Monthly Archives: October, 2006

No more Tash

Natasha Stott Despoja announces she will not run again as a Democrat senator – in June 2008, that is, when she will have become the longest standing Democrat senator ever.

I’m a bit sad that she won’t run again, although since she has a son in a pram and has just had an ectopic pregnancy (which must be terrible), I can understand her decision too. Of course, it is almost 2 years away!

I’ve been impressed by her ever since she spoke at a UN Youth Conference I attended in 1996; she came across so well, so personably, and she was pretty inspiring too. Good luck to her, I say.

The Perfect Afternoon…

Yes, that is a dressing gown, and yes it was the afternoon. That’s part of the reason why it was so perfect…

Nobel Prizes and historical writing

I found out just now that Theodore Mommsen won the 1902 Nobel Prize in Literature for the three volumes of History of Rome, and remembered that Winston Churchill took it out sometime after WWII for his History of the English Speaking People. I find it quite amazing, and highly admirable, that historical writing is able to win this prize.

I also frequently get Mommsen and … now I’ve forgotten his name; someone else who wrote about Rome – oh yes, thanks Wikipedia, Edward Gibbon. Don’t ask me why; could well be because they are both giants in Roman history and I haven’t read either. Bad me.

Somewhat related to this, there’s an interesting article in The Age about Making a fiction of history… – Kate Grenville has written some book (called The Secret River) which includes some ‘real’ events but out of their correct context (geographically, chronologically, and personally). There’s a dispute raging about whether novelists are allowed to claim that their stories are ‘history’ in some sense. Inga Clendinnen is fuelling the fires with a will…. I’m not sure what I think of the whole furore. I think I agree with Clendinnen’s words at the end of the article:

“You’re allowed to play games if you’re clearly on your side of the ravine,” she says. “Thousands of people will read The Secret River and get some knowledge of their past. That’s great – as long as it’s kept in the fiction section.”

Yup. I learnt an enormous amount about Roman history from Colleen McCollough (sp?) and her Rome series – to the extent that I knew stuff at uni that impressed my tutor, always a good thing – but I had to keep in mind that the motivations and emotions she attributed to the characters were her invention, no matter how well researched they were. I like empathy in history, I try hard – althoguh perhaps not ahrd enough – to get my students to feel empathy – but somewhere, there is a line where empathy does not and cannot help, and may be misleading.

Yeh, really not sure where I’m going with all of this.

Children of Men

…is great. Clive Owen is great. Of course.

It’s a very clever movie: it’s set in 2027, and women have been infertile for 18 years or so. The world seems to be going to hell in a handcart, the implication being that without children, there is no hope, so people give up. It’s a world that is very recognisable: not as London or the UK in general maybe, but Baghdad – Belgrade – Srebrenica – absolutely. In fact, the world as a whole and the ideas are very close to 2006, just taken to a slightly further extent – refugee camps that are like concentration camps, Britain closing its borders…. The movie doesn’t explain very much about the situation, which I think is a good part – there is no huge exposition of the situation to bore you stupid, you’re just meant to pick it up as you go along – which you can indeed do.

It’s a good flick. Go see it!

One Bad Thing about Cycling…

is that you can’t read while doing it.

I rode past a girl (woman, I guess) today, who was happily reading as she walked in the park. It made me remember primary school (I don’t think I did it on the way to high school, although it is possible): I frequently walked to school reading, but even though that was through the back streets of Darwin suburbia, I still nearly got run over a couple of times. So, amazingly, there is no way I am going to try it on the bike and through the back streets of inner Melbourne!

One Day in History

One Day in History

Go there! Talk about your October 17th! Be part of the biggest blog ever!

Such a neat idea.

Call me Ishmael

Well, Ismael actually – he lives in Guatemala, and we are now his parents. Well, sponsor parents anyway. He’s four (nearly), and he looks pretty cute…. Anyway, we’ve been meaning to sposnor a child for ages, and a dude came by this afternoon to spruik it. So we took the plunge. Pretty cool.

History Carnvial XLI

The latest History Carnival, History Carnival XLI is up – and hey, look at that! I got in, for the first time! Welcome, if you happen to be visiting from ClioWeb!

So you think we have religious tolerance?

Ha! If you’re a Christian, we are increasingly being stamped on. I say this after seeing a piece on a woman who worked for BA who got sent on unpaid leave for refusing to remove a small cross on a necklace. I still uphold that this is because Christianity is associated with white, male, colonialism (because everyone forgets that it started in the Middle East, not in England), all of which are naturally ‘bad’. Of course, Muslims and Sikhs and other religions are also being subject to intolerance; it’s just a bit more remarkable, and also less reported, that Christians face any at all.

I think about the only people who don’t get active persecution in the West are atheists and agnostics. I guess they too suffer a bit in countries that are as a whole more overtly religious… and yes, I guess I am thinking here mostly of Muslim countries, since those are the ones we here about. I wonder how an atheist gets on in India? or Mexico?

North Korea… yadda yadda…

Is it really only me that thinks the US et al are hypocrites? Surely not, but I haven’t heard anybody else saying it… who does the US really think it is, that they are genuinely to be the world police? That they somehow have the right to decide who gets to have nuclear weapons? Of course I don’t think NKorea should have them – I dont think the bloody US should have them either! And I don’t think the US should get to tell anybody – NKorea, Iran, East Timor – what they can or can’t do. I love the United Nations – the idea of the UN – with all my heart, and I wish – I wish – that there was some way in which the UN could actually work as an impartial body, to whom the international community really did pay serious attention. Hello, League of Nations all over again.


Seems to me that the US is the greatest single threat to the peace of the world at this point in time. Maybe I’m being dramatic.