An Invitation to my Followers

You may have noticed that I have been quiet lately. There were two main causes for this. First, I had to deal with some personal issues (yes, again) which are still ongoing – actually, a person I love is having health problems, which is of course affecting me and my time since taking care of him is a priority.

Secondly, I have recently decided to create another blog apart from this one – which is totally dedicated to Travelling. Do not misunderstand me, I love this blog. It has been a place to vent and share experiences for over eight years BUT to be fair, it has also become a many-tentacled monster, tackling so many different categories and subjects that things were becoming too chaotic. This is why I decided to de-clutter a bit. I will continue to use this space to write personal stuff, such as opinion and lifestyle pieces, book and movie reviews, and articles about my own country – Malta, while having another blog to deal with my travel experiences and tips (of which I have many).

I hope there is no confusion, even though I admit that at the moment some things seem to be all over the place. The ‘Travel’ section of this blog is still there, yet slowly, I will start shifting articles about travelling from this blog to the new one, and then deleting the ‘Travel’ section from this site altogether. The Travel blog – Meandering Moonsong – is still in its infancy, but I am very very proud of it and happy to be starting on this new venture.

I would be happy if you could join me for this journey and follow my new blog too. Please take a look at it by clicking the link above. I hope you like it as much as I love to travel! Let’s go adventuring!

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Interview?

If someone asked you to give a short interview on a T.V channel, and talk for ten minutes about a book of your choice – which book would you choose?

Currently I’m reading a terribly predictable short novel by James Herbert called ‘Lair’. One of those horror+soft porn mish-mashes which leave absolutely no room for surprise, and whose pedantic prose tends to drive me away from the pleasure of reading, straight into the waiting arms of yet another Korean drama (yes, I’m a K-drama fan). Which further leads to the prolonging of the torture of reading said novel.

Incidentally, the plot revolves around a group of man-eating gigantic mutant rats, led by a two-headed overweight monstrosity living underground… people get killed and eaten while our main character, a lonely rat-catcher with no seeming past or ties of any kind, begs the powers that be to take action, but instead gets mired in tedious bureaucracy while innocent farmers and children in the surrounding countryside get bitten, mauled, gnawed upon, and turned into pulp.

Not the sort of thing one talks about during an interview with one of the organizers of the Malta International Book-fair on an educational channel – viewed by children and families, and espousing a wholesome and ‘respectable’ attitude.

So, which book to choose? One of the Classics? How about Pride and Prejudice? Shall I wax lyrical on how mamas ‘used to’ fish around for the richest bachelor for their ‘tender damsels’ in need of husbands? Used to… yeah right.

How about Jane Eyre? Ugly, poor, unwanted girl leaves school and travels to a beautiful mansion with gothic undertones, to work as the governess of a perfect doll of a French girl with an attractive, rich, single uncle who’s VERY interested in the main character… hmm the theme of P&P seems to be hidden in this one, but still present.

Something more modern then… George R.R Martin’s book series A Song of Ice and Fire – most commonly known as Game of Thrones? Nah – that one’s been reviewed, blogged, vlogged and analysed ad nauseum.

Umm.. shall I give the interview a feminist flavor with Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and preach against racism, rape and domestic abuse? Hmm might open a can of worms with that one.

How about trying to impress and mentioning Nobel Prize winner for literature Orham Pamuk and his My Name is Red? Better not = I tried reading that one and to be honest the style of writing did not ring my bell, so I did not even finish it *cringe*…

Rowling? Auster? D.H Lawrence? Wilde?

Well, fretting is pointless. I’m too shy to appear on T.V anyways so I’m telling the guy no. Thanks very much but no. I’m not the kind of person who likes to be in the spotlight. Quite the opposite actually. So, panic-mode averted and introvert mode reinstated.

So much for that hehe.

Family vs Partner

I’m writing this while waiting for my better half to shower. We’re in France on holiday. I usually don’t have much time to write while on vacation, apart from writing personal observations in my travel journal, however I missed writing, so I decided to turn a bit to my blog now, since I have the time.

I was randomly remembering an old article I had replied to some time ago. Someone was asking advice on whether she should prioritize either her family or her partner, since they did not get along well together. I guess most people would reply that family are there to stay while partners come and go. Thing is, I don’t think about it that way. Of course, the best thing is always to try and find a way for everyone to at least be civil to one another, especially if these are all people you care about. However, one thing one always has to remember is that it is a fact that no one gets to choose his/her own family. Family is something that willy nilly, you are born into. Rather like work colleagues. You just find them there and can’t choose them based on likes and dislikes, on their kindness or a nice personality.

A partner on the other hand, is someone you choose to spend your life with out of all other possible choices and after growing up as a person and learning what and who you actually want in your life (unless you’re desperate to get married before you’re 35 or something, in which case as long as the person’s not a serial killer, anyone will do. Lol).

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So, moral of the story, with a partner you go into something with your eyes wide open and because you choose to, not because that’s how things got played out.

In the long run of course, be they family-members, partners, friends, or whatever, any kind of relationship can fizzle out. People drift apart, change, or plain out decide they want different persons in their lives, and one cannot take anything or anyone for granted. Thing is, as long as it’s all about choice, it is important to prioritize those who, through their actions and behavior show that for them you are a priority in real fact.

So, there you have it. It is important to know who you are, what you want from life, and who you want to share it with, because in the end, time is finite, and it is the most precious thing we have.

And remember, real life is not lived on social media. It is not about how many likes you get, it is not about people’s approval, not about appearances and not about money. Real life is about making the most out of every day, learning and growing as a person, and most of all, it is about love, art, and personal evolution.

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Now my partner is finally ready and off we go! A bientot! ☺☺

 

Have you visited the Picasso Exhibition in Valletta?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that unless you have actually been to the place you are writing about, you cannot write a good review, give suggestions, or try to ‘teach’ people anything about it. Seems like common sense right? Well, actually it is 🙂 

I love travelling. That is kind of obvious to anyone who knows me or who follows my articles or blog-posts. However, that being said, and travelling apart, first and foremost it is important to know and appreciate the beautiful and significant places within your own country, before venturing farther away. Which is why I also love to just explore all the many architectural and historical, not to mention natural wonders in Malta, the island I live in. 

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A few weeks ago, me and my boyfriend decided to grab the bus to Valletta, Malta’s capital city, instead of using the car as usual, and make a kind of adventure out of our excursion. I take the bus almost every day coming back from work, but my boyfriend never does, so venturing to Valletta in this way with him was fun as I felt as though I was seeing everything for the first time with his eyes somehow. It was a very special date, as we went somewhere quiet exceptional – to view the Pablo Picasso’s sketches which are being exhibited in Valletta right now.

Following Antonio Banderas’ work-related visit to our islands while he was working on the set for the forthcoming National Geographic Season 2 of the T.V series ‘Genius’, and portraying the great artist Pablo Picasso, a large number of the Spanish painter’s actual paintings are currently on exhibit in our shores. More specifically, the exhibition is taking place at the Grandmaster’s Palace, in Saint George Square Valletta. It opened its doors on the 7th of April and will be available to the general public until the 30th of June.

This exhibition is part of a major international project titled ‘Picasso-Méditerranée’, an initiative from Musée National Picasso in Paris held between Spring 2017 and Spring 2019. In fact, not only will more than 100 of Picasso’s works be on exhibit, but so will a number of the artworks pertaining to the Spanish artist Joan Miró – the painter, sculptor and ceramicist born in Barcelona. The exhibition, entitled ‘Picasso and Miró: The Flesh and the Spirit’, aims at bringing the public closer to the perception of two artistic creators who shook the foundation of traditional art.

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The exhibition consists of a selection of 100 etchings from the Collection Suite Vollard which belongs to Fundación Mapfre and 40 paintings by Miro belonging to the Espacio Miró exhibition in Madrid. Fundación Mapfre is bringing this exhibition to Malta in collaboration with the Office of the President of Malta and Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti (FPM).

The two artists’ work was paired together because of the similarities that run through their style and creative process. This is the first exhibition of Picasso and Miro in Malta and perhaps of any modern painter of this stature. Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro are two of the 20th century’s most influential artists. While the first founded cubism, the second was active in the emergence of surrealism.

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Following the exhibition, we roamed around Valletta and finally found a cute British pub and restaurant where to have lunch. A couple of beers were the perfect foil for such a day!

If you want to read more about Picasso and Miro’s exhibition, take a look at the article which I subsequently wrote for LivingInMalta magazine, here. Some of the info I wrote in this blogpost in fact comes from my article itself, but I urge you to visit the magazine for the whole thing.

On Creativity – Tropes and why we love them

A ‘trope’ is a recurrent literary theme, motif, or structure of a plot when it comes to writing novels and stories. Most tropes are presented by authors again and again, in differing formats and story-lines, and yet, though readers generally recognize them and sometimes even preempt certain happenings and resolutions, they still continue to prefer the same type of story-line and continue to read and enjoy such books and stories again and again.

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Most tropes are over-used, and yet, they still sell. Why? I must admit that I myself find that I tend to gravitate towards reading familiar tropes, especially when I’m in a certain mood where I need a nice comfortable reliable story… and yet… is writing a novel and basing it on this much-recycled outline acceptable? I mean – where is creativity?? And what about originality?

Take for example the Rags to Riches trope – here the main character is usually a young unknown person who, through some circumstance or other, ends up becoming rich and famous. Some well-known examples include Cinderella, Pretty Woman and Slum Dog Millionaire.

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Another well-known trope is the Love Triangle – this one actually needs no explanation does it? Everyone enjoys a good love story, but throw in some unrequited love, a couple of misunderstandings, a pinch of jealousy and heartache, and there it is, the usual popular T.V drama series cocktail!

A third trope, which never gets old, is what I call the Ugly Duckling story-line. Think about My Fair Lady, The Princess Diaries, Miss Congeniality or The Devil wears Prada, and you have it. Basically this kind of story also usually ends up becoming a ‘moral lesson’ = Unkept girl has a make-over and transforms into a beauty, then realizes that looks are not everything… but she still looks pretty now anyways.

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Want another one? How about the Unknown Hero who saves the World trope? I guess I don’t even need to give examples for this one… *cough*Spiderman*cough*Superman*cough*Marvelingeneral*

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And what about all those post-apocalyptic dystopian teen-movies which seem to add up all of the above?! The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Divergent, The Giver… ugh! I read the books before there was even a hint of any movie, and I realized early on that they were all the same, and yet I still gobbled them up! Why!?

I guess we all love the familiar, we all dream of becoming rich, popular heroes and that never changes.

Yet, artists, BEWARE. Writing/creating something familiar while portraying it in an entirely new and creative manner is one thing, re-writing the same thing over and over and over again, is another. ‘Familiar’ is a tricky word, since it is most often dangerously close to ‘mediocre’, not to mention ‘boring’. 

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The Reader

Her parents had no money to waste on books. Electricity and water bills arrived every couple of months, food had to be bought, not to mention stuff to clean the house and clothes with. Raising a child wasn’t cheap. 

When she turned twelve, she discovered ‘pocket money’. All the other children at school seemed to have it and had had it for years. They laughed at her for not knowing what it was. So did her cousins. 

Grabbing courage with two shaking hands, the child timidly went to her mother, and asked about it. After weeks of consultations – days and days of walking on tiptoe, of ‘being good or you can forget any pocket-money’, it was decided. Father gave mother money every week to buy food. She in turn would give the child two Maltese lira a week out of the food money. If she was good. And did as she was told. And did not ‘answer back’.

That money was her life-line. All it took was three weeks. Maybe four. And with her carefully saved hoard she could finally buy a book. One book. 

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The lady at the shop saw her every week. Maybe twice or three times each week even. Peering assiduously at the shelves. Hair tucked back. Pinching shoes forgotten as glistening eyes devoured each and every corner. Reading the book titles over and over again. Touching the pages, looking at the spines and covers. And of course, the blurps at the back. She must have known the sequencing of all the books on all the shelves by heart. And by the fourth week, when the price of the chosen book had been reached, the money would be handed over, as would the much awaited paper-wrapped treasure.

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In her room, she would unwrap it slowly, marveling at its heavenly smell. That particular scent of new paper and stationery. First, she’d introduce it to the other books, then the soft toys, one by one, each one by name. And finally, with a flourish, she’d present it to the room in general, imagining ovations and applause as the new addition to the small family was placed in its particularly chosen spot.

Then she would wait.

She waited for her father to go out. For her mother to be engrossed in one of her soaps on the T.V or in some long-winded conversation on the telephone. Then, and only then, would she crack the book’s spine.

And be lost.

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Runner

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A moment
frozen
crystallized in time
one of a multitude

Icy eyes
what have you seen?
Blue and cold
lost passions, hidden possibilities

A face 
you were smooth
once
before the withering storm

We are all blank canvasses
waiting for life to fill us
waiting to die

The rain falls
carrying with it
all those moments
all those memories

Lost 
once our eyes close
Gone
without an echo

Who are you?
Did anyone ever really know?

© M. A.
29.05.2018

Getting rid of the Garbage

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that one of the great joys of coming back home after visiting another country is taking a look through the photos and videos one has taken, and marveling again at the places one has been to. I usually do this bit by bit as I slowly upload my photos on social media, while savoring each memory of those times for as long as I can (or at least, before the next trip abroad comes along!)

During the last 5 years I have been to Sicily 4 or 5 times, and this Mediterranean island, which is the closest one to the Maltese archipelago, never ceases to amaze me. I admit, part of the fascination is the fact that it is so much like my own Malta… and yet, so different too. In fact I previously wrote an article about it, which mainly focused on the historical ties between the two islands, and which one can read here. However with the positive, unfortunately, one also has to face the negative aspects of each country, and while Malta and Sicily have a lot of amazing things in common, such as their heritage, architecture, art, food, etc, they also have one other thing in common which they could well do without.

I am talking about garbage.

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Every country, indeed every place where there is human habitation, generates an amount of garbage. That is normal. The responsible and acceptable thing to do of course, is to take care of this waste and recycle it, or at least dispose of it in some constructive way which does not damage the environment or ourselves.

Unfortunately, that much appreciated lassaize-faire attitude which both the Maltese and the Sicilians have in common, is, I think, the issue from which the waste-related problem stems. The so-called ‘u ijwa‘ (an expression basically meaning ‘I don’t give a damn’) attitude is why people simply don’t care enough to pick up their trash and take it with them whenever they are in the countryside for a picnic for example, or at the beach for a swim. What’s worse, larger junk and discarded appliances, such as BBQs, mattresses, fridges, etc, which in Malta is even picked up free of charge by local councils once or twice a week from the front of one’s own household, is, for some incomprehensible reason, left outside to rust and deteriorate, besmirching our natural habitat, instead.

And this is what I found in Sicily, and as I was looking at which photos to upload in my online album, the issue became even more evident. There were photos in my camera which I discarded, simply because the trash overwhelmed the beauty and nature around it. Why are humans so destructive? No other mammal or indeed, no other animal, is such a parasite on nature as humanity. And that is surely nothing to be proud of. 

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The worse is that these photos are just a pale reflection of what I saw – and here I mean both the beauty of Sicily, and the corrosive trash left lying around it. The only thing I can do, is hope that this ‘u ijwa‘ attitude is slowly eroded out of the population, either through education, or through the consequences of learning that living in one’s own filth, is of detriment both to the mind and the body, and is one of the unhealthiest things one can do. Sounds like common sense doesn’t it? So, how come we have this issue?

On Writing

There is a difference between writing facts and writing fiction. When you write facts, you write about things you have seen, experienced and felt. When you write fiction, you write about things you have invented, or imagined. On the other hand when you write imagined facts as though they were truths… well that’s either lying or you’re just copying and pasting other real writers’ stuff! lol

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This is basically the difference between being a writer, and being a mere ‘content filler’. 

I’ve had a number of offers, both locally and pertaining to online media, where either betting companies, or news-rags, just needed someone to fill-in some pages, either with adverts full of pre-determined phrases and compliments towards their products, or where the job consisted of just researching stuff online and putting it forward in another format. And I rejected them all. I’m not an automated content filler. I LOVE writing as a way of expression and a way to share my experiences and the things and places I love. So, no, I will never reduce writing and my capabilities to doing a mere job which any machine can do.

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Brandon Sanderson, when explaining the difference between a writer and a content-filler, gives the metaphor of the difference between a cook and a chef. The cook just wants to do a job, he follows a recipe to the detail, mechanically, always the same, and produces a cheese burger. The chef on the other hand, wants to express himself, he wants to create, he wants to change and evolve. He doesn’t mindlessly pour four ingredients into a mixing bowl to produce food, he wants to pour himself into something which others will love, and which will change them in turn. And that is the difference between a content filler and a writer.

A content filler is there only for the money. He doesn’t create anything. He copies and pastes. That’s easy.

A writer is writing because he not only enjoys it for its own sake, but because he NEEDS to write, in order to feel complete. Each time he writes, his emotions and experiences pour onto the page and fill it with character and color. This leaves part of him into everything he writes and creates. It is not easy, but it is fulfilling, interesting and wonderful.

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Each time someone asks me if I’m interested in a job as a content filler either using my own blog (this one) or their own magazine/website, I admit that I pause, and I admit that this is because of the pay. Let’s face it, who doesn’t need money? But the thing is, I have a good career and a good wage, and I never wrote for the money itself (though yes I do get paid), but mostly I write because I love it and I write only about things which interest me. So that is my priority, and each time I receive one of these offers, THIS is why I pause and ask myself, am I going to write this review/article because I will enjoy doing so, or just for the money? And this is what I suggest writers – those who love to write and do it to express themselves, to do.

Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t sell your art, because even if you say you are going to do it ‘once’, you will end up doing it again and again and in the end have no time to write what you really want.

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Write what you feel. Write about where you go, what you see, and about what happens to you. Write about your hobbies, your passions, your life. Don’t write fictions as though they were fact just because you are paid to – because yes readers DO notice the difference between those articles/stories which communicate real passion and real experiences, as opposed to the arid ones which just repeat already coined phrases ad infinitum.

It’s not easy, but in the end, it all boils down to your priorities. And to whether you are a real writer or not of course! 🙂 

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February Book Round-Up

I was going to write this post mentioning the books chronologically as I read them one after the other throughout the month, however then I decided to number them according to the order in which they touched me most.

  1. The book I read this month which I loved ‘best’ was actually the one I finished reading last, that is, yesterday evening. I had been looking forward to reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon‘s ‘The Shadow of the Wind‘ for quite some time, as I had heard it was very good, and as soon as I randomly came across the book last weekend at the public library, I knew I had some very full days ahead of me. I love reading books about people who love reading books, and therefore this novel was right up my street. ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ is a mystery, a love story, a gothic novel, a historic book about the war, a book describing the city of Barcelona, but most of all, it is a book about books and the obsession one person can feel towards them. The writing itself is mezmerising and beautiful. Truly an enchanting read which touched my heart. I give it 5 stars!

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2. Next up is Antoine de Saint Exupery‘s ‘The Little Prince‘ which I had watched as a little girl in anime-form, but had never read. It is an easy book to read. But no, it is not a children’s book, despite its appearance and pictures inside. It is in fact one of the most beautiful and insightful allegories I have ever read. And it is a novel I will always treasure. I am only sorry that I didn’t read it sooner, but better late than never. I know I will re-read it again, and again, and again. This book is almost a tie-in with the first one in fact. Again 5 stars!

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3. In third place, I’m not putting just one book, but actually three, since I started out February by continuing to read the ‘Ender’s Shadow’ series. I am of course referring to Orson Scott Card‘s ‘Shadow Puppets‘, ‘Shadow of the Giant‘ and ‘Shadows in Flight‘. As you know, I don’t usually go for sci-fi, but Card’s ‘Ender’ universe (for want of a better name) hooked me up years ago – what with political depth, emotional metaphors, religious insinuations and technical jargon, again it’s not my cup of tea… but… but… I’m just a sucker for character-development, and this series is just a master-piece. No, the ‘Shadow’ series is not as good as the ‘Ender’ one, I admit, still I really like most of the characters, not to mention Card’s writing and funny turn of phrase. So, definitely a 4 out of 5 stars for this series in general. 

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4. Following all this sci-fi, I turned my gaze to Rick Riordan‘s ‘Kane Chronicles’. Yup – from sci-fi to ‘ YA mythological fantasy’, quite a jump! But I really needed the breath of fresh air, plus I was missing some good references to Egyptian mythology. Riordan does a masterful job, especially when it comes to ancient history, however I must admit that his characters, especially the ‘teens’, DO come across as kind of flat. Admittedly this could be the result of reading a YA writer exactly after a diet of Card’s densely-packed characterization… but I still enjoyed the fast-paced story-line. I give it 3 – 4 stars.

So, in 4th place this month, I’m gonna place Riordan’s trilogy ‘The Red Pyramid’, ‘The Throne of Fire‘ and ‘The Serpent’s Shadow‘.

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5. Lastly, is another book I got from the local public library – ‘Big Little Lies‘ by Liane Moriarty. I can hear you scream ‘WHAT?’ Female Melodrama? ‘Desperate Housewives’ stuff? Again, not my usual genre, but after watching the T.V series and randomly spotting the novel at the library, I decided to try it out. It was quirky and funny and well-written, but, had it not been for the stellar performance given by the cast in the eponymous T.V series, I wouldn’t have given it one thought. Suffice it to say, it was entertaining, but I won’t be reading any more of Moriarty’s work in future. Again, I reiterate that she is a good writer BUT I don’t particularly enjoy this kind of plot. So, this book gets 3 stars.

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At the beginning of the year I had promised myself that I would try to read at least 8 books per month, that is, two books a week. Last month, I only managed to finish 7, which was below quota, however this month I managed 9, which makes up for January as well. I managed to read so much even though I was abroad on holiday for a week, which resulted in a lot of outings and me being too dead tired in the evening to read anything at all. So, yay me!