dimanche, juillet 31, 2005

Pratchett vs Rowling

The noughties have been the decade of recycling. The Da Vinci Code brought us a rehashed duped down version of the Umberto Eco classics like Foucault's Pendulum and The Name of the Rose. Nowhere has the recycle been more evident than in JK Rowling's rise to riches through the bespectacled geek she thought up. Most Potty readers do not have the least clue of the much more interesting worlds created by Terry Pratchett and might have just about seen JRR's trilogy on film. I find the Potter books mildly amusing and only because I recognise the formulae that make the books a hit. In my books Rowling is as original as Party Manifestos. She just takes the tried an tested and plays into the armns of an uunsuspecting audience who have just discovered the power of a book. Potter books are a fad, a trend, and just about as much a work of literary art as Coke and Fries are a gourmand's dream.

Why the venom? Well Rowling seems to have claimed to have just discovered that her books are science fiction and now seems to be claiming to have saved the genre from its boring roots.


I am biased. I am fanatic for the wit, the vision, and the variety of Terry Pratchett and his discworld novels. Pratchett is to Rowling as Shakespeare is to Stagno. She cannot even dare to get close to him. Sales wise she does of course... which does not prevent TP's books from hitting the top of the bestsellers list weeks before they are released (thanks mainly to Amazons pre-release purchase possibilities).

So go on Terry... dis the bit*h and show her what it is really like to write fiction. For Tp's comments on Rowling read here.

The pen is mightier than the sword if the sword is very short, and the pen is very sharp. - Terry Pratchett, Interesting Times

A taxing question

So the government is planning a tax review. The same geeks who think that the current departure tax is a good thing will be reviewing most of the tax system and coming up with a few more gems I'm sure. Not only will the government go on thinking that it knows best what the people really want but we will also solve another problem... Santino will return to what he can do best... depicting the Doom & Gloom scenario which will lead to people electing him simply to shut his mouth and see if he can get a try at solving it.

Which he will not of course. Because just like the Nationalists, the Labourites have absolutely no clue on how to go about rebuilding the country's economic status. Risanificazione. That is a no-go area.

But back to the PN government's new tax ventures. The document is entitled "Biex Int Tghix Ahjar"* and should have been subtitled "Gewwa Malta... ghax i**abbab tohrog minn hawn bit-taxxi li ghamilna"**. We learn that the government is planning to "engineer a shift from direct taxation towards environment-related taxation as part of a review of the entire tax system." Considering that this government could not engineer its way out of a 200 metre bridge in regional road I think we should read that there will be less direct taxation but we will reinvent the wheel in what we like to con ourselves to be environment taxation. Ah... and the idea is to introduce concepts such as the polluter-pays principle. Introduce? In 2005? (My bet is AD have been pushing for this since the early 90's).

Stipends will no longer be uniform but will be moulded to the course in question. Hold on. Did he say tailor made to each course? Eureka! As president of KSU in 1999 (that's six years ago) I presided over one of the most detailed surveys/ censuses of the University population's needs. The result was a document that broke down the needs of every student in the minutest of courses at University. What was our aim? To suggest to the government that, among other things, stipends should be course based. Was it heeded? No. Now it seems to be a valuable option. Good luck ... you need to dig deep to do that well. Six years late buit as they say... better late than.... [selfish bracket aside... law students will be among those worse hit with this kind of system... no direct equipment costs and law books are negiligible].

Then the rental market. Now the government wants to stimulate the rental market. Hallo? One of the big criticisms directed at AD's referendum campaign is that they instigate rental instead of ownership. Now some big dildo in the tax department wants to stimulate the rental market? Another copied leaf... contradictory but good. Fausto? In case you havce any doubts here is what government plans to do ... "Government is considering the establishment of an advantageous final withholding tax regime for rental income to incentivise the inclusion of additional housing in the rental market." To me this means the government means more rent. Now I was never good at taxes (never good at things I do not like) so correct me if I am wrong.

There will be a study on the privatisation of certain sources of energy. I read we will privatise gas cylinder distribution. There is a mention of a possible revision on "bank property lending terms" - do I read make it more difficult to buy your house? Reduce the dependence on loans in our society?

Family planning might risk being affected again with a new revision of the children's allowance. Will we be asked to go forth and procreate or forced to roll on the rubber?

Air Malta will float on the stock exchange... possibly in the hope that it will sink on its own eventually.

There you go. PN Pre-Budget Document 2005.

That's KSU 1999 and AD 1990s to us.

Happy Taxing to all!

* So that you can live better
** In Malta... where else could you go with these bloody taxes?

La Canicule (the Heatwave)

France : Water-rationing is in place across more than half of France, with the west particularly affected by drought. Measures range from bans on washing cars to limits on farmers watering crops. Cereal production may be badly hit. (...)

Spain: Spain is suffering its worst drought since records began in 1947, with the east particularly badly hit. Temperatures have risen to 40C (104F) in parts of Andalucia, in the south. A wave of forest fires has destroyed hectares of tinderbox woodland. (...)

Portugal: Portugal faces its worst dry spell since the 1940s. Some 97% of the country is suffering a severe or extreme drought, ministers say. (...)

Algeria: A heatwave which has seen temperatures climb to 50C has claimed more than a dozen lives in Algeria. Forest fires have broken out across swathes of the country. (...)

Italy: the temperature has topped 35C (95F) in cities including Milan, Florence and Turin. Several people have died in northern Italy as a result of the intense heat. (...)

Greece : Hundreds of firefighters have been struggling to contain a forest fire near the coastal resort of Rafina, near Athens - where Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis has his home.(...)

... And Luxembourg?
Well, the normal routine here is that we wake up to a sunnyish day and spend most of the day with clouds waltzing mischievously around the sky while setting their target. At around five -thirty of the pee emm the heavens decide to make a reenactment of the opening storms in War of the Worlds. Persons living close to a park (like myself) witness wonderful snakes of lightning crossing the sky as the rain falls down in torrential quantities. The bucketfuls of rain normally start falling in huge wallops (you cannot call them drops) on unsuspecting tourists who are normally drenched within the first five minutes (serves them right for coming to Luxembourg).

So guys, sorry about the draught and all that... but for once it is cool (and wet) to live in Luxembourg.

Have a good Sunday.

* Guide to Mediterranean Heatwave taken from BBC News. Additional info on Lux taken from first-hand experience.

vendredi, juillet 29, 2005

(The Truth About) Voting Habits

From today's Times: Harry Vassallo writes....

"In a country where the goalposts are set on wheels, nothing could ever surprise us except a glimmer of democratic sentiment, something that truly expresses the will of the people. We have had Labour proposing an electoral system in which the next government could enjoy a majority of seats in parliament with a minority of 47 per cent of the vote. We have heard the PN propose an electoral threshold of 7.5 per cent regardless of the fact that they have spent the last decade blaming Labour for the collapse of the 1995 reforms in which they Proposed a five per cent threshold. Their detachment from the feeling within the country is simply awesome.

They seem to dismiss the fact that 25 per cent of those entitled to vote either did not vote for them or voted Green in 2004; 55,000 people said no to old style politics as recently as 2004. In a country where absolute power changes hands on slivers of one to two per cent, it was a political earthquake. Many seem to have rejected the system altogether."

Beyond the rhetoric and what I believe to be the excessive inflation of ADs importance which one finds in the rest of the article, I still find myself in complete agreement with the exposition of facts regarding the MLPN manipulations to retain their grasp on Maltese politics. The Luxol speech did not baffle me. it only confirmed my suspicions.

I have not fallen for the Greens. I still feel, like Harry, that the future can be ours and that MLPN nonsense cannot be tolerated any more. I will endorse any reasonable party that provides a promising scenario away from the two-party mediocrity we live in- and I will do so publicly as I already did in the European Parliament elections if necessary. AD is my imperfect choice right now. If a better option comes along... it will be more than welcome.

Mediocrity is not an obligation, it is an option we keep on choosing like headless chickens.

Mediocrity: A virtual necessity?

Jason Azzopardi writes (also in today's Times):

"The Maltese Parliament has been facing an increasing number of challenges as a result of its responsibility in scrutinising the EU's pipeline acquis.


The government is involved in the scrutiny process from the start, ensuring accountability and transparency on its part with regard to the forwarded EU legislations. In fact, all documents originating from the EU are forwarded to the relevant ministries, who have to prepare an explanatory memorandum (EM) to be presented to Parliament. The EM has to include, inter alia, the ministry's assessment of all the political, legal, social, environmental, financial and/or economic implications with the adoption of the draft acquis in question.


Although the members on this committee are limited in number compared to our European counterparts, I feel profound satisfaction in the fact that the representatives of both sides of the House are pulling the same rope towards giving top priority to safeguarding the national interest. Through a much admired spirit of cooperation and determination, all committee members are working hard towards ensuring that in scrutinising the work of government with regard to EU legislation, no stone is left unturned.

During its first year of operation, significant progress was recorded by the committee as evidenced by the number of times the committee and the working groups were convened and the progress achieved thereafter.

The committee members are not full-time parliamentarians. Contrary to the situation in all European countries, no Maltese MP has any personal/office backup and each one has to juggle with his private profession, family, constituency demands and heavy parliamentary workload.


Parliamentary scrutiny is indeed an essential tool in bridging the gap between the government and the electorate. In ensuring information-sharing, accountability and transparency, it is aimed at reducing the much maligned democratic deficit.

It has underlined the vitality of the quest for what is in the national interest."

An interesting final two paragraphs lead to a Non Sequitur of immense magnitude. This is how we bridge the gap between government and electorate. I guess the gap is reduced in direct proportion to the number of times the committee is convened.

In Medio Stat Virtus ... n'est-ce pas?

jeudi, juillet 28, 2005

Lay Down Your Arms

The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann has formally ordered an end to the armed campaign.

This will take effect from 4pm [1600 BST] this afternoon.

All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms.

All Volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means.

Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever.

The IRA leadership has also authorised our representative to engage with the IICD [Independent International Commission on Decommissioning] to complete the process to verifiably put its arms beyond use in a way which will further enhance public confidence and to conclude this as quickly as possible.

To continue reading this historic declaration click here.

Ghajnsielem... not so calm

1. Does the loss of Ghajnsielem diminish Gozo's parliamentary representation?
Let me see. So when all of Gozo is in one electoral district it could elect 5 MPs. Under the new electoral laws all of Gozo elects 5 MPs plus Ghajnsielem which has a say in the election of at least one MP in the 12th district that makes it potentially 5 +1 MPs. My guess at first glance... no.

2. Does Gozo deserve a regional status?
Of course. It is an island with features distinguishing it from the rest of the archipelago. It has economic and structural disadvantages which merit special attention. If we were to listen to Daphne it is also a cowboyland of criminals where too many murders and such occur. That too merits special attention. Gozo is often seen in international travel reviews without any mention of Malta (and this is not thanks to the Malta Tourist Board or whatever it calls itself now).

3. Do the MLPN show any interest in Gozo?
But of course. They have an interest in those 5 seats in parliament which could make or break a government (sadly enough eh). They pander to the Gozitan populace come election day and slither to the little island for its mini-mass meetings. No respectable leader of any party omits the "u ghawdxin" in his speech, as though the Gozitans merit special mention. Can you imagine starting a message with "Merhba lil Maltin u Mostin kollha?" Of course not. But l-Ghawdxin... how could we forget the Gozitans... they deserve that little extra. Pepper of course. But what plans do they have for Gozo? Fantasy helicopter rides? Inefficient Gozo Channel? golf courses?

4. Does Gozo need special representation?
Of course. The Gozitans should have the guts, balls (and tits) to elect their own in their own name. Forget about your Nationalist or Labourite Gozitan MP. get their own party... a Gozo Party. That would get the right results. Fast. I'm sure Fausto will have a thing or two to say about coalition governments being inefficient... but in Gozo's case Fausto... who cares.... we do not get much out of the MLPN deal anyway!!!

Incidentally this is what I mean by a multi-party system being more efficient for Malta. We need an agora that thinks of ourcountry in realistic terms and regulates efficiently as an efficient city council would. need ideas ...? Pop over to luxembourg and take a look! - urban planning, conservation, economic efficiency... it's all here... now... not stuck in an electoral manifesto that is shred to tatters come post-election day!

Kefta & HP Fruity Sauce

I had to drive around Luxembourg on errands this morning. My shopping included a stop at Little Britain (in Rue des Romains) where I bought (among other things) HP Fruity Sauce (my favourite) as well as some real cheddar. A bit further down the same road there is La Zeitouna, a Tunisian Halal shop where the most divine kinds of meat are served. I bought my half kilo of kefta and merguez sausages.

It was only while driving back home listening to the Clash (London Calling) that the thought struck me that while somewhere else in the world people of one culture are busy blowing up people of another for the craziest of reasons, here I was carefully plotting a very good grill of best Halal meat to be dipped in HP's finest.

Not so much a clash but a pot-pourri in my case. If only we all concentrated on the good things in life!

* thanks to Elina & Gary for the directions to the two abovementioned establishments!

Non Sequitur #13


Luxembourg City manages to fit 21 parking areas with 13.235 places as well as 5 Park&Ride (just outside Luxembourg) with 4.375 places. These parkings serve an area the size of The Inner Harbour region in Malta.

And there are no parkers, just machines.

No pigeons either.

* Notwithstanding the accompanying image all parkings levy a fee which is gladly disbursed by the users for the services rendered.

mercredi, juillet 27, 2005

A Moving Faith

This piece of news on the BBC website grabbed my attention. After this morning's symbological news, another venture into the world of semiotics is necessary. Apparently a statue of the Madonna (the Holy one and not the singer of "Like a Virgin") is moving the crowds towards a small town in Naples because of the way it turns flesh-coloured and moves. One woman even saw the madonna's ear-lobe turn pink.

I feel that this kind of news should be viewed as seriously as manifestations of the messiah's face on toast (later to be sold on eBay). What kind of believer would actually accept that Our Lady has nothing better to do than to play fleshy peek-a-boo from within a statue in Naples?

I rmember religion lessons with Brother Mifsud at SAC. One of the basics impounded into us was the fact that faith is there when you have no proof. You cannot believe in the sun... it is there... there is nothing to believe. I like to believe in a more discerning Madonna who would restrict appearances to the necessary and, more importantly, to the effective - and not to a quasi-circus act not too far from the Bearded Lady. Can we be so stupid?

Something in the way she moves,
attracts me like no other lover.
Something in the way she woos me.

I don't want to leave her now.
You know I believe her now.

Somewhere in her smile she knows,
that I don't need no other lover.
Something in her style that shows me.

Don't want to leave her now.
You know I believe her now.

You're asking me will my love grow.
I don't know, I don't know.
You stick around now it may show.
I don't know, I don't know.

Something in the way she knows,
and all I have to do is think of her.
Something in the things she shows me.

Don't want to leave her now.
You know I believe her now.

Recorded: April 16, May 2, 5, Julay 11, 16 and August 15, 1969, Abbey Road Studios, London


I could not resist a "Sun" type title for this post. It appears that the oldest sample of a phallic symbol has been discovered in the land of Ze Germans. It goes back to 28,000 years ago and measures 20 centimetres (length) by 3 centimetres (diameter). They had to tell us the measurements.

The rarity of the find consists in the fact that findings of that period tend to concentrate on the female symbols and although similar male symbols were found in France and Morocco it still remains a rarity. The artefact was found in 14 separate pieces... an early Bobbit?

28,000 years ago they carved phallic symbols and left them in caves... today they are voted into parliament and spend five years coming up with phallic of laws most of the time.

Article found in La Repubblica.

mardi, juillet 26, 2005

New Cafe' Welcomes Junkies and Addicts

A new cafeteria in Paceville is responding to the Criminal Code and current fuss on the right to Life by providing a convient area for drug addicts. Proprietor Mort Da Te' enthusiastically described the joint as "the best place since the football court opposite Wembley Garage was cordoned off" and "even better than the Upper Barrakka Gardens". Patrons will be provided with accessories that are in line with the latest health and Safety regulations and will be able to indulge in all their addictions in a welcoming environment. A patron who preferred to remain unnamed stated that "this is an excellent opportunity for us to finally enjoy our sacrosant rights that have been denied us for so long by the whingeing few", he was later seen being placed in an ambulance that headed off to the emergency section.

Of course the above is fictitious. It would be scandalous no? Imagine... a Cafe' trying to get advertising mileage through something so sick? It could never happen. Of course not. Except that, it did. In Malta.

New Cafe' Welcomes Smokers

...was the title. Without entering into the issue of the smoking regulations. Without even debating the smokers vs non-smokers hullaballoo. Can someone please explain the positive side of this kind of advertising? Is the only saving grace of this establishment the fact that tobacco can be liberally inhaled while having a mediocre coffee? While we are on the point, in a conversation held recently where he was present, someone who is in the know of the running of establishments stated clearly that the electricity required to have a full smoking establishment under the regulations would make the venture absolutely prohibitive. Impossible even. It had to do with the machines reuired to change the air per person in the room. So... who's lying? Did I hear anyone say investigative journalism?

Meanwhile, please do go to Rhapsody Cafe' in Paceville. Smoke a fag two.... I am sure the coffee tastes better with it. However I cannot be too sure... I do not know how good the coffee can be... since the salient feature of the promotion seems to have been the smoking. Do they give you special fags or do you bring your own? I'm afraid I will not savour the fun of the place when I am back in Malta... I quit smoking... and in case you are wondering the smoke laws still do not apply in Luxembourg so it had nothing to do with prohibition in establishments.

Opening Hours
Another thing that gets at me in the relationship between the catering establishment and the media is their methods of promotion. Some things I like. Like for example reviews by persons notorious for their gastronomic panderings (like Bocca for example... honestly). On the other hand I find this business of 'inaugurating' a catering joint by some eminent personality like the PM as sad as a smoke-enabled cafeteria. The news about the opening of the Rhapsody comes to us through an article in the Times. Not an advert. not a full-page article with a teeny asterixed footnotes saying "this is a paid up advert". No... an article. Like Lorna's biex niftiehmu. Why? Because George Cassar, while opening a cafeteria (a small area) in a Hotel (the Vivaldi) which has been open for ages, deemed it fit to call in all and sundry to witness the historic event (and smoke a fag or too of course).

Now I do know that newspapers will depend on advertising. So they will ensure that some unlucky journalist draws the short straw and is sent over chop-chop to report the event and avoid risking some embargo of advertising. Sad innit?

The same sad story applies to this place which seems to have become one of Bocca's favourites.... Del Borgo. Here you can read about the grand opening of Del Borgo by none other than PM Gonzi himself. Now I have heard plenty of persons raving about the good qualities of the place (and not only Bocca), so it seemed to be doing quite well advertising wise simply by word of mouth. So why do we have to have the PM in persona doing the honours? It might be prestigious for the establishment in question but I do not want MY Prime Minister to stoop down to the level of inaugurating bars and restaurants. That is not a Prime Ministerial job! get the mayor to do it like in the movies. It is fitting too since the Mayor is meant to be pleased with the new establishments opening in his locality. Not the bloody Prime Minister.

I can just imagine the conversation that night...

PM: "I'll have another glass of the red Gaja Alan"
Alan Mercieca: "Yes Prime Minister...."

lundi, juillet 25, 2005

Non Sequitur #12

Interesting GOOGLE:

1. Go to
2. In the search area type "matthew vella" and click on Search.
3. When results appear click on "Images"

Why is he here? And him?


*Getting a googleback (c) at an anonymous comment. :)

dimanche, juillet 24, 2005

Non Sequitur #11


Year, in the twentieth century, when films shown in Malta were first allowed to show two-piece bathing suits.

from The Moviegoer's Companion
by Rhiannon Guy
A Think Book published by Robson Books

vendredi, juillet 22, 2005

Out of Office (2)

You have reached J'Accuse, home of the Luxembourger who smells of Gozo Cheese. We are afraid the blogger is not home at the moment as he is spending the weekend away in Metz (read and pronounced "mess"), home of Ikea, St. Stephen's Cathedral and excellent gastronomic experiences.

For any messages, insult, hate comments or fan mail please click on Replique below and leave your message after the sheep.

(Bad) Voting Habits

This is the reason why I started voting AD. I am not a green and I think that Green politics can only be a fringe (but necessary) solution unless they are adapted (as Harry once tried to explain to me) to wider policies like education. I think it is also fitting to state that I am not a partisan (partiggjan/ partitarju) of AD. I have no ties with the party, I am just using my vote in my interests.

I do not easily fit into a political label although my years in politics were as a Christian Democrat (a label which I find myself comfortable with). Christian Democrat is definitely not Nationalist or Labour. The MLPN are too opportunist to deserve any kind of old style political description. At most they are OpinionPollist, at worst they are Sponsorist.

I have decided to vote out dualism for the sake of dualism.

jeudi, juillet 21, 2005

Latin for the Masses

Note: This is a cruel post of the nit-picking kind.

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Jose Herrera

Readers of this blog have often complained about the interspersed occurrences of Latin in my scribbles. I must confess that I love Latin and would support its reintroduction any day. I feel I was robbed of the classic education that my father always complained about. I wanted to learn Latin (not so much Greek). I never did. I got exposed to Latin mainly through maxims and it is mainly maxims that I quote. The blogroll in the side bar is either headed by maxims, half-maxims or in the case of "Ad Maiorem Blogger Commoditatem" and "De Visitatorem Provenienta" spoof latin.

Ever since Vatican Council whatever decreed that masses may be said in the vulgate (De Vulgari Eloquentia), latin has survived only in the legal field. Maltese lawyers love to use latin to impress (which explains the reactions on my blog) and to bluff their erudition.Well... bluffing is a very fine art I must say. As author of the "De Minimis Law Notes" in my time I knew a thing or two about the fine art of bluffing honed and perfected during those sweat inducing law orals. When you bluff you use the little information you know and manage to get away with implying that you know much more than that. You throw the little you know at your listener in such a way that he or she believes that you could have said more but we both know it so why waste time... or we both know that I know it but no need to go into that detail.

Well, Dr. Jose Herrera chose to start today's article about his Reverence for the Republic by describing the latin roots of the word Republic. Here are the first few lines of today's article...

"The term republic derives from two Latin words, that is, res pubblica, which means "of the people" and this as opposed to the term monarchy, whereby, figuratively speaking, the state belongs to the sovereign. This system of government probably originated during the Roman Classical period when the citizens dismissed the last of their tyrannically kings and established what was perhaps the first republic and this around 500 BC."

No way Jose. It is either singular... a RES PUBLICUM or plural a RE PUBLICA as in Cicero's great oeuvre d'art the "De Re Publica" (note the subtle implication that I read Cicero's work... of course NOT). Whichever case the Romans were too busy "probably originating" the Republic and ignoring Plato to bother with double b's. (E' una repubblica Maltese... ha piu' effetto allolra doppia b")

Know what I mean?

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An Offer We Cannot Refuse (Flyaway Taxes III & Independent Media)

Lies, damn lies and statistics. The manipulation of statistics and surveys is one of the commodities of twentieth and twenty-first century marketing. As I see it (and probably as many others would), the flyaway taxes issue has three parties in the argument: a) the government (the taxman), b) the people (the ever willing taxpayer) and c) the travel agents (the businesses affected by the rise in tax). The public debate is occurring between the government (the taxman) and the travel agents (the businesses...). So you can agree either with the government OR with the travel agents, right? You either agree with the imposition of additional tax on departing flights or you do not. Right?

Enter the Times of Malta. Bastion of Independent reporting and prime exponent of freedom of expression ever since that condemnable bad day when a band of thugs headed by the Christian KMB decided to pop by Times HQ and explain what happens to people who think different. Enter the Times, our main hope for unbiased reporting and journalism. And enter their wonderful medium the Times Online Survey where at the click of a button you get to influence what "the Maltese people think". So the Times are asking us who we side with... do we agree with the government or with the businessmen? It should be easy-peasy no? Basically it should be asking... DO YOU WANT THE DAMN TAX OR NOT?

But no. We have to be complicated. We have to sound sophisticated. We have to look technical and intelligent. We have to justify the existence of the great minds at Strickland House. So what question do they come up with? ....

"Do you agree with travel agents' proposal of levying a flat minimum tax on all air travel?"

Do I what? Hold on hold on.... this is ridiculous. So we were debating whether tax A should be introduced... the tax on Maltese passengers who decide to catch a plane out of Mickey Mouse Land... and we get asked what we think about hypothetical tax B... the one where a tax is added (anyway) on everyone whether they are Maltese or visiting Malta. Tax B is not accepted under EU Law (so virtually impossible to introduce) unless the funds are directed to Africa (and they would not be helping us make our fiscal picture nicer would they?).

So why did the Times frame the question in such a manner? Why? You ask why? Let's see the options when answering it:

YES: Yes I agree with a tax on air travel.
Fat chance. What reasonable citizen loveth his country so much that he believes that it is sweet and meeting to pay more tax?

NO: I disagree with the travel agents.
So we click on No. And with NO you get to imply that the travel agents are a bunch of ignoramuses and do not know what is needed by the country's seasoned travellers. With NO you imply that you have full faith in PapaGonz and MamaFred when it comes to saying what is best for you.

Lovely. Brilliant even. We do not even get to have Option C. I would suggest "I have no opinion and would let either travel agents or government drain my wallet with either an exorbitant price for a flight or with a ridiculous tax".

Having said all this the impossible hath happened. 773 persons had used the survey when I decided to click on No to test the answers.

71.8% had said YES.
28.2% (Including myself) said No.
I am lost.

Anyone with an explanation? Are there (78% of 772) travel agents in Malta? Is there some sadistic travel agent who flits from pc to pc clicking on yes? Or is this some big joke? is 1st April here yet?

Sic Transit Gloria Melitae.

mercredi, juillet 20, 2005

The Evil Ideology vs. The Clash of Civilisations

Last Saturday I posted Blair's speech following the horrible attacks on London. I chose not to comment at that point beyond highlighting salient parts of the speech which I found intriguing. In his speech TB went one step further in defining the enemy that uses terrorism as its main weapon. In a jab at the "clash of civilisations" party, TB insisted that this was not a case of a clash of civilisations but a case of an evil ideology raising its ugly head and trying to make us change our ways. We shall not be changed was the answer. We will go on doing whatever we were doing without a huff or a puff. It was all civilisation that was attacked.

Fair. True. I agree. Or at least I'd love to. I still cannot help comparing the way we go about our lives and our politics to the way other cultures would. Today's news headlines include the shooting of the Sunni members of the committee that is drafting the Iraqi Constitional Charter. Comparatively, it is as though Friggieri and Fr Serracino Inglott were shot down on their way to the early meetings of Giscard's Constitutional group. The death of the Sunnis practically means the end of the involvement of the minority in the creation of the Constitution in Iraq. A draft that is reportedly very close to a Sharia based law. The Shi'ites and the Kurds who together control the drafting committee have framed a constitution that, insofar as women's rights are concerned... well, they are not exactly all there.

So. The liberation of Iraq (by a nation that defined the Axis of Evil coincidentally along the lines of "which states have switched to dealing internationally using the EURO instead of the dollar?") has freed the Iraqis and allowed them to rewrite their nation's history. How far does 'our' civilisation go in 'dictating' the kind of democracy that is necessary? (Note how diffcult it is to choose the right words). Will the "bringers of peace" send in the troops again should they find out that there is a new kind of oppression going on, namely the suppression of women's rights. An article by Lesley Abdela in seems to show that violence on women already exists.

My point is: We do things differently - if we disagree on a draft constitution we may call each other names like "you cook worse than the Finns" and we may have long faces and block the devlopment of a fledgling Union fifty years on. We do not explode other people because of our disagreement with them. We do not create legislation where one human being gets more rights than another because of a scrotal sack dangling between its legs (at least we do our damned best not to). We may be passing through a crisis of mediocrity but we advocate tolerance and are ashamed whenever an intolerant faction within our community raises its ugly head.

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The Crisis of Mediocrity

I still agree with Tony. We must see these acts of violence as acts based on an evil ideology and not because of differences in civilisations. What worries me is how long can we continue to believe this.... we need clear signs of change... otherwise the other side can start winning... and its greatest victory is that we become like them... that we react to violence with violence... that we try to eradicate their existence because it threatens ours... that we speak of killing or of suppressing rights using terms such as liberation, democracy, axis of evil....

I do not want to become one of them. Thank God I am European.

The Big Picture

I. From today's Times:
More on the Flyaway Taxes.
"The government is considering excluding children from payment of the new Lm10 departure tax, which has pushed up the already high price of travel for Maltese. Parliamentary Secretary Tonio Fenech said when contacted that following a request by the Federated Association of Travel and Tourism Agents (FATTA), the government was looking at the possibility of reworking the tax but he stressed he could not give any guarantee.

After an informal meeting of EU finance ministers last month in Luxembourg, certain states agreed to impose a levy on air travel to fund development aid in Africa. According to EU rules, a new tax can only be introduced following unanimous agreement.

The Maltese government made it clear it was against the introduction of any such tax and therefore argued with FATTA that imposing a new tax on tourism could be deemed as contradictory in this respect. FATTA president Ian Tonna said the association expressed fears that the new tax would hurt outbound travel. "The Prime Minister understood our concerns but he asked us to take the entire fiscal picture into consideration," he said."

Headless planning or what? We do not introduce a uniform tax on inbound and outbound travel because it is manifestly anti-EU (unless introduced for helping Africa and who wants to help the boat people anyway?*) BUT we introduce a tax on all Maltese leaving the island (take note Fausto... we need the "right to travel" law).

It would be unethical on my part to comment on the legitimacy of the law under EU legislation - I might have to work on such a case in the future. What is interesting to me is the PM's comment...

We look at the fiscal picture (ooh! that's an ugly one innit!) and then we are supposed to understand and accept that this kind of tax is necessary to solve the mega-deficit.

Carry on... Up the Taxes!

* Note: The boat people comment was sarcastic. Just in case you did not notice and decided I had converted to vivamaltism.

II. Prevention is better than Cure
Alfred Sant's Wednesday special today is entitled Prophylaxis. That's one step away from a prophylactic. Are we to assume that Sant's government will have a prophylactic effect on the country? Is that in the sense of a cure or a prevention of disease... or is it simply the rubber kind? methinks he must change this trend of Pr words.... running out of vocab... stretching it too much.... and a stretched prophylactic might not be the safest thing around.

Mark did not want to blog about AS's article. He claimed he is (a) above it, and (b) (more reasonably) he would not write anything against one of his idols. Speaking of his idols, I found a pic which would join the two together... Sant's article and that obscure singer Morrissey (another sarcastic comment for those of you who keep on replying that Morrissey is not obscure)....

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"Let the right one slip in" - Morrissey
(The Obscure Prophylactic Album)

mardi, juillet 19, 2005

Ghamluha FATTA* - Flyaway Taxes

  • Luxair Special offer flight from Lux to Malta,return, .... 139 Euros (c. Lm56) (tax incl.)
  • Ryanair flight from London to Riga (yes Riga) .... 25 Euros (c. Lm10) (tax incl.)
  • AirMalta Flexifly Scheme... ridiculous complication... no savings ... inconvenient
  • Average cost to leave Luxembourg for weekend using Ryanair and including Easybycoach costs (15 euros each way to Frankfurt Hahn) 100 Euros (c. Lm40) and that includes Rome, London, Florence, Venice, Scandinavia...)
  • Cost of tax payable by each Maltese traveller (including children) leaving Malta in 13 days time to any destination (including lovely Catania) over 100 Euros (c. Lm40)
  • Added cost for a family of two adults and two children per holiday 400 Euros (c. Lm120)
  • Whoever came up with adding this additional tax... a bunch of priceless idiots.

The fact that departure taxes shall increase in Malta has been known for quite a while. I cannot stop fuming even though this has less of an effect on me since I live abroad. I have written elsewhere about the importance of travel for islanders. I strongly believe in exposure to other cultures and in the best encyclopaedia of all. Forget your Encarta Cd, just pack up your bags and visit city after city. I am not talking lesiure at resorts here. I am talking about the educational visits to cities in Europe. No matter how much I dislike the Maltese package tour I am sure that a fraction of knowledge is achieved every time a tribe of Package Tour Members descend upon a European city unawares. Long before they find their way to the local suq (market), they will have visited the local sites and maybe, just maybe, heard a few pointers about the history of the place from the poor guide who is forced to travel with them.

As Maltese I believe we treasure our visits to the big cities of Europe (East and West). Every Maltese has a personal To Do List of visits that he or she ticks off enthusiastically after every vacation that tends to cost the equivalent of a month and a half of salary per person. We treasure these visits much more than mainland Europeans who have the luxury of swinging their car round the next border before you can say "departure tax".

Students (and youth in general), more than any other category, should have a god-given right to travel as freely as possible and come back with new ideas and fresh air. I used to laugh when my students at University would ask me if I think that a year abroad is "worth it" since they were scared they would miss the advancement of the shark pool and lose out on one year of work on their CV by going to a foreign University for their post-grad degree. How can you think in that way? What kind of coffee-making, slave-oriented, shit-case pushing job at some multi-surnamed law-firm could give you the experience you could obtain for a year in Bruges, Sussex, LSE, King's and Maastricht to name a few?

It should not just be the Federated Association of Travel and Tourism Agents who should be making last minute pleas to government to repeal a tax that should never have been. KSU, KNZ, and all youth organisations should be taking the lead and squatting at MIA departures until the tax is history. They should be indundating the government with letters and letters of protest. If that is not enough they should start another referendum. Do not tell me that you would not find 30,000 signatures for this cause. And I would go further. I would draft a law declaring the Maltese citizen's right to travel. A law that would clearly state that the right to live in an island like ours implies the right to travel.

No. That is my answer to anyone who might be tempted to tell me that the way I write makes it seem that all outside Malta is nice and golden and that Malta is some kind of prison. I do not mean that. There is black and there is white everywhere. It is just different blacks and different whites and we have a right to know that they exist and to have access to these experiences.

So, let's start.... where do you want to go today?

*Post Scrotum: For non-Maltese readers out there the title "Ghamluha FATTA" is a play on words in Maltese. The phrase means "they took it for granted" while FATTA is also the acronym for the association currently pleading the government for the removal of the tax.... so the phrase could also mean "FATTA did it" (which linguistically is interesting because fatta is Italian for it is done and ghamluha is Maltese for they did it). You can now start throwing the vegetables in my general direction...that is if you can afford the tax to get here.

lundi, juillet 18, 2005

Increase Your Word Power

I still remember leafing through my mother's old "Reader's Digest" collection as a child. One of my favourite sections was the Increase Your Word Power section which would provide a difficult English word and four alternatives from which to choose the correct meaning. This was a way to enrich your vocabulary through play and since Lorna Vassallo's articles were not yet available to the general public it was as good a pastime as any.

Douglas Adams and John Lloyd had published "The Meaning of Liff" which was a collection of placenames adopted by the authors to describe feelings, emotions, situations and objects which are known and recognisable to all but for which the English language (in all its vastness and flexibility) had not got any terms.

I personally still lay claim to having invented the term "Wankellectual" myself. I can already see it on my tombstone... Here lies Jacques Zammit. Arrogant bastard and inventor (or coinor?) of the term Wankellectual.

Anyways... this brings me to the Washington Post Mensa Invitational Awards. The Post asked readers to take any word form the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one of the letters, and supply a new definition. These are this year's -2005- winners ( adore number 8):

1. Cashtration (n.):
The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

2. Ignoranus:
A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxication:
Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation:
Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone (n.):
The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy:
Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti:
Vandalist spray-painted very, very high.

8. Sarchasm:
The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

9. Inoculatte:
To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Hipatitis:
Terminal coolness.

11. Osteopornosis:
A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

12. Karmageddon:
It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

13. Decafalon (n.):
The gruelling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

14. Glibido:
All talk and no action.

15. Dopeler effect:
The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you

16. Arachnoleptic fit:
The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

17. Beelzebug (n.):
Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

18. Caterpallor (n.):
The colour you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

Luxembourg Crime

This, ladies and gentlemenm, is Luxembourg... the safest city in Europe:

News Details
15-JUL-05 Guilty Thief

Yesterday evening around 20:30, a man purchased some cocaine in the station area for his immediate use.

He subsequently took a bus and alighted at the Rue des Muguets in Kirchberg, but not before he grabbed the handbag from the woman seated beside him on the bus.

After approximately three minutes, the man returned to the bus and voluntarily returned the bag and all its contents to the woman. He explained that he had taken drugs which influenced his actions.

dimanche, juillet 17, 2005


Got to Luxembourg by 1230. A series of unfortunate events that will be fully documented by GS tomorrow delayed my settling down until 1400 hours. My better half shuttled me off to Remerschen for a swim in the lake. Interesting concept this lake swimming business. Most interestingly the Luxembourgers pay a 2 Euro 50 cents (Lm1) entrance fee to swim. Can you imagine imposing a similar fee in, let's say, Ghadira? Anyways. I thought I'd show you my favourite souvenir from Malta. A t-shirt with this picture on it. Inspired by Paceville? Who knows....

Non Sequitur #10

In Paceville the average length of a mini-skirt is 3 inches.
In Paceville it is difficult not to have sex on your mind.
In Paceville the taxi-drivers still rule the place.
In Paceville there are more corner shops than there are corners.
In Paceville the streets are drowned by the sound of conflicting types of music.
In Paceville there will never be enough rubbish bins.
In Paceville a park and ride is strongly needed.
In Paceville the day starts at 1800 hours and ends at 0700 hours.
In Paceville the residents don't count.
In Paceville there is enough stuff for all tastes and all kinds.
In Paceville there is a lack of a local council.
In Paceville there are buildings crying out for rebuilding.
In Paceville there is the need of more organised disorganisation.
In Paceville we need more traffic organisation.
In Paceville we need resident's parking.
In Paceville that c**t of my neighbour Joe Agius thinks that I asked for the removal of the resident's parking sign. [A che pro'?.... I'd love to know why the guy has a chip on his shoulder.]

I leave Paceville for Luxembourg at 0730 hours today.
End of the trip.
It was fun.
Will be back again.

samedi, juillet 16, 2005

The Evil Ideology

The following is the text of the speech delivered by Prime Minister Tony Blair on Saturday, July 16, 2005.

The greatest danger is that we fail to face up to the nature of the threat we are dealing with. What we witnessed in London last Thursday week was not an aberrant act. It was not random. It was not a product of particular local circumstances in West Yorkshire. Senseless though any such horrible murder is, it was not without sense for its organisers. It had a purpose. It was done according to a plan. It was meant.

What we are confronting here is an evil ideology. It is not a clash of civilisations all civilised people, Muslim or other, feel revulsion at it. But it is a global struggle and it is a battle of ideas, hearts and minds, both within Islam and outside it. This is the battle that must be won, a battle not just about the terrorist methods but their views. Not just their barbaric acts, but their barbaric ideas. Not only what they do but what they think and the thinking they would impose on others.

This ideology and the violence that is inherent in it did not start a few years ago in response to a particular policy. Over the past 12 years, Al Qaeda and its associates have attacked 26 countries, killed thousands of people, many of them Muslims. They have networks in virtually every major country and thousands of fellow travellers. They are well-financed. Look at their web-sites. They aren�t unsophisticated in their propaganda. They recruit however and whoever they can and with success.

Neither is it true that they have no demands. They do. It is just that no sane person would negotiate on them. They demand the elimination of Israel; the withdrawal of all westerners from Muslim countries, irrespective of the wishes of people and Government; the establishment of effectively Sharia law in the Arab world en route to one Caliphate of all Muslim nations.

We don�t have to wonder what type of country those states would be. Afghanistan was such a state. Girls put out of school. Women denied even rudimentary rights. People living in abject poverty and oppression. All of it justified by reference to religious faith.

The 20th century showed how powerful political ideologies could be. This is a religious ideology, a strain within the world-wide religion of Islam, as far removed from its essential decency and truth as Protestant gunmen who kill Catholics or vice versa, are from Christianity. But do not let us underestimate it or dismiss it. Those who kill in its name believe genuinely that in doing it, they do God�s work; they go to paradise.

From the mid 1990s onwards, statements from Al Qaeda, gave very clear expression to this ideology.

Every Muslim, the minute he can start differentiating, carries hatred towards the Americans, Jews and Christians. This is part of our ideology.

The creation of Israel is a crime and it has to be erased. You should know that targeting Americans and Jews and killing them anywhere you find them on the earth is one of the greatest duties and one of the best acts of piety you can offer to God Almighty.

Just as great is their hatred for so-called apostate Governments in Muslim countries. This is why mainstream Muslims are also regarded as legitimate targets.

At last year�s Party Conference I talked about this ideology in these terms:

Its roots are not superficial but deep, in the madrassehs of Pakistan, in the extreme forms of Wahabi doctrine in Saudi Arabia, in the former training camps of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan; in the cauldron of Chechnya; in parts of the politics of most countries of the Middle East and many in Asia; in the extremist minority that now in every European city preach hatred of the West and our way of life. This is what we are up against. It cannot be beaten except by confronting it, symptoms and causes, head-on. Without compromise and without delusion.

The extremist propaganda is cleverly aimed at their target audience. It plays on our tolerance and good nature; it exploits the tendency to guilt of the developed world; as if it is our behaviour that should change; that if we only tried to work out and act on their grievances, we could lift this evil; that if we changed our behaviour, they would change theirs. This is a misunderstanding of a catastrophic order.

Their cause is not founded on an injustice. It is founded on a belief, one whose fanaticism is such it can�t be moderated. It can�t be remedied. It has to be stood up to. And, of course, they will use any issue that is a matter of dissent within our democracy. But we should lay bare the almost-devilish logic behind such manipulation.

If it is the plight of the Palestinians that drives them, why, every time it looks as if Israel and Palestine are making progress, does the same ideology perpetrate an outrage that turns hope back into despair?

If it is Afghanistan that motivates them, why blow up innocent Afghans on their way to their first ever election? If it is Iraq that motivates them, why is the same ideology killing Iraqis by terror in defiance of an elected Iraqi Government?

What was September 11 2001 the reprisal for? Why even after the first Madrid bomb and the election of a new Spanish Government, were they planning another atrocity when caught? Why if it is the cause of Muslims that concerns them, do they kill so many with such callous indifference? We must pull this up by its roots. Within Britain, we must join up with our Muslims community to take on the extremists. Worldwide we should confront it everywhere it exists.

Next week I and other party leaders will meet key members of the Muslim community. Out of it I hope we can get agreed action to take this common fight forward. I want also to work with other nations to promote the true face of Islam world-wide. Round the world, there are conferences already being held, numerous inter-faith dialogues in place but we need to bring all of these activities together and give them focus.

We must be clear about how we win this struggle.

We should take what security measures we can. But let us not kid ourselves. In the end, it is by the power of argument, debate, true religious faith and true legitimate politics that we will defeat this threat. That means not just arguing against their terrorism but their politics and their perversion of religious faith. It means exposing as the rubbish it is, the propaganda about America and its allies wanting to punish Muslims or eradicate Islam.

It means championing our values of freedom, tolerance and respect for others. It means explaining why the suppression of women and the disdain for democracy are wrong. The idea that elected Governments are the preserve of those of any other faith or culture is insulting and wrong. Muslims believe in democracy just as much as any other faith and given the chance, show it.

We must step up the urgency of our efforts. Here and abroad the times the terrorists have succeeded are all too well known. Less known are the times they have been foiled. The human life destroyed we can see. The billions of dollars every nation now spends is huge and growing. And they kill without limit. They murdered over 50 innocent people last week. But it could have been over 500. And had it been, they would have rejoiced.

The spirit of our age is one in which the prejudices of the past are put behind us, where our diversity is our strength. It is this which is under attack. Moderates are not moderate through weakness but through strength. Now is the time to show it in defence of our common values.

vendredi, juillet 15, 2005

Friday Snippets

Scrap-book Intro
Following the long posting analysing the literary exploits of LV (who has now been sighted on DI-VE preparing for further cultural explosions - thanks fup), today's post is a round up of snippets of information (useless and otherwise) which normally transform a blogger into an early 19th century scrap-book collector. The best example of the blog as a scrap-book is mill-art, the new blog dedicated to collecting papers from the floor anywhere and posting them for the curious into a blog. Its eventual success will just go on to prove that we live in an age of voyeurism and we are also interested in the rubbish of others. Grillo too had noted that our fascination with recycling is a throwback to the Freudian analysis of a child's fascination with his own faeces.

Purchases at Sapienza
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I finally got down to buying the books published by fellow blogger Immanuel and ex-blogger Guze during my obligatory stop at Sapienza's in Valletta. I have only read most of Guze's book until now... Xemx, Wisq Sabiha. It is an interesting exercise in catching up for Maltese literature in general. All in all there is nothing new under the sun (excuse the pun) apart from the fact that stories we are used to in the English language are now available in Maltese. My favourite line (among many) is when two of the characters are discussing whether or not to buy hash on their way to Gozo. One of them answers (my very liberal translation) "Would you take vodka with you if you were going to Russia?" Is Gozo that bad? Other items on the list include a book of Mojo Crosswords for the musical wankellectual (a present for Mark) and Faith in Fakes by Umberto Eco. Finally, one last goodbye to Louis Sapienza... his presence at the shop will be sorely missed by all...

Gozo and St. George
I speed off to my island of hills and hash (as Guze would want it) this evening. I will be visiting the great capital Victoria and will watch the Friday celebrations for the feast of "il-Megalomartri" Gorgi Taghna. I will look forward mostly to the little old-style milkshake vendor to be found under the Banca Giuratale. Will finish off the evening nicely with some gluten-free pasta and fish at my favourite resto in Malta and Gozo... il-Kartell.

Mini Non-Sequitur
Sighted at Gianpula yesterday evening an MIB (man in black) complete with earpiece. Suspected occupation: bouncer. Description: rotundish appearance, baldish and beginnings of a goatee.

The Gentlemen's Sport
Mela. Sliema vs. Sherriff 1-4. Birkirkara vs. Apoel 0-2. Omonia vs. Hibs 3-0. Local football still working wonders as I see. Will have to keep a wide berth of the Cypriots in Luxembourg when I go back. Meanwhile, back where football really counts... the Vecchia Signora has made her first big deal of the summer. Vieira the Giant has been added to Emerson in midfield to form what I hope will be a magnificent duo next season. Also go to the website to check out the new kits commemorating the 100 years from their first scudetto. Magnificent. As befits the team.

Small note for those who are now urged to type an anti-Juve tirade in the comment (replique) area i suggest an alternative more social activity. Just cut and paste the text below into your email programme and send it to . Thanks. (Letter has been edited following bocca's suggestion - quacky replaced with cuckoo)

Dear Sir,
I would like to add my name to the hundreds of others who have probably already written to urge you to grant Lorna Vassallo's request. It would be greatly appreciated if you would allow the esteemed columnist more space in your paper. This would also allow a better balance in the political output of the Times and ensure that we are given (even if only once a week) a proper exposure to pieces of literary quality.

PS. Are you really sure that I.M. Beck needs so much space? Don't you think he is getting too old and cuckoo?

Kind regards

jeudi, juillet 14, 2005

The Taming of the Shrew(d)

Dairy Tales

One of my most coveted exports to my Luxembourger flat is the jar of gbejniet tal-bzar (gozo pepper cheeselets) which had been submerged in vinegar and preserved for greater enjoyment later on in the year. The beauty of Gozo Cheese (of the preserved type) is that the more time passes, the better it tastes.

Now � eggs on the other hand. A raw, crude egg is a rough thing already. Once it reaches its sell by date there is only one word for it. Rotten. It stinks. It is useless and only forces you to turn your nose up to it in disgust. A rotten egg can be funny when thrown at someone at a bachelors or hen�s party. Otherwise it is just that � a boring, useless, stinking rotten egg.

That is why my joy at reading the latest literary contribution of Dame Lorna of the Poor to the Times was tripled when I read the metaphorical descriptions included therein. I�d rather smell of gbejniet any day, like a good wine they mature well�

Nobel Truths

So now we have it from the horse�s mouth. Dame Vassallo is a literary sans pareil and while she is decorating the pages of the Times with her literary value we are busy churning our �three-day-old organic waste bin� material. The Nobel Prize for Literature beckons of course � or will the �literary wunderkind� be phoning through some obscure website to claim the prize for herself thanks to her literary lineage? We will wait and see at the edge of our imaginary fence.

The Red Cross

The Italians like to use the expression. E� come sparare sulla croce rossa. Criticising writings like those of the �fairy flitting through the noxious miasma� is a bit of an easy task but I feel duty bound to do so, if only to amuse readers like Fausto who was wrongly quoted in her article (but more of that later). It has already been asked of her whether �She cannot be serious!� It seems that she is, or at least that she takes herself very seriously. She is the literary savant, the torch bearer of feminism and the beacon of democracy all in one. She is democracy�s answer to today�s problems. She is the Times� "shrewd shrew" from the Labour camp.

But let�s to the article and in our usual fashion enjoy the annotations to the literary meisterwerk of the enfant prodige from Labourland. Like the glossators we will gloss and examine the writings that is supposed to cause alarum that there is an invasion of pro-MLP writers.

Snippet One: On Self-Adulation

Dear Editor
Some time has passed since we met for the first time [did he pay her lunch back then?]. I know your trust in me as a member of your team was there from the very beginning [not the best of starts from the Booker Prize aspirant]. It is to this aim that I write to you just to inform you that my articles have had the desired feedback so far [hooray]. I have had so many people come up to me to shake hands [does this include beggars of all shapes and sizes?]. I've had university professors picking up the phone [ara x'wahda din, hawn telefon ma' l-art] and wishing to meet me personally [as against meeting impersonally through some academic ouija board session when the literary fairy is summoned] saying my English has literary value [a very diplomatic phrase indeed]. I've had VIPs asking my opinion about their articles and speeches and I've even been approached by top businessmen who hunted down my e-mail address [is this legal?] just to say "well done"! All these I heartedly thank en masse [is she the whole of the masse?].

On the other hand, apart from an anonymous letter, too threatening to be published anywhere, most of my critics tend to make more noises and publicise their views especially in your own newspaper [confusing ...the audio times of malta]. They tend to still be living in a delirium at the thought of introducing a shrewd shrew from the Labour camp [Delirium, New Street Off triq Il-Kbira - waiting for Godot].

Snippet Two: Critical Danger

But, back to critics, they sometimes include distinguished people (whether acting personally or not) [ok. a distinguished impersonal person or an undistinguished impersonal person or both], university lecturers, part-time university lecturers, a Luxembourger that smells of Gozo cheese (in the same way as I will forever smell of Mgarr eggs) [vide supra] and a number of other faceless didactic garrulous readers [hands up all you didactic garrulous readers out there]. All critics also have something in common - they all tend to play on the other side of the fence politically [which is greener, more coherent and tends to be that tad bit more modest].

The best compliment, however, was not published in your letters pages. It came through a group of chatters who employ their time [I pay my watch Lm1 an hour] writing via blogs, the result of which writings [the result of which writings = poetic license] usually reminds me of a three-day-old organic waste bin on a Maltese sunny afternoon. Otherwise it also reminds me of a cocktail of enzymes and proteins from which what is defined as "venom" (as discovered by Lucien Bonaparte) is produced this time from a collection of human bile [I think she means we do not like her writing].

I don't know, but it must have been either my femininity [erm... no] or my political [erm neither] or literary [erm... naaaaaaaaaah] wunderkind [do you actually possess a wunderkind or are you a wunderkind?] that triggered all this. But, to put it simply, it must have been my natural outright conspicuousness [ a bit better], that never and nowhere leaves me unnoticed [when it leaves her, it leaves her in a flurry of showiness], that has inspired in both my admirers and my critics a constant pet peeve and a fixation to turn me into a bete noire... an iconoclast [yes yes an iconoclast]. I can feel this as I fly above them wreathed in indifference as a fairy would flit [more like shelltox] through a noxious miasma [as against a healthy miasma - or is this dramatic hyperbole?]. The love-hate relationship with your readers [how could we hate you?] tends to attract them to me in the same way as Lucentio was attracted to Catherine [He was not... thanks Maltagirl ... "And in case Lorna happens to read this, I would point out that it was Petruchio who wanted Katerina".

Snippet Three: Miss Quote

And now for her forte... the shrewd shrew from the Labour camp voluntarily misquotes our very own Fausto... here is what Fausto said....
"I've grown to love Thursdays. Not all Thursdays, of course. Just those Thursdays when Lorna Vassallo writes in The Times. And it's not Vassallo's articles I care about; it's Jacques writing about Vassallo's writings."

and now for the literary wunderkind, political beacon and feminist icon....

"It is this that inspired one of my critics to say "I've grown to love Thursdays. Not all Thursdays of course. Just those Thursdays when Lorna Vassallo writes in the Times". Although he did go on to point out other things [other things??? you missed the point... or did you!!!], most of my critics' articles do contain tiring quotes of my articles [for once she is right] ad litteram [a quote tends to be so]."

Snippet Four: Fresh, Original and Entertaining

Apart from the fact that I always write fresh, original articles [phew. thank god... for a moment I thought someone else would get the blame] for your paper (and I do write them myself, believe me [we do Lorna, we do]) and never content myself [content myself ? apokope? elissi? injoranza akuta?] by translating from one language to another, (I swear [did you need to swear?]) I have given this a thought. I even collected statistics for the month of June with regard to contributions to The Times.

End of Snippets

Here the amusing columnist goes on to unilaterally redefine the standards of statistic gathering and analysis. The epitome of the statistical standard is the qualification of pro-party contributors... "that declare themselves publicly as such or pronounce themselves as such, have contested general elections with a party or have been gross financial beneficiaries thereof."

Now Lorna, we take note that you "highly esteem criticism" (sic or ad litteram) and that you do honestly believe that your contribution aids democracy, feminism, literature and labour. We are flattered that you found time to descend from the parnassian heights to explore the lowly depths of blogland (en masse) in the interests of the masses. For this we are grateful and will remain so. Not only that but I urge my fellow bloggers to take up pen and paper and to write to the esteemed editor of the Times urging him to listen to the Dame's plea. I will not turn this into "pounds and shillings terminology", just say please Mr Editor... give her more space.

I will expect in exchange that Miss V will be decent enough to put the address to J'Accuse or any other blog on her article whenever we are even so fleetingly mentioned. It is only fair.

Meanwhile we will go on pleasing our faceless didactic garrulous readers with our bilious cocktails of enthusiastic but amateurish writing. Good luck to Labour... with shrewd writers like these the only way is up.

Post Scriptum

* Thank you to all those who signalled the appearance of this article to me in the first place. Fausto, Maltagirl, Pierre Meilak, Twanny and Bananazzuro, as well as Doctor Antonio Tufigno.

* I also would like to say that I seriously found Lorna's reply decent (and entertaining) unlike for example the retorts from the rightists some time ago. I only regret one thing... that I am labelled as a nationalist. It is a label that is difficult to shed in this country and one that I guess I will have to live with for a long time... more about that in the next blog.