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MAY2014 VOL 14 ISSUE 3


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KSU’S FIRST PRIORITIES MATTHEW AGIUS MUSCAT

FROM ZERO TO ANTI-HERO

FEATURE

JULIAN CARUANA

THE CHEMTRAIL CONSPIRACY

GERALDINE SAMMUT

DANIEL COSSAI

WHEN TICKING A BOX BECOMES A DILEMMA

MARIE CLAIRE FINGER

HOPELESSLY DEVOTED OR HAZARDOUS SOCIETY?

MAKING WAVES MEL McELHATTON

STAYING AFLOAT THE ERRC

JOHANN AGIUS

BIBLICAL EPICS RESURRECTED

BRUCE MICALLEF EYNAUD

ADVERTORIAL REVIEW

INTERVIEW

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SMOOCHIE

RACHEL POWELL

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DIAR IL-BNIET

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NITPICKER

A BAND AID OVER OUR EDUCATIONAL PROBLEMS DEMI TANTI

MY BONES SAID: WRITE A POEM JAKE DALLI

insiteronline.com

PROTECTING MALTA’S SEABIRDS

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STUDENT READS THE TOP 5

TECHNOLOGY

ENVIRONMENT

TIMMY MICALLEF

DIONNE TARYN GATT

JONATHAN GALEA

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ASK FOUR MORE QUESTIONS

EVERYONE’S WATER BREAKS IN JUNE

TIM DIACONO

THE UNIVERSITY OF MALTA GREAT EXPECTATIONS JULIA POLLACCO

THE RACE FOR EUROPE’S TOP POST

OPINION


EDITORIAL As Summer approaches, we are gladly presenting our third and final issue for this academic year. The improvements seen in The Insiter, as well as in the organisation as a whole, were made through the upgrading of our newsroom and design team, who have played an important part in the printing of the magazines. This edition contains the largest amount of contributors when compared to its two predecessors and subsequently contains a healthy variety of topics. As the newly elected KSU prepares the start of its tenure, Julian Caruana has interviewed the new executive on what they are planning for the next academic year. Our special features have a wide subject range. On page 14, Rachel Powell talks to Dorianne Kurtcu, one of the managers of Diar il-Bniet, a newly launched local agritourism business. Daniel Cossai has also brilliantly featured Malta’s senior men’s national water polo team, who has been achieving commendable results beyond our shores. Another intriguing feature is on page 22, with the Emergency Response and Rescue Corps, a non-governmental organisation which strives to protect human life and which is most known for the lifeguarding it does around the islands. We’ve also ventured into matters which perhaps affect people around us, especially youths, more than we realised. Melissa McElhatton has delved into the little known issue of gender dysphoria, while Jonathan Galea has analysed the aim and uses of ask.fm, a controversial website which is popular and heavily frequented by young teenagers. Our bird enthusiast, Timothy Micallef, has written about the ongoing EU LIFE Malta Seabird Project on page 26, which is the largest conservation project ever attempted locally, while Bruce Micallef Eynaud analyses the reception of religious films on pages 34 and 35. And finally, articles dealing with contemporary issues include the Presidency of the European Commission by Jake Dalli on page 30, and Tim Diacono’s opinion on the inclusion of banding within Malta’s educational system. Flip through the pages to read more articles – don’t miss Johann Agius’s take on extreme religions, Matthew Agius Muscat’s take on chemtrails, as well as our usual witty Nitpicker page. And if you still haven’t bookmarked insiteronline.com, don’t forget to do so for student-related news updates throughout Summer too.

PRINT EDITOR Marie Claire Finger

(c) 2014 Insite – The Student Media Organisation. All Rights Reserved.

MEDIA OFFICER Julian Caruana EDITORS Jake Dalli, Vikesh Godhwani, Rachel Powell HEAD OF DESIGN Samwel Mallia

The Insiter is published by Insite – The Student Media Organisation on Campus

DESIGNERS Liza Mallia, Maria Sammut, Elyse Tonna

CORRESPONDENCE: Insite - The Student Media Organisation, University of Malta, Msida, MSD 2080

SALES AND MARKETING Sarah Jane Mallia

SALES AND MARKETING: sales@insite.org.mt

DEVELOPMENT Jonathan Galea

E-mail: media@insite.org.mt

CONTRIBUTORS Johann Agius, Julian Caruana, Jake Dalli, Marie Claire Finger, Jonathan Galea, Dionne Taryn Gatt, Timothy Micallef, Bruce Micallef Eynaud, The Nitpicker, Rachel Powell, Geraldine Sammut, Sophie Vella, Matthew Agius Muscat, Daniel Cossai, Melissa Mcelhatton, Demi

Website: Insiteronline.com

Tanti, Julia Pollacco

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JULIAN CARUANA

KSU’S FIRST PRIORITIES

NOW THAT KSU ELECTIONS ARE WELL BEHIND US (THANKFULLY), QUADRANGLE HAS RETURNED TO ITS MONOTONOUS SELF, AND WILL PROBABLY REMAIN THIS WAY UNTIL FRESHERS’ WEEK COMES ALONG AND WELCOMES ANOTHER WAVE OF CORPORATE SPONSORS. AS WE HAVE COME TO EXPECT, SDM’S CANDIDATES WERE ALL ELECTED, AND WILL SUBSEQUENTLY START THEIR TENURE IN THE COMING WEEKS. I TOOK THE OPPORTUNITY TO CONDUCT A SHORT INTERVIEW WITH THEM IN WHICH TWO MAIN ISSUES WERE ADDRESSED

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1. Their main priority and the most important changes they would like to see implemented within their respective office 2. How they intended to tackle student apathy, an issue that arose on more than one occasion throughout the election campaign and which inevitably reared its head repeatedly throughout the discussion.

The following is a breakdown of their responses: President Gayle Lynn Callus The first thing we need to do is to standardize all the existing tools and mechanisms which students have at their disposal through KSU and to make sure that they are all working perfectly and smoothly. Our next step is to tackle those issues and areas that need changing. For example, we promised a reform in both KPS and KE. Once these are in place and functioning properly the problem of student apathy should solve itself. Nobody can deny that KSU has improved drastically and made giant steps forward over the last four or five years. Opening KPS for student opinion will be another step in the right direction at addressing the issue of student apathy. Secretary General Kenneth Terribile My main priority as soon as we begin would be the short-term refurbishment of the organisations’ offices in student’s house, together with certain amendments that can be done to the Room Allocations Report. Amongst this, I will continue working on the great work done by the previous administration to ensure transparency and a well organised KSU administration. In order to tackle student apathy, I think we have to make organisations feel that they are a part of KSU and are involved in activities taking place on Campus. Our idea is to attract more students towards KSU by being more approachable to students throughout the whole year. We will be doing this by continuing the work that was done this year as regards to the Organization’s Forum, amongst others. We also aim to make all students and organizations feel part of KSU and this will be done with more inclusion in committees.

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Vice President Mark Grech The first thing I will focus on is targeting new sponsors for the council. My plan is to consolidate and establish long-term relationships with entities that are ready to aid in financially supporting KSU, but equally as important, entities that can offer internships for students. I will continue to ensure that corporate sponsors are relevant to the students, ideally providing opportunities for students to gain work experience. I will do so by reviewing the current sponsorship and contractual options offered by KSU and by creating a sponsorship proposal that will be attractive to companies looking to work with KSU for both short and long terms. Furthermore, I will be reviewing the Rate Card, to see if this can become more market realistic, and also setting up a small working committee of students with an interest in sales and marketing. For the upcoming Fresher’s Week I would like to continue ensuring that this week is as relevant as possible to student organizations. A meeting will be held in July calling for representatives from all organizations to attend and give their feedback on how Fresher’s Week can improve, and how it can become more relevant to their individual needs. It is without a doubt that student organizations have the most effective means of reaching out to all students within University and Junior College. Social Policy Andrew Muscat Reforming the KPS structure was one of the main proposals in our electoral manifesto. I believe the KPS structure is comprised of, effectively, a substantive branch and a procedural branch. We can only talk of an effective KPS if and only if an efficient procedural mechanism is up and running – making KPS administratively efficient. The new procedural mechanism in a nutshell will comprise of the following:


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An ameliorated and standardised process instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. However, a predefined mechanism to institute ad hoc committees and determine ‘committee stages’ would give KPS a corporate orientation, ultimately making it more efficient More incentives for students to participate through certification by KSU and accreditation A more innovative, comparative and methodological style of research in areas such as family relationships, work, the economy and health Discussing issues in ‘real-time’ – more vibrant KPS monthly meetings A new online user interface, which will be an extension of the KSU website: information about standing ad hoc committees; how to join; FAQs; progress; fora; preliminary report, voting document & finalised policy available to download; surveys; live-streaming More effective implementation: seminars, press releases, PR campaigns Besides this, we will continue to organise a Careers’ Convention, Green Initiatives and more. International office Steph Dalli I would like to collaborate with the organization which I came from which is TDM 2000. Through the use of their contacts, I would like to organize regular exchanges throughout the year. I would also like to work to change the mentality of some students who think that KSU are there for nothing. When we were doing the rounds during election week, we noticed that there were many students who have a very negative reaction towards KSU. One student in particular told me that KSU is just there to look pretty and organize parties. Unfortunately, many students like her don’t actually know what KSU does. Certain things like the Library After Hours are taken for granted. There are students who have the potential to get involved but maybe they don’t want to because they are shy or simply don’t know how to go about joining an organization. There is need for more awareness on how to guide these people who wish to get involved. The gap between a willingness to join and actually getting involved needs to be crossed somehow. Public Relations Office Andrew Borg Wirth I want to organize an information session in order to reform the way KSU communicates. There are different ways of doing this so I would like to gauge what students think by getting their opinions on the matter through this session. One thing that is going to involve more students is the reform of the KPS system. KPS must become open to all students and move away from where it is at the moment, ie. only catering for student organizations.

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Finance Alistair Baldacchino I want to try to increase revenues and cut costs as much as possible. Making sure the vacant space in Students’ House is rented is extremely important. I will also be looking into the possibility of restructuring Freshers’ Week and Careers’ Convention and increasing transparency by letting students know a bit more throughout the year. I want to look into the possibility of releasing a financial breakdown after every major KSU event. Something on the lines of a simple update divulging costs, income and net profit. Education Office Ryan Falzon My main target is to increase our reach. At the end of the day, the student’s main priority at university is their education. Through the student reps and the student organisations, the students should be informed about the policies that are affecting them on a daily basis. One of my proposals was to have training sessions for student representatives or for those aspiring to become student representatives. These will deal with improving the current system as well as with complaint handling. One–on-one meetings with student representatives is also something I will be pushing for. This will help monitor what goes on in each faculty. I also want to continue working on promoting the elections, especially through an outreach system, which also involves class visits. It is a fact that many students don’t even know about student rep elections. Culture & Entertainment Office Becky Camilleri Steve Sammut Allessi We are hoping to expand the culture and entertainment office and to work on the inclusivity of KSU. Two innovative events which we will organise are the drive in cinema in car park 6 in mid–Summer and also “Festa Campus”, which will be in quad. We are exploring the idea of taking the latter to other localities. Both are pioneer events so we will have to see the kind of reaction they get before looking at the possibility of organizing more than one. We will be focusing on making the university a place where students can also come to enjoy themselves and to socialize, not only just to go to lectures and study. We have also discussed the possibility of having jamming sessions on quad on a frequent basis and also a Freshers’ Week live-in at the beginning of the year, which will be open to everyone. Regarding student apathy, one of the things we learnt from the election campaign was that students want us to go around and speak to them on a one- on- one basis. In fact, one of the things we want to implement this year is that we will all do the rounds on campus and talk to students on a fortnightly basis. Students don’t like that this only happens during election week.


MATTHEW AGIUS MUSCAT

AS OF LATE, THE MALTESE ISLANDS HAVE SEEN AN INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF CONTRAILS IN THEIR AIRSPACE. CHANCES ARE, IF YOU’RE OUTDOORS AND IT’S DAYLIGHT, YOU’LL SEE AT LEAST ONE CONTRAIL IF YOU TILT YOUR HEAD UP.

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A harmless phenomena, contrails are artificial clouds which form behind aircraft through condensation at high altitudes. This can occur in two ways: The most common being when water vapour in aeroplane engine exhaust, an extremely hot source, comes into contact with the freezing temperatures found at high altitudes, condensing it back into water droplets. Interestingly, the aerosol particles (soot) found in the exhaust act as condensation nuclei for the formation of water droplets and ice crystals.

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many of these contrails to be “Chemtrails”. These are, bluntly put, part of a conspiracy theory that some kind of clandestine organization is responsible for loading harmful or manipulative chemicals onto commercial aircraft, which said aircraft then launches while in flight. Pointing out strange contrail patterns and their persistence in the sky, theorists believe that we are being subjected to everything from noxious gasses to birth control and hallucinogens.

The other method of formation occurs via a drop in air pressure over parts of a plane’s wings, causing water vapour in the air to condense. This is a much rarer occurrence than the first method, though high humidity can make it more frequent. Either way, these water droplets then freeze up into ice, creating a cloud and eventually a contrail. This is not unlike exhaling on a cold day and seeing your breath form visible condensation.

Unfortunately, this theory has gained some traction amongst the Maltese population. On the 20th of March, it reached the point where it provoked an interview between TVM and University of Malta’s own Dr. Charles Galdies, of the Institute of Earth Systems. In the interview, he stated that the recent wave of contrails was perfectly normal and a common sight over well travelled airspace. When contacted, Dr. Galdies was also kind enough to provide scientific input for this article.

Many of the spikes in contrails over extensive parts of the western Mediterranean basin, including the Maltese islands, have coincided with the right atmospheric conditions at jet cruising altitudes. This, however, hasn’t stopped conspiracy theorists from pulling out their tin foil hats, believing

Malta is not the only country to go through a contrail hysteria, nor is this a new state of affairs. Confusion over contrails dates as far back as the 50s, where they were often credited to UFOs. Theorists frequently cite differences in contrail patterns and persistence as proof for chemtrails, but


there has been no change in either since the introduction of jet powered commercial aircraft. On the 23rd of March this year, both the Times of Malta and MaltaToday reported that the Gaia Foundation (a Maltese non-profit NGO) had called for an investigation by transport authorities on the subject of numerous contrails hanging over the Maltese islands. They avoided using the word “chemtrail” specifically, but they did state that “the public is unaware of any information as to whether a form of geo engineering is taking place in and around our skies, and if so, what chemicals are being used.” Their press release also said “The engineering of clouds to manipulate climate is a reality and has been recognised by the scientific community”. Indeed, they are probably referring to “Cloud Seeding”: a method of cloud generation often used to increase rainfall, mainly in China and the United States both countries which suffer through long periods of drought. Much like contrails, cloud seeding is under fire from theorists who believe they have more sinister intentions. To be fair, both cloud seeding and contrails have been linked to global warming. On the subject of the

environmental impact made by contrails, I went to speak to Dr. Sandro Lanfranco: lecturer at the Department of Biology of the University of Malta. He confirmed that contrails may have a hand in causing the greenhouse effect (the trapping of heat in the Earth’s atmosphere). Besides that, aeroplane engine exhaust could contribute to environmentally damaging phenomenon like acid rain and even, in specific circumstances, damage to the ozone layer. When asked about the chemtrail conspiracy, Dr. Lanfranco dismissed it immediately. He pointed out that flights which pass over Maltese airspace are tracked and easily traceable, which makes it difficult for foreign entities to secretly practice geo-engineering techniques here. On top of that, there is no motivation for anyone to go this far out to test anything. Aside from their environmental unfriendliness, contrails simply aren’t worth losing sleep over. That said, we can take a moral out of this affair: if something doesn’t sit right with you, then read about it! As a rule of thumb, if the first link that comes up when you google “Chemtrails” is a wikipedia page called “Chemtrail Conspiracy Theory”, then there’s a good chance someone has been trying to feed you rubbish.

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FROM ZERO TO ANTI-HERO

GERALDINE SAMMUT

MOVE OVER HERCULES – THE COOKIE-CUTTER VERSION OF THE ‘HERO’ JUST WON’T DO IT FOR AUDIENCES ANYMORE. INSTEAD, WE MUCH PREFER TV-SERIES PROTAGONISTS SUCH AS WALTER WHITE AND SERIAL MURDERER, DEXTER MORGAN. THEY’RE NOT YOUR CONVENTIONAL ‘GOOD GUYS’, BUT MAYBE WE LOVE THEM EVEN MORE FOR IT. These characters are instead what we might call ‘anti-heroes’; not to be mistaken for the archetype of the ‘villain’. Villains are typically characters who intentionally commit bad deeds, and are usually unrepentant for their actions. Anti-heroes, on the other hand, might not display the typical heroic qualities of courage, dignity, chivalry, honesty, and so on, but deep down they harbour an unmistakeable kernel of goodness. Most of us would be in agreement over this, even despite their morally questionable motives, or their unbelievable (and sometimes horrifying) actions. The question is: why do we get attached to these types of characters? We can trace the rise of the anti-hero in television all the way back to the show The Sopranos, which first aired in 1999. Tony Soprano (played by James Gandolfini), an ItalianAmerican Mafioso who struggles in balancing his two families, his blood family and his crime-family, throughout the stretch of six seasons, can be considered to be the father of all TV anti-heroes to come after him. While we know that the mafiaboss is responsible for several killings, and even gets his own hands dirty a number of times, we also find ourselves keen to understand him as he seats himself on his therapist’s couch and gives us an exclusive exposé of what goes on in his mind. Brutal Mafioso, but also a fleshed-out family-man who really does care about his children; hard to hate, but astoundingly easy to get attached to – Tony Soprano is truly an anti-hero. If we move onto more contemporary times, we find characters such as BBC’s sociopathic Sherlock Holmes, detached murderer Dexter Morgan, House of Cards’ manipulative Frank Underwood, and even Mad Men’s corrupt and philandering Don Draper. I’d say we all hate to love them – but I wouldn’t be so sure that’s true. How many of us have stood in glee in the first seasons of Dexter as the Bay-Harbour Butcher (played by Michael C. Hall) took his knife to various criminal scumbags. What makes Dexter so different from the murderers he cuts open? The series tells us it’s because of the strict moral ‘code’ Dexter’s father made him swear by from the moment he realized that Dexter was a ‘special’(read ‘psychopathic’) little

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boy. The concept of taking the law into one’s hands isn’t new, but the concept of rooting for a serial-murderer who takes the law into his hands is. Why are we so entertained by these characters? Writer James Bonnet comments that it’s because the ‘dark side’ of antiheroes resonates with our own dark-sides. We get to see what it would be like to be ‘bad’ in the safety of our living-rooms, but yet we are never so out-rightly appalled by their actions that we reject them, and therefore reject our own dark-side. On the other side of the fence, TV critics have also said that our empathizing with these characters makes us question our own internal moralistic workings, and that in turn intrigues us and makes us hunger for more. Predictable characters just won’t cut it anymore. However, things seem to be escalating into unchartered territory. Last year saw the end of the hit-show Breaking Bad, and audiences around the world said goodbye to Jesse Pinkman (played by Aaron Paul) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston); two vastly different characters who come together in the pilot to start cooking the purest crystal meth ever seen, and things develop from there – which viewers of the show will know is a very large understatement considering just how far things develop. In the early seasons, the latter of the two main protagonists garnered much sympathy and it was generally agreed upon that his situation validated his meth-cooking, and all the consequences that it brought with it. However, as the series progressed to its fourth and fifth seasons, Walter White as we once knew him seemed to be slowly disappearing as his alter-ego, Heisenberg, took over. He became ruthless, power-hungry, completely self-absorbed, remorseless, and unparalleled in the art of lying. Our anti-hero had become a villain somewhere down the line (and, in the show’s time-line, this is a very short line indeed), yet audiences everywhere still remained enamoured with the chemistry teacher turned methcook. Even Vince Gilligan, the show’s creator, had said that he had wanted a character who transforms from ‘Mr Chips into Scarface’.


Much the same can be said for the character of Hannibal Lecter (portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen) in Hannibal. Succinctly put, Hannibal Lecter is a highly intellectual and manipulative cannibal, who also happens to be the psychiatrist of FBI-profiler Will Graham. Hannibal kills people, and then eats them in very fancy and appetizing ways. Definitely not someone you’d want to have over for dinner – you might find that you’re the one being served. However, once again viewers still seem to have developed an attachment to the protagonist, or antagonist – depending on how they want to view him - that partly wants him to succeed. The delineation of what an anti-hero is or what he/she means to us is difficult, to say the least. One thing is for sure: the anti-hero is slowly starting to dominate the TV landscape one show at a time, and we love to eat it up. But perhaps we should be careful, because before we know it we could be deifying even the flat-villains who have no other purpose than to be the next ‘Big Bad’ without really realising what we’re doing.

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WE ARE FINALLY APPROACHING THE SEASON MOST OF US HAVE BEEN ANXIOUSLY WAITING FOR: SUMMER! WE HAVE LONGED FOR THESE DAYS ALL THROUGHOUT THE ACADEMIC YEAR... AND WE ARE NOW ALMOST THERE. Daydreaming of long a Summer day in the sun is a thought that is probably becoming more and more common among students at this time of the year. As we make our last efforts, our mind cannot help but wander off while we try to focus on the paragraph in front of us for the umpteenth time. It is not easy. The sunshine coming in through the curtains, that have been aggressively drawn to avoid any sort of temptations, has now become the most annoying thing ever as we question why such cruelties called exams are even allowed at this time of the year. And as if coping with stress was not enough, catching a glimpse of yourself in the mirror makes you shudder as well... where is the Summer-body you will desperately need in a couple of days? Stuffing your face with pizza and drinking your sorrows away all Winter did not help. You need a solution, quick! Luckily enough, it is not the end of the world. There is a solution, and it is right under our noses. Hop over to your closest convenience store and look for the product which guarantees a completely healthy alternative, Smoochie! Smoochie drinks are solely and exclusively only made out of fruit, and nothing else! But how do these fruit drinks actually help your body? First of all, they are fun and taste sweet, which means that they can easily replace any sugar craving that you may have. Secondly, they contain NO added sugar, NO water, NO concentrates, NO preservatives or any other weird stuff, while being 98% fat free and 100% cholesterol free.

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In addition to this, each Smoochie bottle contains over ¼ of a kilo of fruit. As the Smoochie creators rightly point out, variety is the spice of life! Each bottle contains at least five different types of fruit, which are both local and tropical, which leaves you with a great combination of vitamins, minerals, fibre and nutrients. And guess what, having a Smoochie does not only benefit your body... most fruit added to the drinks come from sustainable farming, so the environment is well-cared for too. Smoochies are not only great to prepare you for Summer , they are great all throughout Summer as well! Keeping hydrated has never been more enjoyable, and their freshness is a good as ice-cream, but healthier! And let’s be realistic... what’s easier to carry to the beach – two bottles of Smoochies or 1kg of fruit?! Passion fruit, pineapples... take a sip and close your eyes; you’re on a tropical island already! Yet, does a fruit diet really work? Of course it does! Most eating-plans aimed at weight loss include a large amount of fruit, especially in the morning, and they’re completely right, nothing feels better than waking up to a Smoochie drink! Are you still looking at yourself in the mirror? Go get yourself a Smoochie! You deserve it, and your body needs some love too.


EVERYONE’S WATER BREAKS IN JUNE

I’VE GOT A THING FOR ANALOGIES.

Not only do I use them to prove a point or to make situations clearer for myself and to others, but I sometimes find myself going specifically out of my way to try and draw a comparison between two completely unrelated things. Call it an elitist tick. The last of these came to me and it was as sudden as it was flawless – a year at University is pretty much like being pregnant. You’ve got your standard nine(-ish) months of random cravings which keep escalating into a couple of painful pangs right around the end, and if you’re lucky enough, you get to cradle an adorable little “A” by the end of it all. Sure, one of the two can get excruciatingly worse at times, and the comparison isn’t a totally fair one – we all know how much harder it is to wake up for 8am lectures on a wintery Monday, so point taken. The two do end up getting shockingly similar at times though; no matter how many people around you try to comfort you and tell you that others have been through this before and that you’re going to be just fine, you somehow feel like no one can really understand all that you’ve had to go through, and the trials and tribulations of staying up all night, unable to sleep, staring up at the ceiling with a strange, random and painful pang in your stomach. So, what does one write to comfort the hundreds of proverbial pregnant post-teens reading this? I could whip up a couple of comforting clichés, something on the lines of a light at the end of a dark tunnel, or a pretty little rainbow after a hailstorm. However, knowing me (and I do pride myself on you know, knowing myself), I’d much rather go for the “buck up and face the music you sad excuse for a student” technique. We’re all in this together – see it as one huge Prenatal Class. Which begs the question – is your chosen thesis supervisor your midwife? I’ll just leave that here.

I think I might actually be able to milk this analogy a little further (props to you if you got that last pun by the way, I swear it was initially unintentional). Everyone knows – or at least they should – that pregnancy isn’t just about those last couple of weeks. Every part of those nine long months build up to that one moment, but they’ve all had their own important role to play. We hear of pregnant women listening to Beethoven to inspire a more creative and artistic spawn… which might explain why I study better with classical music in the background (although I might be pushing it too far with that one). And don’t forget that anxious anticipation right at the end of it all, where you’re still not sure whether it’s all gone smoothly or whether you’ve sadly just wasted nine months of your life. I feel like I should stop here. This might end up spiraling into the politically incorrect even as far as my standards go. But work with me on this one. And even more importantly, work with yourselves. Take care of that baby, nourish it, and come June, when you’re sitting down in that heat, looking at that piece of paper, panting regularly, remember to slowly breathe in and out, push all the information you know onto the paper, and hope for the best. I’ll be seeing you all once we all get knocked up again at the end of summer x

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RACHEL POWELL

UNIQUELY, A BLOOMING FRUIT OF SURROUNDED BY THE PICTURESQUE VALLEY AT THE PERIPHERAL OF THE QUAINT VILLAGE OF DINGLI, DIAR IL-BNIET IS A FAMILY RUN FARM DISTINGUISHED FOR ITS EXCELLENT PRODUCE AND LOCAL CUISINE. RACHEL POWELL TALKS TO DORIANNE KURTCU, ONE OF THE MANAGERS OF DIAR IL-BNIET.

How was the idea for Diar il-Bniet born? The idea was born a year ago. I used to work in a local bank and never enjoyed my work. I always wanted to go back to my origins, which is agriculture. I was the only person in the family who wasn’t involved in the family business until this idea was born. I used to travel and research what other farmers do to promote their own produce and their local kitchen.

What makes it different from other places? Our menu is seasonal and changes daily according to what we have available in the farm. We cook farm products, local food. The recipes of Diar il-Bniet were transmitted from one generation to the next. My father cuts fresh produce in the morning to be cooked for lunch and then in the afternoon for the dinner menu. Our dishes are based on the genuine and local taste.

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What is the concept behind it? To put it in a simple manner, we combined the fresh local produce that we get from our fields with our passion for farming and local cuisine. Our family has 140 years of experience in farming. We took over our father’s dedication for farming. Together, the rustic setting, the history of Diar ilBniet and the local cuisine provide a unique experience for agro tourism.

Is this your first catering endeavour? Yes. I have never worked in the sector before.


What is the story behind the name? Diar il-Bniet is the oldest Maltese title. The place goes back to the thirteen hundreds when the King of Sicily used to live there. Then the Knights took over the estate of Diar il-Bniet. Legend has it that in those times three girls who entered the estate vanished. Today the estate has a chapel, a palace, a fountain and the fields together with two olive groves.

The idea behind Diar il-Bniet in fact, is quite modern: having a restaurant and cafe together with a grocery in the same place. How did you manage to incorporate this modern element in a traditional setting? The business centres on this traditional aspect, which we treasure dearly. The design of the place is a witness to this. You find these rustic features. In fact the marble and titles were very hard to find as we wanted the place to reflect the history of our family as much as possible. One can say however that the modern aspect was introduced in the way the dishes are presented: a combination of the past and present.

Are all ingredients organic/grown by yourselves? Yes, they are. Beef and pork are brought from a local farm. We also make fresh, dried and peppered cheese cheeselets. In fact we also have our own sheep. We have free range chicken and also some other poultry and rabbits. We make our own olive oil. We have olive trees that are 700 years old in our estate. We make fresh jams, pickles and marinates. My family works over 120 tumoli of fertile lands and we are the fourth generation in the family who works the fields of Diar il-Bniet.

How do you pick the different daily dishes? This depends on the availability of the farm and the season. Our daily menu varies between vegetable, meat and poultry dishes.

Which are your most popular items? Fried rabbit in fresh garlic, our deli dish, our homemade ravioli, our traditional pudina, the pork stew pie, the minestra and lots more.

Why is the restaurant closed on Wednesdays? Traditionally, farmers do not work on the day. It is a day of rest.

For more information have a look at Diar il-Bniet’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/diarilbniet

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DANIEL COSSAI

MAKING WAVES:

THE SPORT MAKING OUR NATION PROUD

WHENEVER I ASK SOMEONE WHAT TEAM THEY SUPPORT, I ALWAYS GET A FOREIGN FOOTBALL TEAM AS THE REPLY. WHEN I ASK WHETHER THEY SUPPORT A LOCAL TEAM, THE ANSWER IS OFTEN NEGATIVE, BECAUSE ‘WE ARE NOT GOOD AT SPORTS’. WITH SUCH A MENTALITY WE ARE THROWING THE BABY OUT WITH THE BATH WATER. ONE SPORT THAT HAS MADE HEADLINES IN THE PAST FEW MONTHS IS WATERPOLO.

The recent success of the senior men’s national waterpolo team can be said to have started last year in the qualifiers for the 2014 European Waterpolo Championships. The Maltese team won several games, but ultimately finished third with 16 points in their qualifying group, missing out on qualification for the playoffs. However, fortune smiled upon our Islands as the Ligue Européenne de Natation (LEN), which governs European waterpolo competitions, disqualified Macedonia and had Malta, the best third-place team in the first qualifying round, replace them. Malta was paired with France in a David-vs-Goliath matchup. France won 20-8 in Montpeiller, then rounded that off with a 20-6 win in TalQroqq two weeks later.

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Since then, Malta has been on the crest of a wave, having enjoyed a very successful March and April. Just two weeks after the second leg against France, the national team travelled to Limerick, Ireland to participate in the EU 8 Nations Tournament between Friday, 14th and Sunday, 16th March. Malta performed convincingly throughout, winning the opening match 23-8 against Wales. The team didn’t look back as they beat opponent after opponent, eventually claiming the gold medal having won all games after a tight 9-8 win over Denmark in the final. Maltese captain Niki Lanzon was the hero as he scored four of Malta’s nine goals in the final, taking his total to 21 goals in the three-day tournament. Malta scored a total of 85 goals.


The triumph at the EU 8 Nations Tournament was only the second overseas success for our country. However, more good results were coming. The next stop was Aberdeen, Scotland, for the 2014 Commonwealth Championships. Malta once again opened brightly, beating New Zealand 17-9. Wins against Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, and Wales followed, securing a place in the final. Malta’s ten-match winning streak came to an end against England, a loss that had little significance as both countries were already assured of a place in the gold-medal match. England completed the double over Malta a day later, winning the final 16-9 and condemning Malta to second place, a result which is surely satisfactory for our small nation. ‘In these types of games, we sorely felt the absence of an important player like Steve Camilleri,’ Maltese coach Karl Izzo said after the game. Steve Camilleri had been left out of the squad for the tournament due to his commitments for his Italian team, Rari Nantes Bogliasco. Bogliasco plays in Serie A1, the top division in Italy, and Camilleri is a key player for the team. This is his sixth year with Bogliasco, and he is once again the top scorer of the team, as he has been for four out of his previous five years. He is currently in eighth place in the overall top scorer rankings. This is the quality of Maltese players, and this can also be enjoyed in the local competitions, as during the summer Camilleri returns to Malta to play for local club Neptunes every year. The incredible talent witnessed in Maltese competitions is not limited to just Maltese players. Each team can have a maximum of two foreign players. In the summer of 2013, Neptunes had Aleksandar Ciric, a Serbian player who has two Olympic bronze medals (2000, 2008) and one silver (2004), and Tamás Molnár, a three-time Olympic gold medallist from Hungary (2000, 2004, 2008). Two more

Hungarian three-time Olympic gold medallists were playing in Malta at the same time: Gergely Kiss for Sliema and Péter Biros for St Julian’s. St Julian’s other foreign player was Marko Avramovic, who has won several competitions with Serbia, including the 2010 FINA World Cup. Sliema had two other foreign players, having let go of one and brought in another halfway through the summer. Both were part of the Croatian team that won the gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012: Samir Barac and Damir Buric. This is the equivalent of having the likes of Messi, Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, and so on playing football in Malta, for different teams. Yet it would be hard to find more than a few hundred people who are aware that such world-class players are playing for Maltese waterpolo teams. Three major competitions are held in Malta every year: a league in winter, another in summer, and a summer knockout competition. All competitions are divided into the Premier Division and the First Division. In recent years, Neptunes and Sliema have dominated the local scene, with Neptunes winning the last four summer league titles and Sliema winning four of the last five winter leagues. Sliema have won three of the last five knockouts, with Neptunes winning the other two. Yet this seems to be changing, as St Julian’s finished ahead of Sliema in last summer’s league, equal on points with Neptunes, prompting a decider. All three teams currently hold perfect records in the 2014 Winter League. Valletta are also trying to cause a ripple. Traditionally a First Division team, they are participating in the Premier Division winter league this year, and have won against Premier Division regulars Sirens and Exiles. What does the future have in store for waterpolo? More success, it seems, as the U-17 national team won the gold medal in the EU 8 Nations Tournament in Brno, Czech Republic during Easter weekend. The Aquatic Sports Association (ASA) is doing a magnificent job. Summer competitions draw significant crowds. It is high time that the sport starts being given the recognition it deserves, both by the media and by the common man in the street.

5 15


WHEN TICKING A BOX

MELISSA MCELHATTON

BECOMES A DILEMMA

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR GENDER? MELISSA MCELHATTON DELVES INTO ONE OF THE LEAST UNDERSTOOD ASPECTS OF OUR HUMANITY AND TRIES TO MAKE SENSE OF GENDER ISSUES AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE IN THE WRONG SKIN. School of Social Work Researcher Julie Nagoshi and Professor Stephanie Brzuzy describe gender as ‘an identity that exists separate from the constraints of physical sex characteristics and the dictates of a binary that our society has imposed’. Nagoshi & Burzuky are not the only ones to believe that the idea of a binary (that the only genders which exist are male or female) is solely due to society’s constraints. In 2008, Walter Bockting, Professor in Medical Psychology and Researcher, had stated that ‘a binary sex and gender system with concrete male and female dualities and no fluidity is simply not a coherent way to make sense of the lived identity experiences that actually exist in the world’. However, as with everything, if someone goes against what society deems as normal then that person is labelled pathological. In fact, in the 1970s the term ‘Gender Dysphoria Syndrome’ was coined, soon becoming ‘Gender Identity Disorder’. The irony was anyone who wished to undergo hormone therapies or surgery to change their physical appearance to match their gender had to be diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder first, even though it is neither a disorder nor a disease but merely an expression of oneself. Therefore, people with dysphoria had to accept to undergo psychiatric evaluation and be seen as pathological before they could take any treatment.

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from here on I will refer to as ‘Al’ to protect the identity of that person) who identifies as genderqueer and experiences dysphoria on a daily basis. The term ‘genderqueer’ is an umbrella term used to describe the feeling of being nonbinary. If we see gender as a spectrum then genderqueer individuals could be described as constantly moving from one end of the spectrum to the other. Of course, people experience things differently so I will only explain how Al described it to me, in no way am I saying that this is the one and only true way. Also, Al chose the pronoun ‘zie/zer’ so I will refer to zer in that manner. Pronouns can be quite important to a non-binary person. In the English language we have she and he to refer to female and male respectively, however, when a person feels neither of those they may choose another pronoun with which they are more comfortable.

Another issue arose with these treatments. The aim of these treatments and evaluations was to change someone outside of the norm into someone society could approve of. This therefore led to the discrimination of people who were outside of the binary, so therefore felt neither male nor female. There are various names for these other genders, such as ‘genderqueer’ or ‘neutrois’. To give an idea of the various terms, Facebook has recently listed around fifty different terms for people to choose from for their profile page, including ‘cisgender’ which is derived from latin for ‘on the same side as’. This means that your gender identity is the same as the gender you were assigned at birth.

Al begins by describing gender as a shirt. Every day you try on a shirt and it is either too baggy or too tight; when you figure out your gender, who you are, then the shirt fits just right. Many people never feel that their shirt does not fit them well, which may probably be the reason why some cannot understand why someone would want to change their gender. They may confuse dysphoria with being homosexual. So they may assume that someone who is biologically a male and is attracted to men would want to undergo surgery or dress as a biological woman so as to pass as straight, not because that person would feel that their body does not match their gender. The first lesson to learn is that gender and sexuality are separate.

Naturally, when someone does not experience a particular feeling it’s difficult to understand it. How would you explain ‘happiness’ to someone? Or feeling uncomfortable? So I got in contact with a friend of mine (who

Sexuality is who you are attracted to; gender is who you are inside. However, when a person’s gender does


not match their body that person may experience gender dysphoria. Al confesses that zie only realised that zie was experiencing dysphoria a few years ago when zie decided to look up what zie was feeling. Before then the mirror was zer enemy. Al found it distressing to look in the mirror because the reflection did not match at all the way zie saw zirself in zer head. Buying clothes was a nightmare because of the looks zie received when trying on clothes which did not match zer biological gender. Activities which are simple for us, which we do without even thinking, are distressing situations for individuals experiencing dysphoria. Try to think about every time you look in the mirror, when you get up, when you brush your hair, to check how your clothes look on you. Now imagine averting your eyes when seeing your own reflection because you cannot recognize yourself. As if all this were not bad enough, there is also the fear that you will never be understood, that how you feel will be brushed off as ‘attention seeking’ or a bad attempt at being

unique. It is just like coming out as gay, the only difference is that when admitting to others that you may be non-binary or experience gender dysphoria you may be met with much less awareness and understanding. The good news is that times are changing, and slowly awareness is happening. In fact, the Gender Studies Department within the Faculty of Social Wellbeing has stated that they understand that gender is fluid and that we must all move away from the notion that gender can only be binary. So my plea is this: never assume someone’s gender, and even more importantly, if they ask you to use a particular pronoun, you use it. It will be difficult to remember, but just as you made an effort to remember that person’s name, or what course they are in at university, you should make the effort to remember and use their desired pronoun. It may seem as nothing to you, but it would mean the world to that person. It would make them feel accepted as they are without having to pretend to be otherwise.

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A BAND-AID OVER OUR EDUCATIONAL PROBLEMS

TIM DIACONO

OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM ALREADY UNFAIRLY DISCRIMINATES CERTAIN STUDENTS AND IT IS ABOUT TO GET A WHOLE LOT WORSE. TIM DIACONO INVESTIGATES. As from the next scholastic year, a system of ‘banding’ will be introduced within Malta’s education system. This means that children from Years 1 to 4 will be grouped according to their month of birth while children in Years 5 and 6 will be grouped according to their performances in their Year 4 annual examinations in English, Maltese and mathematics. Wait, what? Hasn’t streaming only recently been cut out of Malta’s education system? Never fear. According to Minister of Education Evarist Bartolo, the introduction of banding does not signal a return to streaming but is rather a means of countering the problems faced by both teachers and students when placed into a ‘mixed ability’ classroom. Supposedly, as it stands, children of a higher level of intelligence tend to get frustrated and bored during lessons that fail to stimulate their cognitive abilities, children of a lower level of intelligence tend to become self-conscious of their own academic shortcomings, and the teacher often finds herself at her wits’ ends as to how to deal with such a variety of minds. According to a recent survey, 80% of secondary school teachers in Malta feel unprepared when dealing with mixed ability classes. I am not arguing against the problem. The current education system does not cater for mixed ability classes. Howard Gardner spoke of nine different types of intelligence inherent within everyone to varying degrees and yet the current education system only aims at sharpening two of them, namely verbal-linguistic and logico-mathematical intelligence. This is not exactly a well-kept secret either. After all, which three subjects will the new banding system discriminate students according to? English, Maltese and mathematics. The early emphasis placed by the education system on those three subjects carries on all the way through secondary school. Along the way, at least one science subject is also elevated up to that position of high significance which equates to a final total of two core subjects apiece to test students’ verbal-linguistic and logico-mathematical intelligence and none to test the other seven types. The

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consequences of such a strategy are far-reaching and nothing less than shocking. Take a 15-year old student who dreams of someday becoming a psychologist but who is hopeless at mathematics. The way things currently stand, there is no way she will be able to enroll in a Psychology course at the University of Malta without first having passed her Maths O’ Level (unless she applies as a mature student later on). It seems quite obvious to me that the best psychologist is one who possesses a high level of interpersonal intelligence and yet this isn’t taken into consideration by our education system. So what are these other seven types of intelligence? Well, they include skills and abilities that are not generally spoken about as ‘intelligence’ at all, such as the capacity to manipulate objects, to be able to think in three dimensions, to break music down into tone, pitch and rhythm, and to think and talk about deep existential problems. We all possess every one of these nine types of intelligence to a certain extent and yet it is only those who possess large quantities of logicomathematical and verbal linguistic intelligence that are favoured by the education system. Student discrimination and streaming still exist, papered over by the myth that mixed-ability classes provide everyone in the classroom with the same level of opportunity. No, they only provide the same level of opportunity to those students who were lucky enough to be born with the types of intelligence that are valued by the education system. For the rest, education is an uphill struggle right from the start. No wonder then that teachers find it such a challenge when faced with mixed ability classes. Not every student’s brain is inherently wired to function properly within the way the classroom, the syllabus and the structure of teaching are currently designed. To put it into some perspective, the new ‘Expressive Arts’ scheme means that a Form 1 student should be expected to receive ten lessons each in art, drama and music throughout the course of a year. During that time, they are also expected to receive 150 lessons in mathematics.


For every 15 lessons in mathematics, a student will receive one lesson in each of the three arts. That is how alarmingly wide the discrepancy in importance placed on different subjects by the education system is. This is of course assuming that the ‘Expressive Arts’ lessons will be taught properly. I personally do not consider 30 seated students drawing a bowl of fruit to constitute a proper art lesson, nor do I believe that 30 standing students singing a song they probably all hate deserves to be called a proper music lesson. Worryingly, it is only about to get worse. Call it streaming, call it banding, call it whatever you will, but the stark reality is that, from the next scholastic year, children in the Maltese Islands are going to be educated according to their results in three examinations that they will take when they are 8-9 years old. The invariable consequence is that, by the time these students reach secondary school, the academic gap in proficiency in English, Maltese and mathematics between

those students in the highest and lowest bands will be far too wide for those in the latter category to conceivably bridge. Since our education system gives such prominence to those three subjects, the students unfortunate enough to be thrown into the lower bands will be dealt with a massive disadvantage from such a young age. Instead of altering the education system to accommodate those children who struggle to keep up with it, perhaps by increasing emphasis on certain subjects that they are more naturally likely to excel in, this new scheme will alienate them even further. Banding is nothing short of explicit discrimination of children and I can only hope that it will soon be met with the strong public backlash it rightfully deserves.

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MARIE CLAIRE FINGER

STAYING AFLOAT

THE EMERGENCY RESPONSE AND RESCUE CORPS

The Emergency Response and Rescue Corps (E.R.R.C.) was founded a few years ago by a group of volunteers with the aim of operating in the humanitarian field to prevent and to ease human suffering, as well as to improve the situation of the most vulnerable people. It has now grown into a group of over a 100 members and volunteers, whose contribution and dedication make it the dynamic organisation it has become today. In view of the fact that the E.R.R.C. endeavours to protect and preserve human life, it operates within a number of units, namely first aid and ambulance, water rescue, scuba diving, bicycle response, search and rescue, dog rescue and disaster response rescue. Despite its specialisations, most of its resources are often allocated to the Water Rescue Unit. Etienne Micallef, Secretary General says, ‘We try to keep a balance between them all, but our Water Rescue Unit does take a lot of resources due to the huge commitments we have during the Summer months.’ In fact, this unit is in charge of three of the most popular local beaches: Ramly Bay and Marsalforn

in Gozo and the Blue Lagoon in Comino. Areas with a high concentration of people require more supervision. The Blue Lagoon sees thousands of tourists daily, which means that it is where most assistance is usually needed. The area is managed by three lifeguards and a Rescue Boat captain who drives the organisation’s hydro-ambulance. The lifeguards, whose training is accredited by several international organisations, are highly trained to assist and take care of people with all health-related issues. The cases that they face from day to day vary from simple jellyfish stings and cuts to heart attacks, serious injuries and life-threatening cases. Giacomo Xerri, an active member of the E.R.R.C. speaks highly about the training undertaken for the role of lifeguard. ‘It helped me when I was lifeguarding at Ramla Bay and had to handle a situation where a 5-year-old boy was drowning,’ he says, ‘fortunately enough, I was fully able to perform the rescue.’ Daniel Said, who helps out both as a lifeguard and as an instructor, also speaks very enthusiastically about his duties. The tasks relating to the coordination

Photo by: Mario Saliba

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CAN’T SWIM TO SAVE YOUR LIFE? SOMEONE ELSE CAN. THE EMERGENCY RESPONSE AND RESCUE CORPS IS A NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATION WHICH IS PERHAPS MOST KNOWN FOR ITS LIFEGUARDING IN GOZO AND COMINO.

Photo by: Anthony Grech

of the Water Rescue Unit are extensive, as well as time consuming, yet he says that he really loves his job and trusts his team. ‘We all look forward to our weekly training all year round and usually go out for a drink afterwards,’ he says, ‘I have high hopes for this unit, and even more so for the organisation as a whole.’ Apart from lifeguarding, the organisation is also committed to number of other projects and campaigns. Ongoing ones include the training of air wing rescuers in pre-hospital care for the Armed Forces of Malta (A.F.M.), horse first aid courses for mounted police, A.F.M. instructors training in Italy for the EU project on tactical medicine and abseiling for all, while past projects include more training for the A.F.M., training courses for the public and safety campaigns for schools. The E.R.R.C. already owns a number of ambulances and vehicles, as well as several pieces of medical equipment needed for search and rescue;

however a lot more is in the pipeline. ‘We hope to be able to acquire another ambulance and rescue boat,’ Etienne says. Such equipment is evidently needed for the organisation to be able to live up to its numerous objectives. ‘NGOs like E.R.R.C. are essential to the community,’ Giacomo says. ‘By giving my time and strength to it I have also gained a lot of experience. I have dealt with different people and situations and have also learnt how to cope with and control emergencies,’ he adds. He even admits that he has also developed certain values and has been able to shape up his character as a better citizen too, and with pride. In fact, one thing is common between the volunteers and members: they are proud to be part of an organisation like the E.R.R.C. ‘The E.R.R.C. has a source of untapped potential that will take it far on both a national and international level,’ Daniel says, ‘personally, I have represented it both on our islands and in various other countries, and I am always very proud to do so.’ 21


DIONNE TARYN GATT

STUDENT READS THE TOP 5 “LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO READ BOOKS I’M NOT ENJOYING”- AMERICAN AUTHOR MELISSA MARR’S WORDS PERFECTLY DEPICT A UNIVERSITY STUDENT’S SITUATION. WE ARE SO HERE ARE MY TOP PICKS OF WHAT ENGROSSED IN STUDYING THAT WE TEND EVERY UNIVERSITY STUDENT (WITH TO FORGET TO ENJOY AND APPRECIATE SOME SPARE TIME AND IN NEED THE SPLENDOUR OF A WELL-WRITTEN OF A BREAK) SHOULD READ : BOOK.

GEORGE ORWELL 1984Published in 1949, this dystopian novel has featured in many top reading lists worldwide. It is deemed a literary masterpiece and I definitely concur. It is the story of Winston Smith, a victim of society and Big Brother. Orwell’s genius is evident in the way he manages to link Smith’s rebellious inner struggle with the façade he portrays in his daily life. By delving on the philosophical, this novel will intrigue you to get an open-minded perspective on today’s society and government. You will be taken aback by how many principles are embedded in the present.

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

JOHN GREEN This entry is quite a cliché topping numerous best-selling lists including that of the New York Times and Barnes & Noble’s Inc. This narrative has taken the whole world by storm owing to its unique blend of philosophy, romance and emotions. One should not mistake this for a love story since Green delves much deeper, portraying a formidable message of faith, courage and acceptance through the characters of Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters. Grab some tissues because this novel will definitely play on your heartstrings and inspire you all at once!

SAYING IT AS IT IS SAVIOUR BALZAN

This Maltese publication by the witty and controversial journalist will undoubtedly leave a mark. It provides an overview of our tiny island’s political landscape with a twist through Balzan’s perspective. The author’s experience in the journalistic world is patent throughout the book’s narrative style. It will surely help University students to familiarise themselves with the landmark events which shaped Malta’s democratic society as we know it today.

BIOGRAPHIES

It is somewhat challenging to take my pick from this particular genre of literature since there is quite an array. On the other hand, I can list down various reasons as to why students should read at least one biography in their lifetime. Firstly, a biography presents you with a perception on how life should be looked at. Secondly, it gives you endless motivation to carry on and reach your goal, no matter what your situation is. Thirdly, it is extremely fascinating to learn more about well-known personalities such as Steve Jobs or Barack Obama in a more human light. Some must-reads are ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’, ‘I Am Malala’, ‘Steve Jobs’ and ‘Michael Jackson: The Magic, The Madness, The Whole Story’. ANTOINE DE SAINT EXUPERY

THE LITTLE PRINCE

It is one of the best-selling French publications of all time, has been translated into more than 250 languages and dialects including Braille and is renowned for its huge impact on both adults and children. Through his simplistic but unique style, Saint-Exupery narrates the journey of an eager prince in the adult world. Coupled with illustrations by the author himself, the reader will reflect on how as adults, we tend to lack imagination and genuine emotions. This book will teach you a moral lesson that would change your perception on life as a student forever.

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SOPHIE VELLA

THE

HEALTHIER OPTION

THE MAJORITY OF US HAVE ALL TRIED TO GET RID OF STRESS AND FRUSTRATION BY GORGING ON ALL TYPES OF FOOD. SOPHIE VELLA GIVES US SOME TIPS ON HOW IT COULD BE DONE IN A HEALTHIER WAY. We all have those peculiar moments can actually make you feel better. The amount of vitamins and where we question our lifestyle. As students, we minerals that are packed in those foods contain fibre, antioxidants tend to go through those binge eating phases where and fatty acids that have positive effects on one’s metabolism and we can’t stop eating. As a result, groping through the psyche. Replacing the usual fatty foods with something just as cupboards and fishing out savoury or sweet snacks can satisfying, but healthier is easy. For example, one can make easily become a deceiving habit. a stir fry with additional protein like chicken or beef on a bed of rice or even a delicious soup. All food can be eaten Not only do we devour everything in sight, but healthily, the secret is moderation. some of us also resort to drinking soft drinks that contain large amounts of sugar or a sugar substitute. Such drinks also At home, as soon your mind starts to wander often contain aspartame, which makes the consumer crave even off and a small voice whispers ‘chocolate’ or ‘crisps’, more sugar; as well as carbohydrates which trigger the storage of fat fling it aside and have a look at some photos within the body, and which are linked to weight gain. Being tied up of happier and healthier people to motivate with a busy schedule and the pressure of exams and tests, most of us yourself. Get off that chair, turn your devices resort to food when in time of need. By gorging on the sweetest, fattiest off and go outside, breathe in the fresh air and thing we crave, some of us can even become momentarily high thanks to savour the moment. If you need some more oxytocin and endorphins. Coupled with hormones and the pressure of the encouragement, call up a friend and go media, some of us end up in a pit of despair and a poor body image. to the gym. Improve your lifestyle, and you’ll definitely feel better in the long We have all been through this before, and we all ache for the right run. Plus, your body will definitely solution, which has always been right under our noses. Instead of reverting to bad thank you later! eating habits each time, stress should be dealt with in a different manner. Physical exercise is known to provide relief for these situations. In fact going for a run, a walk, or doing a few sit-ups should already make you feel better. All you need to do is to motivate yourself by changing the way you think. In addition to this, improving your diet is not as complicated as it seems. Simple but healthy food such as steamed vegetables

One more thing, don’t forget to drink water! It is recommended to drink between 2 and 3 litres of water per day depending on gender, weight, amount of perspiration and bowel movements. Dehydration actually makes you feel tired and tricks the body into thinking it is hungry to get some sort of nourishment, which can undeniably result into more weight gain!

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PROTECTING

TIMOTHY MICALLEF

MALTA’S SEABIRDS

TIMMY MICALLEF WRITES ABOUT THE ONGOING EU LIFE MALTA SEABIRD PROJECT AND ITS VARIOUS RESEARCH METHODS. HE ALSO SHARES A FEW OF HIS EXPERIENCES AS A VOLUNTEER WITH THE BIRDLIFE MALTA PROJECT TEAM SINCE 2012. Perhaps unknown to many, our islands host internationally important seabird colonies. The key breeding species are the Yelkouan Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) and European Storm Petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus melitensis). The Malta Seabird Project focuses on these three species, their colonies and life at sea. A similar LIFE project, completed in 2010, focused on the Yelkouan Shearwater and the threats to its colonies and offshore feeding sites. The IUCN Red List recently changed the Near Threatened status of this seabird to Vulnerable, which clearly indicates how vital it is to maintain its protection, even here in Malta. With up to 10% of the bird’s global population breeding here, the rat eradication at the breeding sites initialised in the previous project and other measures have been maintained.

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From land-based bird research to boat-based observations, the Malta Seabird Project is to date the largest nature conservation project ever attempted locally. With the help of SPEA (BirdLife Portugal), the RSPB (BirdLife UK) and the Office of the Prime Minister, BirdLife Malta manages this project co-financed by LIFE (EU funding). It is a five year project which aims to locate and designate Important Bird Areas (IBAs) at sea and coastal areas in the Maltese archipelago. Such marine areas would eventually be proposed as Marine SPAs (Special Protection Areas), helping to manage and conserve these sites effectively. The detailed studies carried out will hopefully upgrade these areas to the better known Natura 2000 network, enabling further protection. Studying such mysterious birds and their movements while breeding and out at sea requires a wide range of research methods. Bird ringing, satellite tagging, radio telemetry and data logging are a few examples of scientific methods being used to discover as much as possible about these marine birds. Spending numerous days each month at

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sea, observing and recording these birds and other marine life is a main data gathering method. With experienced researchers on board, these pelagic observations are of great value to local conservation efforts. A few local birders and ornithologists have studied and monitored these birds for decades, especially at important sites such as Filfla. The technologies being utilized in this project have been instrumental for new, developing studies. These modern methods are in most cases being applied for seabirds for the first time globally. Apart from the many interesting bird sightings the team has observed during the past two years, many other marine species were encountered, namely dolphins and sea turtles. We frequently had good views of Striped Dolphins, Bottlenose Dolphins and Common Dolphins as they briefly joined our long boat trips. Loggerhead Turtles were also seen often, occasionally coming across distressed individuals entangled in rubbish. Unexpectedly saving these turtles shows that sea pollution is a real problem for these creatures and marine life in general. It is tragic that some people dispose of their waste irresponsibly nowadays. This project will publish reports and its studies in the close future to make the public more aware of this natural heritage we are obliged to safeguard. The hard work inputted by the dedicated project team is inspiring. As a birder, I have had some truly fascinating times while assisting with this project. Discovering more about these amazing seabirds and increasing much needed awareness is critical for their preservation.


JOHANN AGIUS

HOPELESSLY DEVOTED OR HAZARDOUS SOCIETY?

EARLIER THIS YEAR, PASTOR FRED PHELPS, HEAD OF WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH, DIED AGED 84. AMONGST HIS LEGACY FEATURE THE INFAMOUS SLOGANS ‘GOD HATES FAGS’ AND ‘THANK GOD FOR 9/11.’ JOHANN AGIUS ATTEMPTS TO REASON OUT THE DEVOTION TOWARDS SUCH EXTREME RELIGIONS, FAITHS AND CULTS. Most extreme religions often have negative connotations, which is why a number of them are categorized as cults. Despite this stigmatization, thousands of these groups have formed over the centuries, with a considerable amount of them even gathering a hugely dedicated global following. But how can cults be different from religions? And how can they be dangerous to both their own members and everyone else? According to British professor of psychology Adrian Furnham, even though these religions can have a differing basis, they often impose exclusive devotion and reprogramming of followers’ ideologies which can lead to severe psychological dependency. Recruitment and selection is usually very well thought out too, for instance, Scientology often contains members who are high-classed rich celebrities with a huge fan base that they would be able to easily influence. Furthermore, indoctrination and mind control can become so intense that the faith’s leaders may not think twice about harming any members attempting to leave the circle, or outsiders who threaten the cult’s existence. A case in point is the Westboro Baptist Church which strongly condemns homosexuality by crudely protesting with hateful banners during funerals of gay individuals while shrieking insults at those grieving. More than 900 devoted followers of Jim Jones’ cult People of the Temple, including hundreds of infants, lost their lives in a mass organized suicide in 1978. The charismatic leader himself instructed his members to join him in escaping

from possible attacks by the American government, after numerous investigative journalists had been shot dead upon Jones’ demands. Why did they all obey him blindly? The answers is that they had been emotionally manipulated and brainwashed into complying with anything their new religion asked of them, irrespective of how senseless or immoral it was. This is not to say that all extreme religions pave the way for such heartbreaking consequences. In fact various cults, especially ones that focus on the promise of immortality or complete purification from anything related to our physical world, are not at all violent because they promote peaceful worship. However, a line still has to be drawn between extreme religions and other faiths, even if in some instances it is not clear cut. In the former, the levels of persuasion and dissonance are much higher, producing long-lasting effects on willing subjects. Applying negative labels to anyone who joins a cult cannot explain their behaviour. Rather than blaming these extremists for being different from us, we need to comprehend the appeal cults may have for certain people, and the degree of alienation followers go through. A common answer to this dilemma is that such faiths offer these people simple solutions in an increasingly complex world. They may not see themselves as cult members, although that is essentially what they are, especially if they owe to their faith their total survival.

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DEMI TANTI

THEUNIVERSITY

OF MALTA

GREAT EXPECTATIONS ONE OF OUR YOUNGEST AND MOST ENTHUSIASTIC CONTRIBUTORS, DEMI TANTI, WRITES ABOUT HER EXPERIENCE IN SIXTH FORM, AND WHAT SHE WILL BE EXPECTING OUT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MALTA ONCE SHE GETS THERE. This time two years ago, I was in the same exact position I am today. I was fuelled with ambition and motivation alongside endless piles of books, notes and files. Back then, my worst fear was that I would not manage to get into a good sixth form, and that would have meant failing both myself and all those who, throughout the years, have continuously supported me. Nevertheless, I hoped for the best, and expected it too. I felt that the secondary school I had attended was making me confident enough to stop seeing O-levels exams as an obstacle, and to see them as a step forward towards what I wanted to educationally achieve. Despite some hindrances I might have encountered, I managed to do it and I chose Junior College as the next step towards achieving my goal, that of getting into the University of Malta. The way I personally perceive Junior College may differ from the way other people view it. Whereas others think of it, perhaps, as a more laid-back sixth form, it opened numerous doors of opportunities for me. Apart from allowing me to travel and visit places I always dreamed to go to, I also had the opportunity to meet a lot of different people and to become more accustomed to the multicultural identity that our society has, and to grow as a whole. I learned to deal with

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long days of lectures, and to work under pressure. I also had the opportunity to interview KSJC candidates during the last elections, something which has left me with a yearning to involve myself more in what is happening around me. My next step is a more of a do-or-die challenge. I want to get into University, as I’m sure is the wish of most students my age. This time around, I am no longer worried that I may not be able to succeed, albeit sometimes the thought of not exceeding my own expectations worries me. I am looking forward to a more active student life, especially by involving myself in student organisations and events happening on campus. I want to be aware of what is going on, and I want to have a say in it too. I resent passivity, and I do not want to be at University for lectures only. I do not want a tedious routine of knowledge, but a lively and rewarding experience. I am ready to achieve what I have always aimed for, despite what might be encountered along the way. I want to make the best out of my time as student, and most all, I want to make it worth it.


MY BONES SAID

JULIA POLLACCO

WRITE THE POEM

17-YEAR-OLD JULIA POLLACCO HAS RECENTLY SELF-PUBLISHED HER FIRST POETRY BOOK, ENTITLED MY LITTLE BOOK OF SECRETS. SHE SHARES WITH US THE SOURCES OF HER INSPIRATION AND IDEAS.

I’ve been writing ever since I was eight years old. My ideas and inspiration behind my work have changed quite a bit since then, however I have never felt that it was something that I ever wanted to give up. Recently, my main focus has been poetry, although I do venture into storytelling sometimes as well. Writing poetry is completely different from writing stories, and the ideas and aims behind them tend to differ greatly. When writing stories, it’s more of a means of getting what’s in your head onto the paper, regardless of whether the scenario is realistic or not. An alternate universe is being created, and the inspiration behind it all can greatly vary. People you have met or heard of are often a great source, and once the plot starts building up, it can be continuously altered until you have something which is completely your own. It’s usually more impersonal, than anything. You can incorporate your own experiences in your work , although the writer often tends to be absent in the work itself. Writing poetry, however, is a completely different story. At least in my case, my poetry tends to be very personal. It’s a way of expressing myself, and similarly how an artist may find comfort in colours and different techniques, I find comfort in words and different analogies. It’s also a means of getting something out of my system. An idea for a poem usually arises from a personal experience, or a personal opinion, or maybe even by placing myself in another person’s shoes - which is a common tendency - and writing about it helps me extinguish it. It also helps me make sense of my thoughts, whether they’re about me, or about someone or something else.

I cannot define what inspires me in one answer. It’s always a bundle of things, and every poem has its own specific story and inspiration behind it. But the most common, and possibly most cliché sounding response would be, people. Different people and their stories inspire me to approach such situations in more personal manner. In fact, a poem tends to be rawer than a story, more realistic, and easier to identify with. The drive towards writing a poem is innate, and when you’re drawn into a topic, you’re drawn into writing about it. Spoken word poet, Andrea Gibson, in one of her own poems says, “My bones said: write the poem,” and it’s an insanely accurate wording of the motivation behind writing. Letting your ideas flow naturally is an important aspect of poetry. You can easily tell the difference between a forced piece of work and something came instinctively. Ideas and inspiration are the result of a number of experiences. The more open I am to ideas, the more opinionated I become, which allows me to write about a large variety of topics. This in return, means that writing sometimes almost serves as a journal, and I start every new piece of work as recitation of things I have experienced, people I’ve met and memories that have left an impact on me.

For more information on Julia’s poetry book have a look at her Facebook page on https://www.facebook.com/writergirlrambling

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JAKE DALLI

THE RACE FOR EUROPE’S TOP POST WHO’S THE NEXT BARROSO?

Boasting one of the Lisbon Treaty’s benefits, pro-European outlets have been promoting the notion that EU elections are ‘different’ this time round – as explained to the euro-skeptic, the union will now have one less unelected bureaucrat. A new President of the European Commission now requires the approval of the parliament where previously, the European council (Heads of Member Sates) made the selection as the parliament’s influence was limited to ‘consultation’. This amendment gives life to a revamped flavor of political campaigning for EU parties – one at a transnational level, between frontrunners for the post, featuring American-style debates in the media.

AHEAD OF THIS MONTH’S EUROPEAN ELECTIONS, THE CONTINENT’S TRANSNATIONAL POLITICAL GROUPS ARE TREATING THE BIGGER PICTURE AS THE CONTINENT IS IN SEARCH OF ITS NEXT MOST POWERFUL OFFICE-HOLDER – THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION. YOUR VOTE IS NOW SLIGHTLY MORE POWERFUL, DEMANDING BETTER ATTENTION OF WHAT’S BEING SAID BEYOND OUR SHORES.

Jean-Claude Juckner (EPP), Martin Shulz (S&D), Ska Keller (Greens), Guy Verhofstadt (Liberals) are the four candidates who have taken the mainstream center-stage – also in the race are a second green candidate [more on that later] and a Greek radical leftist, Alexist Tsipras, who has been absent from the mainstage. All candidates, with the exception of Tsipras, are in favour of a deeper integrated EU. “I don’t believe that politicians can create jobs,” said Jean-Claude Jackner, nominee for the center-right European Peoples’ Party, “Jobs are created by companies and mainly by Small and Medium size Enterprises.” Juckner, a former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, is a veteran EPP member who played a large role in facilitating decision-making during the Eurozone crisis and the launch of the Euro currency. “But, [politicians] can create a certain number of per-conditions, leading to an improvement of the situation in Europe,” he says, describing the digital market as an opportunity to develop the economy. Pledging to fix the financial markets, Juckner is pledging to adopt an improved regulatory framework for banks while working on improving conditions for small businesses.Juckner was first to kick off the campaign, attacking his main competitor, center-left S&D nominee Martin Shulz last March: “the socialists think they fight inequality. In fact, it is up to us to ensure intergenerational responsibility.” However, the socialists rebutted the claim by criticizing austerity-driven

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polices – arguing that Europe’s response to the crisis by hand-outs to banks at the peoples’ expense. “We are running the risk that, in some of our member states, a whole generation pay with their life chances for a crisis they have not caused,” Shulz said last month. The center-left group represented by Shulz is pledging to end austerity and kick-start the European economy again, making several attempts to set his party apart when it comes to fiscal policy. In fact, Shulz adamantly declared himself against a Europe ‘run by banks’ during last month’s debate – with the socialist party proposing a cap on bankers’ bonuses and the implementation of a banking union amongst other measures.


“We need another economic strategy in the European Union. Let’s face first of all what is happening: we have badly managed this crisis in the last five years,” Guy Verhofstadt, nominee for the liberal party - he turned towards europe as a single market as a solution.

Taking a jibe at Juckner and Shulz, Keller criticized their respective parties for supporting budget cuts in green technologies. “It’s a pity that the [Center-Left and Centre-Right] have actually supported budget cuts in that area. Because now, with these budget cuts, we’re not setting the right inceitives in, for instance, developing further green technologies and other innovative areas,” she said. All four candidates are seemingly eager to distinguish themselves in the top issue, that is treating the financial crisis, however their policy on immigration is strikingly similar. During the round which treated immigration, all four candidates stated more or less the same policy, objecting only to the terms used. “We cannot accept, on our third wheel, all the misery,” Juncker said, perhaps raising eyebrows momentarily before he continued, “but those who are asylum seekers, even those who are economic refugees... have to be accepted on our territory but we have to organize the inner European solidarity.”

“My proposal is a strategy in which we use a jump forward in the integration of the European Union and the Single Market as an engine for growth,” he continued.

The debate was rich in content – handling several other issues which go past economy and immigration policy, however election polls suggest that the campaign may be already over for the liberals and greens – at the time of writing, the EPP and S&D are neck-andneck with a result which is too close to call; the number of unaffiliated MEPs is set to grow, while Liberal and Green percentages have shrunk in comparison to 2009.

A significantly younger Ska Keller, was one of two nominees on the panel – the European greens have nominated her alongside Jose Bove, arguing that there should be a gender balance for the EU’s top spots. It is at these points that the absence of radical leftist and euroskeptic Alexis Tsipras, who refused the invitation, was felt – there was no one to create opposing euro-skeptic arguments which represent a growing part of EU populations. “The best way to tackle illegal migration is to have a legal migration policy,” Verhofstadt said, further referring to burden sharing across member states. Shulz reiterated the need for a legal immigration policy. Keller, also in agreement with Verhostadt, said that the issue relates to responsibility, refusing to refer to refugees as a burden – ending her statement with “We can do more.”

Come next November, Member States would have to select Juncker or Shulz for the post after which it would be up to the parliament to verify the choice. Albeit highly undemocratic, Member States are free to select anyone else – however this is highly unlikely if there is a majority in parliament.

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ASK FOUR MORE QUESTIONS

JONATHAN GALEA

TEENAGERS ARE ALWAYS ON THE CONSTANT QUEST FOR THE ULTIMATE THRILL, AND WHILE THAT NORMALLY CONSISTED IN THE USE OF ILLICIT SUBSTANCES, TECHNOLOGY HAS PROVIDED THEM WITH YET ANOTHER PERILOUS PAST-TIME... JONATHAN GALEA DELVES INTO THE WORLD OF ASK.FM In the last couple of years, most of us have been hearing about the Ask.fm saga which started out as a pretty innocuous application and turned into the equivalent of a virtual Jack the Ripper. Parents and children’s rights groups have been screaming bloody murder into the faces of the authorities, clamouring for the website to be shut down with immediate effect. Others have swiped aside such complaints and keep insisting that the website itself is harmless, and that it’s the users themselves which should be put in check. In order to understand the whole situation better, it’s best to start from basics. Ask.fm is a Latvian website which allows users to ask questions to others in an anonymous manner, normally leading to a bit of fun poked at friends and perhaps dangling bait in front of a crush. At least, that’s what I would have used ask.fm for if I ever had the urge to use it. Instead, it has turned into a slaughterhouse of sorts, where the mutilated parts consist of the crushed dignities of those stupid enough to let themselves wallow in the cruelty and cowardice of users who hide behind the guarantee of anonymity in order to avenge themselves from that hit in the

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head they suffered when they were babies. Malicious questions are targeted left, right and centre, until these users find a victim silly enough to fall to their game and play along until the predators get bored, or the prey gets bored, or the prey gets killed. Let me make it clear before continuing: I am not against the website itself. It is just another unfortunate case of using a knife to kill instead of cutting food, or using explosives to damage property instead of mining. The worst part of it is that the website is largely being used by one of the most unpredictable and temperamental creatures on the planet: human teenagers. In case most of you have forgotten what it feels like to be a teenager, I can sum it up in four words: Mount Etna on meth. At any given moment, a hormonal teenager will turn from a docile, cheerful individual to a bubbling mess of nerves, anxiety and anger, without any real reason for such a drastic change. This goes a small way towards explaining why teenagers suicide because of bullying, or in this case, cyber-bullying – but that is only the tip of the iceberg.


I am by no means a psychologist, given that my course deals with dreary, old codes of law, but I am going to take a stab at what ask.fm looks like from the eyes of a teenager. It is the equivalent of a game of Russian roulette, whereby teenagers would be waiting for that one golden question with which they can prove themselves, or hint at something, anything, which they feel might be important in their lives. They might be waiting for a question which would allow them to describe their ideal partner, with the hope of passing the message along to that one person whom they fancy, or they might be trying to solve a complex problem of theirs with the help of questions, in order to find an answer. They would be constantly whispering to themselves “just one more question, then I’ll shut down for the night and continue tomorrow”. Whatever it is, ask.fm becomes a sort of drug, very similar to modern non-pharmaceutical drugs which technology has provided us with, such as Facebook, Candy Crush, and others. I have been scorned by people whenever I mentioned that it’s easier said than done to tell a teenager to stop using this website. Some have even stated that these teenagers brought their doom upon themselves by refusing to stop using ask.fm; as if any person, especially a minor, deserves to die because of a silly mistake, for Christ’s

sake! The truth is that teenagers need time to grow out of certain habits, and the more you tell them to stop doing something, the more they will rebel and delve deeper into whatever they’re doing. Unfortunately, sometimes time ends up being their greatest enemy, especially if they decide that they’ve had enough and that they’ve withstood the bullying for more than they deserve. What wish would I ask to be granted regarding this matter? Easy: I wish that ask.fm would publish the names of all the users. What reasonable conclusion should I be drawing from the whole argument? I believe that ask.fm should impose an age limit of 18+ on users who wish to register, and leave it in the hands of parents to exercise proper control over the doings of their children, who should certainly carry part of the blame for victims of cyber-bullying; it is no excuse to say that they cannot interfere into their children’s privacy and that they are unable to do so, as nowadays there are more than enough means to check and control your child’s doings on the Internet. Stop believing yourselves to be liberal and cool parents and at least start abiding by the law, if not for the unconditional love you’re supposed to show towards your children.

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BRUCE MICALLEF EYNAUD

BIBLICAL EPICS

IT SEEMS LIKE THE BIBLICAL EPIC HAS, LIKE CHRIST, COME BACK FROM THE DEAD. 2014 SEES SON OF GOD, AND EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS. MEANWHILE ST. PAUL IS THE SUBJECT OF THE THE-PERSON-YOU-KNOW’ GAME WHILE BEING TAUGHT THE NEW TESTAMENT. KIND OF LIKE SUNDAY MASS.

Illustration by: Bruce Micallef Eynaud

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RESURRECTED THE RELEASE OF 3 MAJOR HOLLYWOOD BLOCKBUSTERS BASED ON SCRIPTURE: NOAH, NEW FILM SAUL. THIS IS A LOCAL PRODUCTION, MEANING YOU CAN PLAY THE ‘SPOT-

Biblical epics are as old as cinema itself, and date back as far back as 1897. However it was Cecil B DeMille who pioneered the Biblical blockbuster in the 20s with his silent films The Ten Commandments and the King of Kings. Biblical epics became hugely popular around the 50s. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah was the biggest grossing film of 1949, and the genre peaked with DeMille’s remake of his own Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston as Moses, which became the biggest hit of 1956. However, the box office miracles didn’t last. In the 60s, Hollywood, like Ancient Egypt, was to be faced with a series of disasters. 1961’s King of Kings underperformed, but it was The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) that truly crucified the genre. It made only 1.2 million, despite having a budget of 20 million. Commercial failure The Bible followed the next year. In the 80s the Richard Gere starring King David bellyflopped, while Martin Scorcese’s The Last Temptation of Christ received huge controversy and small audiences. The biblical epic needed a savior. That financial redeemer came in the form of Mad Max himself, Mel Gibson. The Passion of the Christ, his faithful and faith-full depiction of the crucifixion, did loaves-andfishes type magic at the box office, grossing over 600 million. It’s staggering to consider that an ultra-violent foreign language film outperformed Harry Potter in 2004. How did The Passion make so much money? The biggest reason is that, thanks to its authenticity and attention to grisly detail, it stopped being just a movie. It instead became something closer to a sacrament. This was helped by the Pope reportedly giving the film his blessing. Christians around the world felt it was obligatory viewing. Malta’ s film distributors, KRS, even gave the film a 12 certificate, so that kids could see it, despite it being violent enough to make Freddy Krueger piss his pants.

Given the success of The Passion of the Christ, it’s surprising that it’s taken Hollywood 10 years to start making more religious films. The Passion showed there’s a built in audience of church-goers ready to put their money where their faith is. This is certainly what the producers of Son of God will be hoping for. Son of God is the film version of TV miniseries The Bible, and is very much a ‘for Christians by Christians’ film. It’s a more family-friendly version of Jesus’ life that will probably be watched in catechism classes for years to come. But about the non-devout members of the audience? Are they too skeptical too enjoy biblical films today? Given that the western world is becoming more and more secular it’s intriguing that these directors would choose to make blockbusters from religious sources. So why now? Perhaps it’s simply because computerized visual effects have finally caught up with God’s showmanship. Or perhaps the fact that audiences are less religious is an advantage to filmmakers, since they are able to look at the Bible stories as just that, stories, without being weighed down by piety. Darren Aranofksy, director of Noah, is an atheist, who has no belief in the Noah Ark story, and his film doesn’t have a religious agenda. The fact that the film is based on a comic book he wrote gives an indication that this is a stylized, fantastical world, one where giant rock monsters roam about. The less audiences believe these tales fundamentally, the more free filmmakers are to adapt and change them for bigscreen entertainment, without fear of too much controversy. That’s an intriguing idea. Let’s hope they keep the cinema for entertainment, and the sermons for church.

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The Insiter, Vol. 14, Issue 3  
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