Friday, November 21, 2008

Goat Friday

By the way, there’s apparently been a slump in oil prices. Our sympathies to the petroleum industry.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Homage to family values

Vitus is a 2006 Swiss film production portraying the trials of the eponymous highly gifted 12 year old boy.

The cast is generally pretty solid. The title role is played sympathetically by young Teo Gheorghiu, who himself is highly gifted. Yeah — ooohhh aahhhh! — that’s actually him playing those difficult piano pieces. Well seriously, the kid is a marvel! But that’s not what’s really appealing about this movie.

Perhaps the standout performance is from Bruno Ganz, fresh from his acclaimed portrayal of Adolf Hitler in Downfall, playing the boy’s kindly, wise and slightly mischievous grandfather. (And I see Ganz has more recently took a prominent role in Francis Ford Coppola’s late return to filmmaking, Youth Without Youth.) But that’s not what’s really appealing about this movie.

Another highlight, despite her somewhat peripheral role as Vitus’s former babysitter, is Tamara Scarpellini, a stunning young beauty who for some reason seems to have since disappeared from the cinema screens. But that’s not what’s really appealing about this movie.

The film straddles between realism and fantasy as Vitus struggles to “find his star” as an extraordinary individual in a mundane world. He discovers that the stock market is really cool, because “you can make 1,000 percent profit, but you only lose 100 percent.” I won’t give away any more of the plot, but anyway that’s not what’s really appealing about this movie.

No, what’s really appealing about this film is its refreshingly un-PC ‘message’ that...

Insider Trading is Okay

Moreover, insider trading is particularly okay when it’s done for the betterment of kith’n’kin.

And as a matter of fact, insider trading is downright cute when it’s done by a highly gifted young lad, aided and abetted by his kindly, wise and slightly mischievous grandfather, for the betterment of kith’n’kin.

No more need really be said, except ... Three and a Half Stars.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

could’ve . . . should’ve . . .

The late Michael Crichton relates an anecdote from his years in Hollywood:

A friend of mine who was a director was doing a movie with Steve McQueen. And McQueen could be very forceful; he didn’t like this director.

So one day the director came to visit him in his trailer, where he was doing another movie. And in order to set the tone for the discussion, Steve McQueen took out his six gun and emptied it into one of the chairs in his trailer. Then he turned and looked at the director.

And the director said, “Don’t worry, Steve, if anybody asks me I’ll say the chair shot first.”

He [the director, presumably] was fired.

With such credentials, McQueen’s premature death in 1980 represented an inestimable loss to conservative politics in the US. He’d surely have been an ideal Republican candidate for Vice President, at the very least.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

“ quote unquote ”

“The sudden outbreak of peace in Iraq has made me realize, among other things, one incontestable fact: I have no business holding a pen, at least with intent to write.”

(via Antony Loewenstein, who seems to have confused Thomas J. with Thomas L.)

“I said on radio and TV that Sarah Palin had a brain like a leaf-blower and I got 700 emails from leaf-blowers complaining about the comparison.”



Sunday, November 16, 2008

Invisible wounds of war

Since October 2001, approximately 1.64 million U.S. troops have deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF; Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF; Iraq). The pace of the deployments in these current conflicts is unprecedented in the history of the all-volunteer force. Not only is a higher proportion of the armed forces being deployed, but deployments have been longer, redeployment to combat has been common, and breaks between deployments have been infrequent.

At the same time, episodes of intense combat notwithstanding, these operations have employed smaller forces and have produced casualty rates of killed or wounded that are historically lower than in earlier prolonged wars, such as Vietnam and Korea. Advances in both medical technology and body armor mean that more servicemembers are surviving experiences that would have led to death in prior wars.

However, casualties of a different kind are beginning to emerge — invisible wounds, such as mental health conditions and cognitive impairments resulting from deployment experiences.

Thus is sketched the broad context of a study on psychological and cognitive injuries suffered by US service personnel as a result of deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001.

The study focuses on three broad types of those ‘invisible wounds’ — post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder and depressive symptoms, and traumatic brain injury.

It seeks to explore the dimensions of prevalence of these injuries among returned personnel; the costs attendant upon these conditions “stemming from lost productivity and other consequences”; and provision — and, more to the point, gaps in provision — of the care system intended to meet the health-related needs of service personnel and veterans.

The authors also seek to make recommendations to address what they recognize will be a significant ongoing concern with continued mass-deployment of personnel to combat zones.

The work is constrained in its aims by a recognised paucity of “available data”. As a reviewer in The Lancet observed:

The lack of such data illustrates their point more clearly than any calculations could do — these are battle injuries that are underdiagnosed, poorly understood, and under-resourced.

One troubling aspect identified in the study is that veterans are hampered in seeking and accessing care by institutional factors, such that it is perceived accessing services “will negatively affect employment and constrain military career prospects, thus deterring many of those who need or want help from seeking it.” The stigma of mental illness apparently yet persists in the “never explain, never complain” military culture of machismo.

The study, however, seems almost at pains to avoid being a controversial or polemical document. Indeed, the authors write almost glowingly of efforts at all levels of the US government “to study the issues ... quantify the problems, and formulate policy solutions.”

And they have acted swiftly to begin implementing the hundreds of recommendations that have emerged from various task forces and commissions. Policy changes and funding shifts are already occurring for military and veterans’ health care in general and for mental health care in particular.

Nor does this study essay into any broader questions about the conduct of US foreign policy and the “global war on terror”; on the contrary, it studiously avoids such matters.

Rather, the authors merely assert the US’s national “responsibility not only to recruit, prepare, and sustain a military force but also to address Service-connected injuries and disabilities.” Essentially, this is a commendable work of advocacy for and on behalf of US service personnel and veterans.

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That girl...

Crabb. She's done it again. Caz has Annabel Crabb's piece on the soaring "oratory" of our Kevvie in response to Obama's election. As good as that was the girls has outdone it today. In a piece today, about the predilection of Kevvie and Howard to "diss" their speechwriters in favour of their own "off-the-cuff" rhetorical prowess, she neatly nails the current and former PM with their mediocre meanderings. A snippet:

Another similarity between Howard and Rudd is their shared reluctance to submit to the black arts of the speechwriter.

Both of them believe themselves - incorrectly - to be better at speaking off-the-cuff than using a prepared speech...

The PM's suspicion of speechwriters is understandable. Just like John Howard, Rudd built himself up through sheer persistence and willpower, making speeches ceaselessly and doggedly and - probably, at the very beginning - reluctantly, training himself over years to feel comfortable in front of a crowd.

For such people, it is very difficult to understand that it is when they reach the summit of ambition that they most need help. The delegation of speechwriting seems like an abandonment of control.

And we all know how Kevin Rudd feels about not being in control.

Being a speechwriter for Kevin Rudd would be tough; imagine being Christian Lacroix putting the final stitches in a magical frock in the knowledge that your customer is probably going to team it with Ugh boots and wear it to Bunnings.

Or being Amy Winehouse's wardrobe consultant, or Shane Warne's minder; the worst bit would be knowing that there are millions of people out there who simply assume you don't exist at all

Delicious. Perfectly skewered.

And, just before heading off to see the Wallabies push the English scrum around (yes, that likely means I'm going to bed), back to the piece highlighted by Caz:

I wrote a column in Tuesday's paper observing that Rudd's speech to Parliament acknowledging the election of the US's first black president-elect sounded "as though he was reading aloud from the agenda for the National Association of Metallurgists' annual general meeting".

By sundown, I'd heard from the chief executive of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. He wasn't angry - he just wanted it known that their AGMs are much more interesting than a Rudd speech

That, in no way, surprises me.

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