Malta Weekly Roundup – A River of Love, MaltaToday laziness (?) and some perspective

Well of course this week this happened:

Which then led to this:

Yes! Some guy called Matthew Grech and his shiny purple tutu went on YouTube to share their opinion about an up and coming theatre production called Jiena nħobb, Inti tħobb which centres around gay adoption. Matthew Grech decided to share his River of Love and tell the rest of us what we should think in semi coherent Maltese. Supressat, really? Xarabank, never missing a beat, dedicated a whole night to it. Since God is punishing us for allowing such a production and he sent all this wind our way, most of Malta stayed in, decided to watch Xarabank and took to Facebook to say how much shit it all was. Circle jerk anyone?

Luckily for the rest of us a local comedian, Matthew Bonnano provided some comic relief.

Have MaltaToday  given up on journalism and are asking you to do it for them? Looks like no one in the newsroom is up to going through the 240 page share transfer agreement between the Government of Malta and Arriva.

(UPDATE) To be fair, MT’s editor explained the story behind this particular tweet and now it all makes sense. MaltaToday were simply looking for some fresh perspective on the agreement. Citizen journalism FTW!

Kurt Farrugia was very right when using the #GetThingsIntoPerspective hashtag on Twitter. On the 23rd January The Times carried a story about MP Justyne Caruana using the AFM helicopter to reach the airport in time because of a last minute decision to take a flight. The PN jumped on the wagon screaming abuse at which point MaltaToday came out with a list of times when PM Lawrence Gonzi used the same service. I fail to understand how this is news. The AFM helicopter is used for a plethora of things. If there is no need for it, then why all this fuss? Surely there are more important things deserving of The Times of Malta’s front page.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s roundup. Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below.

GBU!

 

This week in Malta’s online media.

So many things happen during the week and sometimes we’re not online to see them. Melahart.com will be going through the bits and bobs that made it to the online medium during the week gone past. Every Friday should be a new instalment of the things I found weird, funny or just plain stupid.

By all means, this is not a roundup of the most important news so don’t get all pissed off if I miss anything. Having said that, I would be super happy and appreciative if you send me any suggestions. If you want I will also link to your blog, Twitter or Facebook page, or I can just keep you anonymous, whatever tickles your fancy.

Well of course this week, this happened:

IIP resolution

1) From treachery to bloodbaths

The citizenship debate has gone European and with it came an appalling sentiment by IIP supporters. Apart from the anti EU stance – which of course will only last a few weeks because then it will be time to promote PL candidates for the MEP elections – some started calling those with a different opinion traitors. While I do not particularly have any stance about the programme I cannot stand this fake nationalism which is being flung about by both parties. It seems like there is no space for debate, just mud slinging, gullible people furiously sharing articles they think they understand and MPs commenting ever so subtly on Facebook.

 

2) Time to learn the meaning of the word “Public”

On the same day news broke that three fools were fined for harassing notorious blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia. My absolute favourite sentence in that piece is:

He said that while people had a right to put up information about themselves on the social media, including Facebook, other people had a right to comment on what was put in the public domain.

So let that be a lesson to us all, once you press send on that status update or photo on Instagram there is no taking it back. Read about my take on the selfie issue.

 

3) Weddings and sexism

This advert, which can be seen incessantly on many local news portals, rubbed me up the wrong way. Yes I’m a feminist and very sensitive when it comes to the portrayal of women as the ones who need to drag their husbands to wedding fairs. It’s archaic and very lazy marketing. Also, not funny!

weekly roundup - wedding fair

4)      Getting freaky with a panda head on The Times

The Times on Tuesday decided to carry a story about KSU putting forward some of their proposals to the Education Minister, Evarist Bartolo, with regards sixth form repeaters. And what photo did The Times use for this article?

panda times

Clever Times, I see what you did there – “distinction between those who failed because of reasonable difficulties, and those who were negligent”.

The photo is actually a still from an attempt by JC students to do a harlem shake when those were in fashion (god knows why).

5) Chris Cardona’s problems with the 140 character limit.

Truth be told I am very glad the Government has made a move towards Twitter to continue reinforcing its message. It is mainly one way conversation as many of my questions remain unanswered but hey at least they started testing digital waters. However it seems that some have a bit of trouble stringing a complete sentence together to make sense.

Pajjiżna jrid ikun leader, fejn ikun ħaddieħor li jħares lejna u jagħmel bħalna u mhux bil-maqlub.

— Chris Cardona (@ChrisCardonaMP) January 15, 2014

 

High selfie esteem?

The term selfie is suddenly on everybody’s lips – stessu if you want to go for the awesome Maltese version. It was all started by Ira Losco expressing her concerns, followed up by a few sexual videos shared as revenge porn and picked up by everybody else who has been living under a rock for the past half a decade (selfies are so 2012).

Now it seems to have also been picked up by Social Dialogue Minister, Helena Dalli, who decided to collect some karma points on such a pressing matter. I am sure the Minister does not mean any harm but, in truth, a pressing matter it is not and reading the full page article on The Times today about how the Minister wants to make the sharing of explicit selfies illegal I felt compelled to follow it up with a blog.

image source: The Mirror

Animal selfies are way cuter! image source: The Mirror

In the meantime another blogger beat me to it, mirroring much of my sentiment. Read J’accuse for a clear explanation encompassing the issue of selfies and the law.

As J’accuse explains “you don’t need consent to publish a selfie because technically the only person who publishes a selfie is the same person who took it.” And as J’accuse explains this is not about being pedantic because if you are in possession of someone else’s explicit selfie, and you publish it, then you are already doing something illegal.

But what about all the distress this causes to the people involved I hear you say. And that is where my point comes in. In today’s society people do not think of consequences, and more importantly, people should come to accept a certain amount of responsibility which comes with our digital freedoms.

You have every right to take sexy photos of yourself but do yourself a favor and think of what might happen once these leave your phone.

There should be no need for a Minister to call press conferences and say that her Ministry is looking into making the sharing of selfies illegal, firstly, because the argument is already flawed as pointed out by J’accuse but also because I don’t need my government to protect me from myself. So for everybody’s sake, I hope no more time is wasted on this matter.

You don’t want your unflattering pictures to make the rounds on the internet? Then DO NOT SHARE them.

An End-of-Year Special: The 9 unsung Maltese heroes of 2013

Keeping with tradition, the last day of 2013 is all about recounting the year gone by. The major newspapers all came out with their most read stories and their reviews but I feel like something is missing. No media outlet is singing the praises of the 2013 Maltese heroes. Those people who in the past year have motivated us, made us smile, helped us get through those boring days at work, made us proud to be Maltese and those who put Malta on the map. So here, with the help of Neil, owner of the blog daklinara.com we make a list of these people who we think deserve to be mentioned one last time before the year’s end.

Yanagi Yukinori - The world Flag Ant Farm

Yanagi Yukinori – The World Flag Ant Farm

The Malta Potatoes Dude
I have already sang many praises for the Malta Potatoes Dude but I thought he deserves another mention. He warmed the hearts of many of us who watched this clip on YouTube and through his words felt the warmth of the Maltese sun in our hearts.

Pole dude
Or to be more correct, Mr Daniel Caruana photographed by the insanely talented Darrin Zammit Lupi, whose photo has made the world rounds and has been featured in every photographic blog on the face of this earth.

Toni Sant
For every Muzika Mod Ieħor podcast. Thank you for taking the time to beautifully craft every single one of them and showcase Malta’s local musical talent (even it was only germinated locally).

Alex Vella Gera
The author of one of the most talked about books in the past few years, Is-Sriep Reġgħu Saru Velenużi, nowadays he is probably most known for turning down a national honor. He is basically the one who said a big FU to the political system in Malta when he wrote “I cannot accept an honour from the Maltese political class which, apart from some exception, has been causing so much damage to my country“. In an interview with Raphael Vassallo, one of the best, most interesting interviews of the year on MaltaToday, he explains his reasoning.

Michael Spagnol
Creator of the Facebook page Kelma Kelma, for making us fall back in love with the Maltese language and at the same time offering some fun education.

The Maltese bus driver
Narrow roads and disrespectful drivers, the Maltese bus drivers have one tough job and I don’t think we sing their praises enough. A lot is said about Arriva but only little is said about the drivers and the improved service they give.  Yes there are exceptions but driving around Malta I have been pleasantly surprised by their courteousness.

Every single person who signed the anti spring hunting referendum petition
Yes you all deserve a mention. You are awesome!

The guys at Merlin Publishers
We know we are not a nation of readers. Just look at the appalling results in the EU Cultural Access and Participation (opens up a PDF). But for some time the guys over at Merlin Publishers have been working relentlessly to produce books by Maltese authors which actually sell. So much thought is poured into every book and thanks to them Maltese authored books are being talked about and read. Everything from the amazing covers to their marketing strategies is creating this buzz for local wordsmiths which is very much welcome. Claire Azzopardi’s Frejp, Carmel Scicluna’s Ossessjoni and of course Ġużè Stagno’s explosive new book What Happens in Brussels Stays in Brussels just to name a few of their amazing books.

The Maltese passport
Maybe not a real person but the Maltese passport has definitely put Malta on the map. But not just that, our passport proved one very important thing: discussions in parliament are actually useless. The Maltese Government decided to go back to the drawing board only after the negative backlash on international media and not when the Opposition put forward arguments about the International Investment Program.

Did we miss anyone in particular? Let us know in the comments section below. Happy New Year!

 

We should really thank Magistrate Carol Peralta.

Magistrate Carol Peralta managed to unite all of us regardless of political party colour. What better gift could have been given to the people of Malta this Christmas?

This Christmas Carol (pun intended, even though it’s been countless times) started yesterday evening when The Times reported one of its journalists was arrested. The journalist, Ivan Martin, was sent to court to report on an eyewitness account of a party being held in court.

carol peralta 1

When Mr Martin arrived he noticed that Magistrate Carol Peralta was entertaining people in a court room. Alcohol was present and so were cigarettes – please keep in mind this is in a court room. Ivan Martin tried to take a picture of what was happening and it was then that Magistrate Carol Peralta asked for him to be arrested.

Ivan Martin was held for three hours at the police station but was later released.

The story spread like wildfire on Facebook (and so did the memes) and for the first time in eons most of the commentators seemed to be in agreement. What Magistrate Carol Peralta did was a blatant abuse of power.


carol peralta

All three political parties were in agreement and the Government condemned such abusive behavior.

This is not the first time Magistrate Carol Peralta was in the middle of controversy. Just last year he conditionally discharged a person after trying to run over someone and he is also allegedly linked with the freemasons.

The Magistrate has now said that he would be happy to resign if he’s found to have acted abusively. Fair enough, however, since this whole thing has gone down, it’s the judicial system in Malta which has really been hurt. So much for the dignity of the law courts and the judiciary. The law courts are one of the highest institutions in the country. It is not a place for Christmas parties – even if everybody else is doing it – and it’s definitely not the place where one should throw his weight about.

So what are your thoughts? Should Magistrate Carol Peralta resign? Let me know in the comments section below.

5 people who deserve Ġieħ ir-Repubblika more than Gaia

gaia cauchi

An 11 year old girl wins the Junior Eurovision and she is earmarked to be the one to receive Ġieħ ir-Repubblika, the highest honour Malta can give to a person.

This decision says so much about the warped priorities of this country we live in.

The fact that it was unanimously approved by cabinet is an even worse trainwreck, especially considering the current debate in Parliament talking about how giving out too many awards ‘would reduce prestige’ while speaking about the Ġieħ ir-Repubblika Act. News flash but the same goes for giving such a prestigious award to someone who doesn’t really deserve it.

Gaia Cauchi might have done an amazingly good job and also managed to put Malta on the map for a few seconds, but is that all we aspire to nowadays? 

Since the cabinet seems to be at a loss about who should get the Ġieħ ir-Repubblika, I went ahead and came up with a few people who really do deserve it for their outstanding work.

John Dalli
A former PN Minister and contender for the post of ‘Leader’ who was then given the ultimate cushy job of EU commissioner, John Dalli definitely put Malta on the map. With his little Snus incident which got him the boot from the EU and all his shady trips to the Bahamas the man is an enigma shrouded in mystery. Court cases against his sacking from the EU Commission are currently ongoing and we are still scratching our heads and trying to understand how all that happened. Since the Labour party election win he is now gracing 60% of news stories thanks to his new job as health consultant for the Government.

Daphne Caruana Galizia
For all her faults she is the one who made blogging a reality here in Malta. Forget all her posts about how famous she is according to Alexa, the woman is a local Google legend. Search for whatever you want to search for and you are guaranteed to find a post of hers on Google’s first page, and that is with no knowledge of SEO best practices.

Franco Debono
Another limelight superhero, or at least he used to be before the election. We all know him as the PN backbencher who worked so hard for Malta and the Maltese, or to be more honest, who worked so hard for himself – as everyone should, mind you. After the PL election win he was given the coveted job of Law Commissioner and since then he has kept his job as a criminal lawyer and has been hanging out with JPO, trying to stop fights at Serkin.

The current MEPA board
For all the pre election talk about how important our environment is and how we need to protect it, the Government has done a questionable job when appointing the current MEPA board. Granted, certain atrocities were done by the previous Government but the tally on certain developments is quickly evening up the score. In the past few months we saw the approval of the Mistra project and the extension of the Portomaso complex, all the while forgetting the 72,000 vacant properties.

The hunting lobby
The continuos massacre of protected birds, the way they make every centimeter of public land theirs and that feeling of never being able to truly enjoy the countryside are just a few of the reasons why the hunting lobby deserves this the most.

Do you have an idea about who should be nominated for Ġieħ ir-Repubblika? Don’t forget to comment below.

After Norman Vella, what else is round the corner?

Normangate or even better, the series of events which led to Norman Vella being questioned by the police and having his mobile phone and tablet confiscated has raised more than a few eyebrows. But let’s be honest, this is just one other event in a long string of events which has had people talking.

norman vella
From memory, and I promise I didn’t go searching on Google, I can remember a few occasions which were handled far from delicately by the government;

  1. The suspension of a Gozo Ferry employee to cover up what looked like an abuse of power by the Minister for Gozo, Anton Refalo,
  2. The threatening of a security worker working during the Isle of MTV party by Home Affairs Ministry Chief of Staff, Silvio Scerri whose female companion was denied entry to a VIP area,
  3. The stipends debacle, which led to the resignation of the Chairman of the Students Maintenance Grants Board,
  4. The complete shrugging off when it was discovered that Shiv Nair, a consultant for the Prime Minister, is forever blacklisted by the World Bank,
  5. The case of a civillian’s wrong arrest and the witch hunt against Police Inspector Elton Taliana who was the officer who actually arrested the RIGHT culprit.

These are just a few events which sprung to memory. Weirdly enough, as I’m writing this I find myself thinking that all these have some sort of loose end. It seems like many stories, even when they consist of scandals, simply die out. I don’t know if this is because the media is not properly doing its job or if it’s because so many things are happening that the media cannot keep up. Or maybe it’s just a mix of the two.

For whatever reason though the Norman Vella case seems to have stuck and we all got a conclusion. Again, this case verges on the scandalous. If the Police were asked to investigate a person simply because of who he is and because he happened to cross paths with Ramona Attard (communications coordinator at the Ministry of Home Affairs) and Kurt Farrugia (communications coordinator at the Office of the Prime Minister) this is, for lack of better word, disgusting.

This is not just a waste of Police (and Court’s) time and citizen’s tax money but it is also a blatant abuse of power. If this is the kind of things you get away with by having a 9 seat majority in parliament, I’m worried what else might be around the corner.

Yes the Labour Party do have an astounding seat majority but that doesn’t mean they should show disrespect to the people who put them in power. Unfortunately all these shenanigans are doing just that, and they are a slap in the face to all those who voted Labour because the Partit Nazzjonalista was dubbed arrogant.

But that is not all, worst of it all is that there are certain Labour MPs which are trying to ridicule this whole thing. I am talking about MP Luciano Busuttil who took to Facebook to express his opinion saying;

Luciano Busuttil on Norman Vella on Facebook

There are so many people who like to make a scene and play the victim

Hon Busuttil should realise he is now part of the Government and not campaigning as we are in the run up to election. Those kind of messages are simply not on, especially when you are representing the Government of Malta.

What Happens in Brussels Stays in Brussels – Ġuże Stagno style

What happens in Brussels stays in Brussels by Guze StagnoIt was the sweet irony of life that I received the book that same day I had a shocking encounter at the local courier office. I’m mentioning this because the racist idiot who I met there could have well been one of the characters in the story (Commander and Co, for those who have already read the book), one of a colorful lot of canvassers visiting the Belgian capital and meeting the famed Labour MEP Charlo Pulis.

What happens in Brussels stays in Brussels, published by Merlin Publishers, is a colorful prism of stereotypes which we all meet in our daily lives. From the know it all rampant racist to the sleazy politician to the good intentioned journo.

There is much to be admired in Stagno’s new book. Firstly, and unequivocally, is the effortless read. Few local writers are able to drive the story along in such a smooth way. The lists and the dialogue are just a few techniques Stagno uses to achieve this, and it really takes great skill. I managed to gobble up the book up in around 7 hours collectively. The pop references also aid in placing the story in a specific time and place and give it a zesty gossipy feel, making it even harder to put down.

The social commentary is fascinating and at times I yearned for more characters rather than the development of the story. This possibly happens because the linear nature of the narrative doesn’t leave the reader guessing as to how things will eventually unfold. This is not in any way a criticism, it’s probably more about me being greedy and wanting more of such a brilliant book. This sheer brilliance can be found in Stagno’s attention to detail, that same detail that slaps us straight in the face in the book but in real life goes by unnoticed. Well known characters we meet in our every day life our colleagues, family members, neighbors, they are all there being scrutinized by Gustav’s judgmental eye and Stagno’s discerning pen.

The book is also quite funny and also has a few laugh out loud moments. One of my favorite passages describes the frenzy locals in Brussels get into whenever Twistees are available.

Another favorite moment is the kinetic sexual scene. With a very apt chapter title – is-sexy – whetting the readers appetite for the much anticipated action. Some cunnilingus and messy descriptions later – this is not your average 50 shades of grey sex, this is raw, testosterone filled, male perspective sex – I did get myself all hot and bothered. And finally, some description of oral sex. I am 30 years old and this is the first time I read anything of this nature in Maltese literature. Who knows, maybe Stagno will tempt some men out there to learn more about the allusive clitoris (and for that, the female race thanks you dear Ġuże Stagno).

The illustrations by Jimmy Grima also complement the narrative. Most of these are drawn in first person perspective, aiding the reader to better see the protagonist’s point of view.

My take on this one? Read it! No honestly, either click on this link and order it online or get yourself to your nearest bookstore and buy it. It’s a very enjoyable read, it will make you laugh but it will also make you think. Stagno definitely hit a few good sweet spots with this one.

And finally to all those who have read the book… Cesspit? Any thoughts?

 

A few words about the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival

Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival
Such beautiful people seem to attend these kind of events. The Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival is definitely a welcome change from the usual artsy fartsy scene. Don’t get me wrong, I like the usual artsy fartsy scene but the crowd at this event is something special. I mean when was the last time you were surrounded by peeps who actually wanted to listen?
The festival came to an end way too quickly and I really wish I could have savoured every minute of it, at least every minute of one whole evening.
I did manage to catch the readings of Nikola Madzirov and I definitely wanted more. The interview which followed Madzirov’s reading was even more interesting. Nikola really has a way with words even though it is apparent that English is not his first language. Despite this, the way he described experiences and instances during his interview with Glen Calleja was almost poetry in itself. Needless to say I had a mini orgasm when he mentioned Derrida and the way he sees the art of writing.
It was a beautiful evening, but that goes without saying. It is one of those events that I never miss and it is probably the only one which holds such a special place in my heart.
The evening, and the festival, ended with a grande finale of readings from all the authors with Karl Schembri forever ruining my romantic image of airports.
Looking forward to next year, I once find myself asking why the hell didn’t I attend more than just one night of this wonderful festival. So it really needs to be said: Guys at Inizjamed, thank you! And please continue setting up such awesome events.

Graffiti in Valletta – is this Art or Vandalism?

picture taken by Michelle Buhagiar

picture taken by Michelle Buhagiar

This morning graffiti have been painted on the still-to-be-finished grand Valletta entrance. Seeing the picture on Facebook I thought it looked good and not having read what it was about I had this impression that this wasn’t Malta.

From that first glance I thought it was a minimalist art installation in some foreign capital. I mentally bookmarked and continued scrolling on my merry way until I saw the news item crop up on The Times that is.

I curiously clicked the link and the news item was all about this ‘vandal’ who defaced the Valletta entrance way. And then the dilemma struck me. Is this Art or Vandalism?

The picture taken of the graffiti is beautiful (kudos to the photographer, whom I understand is very much against the graffiti) which makes it very hard to condone as wrong. But aside from the aesthetic qualities, this raises some questions;

Was this simple self expression or was the artist trying to make a statement?

After all this happened only a few days after the issue of Pjazza Teatru Rjal and its inaccessibility to artists, even when this space was promised to be the people’s theater. Was the artist trying to address the lack of space for arts and culture in Malta? Needless to say the location of the graffiti is very apt, considering Valletta is meant to be the European Capital of Culture in 2018 and yet we still do not have a museum of modern art or any decent space for smaller artists and performers to meet, organise exhibitions, collaborate, etc.

Looking at the photo it is immediately noticeable that these aren’t the usual thug, half arsed graffiti. There is heart and thought behind it. What is depicted is a positive image, an image of love. It’s minimalist in nature and from the view of this photo it almost compliments Renzo Piano’s vision.

The more I look at the photo the more thorn I feel inside. I understand that it IS wrong for graffiti to be painted on newly finished works. The Valletta entrance already has a vision and unfortunately outside art installations such as this one aren’t part of it. But this painting does raise a lot of questions, and ones which need to be addressed quickly. In a capital city which is dead in the middle of the night and is meant to play such an important role in 2018 there is a lot to be done, and extra carnivals and festi will simply not do.

So here I am, more confused than when I started writing this; is this art or vandalism? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments section below.