Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Are the atheists going to burn me?

I'm shaking and I'm quaking in my seat as I contemplate my next move. I never thought this could happen to me—especially in liberal, let's-take-things-easy Malta. I'm typing this in the basement of a hideaway dug-out far from all the angry throngs of attendant atheists, inhumane humanists and unsexy secularists.

I dared say, in my blog, something about the silly atheists (sorry silliness for pairing you with such vileness) and other sods who wish that St Paul hadn't paid us a visit a few thousand years back, during which visit he consigned us a super brand of religion. As a careful—and historically correct—reader of my blog pointed out, we have been for 2000 years very Christian in religion (and ways I'd imagine) except for a short time when we all turned to Islam as our true religion when our Muslim masters were so unchristian to us.

The wrath wreaked on me by the silly atheists was hardly credible. Atheists called a special session of their plenary council and issued an edict against me. The atheist Pope, after reciting the Atheist rosary, called for a vote to prove that all atheists believe implicitly in Him. After the vote He pronounced himself supreme Atheist who was surely and supremely even more infallible than before. Yes the Atheists' vote was incredibly even more resounding than the recent one asking for the PN to reaffirm GonziPN as PM.

For all the unwashed let me explain: in my previous post I dared poke fun at the atheists and they—or at least the ones who comment on the Times online version, and various other enlightened Facebook users—rebuked me for daring to do such horrid things. I also dared say that our erstwhile authorities should—once they wake up from their slumber party—"unearth" a "real" Pauline letter to the Maltese (and Gozitans in case their bishop, in his infinite, sacred sagacity, joins up with the atheists in chasing me into exile or excommunication)saying he enjoyed himself here.

I think the authorities should also issue another "official" Pauline letter saying:
"Dear fellow fundamentalists,
Some bloggers might be witless and hardly worth reading but some just poke fun, even if this fun, I have to admit, is a bit base or baseless. But I—supreme patron of the faith of Malta (and Gozo) —do hereby declare that if my future detractors do not have a sense of humour then maybe they should do like I did circa 2000 years ago and change their faith. No Atheist worth his salt can be naturally fundamentalist—or lack a sense of humour— and it seems to me you will feel more at home and comfortable with the fundamentalist religions of whatever denomination.

You are, obviously, more than welcome to not read any blog or this silly letter of mine but please remember you only have a short stay on this temporal state (unlike us lucky Christians who have a whole eternity of feckless fun, harp-playing and laughter awaiting us) so take it easy, smile and laugh out loud a few times a day. Your gravity astounds and worries us.

Oh, and by the way I did produce the first rabbit stew—was a divine dish with a sprinkling of viper's tongue which I shared with all the population of those dotty isles.

(authentic signature here)
Paul "

Friday, 24 February 2012

Atheists are now attacking our St Paul

So St Paul came to Malta via a shipwreck. Some idiots, and a few atheists, think it would have been better if the sea was less choppy and he'd have had an easier trip to Rome to go meet his end with trusty, don't-mention-cockerels, Peter.

These disillusioned souls reason that we'd have remained jolly old pagans enjoying all our liberty and liberalised ways with no popes or bishops to keep us all good and holy. First of all I do hope they realise that in that case—if we missed the boat and didn't embrace Christianity, thanks to its sinking—we'd have had at least two great holidays less in our calendar. Because besides celebrating the shipwreck with a holiday Malta also has another holiday—June 29th when the two erstwhile apostles were dispensed to kingdom come. Where would we Maltese be—if we were pagans— without our feasting and our rabbit stew?

St Paul achieved a lot for us as a nation. One of the most important things was that divorce was introduced nearly 2000 years after he casually visited us. He came, I imagine on one of the cruise ships passing by our shores which unfortunately hit a huge rock on its way while trying desperately to bypass us.

Now imagine if we had accepted divorce 2000 years before it became part of our laws. First of all we would have been bored to death by it: even liberals would have clamoured for its repeal to give us some colour and zest. Secondly we'd have had no referendum—which excited us no end. Thirdly what would Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando have been born to achieve if not grant us our divorce laws? Imagine a world of such boring sameness as one without Jeffrey.

A few other extras gained by St Paul's visit and our subsequent conversion to Christianity: no pope would come racing around our island thus obliging all roads ministers to get some roads nicely tarmacked—for fear some papal encyclical condemning potholes would be issued and the minister responsible burnt at the stake.
The list of good stuff St Paul bequeathed to us is endless. So please you silly heathen detractors keep off our backs.

One of the things we should definitely "unearth", even if we have to forge his signature, is a letter sent to us by St Paul. In it he tells us what a great time he had here chasing vipers and swimming in our limpid sea. He will end his missive by saying how he wished he had stayed on in Malta and therefore would not have gone on to the next, to-die-for, stop in his tour.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Winning elections and song festivals in Scandinavian Malta

Going back a couple of weeks I heard a lot about local songs, singing and trashy songs and trashier gloves. But I have to admit I am one of the few unwashed –figuratively, of course—who didn’t watch the song festival which chooses our Eurovision representative. Shame on me. I also missed San Remo with its lovely cut dresses and glorious butterflies: double shame on me.

So forgive me if I stray where bolder pens have strayed and said more erudite, more measured words than silly me. My words regarding our local song-fest are based on hearsay, newspaper cuttings, online comments and general bitching.

Kurt Calleja, the winner of the song for Europe, is, may I admit immediately before I am accused of familial bias, unrelated. Thank the lord of singing for that. Well as unrelated as one can be here on the rock. Till some months ago it could have been called the “sunny” and “warm” rock—now it’s the windy, freezing rock so maybe our actions are soon going to become conditioned by climatic changes. We seem to be trying hard to join Scandinavia what with our weather.

If we do become Scandinavian—like good old boring obedient Scandinavians—we will promptly pay our taxes, be orderly in all we do, never let our doggy soil the soil or the pavement, and we will generally pale into insignificance. But at least the rock will be even greener than it used to be. We will become like one of those specially-kept roundabouts in Malta. Freezing it might be—and numbingly boring—but we will all have great fun never doing anything wrong. And we will never smile.

Back to the Eurovision. And if I may be allowed some politics—I’ll give you my vision and what Dr Gonzi seems to be hatching as supreme leader of his party and of this dotty part of the world. Joining Scandinavia, through cold and calculated climatic changes, is all being orchestrated by Dr Gonzi in his infinite proximity to fundamentalists and their ever-pliant God. Malta will then garner enough votes from our newly acquired “neighbours”—the Finns, the Great Danes, the Swedes, the Norwegians and Icelanders—to definitely make it finally and with great fanfare to the exalted Nirvana of all real Maltese: the Eurovision finals.

With a final almighty push by geographically moving us, as a country, to the east we could also get a few more votes and reach Super-Nirvana—which would be actually winning the Eurovision song festival.

Malta will, at last, be united—we will surely then wave just one blue flag (oops I forgot we already do that as the big parties, nowadays, seem as blue as anything) and we will be one nation, one dream, one klaxon-playing nation of unrivalled revelry. The most prestigious and mind-numbing show will be won by us at long lordly last.
And Dr Gonzi and his evil accomplices will then call a snap election. And snap we will have another GonziPN victory. Miracles, if sanctioned by Eurovision victories, are yet possible.

Just in case Dr Gonzi’s diabolical plan fails, and the Labour movement sweeps into power (are they, when they win the election, going to wave blue flags too?), the new leader of the opposition can always watch and laugh as Dr Muscat, and his erstwhile assistants and various economic gurus, figure out how on earth they can organise and subsidise the 2013 Eurovision song festival being held in tiny Malta.

We could then move closer to Greece to guide us on how to go on winning festivals, over-spending and being bailed out a few dozen times.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

A bumpy road for Dr Gonzi

During the Times debate hosted by InterContinental Malta, where one actual Prime Minister sparred happily and contentedly with one maybe soon-to-be-Prime Minister, little was heard about how the government, in its wobbly state, can be sustained if Franco Debono pulls the plug on it.

Of course, the lawyer MP from Għaxaq will not do the final hara-kiri move of dumping the government. He can hardly afford to lose such a great spotlight. Even the said debate was hogged by his comment to The Times while the debate was going. Lawrence Gonzi must curse his ghost that digitally, virtually and most perniciously haunts him, teases him and drives him batty.

But maybe there is some sense in Dr Gonzi’s thinking. Like many a driver I have gone quite a distance with a slow puncture, sometimes knowingly, more often stupidly. You do it – the driving – inelegantly but you still get there, so elegance be damned.
Not sure how the Oxford dictionary – or whatever means of finding meanings to words is used today – defines “slow puncture” but I always thought it meant one of four tyres in a car that is deflated. OK, the Nationalists are a deflated lot right now and seem in total disarray and all polls seem to be pointing to a real axing by the voters. But, as I was saying, my slow punctures hardly stopped me from getting to my destination. In fact, in view of our roads, the strange thing is that we are constantly driving with half a dozen slow punctures.

Motoring enthusiasts will obviously cringe at the suggestion that cars have six wheels. But let’s give ourselves a potential puncture count: four wheels to move car: check; one spare wheel, which, with all the bumps, is definitely punctured as well: check; last but hardly least, my brain is punctured with all the bumps in our pristine roads, so sixth puncture: check.

More importantly: Is there a minister responsible for roads, by the way? If there is, please Dr Gonzi, don’t divide his ministry, just divide his body from his head and pass it on to some laboratory to make sure no similar human is ever entrusted with roads in any future Cabinet. Is this roadie rogue of a minister part of the oligarchy, by any chance? Where is his sense of shame? Resign, say I, to the screeching ayes of Dr Debono and a few other road users.

If you think our Roads Minister is bad and you are contemplating changing him, her or it, for a spanking new Labour one take a deep breath: they will be even worse or just as bad.

Let me explain why: Msida has a red-led council. They are at the moment – have been for some centuries actually – doing some road works.

And I know it is the Msida council not the central government because they have notices visibly reminding us that all this work is being undertaken by the said council. They took an age to finish one road – which was in a devastated state while pipes were being installed by the same council – for so long I thought it was some new road works strategy: we rock you while you drive on our little, dusty rock.
Anyway, after the long wait, the road was tarmacked. Great, I thought, purring along on the new glittery surface. Two days later I passed again – back to its old potholed and moonscaped state. Worse than before they laid the tarmac.

We, the taxpayers, rage, get frustrated, we are offered silly detours that lead nowhere and we lose precious time of our productive life while these road works go on, and never-endingly, on.

And the Msida council, which, I repeat, is Labour-led, could be a symptomatic reflection of what we can expect from a Labour Roads Minister: utter road mayhem where money is spent to give us more of the same potholes or deeper, shameful chasms.
Let’s get back to that infernal slow puncture. As I said, before road and ministries’ rage interrupted me, we can live with a slightly deflated tyre. We will get to our destination even if our car will hobble there.

We can live happily with the slowness but maybe not Dr Muscat who must be dying to get a grip of our roads and sweep them clean. See him stand there with his jack ready to change the tyre and rev up.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Serious piece of humour

There are various articles, treatises, volumes and journals about the sad relationship between comedians and depression.

The last I read was that Jim Carrey—who seems to laugh and smile even when he is trying hard to be serious—suffers from bouts of depression. Maybe the fact that I, on the whole, am not a depressive could be an indicator of how awful my humour is.
That is the correlation between humour and depression: good comedians have it, bad comedians pass depression on. A former British politician who had the same problem as Jim Carrey—seeming to laugh and smile even when the worst tragedies struck—must have been a good comedian. And the way Tony Blair has made riches out of nothing must have been the real reason he was laughing away at tragedies. And whoever made him whatever he is in the Middle East must have had an even better sense of depraved humour. Or should that be deprived?

But I soldier on—like a crazed mountain climber I try hard to find humour in anything and all the time. The minute I become manic depressive I will realise I have been successful. I don’t know what the main reason for this depressive streak is but maybe the fact that trying to get people to laugh is no laughing matter could explain it.
Laughing is a serious matter. Take my last article in The Executive—if you have managed to get to this point then you are advised to reach out and read my previous one (http://victorcalleja.blogspot.com/2011/12/of-abes-slaves-buses-and-diverse.html).

If you are such a sucker for pain then read on. I never knew that management journals of the magnitude of The Executive could harbour such painful sights as masochistic readers. But obviously we all have loads of stuff still to learn. We never know what lies behind closed doors and on the peaks of mountains.

But, as usual, I inanely digress. Let me get to the point.

Someone dear to me –yes I too seem to have a masochistic streak—told me how he enjoyed my light-hearted article in The Executive. I beamed as I usually do when I find someone as kind as that. My smile was even bigger than Jim Carrey’s and Tony Blair’s contorted into one, as I tried following what he said after that. He said: “What was the point of the article?” I gasped in solid exasperation especially when he pointedly stated again how he had thoroughly enjoyed it. Words failed me. Now words, except in some terrific tragedy, hardly ever fail me. Not being a guru in management or laughter or a guru at anything except saying the truth, I said I didn’t know. I was being serious and not my mocking, usual self when confronted with the unknown.

I re-read the piece. The worst thing any writer can do is re-read his published stuff, especially if it is “humorous”; nothing can be worse than trying to dig out the humour and explain it. I fretted, I sweated, I cried.

I re-read it again and tried hard to see what sort of management content it had. I did not manage to eke out any plausible reason for the piece. So I just blurted out that I thought it was funny and couldn’t explain it. Try explaining why John Cleese, Jim Carrey or Billy Connelly or any other comedian is funny and you sound dafter than Inspector Clouseau when he explains some problematic clue. (For the younger generation of readers, Clouseau was the terribly bad inspector in the Pink Panther films. Not the cartoons. Oh no I’m back to my point—explain anything especially humorous and you fall flatter than a pancake.)

So once my management piece of humour failed I thought to hell with it. If I jot down an explanation of why I feel I should write humorously I know I have failed miserably and seriously.

So expect more of this but please don’t ask me to explain what it all means. When that happens I understand what Jim Carrey and Co must feel.

This concludes my article but, unfortunately for you who are too serious and take life a tad too importantly, it does not conclude my series of articles about nothing in particular.

This article first appeared in The Executive January 2012 no 38

Friday, 3 February 2012

Round and round the bend

What with all the talk of cri­ses and Buddhist pos­­sible, pro­­bable or palpable coups, we tend to forget all the rest of the news. Francesco Schettino, with his nefarious deeds, has been sidelined and our personal worries and plans are all shelved as we talk, discuss and dissect our national situation.

It is, in fact, slightly odd to talk of roundabouts. I get the feeling that everyone will say who cares about what role roundabouts have. All this is very true and wise men would definitely tell me to talk of something more palatable to our mood: talk of Franco Debono’s reading, Lawrence Gonzi’s laments or Austin Gatt’s plans to drive us safely into another PN victory would be safer ground to traverse.

But I’ll stick to roundabouts. I have no idea what has happened in the political field up to the time this is published. You might be reading this in full electoral mode or you might be living in a land of arcadia where Dr Debono rules and does not rile, rant and act the ever-errant party stalwart. Because, in his own words, he is a very dedicated party stalwart. Not sure what Buddha says about parties and toppling of governments but I have a slight feeling he wouldn’t be too happy with what Dr Debono did, and is doing, to the nation these last few weeks.

I did take a roundabout way to get to my point but that is what roundabouts are for, after all. To take you to a point by going round and round in circles and that is exactly what I seem to be doing. But my point is this. Actually, no, I need something from Dr Debono. He should do something about roundabouts and their uselessness. He seems the only one to be saying things and these things are actioned. I mean Dr Debono said: Let there be two ministries out of justice and home affairs and, pronto, two ministers are conjured up by the Prime Magician.

He says Arriva need to run on time and out goes Dr Gatt, the bulldozer, and Dr Gonzi sends said Dr Gatt to doze off while he, said Prime Minister, magics a task force to run the bus service efficiently. At least, it seems efficient because no one talks much about it.

We have more exciting fare to topple the government with. Pronto, pronto all he wants Dr Debono gets. Except a ministry or a Buddhist monkdom.

Maybe that is what we should do: get Dr Gonzi and Joseph Muscat to get their intellect together – not sure if that would even come close to Dr Debono’s – and cobble together a unified government under Dr Debono. His mission: get the roundabouts out of the way or he resigns. Would give him a few more gripes to throw at his party leaders.

Anyway, off with the heads of silly politicos. Let’s stick to roundabouts. Yes, roundabouts. Let me prove my case. There are quite a few of these massive, terrible, earth-shattering, car-battering roundabouts. That is a fact no one can deny. Or am I so obsessed that I see them sprouting in all shapes and odd sizes all over the place?
Proceed slowly and take in the utter madness of these roundabouts. Ok, so get to the one – slowly because we are approaching a major roundabout – in Gżira next to what we used to call the gas tank. Now, as you approach it from St Julians on the way to Valletta, look to your left. There, most oddly, is a sign saying: “Please observe roundabout rules”.

Now this surely deserves more attention than silly ministries and other mystifyingly boring mysteries Dr Debono rants about. So, if here I am exhorted – I just love the word “please” inserted there – to obey the roundabout rules, does it mean the rest of the roundabouts in Malta can be totally and legally disregarded?

Bear with me a few more seconds. Yes, I know the traffic is slow and the roads are bad and the driving is atrocious. But, don’t worry, we will get to the end one day. So, as you meander round to the roundabout you say, ok, like the ever silly citizen I am, I shall do what I am told to do. And if you do that and obey the rules of roundabouts here you could be stuck till Dr Debono opts to topple Dr Muscat’s new government of all shades and shapes.

Assuming Dr Muscat will accept a fellow school chum who outshone him in form two grades. Or, maybe, Dr Muscat’s secret weapon of mass Nationalist Party destruction are his report sheets.

Back to the roundabout, where we were stuck for quite a while. Unless you get out of the roundabout in an unbuddhist manic panic and break the most fundamental rule of roundabouts – give way to your right – then you stand no chance of getting home or listening to your favourite parliamentary programme on time. If you are an unbeliever, next time you use that roundabout check out if you really obey the rules.
Roundabouts drive me batty. And I try hard to not drive at all – as my old battered self in my old hardened car are not fit for roads, potholed or not. These lead us all into temptation of having rampant road rage. I have managed to write about roundabouts and, in my straightforward, stable way, avoided all thoughts and words about the unmentionable crisis.

May you have an enjoyable crisis, which, as Buddha I’m sure would say, was as unnecessary as Malta’s silly roundabouts.

This article first appeared in The Times on February 3, 2012