Thursday 31 March 2022

jum il-ฤงelsien

Celebrated annually on this day with a regatta in the Grand Harbour of Valletta, Freedom Day marks the anniversary of the 1979 withdrawal of the Royal Navy from Malta. With the departure of British troops, the island nation for the first time in over a millennia was not host to a foreign military, acclaiming its de facto as well as its de jure independence, having become an independent Commonwealth realm in 1964 and a republic a decade later.

Monday 13 December 2021

high times and misdemeanors

Although the Netherlands may be the European country most closely associated to legal marijuana, it officially only tolerates commerce and possession that are still regarded as criminal, the small island nation of Malta, with the bill expected to pass through parliament and be signed into law in time for the weekend, will be the first polity within the EU to legalise cannabis.   The move comes ahead of broader drug enforcement harmonisation expected for governments in Switzerland, Germany and the Benelux in 2022.

Friday 9 April 2021

The “strength and stay” of Queen Elizabeth and prince consort for seventy-three years, His Royal Highness Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh (*1921) passed away, aged ninety-nine peacefully in Winsor Castle. As is traditional, official notice of his death was posted on the railing of Buckingham Palace, though promptly removed to avoid drawing a crowd. Counter to the strange, immediate praise by the Prime Minister for the Prince’s carriage driving skills, the public figure was first to deprecate himself as a “discredited Balkan royal of no particular merit or distinction” but was nonetheless a pivotal institution in civics and support roles, with the walk-on role that fell onto the shoulders of an individual whose career path seemed to be a naval one, which had he attained the rank of First Sea Lord he would have been required to walk several feet behind his wife according to the protocol of the Admiralty.  The Commonwealth mourns with the Royal Family with further announcements to be made in due course.

Tuesday 8 September 2020

ir-rewwixta tal-qassisin

Though suppressed by the Soverign Order of Saint John (SMOM—see also here and here, the Knights Hospitaller) who controlled the island after a few hours, the 1775 rebellion known as the Rising of the Priests was undertaken on this day by the clergy advocating for the Maltese people for a series of austerity measures instituted by Grand Master Francisco Ximenes de Texada in an attempt to replenish the Order’s treasury.
The unpopular cost-savings steps introduced included severe reductions in public spending, regressive tax hiks that made wheat and other staples unaffordable and a ban on rabbit-hunting (fenek tax-xiber) for commoners and preserving the right exclusively for the members of the Order. This date was picked for the revolt knowing that most ships would be at sea and coincided with the anniversary and festivities of the the Knights lifting the Ottoman siege in 1565. A group of thirteen priests took Fort Saint Elmo but were eventually overpowered. Some of the co-conspirators were imprisoned afterward in this same fortification at the northern tip of Valetta, three of the principle organisers being executed with the rest being sent into exile. The Order continued to rule the island until it was annexed by Napoleon in 1798, remanded to a British Protectorate through the second world war, finally attaining independence on 21 September 1964.

Monday 29 June 2020


Fรชted on this day on the occasion either of their martyrdom or on the translation of the relics, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul is widely observed across Christendom though only has the status of a public holiday in Rome—for their dual patronage, certain cantons in Switzerland, Peru and Malta, where it is known as the above—the small island country celebrating the most holidays (though the abundance does not apply in every jurisdiction and grant workers a day off) of any in Europe. In Malta, February is known as Saint Paul’s Month—ix-xahar ta’ San Pawl—with the tenth commemorating the patron and protector’s shipwreck there en route to Rome to stand trial for his crimes, exercising his right to “appeal unto Caesar” rather than face the court in Jerusalem.

Sunday 14 July 2019


From one of our favourite weekly features, Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links, we are invited to ruminate over the fact that while most countries are named after one of four things—often tautologically, especially in translation—that are sometimes not very consequential to present geopolitics, there are some notable mavericks that defy or really lean into categorisation.
With nearly all countries named in deference to either a cardinal direction, a distinguishing geographical feature, a tribe or clan or an important personage, we’d wish that the campaign to make America great again was an effort to improve scholarship on the Latinised name of a fifteenth century Florentine cartographer from the Vespucci family but alas and alack.  There are nonetheless some notable (and notably disputed too) outliers as well. Our favouites being Malta named for bees (ฮœฮตฮปฮฏฯ„ฮท, honey-sweet), Mexico after a simplification of an Aztec city (Mฤ“xihtli) that meant in the navel of the Moon and the Pacific island nation of Nauru, possibly derived from the native conjugation anรกoero, I go to the beach.

Thursday 4 April 2019

hindsight is 2020

Son of an immigrant father from Malta and a multigenerational Hoosier mother, former investigative journalist, Naval intelligence officer, Rhodes scholar and present polyglot, municipal executive and US presidential contender Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg (BOO-tih-dส’idส’) has a surname that in Maltese means “father of chickens.”
No relation I think but Buttigieg shares his last name with poet and second president of independent Malta (the first elected one, the last governor-general given the office as caretaker when the former UK colony became a republic in 1974), Anton Buttiฤกieฤก. What a welcome antidote this candidate offers for the current state of affairs and seems to be the champion, among others, to hang our hopes on.

Wednesday 3 April 2019


villa göth: six introductory videos on the architectural style of Brutalism (previously)

underdogs: a funny Apple advertisement manages to cover its entire suite of devices

murder she drew: an interview with talented, veteran courtroom artist (see also) Marilyn Church, via Boing Boing

no conclusion: Trump is now vacillating on releasing the Mueller Report to the public

xarabank: Malta’s unique and colourful fleet of buses recently retired make a comeback fully electrified 

Wednesday 9 January 2019

it-tieqa ลผerqa

We had seen this mock-up of a steel architectural truss abutting a Maltese cliff face circulating around the internet for a week but failed to realise that the idea was proffered to repair a famous natural landmark and tourist attraction along the coast outside of Gozo.
The Azure Window (also known as the Dwerjra Window) was a limestone pillar with a stone archway over the sea that collapsed in March 2017 following a violent storm but had been under threat for some time over erosion and increased visitor traffic. In addition to its appearance in Game of Thrones, the window was also featured in the original Clash of the Titans and the Kevin Reynold version of The Count of Monte Cristo, with its last cameo in the cliff-diving Hugo Boss apparel advertising campaign.

Monday 23 July 2018

geobra brandstรคtter

Via Present /&/ Correct, we are treated to the grand tour of the factory located in the Maltese industrial estate of ฤฆal Far where since 1976, all Playmobil figures have been manufactured.
The Zirndorf-headquartered company turned to the newly independent Mediterranean nation because of near full-employment in West Germany at the time and has been pleased with the decision ever since. Seeing all the plastic bits are a bit harrowing in the present light of ocean pollution (the vignette dates back to the company’s fortieth anniversary), but Playmobil has always been a committed steward of resources and the environment, the line itself a product of the Oil Crisis of the 1970s, having gone into production in the first place by dent of its more efficient design that used less plastic than other toys.

Thursday 30 June 2016

lingua franca or brexit, stage left

To the disdain of the Maltese and Irish—whose concerns are being downplayed as they elected to make their first official languages Maltese and Gaelic, respectively, some in Brussels want to see the use of the English language in official parlance scaled back. Although there’s no legal status accorded to the “working languages” of the European Union and French and German are only spoken by tradition, some feel that the UK should take its linguistic and cultural dominance with it. What do you think of this proposal? I am already a little fearful that a large percentage of the world might forget about Europe as some byzantine amalgam that’s just alien and just the end of some long, strange continuum of foreignness without the Anglo-Saxon element.

Saturday 6 October 2012

la serenissima

The UK daily the Telegraph is reporting on a secessionist movement and mass rally along the canals of the city of Venice, which may gain more traction at a quicker pace than other parallel calls for independence in Scotland from Great Britain and Catalonia from Spain.

United Italy already hosts the devolved Papal States as the Vatican, the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta and the Republic of San Marino (plus a few other aspirants) within its borders, and the maritime and mercantile empire of the doges only became annexed due to the barn-storming of Napoleon’s armies, like many other city-states and pocket-republics across the continent—with some notable allowances. The roots of this protest go back decades but economic instability and having to pay tribute to Rome may be the trigger that carries this popular movement. Reasserting lapsed boundaries, once the first province is freed, I think will cascade quite quickly and I don’t know how the map will look afterwards.

Thursday 15 March 2012

jump back loreta or velvet underground

The golden city of Prague, for all its tangible history and its legend and lore, is an inexhaustible place, a story-telling at every pass, corresponding point for point. Here are just a few impressions that didn’t fit elsewhere. The Loreta church of the Immaculate Conception is a pilgrimage site, inspired by the Holy Hut where Maria lived that was salvaged from Saracen raiders and brought to Italy, with an altar and reliquaries dedicated to the Holy Family.

An Italianate arcade surrounds the chapel, Casa Sancta, and there is an impressive treasury and museum with a detailed history of the cult and patronage.

Prague is also a canvas for revolution, aside from the famous and ephemeral John Lennon Wall, a side of a building belonging to the Knights of Malta who allowed the graffiti artists to make their statements throughout the times of the Velvet Revolution until today, like this infinite loop, Mรถbius strip, of tanks and construction vehicles tearing across the city.
The city has done an extraordinary job in preserving the sacred and profane, acknowledging that invention and openness are sometimes the better curators.  Also on the palette of expression were these looming--close by the canals and water-wheel of the the Lennon Wall, giant and monstrous baby sculptures in the park on Kampa Island in the Vltava.