act was the best I've ever seen from her. I was also pleasantly surprised by Robbie Williams. He's a strong entertainer who makes up for his unimpressive singing talents with very catchy songs and an excellent stage presence. The Who just went through the numbers clearly reversing their famous anthem about hoping to die before they get old; John Entwhistle lived/died true to that and apparently he is not greatly missed by all.

Zucchero and Duran Duran looked good in Rome, as did Green Day and Roxy Music in Berlin, where Brian Wilson also appeared. I missed Bjork in Tokyo but Will Smith was spectacular in Philadelphia, where Maroon 5 didn't fail to make a mark as one of the freshest bands in the States. Along with The Killers, Keane, Scissor Sisters, and Travis they're among the newer acts I find most attractive.

And then there's the Pink Floyd reunion, of course. Roger Waters was admittedly emotional and visibly nervous about the whole thing while Dave Gilmour and Nick Mason looked like they had zero tolerance for any nonsense. The band sounded as great as ever (except for Water's voice -- no wonder Gilmour did most of the singing) but an 18-minute set from Pink Floyd is almost anathema...this band has at least one song in their back catalogue that's longer than 18 minutes. At least Syd's name was evoked very clearly half-way through the set; he is sorely missed. A Floyd reunion with Barrett would undoubtedly be the great gig in the sky. If the G8 leaders had as half as much wit as they have power they would insist on a Floyd reunion with Barrett as a condition for making poverty history.

Meanwhile, Wired Temples and Pierre J. Mejlak's Blog are now part of the MaltaMedia Online Network, and Tabellina has finally made its public debut.