Crime

Where's the McBeef?

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In the July issue of Liberty, Scott Stein, a novelist who teaches creative writing at Drexel University, considers Cho Seung-Hui's plays and concludes they are neither especially violent nor especially disturbing, apart from what they indicate about the writing ability of college students:

Before the Virginia Tech shooting, receiving a story with the kind of violence contained in Cho's plays—absent some exceptionally odd student behavior—wouldn't have elicited a second thought….When I read the plays for the first time, I already knew that he'd killed 32 people. But had I not known that, if I am being honest with myself, I believe I would have thought, "This is a crappy play by a bad writer." Probably, even though I have read some directionless student work in my time, I would have also thought, like some blog commenters, "This is a college student?" Cho's work is markedly immature and illogical, but I just don't think I would have seen any of it as a warning sign about impending violence in the real world.

Worrying about "an inevitable overreaction when dealing with students' writing and other forms of self-expression," Stein quotes Stephen King: "Certainly in this sensitized day and age, my own college writing..would have raised red flags, and I'm certain someone would have tabbed me as mentally ill because of them."

Dave Weigel panned Richard McBeef last month.

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  1. For some good radio theater-of-the-mind see if you can catch the Opie and Anthony version of the play from their radio show.

  2. I worry about the implications of having faculty refer students who turn in “disturbing” assignments.

    As somebody who’s about to start a tenure-track position in a physics department, should I be concerned if a Muslim student shows an interest in nuclear physics? What if the student is interested in radiation safety? Should I notify somebody?

    Mind you, my university is not too far away from a major radiology department, and some of the alumni have obtained jobs there. So there’s an abundance of reasons why a student in my department might be interested in radiation and nuclear physics.

  3. If I were a physics graduate student in your department, I’d make sure to only go down to the particle accelerator while wearing a turban…maybe a Fez.

    I would also drive a tiny car around the lab.

  4. How’s that new algorithm working, Abdul?

    God, it’s great! Hey, where’d everybody go?

  5. As a former creative writing major (no joke), I was embarassed and disgusted the kid was such a pathetic writer… I mean, mass murder aside. 🙂 He murdered the written word with equal senselessness

    In 8th grade, I got referred to a psychologist when I wrote a piece that a teacher thought was suicidal.

    [It was sort of a sci-fi rip-off of blade runner idea, where everyone knows exactly how long they have left to live = some people in the world sort of start panicking in their Last Days. They suddenly find/lose religion. They fall in love with strangers. They try crazy risky things, etc. Ok, weird, but I was 14, what do you want]

    Anyway, the Doc read the thing, and sent me back to the teach, with the note summarizing “Teenagers are generally weird until they get laid”.

    Lucky for me it wasnt long. I still think this was Cho’s problem. That, and he was fucking totally crazy.

  6. “Teenagers are generally weird until they get laid”

    I have this hunch that legalized whorehouses could do a lot to reduce teen violence, suicide, heroin use, etc.

  7. Stein dances all around it but wont land on it. Cho’s plays ARE bad. Really really bad. Oh Geeze this prose stinks like a week old corpse, bad. He should have never been given a passing grade in any English class. I say, Cho being allowed to indulge his delusions of adequacy, directly contributed to his meltdown.

  8. I agree that the McBeef play was pretty bad, but let’s not act like the ability to write a good play is something many people have.

  9. In my case, I’m not sure it did the trick.

  10. Are you saying you didn’t find Beefy McBeef disturbing?

    It was worse! It was badly written.

  11. So I started art school last semester and here is an interesting article I picked up about my school about a week before classes started.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academy_of_Art_University#Expulsion_of_student_writer

  12. See “Richard McBeef – The Motion Picture” here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=K9dMiLE-DLQ

  13. I agree with Thoreau. Some of my high school science teachers taught us about LSD’s discovery, the classical conditioning factor in drug tolerance and overdoses, and how to build fission and fusion bombs (it’a albout getting a good lambda). Last time one of my student’s drew a doodle of a gun, the head teacher told me to report it to the guidance councilor. Then the guidance councilor wanted a copy for his perminent record.

  14. I have this hunch that legalized whorehouses could do a lot to reduce teen violence, suicide, heroin use, etc.

    They’d have to be subsidized, too.

  15. it’a albout getting a good lambda

    mmmm lambda. Grilled lambda, with sigma rho fresh from the delta.

  16. it’a albout getting a good lambda

    But the lambda is forbidden!

  17. I have this hunch that legalized whorehouses could do a lot to reduce teen violence, suicide, heroin use, etc.

    I hear people say this, but I always assume they are kidding. When you aren’t attractive to girls, the thing that depresses you and makes you angry or suicidal isn’t the sexual frustration, but the fact that you feel unattractive/unlovable. Paying for sex is not going to make you feel attractive or lovable.

  18. I saw the youtube video. The play is low quality, but only as disturbing as Hamlet.

  19. Paying for sex is not going to make you feel attractive or lovable.

    If this were subsidized, I think I could actually get on board with THIS entitlement program.

  20. Little known fact: Shakespeare went on a rampage with a longbow at Oxford. We was an English major, too, apparently.

  21. Somehow, I think the subsidized whorehouses would turn out a lot like the Post Office and Amtrak.

  22. I don’t recall if H&R covered this story about a suburban Chicago teen, but when I first heard about it, my reaction was that I would be expelled many times over if I were a high school student today. The things I thought were funny were pretty twisted. That fantasy I wrote about strapping the biology teacher’s family naked and covered in honey to the ant hill would have got me out of school and in some serious therapy today. I never initiated any fights as a teenager, although I did carry weapons and wear spiked biker rings. Hell, I only served 2 or 3 detentions as I recall. Times have changed.

  23. Timothy-

    Well, there aren’t any grad students in my department, so that would be quite a feat if you were to be a grad student in my department.

    I might have some engineering or chemistry grad students working for me at some point, however. Maybe they can wear the fez.

    To be honest, I kind of like it that way. When the department has Ph.D. students the job description is completely different. Doing my own projects, farming out pieces to undergrads, and occasionally getting some grants to bring a bright M.S. student onboard is fine with me. If I had Ph.D. students I’d have to be all aggressive on grant writing and stuff, while somebody else does the actual science.

  24. thoreau: Well, then I’ll just show up and drive a very small car around your department.

    “Who’s that guy?”
    “I don’t know, keep moving.”

  25. The thing to do with these high school essays is, instead of writing an essay that says, “I want to torture and murder my English teacher”, you have to write an essay that says, “I want to try to get the state legislature to pass a law that makes it legal for me to torture and kill my English teacher”.

    That way if they try to expel you or give you a hard time there’s existing precedent that says they can’t touch you and you can sue them. Ka-Ching!

  26. It’s all fun and games until somebody puts corn syrup in the gas tank, Timothy.

  27. Oh no, my tiny car runs on corn syrup.

  28. Yes, but is it the high fructose variety?

    Cuz if it is, I’ll get the ALL FRUCTOSE corn syrup!

    And give your car diabetes!

    And don’t try to take any astronomy classes in my department, because the sun revolves around me.

  29. OH NO, NO, NOT CARIBETES!

  30. See, Cho was just a failed artist. You know, like Hitler.

    Ha! I mentioned Hitler! That means I killed the thread, so now I’m a murderer!

  31. Murder is easy, comedy is hard.

  32. Watching the video played out, I’m pretty sure that Cho wasn’t making a serious attempt at making a good play, but probelly shitted out the assignment the night before. It would fit into the rest of his disconnected-from-the-rest of the world persona.

  33. Not only should the whorehouses be subsidized they should be unionized so there’ll be no age discrimination. Promotions (pay raises) will be based on longevity. Teenagers under 16 will not be allowed in after 9 PM on school nights (11 PM Friday and Saturday)As an Equal Opportunity Employer all houses would be gender neutral, racially diverse and no guarantees of satisfaction (as in Post Office)

  34. I have this hunch that legalized whorehouses could do a lot to reduce teen violence, suicide, heroin use, etc.

    Subsidized after-prom hotel rooms would be much more economical.

  35. DAR,
    It’s called Hateredy. In soviet union, laughter kills you!

  36. my university is not too far away from a major radiology department, and some of the alumni have obtained jobs there

    Y’mean jobs like this-hier one?

    (VNSFW)

  37. Yo! Drexel!

    Gots to shout out to the alma mater.

    We need as many positive media appearances as we can get, to counteract the faculty goober who was in the hot tub commercials, or the three frat guys who tried to hack the triple crown (or some such thing).

  38. Last time one of my student’s drew a doodle of a gun, the head teacher told me to report it to the guidance councilor. Then the guidance councilor wanted a copy for his perminent record.

    jtuf, you’re not by chance an English teacher, are you?

    I was a quiet, well-dressed student who nevertheless wrote stories for my classmates about them killing other students. They were very popular. My most popular was about committing suicide. Even 20 years later, some of my classmates still remember it. Unfortunately, my best friend usually gets credit for it.

  39. Excuse me, I meant “about their killing…”

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