Thursday, July 31, 2014

Psst... want to live in Santa Marinella?

Am posting this around in appropriate places...
I've got a nice room available in a large and sunny flat near the beach in Santa Marinella. It's suitable for a sensible student or a working person (for someone who doesn't mind a painless train commute). Must be tidy, cat-tolerant, and like good food, good books and friendly company (different languages OK). S. Mar is a very quiet and friendly, pleasant town out of Rome but within shouting distance. Ladies only please. Rent 400 + bills.

S. Marinella in spring.

Our promenade in April

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


This is the calliope that was playing in Republic street on our first morning in Malta last Wednesday.


Hilary's life hack

Here's a good way to fight the sedentary lifestyle. Most of us sit down to work these days, and we keep getting told lately that sitting = smoking for badness. So, I've been doing this thing that seems to help not only keep the blood moving, but the time be more useful in general.

Get one of those old fashioned clicky egg timers. Set it for 25 minutes and put it down on the other side of the room so you're not looking at it. When it rings, get up immediately and set it for another five minutes.

In that five minutes, you'll be amazed at what you can do. Hang up a load of laundry. Feed the cat and put the kettle on. Do fifty jumping jacks and twenty crunches/sit-ups. Clean the bathroom sink. Do anything that does not involve sitting down. When it goes off, set the timer for another 25 minutes.

You'll be amazed at how much more you get done when you know the timer is ticking down. I had friends coming over for dinner a couple of weeks ago, and had to both work and get the house cleaned up and dinner on and I just did it all in five minute increments throughout the day. Worked like a charm.

What do you do?


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Malta bucket list:

Eat fenek
check out War Museum (cried)
check out Palace Armouries (swooned at the manly coolness)
check out Ancient megalithic temples (felt wise and mysterious)
Blue Grotto/sea cave boat tour
get a hair cut (no longer look like basset hound - win!)
get confession heard in English (priest delayed the Mass for me!)
go to Mass in St. John's Co-Cathedral (glorious church, depressing liturgy)
go to my friend Madeleine's wedding
meet with Maltese pro-lifers
check out Birgu/Vittoriosa/Three Cities
get a ride across the Grand Harbour on an eye-boat/dghajsa/luzzu
(learn how to pronounce 'dghajsa' - "Dai-zah")
learn at least one full sentence in Malti ("Flixkun ta 'ilma bil-gass, jekk jogħġbok." Which seems a very laborious way of asking, "A bottle of sparkling water, please.")

I got it all done.

On the first three days, we marched smartly around getting things done and being very excited. Then my friend went home and I was left to my own devices so, naturally I slacked off. My left ankle was ballooning up every day from the heat and I was pretty tired, since we had spent three days marching smartly around being purposeful and organised in the blistering Maltese sun. So I spent a little time sleeping in a bit, wandering (or perhaps meandering) slowly around Valletta for Friday and Saturday. Went to the wedding on Friday evening and got tooken out to dinner on Sat. night.

That's the Saluting Battery. Those are the benches.

I gazed longingly across the harbour at the Three Cities, but really didn't have the energy to do much more than sit on the benches at the Saluting Battery, sipping my lemon Cisk and thinking, 'Save some for next time'.

Next morning, after elevating my foot and having a long sleep-in I felt on top of the world again and didn't want to just hang around Valletta again. The concierge at the British Hotel said I could get at least a taste of the harbour tour by taking the ferry across to Vittoriosa. So I cheerfully skipped off, only to discover that I'd missed the ferry by a minute. I was informed of this by two very wise-ened old chaps who were taking in the morning sunshine by the ferry slip and one of them said, "But don't worry, I can take you across in my boat. One-fifty." As if to reassure me, the other one said, "He can take you across. Only one-fifty." I agreed readily.

When I rounded the corner, my heart leaped. There was the most beautiful, old fashioned dghajsa one could possibly hope to see, equipped with tiny side benches and a suitably home-made sun shade. I sat down and held on. "You're used to boats..." the old guy said, since I had jumped in without waiting for a hand. "I grew up around them."

He cast off and we had possibly the best ten minutes of the whole trip.

"How old you think this boat?" he asked, patting the gunwales affectionately. Before I could guess, he said proudly, "A hundred, ten years. Survived bombing." All Maltese are in love with history.

He dropped me off at the very base of the Vittoriosa bastions where the sea had carved natural caves in the ancient yellow limestone. I gave him 2E and told him that he really ought to charge tourists more. He directed me to the church where there was a Mass starting in ten minutes.

I'm still kicking myself for not having bought new camera batteries for Sunday because you guys are going to love Birgu, where I met a nice young Scottish guy from Aberdeen who moved there and opened a wine bar with a cantina in the basement dating to the 8th century.

Next time.

(Pics coming.)


Monday, July 28, 2014

Is this the Faith you're ready to die for?

Boston Franciscan parish friars hand out "Who am I to judge" t-shirts and buttons at Boston "gay pride" festival.

When contacted by concerned Catholics, Franciscans assured callers that they had "the full support of the archdiocese." The Archdiocese of Boston however, issued no public statement on this scandal. The closest thing to an official response was an e-mail sent by the Archdiocesan Cabinet Secretary for Parish Life and Leadership, the Very Rev. Kevin M. Sepe, who told one outraged Catholic:

'St. Anthony Shrine, although within the Archdiocese of Boston, is a parish of the Franciscan Order and so I encourage you to contact them directly with your questions and concerns. The Archdiocese has no knowledge of the intent of this initiative and is not associated with it. Thank you for your correspondence...'


Contrary to Islam, Christianity showed the oldest age profile among the leading religious groups in 2011. And while the main reason for Christians being economically inactive was retirement, for Muslims economic inactivity was mainly because they were students, or because they were looking after the home or family.

Some argue that unlike Islam, which gives security to people, Christianity isn’t helping young Brits to survive on the violent streets of England.


Is this the Faith you're ready to die for?

Nearly all gone: conquering jihadists are evicting or killing Mosul’s last Christians


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Is this the Faith you're ready to die for?

New theme.

People are dying for the Faith, dying for Christ, right now.

Is this that Faith? Would you give your life for this?


Been in Malta for most of the week, and attended 3 Masses in Maltese. All greyheads, all receiving Communion standing, and on the hand... a general atmosphere of gloom pervading... very, very depressing.

More later.


Friday, July 18, 2014

You can't kill people to solve your problems... or theirs

The peculiar British, utilitarianism-derived terror of "being a burden" is being exploited by the Death-peddlers.

As someone who was recently "a burden" on my loved ones, I can affirm that it made me a better person, more able to love and accept love from others, less interested in maintaining my white-knuckle grip on my own way in life.

The Brits are suffering from 200 years of philosophical and moral corruption that was visited on their culture by the secularist instinct that grew up like a cancer in the 18th century after the compromises and logical contradictions of the English Reformation failed to hold.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Victim of my own success...

Here's the problem with being a good cook. You look in the fridge and freezer, and discover you've got got zucchini, asparagus, little whole mushrooms, red onion, shrimps, cream and curry paste. You think, "Hmm... I'll just put those together and make an experiment. It probably won't work very well, but at least I'll be able to have a little bit of something before gym-time."

Putting them together to make a curry turns out to work magnificently, but then you think, curry's no fun without rice, so you make a bunch of tasty vietnamese rice noodles to go with it. In the end, you've made something you really want to eat.

Unfortunately you want to eat it so much that you pretty much eat all of it in one go, thus making futile your plans to go to the gym after a "light" lunch, because now all you want to do is have a little lie down.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

When people have worked together a long, long time...

Editor: Oh come on, this is fun!

Hilary: Sure, kinda like riding a 50 year-old roller coaster in an ex-Soviet satellite state. It's fun right up to the moment it decapitates you.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Possibly the weirdest Beatles cover I've ever seen

in a lifetime of Beatles covers.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bustin' a White n' Nerdy move.

This was 2007, and the guy was already in his fifties.

In. his. fifties!


Crushed on Donny Osmond

I have a crush on Donny Osmond, and I don’t care who knows it
After years of being THE teen boy-king, with the millions of screaming teenage girl fans around the world, he was suddenly a joke. Indeed, I remember the girls in school mocking him (which was a pretty unattractive thing for them to do, come to think of it). He wasn’t just forgotten, as the video says, but hated. And I think it has taken me until now to understand, to see why that particular brand of sneering hatred seems so familiar.

I listened to this documentary this weekend while puttering about my flat, and it struck me that neither Piers nor Donny himself had completely understood why the public had rejected him so powerfully.


Donny Osmond, with his whole family, represented something more than just silly teeny-bopper pop songs. They were sold as the “clean” pop act of their time, happy, innocent and cheerful. They made their name not only as a talented family act, but as one dedicated to the old fashioned religious-based virtues that had been hugely popular since the end of World War II. They were, in fact, the living embodiment of an innocent enjoyment of youth and, yes, I’ll say it, romantic love, that itself turned to “industry poison” at exactly that historical moment.

All growed up.


OK, I admit it

I've started using Twitter.


Of herbs and stewed fenek

I am proud to announce that I have tripled my Maltese vocabulary. I now know three words of Malti: "Kappillan," "Bonju," and "fenek". Which, really, is pretty much all a good Catholic needs. Maybe I should learn to say, "What time are confessions at this parish?"

Fenek is the Maltese national dish.


1/2 fenek, cut up into pieces
3 bay leaves,
handful of chopped sage
1/2 a lemon
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 sticks celery chopped
2-3 cups white wine
tablespoon or so of honey
dash of Lea n' Perrin's
little whole mushrooms
olive oil

Peel, chop and place in the bottom of your cast iron-enamel Dutch oven all the veg, including the garlic. On top, place the pieces of fenek. Drizzle with olive oil and then sprinkle the sage over top, with a dash of salt n' pep. In a coffee cup, mix the white wine, lea-Perrins, juice of half the lemon and the honey. Mix vigorously, then pour over the fenek.

Pop the lid on and put in a medium oven for a long time. An hour at least.


So good! So so soooo good!


Good and bad Fantasy

Dallas Road Beach, Victoria, BC

So, a few days ago, I was having a discussion about what constitutes "cute". My friend and I agreed that miniature versions of things are nearly always cute. (This might be part of the appeal of Malta...)

It reminds me of my childhood attraction to tree and beach driftwood forts which I built nearly constantly from age six to twelve: a smaller and more contained and sort of fantasy version of the humdrum home I was used to.

Forts could become anything. Very often my tree fort was a pirate ship, but it doubled as the Tardis, the Enterprise and as an unspecified castle in Narnia under seige by Orcs, Morlocks and Calormenes. A whole world that was contained in my brain.

It's funny what your brain tells you. Most of my life, beaches looked like this:

And a beach without driftwood all over it was simply dull. What are you going to lean on when you're reading your book? How are you to build a fort if there's nothing but sand? What are you going to climb around on if there's no rocks? What's the point of a beach that's covered in sand where all you can do is just lie there? How boring is that?

It still throws me off and I'm afraid I look at Santa Marinella's beach culture as dumb, dull and pointless. Beaches are for climbing around on the rocks, gazing deep into tide pools and building forts. Period.


Tuesday, July 08, 2014

The ever-tightening vice

Via Facebook this morning.

BATON ROUGE, LA 70821-2028
PHONE: 225-387-0561 FAX: 225-336-8789

July 7, 2014

Official Statement of the Diocese of Baton Rouge
With Respect To
Supreme Court of Louisiana, Docket No. 2013-C-2879
Court of Appeals – First Circuit, Docket No. 2013-CW-0316

By matter of policy, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge does not normally comment on
pending legal cases, especially when the plaintiff files the case under seal. The Church respects the request
for sealing of the record and will not make statements. However, in the instant case, even though the district
court record is under seal, the opinion issued by the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Baton Rouge
and the Writ opinion by the Supreme Court of Louisiana are not under seal.

Since those two opinions are public record and the media has contacted the Church for comment, we provide this statement of the position of the Catholic Church and Fr. Jeff Bayhi.

The issue as it relates to the “Church defendants” (Fr. Bayhi and the Diocese of Baton Rouge) attacks the seal of confession and the attempt by the plaintiffs to have the court compel testimony from the priest, Fr. Bayhi, as to whether or not there were confessions and, if so, what the contents of any such confessions were.

We contend that two conflicting statutes of the State of Louisiana are involved regarding mandatory reporting of knowledge concerning alleged sexual abuse or neglect of minors.

The case in question does not allege any such charge against any clergy, religious or paid staff member of the diocese. The Church has great compassion for those who have indicated an experience of such egregious misconduct.

The issue before the District Court, the First Circuit Court of Appeals and the Louisiana Supreme Court assaults the heart of a fundamental doctrine of the Catholic faith as relating to the absolute seal of sacred communications (Confession/Sacrament of Reconciliation).

The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that the seal of confession preempted the Civil Court from ordering the priest to testify as to whether or not there was a confession and, if so, what the contents
of the confession revealed
. The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit dismissed the case against both Fr.
Bayhi and the Catholic Church of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

A Writ of Certiorari was filed by the plaintiffs to the Supreme Court of Louisiana. The Supreme Court of Louisiana granted the Writ, reversed and vacated the First Circuit Court of Appeals judgment, in its entirety, reinstated the judgment of the trial court, and remanded for further proceedings in the District Court to hold a hearing concerning whether or not there was a “confession.” We contend that such a procedure is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the U. S. Constitution. The Supreme Court of Louisiana cannot order the District Court to do that which no civil court possibly can—determine what constitutes the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Catholic Church. Indeed, both state and federal jurisprudence make clear that there is no jurisdiction to adjudicate claims that turn upon such purely religious questions.

A foundational doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church for thousands of years mandates that the seal of confession is absolute and inviolable. Pursuant to his oath to the Church, a priest is compelled never to break that seal. Neither is a priest allowed to admit that someone went to confession to him. If necessary, the priest would have to suffer a finding of contempt in a civil court and suffer imprisonment rather than violate his sacred duty and violate the seal of confession and his duty to the penitent.

This is not a gray area in the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. A priest/confessor who violates the seal of confession incurs an automatic excommunication reserved for forgiveness to the Apostolic See in Vatican City, Italy.

In this case, the priest acted appropriately and would not testify about the alleged confessions. Church law does not allow either the plaintiff (penitent) or anyone else to waive the seal of confession.

This matter cuts to the core of the Catholic faith, and for a civil court to inquire as to whether or not
a factual situation establishes the Sacrament of Confession is a clear and unfettered violation of the
Establishment Clause of the Constitution of the United States
. This matter is of serious consequence to all
religions, not just the Catholic faith. The statutes involved in this matter address “sacred communications”
which are confidential and are exempt from mandatory reporting. In other words, Protestant ministers,
Jewish Rabbis, clergy of the Muslim religion, etc. all counsel and receive sacred communication of a
confidential nature which are covered by these statutes.

The position of the Diocese of Baton Rouge and Fr. Bayhi is that the Supreme Court of Louisiana has
run afoul of the constitutional rights of both the Church and the priest, more particularly, has violated the
Establishment Clause and the separation of Church and State under the first amendment. For a civil court
to impinge upon the freedom of religion is a clear violation and the matter will be taken to the highest court
in the land by the Church in order to protect its free exercise of religion.

Welcome to the new normal.


Saturday, July 05, 2014

The United Christian Confederation of the Mediterranean

So, the EU and the Euro are doomed, they say. But this doesn't necessarily mean that economic trade zones between similarly placed nation states was a hopeless or bad idea, does it? Whoever thought Germany and Greece were a heaven-made economic match must have been smoking something very interesting, but is there something wrong with the basic idea of economic trade zones?

I've been thinking lately about what is going to happen after the EU slides into the metaphorical sea. Maybe a single currency and the lumbering EU Leviathan-Superstate were a bad idea, but what about smaller more subsidiarity-minded countries in similar regions, with similar economic factors, getting together and hammering out smaller agreements to foster mutual support and similar interests while actually respecting (instead of paying sneering, patronising lip service to) national sovereignty?

And why does it have to be limited to state bodies? Why not regions? And why limit it to economic interests? Why not promote similar cultural interests?

Just thinking out loud here, but what about, for instance, a confederation of Christian Mediterranean states and regions like Malta, Greece, Sicily, Spain, Cyprus and Croatia? I'm reading an interesting book about the physical, anthropological, economic and political history of the Mediterranean, and it certainly wouldn't be the first time that the various places around this ancient basin have banded together for mutual help. (Of course, we've occasionally had to call this "banding-together" things like "the Roman Empire" ... but I'm sure we could manage something useful without all that palaver about elephants and triremes this time.)

And I'm pretty sure we're going to have to start thinking very hard and realistic thoughts about the defence of (what's left of) Christendom, quite soon. It is precisely these kinds of hard and realistic thoughts, thoughts that do not easily accommodate utopian nonsense, that the EU is famously good at not having.

The EU's thesis that a heavily regulated economic superstate will eliminate the ancient political and social tensions ("tensions" being their polite word for mutual, violent loathing and lust for conquest) and bring an endless, fluffy, pink-tinged peace and prosperity are going up in the noxious smoke of torched cars and tear gas canisters. We know that the sudden resurgence of what the papers like to call "extremist nationalist groups" has been due at least in part to the attempt by these (*cough*ex-soviet*cough*) Eurocrats to reboot their youthful utopian dreams. And it seems to be going the way of all utopian dreams.

But is anyone working on ideas for what to do when the inevitable comes?


Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Keyhole of Europe

Malta's third Great Siege is coming.

"I’ve come to think of Malta as the 'keyhole' in the door of Christendom, as it once was of Europe. Malta’s position in the Mediterranean has made it one of the most important strategic bottlenecks. Its military significance has been acknowledged by every empire, from the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans, to the Bonapartist French and the British who ruled it from 1800 to 1964. Who controls Malta controls the Mediterranean. And now, Europe’s keyhole has become a symbol, both to the Maltese themselves, and those who would see them again ruled by a foreign ideological power."


Support Bilateral Symmetry! Take back the seas!

And about that cephalopod threat...

What about the "triassic kraken" hmmmm?

"I saw them come for the sperm whales, but I was not a sperm whale, so I did nothing. Then I saw them come for the walruses and other land/sea mammals, but I was exclusively a land-dweller so I didn't do anything..."


And here, we have another example of why I exclusively support Bilateral Symmetry. I mean really, flying squid? 65 feet?! Seriously?!

I've said it before. Water reduces the effect of gravity on the things that live in it. This does nothing but encourage all manner of morphological excess. It is our duty to eat everything in the ocean.


Octopus in love

Seen three in recent weeks, and each time I see one, I think the same thing: how can something be cute n'adorable and horrifying at the same time?


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Maple Leaf Forever!

OK class, the rest of the day will be spent at the annual Santa Marinella Dominion Day party, where we will eat Canadian barbequed meats, drink Canadian beer and swim in the beautiful Canadian Mediterranean.

Those unable to attend are required to drink a minimum of one (1) beer and to sing at least one Canadian song of their choice.

Here's some help:
Stompin' Tom


That is all.



It's a venerable, wealthy, global institution, that delivers a monolithic set of doctrines to millions of totally unquestioning followers - followers who have never in their lives paused to question or consider alternatives - that for decades covered up the most loathsome sexual abuse of minors imaginable. This abuse was described by police as being "on an unprecedented scale," with a "staggering" number of potential victims.

In fact, it went further than a systematic cover-up. It actively worked, steadily and deliberately, to create social conditions in which such sexual behaviour was accepted. Even now, after the revelations have gone global, it has done nothing to change its doctrines and little to prevent the same kind of abuse recurring.

And yet, no one at the UN, the New York Times, the US Congress or CNN has demanded that the BBC be so much as defunded.

Funny that.