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Sunday, 31 January 2010
Malta by Bus


It is relatively convenient and improbably cheap to travel around Malta on the Maltabus, especially if you buy a pass. After a certain hour the buses stop running, so you have to be careful to ensure that you can return back to your base (especially if you have to change buses en route). For this reason alone, if I were to go to Malta again, I would stay in one of the larger towns and not a remote resort.

In my first few days in Malta, while working, I entertained notions of hiring a motorbike or scooter to explore the island. After travelling on the buses during my first day of holiday I reappraised the situation. As you can see in the photo above, the driver is navigating roads with his son standing next to him beside an open door. He seemed to show less regard for the motorcyclists that we overtook. For safety reasons, if I did want my own transport, I would hire a car.

I thought I would also provide a view of the somewhat mixed iconography above the driver:


It falls into the “mostly religious with a touch of porn” category. Then again it has been noted that the playboy image appears to have been “sanitised” here in the UK, even for children: What I saw and What Fink saw.

Posted by bigblue on 31/01/2010 at 07:30 AM
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Thursday, 28 January 2010
Lucky and unlucky


Winding up Mount Etna on the modern road that was built over the 2002 eruption’s lava flow one passes the lucky and unlucky houses. Sometimes these are seen side by side.

Slightly further down the slopes there is a religious community that was saved (we were told) by the power of prayer. Presumably the priest of the parish higher up the hill, whose church was destroyed, didn’t pray hard enough.

Posted by bigblue on 28/01/2010 at 07:27 AM
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Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Dubious tat


Along with your triskelion fridge magnets, and busts of Jesus and Mary, you can buy mafiosa souvenirs and busts of Il Duce - His Excellency Benito Mussolini, Head of Government, Duce of Fascism, and Founder of the Empire.  Incidentally, Wikipedia mentions the following as his “domestic achievements”:

his public works programmes such as the taming of the Pontine Marshes, the improvement of job opportunities, and public transport. Mussolini also solved the Roman Question by concluding the Lateran Treaty between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See. He is also credited with securing economic success in Italy’s colonies and commercial dependencies. Although he initially favoured siding with France against Germany in the early 1930s, Mussolini became one of the main figures of the Axis powers and, on 10 June 1940, Mussolini led Italy into World War II on the side of Axis.

Presumably they should have stopped that list somewhere before aluding to the myth of public transport and certainly before mentioning his role in the World War II Axis. Which would leave us with the achievement of clearing the marshes and creating job opportunities. However if you look at the Wiki article on the Pontine Marshes, you find the following salient information:

The Pontine Marshes were finally drained and reclaimed in works begun in 1926 under the responsibility of the Opera Nazionale Combattenti, a governmental institution reformulated under the Fascist government of Benito Mussolini that supported both rural development and war veterans. The government drained the marshes via three canals that intercepted runoff from the hills and pumped out low-lying regions, cleared the scrub forest, and placed about 2000 families (most from northern Italy and of unimpeachable Fascist background) in standardised but carefully varied two-storey country-houses of blue stucco with tiled roofs. Each settler family was assigned a farmhouse, an oven, a plough and other agricultural tools, a stable, some cows and several hectares of land, depending on local soil fertility and the size of the family. The project, constantly referred to in terms of a battle, was a huge public relations boost for Mussolini, fulfilling his long-term belief in the “rural vocation of the Italian people” and their triumph over nature, an epitome of the Fascist conception of progress. Mussolini used the ten-year operation for propaganda purposes. Mussolini was often photographed between workers, shirtless with a shovel in his hand, or threshing wheat at harvest time - these occasions were regularly filmed by LUCE for inclusion in nationally shown propaganda newsreels.

So to summarise, this activity was:

Did I miss anything?

Posted by bigblue on 27/01/2010 at 07:53 AM
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Tuesday, 26 January 2010
Graffiti in Modica


According to Wikipedia:

Graffiti (singular: graffito…) is the name for images or lettering scratched, scrawled, painted or marked in any manner on property. Graffiti is [sic - are?] any type of public markings that may appear in the forms of simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Graffiti has existed since ancient times, with examples dating back to Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. In modern times, spray paint, normal paint and markers have become the most commonly used materials… Sometimes graffiti is [sic - are?] employed to communicate social and political messages. To some, it is an art form worthy of display in galleries and exhibitions; to others it is merely vandalism… Graffiti is [sic - are?] used as a gang signal to mark territory or to serve as an indicator or “tag” for gang-related activity.

It is interesting that the article starts by asserting that the word graffiti is plural but then continues to use it in the singular form (as I have marked in the quote above).

I took these photographs in the World Heritage site of Modica, Sicily, in November 2009.

Posted by bigblue on 26/01/2010 at 07:37 AM
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Monday, 25 January 2010
Look both ways


This is the church of San Pietro in the commune of Modica, Sicily, with it’s Baroque facade.

This is the commune of Modica, looking down from inside the doorway of the church of San Pietro.

Posted by bigblue on 25/01/2010 at 07:29 AM
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Sunday, 24 January 2010
The Conversion of St Paul


So I find myself in Wadham College chapel, Oxford, in the college’s 400th anniversary year, waiting to hear the Reverend Professor Tim Gorringe deliver the sermon on the conversion of that zealot Paul.

Posted by bigblue on 24/01/2010 at 06:26 PM
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A familiar and yet unfamiliar word. This is a squad car of the Pulizija Ta´Malta, the Malta Police Corps.  Founded on 12 July 1814, it is one of the oldest police forces in Europe, if not the world.

The poster behind the car is advertising Simon’s, an Elvis tribute bar in Qawra, on St Paul’s Bay.  If there was any justice in the world the pulizija of St Paul’s Bay would have shut that place down years ago.

St Paul’s Bay has a long an interesting history, and is where Paul of Tarsus is said to have been shipwrecked on his way to Rome to face trial. The local guide who took us on an excursion one night after work assured as that it was well documented that this was the very bay where Paul was shipwrecked, and apologised that it was dark and that she therefore couldn’t point out the very rocks where the ship struck land. Somewhat bemused I have scratched around on the internet and found that even though the first records of the shipwreck at this place were written 400 years after the event, this doesn’t stop certain people from “verifying” this by comparing the local geography to the account in Acts 27 (27-32):

If you visit the island of Malta today you will find an inlet that is called St. Paul’s Bay. Ancient tradition has hallowed this bay as the site of Paul’s shipwreck. The earliest document mentioning this tradition was written more than four hundred years after Paul’s shipwreck. However, given the bearing on which their ship was drifting, this bay is the first possible point of contact that they would have had with the island of Malta. Also, there is other evidence that points to this bay as the scene of the shipwreck.

Right, except that the argument is based on the geography of the modern bay (18th Century) fitting the description in the bible, and it does not even attempt to argue that all other bays/rocks on the island don’t fit the description.

Posted by bigblue on 24/01/2010 at 07:54 AM
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Saturday, 23 January 2010
Modi car


We spotted this rather quaint and stylish retro car In Modica, Sicily, in November last year.

Posted by bigblue on 23/01/2010 at 07:43 AM
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