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Monday, September 26, 2005

Highway 61 Revisited

This evening PBS (in America) and the BBC will broadcast the first part of Martin Scorsese's new documentary about Bob Dylan, No Direction Home. I must say that this is one of the few TV broadcasts I've really looked forward to in quite some time. Strangely, No Direction Home was released on DVD last Tuesday. In spite of this, tonight's broadcast still feels like a major event. Anyway, I'll probably blog about the documentary after I watch it.

Over the weekend I did something I've been wanting to do all summer: I picked up my blue acoustic guitar and spent a couple of hours strumming away. Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone was one of the many tunes I attempted. According to a poll released about six weeks ago in Uncut magazine, it's the number 1 song that "changed the world". The lyrics are simply blinding and the musical structure is slightly different from the folky forms in most other Dylan songs before and after the infamous hook-up with The Band. Picking through the chords in the first verse I acquired an even greater appreciation of Dylan as a tunesmith.

Meanwhile I've managed to migrate this blog to a web address but the redirection from the old server is still not working perfectly. That tilde in the previous address has really come back to haunt me. I'm hoping to shake of the ghost this week.

Monday, September 19, 2005

All Because of You

The main purpose of today's blog entry is to activate the new server location. As I mentioned a couple of days ago I've had to move away from my original web address, which included the tilde character (~) in the URL.

My blog remains exactly the same as it was before the move. The only thing that has changed for now is the address. Although still branded as a MaltaMedia feature, my blog's address is now - a somewhat more logical address than the one I had before.

The previous address came about quite by accident. I created my blog in April last year as an experiment into what can be done with blogs on the MaltaMedia Online Network. At that time we were operating on a web server that ran some software which automatically generated a tilde in front of the folder name whenever a new file-transfer account was created. Most of the tilde's disappeared within minutes (if not seconds) within creation because a domain name is usually associated with each file-transfer account in our online network:,,,,,, etc.

To make something a little more meaningful of this text I should stop talking about the technical relocation of this blog. Perhaps I should mention that the first podcasting series from the MaltaMedia Online Network came to an end yesterday. Part 23 in the series about 9/11 from a Maltese perspective was released yesterday evening bringing to a close the first full series of Maltese podcasts. While the main content presented in this series of podcasts was already available on the Internet as streaming audio webcasts since 2001, the material has been repackaged into new mp3 clips complete with new audio idents at start and closing of each segment.

I plan to leave the series available for a while; at least until we produce something else. There are a couple of other things we're planning to resume our podcasts. Perhaps we can bring you the first of these by the beginning of next month. Meanwhile I will continue to podcast on an ad hoc basis whenever the spirit moves me...or to be more precise, whenever I have an hour to spare. This means that the next podcast will probably appear sometime during the weekend. Rest assured that you'll hear about it here.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Got To Move

Way back in 1997, when I created for what was then the National Tourism Organisation of Malta, I started a relationship with a hosting company based in Florida called Web2010. Their service was excellent and their rates among the best in the world. Web2010 became the hosting company for MaltaMedia when we first went online in 1998.

Soon after that, Web2010 grew and eventually became a larger company with a new name. Billing happened in Texas, technical support came from Georgia or Florida, and some of the servers we used were hosted in California. Over the years I built an excellent working relationship with some of the company's employees. They have more important clients than MaltaMedia, but I was a good customer and they treated me well. Call it southern hospitality, call it good business, call it whatever you want, it was a good arrangement.

On the technical front, things didn't always go well. The MaltaMedia Online Network grew in size and scope within the first years of the new century, and so did the technical headaches. How do we handle all the traffic without compromising the service. Our budget was never huge, so we had to make modest technical arrangements while keeping the Network running as smoothly as possible. Aside from the MaltaMedia News Service, we also run, and -- three of the most popular Maltese websites. These sites, along with other services on the MaltaMedia Online Network, require huge amounts of server space and a substantial amount of bandwidth. Finding the right balance is often a juggling act. Sometimes it's fun, other times it's literally the stuff of nightmares.

Anyway, too cut a very long story short, the hosting company I embraced about 8 years ago has now been acquired by an even larger company and it honestly feels like there's no joy within the new structure. I understand that the crazy ideas from the first years of web development are now history, and that security is a major concern for anyone running an online network. Still, I refuse to give in to the pressure of whatever conventional wisdom sucks out the spirit of whatever makes working with the MaltaMedia Online Network worth it. It's never been about money for me...not even during the dot-com boom.

For some reason, apparently security, I've been advised to change the URL for my blog to eliminate the tilde (~) from the address for my blog -- -- it will still look and work the same way it does now, just at a new web address. So, sometime over the next couple of days, my blog will move to, which seems like a more logical address for it anyway. In most cases the switch will be virtually invisible, but somehow I have a feeling that some of the old pages will not redirect properly because I haven't always been consistent in the way I name my files, folders, etc.

How's that for a roundabout way of announcing that my blog is moving to a new web address?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

September Song

Three ways to mark the fourth anniversary of 9/11:

1. The New York Times today published some text Spalding Gray wrote in the aftermath of 9/11 for the monologue he was working on at the time of his death in 2004.

For 34 years I lived with you and came to love you. I came to you because I loved theater and found theater everywhere I looked. I fled New England and came to Manhattan, that island off the coast of America, where human nature was king and everyone exuded character and had big attitude. You gave me a sense of humor because you are so absurd.

When we were kids, my mom hung a poster over our bed. It had a picture of a bumblebee, and under the picture the caption read:

"According to all aerodynamic laws, the bumblebee cannot fly because its body weight is not in the right proportion to its wingspan. But ignoring these laws, the bee flies anyway."

That is still New York City for me.

2. This morning I received an email from Michael Moore containing a letter he wrote this weekend to people who voted for George W. Bush. You can read the full letter on his website, but here are a couple of excerpts:

On this, the fourth anniversary of 9/11, I'm just curious, how does it feel?

How does it feel to know that the man you elected to lead us after we were attacked went ahead and put a guy in charge of FEMA whose main qualification was that he ran horse shows?

That's right. Horse shows.

I really want to know -- and I ask you this in all sincerity and with all due respect -- how do you feel about the utter contempt Mr. Bush has shown for your safety? C'mon, give me just a moment of honesty. Don't start ranting on about how this disaster in New Orleans was the fault of one of the poorest cities in America. Put aside your hatred of Democrats and liberals and anyone with the last name of Clinton. Just look me in the eye and tell me our President did the right thing after 9/11 by naming a horse show runner as the top man to protect us in case of an emergency or catastrophe.


My Republican friends, does it bother you that we are the laughing stock of the world?

And on this sacred day of remembrance, do you think we honor or shame those who died on 9/11/01? If we learned nothing and find ourselves today every bit as vulnerable and unprepared as we were on that bright sunny morning, then did the 3,000 die in vain?

Our vulnerability is not just about dealing with terrorists or natural disasters. We are vulnerable and unsafe because we allow one in eight Americans to live in horrible poverty. We accept an education system where one in six children never graduate and most of those who do can't string a coherent sentence together. The middle class can't pay the mortgage or the hospital bills and 45 million have no health coverage whatsoever.

Are we safe? Do you really feel safe? You can only move so far out and build so many gated communities before the fruit of what you've sown will be crashing through your walls and demanding retribution. Do you really want to wait until that happens? Or is it your hope that if they are left alone long enough to soil themselves and shoot themselves and drown in the filth that fills the street that maybe the problem will somehow go away?

3. The podcasting series about 9/11 from a Maltese perspective continues today with my original webcast from 2001 about the online Bed-In for Peace organized by Amy Berg and Andy Cox in October, just after the so-called war on terror started in Afghanistan. That Bed-In helped us come to terms with the overwhelming sense of hopelessness we felt at the time. I believe that if we really want to change the world the best way to start is by changing ourselves. Easier said than done, of course, but the alternatives are much worse.

Last year, on the third anniversary of 9/11 I added the body count meter from the so-called war on terror in Iraq to my blog. The number of Iraqi civilian casualties has thankfully stopped rising at the alarming rate it was back then, but the over-all body count continues to swell obscenely, as does the cost of the senseless war.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Wake Me Up When September Ends

I spent the last three days in Manchester at the inaugural conference of the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA) where I presented an academic paper about my work in Scarborough over the past year and some of my plans for the coming year. As academic conferences go this was quite a good one even thought it was the first one for this association.

On my arrival in Manchester I got lost because I took the wrong turn out of the Piccadilly railway station and ended up in the city centre instead of on the University of Manchester's campus, which is just around the corner from the train station. Although the city centre is probably the best part of town, as I wandered the Mancunian streets looking for the university campus I thought about why Graham Nash couldn't wait to leave this place as a young man, why Ian Curtis couldn't take it either, why Morrissey was such a miserable young man, and why Shaun and Bez (from the Happy Mondays) abused their bodies the way they did. At the same time I can see why Tony Wilson (to mention one of many) is so excited about the city of Manchester.

Anyway, I was too busy to blog during the conference but there were some things I wanted to blog about even before I left for Manchester a few days ago. I never got around to doing it because I was swamped under the last minute preparations for the conference. Here are some of the things I wanted to blog about, in no particular order:

MaltaGirl's guest bloggers: the Maltese blogosphere was graced with the first set of guest bloggers via MaltaGirl's Diverse Ramblings. I believe it was one of the most exciting moments in our Maltese blogging community and I think quite a few people agree with me on that. Robert Micallef mentioned the idea of having guest bloggers on Wired Temples when he first started that blog. Rest assured that especially now that we've seen what a wonderful experience it was for MaltaGirl's blog it will happen on Wired Temples too.

Anthony D. Gatt to return to Malta: following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Anthony has decided to return to Malta because Tulane University will not be in session at all this semester. As an international exchange student he has been unable to transfer to a different university as easily as most of the rest of the Tulane students have done. I wish he would write some more about his experience over the past couple of weeks in his blog.

Stagno is back on the blog: Malta's literary enfant terrible has returned to his blog this week to lament about, among other things, the regular electricity black-outs where he lives. I am not surprised that things are as bad as they are and I believe they could get worse next summer. However, do you really believe that things would really get better simply if a different party was running the Maltese government, Ġuż?

Joke of the month:Car Free Day is a great idea that (although not entirely useless) has little of the desired impact the people who originally came up with it would have really liked it to have. Consider Car Free Day in light of this: speaking during a meeting of the Road Safety Group of the European Conference of Ministers for Transport, Malta's Urban Development and Roads Minister Jesmond Mugliett revealed that there are 680 motor vehicles registered for every 1,000 inhabitants on the Maltese Islands.

Maltese podcasting series continues: i-Tech in The Times has published an article about the podcasts released on the MaltaMedia Online Network a few weeks ago. The series on 9/11 from a Maltese perspectives continues with a daily offering for another week.

One third of this month is over and it feels like September has already given out a whole month's worth of excitement and disappointments. I think this is mostly because of Katrina, of course, even though I'm not so sure that the Maltese living in Malta are as interested in what's going on the southern coast of the USA, as other Europeans clearly are from the media coverage the aftermath of the hurricane continues to receive even two weeks after if first made news headlines.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?

A few days ago I shared my thoughts on Hurricane Katrina and the situation in New Orleans with my blog readers. Among other things, I expressed concern for our friend Anthony Gatt. Thanks to comments he posted on this blog, we heard that he's OK, even if a little shaken by the experience.

As the sadness of the horrible situation on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico continues to unfold, I'd like to share an email Anthony sent to the MaltaMedia News team yesterday evening. I am reproducing the text of his email exactly as he sent it not to show Anthony as a sloppy writer, but to preserve the angst of this young Maltese man in this unusual situation. His account is the only relevant Maltese perspective on this major disaster. There may be other Maltese people who experienced Katrina first hand, but so far we have neither heard from or of them.

The text is written partly as an eyewitness account, partly as a news report, and mostly as a personal account of someone overwhelmed by his current situation.

Information about Maltese student stuck in the US after hurricane Katrina...

I had prepared for this trip for two long months. Morning spent moving from one office to another and filling papers, talking to people and trying to get the most cost affective option possible.

Thursday August 25th...7.15am...MIA...I say bye to my parents and with tears in my eyes I board a plane that would take me to London with a mixture of sadness and expectation as this shoul have been the experience of a lifetime...

Arriving in the enormous Heathrow airport I waited fro a couple of hours to board the British Airways 10-hours flight that should have taken me to Miami.

Firts indication of what came ahead..."there is a trpoical storm shaping up, it shouldn't be too bad'said the captain as we were initiating our flight towards the US.

After hours of eating, reading, sleeping and watching tv we approached no...we didnt make it safely to miami...Katrina was shaping up to the KATRINA that we all know about now...turbulance was hitting from every corner and we had to abort the miami landing and opt for the airport of Orlando, Florida so as to have a safe landing. Better safe than otherwise...

Tired and confused I waited until some 60 mins later I was on my way to a hotel that BA had put us in until as safe journey back to miami could be completed. Arriving in Miami a day later, after having informed my parents with what had happend was quite sticky and dark as the Katrina hit city was out of power and full of the weather conditions related to such a phenomenon. Trees where still battling the winds and water was everywhere, the hotel I was to stay in can be appropriately described as ghostly with rooms illuminated only by special glow-in-the-dark sticks that were cautiously distributed by hotel staff to the subdued customers.

But still I was ready to take this as another small mishap that will not ruin all my plans. Saturday 27th flight from Miami to New Orleans (aiming to arrive in time for the fresher's week activities and be still on schedule.) But the TV set in the gate of my boarding said otherwise as in a press conference Louisiana politicians said that this would be very bad and for people to calm down and take the needed precautions...yes KATRINA was boosted by its movement towards the gulf of mexico rising form tropical storm to 3-4 category hurricane....and it was heading straight on towards the Louisiana state...focusing its fury on New Oleans where it was supposed to begin its apocalyptic activity as from Monday evening. Yes that New Orleans...the New Orleans which I had planned to explore and live, the city which wasso attracting with its culture of music and sounds, architecture and history, the same one that today has the ee's of the word upon it looming at its streets that today ate environs of destruction, despair and disaster!

I was so releived to hear the screeching sound of the plane's tyres hitting the asphalt on that sunny afternoon, and really excited to be here fianlly after all that anticipation...

the 30 minute cab ride from the airport to Tulane's campus showed me again that I was wrong. It lloked that my cab was the only vehicle moving towards NO with thousand of cars on the other side of the street batling their way out of the city as total evecuation was now imminent.

Arriving on campus, to my dormitory-to-be I found the unexpected. What at first seemed a long line of students trying to check-in in the building turned into being a group of confused students evacuating the campus.

yes, so that was it, leaving again, no settling down at all, I left my 40 kilo luaggage in someone's office and left with the whole of the Freshmen students to a 5-6 hour drive towards safer Missisipi wher the Jackson state University accepted to keep us for what where planned to be 'a couple of day', before'going backk to campus'.

sleeping on a gym floor with some other 600 students wasnt that bad as meeting people was so easy in such a situation...but the worse was still to come...

stuck to the tv following news, we had to stay confined to the gym on Monday and Tuesday as Katrina's wirling winds had reached Missisipi too.

With food barely accessible as the power went off on Tuesday and with candys and other crap food to live on, contaminated water everywhere and no light that thay was quite bad...but we all survived with the positivness of youth saving us from all the negativity one could have focused on. joking, hanging around and playing a number of board games was our routine for some 4days back at Jackson State. Though food was cooked for us for the first time in 2 days on Tuesday night we still had no power...

we couldnt stay longer....

Buses took us to differnt towns and some better place from where we could make plans for returning home...the scnes of devastation back at New Orleans hit us hard when we arrive in Dallas, Texas early on Wednesday morning. There was nothing one could do than return home and wait for further news from Tulane...

Fortunately the Tulane Campus was not severly hit but the situation in the city made the Tulane President officially cancel the fall semester...yes the only semester that I was to attend at Tulane...

So now I m here still at SMU, waiting to take a decision on either returning home back to Malta or else persever in trying to make the best out of this situation and trying to enroll in some other University as other Tulane students have been doing as the support help and assistance form everyone here back in the US is awesome and unbeleivable!

this is it, hours of planning and expectations pratically blown away by mere bad luck and bad timing... but nonetheless, no matter how will my US experience end up I will remeber this as a story of friendship courage and unity as I will persevere harder to obtain what I always wanted, a semester of enriching experience intended to make me stronger and more mature.

Anthony David Gatt

Incidentally, Anthony's story has also appeared on a number of American news sources:

  • The Dallas Morning News - from Texas
  • San Jose Mercury News - running an Associated Press report
  • The Shreveport Times - NW Louisiana's Leading Online News Source