Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Final Countdown

I guess I abandoned my attempt of creating a 'year review', in part because it wasn't exactly coming good and in part because I didn't feel like typing up everything that happened this year... once again. And also in part because I answered some questions on Facebook that took up the best part of an hour or so and generally encompassed what 2009 was really like! So this short blog is going to be used to take the opportunity to wish all of you a fantastic Christmas and a great 2010! Enjoy your new year's eves and don't drink and drive :p

If 2009 was a positive year overall for you, then may 2010 be even better!

God Bless You all,

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Recess! Recess!

What a way to celebrate your fiftieth blog post! The Christmas holidays are finally upon us... well, effective 9 am tomorrow, anyway; and those two weeks of rest and, well, extra hours in studying, are so dearly needed.

Whilst I've just squeezed a pimple to the extent that it is now bleeding - smart move, I guess - it's time to celebrate and take a well-deserved break from the hecticness that University life provides us with.

I suppose it's been a half-decent first term - as usual, it's one that has flown by as quickly as anything but one that, of course, you see as rather long and drawn out when the scholastic year begins in October. Weirdly enough, January exams are already on our doorstep and before we know it, we'll once again be out of our winter clothing and back in t-shirts before heading off for summer holidays! Okay, that might be a bit premature, but summer is now only the best part of six (long) months away... that's always better than the "Nine Months to go" sign that we see at the end of each summer!

I'm also happy to say that, barring any major catastrophes or the introduction of a Secret Santa, my Christmas shopping is also finally done! I do have to buy my grandmother something still, but I've left that to my mother, who, quite disappointingly, has found absolutely nothing yet! Furthermore, my presents also all wrapped up - barring one which seems to be impossible to wrap so, yet again, I'm leaving it in mum's capable hands (thank goodness it isn't her present!) - so I'm pretty much sorted. And all my shopping was done in three excursions only. If that's not efficiency at its best, then I don't know what is!

The Christmas season really and truly does kick off tomorrow evening with the Christmas Ball! I'm actually looking forward to it; last year it was an absolute blast and everyone had enjoyed themselves, but tomorrow, what with a new venue *cough* in the middle of nowhere *cough* and all, it's going to be something completely different to what we're used to. It promises to be a good one nonetheless though!

I don't think this will be my last blog before Christmas - I still have my annual 'Year Review' to share, even though this year wasn't half as eventful as 2008 - but if it is, I'd like to wish you, my readers, the best Christmas ever; and may the birth of Jesus Christ bring everlasting joy and peace into your lives. :)

God Bless You all!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Land of Hypocrisy

A short blog to just, well, make a point. It really makes my face light up with an incomparable amount of joy when certain things do indeed happen.

Apparently, today at Junior College, Pulse (read: lowlife rogues), representing KSJC I guess, decided to throw eggs and beer at students, presumably as a mode of celebration for winning last Friday's student council elections for the third year running. Of course, that is an immensely dignified way of celebrating, especially with it coming hot on the heels of a barrage of complaints from the school vis-a-vis University graduates.

Therefore, I wonder where my good friend, Charles Caruana Carabez, a.k.a. the wet blanket, is now. Probably defending these actions, I guess, as they occurred by the College's own students. Or maybe just silent on the matter, even if he wasn't able to give lessons today due to these people's actions.

As much as the place has a number of nice people, Junior College is indeed the land of hypocrisy. If the shoe doesn't fit, hell, it seems as if a large number of people still wear it, presumably because they can get away with it all, no? I'd just love to know what University students think about this. And of course, feedback from JC students, including people at Pulse if they wish (but I don't believe I do know people from there) would be appreciated.

God Bless You all,

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Don't Forget To Call Future Professionists Idiots

Before reading this blog, I encourage you to read the following linked article:

I didn't intend to write a blog for a short period of time now, but events today have left me with no choice but to do otherwise. Needless to say, such events are stimulated by a controversial incident that would not have been brought up had a certain Charles Caruana Carabez not mentioned it on the local newspapers in the first place.

Mr. Caruana Carabez (herein referred to as CCC), who was perhaps slightly in the right regarding the circumstances which he criticised, wrote a letter to the newspaper regarding the unruly behaviour of certain students during graduation. Up to there, I'll give the author a certain amount of credit, as more often than not, things do get out of control sufficiently enough to cause chaos and public disorder, something which is not right at all. Indeed, I do not condone such behaviour. However, what was stated by CCC after this general notion was, I felt, demeaning to all University students and extremely out of place. Basically, CCC labelled such graduates 'louts' and 'idiots', among other terms; a generalisation of sorts that was completely uncalled for and strongly downplayed the University graduates' successes. Yeah, it's always smart to call those people that you're going to have to rely on in the future; all those lawyers, teachers, accountants, architectures and doctors, among others, idiots.

What initially struck me was that CCC wrote his letter in the belief that this only happens at Junior College, whereas in reality, this also takes place at St. Aloysius' College and De La Salle College. And, in the case of the law students, in front of the Law Courts as well. Anyway, the only difference is that till now, both SAC and DLS have not issued a complaint of any sorts. Indeed, it is well-known that at SAC, the graduates are allowed to enter the building (although requested to leave any alcohol external to the premises) and celebrate among the Sixth Form students accordingly before proceeding to their next destination. Obviously, CCC seems to be oblivious to the fact that Junior College is not the only institution that is affected accordingly by a bunch of graduates celebrating.

The coup de grace in CCC's letter came about when he stated that "[he is] not a spoilsport, nor a wet blanket" but was totally against this "hedonism". With all due respect to the author, taking away the buscades for graduates as a mode of celebration could readily compare to him having his English Literature books stolen and him not being able to read them accordingly and teach them to his pupils. The fact that CCC also claims that "there will be a court case" vis-a-vis loss of earnings, noise pollution etc. in relation to such buscades can only make one laugh out loud at what has degenerated from a solid, initial argument to one that is impertinently stupid.

Of course, however, the best is reserved till last... Comments about the letter obviously show both sides to the story, with some Junior College students defending the lecturer and labelling these actions as ridiculous as well; and University students defending their right to enjoy their graduation and not be muted by a select few that think that such actions are not apt of graduates. Perhaps, for the lecturers, their University days were back in time immemorial; while for the students, this reeks of irony as in a few years up the road, the current crop of JC students will be graduating for the first time and going on a buscade of their own! I highly doubt that they'd then be defending the College... they don't know what they are yet to face when they reach their tertiary education years, poor souls. Furthermore, certain comments went down to the level of personal insults, one of which was directed towards me. Of course, the Times now refuse to answer emails regarding the original commenter... I'd love to have his email in hand so that I give him a piece of my mind and tell him who was brought up badly and whose family should be insulted.

It may be "degrading" for some, but I, for one, am looking forward to next year's buscade. Where I think having a go at CCC would only be a justified reaction for the ton of tripe that he wrote and the ton of insults that he directed towards us. And yes, the buscade is definitely happening, now, irrespective of the public transport reform.

Furthermore, I obviously have nothing against Junior College, but please don't play the victims and act as if you're the only ones that are affected on an annual basis by this as you're not!!

And don't forget to call your future professionists idiots.

God Bless You all!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Let's GO, Melita!

Finally, something actually worthwhile that I can write about.

I have to admit, when reading the recent news that Melita had lost the rights to transmit Barclays Premier League matches from season 2010/11 through to season 2012/13 to GO plc, I was extremely shocked. To say the least. This means that a large chunk of sporting action that I see on the weekends would indeed be gone from my very eyes, provided that I remain with Melita for the next three odd years. Which, judging by the way how it's going downhill, I don't think will really be the case, but anyway. Anyhow, as a response to this, Melita claimed that they are still the leaders in providing sports to local households, and they also still retained exclusive rights in items such as the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, Serie A and the Bundesliga.

So far, all is fine and dandy. It was the typical response that I expected from Melita, one which obviously tried to make them look in as little a bad light as possible while, at the same time, promoting the programmes which they show. Of course, they did forget to mention that Saturday afternoons will probably be spent, after August 2010, with replays of old Italian and German football matches being shown on their (now excessive) eight different channels dedicated to sport; these interspersed with everyone's favourite show, a bout of horse racing from Sweden. Naturally, I'm hoping you're noting the sarcastic tone here. Furthermore, they also conveniently forgot to tell us customers that the price of the sports package will probably still be going up due to some fabricated administrative cost, or something of the sort. In brief, Melita will indeed become more pathetic than they already are come the end of Summer 2010.

However, while thinking over it, I ended up by coming to another conclusion vis-a-vis what is happening with GO and Melita. Perhaps it is a bit far-fetched, but I think it's worth stating it nonetheless. I noticed a trend in Melita's declining sporting list year after year: in 2007, GO announced that they would be transmitting Wimbledon from 2008 onwards; in 2008, GO announced that they had managed to obtain the exclusive rights to transmit Formula 1 from 2009 onwards; and now, in 2009 GO announced that they will be transmitting the Premier League from 2010. (Of course, Melita's prices never decreased despite the fact that two major sporting events were not transmitted over the last two years; and I fully expect this trend to continue come 2010, hence the reasoning for my logic above). Coincidence? I think not.

My belief is that both Melita and GO are currently in breach of the law. To be more specific, I think that these two companies are breaching Articles 5 and 9 of the Competition Act (in Malta), or Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU, the ex-EC Treaty), i.e. there is collusion going on between both Melita and GO with regard their television services, meaning that there is the notion of market distortion in this sector and abuse of a dominant position. I will start with the latter point though, as this seems to be easier to tackle.

For a start, with regards abuse of a dominant position, there must be two criteria satisfied; i.e. dominant position in the relevant market and abuse. It can clearly be argued that combined, both Melita and GO have got a majority share in the television market, especially with regard to the relevant product market (sporting events), as both providers show pretty much everything, be it football, Formula 1 or wrestling. The geographical and temporal markets do not have any relevance in this circumstance. Secondary to this, there must be abuse. Now, while this is not a notion that us students have exactly tackled just yet, I can understand that there is the potential for the constant switching of services from one provider to another to be classified as abuse. Both providers may indeed be doing this to simultaneously increase their shares in the market relating to sporting events, and hence increase clientele and profits accordingly. If this is proven, and of course, it is obviously much more difficult to do so other than just stating that which I am currently stating, then there already is a breach of Article 9 of the Competition Act or Article 102 of the TFEU.

This brings me to my second point. Is there collusion going on between Melita and GO, which are, for the purposes of the law, classified as two undertakings? If I had to apply my theory, as I briefly outlined in bold above, then one could argue that there is a horizontal agreement between both television providers. However, such a horizontal agreement would have to be proven by means of oral or written communication; and quite frankly, I doubt both companies would do something as stupid and as ridiculous as that; and is hence extremely difficult to prove. Prima facie, one might also argue that this could fall under the heading of a concerted practice between undertakings, but upon further examination of this notion, one must realise and understand that this is "a form of coordination between undertakings which, without having reached the stage where an agreement properly so called has been concluded, knowingly substitutes practical cooperation between them for the risks of competition". Therefore, one cannot classify that happening between both companies as such a concerted practice, for the purposes of Competition Law.

The second part of Article 5(1) speaks of market distortion. The law states that "any agreement between undertakings... having the object or effect of preventing, restricting or distorting competition" is prohibited. It is necessary to look at the conjunction 'or' over here, as this means that not both the object and effect must be proven, but if one is proven, then it is enough. One could seriously argue that both undertakings' actions are currently having the desired effect. But do these actions fall under the exceptions to the articles in question? After analysing the law accordingly, I cannot see how the exceptions as outlined in Article 5(3) or 101(3) apply to absolve both companies of colluding to distort competition. However, it must be noted that this line of attack, I believe, is significantly weaker than that found in Article 9/Article 102.

Of course, being just a student, I could be wrong in both circumstances. Indeed, after theorising a bit too much about it, I'm starting to doubt the validity of these arguments myself. But I'll leave it to anyone else with proper judgement to go ahead and comment on the situation at hand; even though I still believe that something fishy is going on between these two major players within the Maltese communications market.

God Bless You all!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's All About Christmas

I should be studying, but I don't feel like at the moment. So I'll blog. Or attempt to, at least, following the recent debacle where I wrote about nothingness.

Indeed, not much - if anything at all - has happened since then, but the clock continues ticking down towards Christmas. I need it to tick down a wee bit faster though, I'm really looking forward to the holidays so that I can, well, study even more, I guess; but without the added stress of having to go to University every day.

I'm no fan of Christmas. Far from it, actually, I think it's one of the most overrated times of the year; and indeed, sometimes the only reason why I really do embrace it is to wind down a little bit and be slightly less stressed out than usual. I understand and fully appreciate that within the Church, it is possibly the second most important feast after Easter (or maybe even on a par with it), and that with the birth of Jesus, there should be the subsequent rebirth of joy in our lives, but Christmas has long lost its true, significant meaning. Christmas has become, over the years, a commercialised scam. Of course, this is not the only reason why I don't like Christmas much, there are other reasons which I will not delve into. But this is among the main ones.

Christmas is no longer, unfortunately, a time of joy and peace, but a time of giving and receiving presents (be them wanted or unwanted), a time of political discussions at family lunches, a time of 'reuniting' with family members who you haven't seen since the previous Christmas and probably won't see until the next one. Perhaps these situations are a generalisation of sorts, but hasn't anyone ever felt this way before? It has become very much artificial, in many circumstances, and as time goes by, one tends to wonder whether the true meaning of Christmas will indeed ever be recuperated. Don't get me wrong though on the above point. Realistically, I think giving is one of the best things about Christmas, and at least, it is something that is being passed on from generation to generation without any qualms.

Perhaps, ultimately, I'm seeing everything a bit too pessimistically, but having reached an age where my brain thinks for itself and is not strongly influenced by the views of others, unless they are unilaterally correct and I hence agree with them in totality, I struggle to see where this realistic joy, peace and love emerges from over this period. Perhaps my viewpoints, in all fairness, will change when (if) I'm happily married and have children, but till then, I can only see it as another 'event' in my calendar.

God Bless You all,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

About Nothing

Long time no blog. And that's simply because there hasn't been much to blog about, apart from developments in the footballing world, for which one could easily tune into a website that readily sells sports news in order to read up upon. And furthermore, that's also because the roller coaster nature of life has just kept swaying along as if nothing noteworthy has happened. Which it hasn't, apart from in the judicial and political arena, of which I'm not too concerned with, to be honest with you.

So currently, it's official - the world is about as boring a git place as old me. No random adventures, no nothing - it's just plain sailing. I guess you tend to appreciate those topsy-turvy moments when life is actually exciting, when there's absolutely nothing special going on! I could speak for hours at length about University and how it's becoming a little bit more of a headache day after day, and week after week, but that would once again be stating the obvious now, wouldn't it?

This element of 'nothingness' is typified by the fact that blog updates are currently few and far between, and also by that when one opens the newspaper in the morning, nothing more than the same regurgitated crap is being spit out on a daily basis. Wow. As future lawyers, we yearn for those days where we can actually see a talking point being brought up; those days where debating something interesting is possible; those days where we can actually speak our minds about something of relative importance! But alas, it's just not happening at the moment.

What a damned short blog.

Oh well. One month to Christmas. The joy.

God Bless You all,

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Crucifixion of the Highest (Legal) Order

This evening, I read with great shock the news that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled against Italy in a case regarding the placement of crucifixes in school classrooms. Without going into the merits of the case and how the final judgement was reached, I found this to be a particularly shocking conclusion from the Court, especially considering that Italy is predominantly a Catholic country with Christian values. Furthermore, it also sets a precedent for other countries that subscribe to the European Charter of Fundamental Human Rights, i.e. any citizen who should appeal against the presence of the crucifix in a class or, indeed, in a public place, will have such a prior judgement to fall back upon and strengthen his or her argument. However, in what position does this leave us as European citizens?

Almost undoubtedly, the notion of having secular member states of the European Union is the first thing that comes to mind. It is clear that religion no longer has a strong foothold in society as it did in the past; this can be seen through the liberal way how people think and people act in this day and age. Half a century ago, for instance, it would potentially be considered a grave sin to have sex before marriage, while nowadays it's pretty much the opposite - it is a grave sin if you don't have sex before marriage. People have moved with the times and do not want to be 'controlled by the Church', to use the commonly coined phrase. And fair enough - after all, everyone is entitled to live their lives in the way that they wish. However, this judgement seems to imply that not even young students may allow Christianity to form part of their morals and culture now, because otherwise we might offend minority groups in society that don't really give two hoots about the religion that the majority follow. Hence, the judgement automatically implies that although religion, and the crucifix in particular, currently forms an intrinsic part of Italian morals and culture, such a part of the Italian way of life must be eliminated with immediate effect.

The second point that therefore comes to mind is the respect for minority rights. Undoubtedly, society cannot afford to exclude minority groups as that would infringe the basic principles of democracy and, indeed, a basic fundamental Human Right. However, is it fair to say that on the basis of this judgement, the minority is essentially ruling against the majority? After all, in such a case, aren't Muslims the ones who are supposed to integrate into Italian culture, and not make it entirely their own? What in the world happened to the well-known idiom "When in Rome, do what the Romans do"? In defence, it is evident that some Muslims do not really care about the presence of the crucifix in a classroom; it does not perturb them. To quote from the aforementioned article that broke the news about this judgement, "If the crucifix is there and I am a Muslim I will continue to respect my religion. Jesus in the classroom doesn't bother me." This was stated by an Egyptian 14-year-old. Shouldn't that be the approach of the minority groups that the Muslims form within countries such as Italy?

Over and above that, it seems as if the ECHR has admitted, hands up and all, that we live in a Europe so diverse now that all forms of culture must be accepted and not discriminated against at whatever cost. Fair enough, but isn't that contradictory in itself; in the sense that if all forms of culture must be accepted, then the Court is automatically eliminating a form of culture, at least in Italian eyes, by removing the crucifix from classrooms? Although technically the wrong approach to this argument, I would not have been shocked had this judgement been against France, for instance, where it is known that a large amount of the population are practicing Muslims. However, for the judgement to emanate against a member state where 85% of its citizens are practicing Roman Catholics (and hence, Christians) is just absurd. Such a judgement also threatens countries with an even higher percentage of practicing Christians - remember, Malta is hovering around the 96% mark. What will happen if a Muslim citizen living in Malta issues such a complaint against the ECHR? Surely, as mentioned before, the notion of precedent would set in and Malta would have to follow in Italy's suit...

One of the comforting aspects of the judgement, however, is that it has put Italy's politicians on red alert and caused a major outrage throughout the country. Indeed, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has labelled the judgement as "mortal blow to a Europe of values and rights." Italy has already confirmed that it will seek to appeal the judgement via the European Court of Justice (ECJ); whether the ECJ appeal will be successful or not though is another story altogether. On the other hand, however, there is another (potentially final) worrying aspect to the entire judgement - the reaction of the Maltese people. On timesofmalta.com, comments have already started to emerge in praise of the judgement. One such author wrote that "Religion is a private matter and that's how it should be. It has no place in our classrooms", while another argued that it is a "Good decision when considering schools need to encourage high IQ attitudes." Such comments, unfortunately, only reflect the ignorant nature of certain people and, indeed, can only be condemned.

And while it is evident from this post that I am completely against this judgement and the notion on which it was decided; and in particular the country which it was decided against, we can only wait for the ECJ judgement in this regard... and see. Having said that, however, there could really be worrying times ahead in this regard, especially if the ECHR's judgement is confirmed.

God Bless You all!

N.B. Fortunately, since the time of writing, more comments have appeared on the Times' website, most of which seem to be against the judgement. Definitely a positive step.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Radical Reform (not) Guaranteed

It’s fair to say that public transport is currently in shambles. Many people would rather travel with their own car to get from place to place than use the bus. This is simply because buses, for the most part, are either run down, filthy or (and this is my personal favourite) they constantly belch black smoke from their exhausts, leaving others struggling and scrambling to find a nearby patch of clean air before it’s too late. Furthermore, the service, at this moment in time, is occasionally so unreliable that you could end up waiting for at least an hour for a bus that should be passing at least once every half-hour.

Therefore, at this moment in time, you couldn’t really blame the commuter for wanting to use his or her own car as opposed to public transport. Currently, it’s much better than the service provided in all aspects. Hence, in this light, much has been made about the radical reform that public transport will be facing in the current months in order to get Malta up to (the all-too-often used quote) “European standards”. However, while the infrastructure will be upgraded in practically all aspects, there’s one factor that’s going to almost certainly keep Malta lagging behind its European neighbours – our drivers.

Provided that the current crop of drivers will be retained, Malta is going to still encounter major problems vis-à-vis the reform. While there are drivers out there who deserve to be kept within the system, as they are courteous, polite and have respect not only for their commuters, but also for other drivers on the road, we can unfortunately say that these are very much in the minority. Instead, the most frequent sight when one embarks on a bus trip is seeing a bus driver with his shirt half opened and several chest hairs popping out, incessant swearing and a total lack of consideration for everyone, in particular other road users; as such people believe that the road belongs to them and them only. It’s an attitude that’s beset Malta for way too long now, and it’s one that has to change with immediate effect.

One such solution driven towards such change would be to pass all current drivers through a “fit and proper person test”. Drivers should be tested for the most basic of things that one would expect in a person providing a service as important as public transport – basic manners, proper driving, cleanliness, and a proper uniform are the first things that come to mind. The drivers would be examined by bus conductors living in countries where public transport is already of a high standard, such as the United Kingdom, France or Germany. If the candidate drivers fail the test, they would be given four weeks to up their act and sit for the test again, only this time, failure is not an option. Those who pass first time would be retained with immediate effect. In this manner, one would already start filtering out the rotten apples from the good ones.

To ensure that this test would not descend into a farce (as some drivers might potentially be exemplary during this ‘screening’ phase and then back to their old ways when providing the service), random checks would be performed on the drivers operating the different routes. If any such driver were not to comply with the standards as set out in the test, then they would be slapped with a warning or a sanction. If the offenders persist, then this would eventually result in their sacking from the transport company. Such a system would ensure firstly that every driver complies to the rules as the consequences could be severe, and secondly ensure that a new influx of drivers better than the previous crop would eventually emerge.

But we can only dream about such a system being implemented before the actual reform does start, can we now, Austin? If we’re going to have a reform, then let’s do it properly with immediate effect and sort this problem out before it’s too late.

God Bless You all!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Condom Machine on Campus Debate (?)

There's nothing better than to get the new University scholastic year off to a controversial start by yet again bringing up the debate about whether a condom machine should find its place on Campus. This discussion was entirely prevalent towards the end of the last scholastic year, especially when KSU elections came about, and since then, talk about it hasn't died down. Indeed, companies like Vodafone only added fuel to the debate throughout Freshers' Week when they were seen distributing free condoms with their promotions in order to entice more customers to join them. However, the reality of the situation is that despite Vodafone's best efforts, we're still no closer to ending this age-long debate and finally finding a solution to this 'problem'.

But is it a problem in the first place? Why is University focusing on the installation of a condom machine on Campus when there are so many other things that need to be tackled with instantaneous effect; so many other things that are incredibly important and yet are not given priority? I'm relating to the perennial horror of horrors that us students have to face week in, week out - day in, day out actually, with the infamous parking problem that plagues the University grounds.

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that for a population of 10,000 students, with them possibly rising to 11,000 in the near future and only on the up from year to year, 645 odd parking spaces to share are never going to be enough for them to cope with. Indeed, a look at the big car park near Gateway Building would often show many cars parked illegally on white lines or near the designated blue boxes that they're allowed to be parked in, to the extent that this car park is taking around 50 to 75 more cars than it should be occupying. The result: Chaos, confusion galore, and a lot of swearing from the frustrated student drivers trying to find the holy grail of a parking space. Students have also started looking towards using a rocky piece of land behind the Agriculture Institute, that resembles more of Cart Ruts rather than a parking area, to park their cars. The net result of this all is that if you're unlucky enough to have a lecture starting at 9, you still have to be at University by 8 o'clock as otherwise you'll have nowhere to park. Meanwhile, just beyond the concrete barrier that separates the students' part of the car park from the administration's side of it, one will be delighted to find at least half of the spaces empty, all available for parking. Unfortunately, not for students though - if a student does attempt to park his/her car, then the likelihood is that he/she will be greeted by a clamp and a €23 fine on his/her return. If your name is Jonathan Tonna, however, you'll be able to dispose of it quite easily!

Numerous letters have been written to the newspaper and complaints issued, but all have been to no avail so far. Last year's KSU did nothing to improve the situation for students, to the extent that the current administration has to sort out the mess of the previous administration and try and find some kind of solution to the problem. This attitude could be contrasted easily to the 2007/08 administration, where at one point in time, the then-President David Herrera ordered that students park wherever they want on a particular day so that they would make a statement to increase the parking spaces available. That worked back then, so why won't something to that extent work now? KSU have promised us a feasibility study into the possibility of making the big car park multi-storey, but this will be done, according to reports, by the end of this administration's term in office. Therefore, the earliest we would be able to see construction works start would be the beginning of the 2010/11 scholastic year, until which there will certainly be another massive influx of new cars, new drivers and new problems.

It's time to act on this situation and improve on the mess that we currently face as it's now, finally, got out of control! The only thing we're going to be seeing from that car park is a series of bashed up cars soon... and something in my head tells me that only if it is one of the KSU's members cars will we then start to see some form of action taken. A bit of an attitude like our current Government's... an attitude that I hope won't be resorted to.

God Bless You all!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fanaticism - or Fans - at their Best

Last Wednesday, around two hours before heading off to see the Inter vs. Barcelona game, I was speaking to a friend of mine (ahem, before she rudely abandoned me in mid-conversation!) who asked me if I was going to the Red Carpet Event later on that evening. I promptly replied that I had opted to see the match instead and while she seemed to be a bit disappointed that I was going to watch football instead of spending a night out with friends, she then pondered why it is fine for someone to be a football fanatic and not fine for them to be a God fanatic. This got me thinking a bit.

First, however, before moving onto my arguments, I would like to set the record straight slightly. This argument, I believe, was not intended for me but was very much a generalisation. I believe that in such scenarios, we have to distinguish fully between events that are completely intended for God, such as Youth Meetings and the Mass, and social events that are designed to spend time amongst your friends, even if the majority of these form part of a community. In the case presented here, we are clearly speaking about the latter. It is clearly wrong and irresponsible, especially if you are building up a relationship with God, to abandon Him to watch a football match or do some sort of social activity that would overlap one's participation in getting closer to Him. It goes against the grain of making God the centre-focus of one's life; by doing something such as the above, one is simply placing materialistic items before God. Furthermore, to also close a point that has been lingering on for quite a while, not going a community-based social event does not mean that you are choosing other things, such as football, over Jesus. While the latter point was not a problem with my friend, who didn't even bring this argument up, I have heard it one too many times from certain people in the past to not mention it; so doing so now will indefinitely clear things up.

Having said that (and that indeed was an argument in itself, and probably part of my argument too for that matter), I will tackle the argument of fanaticism. For a start, I'm not of the school of thought that fanaticism, is positive. Fanaticism shows that something is needed in excess; you cannot live without this something in life; it leads you to do things that you might not even want to do. Of course, there is something that we cannot live without in life, and that thing is God. Actually, the word 'thing', I believe, is incorrectly used - I'd rather use the term 'entity' instead. Anyway, some people, in all fairness, opt to do so and survive accordingly, but as practicing Christians, we cannot live without God at any moment in our lives because otherwise our lives will be empty and void. Our lives, in a nutshell, would not be worth living at any moment, any time, and any day. Hence, by elimination, we can say that being a football fanatic is something that is not even a tenth as critical as being a fan of God*. Indeed, nothing is as critical as that.

Therefore, why do we seem to be fine with being football fanatics and not fine with being fans of God? It ultimately boils down to the same issue as always - God seems to be a taboo among people in general, and when people openly admit that they are Christians and that they love living in the Christian way because they really do experience God fully, then they get condemned, criticised and often emarginated for it. Placing football ahead of God is ultimately that that I mentioned earlier - giving an increased level of importance to something materialistic as opposed to giving that increased level of importance to Him. It seems as if for the most part, the general societal perception is that God is not 'cool' enough for such people, and hence society finds it easy to take the mickey out of the segment of society that really does make an effort to be better Christians and incorporate Him more in their lives. While this isn't right, it's unfortunately reality - and as we all know, reality is something that we have to live with.

We, as Christians, must try to change this perception as much as we can; but while it isn't impossible (as nothing is impossible for God), we have to acknowledge fully that we have a major battle on our hands to do so.

God Bless You all!

*Following an important distinction between 'fanaticism' and 'fan', it is important to realise that I have been referring to the latter all throughout. The context has been edited to reflect this.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Back to Reality...

Summer is finally coming to an end, and that means that winter is going to start rearing its relatively ugly head sooner rather than later. Special times lie ahead for us all as the majority of us start another scholastic year, about to venture into the unknown with regards what our new - or old - subjects will consist of. Us law students, for instance, have the horror of having to endure the Law of Obligations (which is a fancy term for Contract Law) and the difficulties associated with the subject; while others, for example those doing European Studies or History of Art as their principal area of study, have to write their thesis with a view to graduating at the end of 2010. We too will graduate, but our degree sadly counts for nothing in today's world.

I can't deny that overall, barring a couple of blips here and there, it has been an outstanding summer for myself. This has been pretty much the first summer ever where I could do what I feel like doing and not be judged for it; it has been a summer which has practically always been surrounded by many a friend. Adventures here and there, a trip abroad at the end of June, two weekends in Gozo... that's just a taster of what it's been like. It's pretty much been better than I expected. I've been able to overcome a barrier that I built up about being extremely conscious of my image and bulging stomach and start going to the beach with more regularity; I managed to get out of the house on a daily basis to go and work and get some hard-earned cash; I managed to understand the true meaning of combining work with leisure. It's been a summer of experiences, of which I do not regret any one bit.

At the same time, I also believe I managed to maintain my relationship with God and not abandon it, as it would have been mightily easy to do so with such a packed timetable. Having friends that bathe in His presence all the time has also managed to help me fulfil this. Also fantastic is the fact that the older youths from the Marana Tha' Community and us youths from Y4J have grown closer as time passed by; to the extent that we're now practically always with one another constantly. This can also be seen through the fact that these people are now coming to Y4J meetings on a regular basis; indeed, I feel the need to reciprocate and start going to Marana Tha' as well in order to experience how they experience God over there, and to try and grow further closer not only to them, but also to Him.

But now, it's almost time to get back to the reality of things - not seeing one another and being in each other's company on a daily basis, not doing what we want to do... just getting back into hardcore study mode. And boy is it needed this year, of all years. It's been great while it lasted though... and as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end!

God Bless You all!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Just Feel Sorry!

In football, we often say that own goals are an unfortunate circumstance. They're things that don't happen extremely often, but when they do, they leave the culprit very much embarrassed, having in no uncertain manner helped the opposing team towards a (more) positive result.

The most sinking feeling, though, is when an own goal leads your opponents to victory. You feel completely at fault for your team's loss, are vilified in the press afterwards and probably grilled by the team coach for being so lacklustre. You know that had you not intervened at that particular moment, then you wouldn't be faced with such problems; although you might be criticised for slackness in defence, letting your marker free etc - all the technical details behind a game of football.

So imagine how Kakhaber Kaladze is currently feeling after scoring not just one, but TWO own goals in Italy's 2-0 win over Georgia. Both were rather aesthetically pleasing goals too, might I add - the first being a bullet header into the roof of the net, while the second was a sliced half-volley which the keeper could not parry due to him in part being crap and in part being stunned at the howler that his team captain was having.

Rumour now has it that AC Milan patron Silvio Berlusconi is thinking of awarding Kaladze with an honorary Italian citizenship for his exploits and telling his coach Leonardo to play him in his preferred position of central defence for the rest of the season. If he continues like this, the next time Inter and Milan meet in the derby, the nerazzurri will probably run out 6-0 winners!

God Bless You all!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Stop, Think and Write

The weird thing about of all this is that when I update my blog, I normally have something to blog about. By elimination of all the logical things that you would associate with blogs, that would probably be THE most logical. Alas, this is a time where logic doesn't really fall into place, as it's one of those times where I really don't have anything in particular to write about. Indeed, at the moment, I'm writing just to say that I'm writing something; for no reason other than that. I don't need to write, I just want to write. I don't need to update my blog, I just feel the need to - even if it is with some useless crap such as this.

Anyway, I'm realising that as time goes by, I'm perhaps becoming more and more impatient and also more easily irritable as a person. It's as if 'old age syndrome' has really set in on me, judging on the way that I'm talking at the moment! I don't know why, it's one of those mysteries of life, I suppose. Patience is a virtue, my mother always tells me, and it's something that I tend to lack. I'm finding myself getting more and more ticked off at when people, including myself, make ridiculously stupid mistakes, for example. Not that I was ever patient in that regard, but anyway.

As contradictory as this sounds though, this summer has taught me, to a certain extent, to control my 'impatience' levels. You see, when you're teaching students who, for the most part, do not know a word of English, you really do have to be patient as the probability is that you'll have to explain various points twice, thrice, four times or even five times until they remotely understand it. I suppose that that patience arises from the fact that 99% of the time, such students didn't know any better - after all, they were here to learn the language and not irritate me with their visible lack of knowledge of it. That's not to say that I lost my temper once or twice with some of my classes this summer, especially with those at Spanish School, who sometimes seemed as willing to learn as much as a wooden spoon would.

It's obvious that it's not the above that bugs me, as otherwise I wouldn't have taken up the job in the first place. It's obvious now that it's something more along the lines of grossly stupid comments or a grossly irritable character that sends me driving up the four walls of my room. And unfortunately, there are so many of these people that it isn't even funny. Granted, you have to grant concessions and be lenient as occasionally, stupidities emerge from all of our mouths; but when these are constant, you have to wonder whether the IQ of the person in question even surpasses a measly 80 or is on the level of George W. Bush.

The solution to all this? There isn't really. I suppose the best thing would be to try and avoid these people at all costs, before I explode into a million smithereens. Anyway, rant over.

God Bless You all!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Story Behind My Brothers and Sisters

You know, being an only child has its pros and its cons. And being in that position that not too many seem to experience nowadays, I feel a comment coming from me on something like this is only apt.

It certainly makes you think. That is why, being in such a position that I am, I often crave for brothers and sisters now. I always ask the question "What if?" and always consider how I would have developed as an individual had I directly had other people around me. I definitely consider the fact that I wouldn't be half as fortunate as I am today, what with my situation and all, but also consider the fact that being there, alone, without company... many a time, it just sucks.

That's why I feel the need to be so close to my friends. The friends that I crave so badly. That's why, I guess, there were moments when I really felt lonely when I wasn't - and everyone else was - at Soul Survivor. You see, when you're an only (I can't believe that that was initially typed as 'old'!!) child, friends become such an integral part of your life to the extent that you can't live without them. Practically ever. I suppose that's exactly the reason why I consider a select group of my friends like my brothers and my sisters. Take note though, there's a difference in calling them brother and sister as opposed to brethren. By virtue of the way how I see things, at least - even though I may not be right in thinking in this manner - brethren are our brothers and sisters in Christ, while brothers and sisters are those people that you can rely on in thick and thin and keep close to your heart at all times. They are our pillars of strength.

Missing Soul Survivor did indeed teach me one thing though - always continue looking for such brothers and sisters, because you can practically never have enough of them. Over the course of the last week, despite the fact that I could have occasionally died of boredom, I'm pleased to say that I managed to find another person who I can add to this list; a person who I've been very fond and held in high regard for quite a while now (and vice-versa), despite our differences. So yeah, welcome to my 'family'. It's not exactly a big one, but slowly slowly, and very selectively, it is growing... though sometimes, you might also have to temporarily or permanently chuck out some members so that you make sure you're always surrounded by the right crowd.

Sorry if this didn't make any sense, I just needed to get it off my chest. And on a side note, thank goodness - THEY'RE BACK! (even though its now been two days and hence this blog is, I guess two days late in its publication.)

God Bless You all!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

And that Time has come Again...

Please note that this blog might indeed not make sense. It isn't being written to do so. It's being written to vent, as a form of frustration, as a means of wanting to cry.

It's August 11. Tomorrow morning, as I'm waking up at 7.25, preparing for work, I should in reality be at the airport awaiting a flight to England. Indeed though, I'm not. It's that time of year where Soul Survivor is back upon us. It's that time of year where this website will nearly celebrate its one year anniversary - this blog was created post-SS so that I could relate to how pepped up and how charged with God's energy I came back from Shepton Mallet last year. Alas though, as I said, this year... it's just not to be.

And boy oh boy does the night before the majority of your friends going up to feeling that whole amazingness of God stink. Granted, not being with a lot of my friends for a week is something hard to cope with, but one that I'll get over as I'm that kind of person. I can live by myself, without any qualms. It's the fact that God's incredible power is felt so much at SS and that I won't be able to be part of it and feel it in the same manner that I did last year that is the real let down. At first, I was living with it, I was coping with it, I felt I could manage to conceal it in the same way that I conceal a lot of the other things that go on in my life. In a nutshell, I managed to tolerate it. At the pre-SS party, I was starting to get a bit nostalgic about it all, but still managing - perhaps admirably - to fend off any emotion. But now, I just can't any longer. Seriously. It's like I'm a time bomb that has just exploded.

But you know, there is a positive to all this. It really shows how much closer I've become to God over the last year or so. I don't think I would have ever even envisaged writing such a piece one and a half years ago, and yet, look at me today. I believe that this shows that I cannot do without being close to God; without God. And you know, this whole issue might just make me pray more over the course of the week and make me all the stronger by the end of it all.

So bye to all those going up tomorrow morning - Mark, Jeremy, Lanfranco, Mike, Matt, Bettina, Achie, Krissie, Becky, Nicola... all of you, insomma - and really place your energy and your prayers, especially for the first-timers, into getting further close to God. It's something that works and something that is seriously irreplaceable. And while you're there, pray that I don't melt in the sweltering heat that one of my buildings at work possesses because fuses randomly go off in the middle of the day, leaving the place devoid of electricity.

God Bless You all!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

And the Hypocrite of the Year Award goes to...

... The Maltese Local Wardens for the theme of "Law Enforcement" vis-a-vis the example that they themselves promote. In this case, the warden would be liable for three offences - parking on a double yellow line, parking too close to the corner of another road and not parking within one of the designated white parking bays found in the street.

This photo was taken in Howard Street, Sliema (ok, yes, while driving) as the wardens in question were having a coke and a relaxing chat with a man who owns a greengrocer van.

God Bless You all!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Lamentations of a Sick Person

Slightly blocked nose, sleepy eyes and the occasional irritable cough. An exterior facet of myself at the moment would simply lead you to believe that I have slight version of the common cold, which develops around four times faster than my resistance to it does, judging on how many times a year I fall ill with one of these perpetual pests. Yet, ridiculously, this hullabaloo has descended into my chest and as a result of this, I'm on antibiotics to solve/cure/remedy the problem. Fantastic, just what on earth you want to face during the summer months.

Well, it gives me time to update my blog because people currently naturally don't want me around them. I always felt that was the case, but anyway. I can understand the whole notion of being in isolation but anyway, I think it would have made more sense had it applied to everyone as basically, around 50% of the people that I know have some kind of a cold. I guess it's that kind of season in Malta, then. Now I'll be looking into whether I'll be "banned" from going out tomorrow (Wednesday) as well. The stupid thing is that I know I'm not going to feel any better by staying inside, as I'm just mixing existing germs with new found ones. Anyway, needless to say, I'm not one to be given orders and will not stand for any crap that people proclaim. Basically, I'm going to do what I want to do. Hence, even next Sunday for example, if I want to come to the pre-Soul Survivor party just to spite (a) certain individual(s), then I jolly well am going to do so. You know, it's actually good to be an asshole in certain circumstances.

Otherwise, life isn't too bad at the moment. Obviously, me being sick has resulted in me staying here and not going to work in order to not spread the germs to my co-workers; I have to take them into consideration and not the students who I'd be teaching as the latter didn't exactly show much consideration towards me when they were sick for the majority of their three week stay on the island! I'm actually stunned at how long it took for me to get sick, considering the rather terrible immune system that I possess. Trying to incorporate a social life into a working one has, however, been a major challenge for me, one which I feel that so far has worked quite well. Although more often than not I've had to leave places relatively early so as to be at work on time and intact the next morning, which can be irritating, I feel that being able to incorporate both spheres of work and leisure into my life has made me become a more complete person and even appreciate further the time that I have with my friends, time which I now cannot take for granted as much as I used to before.

And to keep the blog rather short, I will sign off here. A final word of thought goes out to the Psaila family, in particular Simon, whose mother passed away this morning. Knowing first hand what it is like to lose a dear, loved one, you are constantly in my thoughts and prayers through this difficult time, but you will ultimately find solace in God.

God Bless You all!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Heal the World...

Make it a better place
For you and for me
And the entire human race
There are people dying
If you care enough
For the living
Make a better place
For you and for me

Finally, the blog I've been waiting to write for a rather lengthy period of time!

Perhaps a positive thing to come out of Michael Jackson's life was this song. The lyrics to it are amazing beyond belief and can be interpreted on so many different levels, as well as can be applied to anything and everything. However, the main message behind it all is that the world is currently in a state of degeneration and that we have to act before it is way too late for us to do so. And believe it or not, Michael Jackson is right.

Take it from an environmental level, for example. Jackson said that if we care enough for the living, then we should make [the world] a better place for you and for me. Yes, we have EU-set targets regarding pollution, carbon emissions and other things so that the world can eventually be a better, more sustainable place for our children and our children's children to live in, but unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that we continue to pollute and harm the environment more and more day after day. Myself included, unfortunately (switches off air-conditioning). How will out current activities haphazardly affect future generations? And looking even at our lives, are our own actions as well as those of our predecessors going to really be costly when we approach the latter stages of life?

What about the level of poverty? We all know that there are many families in the world struggling to make ends meet in many circumstances, so should we, as developed countries, continue to increase such a burden on the citizens of these countries as well? Humanitarian aid is undoubtedly needed here; and furthermore, I believe that such aid would also be part of a major solution to problems such as illegal immigration. Part of the EU's budget allegedly goes to such third world countries in order to help them fund solutions to the problems that they face. But giving money is simply not enough - it's useless having money if you don't know how to spend it. Hence, the money should be invested not only in the basic necessities such as housing and clean water for everybody, but also education for younger and older generations so that they learn how things should be done. Of course, much of this is idealistic (in terms of how such things can be implemented), and unfortunately, will probably remain this way for many a year to come.

However, my main thought about how the world could be healed and made a better place is through Jesus. It is of great concern that there are many people who are now converting to the Muslim religion and that this is growing and slowly becoming a stronger world influence. Nowadays, for example, 16% of the French population is Muslim. If numbers remained at those levels, then it would (kind of) be fine, but the reality is that everything in this regard is on the increase. Proof of this is not just shown via the conversion rate, but also by the marked lack of Christian births vis-a-vis Muslim births. There is a strong need for evangelisation to take place, for us Christians to spread Jesus' word for the word that it is and make this world a better and righteous place. This is not to say that I am condemning other religions, but the main purpose behind this message is to continue to ensure that people know that Jesus died for them on the Cross.

Recently, I was told a story that regarded a conversion of faith. One person constantly kept on telling the head of a gang that Jesus loved them; eventually, this person was threatened with death if he said the phrase "Jesus loves you" one more time. This individual told the gang leader that even if he cut him up into 1,000 pieces, each piece would still say that "Jesus loves you". The gang leader then converted. As difficult as it may be, we have to have blind faith in Jesus and His mission for us all - no matter how different that may be - as well his plan for the world. We have to believe that as Jesus' representatives on earth, we are called by Him to indeed make that world a better place, for you and for me and the entire human race. We have to stomp out the deaths of Christianity, i.e. eliminate those conversions from Christianity to another religion, and really proclaim that which He told us. We also have to stop turning away from Jesus and moving towards deviant things, as unfortunately often happens especially during teenage; and stick by his side through thick and thin. Having said that, there is no doubt that even if we do walk away from Jesus, He still loves us so much that He will welcome us back with open arms at any time, just like the father did in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

I will conclude here, but remember - we're here to make the world a better place! Like what is often done in scouts, one's motto in life should be to leave a place better than how one found it at the beginning of something. Why can't we invest some time into something that is so precious not just to use, but also to future generations?

Heal the World guys.

God Bless You all!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Major Downfall in our Lives

This is STILL not the topic that I wanted to blog about; indeed, I believe that I will be blogging about that topic come July, after my trip to Strasbourg and Brussels. Or I'll just continue procrastinating in that regard until I really do feel like sitting down and writing a lengthy essay/argumentation on that topic in particular. Rest assured though readers, whoever you may be, I haven't forgotten what I want to write about.

Today's blog, however, takes me to something that I believe is quite important, yet there mightn't be too much to talk about. It's about the notion of peer pressure. It's a notion that, in my opinion, kills others. It's a notion that stinks. And yet, it's a notion that many a time, we subscribe to because we're either not mentally strong enough to resist it and/or so that we prove that we can be like other people as well. Of course, not everything amounts to peer pressure - far from it - but one might be surprised at how many times we do come across this in our lives.

One clear example that affected me personally was the ticket sale for the upcoming Ministry of Sound Festival, for which quite a few of my friends were selling tickets. Apart from the fact that I'm off abroad tomorrow and hence wouldn't have been able to make it anyway, I stated, from the offset, that I didn't want to go to it. As many people know, I'm not a party animal in the least - whether that's to my detriment or advantage, I'm yet to find out - and so when things like this crop up, I either very very rarely go along to such parties or just skip out on them altogether. I simply do not enjoy them, there is no other explanation for it.

As I mentioned, some of my friends were selling such tickets. Indeed, their marketing ploys were quite ingenious, if I say so myself, and I don't blame them - after all, they're probably earning commission on these tickets, and the more they sell, the more people come and the more commission they get. So initially, I was asked whether I intended to attend tonight's festival, to which I gave a prompt 'no' as a reply. Once. Twice. Thrice. Four times. By the fourth time, it was evident enough that I was trying to be forced into attending this party - reasons used to try and convince me were that there were going to be many of my friends there and that the party would be attended by eight international DJs. All fine and dandy, but I stuck to my guns and continued to refuse to purchase a ticket, citing it to be a waste of money for myself. Of course, even that statement was used against me, as I was told that I was generalising by saying that like that, everyone was wasting their money when it wasn't the case, and that it was "my loss" if I didn't attend. I was even offered a complimentary ticket and I also turned it down. To put it in a short sentence, I rejected everyone's offers and ploys. And as a consequence, I didn't succumb to peer pressure.

Another such example of peer pressure stems from something so common to many of us as well - attending Y4J or Community. It's no secret that every move that we make and every action that we do is scrutinised much more than that of the ordinary reasonable man in the street, as we are meant to be the people giving out positive messages and examples to society. Indeed, it comes as no surprise to me that teenagers who are just starting to go out to Paceville on Friday evenings are either pressured into drinking excessively with their friends in order to not feel left out of the crowd or in order to match such friends' exploits, for instance. However, this doesn't mean that one shouldn't go out, have a couple of drinks and not enjoy himself or herself. On the contrary, pleasure is an important aspect of people's lives - the most important thing though is that people know their limitations and don't succumb to doing anything stupid. On the other hand, it also comes as no surprise to me when such friends try to convince you to do otherwise with your life; more often that not leading these people down the wrong paths. It's part of a vicious life cycle; it happens; it is present among us. In my opinion, we have to be mentally strong to reject these overtures that other people offer us, because while they might initially look fantastic to the eye; in reality, it's far from the case.

I'm in no way condemning anything or anyone here, but the message behind this is that if you don't want to go to something, no matter how much people believe otherwise and try and convince you to the contrary, then follow what your head and heart say, and not what other people's heads and hearts believe. Sometimes it actually takes a hard-headed individual to stand up for his or her own beliefs in life and not succumb to peer pressure and, indeed, perhaps I am such a hard-headed individual. However, if through my head-headedness I can give an example of how to lead a better life, then so be it; perhaps God is using one of my generally negative tools for good to be done!

God Bless You all!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Electric Shock

Well, I was going to write a blog about something else today, or sometime in the future, as my next blog, but I think I'll put that on hold as I don't really feel like thinking at the moment and I also don't exactly have the time to do so. So I think I'll talk electricals instead.

Yesterday was a bit of a pants day to say the least as the uber-competent staff at Enemalta ensured that there was not just one fault, but two major faults that occurred within the same day, hence rendering the island completely devoid of electricity, unless one was the owner of a generator (which would have definitely come in useful). I'm generally not one to complain about Malta, unless it comes to the pitiful state of our roads, but I felt that yesterday was a bit way over the top. Thank goodness I was driving around with the Air Conditioning on 90% of the time, as otherwise I would have boiled myself to death.

Blackouts do occur from time to time but you do expect workers to be able to fix any potential faults within the next hour, and not take a total of four or five hours per fault to restore electricity to the island, as like what happened yesterday. At my house, for instance, the lights didn't come on before midnight, which is downright shameful. The overall result of this is that there is a loss of commerce, a loss of patience and plenty more hot-heads than we already have roaming the island.

Yesterday's events and their subsequent consequences got me thinking that it's high time that Enemalta were rid of the monopoly that they have over the water and electricity supply on the island(s) and some competition was introduced. First and foremost, we would be seeing the end of the sky high bills that come once bimonthly, as prices would be reduced drastically due to the fact that Enemalta would be competing against another company, or other companies. Secondly, this would also ensure that the arrogance within the corporation itself - starting from their Chairman, Ing. Alexander Tranter - is eliminated. During a recent speech, for instance, Ing. Tranter claimed at how dedicated Enemalta are to giving the best service to all Maltese by focusing on various projects; something which, if you had to ask me, is a bunch of bull because seeing that they're the only provider on the island, they can continue doing that that they are currently doing, i.e. charging exorbitant rates for an inadequate (and that's putting it mildly!) service. Thirdly, this would also provide the Maltese with another electricity grid to fall back upon if such another power fault crops up. Such a power company does not have to be based in Malta; indeed, it can be based in Sicily and be linked to Malta via an underwater cable. The only snag is that Enemalta are also embarking on this project to connect the islands to the European grid.

Oh well, how you wish things could sometimes change.

God Bless You all!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Summer, Summer and more of Summer

It's good to be free! And might I add, with nothing to do and, furthermore, nothing to write, this blog will once again depart my normal writing style...

Summer officially commenced the best part of 46.5 hours ago, at the time of writing, and although my first day off was weird to say the least, mainly because I came home to sleep after Criminal Law and I was just drained from all the studying! As I initially couldn't grasp what to do with, well, nothing to do, things have now started falling into place slowly slowly and the routine of having full days without studying is sinking in.

Surprisingly, I haven't been waking up half as late as I expected to be up. In all fairness, I found it easier to procrastinate in bed and get back to sleep when I needed to study as opposed to doing that now - no matter how early or how late I'm sleeping! The mind boggles, I guess...

I'm a tad disappointed because I got my official start date for work yesterday afternoon, and I end up by starting on July 14! That's a month from now... oh well, blame it on the credit crunch, I guess. This is what happens when you need cash so much because, well, you're so devoid of it... dramatic irony to say the least!

Yesterday was fantastic :) Got myself out of the messy, rugged look that I had with a three-week old beard and hair that hadn't been cut for two months, so now I'm once again a skin head and clean shaven. You could say that I look like a normal potato as opposed to a hairy potato now :) Then went to Lanf for a while because Lanf is Lanf and it's always worth going to his place :) and then headed off to Ghadira in the afternoon for some fun in the sun with friends! Needless to say; actually, as is always the case, I had to encounter some kind of adventure while on the road and yesterday was no exception - traffic in Salina at the weirdest of times, 10 past 2 in the afternoon, as well as me allegedly nearly crashing into Drea's mother. I'll say this for the 5th or 6th time now, when you're turning a roundabout - and I was when Drea's mother was driving up to it - then it the car who is turning the roundabout who has the right of way! The drive home from Ghadira was also a class act ;) And everyone seems to agree with me on this apart from Drea :p And insomma, then Nicola's 18th in the evening was superb, thanks Nic :)

Before I go, a shout out to Becky from here as she's either just off or about to jet off to Cambridge as I type :) Enjoy it and make the most of it Bec!

I now know what I will be writing about in my next blog; a more serious topic naturally, but I will not reveal until I start writing!

God Bless You all!

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Lack of Reflection

Well, it's been practically a whole week since my last blog, which generated quite a debate to say the least; a debate that I was very pleased about. In the meantime, a whole host of students have finished their exams and are already enjoying the fruits of not doing anything academically-related for a while as their summer has started, and that also means that my entertainment during these dragging times, such as Lanfranco's vlogs, will probably be no more as of the latest installment today... Anyway, as of the time of writing, 5 days, 12 hours and 35 minutes are left until I too can start to enjoy my freedom!

Tomorrow is the day where, according to estimates, around 62% of eligible voters will head to the polls for the second time in 15 months, this time to determine who will be representing Malta in the European Parliament. And while today we're meant to be "reflecting" on how the electoral campaigns have developed and who should be getting our votes, I'm still blogging about it because I don't abide by the rules. Oh, and by the way, some of us - myself included - have Local Council Elections to contend with as well, but I'm not very bothered about those because Councils do jack. When the Council magazine pops into my mailbox once every two months and I open it up to see what projects the Council has undertaken in this period of time, I practically want to start crying when, for instance, they say that they created a "traffic management" scheme in Triq Salvu Bonanno by literally painting a white oval line in the middle of a massively asphalted area. Pathetic.

So, back to my point. Tomorrow, we will be voting for five candidates who we believe are ideal to represent us in the European Parliament for the next 5 years. Or, alternatively, for any amount of time as they may wish, provided an opportunity to become Leader of one of Malta's main political parties arises due to death or simply the incapability of those running the show at either end of the political spectrum at the moment in time. I'm not one to normally show political apathy, but in this case, I can't help but do so. The Nationalist Party know that they're heading for a heavy defeat at tomorrow's polls, and the Labour Party know that they're heading for a landslide victory, just as they did in 2004.

And quite frankly, I couldn't care less. All we've heard - generally - is that these candidates, be it from whatever political tendencies that they might have, are definitely the best to represent us in Europe because of a plethora of reasons, some of which don't even have anything to do with the European Union. My opinion is that all these candidates are going to be there to represent the best interests of their pockets come the full implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, which will see the five (six) elected representatives pocket a cool €400,000 a year, excluding all the perks, expenses, accommodation etc. That works out to a salary of €8,333.33 a week; you could be mistaken that these people would be playing football for a professional club with such wages. So yes, we're essentially voting, first and foremost, for these people to pick up a big pay cheque.

I don't really see the European Parliament as an institution that works. Fine, its power will be increasing with the ratification of Lisbon, but what has really affected Malta via the European Parliament since our entry into the EU? Simon Busuttil might have presented an incredibly important report on irregular immigration, but Frontex has hardly helped solved our problems. On the contrary, they seemed to increase. Italy, on the other hand, seem to have really got the message across by sending boatloads of immigrants back to source, because unless I'm living in dreamland, I haven't really heard of any incidents involving the arrival of such immigrants since the last boat that was sent back to Africa. Further to that, the only important piece of news is that Busuttil was the most active MEP, and David Casa attended most plenary sessions. Otherwise though, there's practically no news regarding Malta that comes out of the European Parliament, whose function, it seems, is just to give their assent to newly-promulgated European Law and approve the European budget.

To conclude, as I don't want this blog to be too long, I'll just say that I will nonetheless be voting tomorrow despite these factors that I've mentioned, added to the fact that these people are going to be elected nonetheless even if I don't vote, so I might as well have my say as long as democracy permits me to do so. Furthermore, despite how arrogant the Government has become and how lacklustre the last 15 months have been for Malta overall, I will still be voting for the Nationalist candidates based on their European track record over the last 5 years, and nothing more than that. It's been difficult for me to consider European issues over national ones, but that's exactly what has to be done in such a circumstance. While the EP is a bit of a big joke, at least the PN seem to treat less as such as opposed to the PL. And I'm not even going into the merits of whether they are still anti-EU or not, I think that now this is a consideration that should be dropped once and for all, albeit still valid in a sense. Anyway, as long as idiots like Glenn Bedingfield don't get elected once again...

God Bless You all!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Community, in Every Sense of the Word

Good morning, everyone.

On the drive home last night, I realised that sometimes there is nothing better than having a one-to-one conversation with the sole passenger in your car. Which, naturally, I duly did when I took Ivan home after hanging out, yet again (though less successfully than last week, if you catch my drift!) at Surfside. Now, while generally our conversations border on the utterly ridiculous, mimicking one another over Concrete, Fluid Mechanics, Structures, Commercial Law and Administrative Law, among other crazy topics, this time we actually decided to talk serious. We decided to talk about the Pentecost Vigil that we had both attended at St. Paul's Bay earlier on in the evening.

We both agreed wholeheartedly that it was probably one of the most boring things that we had ever attended, as a community, in our lives. It isn't inaccurate to say that the Vigil was dragging in nature, more dragging than that that we expected, to be quite honest. The nature of the whole ceremony made many a person, ourselves included, incredibly impatient and frustrated. And it was the same kind of frustration that the general public would feel whenever Mourinho would give some sort of a speech, so that definitely wasn't good at all. We also both agreed that maybe we shouldn't have gone to the Vigil because of these reasons.

However, Ivan then brought up a very valid point. He said that at Y4J, we tend to put the fun into worshipping God, and that's a big reason why people continue to come back and worship, and subsequently build a relationship with God. Which is fine, naturally, because it's as if you're "killing two birds with one stone". After doing it for the first time, however, and getting used to it, it practically becomes easy to do this. He continued by saying that this can be fully contrasted to the ceremony that we just attended, which was drab, dragging and boring to say the least. Due to our popular notion of praising God in a 'cool way', we tend to forget that there are other ways of praising God and indeed being in His presence as well, such as this. The reality is that the Church, in Malta at least, isn't like Y4J or Community, with live worship to indeed help people feel God's presence, but is totally different and sticks to more traditional notions; notions which us, as youths and teenagers, seem to commonly forget. As a result, if we don't integrate ourselves into the Church, then we will simply remain a bubble extraneous to it, so maybe in that sense, we do need to change.

Continuing on the notion of the Church, I then commented that the Church in Malta however does not have a mentality worthy of the year 2009, but one that is 30 to 40 years in the past. There is no sense of modernisation or reform happening in the Church in order to keep up with the times, it is essentially just stuck in the times when Vatican II emerged, i.e. the times when John XXIII was Pope. Granted, this is a massive improvement from hearing Mass in Latin (God forbid!) and priests not facing the crowd when saying their homilies, to quote Ivan, but these are reforms that happened donkeys years ago now. Sometimes, I believe that the Mass, albeit extremely significant, is intangible and incommunicable with the current times. And unfortunately, such reform cannot simply start from the priests themselves, or from the people - although they must all play a part - but from the Pope. There seems to be a drastic need for a Vatican III to emerge; something which, however, both Ivan and I were of the belief that it might have happened under John Paul II, God bless his soul, but will definitely not happen under Benedict XVI.

The Church really has to be the ultimate meeting point for a community, in every sense of the word. At the moment, while it is trying to promote this notion, I believe that it is unfortunately failing at this and is actually driving away more people from the Church instead of drawing them towards this.

I hope you understood my points outlined above; I'm sorry if they're slightly incoherent but I needed to get this off my chest and placed in writing before I forget it upon waking up tomorrow morning and not even having time to blog due to studies.

God Bless You all!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Of Countdowns and Observations

While the build up on my MSN nickname has been intense as ever in the last 14 odd days, today, the official countdown to the end of exams - and eventual promotion to LL.B. III (already!) - has now started with the completion of exam one out of four. At the time of writing, us law students are precisely 1 week, 6 days, 11 hours and 45 minutes away from freedom! Anyway, I'm happy to announce that Commercial Law remained as predictable as the past papers indicated it would be, and I'm also happy to announce that that will probably be the easiest 10 credit exam that I sat for in my life. Seriously. Let's now hope that the Commercial honchos aren't the worst or strictest of markers out there, to the extent that they have to get off their high horses to appreciate that with studying, the student can produce some good answers in an exam.

Onto this afternoon's happenings, where I was drafted into EF for Teaching Observation. To be honest, I didn't go in with many high hopes because I thought it would be a waste of time, but I actually ended up by realising how much one can learn from others with a certain amount of experience, no matter how short the sessions at hand are. This doesn't mean that I will not be adopting my own teaching style come when I settle into the job at the end of June, despite my inexperience, but it did help calm my fears about teaching being a real hard ordeal. When one has textbooks at his disposal, the ordeal automatically becomes a hell of a lot easier, and then it's simply up to the teacher to be in control of the class. At least, that's how I felt it.

And in a blog that is bereft of ideas, I might as well fill up another mini-paragraph with one common sentiment: for the one time that I went there to study; last Thursday, to be precise, because of the presence of the maid at home; I actually miss Room 101! Okay, maybe not the room itself, but the company that is associated with it. Seeing that I feel capable of getting more content done at home, this has kind of left people like myself a bit socially deprived during the week due to the fact that, well, I'm staying indoors! On the other end of the scale, however, I really am thanking God that I didn't take Architecture as a course at University... while I, and other law students, might be going bonkers over Administrative and Criminal Law now, our 'bonkers' is simply nothing compared to that suffered in Architecture. I actually pity the people there... and a clear example of what they're passing through can be seen and illustrated clearly by none other than the ever-increasingly popular Lanf! ;)

God Bless You all!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Nous sommes Francais, et nous buvons trop ce soir.

What better way to spend your evening on a beach, with one too many guitars playing away, in the midst of exam time just before summer?

Well, post-Y4J, that's what we did last night. And while I was seeing both this and my pizza from Surfside, which cost me the best part of a tasteless €7.50, as slightly extra at around 11pm, I can now safely look back and say that you should have no regrets about what you do in life. Whether you sing to your heart's content, whether you die swimming with sharks, whether you kill someone in a car accident... ok, yes, maybe you should live to regret the latter. But you get my point, it turned out being one quite enjoyable night by the end of it all.

It's a pity that some people weren't there, as they missed the humorous bit of it all. After the majority left, to the extent that we were a group of around 12 people, we had an adoring audience looking down at us from the Tower Road promenade above. They were French. And while we initially thought that they would just peer and move on, like many other people did, these decided to come down and listen to us play and sing away. And poor Matt just had to get the worst bit of it all, with these three French women all looking on in awe at him. Poor chap, I actually pitied him - if they were somewhat attractive, I don't think I'd be writing in this manner, but calling him one lucky chap instead.

Well, naturally, for them not to be disappointed, and to be at least slightly courteous on our behalf, we tried seeing which songs we could either play or sing along to that they also knew about. In their alcohol-induced state. Obviously, what with the difference in cultures, finding common ground was about as common as finding a pothole in our roads. Two, three, possibly four songs later - we had exhausted our list and them seemingly theirs - we just resorted to playing our own thing, and went to worship songs. And this was after we played Mike's 'wildcard' song, James Blunt's "Beautiful", to them as well. Anyhow, while this makes us people - me excluded - dance sometimes out of the grace of God, this actually started to make some of them dance as if there were dancing to some form of tango. Weird.

The worst bit though was that the more we wanted them to leave - which they finally did, at around 1am - the more they actually stayed on (adoring Matt and staring at the stars in awe)! This, we could see, was interspersed with the occasional cigarette, drink, and piss further down the beach for a couple of this group. How touching. The cherry on the cake is when they finally left though, and they thought that we were performing for them, as they asked poor Mike now (yes, poor Mike) for his mobile number so that they find out when we would next be on the beach. (I'm sorry, I still can't resist the laughs right now!) Yes, of course, any number was taken down out of common courtesy, but I'm 150% sure that we aren't giving these people a call before our next "gig".

The motto of this story? "Nous sommes Francais, et nous buvons trop ce soir."

Au revoir, and God Bless You all!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Random (Miscellaneous) Occurrences

I think I'll fit in a short blog from the comfort of my bed before I get under the sheet and into my dreams. I'm also already half-asleep as it stands so please forgive me if there are any typos or any form of poor English. It happens when you're tired.

Today was an eventful yet uneventful day. Of course, it consisted in the normal amount of study time - today was my second scheduled day in which to study, and conclude, the notions of rape. I ably managed to do so by 5 p.m.; I feel that that was quite an achievement. I think tomorrow I'll study about managers in Commercial Law in order to vary the different topics that I have. I've been doing Criminal for around the last 5 days or so now and, to be honest, it's starting to get a bit annoying looking at the same provisions of the law day in, day out. So there's no better solution to that other than by looking at different laws instead! Oh well, on this point, I will cheer up, for surely anything is better than studying concrete or fluid mechanics...

Good old QIQ. It always has some kind of new problem, the poor car that has been through so much under my totalitarian regime. Today's episode was a slow puncture, or so I believed. So I decided to be a smart guy this morning and drive on it down to the nearest tyre guy. Luckily for me, after a thorough check, it turns out there was no slow puncture at all, and the tyre just needed to be inflated. Oh well, I'm not one who likes to get my hands messy in this regard and I'll be the first to say that I haven't checked my tires in kingdom come. Or around 2 months. But at least only the right indicator remains problematic at this stage in time.

Today I took to the football pitch for what I believe has got to be the final game of the season. At least pre-exams. And I realised that as soon as you take a week off, due to the flu in my case, you suddenly lose match fitness in the blink of an eye. True, we didn't play for that long today - an hour and ten minutes to be precise, of which 45 of them must have been in goal - but I felt rather exhausted by the end of it all. Not even the sudden downpour of Gatorade into my body straight afterwards could really revitalise and reenergise me. It must also be due to the heat; summer really and truly is on us now. Or if it's not, it's just around the corner. For those who are interested in the game, there were around a million goals scored at either end, so it was a rather open match.

And I will conclude on that note, as well as a personal thank you to Krissie once again (this is what, around the fifth time I'm saying this tonight?) on teaching me how to print screen on the MacBook. The thing is that I desperately wanted a photo of myself (you can see on my Facebook profile picture if interested) but there was no way to just right click and save, because the photographer is kindly asking for the grand total of €6 for a print. Meaning that supposedly, it's not even obtainable in electronic format. Anyhow, I obviously (embarrassingly) didn't know how to do the wretched thing, but now I've learnt how and I've actually just been asked by another MacBook user how to do it. I've related the command successfully. Ah, you learn something new everyday. :)

God Bless You all!

Monday, May 18, 2009

I'm in Love With a Fairytale...

... even though it hurts! Boy, is that song sticking in my head. It's got something to it which cheers me up whenever I attempt singing it, such as when writing notes. I just smile at it. Ah, well, weird.

Anyway, in what is rapidly becoming as addictive as Facebook, another post comes by your way today. And this time, it's about my poor self. As today, I decided to subject myself to studying what is almost definitely one of the most gruesome and descriptive topics in Criminal Law, that being the topic of rape.

Yes, us second year law students learn about rape. Needless to say, my volumes of notes on the topic are quite graphic, giving us poor souls plenty of ideas about how rape occurs, the different ways of it occurring, and other things. I don't think I really want to go into further detail than that, not because it's not apt (which it most certainly is not), but simply because I don't think it's right to start remembering that that I wrote during the day at around 10 past 11 at night.

These series of days leading up to my (our) final examinations are going to be uneventful to say the least. They mostly consist of waking up in the morning, having breakfast, studying, having lunch, studying, having dinner, possibly some more studying, free time on the computer and sleep. Subject to interspersed breaks during the study periods, as well as a final football game of the season (I managed to get myself fit just in time for the match due to me suffering from the flu last week) tomorrow evening.

This evening that plan was disrupted slightly as, seeing that I study in the kitchen and the living room is adjacent to it, and my mother wanted to see her favourite programme Days of Our Lives at quarter past 6, I had to retire for the day, especially considering that afterwards, I had to start getting ready for a family dinner. Normally, I don't enjoy these that much. You can understand why - I'm the youngest in the entire family and I'm 20. My eldest cousin is 31. HUGE gap. Oh well, in all fairness, time passed by quite quickly today and I actually didn't mind it at all, for a change. I guess it's nice to get together with the whole family sometimes just to be with them, even though my mouth, for once, didn't do much of the talking as I was stuffing it with spare ribs and, subsequently, After Eight ice-cream.

I think that's it for today. I don't really have much more to add on... I don't care if I lose my mind... I'm already cursed...

And yes, I acknowledge that the title of this blog, for once, has nothing to do with its content. :)

God Bless You all!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Take Three vs. Three, Two and Twenty-Two

Something other than Sexual Offences in Criminal Law must be really stimulating me to write, as I can't believe that I'm blogging for the third time this week. And this time, it's an attempt at a reduced amount of words because everyone seems to like reading my blogs but then can't get past the halfway mark because they're simply too long! And I know that this little statement isn't exactly helping my cause, but anyway...

Well, this is kind of going to be a continuation of my previous blog. Because I'm simply too smug to let sleeping dogs lie.

I told you so. (And yes, that did need to be bolded and italicised.)

In my last entry, I mentioned - in a nutshell - that Chiara's third participation in the Eurovision was likely to be her downfall. And I was right. Despite giving what was, in my opinion, an extremely strong rendition of What if We, she only managed to garner a massively disappointing 31 points and finish 4th from last. In other words, in 22nd place. And this was something that Valerie, commenting uselessly on TVM, managed to describe as an 'achievement' for us because we actually reached the final. As soon as she said that, I was about to bang my head on the closest thing that was near me. Thank goodness I didn't, because poor Jeremy or Paul wouldn't have been feeling too great this morning.

Malta thought that the tried and tested formula for Eurovision success would once again work, even though the competition was at its strongest for the last few years. Europe thought otherwise. Truth be told, Malta did not deserve to finish 22nd and, based on her semi-final performance, Chiara should have actually been placing somewhere between 12th and 15th spot. Her song was definitely better than some of the trash that was placed on display last night. Alas, it was not to be. Furthermore, the introduction of national juries ended up by having little or no impact whatsoever on the 'neighbourly voting' scheme, as we saw the douze points go to Spain from Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina from Montenegro and, the surprise of the night, Greece from Cyprus.

So yes, the Eurovision was once again a great show, it provided us with laughter aplenty, and was dubbed an entertainment contest for all. And, in the true Eastern European spirit of the contest, it also had an Asian country, in Azerbaijan, placing 3rd overall. Though the song wasn't all too bad.

And to conclude a slimmed-down, shorter post (yay, I managed!), I also feel that Norway fully deserved their victory. A catchy song that really did capture Europe and Western Asia's imagination, the indication of this being not only the various amount of 12 point votes that they got from participating countries; but also the massive gap between its entry and that of the 2nd-placed nation, Iceland.

God Bless You all!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Eurovision Fever(?)

Ah, it's 5 minutes to midnight on a Friday evening as I start writing this, and I'm actually surprised that I have something to write about after a rather barren spell of late and a blog earlier on in the week. It's a bit like a striker who doesn't score goals for a while in football actually: once he hits the back of the net, most times, he continues scoring freely as that goal has given him the required necessary confidence to do what he does best. So this means that I should be flowing with ideas shortly, if you had to apply the same logic to my blogs, I guess.

Well, tomorrow (read: tonight) is Eurovision night. And for the first time in the last three attempts, Malta has actually made it to the final 25 entries. And, to put the record straight, it isn't down to televoting and all the Eastern bloc hullabaloo that normally surrounds the Eurovision Song Contest. It's down to Malta's star on the stage, Chiara, who I really wish the best of luck to from here. I sincerely hope that she will do well once again, and also make Malta, as a nation, even prouder of her. But while Chiara's entry draws plenty of positives and strikes the neutral as potentially being among a very select bunch of true songs where the singer and his/her voice is the focal point of the whole performance, it also brings about a couple of negative points.

For a start, from Malta's perspective, this is the third time that she will represent us at the contest, having managed third place in 1998 with The One that I Love and second place in 2005 with Angel. Both times she has been very unfortunate not to win those contests, so one might argue that this could be third time lucky for her. I think it's a bit different though. Chiara's participation does not augur well for the Maltese Islands in general, which is probably being perceived by its fellow European countries as not having talent other than Chiara herself. And while this is not true because there are plenty of capable people on our shores, they might have a point. Chiara obviously sets a massively high standard when it comes to the contest which practically nobody - barring Ira Losco, when she performed admirably in 2002 (having yet another potential victory from Malta robbed from her grasp) - can match. Truth be told, Morena was a flop last year, Olivia Lewis should have never competed in the first place and Fabrizio is simply... Fabrizio; the less said about him the better. Malta needs to develop its talent better for the big occasion if it is indeed to successfully continue competing in the Eurovision Song Contest, because otherwise it is just a waste of people's time, money and resources.

Secondly, while this entry obviously does not do the following, Malta has tried and failed at sending attempted copies of the previous year's winning entry to the contest. Unfortunately in this regard, Malta lacks creativity and originality except in the field of ballads, which is a restricted field anyway. A quick analysis of things would show that last year, Malta tried appealing to Eastern Europe with a song entitled Vodka, even though Maltese delegates were at pains to stress that this was not the case. The 2007 entry Vertigo was also, in its own weird way, a poor attempt at imitating Ruslana's 2004 winning entry, what with the gong songs being played at sporadic intervals and Lewis trying to sing like the famed Ukrainian. Malta has to come to the reality that unless a ballad is entered by the public into the contest, they have to find ways to be original in this sense. The Eurovision Song Contest, in this regard, has actually become the Eurovision Entertainment Contest, and it is true to say that rarely do we see performances that do not include some kind of dance, or a load of performing males or females in the background, winning in this day and age.

Truth be told though, I did not mention one condition that I think is going to be a bit of a wildcard come the finals. This is the fact that Chiara is actually known around Europe, having taken part - successfully - twice in the past. European viewers have heard of her before, recognise her voice and actually appreciate her, as stated even by her fellow peers. Apart from the flops that Holland produced this year, who actually ridiculed her for being fat. Apparently, she has also been very popular during her stay in Russia. This popularity could obviously backfire into overconfidence and one of the worst performances of her life, God forbid, but I believe it will have a positive outcome on the votes. Furthermore, Chiara's voice is one that actually sticks in the memory of people, due to it being so powerful and even potentially overwhelming, so the voters aren't going to forget about her like they would for an ordinary performer.

To conclude, while the effect of neighbourly voting - a factor that needs no mentioning or introduction - is finally going to be minimised this year with the re-introduction of the jury to the contest, actually giving some countries an outside chance of doing well, Malta has to be aware of the facts that it faces as well. Second best may indeed be as good as it gets. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to predicting which neighbours will be giving our dear friends Greece 12 points this year. [sarcasm]I'm placing my money on the Turks.[/sarcasm]

Best of luck, however, Chiara. If you're to win, you're downright going to need it.

God Bless You all!