So much love for the National Book Festival

Book Festival 2014

The National Book Council have just released their calendar of events for the 5 day National Book Festival and some of us (me especially) are really excited!

What is immediately noticeable is the amount of love that went into the organisation of this event. Everything from the artwork and design to the quality of the events at the Festival show the organisers really care about book culture in Malta.

It is about time that such care is given to these events. With our capital city gearing up for V.18 we should be taking care of all aspects concerning the arts. It is nice to see the rise of the geek is also happening here in Malta (albeit a few year late). In fact, this autumn we will also be having two comic book events: The MaltaComics Expo 2014 happening between the 31st of October and 2nd of November and the Malta Comic Con 2014 at St James Cavalier happening between the 29th and 30th of November.

The Book Fest will launch on the 12th of November and will span 5 days which will be filled with talks, lectures and best of all, beautiful books.

Local publishers and authors will be at the event showing off their wares and these will be joined by ten Italian publishers represented by Editore Morrone and a French author Pierre Assouline.

For more information about the Book Fest you can check out their Facebook page.

In the meantime, you can also have a little look at their rich calendar of events for the Festival by clicking here: Programm_NBC_EnglishOutlinesWeb (1)

The 7 best moments of the Cabinet Reshuffle on Twitter

After all is said and done and the dust has settled on the recent Cabinet Reshuffle it’s interesting to look back at the best moment that played out live on Twitter. Click here if you want to read about all latest changes in the cabinet.

As a social media harlot I am ecstatic to see Twitter being used by Malta’s journalists and politicians to break the latest news. The rest of the local community of course joined in the reshuffle fun and the best seven moments have been reproduced hereunder.

Number 7

Filthy cars arriving at Girgenti.
https://twitter.com/DanielaBartolo/statuses/449924030163075072

Number 6

Andrew Borg Cardona calls it! One hour before it is made official.

Number 5

Miriam Dalli, journalist at MaltaToday once again tries her luck and complains about being hungry.

She then posts a picture of the advent of food.

And also manages to get food for the rest of the media hanging outside Girgenti

Number 4

Owen Bonnici is probably the best there is to take Culture a step forward in Malta it has to be said that yet again Culture hasn’t been given its due importance – or respect for that matter – as it’s now been relegated under Justice.

Number 3

Matthew Vella contemplating on the family affair.

Number 2

Franco Mercieca announces his definitive resignation with a tweet that screams relief.

Number 1

Satiristan comes back from retirement and takes the Number 1 spot.
https://twitter.com/Satiristan/statuses/449940351797956608

And finally the Prime Minister’s Twitter account posted the following photo with the caption:
A chat with my good friend Godfrey Farrugia,thanking him for his contribution. Sure he has still more to offer. 

Cabinet reshuffle

Don’t yet have a Twitter account? Sign up now and use the follow buttons above to follow some of the best locals on the social network. And don’t forget to follow yours truly on @melahart.

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!

 

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.

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.

Pjazza Teatru Rjal; an unkept promise?

My morning reading today consisted of a thread on Facebook between Mario Vella, front man of the Maltese band Brikkuni and Martin Bonnici, local independent film producer at Shadeena Films. The thread was about the inaccessibility to independent local artists to use the newly inaugurated Pjazza Teatru Rjal in Valletta.

From what Mario said, it seems that place can be booked for €2000 a night but other costs, which also includes insuring the venue (which is valued at over 3 million euros) and security will inflate the bill to at least €4000. So how can a local artist, be it a band, a theater company or a literary performer ever dream of performing in an auditorium whose purpose, we were promised, was to promote and give a space to the local arts and culture scene?

Pjazza Teatru Rjal

Let’s do some simple arithmetic here. Malta’s population stands at around 410,000. Around 130,000 are under 15 and over 65 and would probably prefer other activities. That leaves a total of about 280,000 potential ‘customers’.

But here we are not talking about a Joseph Calleja or an Isle of MTV event which attracts thousands. These events which are considered to be huge only manage to attract around 20% of the population (Isle of MTV 2012), and these have a very good, well known brand, and they are free events with massive popular appeal and even bigger advertising.

There is a huge difference between these events and the smaller events, like Brikkuni’s, which attract niche audiences. But it is these small niche events that drive the underlying diversity in the arts and culture scene, and for which the Pjazza Teatru Rjal was intended to showcase.

Even with a well known, internationally respected niche performer such as the Kronos Quartet, who played at Pjazza Teatru Rjal as part of the 2013 Malta Arts Festival, the theater’s capacity (900 seats) wasn’t fully reached. So one starts to wonder; how can a local band attract enough people to make one of their performances financially viable?

For a band to break even with the quoted figure they would need to attract either;

800 people and sell tickets at €5 or

500 people and sell tickets at €8.

Those figures of course do not take into consideration any form of payment to the members of the band. There are no advertising or marketing costs included, no other fees such as a sound engineer etc.

The Kronos Quartet’s performance was charged at €25, and to me it was money well spent, but I doubt that I’d spend that kind of money to see a local band, no matter how good they are and no matter how much I would love to support the local scene. And I am sure I’m not the only one.

Clearly, something needs to be done to help local performers and artists. The government has already taken the first step by creating this space. But it is not enough. One way would be for the Pjazza Teatru Rjal Management to offer annual subscriptions of say €100 each which would entitle you to attend performances by local artists for free and those by international artists for a discounted price. This will in turn also encourage more people to attend events which they might normally pass up.

Pjazza Teatru Rjal is a beautiful space, and no matter how much ‘The Kitten from Malta’ jibes at it, it has a great potential for both local and international artistes, many of whom would also be attracted by the opportunity to perform in a space designed by Renzo Piano and enriched with all its history.

Best way to watch Eurovision 2013?

The answer is… on Twitter! This has become a little bit of a tradition. Every year a few of us meet up on Twitter and tweet while watching the Eurovision. So for tonight, it’s all set! I have my pizza, TVM HD is already on, waiting for the clock to strike 21:00 and then it all starts!

I’m still not a big fan of the budget portion allocated to the Eurovision, but the truth is, I’ve come to enjoy this little tradition.

You can follow my Tweets and other Twitter interactions here.

Twitter stream on Eurovision 2013 semi final

Just in case you were wondering about the running order for the second semi-final, here it is;

Latvia: PeR – Here We Go

San Marino: Valentina Monetta – Crisalide (Vola)

F.Y.R. Macedonia: Esma & Lozano – Pred Da Se Razdeni

Azerbaijan: Farid Mammadov – Hold Me

Finland: Krista Siegfrids – Marry Me

Malta: Gianluca – Tomorrow

Bulgaria: Elitsa Todorova and Stoyan Yankulov – Samo Shampioni (Only Champions)

Iceland: Eythor Ingi – Ég Á Líf

Greece: Koza Mostra feat. Agathon Iakovidis – Alcohol Is Free

Israel: Moran Mazor – Rak Bishvilo

Armenia: Dorians – Lonely Planet

Hungary: ByeAlex – Kedvesem (Zoohacker Remix)

Norway: Margaret Berger – I Feed You My Love

Albania: Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar Sejko – Identitet

Georgia: Nodi Tatishvili & Sophie Gelovani – Waterfall

Switzerland: Takasa – You And Me

Romania: Cezar – It’s My Life

Eurovision 2013 logo

The Malta Potatoes dude is my hero

I decided to come out of hiding for a little bit to talk about the Maltese Potato dude – also known as my hero!

Just in case you were wondering, it’s been a little quiet around here because I’ve been working hard on another blog which I co-founded with a friend of mine. Head over to YesHub.com, I promise you won’t regret it.

Back to the potatoes – what a beautiful clip that is, it warmed me up throughout and gave me so many fuzzy feelings. It made me proud to be Maltese, and it made me want to head to the green grocer and ask for some of our delicious potatoes. Just in case you haven’t watched the clip, here it is.

After watching that beauty, how do you feel? I cannot understand all the criticism directed towards potato dude. He’s got passion, he’s got love and he’s proud of what he does. Most importantly he’s got job satisfaction – how many of you can say they have all that; I know I certainly can’t at this moment in time, and that’s what I’m striving for.

So what if he has broken English? As they say, those who live in glass houses shouldn’t really throw any stones. Yes, I’m talking to you, the person who thinks they speak perfect English and then insists on using ‘literally’ and ‘like’ in every sentence.

You can taste the sea, the church and the sun. You can feel that you are eating Maltese Potatoes.

How beautiful is that? So, to the Malta Potatoes dude, I just have two words: Thank You! For igniting that bit of pride and for showing me why, albeit the many times I criticize this little island of ours, I love Malta with all my heart.