Minimalism and why it doesn’t work

I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts about ‘Minimalism’ lately, and they’ve been jarring my nerves for a while. Ever since I was a little girl, I was taught to only buy what I indeed needed, and to recycle or give away things which I did not need any more. This, after all, is mere common sense. Yet these days, plain common sense is so rare, that people seem to need to gird it in newer fancy words, and make a fuss over it, in order to distinguish themselves.

Minimalism is a trend which has been slowly infecting our Maltese shores, among others, during the last few years. The precepts of Minimalism embrace the aim of achieving freedom through the voiding of materialistic trappings which are accumulated in relation to a capitalistic-minded society. Originally, the onset of Minimalist per se originated as a term describing visual arts in the post-war Western world of the 1960s and 1070s.

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Personally, as I said, I understand the concept in moderation, however putting an unneeded emphasis on it, not to mention trying to adhere to its more extremist tenets, only ends in showing up that the Minimalist agenda is not only unpractical, but actually going against its own targets. While, of course there’s nothing inherently wrong with owning material possessions, equating one’s own personal value with how much money is in one’s bank account, what car one drives, or what mobile phone one uses, is obviously self-deceiving. This however, is not the issue which is actually tackled by Minimalists, whose main tenet endorses having no more than 100 possessions in total. One could for example, still own and brag about only a few costly items, while having less than 100 ‘things’. So, in actuality, having a few items does not necessarily mean disassociation from the idea of material gratification. Attaching meaning solely to ‘things’ rather than people, personal experiences, or emotions, is the seeming crux of the Minimalist credo, and yet, having chucked all but a few of one’s possessions in the bin, does one really end up forsaking the company of his/her pc, or the fascination of an XBOX (if one keeps one of course), for human contact? Not likely.

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Others maintain that Minimalism targets excess, that it leads to better prioritisation, and that it ultimately leads one to spend less. It advocates discipline and de-cluttering, yet its oppressive regime and illusion of control sees one stressfully trying to get by without certain commodities, which, instead of leading to some kind of transcendental ‘freedom’, actually ends, in many cases, by causing an even bigger backlash of ‘materialism’. Minimalism is anxiety-inducing in that one ends up feeling a failure if one cannot conform to it. Optimising the use of minimal products can lead one to over-technologize one’s lifestyle in a bid to use tools or IT systems which do more with less, leading to the conclusion that Minimalism is a movement targeted towards those who are well-off, and not towards the majority, since it also actually results in more money being spent. Once you chuck something you are keeping in case you might needed it in the bin, you cannot get it back – meaning that you’d have to re-buy the item when you actually do need it. Again, this goes against the aim of ‘spending less’ targeted by Minimalism.

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Yes ultra-capitalism is a sickness. We are not our things. Yet, if the other end of the spectrum offers only extreme austerity promoting a Spartan repressive lifestyle, this is just as detrimental. In the end, human beings need to express themselves, they need to optimize their own style, and feel free to overindulge in moments of tension, in order to be fully at peace with themselves. 

Minimalistic decor can have a therapeutic effect, especially if one suffers from OCD-related problems, however there is an invigorating liberation in a spontaneous carefree use of space. Feeling comfortable and at home in one’s own personal space definitely leads not only to creativity and freedom of expression, but also to a more inspiring and eclectic outlook. Wealth is not how many things you have, or how expensive they were, it is the ability to have options and to be able to fulfill them.

If you want to give more worth to important things, try creating certain tools instead of using mass-marketed ones. Try to jazz up or individualize your space instead of latching onto an easy conformity. Re-use and re-cycle instead of chucking out ‘outdated’ stuff you haven’t looked at in a while. Don’t limit yourself or your options. Instead, embrace a more positive and DIY attitude.

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Clutter and chaos is not something to strive for. On the other hand, living in a wasteland is not conductive to an energetic outlook either. In the end, extremes are not beneficial to anyone. There is nothing as healthy as balance.

A slightly different version of my article was published in the online magazine LivingInMalta.

If a Sequel is not written by the original Author, it is NOT a Sequel

This is something which personally I never had to wonder about, but which, I realised yesterday, some people seem to misconceive.

What is the difference between a sequel and a fanfic?

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Is ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’, which is the book which comes after ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, a sequel? Well, of course it is, since it was written directly by the same author, Lewis Carroll, and continues the journey of the main character, Alice.

Are ‘Good Wives’ and ‘Little Men’ sequels to ‘Little Women’? Of course they are, as all of them were written by the same author, Louisa May Alcott, and follow the March family throughout the years.

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Is Robin Hobb’s ‘Rain Wild Chronicles’ a sequel to the ‘Farseer Trilogy’ and the ‘Liveship Traders Trilogy’, even though its not about the same people? Yes it is, because it is set in the same world, tackles events which obviously take place after the other books and which have an impact on them, and because it is WRITTEN BY THE SAME AUTHOR.

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On the other hand, what about books like P.D James’ ‘Death comes to Pemberley’, which was written as an obvious sequel to ‘Pride and Prejudice’? Do you really consider it a sequel? The time-frames are right, and the writer is good, but it’s not written by the original author is it? The flavor is totally different. And what about Alexandra Rippley’s ‘Scarlett’, which was written as a sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s ‘Gone with the Wind’? The realistic feelings of loss and hope in the face of desperation are totally lost to a whiny prima donna who does not capture the original heroine’s spirit in the least. So, written right or written wrong, no I personally DO NOT CONSIDER BOOKS WRITTEN BY A DIFFERENT AUTHOR AS PREQUELS, not even if they do take up the original story-line and move forward from there. For me, that is pure fan fiction. Which has a totally different niche in the literary world, and which I like to read at times too. But which is distinctly different from a REAL SEQUEL, if you know what I mean.

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I hear you ask, what about Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ series? Jordan got sick (in fact he wrote a couple of his books while bed-ridden) in the middle of it and the last few volumes were in fact written by Brandon Sanderson – so are those real sequels? Yes they are. Why? Because Sanderson not only used the original notes minutely written and explained by Jordan, but he also continued with the original story-line as decided by Jordan, and developed the characters as Jordan had originally planned.

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On the other hand, look at the Virginia Andrews franchise. Virginia Andrews only actually wrote 6 books before dying. The ‘Flowers in the Attic’ saga (prequel included) and the standalone novel ‘My Sweet Audrina’. After that, her family said they were using another writer to work with her notes, but keeping her name on the books. Because the notes were hers. Really? I read a couple of the books which ‘came after’, and honestly couldn’t see a glimmer of Virginia. On the other hand, the ‘new’ books tackled totally new and different characters and formed up new serieses, so they never aimed at being ‘sequels’ to anything. All they did was keep alive V.A’s name, and that’s fine.

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I guess a person’s definition of a ‘sequel’ can be different depending on his/her point of view. However, for me, no ‘sequel’ is real unless it is written by the same author as the previous book/s.

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All the rest, no matter how well written, thought out and executed, are fanfics. And there is nothing wrong with that. As long as the distinction is clear.

And honestly, whenever I hear of a ‘sequel’ to something good being made (by someone else apart from the original creator), be it in books or movies, I am terrified they are going to destroy and twist the whole plot-line entirely. Think about the rumors of ‘Labyrinth 2’! *sobs*

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The National Book Fair Sucks… sorry. This is my opinion.

People I hardly know tag me on book-related stuff on Facebook (and I love it). Friends have ceased to ask me why I always have books in my handbag. People who hardly know me identify me because unless I’m talking to someone, there’s always an open book in front of me.

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Let’s face it, everyone knows that I’m a Book-addict/Bookaholic/Bibliophile/Nerd/Bookworm/etc. I think books, breathe books and live in books in my mind most of the time. For me, the characters I’m reading about at that moment in time are more real than ‘real life’, and even though I try to rein it in to ‘appear like a normal human being’ on the surface, it just seeps through.

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So, I’m guessing with the opening of the National Malta Book Fair this afternoon, I am ‘expected’ to go into an orgiastic frenzy and tear everything in my path until I’m standing right there buying everything in sight. I admit, that was the case once. But unfortunately, things change.

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I’m going to come out and say it, and I don’t care who takes offence, because it is my right as a person to say what I think. THIS YEAR I AM NOT GOING TO THE BOOKFAIR BECAUSE IT SUCKS!

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It wasn’t always like this. Up until around four/five years ago, it was great. One of the most anticipated weeks of the year (for me), but all that slowly ground to a halt as I realised that the fair was becoming more and more crappy each year. What happened?

Well, first of all people go to a fair to find bargains. It’s the truth. We rush there hoping we’ll ‘find’ something we couldn’t normally purchase, or that we find something cheaper than usual, which is why we’d be especially waiting for the fair to buy it. In the past, this applied to the bookfair as there were many bargains depending on the different stalls. Many of them offered a ‘buy two books, get one free’ deal, while others offered paperbacks for very cheap and worthwhile prices.

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Nowadays, the prices are the same as those found within regular stores, and sometimes more expensive than the prices of books bought online – so in that case, why bother?

In relation to the books themselves, I used to go ‘hunting’ for books which one does not normally find in stores too. Like old editions of fairytales for example, or novels written by obscure authors I had never heard of, but which were brilliant nonetheless. Today this is no longer possible, simply because ADULT NOVELS in ENGLISH are only a very small portion of the books on offer during the fair. This is because the fair has mostly become a publicity stunt to show how our society is trying to promote reading for children. This is not a mistake at all per se, as it is obviously important for the powers that be to provide opportunities for new readers, however the bad thing is that by doing so, they are NEGLECTING already developed readers. By focusing only on children’s books, the bookfair is neglecting adults who like to read!!

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Another thing is the overly obvious promotion of books in the Maltese language. Personally I do not like to read in Maltese, preferring English as this complements my state of mind more. This does not mean that other people don’t love to read in Maltese, obviously. I also understand the importance of promoting and creating opportunities for writers of Maltese, as well as books about Malta, to take a prominent role within the National BookFair. It is a matter of course. What I DO NOT get is why lately, the bookfair is offering only:

  1. Books for children
  2. Novels and other books in Maltese
  3. Historical books about Malta

WHERE are the novels/books in the English language for adults??

I don’t mean to say there aren’t any, but there are VERY FEW on offer, and these are quite mainstream and found in shops all year round, not to mention online. So, why on earth should I need to go to the bookfair to get a hold of them?

Considering that in Malta, both the Maltese and the English language are ‘official languages’, one should be as important as the other!

Last year, I asked the relevant Facebook page pertaining to the bookfair whether there would be a good assortment of literature in English. The answer I got was that there would be books in English, just as there would be books in Italian and French. For shame! English is one of the two official languages of Malta, why is it being relegated to a ‘third language’ status?
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I’m sure many will not agree with me and that is not a problem. However, these are the reasons why I personally, will not be going to the National Bookfair this year. I simply know I will not find anything that will interest me there. As I didn’t find anything (except boredom and wasted time that is) last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. Thank you very much for nothing, I will continue buying my non-mainstream and new, yet inexpensive books online.

End of rant. You may like to start kindling your fires and sharpening your pitchforks now.

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Allura l-‘Gays’ “itghuk f’ghajnejk” Gianluca Bezzina?

Seriously?!

Apart from the fact that I really don’t get how just because someone knows how to sing, s/he suddenly expects to become an ‘ambassador for the people’ and ‘represent’ the majority of them (they most certainly do NOT represent me!). And apart from the fact that the guy himself hardly appears to be this paragon of straight heterosexuality (Matthew Grech style). Seems to me like certain people are so afraid of their nature that they become extremists advocating the other side of the issue.

Anyways, private conjectures aside – what is obvious here is that after whirling and twirling around the issue, we still realize that this ‘boy next door’ whom the desperate Maltese housewives love so much, is another hypocritical soft-spoken homophobic wannabe who, while preaching love and tolerance, also preaches close mindedness and non-inclusion. Way to go… why don’t all these people do us a favor, get into a time-machine, and go back to the Dark Ages where they obviously feel that they belong? I’m sure the world would leap towards peace and prosperity in a jiffy if that happened!

Oh for a time-machine! My kingdom, for a time-machine!

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Gianluca Bezzina attends the Nationalist Party’s General Council and appears to have gone on a subtle Catholic-induced homophobic rant. While I am all for freedom of expression, people with a certain public image should really thread carefully in expressing their views that impact different societal situations.

(Photo credit: InsiterOnline)

Quoting Dr Bezzina from his nervous and uncomfortable speech:

“As a person, I am not very interested in politics, but I do follow current events around the world and in Malta. Something which has really been irritating me lately, and which I feel very strongly about, is that I am slowly seeing human being’s values and morals changing drastically” – Gianluca chose to speak about morals and values at a political event. Ah to be young and naive.

“We are living in times where the general mentality is becoming more liberal, where if I feel that something is good, I…

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Wanted – GAY MALE BEST FRIEND! Apply here!!

I wish I had a gay-guy best friend!

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Ok, this might sound kinda weird with labeling-overtones, but really, let me explain what I mean.

Yesterday, one of my colleagues, a very extrovert, bouncy, happy-go-lucky and vociferously gay young man, who is also a local media personality, being a singer and an amateur ‘magician’, told me I have ‘nice breasts’. Now, seriously, apart from boyfriends/dates/interested males who wanted sexual favors or other stuff from me, and who appreciated my boobs, but definitely did not use the word ‘nice’ NO FEMALE friend would ever compliment another female on her boobs. Except if she was asked at point blank of course, when she would probably say ‘You have a nice figure’, but not ‘You have nice boobs’.

See, female friends are complicated that way! They try to be friendly and helpful, without being bitchy or pushy, they try to give advice without seeming to, and give compliments while trying at least to appear ‘neutral’, that is to show that the compliment is being given because they really believe it, and not because they like you and are therefore trying to be nice – which is actually most often the case anyways. Female friends walk a thin line, being always aware that the smallest gesture or comment could be classified by the other female as a pointer to envy.

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On the other hand, I have yet to encounter a male, ‘friend’ or otherwise, who is totally honest when he comments about a girl physically. A male would either mutter, flutter and then finally say it’s ‘ok’, lather on lavish compliments in order to get something out of you, twist the question into a joke, or escape the quandary altogether by telling you to ask someone else, since he:
a) is too in love with you to be objective
b) does not know about fashion or ‘things like that’
c) looks at you blankly and ask you what’s different from last time

*SIGH*

A gay male friend on the other hand, would not only be blatantly (and sometimes cruelly) honest, but would tell you why in great detail, while giving you tips on how to improve the situation. He would not jump to conclusions, try to get out of the issue, or be afraid of ‘hurting your feelings’. He would not even think that you might think he’s envious (as most female friends do) or that you are asking merely for him to be nice. Basically, he’d have the honesty of a guy, but the interest in the subject a girl usually has.

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Rant apart – unfortunately I have never been so blessed as to have a gay male bestie (or GMBFF). I had a couple of gay male friends, or acquaintances, and dated a couple of guys who were bi, but it’s not the same thing. A BEST FRIEND has the impetus and knows you well enough to actually be honest and intimate with you, in a way that an acquaintance, obviously, cannot.

Am I just being too optimistic in my estimate or what? 

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