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!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I Look into the Sky Above and Wonder how my Life has Changed

Thanking Krissie for the inspiration. I actually realised that MSN sub-nicks actually do have a use from time to time, other than promoting junk that us lawyers think of as a result of our course!

Ok, so, I wasn't really going to blog, especially as it's just past midnight as I've typed the first few words into this space, but why not while I'm still awake and not too too tired. Especially after I haven't really blogged in a good while, properly that is, after the last blog was one that was more a case of venting frustrations out in public. Which, I guess, I shouldn't have; but anyway.

Well, there isn't too much to say and there isn't too much that is exciting, unfortunately, at this point of my life. The year 1991 is halfway, or thereabouts, through its A Levels, and the year 1990 and before are preparing for the dreaded end of year exams that University throw up from the depths of Room 223, Faculty of Laws. So with nothing exciting apart from telling you how much case law I've studied per day, I decided to reflect a little bit on the past year and what's really changed since then; once again because a certain sub-nick on MSN inspired me to do so.

Looking back to around this time last year I can safely say that my group of friends were different to those that I stay with today. Granted, I'm not saying that those friends that I used to hang out with are not my friends any longer - far from it, actually - but I feel more comfortable staying with the Y4J and Community group now, as opposed to them. I actually, for the most part, feel a part of this group and feel appreciated for who I am, even if I might have differing views to other people, occasionally, due to my rather obstinate nature. Whereas prior to staying with this new (if you can now call it that) group of people, I would constantly have to be on my guard out of fear of someone taking advantage of me or ready to take the piss out of me, I now feel that it isn't the case. The people who I'm staying with - you all know who you are - are, to me, now like a family. We have our differences and we have our disagreements, but at the end of the day, we're all there for one another and love each other like brothers and sisters. And that's exactly how it should be with everyone - after all, God told us to love your neighbour as yourself.

This may be a repetitive point from prior statements or prior blogs, but the entry of God into my life has also been a significant change over the last year. Whereas before I was a Christian but pretty much agnostic, now I believe things to the contrary. Obviously, with this, unfortunately, comes a lot of criticism from those who aren't living the same lifestyle as you. Make one slip up and you're criticised, or say something that might not tickle someone else's fancy and you get slated for it. But thereagain, that's what living Christians do, don't they? They spread the Word at whatever cost possible and live for God and, as discussed at our D-Group meeting last Sunday, try to make their actions speak louder than words. Sometimes, words are not effective enough - you could tell a million people about Jesus, how great He is and what He has done for us - but none might believe you. However, if you perform some kind of act through which Jesus' love and spirit really emerges, then someone might indeed believe you. There again, as also stated in the same D-Group meeting, this is quite a subjective thing to go on about.

Perhaps this is the least evident of the changes that I've undergone in the last year or so, but I believe that now - contrary to that period a year ago - I am a bit more of a tolerant person, even though my best friend thinks I've become worse! I've learnt how to snap less at other people and actually be more patient with others. I think I've seen this develop mainly through my leadership skills, and the various things that I've organised, taken part in or coordinated over the last year. If I had to do the same things one year back, I don't think I would have been able to cope in any way possible. Having said that, I admit that this is still a segment of my character that I definitely have to work upon, for I still do have the tendency to blow up at flick of a finger, as quite a few people who have seen me will testify!

And then there's the final aspect of this rather condensed version of how my life has changed, and that is how I've managed to cope with a bunch of my friends going abroad to study on a permanent or temporary basis. It just goes to show that things can change really quickly, and that the situation that you're faced with one day is not always the situation that you're going to be faced with the next. The worst bit is when your friends come here for a while - in some instances, as short as a weekend break - and then are off for the next few months, ensuring that communication with them is rather limited till when they get back. You learn how to live with it, however. Initially, I saw this as a real uphill struggle but then tried to take the positives out of it, in the sense that not only are my friends doing something that is beneficial for them and furthering their education outside our shores, but it would also help to further develop me as an individual and perhaps not rely on them as heavily as I used to; even though the latter doesn't exactly apply to one of the people in question. It really does help matters when you see that God uses each and every situation - be it positive or negative - to try teach you an important, valuable life lesson from it.

And with that I will conclude. I could have blogged for much longer, and about much more, and politically, for that matter; but opted not to. I think this will be a bit more pleasant to the eye anyway, instead of ranting on about ongoings on a small rock in the Mediterranean.

P.S. I realised that loads of people are 'refreshing' their blog skins... I know mine looks bland, but I must say, it ties in beautifully with the morose nature of examinations!

God Bless You all!