dimecres, de desembre 19, 2007

end of the line

It's time to take the bus back to the depot.


Since I don't keep statistics (the counter has been broken for ages), I've got no real means to gauge the readership of this blog, although I'm pretty certain readership is dwindling not increasing. Not only did I commit a few blogger cardinal sins such as writing too sporadically - two in a week and then nothing for a month, I also wrote - repeatedly - on topics that were too esoteric, too specific, too narrow or too boring and managed to alienate a few others. I'd like to write about a few other things but it's useless at this point. Exclusively 'marketing' this blog to a somewhat fickle Maltese base was another mistake.


The blogs were the best thing to ever happen to the Maltese literary scene. They were fun to read and some of the stuff written was better and more exciting than practically any book in Maltese I have ever read. It's a shame that no traces will be left of the scene in 2 or 3 years. One of the main reasons that kept me going was the reward system inherent to them - I always hoped that one of my posts would, at least partially, inspire another blogger to post and I'd get to read some wonderfully flowing prose or an intelligent opinion for my efforts. I also got some vapid rubbish sometimes, like you did from me.

To those bloggers who bemoan the fact that they're not blogging even though they'd like to but they're too busy - well, it doesn't take that much time. It doesn't take much time or effort to post twice a week. At twenty minutes each post, that's less than the average person spends removing fluff from his belly-button or finding the right pose for his/her Facebook profile pic.


I can't stop dreaming of being a farmer (of all things). I've got no real idea what being a farmer entails. To me farm-life is one pastoral, idyllic image after the other. It's not me toiling the land at 5AM and filling in complicated EU CAP subsidy forms - it's me tasting goat's cheese and walking about my farm chewing straw and bleating back at my fat ruminants.

For other mindless optimists and/or property fetishists here's some rustic land-porn to get you excited:

Arable land + townhouse (i.e. pile of rubble held together using duct tape and goatshit)

Just the townhouse (and some magnificent views)

Tuscany has become very expensive.

Around May/June 2008 I've got something big lined up. Let's just say I'll have ample time to look at abandoned places in Northern and Central Italy, but won't have the cash to even think of buying any of them - not even a pile of rubble in Italy's remotest province. If anyone needs a sensaro, someone to deal with the workers, or someone who can actually build a wall, whitewash or pass a few cables without (hopefully) electrocuting himself, I'm your man. I'm the (self-styled) Del Trotter of the Apennines.


It's been a nice three years, but this bus is heading back to the depot now.

See you on another ride - maybe soon, maybe not. So long.

dilluns, de desembre 03, 2007

why old people don't suck

Right! Enough is enough!
No more sesame seed bars for you!

Since moving to St-Gilles I've come into contact with a species endemic to this part of Brussels. The area I lived in before moving here was a bit like a starched version of Neukoelln in Berlin. I had grown to like the Turks as an ethnicity - they're a quiet, conservative lot (unless you're party to a bit of Kurdish flag-waving that is). The area where I lived was mostly inhabited by older, middle-class Turks more interested in waxing their white BMWs and moving further up the social ladder than partying or having more kids.

The area where I'm now living is kind of like a grubbier, grittier version of Prenzl'Berg

The species I discovered is a species I thought I'd get along with quite well. We share similar values after all, but it seems the gulf of understanding is too wide. They're conscientious couples in their mid to late twenties (or early thirties) and I found the small-mindedness some of them display not only surprising but disturbing.

Here's how to spot one. Caveat - blanket statements ahoy!

1. The women wear garishly coloured clothes in various outlandish shades of orange and fucshia. To say these pants are baggy is an understatement. They're baggier than the pants I used to wear in the 90s when everyone thought camping in your own trousers was cool. Not just that - the crotch area itself is so baggy it looks like they just shat themselves or someone secretly slid a pétanque bowl when they were comparing the length of panpipes at Oxfam.
2. They're not so much francophones as anti-English. They could speak English if you're struggling but they won't. You see, English is the language of the U.S.-dominated hegemonisation (actually fuck that... hegemoniZation) of the world. They also speak South American Spanish (they've been to Peru and Ecuador). All their friends are francophones too. They only listen to music from the francophonie and are inordinately pround of their francité. Their MySpace/Facebook profile is exclusively in French and they've only got French-speaking friends. They're, ironically, as linguistically conservative as a small-town Texan.
3. They party. Often. Until 5 AM. They don't give a shit about the neighbours cuz they're young, wild, haven't got a job and since they're ethically superior to a pack of sedulously recycling whales, they know that all shall be forgiven because they're saving our world. And you're not. Scum.
4. They buy bio (organic). But only when you're looking.
5. They procreate. This is the worst bit. They procreate and then let their kids run completely amok. Their blond, bellicose kids will stand behind them in small supermarkets, screaming and hurling cans while they continue, unperturbed, shopping for which brand of fresh soya beans has the healthiest hue. Other shoppers will brow their foreheads, or stand there their mouths gaping in censor like a disapproving goldfish, but they won't take any notice of them. Their kid is sacred, his poop is a golden nugget from the hands of Zeus himself, his scream a dulcet harmony. Their laissez-faireism is troubling. I've dealt with some of their kids and they're some of the most annoying, unpleasant kids I've ever dealt with in my life. The Mediterranean way of constantly chastising kids is as ludicrously ineffective as the other extreme, but a small dose of discipline and restraint to remind kids that they're not alone in the world is necessary. But not for their kids.
6. They never comb or cut their hair but it always looks good. Bastards.
7. They're laidback and slow-paced... but uptight at the same time. How did they ever manage that?!

diumenge, de novembre 25, 2007

On Sicily

Just back from Sicily...


- The Ballarò Open Air Market. A great place to observe Palermitani and immigrants living together in harmony. Well, harmony isn't the right word. In (complete and utter) chaos is probably better.
- The Catacombs of Palermo. They're no ordinary catacombs: photos.
- Walk around. Macellificazioneria and Carneria for the good ol' Macelleria. Sicilians have really taken to making up words (or using them in a slightly weird context). Good on them.
- Ortygia in Siracusa is well worth visiting, a truly beautiful and quiet place... especially if you're coming from the Fiat-sponsored remakes of Mad Max that are Catania and Palermo.
- The Cathedral of Monreale. Despite erratic opening hours and cantenkerous priests (why are priests always so pissed off?) this place is worth the uphill climb from Palermo.
- Mount Etna. Which we climbed. Well, part of it anyway (the summit was 'displeased' so it clearly wasn't in the mood for visitors). It wasn't as gruelling as I thought it would be. It's amazing to look down and see the clouds beneath you. We also checked out the Grotta dei Ladroni, the cave where ice used to be stored and exported as far as Malta. The taste of the ice on Mt. Etna is truly incredible. It tastes nothing like the ice that falls on the cities. The guide, a burly cigar-smoking geologist called Fabio, even took us around the villages that surround Mt. Etna's eastern flank.
- Zo is where the beardies, wannabes, hipsters and alternative types in Catania hang out. Being a beardie, wannabe, hipster, and alternative type myself, the place suited me perfectly.

Check in

- Everyone has a short temper, everyone complains about Sicily... but they're also quite helpful (except the ones which are paid to be nice - the ones in tourist offices, the people selling bus or train tickets, sales assistants. Scum o' the earth - the lot of them). They're just more extreme - the hostile ones are hostile to the point of confrontation, the helpful ones are nice enough to engage you in conversation... a conversation that might easily last an hour. Fine by me - I'm quite the talker. Not fine by Anita who isn't. We stayed at three different B&Bs: 5 Balconi, Al Borgo Fiorito, Ai Bellini (no website yet). I'd recommend them all. B&Bs seem to be the preferred commercial activity for Sicilians in their late thirties who have just got back from trekking around India or South America and don't know what to do next. They run the places with enthusiasm and seem to have understood what providing a service really means (which isn't the case with most hotels, hostels and b&bs).

Eat up

We ate at Il Sale and Agorà in Catania, La Foglia in Siracusa, Divino Rosso in Palermo. The latter is great if you're short on cash. Il Sale was particularly good.

Catanesi are really into horse meat - the stuff is everywhere. Seems to be the chow of choice for bus drivers who were eating horse meat burgers.

The food is generally better in Catania but more abundant (and cheaper) in Palermo.

Fruit is ridiculously cheap (one kg of blood oranges for the princely sum of EUR 0.30).

Gawk at

- On the streets the lingua franca is Sicilian, but everyone tries (with varying degrees of success) to adopt a neutral Italian accent in formal contexts. At one point I witnessed the bizarre spectacle of a family speaking to a waiter in Italian, only for both (the family and the waiter) to revert to Sicilian after the order was taken. Stranger still, two Pakistani immigrants I spoke to spoke only Sicilian (no Italian, no English).
- Catania is ludicrously dirty. I don't mind filth and dirt, but the level of filth and dirt on the streets can only be described as post-apocalyptic or medieval. I was half expecting a syphilis-ridden Chaucer pilgrim to appear on the horizon...
- Noise in Sicily is everywhere and at all hours. If you're a light sleeper (like I am), prepare yourself for many sleepless nights, or frustrated yelling at cars and noisy pedestrians from the safety of your balcony (yes, I'm a wimp).
- If you're hunting for sociological melitensia, "Maltese" surnames and "Maltese" food (sfincione, quarezimali, etc) abound in Palermo, not in Catania.
- All cultural differences between Malta and Sicily boil down to one thing: Sicilians are veritably proud of who they are, their land, and their traditions - the Maltese are proud of who they are, their land and traditions in so far as they can be used as a rhetorical device which can be sold to tourists.
- Women approach men, they start and animate conversations with men - in other words they're not scared of men. What a refreshing change from the supposedly liberal cultures of Northern Europe or the fastidiously conservative ones of places like Malta.

dimecres, de novembre 07, 2007

all your base are belong to us

Ghal min jaf ir-riferenza kulturali li semmejt fit-titlu, dan is-sitcom ighodd ghalih/a.

Ghal min le, imma:

1. Ghandu halq
2. Kapaci juzah biex jitbissem
3. Kapaci juzah biex jidhaq

...nahseb xorta jghogbu.

Ghal min m'ghamilx almenu parti zghira mit-tfulija tieghu, b'mod sprovvedut, jistenna loghob jillowdjaw ghal sighat interminabbli u jxengel joysticks b'salvagizmu frenetiku minflok jixxabat mis-sigar, ikisser it-twieqi u jiekol il-hobz biz-zejt l-Ghadira, ir-riferenza tat-titlu hi min hawn.