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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tears Dry On Their Own

News of Ingmar Bergman's demise dominated my news radar yesterday. My immediate impulse was to blog about the passing of this great film-maker from Sweden. At the same time, I felt there was nothing I could add to the many nice things said about him. (Just do a search on any decent search site and you'll see what I mean if all this has passed you by like a puffy summer cloud.)

While acknowledging his artistic prowess, I must confess that I'm not really a big fan of Bergman; mostly because none of his films have marked my life in a significant way. This is not to say that I don't like the films of Ingmar Bergman. Far from it. I showed his Persona to my students just a few months ago. It is a very beautiful and disturbing film. The Seventh Seal is undoubtedly on my personal Top 100 Films list. I've seen two or three other films by Bergman, but while I can honestly say that watching his movies is a treat, its not the sort of thing I go out of my way regularly to experience. I don't know why that is. It's just the way things are with me, I guess.

What's for sure is that artists like Bergman are not able to start out doing what he did nowadays. Art making has changed considerably in the last half a century...and that's an understatement, if there ever was one. So to cherish the work of Ingmar Bergman is to appreciate a master at work on an art form that has evolved and mutated or matured (depending on your point of view) almost beyond recognition, from the perspective of budding film-makers.

And now, just this morning, news of Michelangelo Antonioni's death makes me think that the great architect of the universe is organizing a conference of great film-makers in the great beyond.

Unlike Bergman's films, Antonioni's work has left a very indelible mark on my personal artistic sensibility. I am not only referring to the obvious mammoth influence he exerted through the era of Italian neo-realism, even if that aesthetic is one that's very close to my heart. Two of Antonioni's films are among the reasons why I love film. I refer to the two works he made between 1966 and 1970: Blowup and Zabriskie Point. Between them, these two films capture the essence in some of London and California's beautiful and ugly sites of what was later celebrated as "the sixties". What's real and what appears to be real are obviously not the same thing. Antonioni's films are a great place to contemplate this.

When you live as long as Bergman (89) and Antonioni (94) did, and produce the sort of art works they did, it's hardly difficult to say that while they will be missed they lived a good life.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hold On

I've finally managed to find the time to blog a couple of times during the past week about things that are not directly related to my weekly podcast. Oddly enough this summer I don't think I'll be giving my weekly podcast a break, like I did last year, but things could change over the coming week. So this blog entry will simply cherish the fact that we can enjoy the 76th edition of the Mużika Mod Ieħor series.

One band I've been looking forward to include on my podcast for quite a while is The Areola Treat. I missed a gig they gave at Naasha's during my last visit to Malta but at least they're finally offering us some of their recordings on their MySpace page. The one I've selected to open the podcast with is a called Disco Party. From these recordings I get the feeling that The Areola Treat is a joyful live band, so I look forward to the next opportunity for catching one of their shows.

Facebook is one Web 2.0 community I never thought I'd warm up to as much as I have. It's very different from MySpace but I'm glad to see some music related activity on this social network. jon lukas and I exchanged messages this week and he is offering a song called Mysty as a free download through his Facebook page. Collaborating with his son Ashley as WOODENMAN, Jon was among the very first Maltese people to explore the power of the internet as new way to handle music distribution.

Operating on a different circle, David Magro is another early Maltese adopter of the internet as a music distribution network. You probably know him as Mind's Eye Dub. Reggae DJ turned remixer Manwel Tabone alerted me to MED's new release in an Instant Message this week. The track is called Trod On Dub and it's always a pleasure to include new material from MED on the podcast.

Through my expeditions on YouTube I discovered that Malta's XFM is collaborating on a new talent contest with The Alley called Virtual Rock Star. I'm not sure why they've selected this name for this contest because I haven't been able to find much information on the Web about it. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that every band or singer has sent in a video for the contest, which XFM has uploaded to YouTube. In any case, I've chosen to feature two of these acts on this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor.

The first is called ReActor and their song is called Dismissed. Apparently this band has been around for a couple of years but I've only ever heard of them this month. Aside from their video on YouTube they have a MySpace page, which includes a brief history of the band and some details about the current line-up. The other band is called Cynic Pictures. They contacted me via my MySpace page and that prompted me to include their song Aim High as the closing selection for this week's podcast. More than anything else I find the song title most titillating as this was the motto of St Elizabeth Primary School in Sliema, which I attended in the early 1970s.

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page.

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Friday, July 27, 2007


I've been playing about on the Simpsonize Me website. There's also a Simpsons avatar maker on the official Simpsons' movie website. Here's what I've come up with so far. Apparently, this is what I'd look like if I were to appear in The Simpsons.

I'm now also using a slightly modified close-up of my 2-D Simpsonized avatar on my Facebook and MySpace profiles.

In case you haven't noticed, summer's here...and so is The Simpsons Movie.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007


I don't usually read fiction. So the fact that I just finished reading Pierre J. Mejlak's Riħ Isfel means that there's more than what's between the covers of this book (masterfully designed by Pierre Portelli, who is also responsible for the image that accompanies my weekly music podcast) that attracts me to it. Now that's the worst thing I could say about my friend Pierre's new book. This is simply because I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

One other thing I certainly didn't expect was the twist at the end of the story. The plot is constructed in a way that, to me, is just as surprising as that in some of the best thrillers I've come across. Other readers may have a different experience, but at least I can truthfully say that I didn't see the ending coming.

If I'm to be honest about my experience of reading Riħ Isfel, I'd say I could have done without some of the similes he employs in his writing; then again this book is meant for young adults who, we could argue at the risking of a gross generalization, need all the stimulation they can get for their risk-managed imagination. But enough of that, I don't want anyone to think I'm a sourpuss.

All in all I'd wholeheartedly recommend Riħ Isfel to anyone who can read Maltese. If for no other reason, just because it is a rare offering: a highly original carefully thought out piece of writing in the Maltese language. I sure don't have the time to write anything like this, but I'm mighty glad I found the time to read it.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Diamonds Are Forever

The 75th edition of my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast seems like a suitable occasion to celebrate. I was tempted to do something out of the ordinary today but I think it's more appropriate to save that for the 100th edition, with a promise to do my best to get us there in January or February 2008.

This week I'd like to experiment with a different format for my blog entry on the podcast. Please let me know what you think either by leaving a comment here on the the blog or by contacting me privately. One reason for this change is that I'd like to start posting about other things more frequently on my blog.

1. Aaron Benjamin is originally from Brighton, UK. He now lives in Malta. The new single from his forthcoming album is called In My Head.

2. Bomba have appeared on MMI before. Frontman Nicky Bomba and keyboardist Michael Caruana have Maltese-Australian ancestry. Their new track Hold Your Ground comes from a compilation CD called Stir Music, which aims to raise awareness through music for the current global injustices in the world. The video for this song is available on YouTube.

3. Polish singer Zefiryna works with Mario Cordina. Ebony is one of the tracks from their upcoming album Colours.

4. The Characters are back with a new song called So Alive. If you like this band you'll like this new offering from them.

Next week: podcast 76. Until then, I'll be reading Pierre J. Mejlak's Riħ Isfel and getting ready to blog about my adventures in Second Life.

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Tell Me What We're Gonna Do Now

Now that the academic year is over and we're getting ready for graduation on Friday, I am slowly beginning to find enough time to start thinking about blogging on my adventures in YouTube and Second Life. Since today is a podcast day, I'll just stick to YouTube, especially because it is directly linked to one of the tracks on this week's Mużika Mod Ieħor.

Following last week's blast of new releases, the 74th edition of my weekly podcast opens with Red, the new single from The New Harmonics. There's a connection between this track and the final selection for this week, but I'll tell you more about that in a minute or two.

I'm always excited about playing new acts on my podcast. They're not all really new, in the sense that some of them are ones that have been around for a while but I just never got around to playing anything from their repertoire. One such performer is Fraser Gregory who avid fans of the alternative Maltese music scene probably remember in the original line-up of The Beangrowers. He now lives in the UK and released an EP called No Ordinary Eyes just a few months ago. I've selected the track Changes from that EP. He will be appearing at Gianpula next weekend, on Saturday the 21st of July, to be precise.

Unlike Fraser Gregory, Ann de Gaetano and her band Slur are complete debutantes on the local scene. What's most unusual about them for me is that I first encountered them on YouTube. Mercifully, the video for their song Back To You is not just another DIY job like the ones that start blending into each other after the second play. This video is produced by James Vernon and Neill Camilleri of Whiterock Studios who have great aspirations when it comes to camera-work and video editing. Ann is a welcome change from all the Eurovision wannabes on the one hand and the trashy I-don't-care teenagers on the other. Strangely though, it feels like she's just one tantrum away from going either way. So, watch this space just in case she does.

In an attempt to better understand the phenomenon that is YouTube, I established my own account a couple of months ago. I've uploaded a number of clips that were just sitting on my hard disk to see what sort of response I'd get for them. I am pleasantly surprised by the feedback I have received so far. By being on YouTube I have also discovered several other video clips by YouTubers from Malta, which range from various local TV clips to Xtruppaw fan fun and from relatively vintage TVM clips to a lonely divorced Maltese man stranded in Scandinavia. I'm sure that all this is just an ice cube off the tip of the iceberg that's about to emerge from YouTube in the coming months. So, more on this in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, if you're on YouTube and you have a clip or two you think I should watch please let me know.

Back to this week's podcast: the closing track is the new Kristina Casolani single Search, which sees her collaborating once again with her partner Toby. The new New Harmonics track at the top of this week's podcast too has a production credit for Toby. He is as busy as ever with various projects this summer, including a top 10 remix on the UK club charts. This week, Toby's remix for the Everytime it Rains by Sean Ensign shot up to number 9. Toby has also just signed the production of J Anvil' s track Another Day to Peeled Records, for an August release.

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Seventh Son of a Seventh Son

I've been watching Live Earth on TV for several hours today thinking what a strange world we live in. I'm wondering how the Pope's new position on the mass in Latin and the fact that Bill Gates is no longer the richest man in the world have to do with it. Last night I was full of dread. Some of it is understandable anxiety from working on my book and other such things, but there's something bothering me that I can't really put my finder on, yet.

One thing that gets me through the day when I feel like this is my weekly podcast. This week I'm blessed with four brand new tracks to play and that makes the whole experience a joy for me. Just last week I was thinking that this could be a dry summer, compared to last year, but I can now see how wrong I was.

First up is a new track from a new CD by Fr Karm Debattista mssp. I believe I've already given Fr Karm partial credit for my general musical sensibility previously. His new album is called Agħmilni Bħalek and it sounds better than anything I've heard from him before. Imla 'l Qalbi shows him as a mature songwriter and an outstanding example of how well contemporary pop rock can be adopted for Christian music.

Scream Daisy have released a new single, which comes for a new album they're working on. The track is called Bees and if you haven't already heard it on the radio or their MySpace page you can catch it on the 73rd edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor.

Drive too have released a new song. Take You High shows the great potential this young band has, even if I preferred their debut offering In Your Eyes better. This band is a standout newcomer act for me this year and I hope to hear plenty more from them in the coming months.

In case you haven't noticed, the date today is 07.07.07 so its a great occasion to do something special. Death Metal band Arachnid picked today to launch their album Compelled to Distort. At the risk of being accused of blasphemy I close this week's podcast with the track The Art of Pain Part 1from this album. If you have a problem with that just let me know and perhaps I can share some of my nighttime dread with you.

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also add the latest episodes to your My Yahoo! page.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Catch the Wind

Pierre J. Mejlak's new novel in Maltese Riħ Isfel is out today.

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