Search This Blog

Monday, December 19, 2011

Recently watched: "The Great Ziegfeld"

A 1936 movie about the life and times of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr, "America's Greatest Showman".  The movie is "suggested by romances and incidents" so we don't have the true story of his life.  Played by William Powell, the movie follows Ziegfeld from sideshow barker (at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair) to creator of the Ziegfeld Follies, the Broadway shows which helped launch the careers of Fanny Brice, Ray Bolger and Harriet Hoctor (all who appear as themselves).

The movie is long (185 minutes) and we see several musical numbers in their entirety (the 8 minute "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody" is amazing, even for someone who isn't a fan of showy musical numbers).   The movie won Best Picture, and Luise Rainer (as Ziegfeld's first big star, and first wife, Anna Held) won best actress.  Powell's "Thin Man" costar Myrna Loy appears late in the movie as Billie Burke, Ziegfeld second wife (who would play the good witch in "The Wizard of Oz" three years later (along with Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow).

Recently read: "Reamde" by Neal Stephenson

Reamde: A Novel

The most recent book from one of our (by "our" I mean SF...since I do consider Stephenson a SF writer) most interesting writers (and a fairly successful one by SF standards).  In ways, this is a bit of a throw back to some of his earlier works, since it's basically a thriller, with no real SF elements.

Richard Forthrast, former draft dodger and marijuana smuggler, has created T'Rain, a massively successful mulitplayer online role-playing game.  His game is successful enough that it's a target for hackers, which have unleashed a virus that encrypts someones data, and requires them to go into the game and pay to get the encryption key.

Richard's niece Zula (adopted) runs afoul of Russian mobsters that are victims of the hackers, and finds herself in China, trying to help track down the hackers.  From there we get Islamic terrorists, CIA agents and a thrill ride that leads back to North America, and Richard Forthrast old smuggling trail.

At over a thousand pages, many would say that it's much too long for an effective thriller, but this is Stephenson, and we get his usual digressions about any topic which interests him...and luckily for us, they usually interests us also.  This isn't as challenging as his last book, but Anathem suffered at time from being too serious.  Reamde is a ton of fun.