Mungo’s sharp wit will be missed
Mungo MacCallum will be missed by all who know the joy of words (Editorial, “Mungo MacCallum 1941-2020”, December 12-18). His acerbic wit in dedicating to Spooner some of his cleverest crossword clues has been a constant source of enjoyment. I read a journalistic gem in one of his columns in the 1970s when I was teaching English and trying to swim against the tide of “no grammar in the curriculum”. He wrote that anyone interested in teaching the grammar of our great language had to carry a book containing its principles “in a plain wrapper” in case it was discovered by the thought police. He knew how to expand minds and help keep them active in later life with his cryptic crossword – thanks to him and The Saturday Paper for enough to last until March.
– Joanna Jaaniste, Lilyfield, NSW
Love of language kindled
Mungo MacCallum put a bright spark into Melbourne’s lockdown for our household. Each week, we patiently, collaboratively and confusingly made our way through his cryptic crosswords (The Cryptic), starting off the lockdown as beginners and ending it with a bit more know-how. We would have to resist the urge to look up the answers, deciphering his thoughtful, and sometimes cheeky, clues. We will miss the day when ripping open the paper on a Saturday morning won’t unveil his latest cryptic, but our love for wordplay will live on thanks to him.
– Amy Bracks, Kensington, Vic
Setting an example on environment
In Victoria, we were first introduced to New South Wales Environment Minister Matt Kean via the PM’s insensitive ridiculing of Kean’s success. Scott Morrison’s overreaction about a member of his own party indicated clearly that Kean must indeed be doing something right, something the PM himself had perhaps failed to do. It’s reassuring to turn to The Saturday Paper for Mike Seccombe’s careful account of such an unlikely source of legislative enlightenment (“The Liberal minister forcing action on climate change”, December 12-18). It’s almost too good to be true: NSW sets an example of environmental responsibility; a Liberal minister identifies a worthwhile goal and achieves consensus. Maybe he was correct in thinking he’d displeased his premier: he’s certainly lived up to his name in being “keen”, but he’s shown the rest of us how to do what must be done.
– Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale, Vic
Bob Brown’s words remembered
While Matt Kean has done well to get support for his energy package, climate change must stop being seen as a political issue. To not act on climate change is akin to not acting on a pandemic; any government has a duty to protect its citizens and environment and to act on the best available evidence. So rather than Kean succeeding, it is his federal counterparts’ failing; and the NSW government is still allowing – nay, encouraging – reckless native tree and vegetation clearing. Also, Kean’s economic focus in his energy package is hardly revolutionary; the Greens and environmental groups have been saying this for years. Look back to 1999 when then senator Bob Brown spoke on the Convention on Climate Change (Implementation) Bill: “This law will stir Australia into a brighter future, with sun power instead of fossil fuels, efficient energy use instead of waste, a halt to clearing native vegetation and protection of old-growth forests. It will stimulate new industry, new investment and new jobs, especially in regional Australia.” If only people had listened then, how different our landscape, industries and energy bills might now appear.
– Marie Healy, Hurlstone Park, NSW
A toxic recipe
“A war of terror” by Andrew Quilty (December 12-18) raises the question: Why do we march into disasters? Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. For hire, lackey services for a great power. Is it a sign of immaturity, a nation half-cooked? Our false legend Anzac, rote learnt at school, preparation for the one day of the year that lasts all year. Repetition meets nationalism head on. Indoctrinated with the code of doing no wrong sets a direction with a wonky compass. A recipe for alleged war crimes. What cooks here? Mythology is first in the pot. Khaki hygiene? No questions asked, it’s dirty hands in the mix. Allow to simmer unchecked. Worried by the ingredients? No concerns here, the officer class won’t check the kitchen, odours don’t reach brass noses. No mess in the chew for this lot; it’s bibs and aprons. National indigestion? It could take time, perhaps years, to discover who served what where. Meanwhile allow to cool under a Murdoch lid. There, it’s gone.
– Warren Tindall, Bellingen, NSW
I was baffled by Madeleine Gray’s review of The Queen’s Gambit (“The gender of genius”, December 12-18). Appraisal of its quality was nowhere to be found, whether in acting, music, script, costume or cinematography. Instead I read an on-trend gender-obsessed deconstruction of the plot in terms of stereotypes and power. She writes about the heroine’s unrewarded “aptitude at drug-taking” and a non sequitur about knitting and coding, and it concludes by arguing that benzo addiction is superior to the camaraderie of flawed males. The review begs the question – what depiction of gender would Madeleine Gray be content with?
– Jessica Alexander, Blackheath, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Dec 19, 2020.
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