Friday, May 27, 2005

Book: Ponzi’s Scheme, by Mitchell Zuckoff (2005)

It’s a genuine accomplishment to have your name enter the English language. Even when it’s used as shorthand for robbing Peter to pay Paul.

At the heart of Charles Ponzi’s swindle was a legitimate idea – speculating on international postal reply coupons. It’s just that Ponzi never, you know, figured out how to make money on it. By the time he was forced to admit the truth, he’d already taken in $15 million dollars and counted half the Boston Police Department among his investors.

Zuckoff’s decision to shift focus between Ponzi and a crusading newspaper editor doesn’t pay off, mainly because I found myself rooting for Ponzi – a devoted husband who could have fled with his ill-gotten gains but instead made noise about running for office. An immigrant arrives with nothing, amasses a fortune through sheer moxie, and maintains his optimism when it all goes south in a hurry. There’s something uniquely American about that story.

DVD: Cellular (2004)

It made my list of the best movies of 2004. After watching it again, I not only stand by that opinion, but I’ll go it one better. In terms of story construction – exploiting every possible complication that can be milked from its premise – it’s the best-written movie of last year, too. Credit goes to Chris Morgan, working from an idea by B-movie legend Larry Cohen.

Miscellaneous: Link

A local coffeehouse takes a bold step toward making the world a better place by turning off wi-fi access on the weekends. I’m ready to start petitioning Starbucks right now. Who’s with me?