Does a palazzo buy happiness?


Looking across the courtyard to the tower – the door of my study straight ahead Nighttime in the palazzo held its own magic. We often took a nightcap in the living room, after the day’s work and reading was done: gin to slake the summer heat, or a winter whiskey to drive the damp from our bones.  I liked to take my glass up to the roof at those times — down that cavernous arched...

That time I lived in a palazzo 


That time I lived in a palazzo For several years I lived a secluded life on the island of Malta. The house we took was a sprawling palazzo where the walls had a chalky tang, as yellow as aged cheese. It was the first thing I noticed when I walked in the door, and I noticed it again every time I returned from a trip. It was the dry dusty scent of time. Time passed slowly, and in silence.  An...

Watching films in palaces and prisons


Berlinale summer screening at Charlottenburg Palace Covid cancelled Berlinale, but summer brought a week of screenings curated from this year’s films. I watched the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize winner last week a short bike ride away at Charlottenburg Palace.  Waiting for darkness to fall It was the second-best place I’ve watched an outdoor film. The best was in Malta. We...

A Shift in My Trajectory


<= UPDATE: You can read all of my columns for The Shift here => I’ve started writing a series of articles for an independent Maltese news site called The Shift. One of the paper’s founders contacted me at the beginning of November to ask if I would comment on things that appear completely bizarre to an outsider, but which are accepted as normal in Malta. Some of the topics I’m writing about...

6 Months — No Justice in Europe’s Pirate State


I still remember where I was when Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered. I was in Canada visiting family on my first trip home in over 3 years. I caught up on work early that morning, and read Daphne’s most recent batch of articles, as I did every day — including the piece which ended with what would be her last words, “There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.” The...

Printing Off Stacks of Words


It’s been pretty quiet on the blog this year, but I’ve got two good reasons for that. One: I just haven’t been traveling very much. A visit to Japan, a short trip down to Sardinia, and a long overdue visit to Canada — my first trip back home in over 3 years. And that was about it for 2017. I’ll be writing about Sardinia soon, watch for that in my Adrift on the Continent column in Outpost. But...

The Killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia


Daphne Caruana Galizia was the most dangerous person in Malta. I probably don’t need to tell you who she is anymore, because her name is making the news worldwide. I first came into contact with Daphne on January 13, 2017. But of course I knew her work well by that point, because I had been a twice-daily reader of her blog for the past 6 years. Admittedly, I found her blog when googling key words...

Reading to Write: How Much for a Book?


A few readers have asked me how much research goes into the writing of a book. How much do you have to read in order to write? It really depends on the project, of course. And I’m sure it’s different for everyone. I tend to read quite a lot. Partly because I love to read, and doing a book or an article gives me an excuse to dig into a subject. You never really know what sort of obscure fact or...

Amoral Familism and the Med


If you want to understand Malta — and the southern Mediterranean in general — then you’ll want to come to grips with the theory of Amoral Familism. As far as I can tell, the term was coined by the anthropologist Edward C. Banfield, who conducted ethnographical research in the town of Chiaromonte in southern Italy in 1955. Banfield wrote that the fundamental rule of amoral familism was, “Maximize...

A New Life in a New Town


I learned and experienced many things during my years in Malta, and I wrote around 30 articles about it — most of them were positive, about the places we discovered, from small village streets to the windswept heights of Ras ir-Raheb and the coast of Blata tal-Melh. But some were critical, too. I found the history to be quite fascinating. The present culture not so much. And this past year of...


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