Creative writing and mass murder:

Dan Willis writes : Re. “Dark days for undergraduate weirdos” (yesterday, item 2). As a recently graduated creative writing student who is proud of his trenchcoat collection (I have four), I think that Cho is really giving us in the profession a bad name. Not for the obvious problem of journos trying to draw “disturbed mind” pop-psych sound bites from his creative work, but for a larger problem: he is a really bad playwright. I mean atrocious. Everyone seems to be getting hung up on the content. They shouldn’t. They should be appalled by the wooden dialogue, hackneyed phrases and obvious clichés. They should be hammering on the doors of tertiary institutions, demanding answers for the shortfall of literary talent. There are ingenious writers out there producing cutting-edge work, and this whole mess makes it clear that the only the worst of us will get published, and that only by committing mass murder.

Jennifer Brasher writes : I could not agree more with your summary about creative thought police! Shakespeare, a mass murderer, hardly! Bryson talked on the ABC Book Club this week, about a youthful yen for murdering morons all the time in his writing fancies; and yet he’s quite innocuous. Would he now be medicated for the same? The interesting factor in this particular case is perhaps the adverse affects of psychological drugs! This boy had only just been put on the antidepressants, had he not? I think some of these drugs take away the usual socialising inhibitions that stop anyone acting out their “hidden” anger. It’s ironic, but that lecturer’s intervention which led to him being medicated for his violent themes a la Shakespeare may actually have triggered the tragedy! And it was epic, as he had access to efficient killing machines! After all, why is that pop show on the ABC called RAGE or why the line “Rage, rage against the dying of the light”, by Dylan Thomas? Infinite examples abound. Rage can fuel great literature and the arts, as we all know. Better that it is expressed there, than acted out! The USA needs to follow in Australia’s footsteps and ban guns! The USA and even, dare I say, other countries films’ themes are sometimes quite lavish about solving all problems with a gun barrel. But also I’d advocate taking a careful look at these drugs so freely prescribed. As for the killing in the Middle East, maybe Osama was on antidepressants? Hmmmmmm!

Erin Vine writes: Guy Rundle’s summary of Titus Andronicus “in which the heroine has to write her murderer’s name in the sand with a stick held between her arms because the hero has cut out her tongue, eyes and hands” has (at least) three things wrong with it. Lavinia would have to be pretty prescient to write her murderer’s name (and she didn’t write Titus). Her eyes were spared, and it was not the hero of the play who did it.

The US shootings:

Peter Adams writes : Re. “When the time came I did it. I had to” (yesterday, item 1). I heard it about it on radio… I read about it in the press… I saw a reference to it on the telly… But when the opportunity came to watch that murderous little creep’s last testament on Crikey, I moved on and began this letter. There is no way I will give that despicable little sh-t that which he desired most… attention. That video is best left to the police, the shrinks, and anyone else with the professional expertise to determine what the hell was going on in his sad little pea-brain mind. I know what he thought, I know what he said, and I know what he did. That’s enough for me. To indulge his deranged narcissism by watching his schlock video is to concede him a victory he neither deserves nor earned. I’m not criticising Crikey for putting it on the site, but I exercise my right not to indulge sick and pathetic fantasies. That kid clearly needed professional help a long time ago. A lot of people now are regretting that he didn’t get it. You’ve got to hand it to him though! He had something to say… and he brilliantly contrived a means to get his message out to the widest possible audience. And knowing full well how the media works, he targeted his message to precisely the right medium that would run it under the circumstances, with no questions asked and no amendments. Genius… sheer, twisted, malevolent, genius! He could have made an honest living in PR with strategic thinking like that. From shrinks to flaks… they’ll be arguing about this for years to come.

Brian Lynch writes : There is an old saying, “if you live by the sword, you’ll die by the sword” and to many Australians who abhor violence, particularly a shooting massacre, this adage sounds very true. Despite the recent Virginia carnage, President Bush came out and supported the right of Americans to bear arms as per the 2nd Amendment, loonies or no loonies. In the aftermath of a tragedy like this, what can a non-violent civilised person say? Even if you say “I told you” or “if you live by the sword…..etc.”, there is still sadness, if not regret. I guess that’s the stuff of tragedy that the ancient Greeks understood very well and the guntoters are immune to.

Private equity is not a mirage:

Tamas Calderwood writes : Re. “Why, after all is said and done, private equity is a mirage” (yesterday, item 23). Glenn Dyer may not like the cost disciplines imposed by private equity firms, but it is often the cost-indiscipline of companies that make them takeover targets in the first place. Perhaps First Data’s Cashcard Retail Activity Index was a handy piece of information, but it obviously wasn’t handy enough for them to spin a profit from it. Asking American investors to subsidise the gathering of Australian economic data is a tough sales pitch, so I’m not surprised that via the free market they have politely declined to continue doing so. The reason private equity is not a mirage is because it forces companies to be efficient — either directly or indirectly through the threat of takeover — and in the end economic efficiency (i.e.; productivity) is pretty much the only thing that determines living standards.

Nicholas Guest writes : I agree at the big end of town there does not seem to be a lot of value for the majority, in private equity deals. However in small and mid-size companies PE investments usually lead to growth and expansion of operations, benefiting a whole lot of people, even creating jobs!

Rudd’s IR remedy:

Roy Travis writes : Re. “Rudd’s unfair dismissal remedy makes good sense” (Wednesday, item 10). Many small business people reading Irfan Yusuf’s piece on unfair dismissals will be wondering which planet he has been living on for the last few years. To use the term “procedural fairness” in association with the unfair dismissal procedures is laughable. To describe the procedures as user friendly with simple forms only indicates that he has no real knowledge of the need for diary notes of meetings, letters of warning etc. that burdened the employer under the old system. In addition a good employee working for a company with 98 employees will not be dismissed, good employees are too hard to find. Let me give you one example of my own experience of the “procedural fairness of the system. An employee abandoned his job, subsequently sued us for unfair dismissal and won the case. Just in case you missed the point Irfan, the employee was never dismissed!! Finally if it was so “procedurally fair” why did most employers, faced with a demand from the ex-employee’s legal representative, simply pay up to avoid the hassle and the prospect that it would cost more to fight the case regardless of the facts of the matter.

East Timor:

Mike Martin writes : Re. “East Timor finally gets a result … in the first round” (yesterday, item 12). Charles Richardson writes that the first round East Timor ballot result “shows the main problem with two-round or runoff voting”. He is quite right, but a problem can occur regardless of how a poll is structured. Economist Kenneth Arrow proved, and published in 1951, his ” impossibility theorem “: given at least two voters and three candidates, it is impossible to design a single voting system that is fair in every possible circumstance. First-past-the-post, preferential voting and run-off polls each yield results that, in some circumstances, many will think are unfair. The only schemes that can be flawless are the one where there is only one voter (sometimes known as a dictatorship), or where the number of candidates is limited to no more than two.

Chris Ray writes : Charles Richardson thinks East Timor’s Fretilin party is stuck in a “Marxist time warp”. Could this be the same Fretilin whose Government has just been praised for its “efficient public spending” and “sustainable and transparent management of oil and gas resources” by the International Monetary Fund? “An outstanding track record of fiscal soundness since independence was restored in 2002 – namely through cautious spending and prudent management of oil and gas revenues – has allowed the authorities to take credit for a rare absence of public debt,” the IMF reports. The IMF is enthusiastic about the Fretilin-designed petroleum fund: “Transparent reporting, independent audits, and the creation of an Investment Advisory Board for the Fund have ensured a high level of accountability… By targeting long-term fiscal sustainability and intergenerational equity, the saving rule and Petroleum Fund should help shield Timor-Leste from the ‘oil curse’ by smoothing spending and investing the remainder abroad, while leaving sufficient resources to finance the needed increase in development spending.” Ramos Horta enthusiasts should ponder the likely consequences, and ask who is likely to benefit, if their man and his ally Xanana Gusmao win government and follow through on their cynical fistful of dollars pledge to “open up” the petroleum fund for massive immediate spending.

Sunrise , Rudd and Hockey:

John Taylor writes : Re. “Nine desperate to get Rudd as ABC gets Beaconsfield miner” (yesterday, item 16). OK. It’s been four days and I’ve asked and asked but I’m yet to find anyone who knew Ruddy and Hockey had forged this beautiful friendship by appearing on Sunrise every Friday morning. Most had never watched the show, being far more involved at that time of the morning preparing for the onslaught to follow in their daily activities. To say they became household names by appearing on a breakfast TV show whose audience is said to be 150,000 but which is probably actually watched by two parked kids and a dog is an exercise in media beat-up. That said, all that has happened this week paints Big Joe as someone you’d not like to be next to in the trenches. After backing off attacking Kevie, he was obviously told by the minders to kick arse in the interests of the party and so he did, irrespective of any past mateship.

Diana Lyons writes : If you must have a TV commentator then please get one who knows what he’s on about. Costello’s famous Macarena with KAK was actually on the Midday show way back in 1996 when Costello was shadow treasurer and the Macarena was all the rage. He enjoyed the experience so much he went back for an encore in 2001 – the transcript is still on his website but it’s coyly hidden away under the subject heading “BAS, petrol, staffers, One Nation, St Valentine’s Day”.


Rodney Murray writes : Re. “Zimbabwe leaders’ children in Australia: are we letting in corrupt money?” (Tuesday, item 2). Some readers sit and think, and some just sit. What was the point of threatening or so it seems the boss with a subscription that he’s not going to get? Mr Fisk (Tuesday, comments) should make his point without the bull. I too was uncomfortable about the outing of the Zimbabwe leadership’s students. Given the nature of dictatorships that they tend to go in families and these students may very well finish up as the dictator. At this stage they’re just students so they deserve privacy. One wonders why these students are spared their parents obscene regime by being here in Oz. If Howard is serious about his condemnation of the regime they shouldn’t be here at all. Shame on the Government; Shame on the university. The story would have been more informative if Crikey had approached both for comment. But I boycotted the story so on principle perhaps Mr Fisk should have done likewise, it’s called freedom of choice. Commerce must have morals either implicit or enforced to have any credibility, and neither party here has.


Russell Bancroft writes: In response to Kate Deakin’s response to me (yesterday, comments), I am sorry if Kate misunderstood what I was saying. Of course what was allegedly said (and denied to have been said) was offensive. No one can argue otherwise. But it was done to elicit a response and succeeded on that count. In this respect it is no different to other things that have been said over the years on the sports field. The AFL and other sporting bodies have cracked down on racial and religious abuse and I think that most of the players have got the message. But other forms of sledging are not so easy to pin down. I read somewhere about a famous footballer (won’t name them cos they are deceased) once threatened his opponent who was playing his first game with serious injury if he dared to touch the ball. Where do we draw the line? Glenn McGrath drew a line at his wife, but saw nothing wrong in alleging that two West Indian cricketers were engaging in sexual acts. If the AFL develops a new code; one in which sexual references are banned, then players will have to adapt. But some form of sledging will continue.


Bill Cushing writes: Re. “Rod Kemp heads to Paris; diplomats seriously malheureux” (yesterday, item 3). Barry Everingham ought to know that Rod Kemp’s wife, Daniele (a delightful person) is French-Australian.

Maurene Grundy writes: Re. “Emperor Downer has no clothes” (yesterday, item 8). While I agree with Charles Richardson that it is difficult to take Lord Downer seriously, I’m at a loss as to why he refers to Helen Liddell as “British ambassador (or ‘high commissioner’)”. I note also that Charles is very parsimonious with capital letters. In the first couple of minutes of her address to the press club, Helen Liddell, or more correctly, the Rt Hon Helen Liddell, twice referred to herself as British High Commissioner. A copy of her address to the National Press Club is available on the British High Commission’s website here .  Charles, we have high commissioners from other Commonwealth countries and ambassadors from non-Commonwealth countries.

Peter Fields writes: Re. “Brisbane AWAs the thin edge of a Fairfax wedge” (Wednesday, item 20). It’s thin “end”. Otherwise it would follow logically there’d be a thick edge of a wedge, and that’s patently silly.

John Carusi writes: There were two mistakes in Crikey yesterday: “Rewards in lending Labor a hand” (yesterday, item 9). In the third sentence, it is Julian Grill rather than Jonathan. Watch out for men in Panama hats… And “Media briefs and TV ratings” (yesterday, item 21). In the paragraph titled “The Stats”, the percentages appear not to add up to 100% (to wit, they add to 92%). Would it be the case that perhaps the ABC had about 18% of Wednesday’s audience rather than 10%? Or was Glenn Dyer mildly miffed at The Chaser not performing to his standards and as a result, tried to snaffle 8 points worth of ratings from Aunty?

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