Friday, August 15, 2008

Last night I finished Stalin's Ghost by Martin Cruz Smith, the latest Arkady Renko novel.

I wrote about the previous novel, Wolves Eat Dogs, here. One of the hallmarks of the series is the horrible situations Renko puts up with, from being banished to work on an Arctic fishing trawler to having to work in the Chernobyl hot zone, and Stalin's Ghost doesn't disappoint. Renko has his closest encounters with getting killed while investigating sightings of Stalin in the subway.

Once again, Smith does an excellent job of taking advantage of Russia's turbulent recent history. In this case, it is the war with Chechnya, and it's aftermath. It makes me curious to see if we will see a Renko novel in a few years set in relation to the current Georgian situation.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

This morning I finished Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

Water for Elephants is an excellent book - a historical novel set during the Great Depression, in and around a traveling circus, with some chapters set in the present day as an old man remembers his time with the circus.

This one was a recommendation from a friend, who said she had trouble putting it down, and I felt the same way. Good characters, an interesting plot and the alternating between the past and present worked well.

Definitely recommended.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

This afternoon, we went and saw The Dark Knight, the latest Batman movie.

It's a pretty good movie, better than I expected. As many people have noted, it is very dark, with lots of fairly realistic and disturbing violence to go with the usual over-the-top comic book scenes. Heath Ledger's performance is a little over-rated, but he does a good job of selling a character through the makeup.

It has lots of very typical superhero movie moments - the battle between romance and the secret identity, the villain dedicated to revealing the hero's identity, the forced choice between rescuing one set of hostages and another, etc, etc, but they are all done with either little twists to make them fresh or with a panache that imbues them with a fresh feeling.

Deja Vu All Over Again

The other night I watched the Olympic opening ceremonies from Berlin - oops, I mean Beijing.

Very impressive displays of thousands of people moving in sync and cutting edge technology.

From the reviews, it's amazing to see how much people are still impressed with nationalist displays of pageantry, even when they come from one of the only 21st century nations that could be literally described as fascist. One gets the impression that if the Nazi's hadn't been homicidal anti-Semites, the Nuremberg rallies would still be considered nifty displays of national pride.