peteg's blog

UNSW Justice Talks: Nicholas Cowderey

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Cowderey was famous for taking it to the politicians while he was the Director of Public Prosecutions for NSW back in the 1990s and early 21st century. I read his book Getting Justice Wrong sometime back then. As a semi-retired visiting professor at UNSW, tonight he spoke on those old themes, and gave us his backstory: assisting the Commonwealth in prosecuting R&R drug violations by visiting American soldiers, and four years or more in Papua New Guinea as a prosecutor. Contrary to Fraser et al, this was not a mea culpa: he acted on his beliefs while he had power, though he often found the law and justice to be at odds. We heard of the husband who assisted his wife (suffering from advanced MS) commit suicide who later owned up to it all, forcing the police to charge him with murder. The result was a conviction for assisting suicide and a twelve-month good behaviour bond; some kind of justice in his eyes. He claimed the Greens have "an excellent policy" here. There was also the young Vietnamese bloke who gave a clean needle to a junkie who overdosed later that night, yielding a manslaughter conviction.

Broadly Cowderey explored the schism between justice and the law, and advocated for more discretion for judges etc. — which is cold comfort for those of us outside the legal arena who so easily see the costs and obfuscations and not so often the progress. I got the impression that he felt much of his work as DPP in prosecuting drug offenders was a waste of time, though he was careful to say that the other laws are already strong enough to handle organised crime, black markets and all that. I heard the same about the terrorism laws back in the day.

2 Guns

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Cheap Tuesday at The Ritz. The 9:20pm session was not very full. Main cinema, upstairs, downstairs closed. Wahlberg has been in some decent stuff recently (The Fighter amongst others, and seemingly a string of TV shows). I never really got into Denzel Washington, but not for any particular reason. He's fine here. Unfortunately the best bits were in the trailer. This is something like Stone's Savages, but far more wooden; perhaps the rest of it ended up on the cutting room floor. Paula Patton gets all sexy but can't act, again reminding me of the Stone outing. It fails to make a fist out of the rich premise of messy interactions amongst the US intelligence services that Bush facilitated post-911.

Nelson Algren: The Neon Wilderness

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Ribbat cited this collection of short stories in his book on neon. It's post-war noir. I struggled to get too enthused but every so often he does get it together. Mostly tales of alcoholism, pugilism, prostitution and the odd white out. Chicago never sounded so cold and fiercely lit.

Algren appears to have vanished without a trace. I still have his most-famous novel The man with the golden arm (also the title of a Barry Adamson song) to come.