French Again


Finally, after months, I can return to French lessons.

Delays with scheduling, and illness, and making arrangements that fell through. Now, finally, I can restart it.

Hopefully, the news this month about my redundancy won’t damage or distract the plan too much.

Elizabeth II – Long May She Reign Over Them

I’m a republican.

I find the notion that Australia has a foreign head of state to be anachronistic, and I believe the people should be sovereign, not some foreign monarch.

As a historian, I respect the British monarchy, what it has done for that country, and what their country has done for ours. And, I also have respect for the current queen. She has lived a long life, lived it well, and been an excellent ‘first citizen’ for the British people, and the Empire before that.

Tomorrow, she becomes the longest-reigning monarch Britain has ever had, and she’s been sovereign for longer than most people I know have been alive.


Queen Elizabeth II Photo via Wikipedia

She is, though, a foreigner.

Peter FitzSimons Photo via Wikipedia

Peter FitzSimons
Photo via Wikipedia

Recently, mainly through the efforts of Peter FitzSimons – an author whose books I enjoy and the recently-appointed head of the Australian Republican Movement – debate has began once more on the question of an Australian republic. Not only do I think this is a desirable goal, I think it’s an important and inevitable one.

As the republican debate has begun, there is a counter-argument which says that the current arrangements with our constitution should not change while Elizabeth is on the throne. This is a silly notion.

Australia should be a republic because it is the best status for Australia.

It is not dependent on our relations with another country, and a change would not be any sort of diplomatic insult to the Queen of Britain. By saying we should not change while the current monarch is in place is making the present monarch (whether it be Elizabeth, or Charles, or William, or George, or anyone else) the issue. And they’re not. Our status is the issue. Linking that to an individual is irrelevant.

Of course, such arguments are disingenuous. They are being used by those who oppose a republic because they do not believe Australia and Australians are equal to those of other nations whose allegiance is to their fellow citizens rather than to a particular person, who they have placed upon a pedestal. They believe Australians are not of the same calibre as the French, Germans, Koreans, Americans, Indians or Poles. Of the Italians, the Irish, and the Chinese.

Why Canning?

Canning is an electorate to the south-east of Perth. With the death of their local member, and the government’s polling numbers looking rather bleak, the media is awash with claims that Abbott’s leadership depends on the Canning by-election on 19 September.

Yet again, we see the infantile mindset of the Australian media when dealing with political issues.

Canning is a seat the Liberals hold by 9%. It’s a largely rural-commuter population, with demographics that do not reflect the wider country. There’s no reason to believe it is any kind of litmus test for the fate of the government at a wider election. It could fall, and may fall in a general election. Or it might not, yet fall at a general election.

The idea that if Canning holds, Abbott is safe is absurd. Although there is a very good chance that if it falls, Abbott will be deposed by his own colleagues – mainly because the ‘Canning is a litmus test’ nonsense will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the idea that one must follow the other is just hype.


I am fascinated with the law. And, for someone without formal qualifications in it, I have a reasonable grasp of it. Like most people, I have issues understanding some of the nuance that goes along with it, and on a fundamental level, but I don’t approve of some aspects [eg. that the Police’s evidence in a criminal trial is called “Facts”, whereas I think the word ‘fact’ suggests something a little more than “our version of the story”].

Since I do a bit of reading of legal matters, and frequent some forums inhabited by lawyers, I’ve started to discover a weird little sub-culture called the Freeman on the Land movement.

freemanThe Freemen on the Land are essentially a group who reject the idea that governments have the power to make and enforce laws. They seem to have the idea that for a law to bind a citizen, the citizen has to approve of the law, and essentially a contract has to exist between the citizen and the state.

While this is an interesting idea, it is – of course – complete fantasy.

Some of their other weird idiosyncrasies are that they argue the difference between whether they are a “person” or a “human being”; they frequently have crackpot naming standards like “I am Dermott of the clan Banana” (which somehow makes me a separate entity to “Dermott Banana”); they seem obsessed with the idea that courts only have jurisdiction in maritime matters; and – somewhat unsurprisingly – they often spout pseudo-Biblical defences for their rejections of modern legislation.

The best example of a court dismantling their delusions comes from Alberta, Canada: the Meads v Meads case which I read from end to end over a few days. And I wonder what it says about me that I find such things more amusing and entertaining than many other ways to spend my time :)

Best Man

being-the-best-man-for-dummies-2-638When he got engaged recently, I half-suspected I’d have to find a few grand for a trip to the other side of the world for his wedding. But yesterday morning, he said he wanted me to make the trip to be best man.

I’ve never owned a passport. I’m not averse to travel; I’ve just always had a thousand more important priorities, money-wise. Now is the crunch time though. I figure it’s going to be about three grand minimum, and probably twice that in reality. I hope I can pull it off.

Lana Day

Well the time apart has finally caught up
To the time that we spent together

Today is Lana Day.


I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it in 2012, when I calculated when this day would be, and marked it in my Google Calendar, back then when the untruths outnumbered the truths.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it in 2013 when I just wondered what had happened to the friendship, which was what I missed the most.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it in 2014 when I discovered I could once again listen to The Whitlams without her shadow spoiling them. That shadow especially pissed me off, since I was tight with Tim & the lads before I’d even imagined someone like her could exist.

Even earlier this year, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it as it approached and I knew she had become what she once said she didn’t want to be.

It’s Lana Day. And how do I feel? As it turned out, it was a Monday. But unlike most Mondays, I’m rather contented, especially as today followed a productive though mostly quiet weekend. As I am sure is the case with everyone else’s world, shit is happening in mine, some good, some not-so-good. On the whole though, the Banana is happy with where he is.

In the end, maybe Eccles and I were right? Maybe she really was a Cylon?



When I was 19, and living in Sydney for the first time, I was conscious of the “big city”-ness of the place. And I tried to counter that feeling a bit by trying to get involved in the feeding-the-homeless activities of Sydney City Mission.

After a couple of attempts to become involved though, I found it frustrating and as though they were blocking my desire to help. When I left Sydney soon after, it was without having managed to get started with that particular project. It kind of left a sour taste in my mouth, but I obviously didn’t learn my lesson, because I’ve tried to do that sort of thing a few times in various cities I’ve lived in since.

About a month ago, maybe two, I tried again. In Newcastle. I contacted a couple of places. By email, by leaving voicemails on mobile phones. Deafening silence.

Hmmm…. Maybe I was doing this wrong?

More recently, I decided to follow up on another path.

Stella Maris Mariners' Centre, Wickham

Stella Maris Mariners’ Centre, Wickham

I’ve been noticing the Stella Maris Seafarer’s Centre since my return to Newcastle. From what I understand, they provide a bit of a home away from home for the crew of ships who visit the port.

Unlike so many previous attempts to say “I’d like to help”, I rang them today, spoke straight away to Father Peter, and arranged to drop in after work and discuss how I can help.

From the basics I saw today, it seems it might be useful in future if I learnt some basics of Mandarin, Hindi, Burmese, Tagalog, Spanish and Ukrainian. Maybe numbers, how to say “What ship are you from?” and “Seatbelts on chaps”.

Because Gone with the Wind

CSS_ShenandoahThis morning, I was listening to the radio. I often wake up and listen to the radio for about an hour before I get out of bed.

On the radio was an interview with a historian who has written a book about the CSS Shenandoah. It was built in Britain, but because Britain was neutral in the American Civil War, it set to sea and installed its weaponry in international waters. It then sailed to the Pacific, and preyed on the United States whaling fleet.

During the interview, a number of callers rang in and gave their little snippets of knowledge about the ship, and its connections with Australia since, it visited Melbourne at one point in its travels.

One caller rang in to say he had information the ship was used as a blockade runner to smuggle weapons past the Royal Navy into Atlanta during the war. Caller knew because he’d read this in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and Rhett Butler had some involvement in the Shenandoah’s smuggling. Historian rejected this claim. Oh no, said caller, it certainly was. Because a *fiction* book had told him so.

Historian also pointed out that Atlanta is not on the coast, and so no ships would have been running arms to Atlanta. Caller though was not deterred, and insisted on his version of events, until Presenter faded him out.

Even hours later, I cannot fathom the stupidity.

Squadron Leader John Leslie Munro DSO DFC (1919-2015)


I have a close affinity with 617 Squadron, the famed ‘Dambusters’ of WW2.

Last week, the last surviving pilot of Operation Chastise died in a hospital in New Zealand.

The story of the Dambusters is kept alive by Charles Foster in the UK, who maintains the Dambuster blog. I’ve dealt with Charles on a couple of occasions, in relation to a research project I’m working on.

Here’s Charles’ piece from last week regarding Sqn Ldr Munro.

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