jeudi, août 31, 2006

Thursday Snippets

i. Organisational Crisis
The downturn in church attendance in Malta seems to be quite an important topic for the newspapers to tackle. Ranier Fsadni in the Times writes an article called The Narrowing Vision. Ranier is rarely given a mention in J'Accuse which is a pity because he provides one of the few first class reads on the Times. It might be high time that I start highlighting positive aspects too rather than constantly criticise - that way we do our little bit for good old Brand Malta. But back to the church - if you missed Arcibald's satyrical comment then scoot over quickly to Ajjut and then come back. A classic if I may say so.

Another strong social organisation that is passing through its moment of crisis is the General Worker's Union. The resignation of the entire Port Worker's section is a strong sign in the constellation of Maltese politics. This open challenge and display of disgruntlement and dissatisfaction with their representation is a promising indicator that certain rooted habits of the represented might be waning. The Port Section follow the Maritime and Aviation section out of the safety of what has been Malta's biggest Union and declared their intention to form a new Union. This is not MLP2. It seems to be a stronger attempt to break with the past meshes and entanglements of Malta's realpolitik. Third Way politicians should not let this opportunity past them by unnoticed.

ii. Flights of Fancy
Ryanair got closer and closer to start their operations in Malta. Pundits who were hoping for a large-scale operation would be largely disappointed as the Irish based airline opted for the routes of Luton, Pisa and Dublin. Mr Cawley, Ryanair's Deputy Chief executive, calculated that 36.4 million euros would reach Malta's coffers from just these three routes over one year. Hope still springs eternal as Mr Cawley also added:

Ryanair has not shelved its original proposal to establish a base in Malta, Mr Cawley said. "It is a long-term plan, the timing of which is dependent on the government and the airport." The proposal to the government to establish a base in Malta dates back a year and would mean bringing up to two million passengers - effectively "doubling the size of the airport".

The main culprit of this failed dream for now remains the MIA. In Mr Cawley's words:

There was absolutely no denying that low fares stimulated the market and economic activity hugely, Mr Cawley stated. He believed the proposal was "the start of a new era for Maltese tourism", primarily attributing the decline in the number of visitors to high airport costs and no low fares. "A monopolist was a monopolist forever," he said, referring to MIA, which he pointed out was clearly not interested in tourism, but in its own profitability. There was no denying that tourism in Europe has grown by around eight per cent per annum over the last eight years, while it has declined in Malta, he said, describing the situation as "catastrophic". Mr Cawley believed Malta was an attractive destination which could be sold well in Britain, Ireland and Italy.

iii. Caqnu

Mr Polidano continues to make the news. His illegal dumping escapade in Birzebuga has seemingly come to an end. We have still not seen how far the strong arm of the law can reach. An exemplary punishment is expected otherwise we will remain convinced that we live in the land of cowboys and barons - no matter how many times we get slapped in the face. Polidano has now taken an anti-labour stand as the party's media continue to harangue the contractor for his misdeeds. If the government does not take any action it risks having Polidano's guilty soul attached to its c.v. like an obstinate limpet. not the best kind of baggage to carry - best it be dumped quietly away (preferably without too many people noticing). Labour has in the meantime released a statement that once in government it will "take harsh steps against anyone who pretends to be above the law". What it would do if, as happens now. some people don't even need to bother with the pretending bit is still anybody's guess!

iv. Food, Glorious Food
I am lucky to share the same roof with the Queen of Cooking. Yesterday evening Mel prepared a dinner for five and I am still reeling and dreaming of the taste of every plate. Here's the Menu served up yesterday evening at 22, rue de bragance:

Menu - 30.08.06

Sate' de Crevettes sur un lit de soja
Stir Fried Prawns on a bed of Soya smothered in Satay Sauce

Veloute' de Patate douce a' la poire
Yam and Pear creamy soup

Paves de saumon grilles et beurre d'ail au gingembre
Grilled salmon fillets in ginger and garlic butter sauce on a bed of wild rice

Brownies au chocolat et aux noix
Chocolate muffins with walnuts accompanied with berry assortment

Like Mel... to die for!

mercredi, août 30, 2006

The Low-Cost Brand

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Yep. It's my favourite rant. Low-Cost Airlines and the future of Malta as a Travel Destination (note I do not just use the term Tourist Destination). In order to understand what triggered me off today, let's go to a couple of news items that appeared this week in Hibernia and Eire.

First Up...Scotland Calling.
Here's what The Scotsman had to say recently:

Ryanair study to back up Ayrshire tourism bid
A Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire study into the economic benefits of Ryanair passengers travelling to Scotland via Prestwick Airport is to be used for a major tourism bid (The Herald). The research claims that the flights last year generated £140 million for the Scottish economy, with passengers spending £294 on average during their stay. The study will be used as part of wider calls for more investment in Ayrshire to transform the region into a major tourism hub. Evelyn McCann, Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire’s chief executive, said: “This latest study not only demonstrates how important Prestwick Airport is to the Scottish and local economy, particularly in terms of spend by visitors and jobs created, but it also demonstrates that Prestwick is the key to Ayrshire’s future prosperity.” The proposals, which will be made public in March 2007, will look to bring tourists to the west coast for golfing, sailing and the Robert Burns experience. Ryanair has five planes based at the airport, travelling between France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Ireland and Scandinavia.

The news did not fall on deaf ears. Even government mouthpiece MaltaRightNow picked on the news item:

L-istudju wera wkoll li s-sena l-oħra, aktar minn 1.1 miljun passiġġier għaddew minn Prestwick fuq is-17-il rotta tar-Ryanair. Dan juri li r-rotta ta' Ayrshire hi sinifikanti u qed tkompli tikber. L-operat tat-titjiriet tar-Ryanair jipprovdi bejn 385 u 542 impjieg fir-reġjun ta' Ayrshire. L-istudju żvela wkoll li t-titjiriet tar-Ryanair taw spinta ta' Stg140 miljun lill-Iskozja, u li din hi aktar mid-doppju għall-perjodu 2002-2003.

Then there's the Irish. That's Eire - home of Ryanair.
We learn about how the Irish government is tackling the Low-Cost Airline market with regard to its flag carrier Aer Lingus (that's the Irish Air Malta). From your kind BBC correspondent:

The Irish government has agreed in principle to sell a majority stake in the national airline Aer Lingus to help fund its future expansion. Ireland's transport minister announced the plan on Wednesday while confirming that the state would retain a "significant" minority holding. Aer Lingus has recovered from near bankruptcy in 2002 by reinventing itself as a low-cost operator. It has axed 2,000 jobs, 30% of its workforce, since 2001.


"This decision allows Aer Lingus to secure funding for new aircraft and in turn to compete and win new routes," Mr Cullen said. "Today's decision ensures that for the first time, there will be investment for growth rather than just short-term funding to help in a time of crisis." The government currently owns 85% of the airline, with staff controlling the remaining 15%.


Aer Lingus has gone head to head with budget airlines such as Ryanair in recent years, slashing its prices in order to win new business. The airline's profitability has improved but it suffered a serious blow earlier this year when its senior management quit. Former chief executive Willie Walsh was subsequently appointed boss of British Airways.

So out there in the real world where competition is real, governments are rational and normality rules we have regions benefitting heavily from Ryanair transport and nations rationalising their heavily subsidised flag-carriers.

Et Brand Malta?

Ah we will stick to Luton, Mulhouse and Pisa while heavily subsidised Air Malta does the rest.


When I voted YES for Europe way back in the turbulent times of the referendum I was not thinking Nationalist vs Labour (of course), nor was I thinking of any possible future job in Luxembourg (much to the chagrin of all those who think otherwise). Nope. My main reason for getting Malta into the EU as fast as possible was primarily a local one. I had had enough of the contradictory politics which based itself on screwing the least protected and destroying the country's future in the process. The new generation of politicians were as much of a messy promise as the ancien regime and there was only one way out: to subscribe to a set of values that would take some of the decisions out of their hands and (ironically) closer to what the citizens want.

Then I had in mind the environment, transport and services. Nowadays it is becoming more of a reality. Take for example the EU Commission's reaction to the government plans for Ta' Cenc. If Gonzi & Co can afford to dismiss Alternattiva and slap NGO's on the hand by deviating attention to the Vote George Get Lorry saga, there will be less of the dismissive action now that the Commission is insisting that it wants mor areas conserved and protected. Want to hear some music? Here goes:

"The Commission services are of the view that other species of wild flora and fauna exist on the site of Ta' Cenc, so further sites should be designated for conservation under the Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC). The Commission services intend to discuss this further with the Maltese authorities".
Lovely isn't it? And we are guaranteed more of the same. Now that Common Sense is as scarce as the Common Spleenworth (just rediscovered in ta' Cenc) on the islands of Melita, the intervention of the Commission will be seen as a breath of fresh air - especially by those who like myself are still waiting for a change of attitude from our very own best and brightest.

Vote YES. Get ta' Cenc.
Vote PN. Lose ta' Cenc.
Vote AD. Get ta' Cenc.
Vote NO. Lose ta' Cenc.
Support Din l-Art Helwa. Get ta' cenc.
Vote Labour. Lose ta' Cenc.
and on and on and on and on.

The Ivy Schmucks

There's something about Canada that makes sense. Take Lakehead University in northern Ontario. Their latest recruitment campaign is based around this picture. They set up a site called . The posters show a picture of Yale Graduate George W. Bush (1968 must have been an annus horribilis for the Ivy Leagye uni) and the caption says:

Graduating from an Ivy League University doesn't necessarily mean you are smart.

Pity the boys in blue and red back home cannot really replicate such a campaign. They all came out of the same oven.... and are all busy getting us into the same mess.

More about this on the BBC website.

Yale Graduates Rock (not)

Bush a la Carte

mardi, août 29, 2006

De Classici Eloquentia

Melanie has drawn my attention to the fact that the European Council under the Finnish presidency has reintroduced the former tradition of reporting the Council news in Latin - in addition to the babel of languages the EU enjoys (and can be proud of). Mel drew my attention knowing that I am amateur of Latin - in all senses. If you are interested you can find the full text here. The link Nuntii Latini links you to a Latin site in Finland.

Conspectus rerum Latinus 1/2006

30 Jun 2006, 08:42

Finnis Unioni Europaeae praesidentibus in morem venit, ut de rebus ad praesidentiam spectantibus Conspectus Latinus divulgaretur. Anno undebismillesimo (1999), cum Finnia praesidentiam teneret, ille conspectus oculos animosque Europaeorum in se convertit atque multis et benignis commentariis apud eos acceptus est. Quae cum ita sint, Conspectus etiam anno bis millesimo sexto (2006) Latine redigitur. Accedit, quod usus linguae Latinae cultui humano Europaeo honorem habet et de radicibus societatis Europaeae usque ad antiquitatem classicam pertinentibus omnes commonefacit.

Conspectus rerum Latinus a Professore Tuomo Pekkanen et Docente Reijo Pitkäranta scribitur, qui ab anno millesimo nongentesimo undenonagesimo (1989) Radiophoniae Finnicae Generali (YLE) nuntios Latinos redigunt.

Conspectus rerum Latinus in paginis interretiariis Praesidentiae Unionis Europaeae divulgatur et fieri potest, ut illum etiam in tuum cursum electronicum mittendum mandes. Mense Iulio bis, a mense Septembri usque ad Decembrem mensem semel singulis septimanis redigetur. Mense Augusto pausa erit aestiva. Dies, quo exit, est Mercurii.

j'accuse trailer service #1

j'accuse trailer service #1

Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Duh! launch date: November 2006.

Non Sequitur #59

Coming Soon:

film (Nov06):
Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
- a 20th Century Fox movie starring Borat Sagdiyev. See the trailer here.

books (Sep06):
Wintersmith - Terry Pratchett

"How much human life is lost in waiting?"

lundi, août 28, 2006

J'accuse: Winter Forecast

Good afternoon and welcome to the j'accuse winter forecast. Extensive cloudy spells over the centre of Europe are expected to worsen as the winter sets in. Current rainy days will gradually be replaced by incessant snowfalls and declining temperatures. On the blogging scene j'accuse is being repapered for the winter season. Expect less frequent postings as the cold agenda determines other hobbies in line with the new winter season outlook.

j'accuse: news for wet blankets (don't forget your

Ali G in Malta?

Erm. Not exactly. For a moment I almost thought that the comic genius Sacha Baron Cohen was about to make an appearance in Malta in the guise of a developmental psychologist. It was this article on today's Times that triggered off my suspicions - in particular the announcement that Professor Simon Baron Cohen will be delivering a lecture in Malta. It turns out that Simon does exist and he is not a spoof character. He is a leading professor and deals with the latest developments in autism.

The surname is no fluke though. For us lesser beings, the greatest thing that Simon Baron Cohen has going for himself is the fact that he is the cousin of the comic genius behind the characters of Ali G, Borat and more recently the lemur King Julian in the comic strip Madagascar.

Incidentally, now that we mention Baron Cohen, do look out for Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, a forthcoming full feature mockumentary that is meant to make its debut on the silverscreen in November 2006. It risks being banned in America but that is because, like the Maltese, they have difficulty distinguishing humour from reality - they lead such a parody of a life already.

Bigup yourself... yakshemash!

dimanche, août 27, 2006

I.M. Jack - second edition

I.M. Jack - the weekly round-up on j'accuse

a. War
The UN will send 6,900 troops to police the Lebanon - Israel border. The irony of such solutions is that the policing will be done on the side of the aggressed. The UN will not be taking care of the disarmament of Hezbollah. That will be the job of the Lebanese troops in the area. The 6,900 troop force falls 7,000 short of the necessary troops to successfully patrol the area. The main contributor to the force is Italy with 3000, followed by France (2000). Spain, Belgium, Poland and Scandinavian countries are also sending troops. The Republic of Malta is toying with the idea of sending a token support force.

b. Israel
The minus points garnered by Israel in this war continued to accumulate. Israel was once again forced to apologise for a regrettable accident when a Reuters cameraman and reporter were injured in airstrikes. Meanwhile the US state department will examine whether Israel misused US made cluster bombs on civilians in the Lebanese conflict. It would seem that while God was prepared to save Sodom of there were just 10 good people, the modern State of Israel is prepared to sod'em all off to kingdom come.

c. Cheap'n'Cheerful Saga
The low-cost airline saga in Malta turned another chapter. The marketing campaign of Brand Government seems to imply that by opening 'underserved routes' to low-cost carriers Malta is getting a share in the market. The proverbial pepper for people's eyes comes in the form of flights to Luton, Dublin, Mulhouse-Basle and Pisa. On the other front, main routes like Brussels, London, Paris and Rome continue to be 'underserved' by the national fat cat and decorated with taxes that have been challenged at Commission level.

d. Sport
Valletta began their league commitments with a 5-0 victory and then moved on to a 2-2- draw in the classic encounter with the team from the suburbs. Fans in Malta were relishing the 5-1 trouncing of champions Birkirkara by upstarts Msida St. Joseph on the same day that Pieta Hotspurs were decisively routed 5-0 by a ten-man Marsaxlokk who are guided by miracle man Brian Talbot. Elsewhere Juventus progressed to the next rounds of the Coppa Italia where they will meet Napoli in a packed San Paolo stadium. The Italian Supercoppa final was played between two of the most ridiculously entertaining teams in Italy. It would seem that they decided to play a half-each - which allowed the playing team to play lovely flowing football as the other team watched in a fake conjuring of bafflement. It was thus that Rigetta led Fair PLay Utd 3-0 by half time with brilliant displays of football against a somnambulent defence and it was even more thus that Fair Play Utd managed to do the impossible and turn the score around. Both will go on believing that they have the best team in the world.

e. Sports Law
Both Moggi and Juventus moved a step closer to Luxembourg with their appeal to the Regional Tribunal of Lazio. A couple more appeals and Lucky Luciano as well as Cobolli Gigli could be gracing the halls of the Court of Justice in what will definitely be an interesting case.

f. Malta Television Awards
It would seem that over 120 persons have been nominated for the first Malta Television Awards. This ceremony will definitely be another occasion for the trash to congratulate itself, tap itself on the back and guarantee that quality TV will be absent from Malta for another century. God help us and the letters page on the times.

g. Weather
The weather in the Grand duchy of Luxembourg is grey. Daily temperatures average around 16 while at night we average 13. Regular showers alternate with spats of sunlight. The only entertainment in the area is the Schuberfoer - or fun fair. It is here that Luxembourgers go to drown their misery by paying to be thrown and hurled in the air at amazing speeds and turned and twisted and spun and whatever. Throwing up is not an option but an obligation. Which is why j'accuse prefers card games.

h. Food
Luxembourg can unveil some culinary delights if you look hard enough. Cherubino in Rue Notre Dame is one such guaranteed festival of nosh. It specialises in food from Puglia - and almost every plate is fun to eat. Try the Rabbit - divine. Another such delight is to be found in the Rue de l'Acierie in Hollerich close to Marx area. The restaurant / lounge bar is called Cat Club. Prices are a bit steep but all the plates are excellent.

Have a nice Sunday!

jeudi, août 24, 2006

A TGIL Short

Malta's Dickens a-la-carte is at it again. I had not even noticed that it's Thursday before stumbling upon Lorna's latest creation. It seems that the Dame of the Gramatically Challenged is miffed by a particular trait of Maltese democracy. Apparently 2/3 of Parliament is filled because the members making up such 2/3 have surnames that fall into the top half of the ballot paper. The alphabetical ballot is at the source of what irks Lorna VASSALLO. Following a chain of articles bemoaning the unavailability of modern cavaliers to date and the distressful state of unmarried, working women, TGIL suddenly exposes the biggest worry of them all.

I have no quibble with her reasoning this time. It could very well be that statistically the chances of being elected with a surname in the top echelons of alphabetical order are high. In fact this time I have no worry at all... although I must say that from personal experience the Z in Zammit has served its purpose and has its advantages - but maybe that is because being at the bottom is almost as good as being at the top of any given list.

If anyone has to worry it is those eligible bachelors whose surname starts with A. Abelas, Attards and Agius' of this world should beware. Lurking around the halls of Parliament to be lies a dame with very high aspirations. And it appears that unless the electoral law is changed she has nine months to find the right candidate to allow her to zoom up to the top of the list.

Wake up and Smell the Budget Airlines (II)

Anyone still harbouring any doubts that the lack of budget, no-cost, no-frills, non-subsidy airlines is grounding the Maltese within their tiny island space might want to spend a few minutes reading the latest NSO release on the Maltese and travelling. Here are the main points as reported in the press (with comments by J'Accuse):

1. The Maltese made 105,414 trips abroad by air and sea between January and June this year.
NSO kicks off with a nice figure. 1/10th of a Million. Then we notice. It is not persons. It is trips abroad. So a frequent traveller could have clocked up a number of these trips on his own. First point to note: It is not 1/3rd of the population that travels at least once between Jan and Jun of any given year. We note the first reference to "air and sea" - more about that later.

2. The figure above represents an increase of 7.6 per cent over the same period last year.
So the NSO wants us to believe that the Maltese are travelling more. They are going places. Till now the stats are inconfutable.

3. The most frequent destination was Italy, accounting for 30.9 per cent of the trips.

The NSO code is beginning to unravel. Look back up at point one. Remember "air AND SEA"? Now we find out that over 30,000 of these trips are to Italy. Hmm. Pozzallo anyone? Tax free day trip? We can stop at Misterbianco for maxishopping too!

4. At 62.2 per cent, there were many more male passengers than female.
I'll leave this stat to Daphne or Lorna to follow up. Still. It's sad that the males travellers outnumber females so much. Business trips by the boss? Are we still that imbalanced?

5. In June alone, the number of outbound passengers increased by 9.6 per cent over the same month last year, to 22,211.

OK. I have a problem now. NSO has let slip the phrase "outbound passengers". Is that the same as Maltese? I guess it is just a slip. Because 22,211 cannot include tourists returning from their June holiday in Malta. June is a good time for a boat trip incidentally. Or maybe catamaran.

6. More than 75 per cent of the increase came from departures by sea (catamaran), the majority being same-day visitors, the NSO said.

Boom. Did you hear it? The penny drop, that is. Suddenly we are gifted with the light. Now we are not sure whether the increase mentioned in point 6 relates to the June increase or to the overall increase. Still. 75 per cent of increase of Maltese outbound travelling is represented by ONE DAY BOAT TRIPPERS to the markets of Sicily.

Will government read the writing on the wall now? Why is one day tripping so popular? Because of the food and sea and sun of beautiful Sicily? Undoubtedly our big sister across the Maltese Strait is an attractive destination. BUT. The real attraction for the one day tripper is the fact that these trips have cheap prices and no exorbitant tax slapped upon them.

In fact they have no tax at all. Which would be an idea. But tell that to the Minister. He is probably in Pozzallo for the day.

P.S. Isn't Sicily where George Pullicino was seen at the height of the zones issue?

mercredi, août 23, 2006


The Times reports that Easyjet have had confidential talks with Alfred Sant regarding the underserved routes that will be offered to low-cost airlines. The definition of "underserved" is a governmental one.

For the government "underserved" means that there are not enough, or normally no, airlines serving a particular destination. The route in question will be one where the sans pareils of economic efficiency such as Air Malta choose not to fly. Like Mulhouse for example. Luxembourg does not count because under the governmental definition commuters to Luxembourg are well served by the service provided by Luxair (that other sans pareil) once a week at around Euro 500 p.p.

For the citizen "underserved" would also have meant currently economically inefficient routes. It would mean that if Ryanair were allowed to fly to Malta from Frankfurt-Hahn at Ryanair prices the consumer would choose to get to Luxembourg via Frankfurt-Hahn. Same goes for Stansted, Charleroi, Carcassone etc. The consumer does not give two hoots whether the new routes create direct competion to the services already in existence (such as Air Malta an Luxair). Actually the consumer would love to have such competition for he can already hazard a guess at who woul benefit from such competition.

I wonder whether Alfred Sant had anything prosy to say about possible competition under Labour government. My guess is that he limited himself to guaranteeing that he will not nullify any agreements made with the PN government (not that he usually does anything of the sort).

Which means that the consumer will probably go on facing a middle finger from the establishment come what may.... unless of course a third party offering an alternative solution were to announce its intention to insist on full acces for low-cost carriers.

mardi, août 22, 2006

Great Moments in Sport (2006/07)

First Edition

Malta Premier League: Day 1
Valletta FC 5 - Pieta Hotspurs 0
Monesterolo (4) Agius (1)

Opening match of the season for Valletta. They slide five goals past Pieta in the harbour derby with Argentinian striker Monesterolo registering a poker.

"m'hux ta b'xejn li ahna vera ingibu Ljun fuq l-isbah badge!"

lundi, août 21, 2006

First Transport of Sudden Politics

Gybexi left a comment in my "Wake up and smell the Budget Airlines" post. He seems to think that I take transport. more particularly air transport, so seriously that I should be doing something about it. I agree. But then again do what? At 1.57 in the morning I decided to suggest something and see what you guys think.

What if we were to draft an action plan for Maltese transport, centered around the needs of the Maltese citizen? We could then offer it to the political parties for adoption. All of them. The citizen's view. No guarantees for any amount of consideration by the parties of course but it is worth a try. So I am welcoming suggestions for measures to improve public transport. You can include considerations about what we understand to be QUALITY transport. Everything goes... it's a think-thank operation.

I suggest you label your comments to three main areas and a bonus area:

1. Air Transport
Getting in and out of the islands. Commuting between the islands.

2. Land Transport
Buses, taxis, private vehicles, road congestion, parkings, bicycles and pedestrian zones.

3. Sea Transport
Inter-island. Improving point-to-point sea transport in Malta e.g. the Sliema-Valletta ferry.

4. Wild Ideas
A tunnel between Malta and Gozo? A tunnel under the harbour? Limiting engine size for private vehicles? Forced car-pooling?

Go ahead guys. The arena is yours. If it gets going we can open a forum on one of those forum thingys.

B'tal-linja jaqbillek!

dimanche, août 20, 2006

Elephants and Castles

An apocryphal story doing the rounds of history books an guides to London tells the tale that the district called "Elephant and Castle" owes its name to the landing of a Spanish princess in Newington in the early 1500's. The name "Infanta de Castile" supposedly was corrupted to the present name of "elephant and Castle". A more mundane explanation would be the old pub in the area that goes by the same name. In any case, I was reminded of this story by Daphne's article in today's Independent on Sunday.

In her last paragraph she rebukes all who insist on writing Castille (sic) instead of Castile when using the name in English without the full extension. Thus according to Daphne it is the Auberge de Castille but Castile Square. Obviously it would be Pjazza Kastillja (maybe one "l"?) in Maltese. I would add this complaint to the myriad other sillinesses that pepper our papers - from George Cross to Count Rogers.

Lots of White Elephants, lots of Castles in the sky... and the concrete? Oh for the concrete the government is taking care of that... we have a high-profile consultative board for tourism now. Which only means that they will have to hide a tad bit more when they need to make their low-profile announcement that the government's tourism plan will never kick off unless people can actually get here at a reasonable fare.

Have a good Sunday.

samedi, août 19, 2006

Wake Up and Smell the Budget Airlines

The Brand Managers of Malta are busy teaching the peasants and general populace all about the Wedding Cake Metaphor. The campaign stresses on why our country needs to have good quality to be sold. While this commendable but probably useless exercise in cheap upgrading (except for the printing costs of all the Brand Malta campaign) goes on, the gatekeepers to the brand itself are sitting put. Prices to fly in and out of Branded Malta are becoming more and more ridiculous.

We now have the news from a British survey that Tourist Packages to Malta from Britain will rank third costliest in the Med. Only two countries have more costly packages - Brand Cyprus and Brand Egypt. Wunderbar. The average package to Malta will cost an English tourist 771 euros while the same tourist can choose between a trip to Spain (709), Portugal (712) or Greece (725). So while we are being implicitly told by the government that unless we clean up OUR act we will not be getting any more money dropping tourists, we have the government's taxes and obstinacy blocking the way forward anyway.

The writing has become so clear on the wall that I cannot believe that the Nationalist government has not worked out the math, physics and algebra involved to see that Budget Airlines could only benefit Malta. No. My suspicion is different. I suspect that the PN electoral geniuses know full well the positive morale boosting effects of more travel. So the great plan will probably be that in parallel with that great joke of the Tax Cuts (remember - giving back money which should never ave been collected) we will also get the great present of Low Cost Airlines... just in time to ensure that the good mood oozing out of our latest holiday in Sardinia costing Lm40 will stun us into voting PN into government. Introducing low cost, tax free flying seven months before the election would be PN's equivalent of Labour's mass enrolments in the government and parastatal areas in the eighties. After all the new century does require a modicum of sophistication.

And what continues to irk me is the number of people I meet who prefer the "lesser of two evils" option rather than sending out a concrete message and choosing a third way. How can you keep voting MLPN when you get your legs pulled daily by the two parties? How can you vote for the fake philantropists at PN or the mindless wanderers at MLP who would assumedly look to Praxiteles to come up with a sculpted tourism plan.

A change in the way of government? ... tista' tkun int!

vendredi, août 18, 2006

Bully Boys in Backfire

In the aftermath of the Cold War we had got used to the fact that the United States of Duh!merica was a big, strong country. The efficiency of the first Iraq campaign convinced any doubters that the world's sole superpower meant business. Until Iraq MkI, the US of Duh! was even prepared to observe UN Resolutions and stop where it was meant to stop. The general presumption was - do not piss the Yanks off because they can retaliate and they have the means to do it. Anywhere, any time with any means.

In the shadow of this post freeze giant lay its younger brother. The State of Israel - never the most fortunate in the choice of belligerent neighbours - also enjoyed a reputation of infallible military efficiency. The US of Duh funded weaponry of the Israelis would surely outdo any stick and stone throwing State or collection of militants under whatever banner. The assumption seemed to be a sure bet.

Then came Osama, and with Osama the unfortunate events of the 9/11. The bully was smitten and went out to seek and destroy as its reputation would require. It went out as a maverick. Bush (Mark II) adopted the stance of a Mediterranean island semi-dictator "You are either with us or against us". The invasions began. Afghanistan first, Iraq next. To fish out Osama the first (failed) to find the notorious WMDs the second (failed). The bully's famed efficiency and pinhead military precision were blown away in two blows. Scandals and flagrant violations of Human Rights continued to do the job. The superpower nightclub bouncer (for it is no policeman that which acts on its own fancies) had become a bully bearing arms.

And little brother followed. In an already cagey situation in the Middle East thanks to the clumsy traipsing of Bush and Condolcezza, the State of Israel (already shaking thanks to the myriad failures of the Mossad throughout the nineties) chose to retaliate to an abduction of two of its soldiers by declaring war on a neighbouring state. Outright war was the answer because everyone in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv would believe that this was another occasion to demostrate the might of the Chosen Ones against the sticks and stones of the resistance. Israel managed to better its bigger bully brother. It did not simply ignore the UN and any possible international solution. No. It bombed the observers just to make sure. A mistake they said. A mistake that occured after the observers in that particular bombed post had spent ten hours phoning the military to warn them that bombs were sounding a bit too close to be kosher. Boom. Oops. Sorry.

And then there is Lebanon. Not the most unEuropean of the Middle Eastern countries. Evidently not in control of its Southern zones where Hezbollah reigns supreme. Israel did not help the Lebanese cause much by practically losing a guerilla war to the Hezbollah. Try to guess. You live in Southern Lebanon. Does your sympathy lie with Olmert's guys who have been on a happy bombing session of homes, infrastructure, UN observer posts and power stations (causing a 15000 tonne oilspill in the Med)? Or does it lie with the Hezbollah who shoot missiles in the other direction and who were the first to promise money and lodging for the reconstruction and well being of the Lebanese. Duh!

What have the two bullies achieved? The trust of the rest of the world? Democracy in Iraq? An end to Al Qaeda hostilities? The eradication of Hezbollah? The cowboys were very good at shooting.... themselves in the foot that is.

jeudi, août 17, 2006

Hey Ladies!

The usual post-vacational problem has turned up again. Throughout the stay in Malta I had millions of those insanabile cacoethes scribendi moments. The mind operating like a tiny polaroid took tiny snapshots of different moments, themes and issues that should have been filed for blogging at a later date. The sun, the drink, the food or the combination of all three has led to the confutatio of all these moments in my mind such that they are no longer useful if not as a serendipital list of maxims / observations.

The loss of reasonable bloggable material is to be coupled with the saudade that struck me upon leaving the island to return to cold, grey and sealess Luxembourg. All is fine now - following a shopping trip to Auchan, stocking up on Bocconcini, Prosciutto San Daniele and Mozzarella di Bufala as well as four litres of Martini Bianco (currently the accuser's favourite sip), we may say that the morale has been partially repristinated.

And it is with a prosciutto laden belly that I sat down to read this morning's papers, in particular, my favourite Thursday read - DCG. (When TGIL is not on of course). For some time Daphne has chosen topics of the, let's say, sexual nature. Simple reading would induce one to think that these are the (more moderate) rantings of a feminist columnist with much more grey matter than the other more radical codpiece of feminism Lorna V. One would of course be wrong.

I think that the underlying theme in Daphne's articles is not the lack of advancement of the status of the grumpier (erm sorry, fairer) sex. Nope. It is all about the general disappointment one feels when one examines the general state of affairs in the islands of Gozo and its Dependencies with regard the subject of SEX. Salt and Pepa were asking us musically to talk about it way back in the early nineties. In the islands of Gozo we prefer to talk about Alfred Sant's toupee and Chiara's Eurovision dress.

Which brought me to one of the topics which failed to fall victim of my blogamnesia. Toplessness. You know what I am talking about? The tits in full view on the beach business. The "marelli madonna ara x'par ghandha dik!" (1) epidemy. As well as the "Jaqq dawn il-qhab barranin b'sidirhom barra!"(2) syndrome. Contrary to what some of you may be cogitating, I was not reminded of this issue the first time I removed my t-shirt and exposed my substantial collections of fat that cohabit with me on my torso in the form of various rings mid-riff and pre-pubertal mounds in the place of former pectorals (I kid, I kid, I never had proper pecs thanks to my aversion to physical exercise).

No. It so happens that both Mel. and our visiting friend S. are both in the habit of sunbathing topless. Even as I type I feel some sort of "naughtiness" and almost a slight reddening of the face. For the truth is that the taboo of toplessness is still very much alive in Malta. The few brave women who decide to defy the archaic laws of the island are looked upon on the basis of either axiom (1) or (2) above.

From what I understand, toplessness is a choice. An aesthetic one. I actually conducted a mini-survey. First of all the reasons for: because half-suntanned breasts are ugly. And no... she is going to be the only one to see the full tanned version later, and anyway they are hidden beneath a dress most of the time are not valid reasons. They could actually be mildly insulting if suggested. So basically and bluntly, nipples surrounded by a triangle of white are NOT NICE. And I am not talking about the evaluation from the male side. What I am talking about (apparently) is the right of the woman in question to feel good when looking at herself in the mirror.

Then I asked two Maltese friends. Two who I would consider more "open" but who I surprised performing the usual contortions and acrobatics which Maltese women are subjected to every summer in order to ensure that even when sunbathing while hung from a hook three metres above the ground and with their hands tied behind their back, the bikini top will not fall off. I asked the simple question: Why do Maltese girls chose not to defy the law and burn their bikini tops in disgust?

Easy. Their answer was simple. It involved tongues. Of the wagging kind. Basically they said that if Lorna Doone (fictitious name) was to sunbathe topless today, tomorrow half of her village would be talking about her - and most of the words used would not be kind. They'd love to - expose their breasts to the possibility of a uniform tan. But they can't. Because Malta is full of oglers and saints. The former believe that an exposed female nipple is an invitation to promiscuity, the latter believe that the same is a one way ticket to a full roasting in hell.

It's great isn't it. We have not been dragged kicking and screaming into the century of the iPod. No. We are still chained tightly in the 1950's. Have you seen Malena? Watch it. It could have been filmed in Malta. The "gharukaza" in Malta is the female breast and not the ugliness of the rape of the country and its resources. The shame is all down to a pair of hooters and and not the tits in Parliament. Contradictions galore. It's what we are in the end. But some things really do need to change.

"Trid tahrab minnhom dawk iz-zibel ta’ tfajliet
Ta’ nofs sidirhom barra
Ja mghaddsa jgeghluk taghmel hafna affarijiet
Illi mhux suppost

Jaghmlu s-sex qabel iz-zwieg
X’gharukaza ’a qatta hmieg!

Ghazzenin, mahmugin
Skoss drugati u mdamdmin
Qatta zghazagh bla valuri
U mhawdin"

- Xtruppaw, Generazzjoni ta' Meqrudin

(1) "Mild Expletive... look at the pair on that one!
(2) Bleurgh! These foreign whores exposing their breasts.

mardi, août 15, 2006


15th August. 10.30 a.m.

Wake up to cloudy skies and approximately fifteen degrees which feel like ten. Forget the sun. Forget the beach. Forget the smell of the sea. Forget the colour tan. Forget the fish, the pizza and the kinnie and twistees. Forget.

A shutdown is warranted. At least until the senses have recovered from the shock.

lundi, août 14, 2006

14th August 2006

It's over. All bags are packed, time to go home. Viva Santa Maria. I hear that in Metz households the central heating has already been switched on... which makes departing from sunbaked Malta all the more surreal. As surreal as this photo taken in a deserted Marsalforn on the 14th November 1978. I had just turned three and was off to my first day of school at the Sisters at ta' Kercem. Don't you just love the side parting?

See you in Lux.

mercredi, août 09, 2006


Following a brief stop in Malta, I return to my island home. Yesterday involved a whirlwind tour of Malta with some friends from France. Mdina makes your chest swell with pride, the cliffs at Dingli make you feel like a God, then there are the taxis, the potholes, the shithead driving and the arseholes littering the place that bring you down to earth with a bang. A pleasant surprise was the feast of St Lawrence in Birgu complete with Baldacchin. I couldn't help not thinking of Xtruppaw and their Festa Song while the statue was being hoisted up to the tune of the band and the yelling of the crowd. "jekk intom ghandkom vara, ahna ghandna vara iktar minnkom!"

Il-Forn still serves great salads - I recommend both the Forn Salad and the Clementine Salad. I still wouldn't mind a bit more grill on the menu but then that's carnivore Jack talking.

Politics and politicians is something I follow with a fleeting interest. A little nod to Fausto's gleeful analysis of Harry's declaration of Parliament or nothing. Somehow I was sure that Fausto would miss the point that it would take a Green yet again to publicly set a target and choose to resign if that standard/ target is not met. Unfortunately there are not so many similar individuals warming the seats on the government side of Parliament. From hysterical reactions to the Vote X Get Y saga to the VOM procurement sham it seems that if there is one word this government constantly fails to understand in its plagiarised and "cut and paste" documents is RESPONSIBILITY.

Whoever is responsible for the Waterfront is doing a goodish job. I do hope that standards of cleanliness are kept and that once the novelty dies out it will not just become another promenade littered with cigarette ends, hardened chewing gum and faulty lampposts.

Speaking of lampposts, I must admit that my original impetus for the campaign has wilted during the holidays. Will try to work out something as soon as I am out of the prolonged siesta. Sorry Patrick... patience is a virtue.

One last thing. Kinnie is fantastic. Emotionally so. How about putting the Kinnie logo on the Maltese flag instead of the George Cross. A bitter-sweet symbol for this island of contradictions... n-est-ce pas?


PS. Pierre... qieghed ghawdex.. meta trid niltaqghu... issa incempillek.

PPS. Who the fuck is Stanley Borg and why doesn't he come to Gozo and say whatever drivel he chooses to put on Times supplements in the face of the Gozitans.. we could teach him a thing or two about courtesy... has he been to Zejtun? Has he seen the fake side of Sliema and The High Ridge? Gimme an effing break Stan.

dimanche, août 06, 2006

Retro 78

As the bloggable episodes multiply my time for blogging disappears. So a quick visit to a pc will be used simply to put up another photo that is a throwback to the ages. August 1978 to be exact. Accuser is almost three... cool innit? (dad seems to have held the camera funnily... but hey.. just adds to the fun!)

Post Scriptal Question: Did anyone notice the anomaly in the Times headline today? Government announced 8 million tax cutback. What it did not say is that it includes a reduction in departure tax as a cutback. What happens if that tax is declared illegal under EU laws? Will the government still be claiming to have been generous enough to cut taxes that it should never have collected n the first place? Remember my theory about nationalist government - hit them hard, so that the moderate measure proposed later will be a godsend.

I'm off to the Waterfront.

vendredi, août 04, 2006

Stella Maris College 1983-84

Evidently this blog is on holiday. And while on holiday you also get to go on trips down memory lane. Here's a photo from one such trip. Grade IVM - Stella Maris College, sometime in 1984. Guess where the accuser is. (no prizes of course).

More journeys of gastronomic fantasy:
Vino Mio (Paceville) - excellent swordfish
The Kitchen (Sliema) - divine duck
Zen (Portomaso, Paceville) - laudable sushi
Fusion 4 (Valletta) - everything, really everything

Sadly, we announce the end of Il-Barri restaurant at Imgarr. It still exists, but it has been commercialised and is more of a frozen octopus and cold rabbit server with bad service to boot. The Siciliana Pizza at Cauchi's in Mosta rocks - or so I am told. Soon off to Gozo... so blogging will be more sparse till the 14th.

Scenic photo of the day: Gnejna Beach at sunset.

Tomorrow night: Rookie's Bar in Bugibba - to witness another gig of the evergreen Shostakovich's Nightmare - be there - it's sooo nineties.