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June 2009 Archives

June 1, 2009

Movies I've seen lately (that I didn't cover dismissively on Twitter)

Enchanted: Disney should not have tried to satirize Disney unless it was prepared to do so with complete freedom and viciousness. I'm sure they thought they were being very brave, but this isn't any more insightful about its target than Sex in the City is about dumb sluts.

Leatherheads: A perfectly adequate comedy that seems to have gotten dumped on a little too heavily because of the backlash against Renee Zellweger.

Semi-Pro: Some good material here, but the "stick-in-the-mud love interest" problem endemic to sports comedies is unusually acute here. Talladega Nights provides an interesting contrast by having far fewer belly laughs, but (a) wisely making the love interest a flat-out villain and (b) including a weird, borderline-brilliant performance by Sasha Baron Cohen. That scene where Baron Cohen has Ferrell armbarred in the pool hall is pretty much its own movie.

Rescue Dawn: First-rate stuff, but did anyone else think there was a weird "Resourceful, brave German tries unsuccessfully to save assorted feeble Americans and Asians from themselves" thing going on?

Valkyrie: Well, the son of a bitch did it. He found a way to make you cheer for Hitler.

Baby Mama: An odd, likeable buddy movie for chicks with an effective Act II twist. Unusually for buddy movies, one of the buddies actually had to create and portray a character. Amy Poehler, you are universally beloved and you might still be underrated.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Kind of fun; essential for Downey Jr. fans; and features one of the occasional Kilmer parts where he checks in and reminds us that he's our Brando (not coincidentally, he's looking more like him every year). But it tries to get around the "self-conscious narrator" thing by having the self-conscious narrator be self-conscious about his self-consciousness, and the whole thing's still just goddamn annoying. And God bless him and all, but when Downey is annoying, he's really annoying. Has anybody since Eszterhas built a bigger career out of less actual accomplishment than Shane Black?

The Foot Fist Way: Not quite the must-see that the cult would have you believe, but still pretty funny.

The House Bunny: I just kept thinking that on a real campus, the bubble-headed Playmate house mother would have WAY bigger problems than the snobby rich girls across the road who embrace the same anti-/postfeminist values but just aren't quite as much fun. Let's do a sequel and see how Anna Faris in hot pants handles a LGBT sexual-health seminar or a Take Back the Night march.

If you can only see one: Rescue Dawn
If you can only avoid one: Valkyrie, obviously
Best actor: Kilmer
Best actress: Poehler
Best supporting actor: Steve Zahn in Rescue Dawn
Best supporting actress: Sigourney Weaver in Baby Mama

June 15, 2009

Winds of change

Laffer CurveAn observation concerning recent history from economist Scott Sumner, placed here for the benefit of readers situated within yanking range of policy levers:

What has so amazed me about the worldwide supply-side revolution is the way that it has been dismissed by the left in the US, even the moderate left. The Reagan/Thatcher tax cuts were viewed as a sort of right wing plot to help the rich. I don’t know if liberals are even aware of the fact that all countries, including Sweden, were doing the same thing at the same time. This revolution would have occurred even if Reagan and Thatcher had never been elected. Rather they reflected a change in the intellectual atmosphere surrounding public policy formation. A change in what you might call the zeitgeist. Pragmatic policymakers all over the world (on both the left and right) looked at the evidence and reached a consensus that high [marginal] tax rates for the rich were counterproductive. That they didn’t meet the utilitarian criterion. (BTW, a similar worldwide change is now occurring vis-a-vis corporate marginal tax rates, and once again many American economists seem rather oblivious to what is going on elsewhere.)

And who provided the intellectual ammunition for that policy revolution? It wasn’t economists at elite Ivy League schools, and it wasn’t even monetarists at the University of Chicago. In the late 1970s it was the supply-siders, of whom Arther Laffer was the most influential.

Sumner goes on to point out that Austan Goolsbee, an Obama economic advisor (well known to Canadians) who has been cast in the role of Great White Hope by various species of free-marketer, has been sounding an awful lot like someone who was in a coma over the last 25 years. (This palace-intrigue anecdote spotted by Tim Cavanaugh—"the government should not run a car company": no shit, guys—shows why Goolsbee has something of a popular following.)

June 16, 2009

Eat your peas

My Tuesday National Post column is a workmanlike attempt to set context for Alberta's controversial (and inevitably Supreme Court-bound) tort reforms on soft-tissue injuries. Like much of my work, it is not a polemic for or against a particular policy, just an effort to encourage straightforward thinking about it. It is odd that when it comes to healthcare, the Canadian right has sometimes been quick to embrace the "judicial activism" it ordinarily laments, and the Canadian left often seems willing to let individual rights stand in the way of central planning for efficiency (which is the opposite of the inherent logical premise of medicare). And I'm not sure my own thinking about tort reform is any more coherent through-and-through. But as the column indicates, I am reluctant to regard the right to sue for wholly subjective pain-and-suffering damages (which, unlike pecuniary damages, could conceivably be multiplied or divided a thousandfold without impinging on their supposed rationality) as anything but a historically contingent policy choice that governments should feel free to reverse.

A disclosure note I couldn't work into the text: the lawyer for the plaintiffs is Fred Kozak, who is a dominant figure in Canadian media law and has fought on the side of press freedom in many if not most of the important recent cases, including ones to which the National Post was party. He is someone journalists should be naming their children after, and fully deserves to be on any hypothetical shortlist for "Greatest Living Edmontonian".

June 19, 2009

Secretly I just wanted to write the phrase 'No choice but the vaginal route'

I serve a tiny slice of Gladwellism in today's Post column about breech births. Of course I'm referring to the old, good Gladwell, before he got into the whole corporate-entertainment business.

Two totally unrelated news stories from Edmonton

One. Two.

June 26, 2009

This week's Cosh

My column for today's Post is about what went wrong with pandemic planning in northern Manitoba communities: Health Canada's internal argument about sending ethanol-based hand sanitizer to places where ethanol is (unwisely) outlawed was a legitimate one, but it should have happened in, y'know, the actual planning stage. (Tuesday's poorly-focused rant about warrantless disclosures of internet-customer information is here, if you missed it.)

June 27, 2009


Magnus Paajarvi-SvenssonA name that, in the wake of this weekend's NHL draft, all Edmonton is suddenly trying to figure out how to pronounce. I'd like to hear a Finnish person say the word (the player is Swedish, but the name belongs to his Finnish maternal grandfather), but as far as I've been able to cobble together myself, the äs are simple short a-sounds (in terms of English phonology) like the ones in "badass"; the stress is on the first syllable; and the whole thing should probably be spoken with a four-syllable cadence, PAH-ah-yar-vee. I am hopeful some expert will instantly be along to correct me in the comments. We had it easy with Kurri and Tikkanen, guys—let's try to get this right.

Also, I don't know what "Pääjärvi" means in Finnish, but I'm hoping it translates to something like "a taller Markus Naslund".

About June 2009

This page contains all entries posted to ColbyCosh.com in June 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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