" /> Pavel's Blog: October 2004 Archives

« September 2004 | Main | November 2004 »

October 13, 2004

A very impressive cryptic

A couple of years ago, knowing my interest in the Penrose "kite" and "dart" tiles, my friend Derrick gave me a paper copy of this cryptic crossword puzzle, photocopied from "The Enigma", the newsletter of the National Puzzler's League.

(If you've never heard of cryptic crosswords, you may not want to start with this one. The NPL has a nice guide to solving cryptics, and you can find puzzles of this sort all over the web. There are three cryptics every month in Games magazine, and there's a nice introductory book on them, too.)

For one reason or another, it took me until quite recently to finally get around to attacking this puzzle. It's pretty hard (or at least I found it so), but quite remarkable for its many layers of complexity and constraints. I recommend it to your attention (and, if you solve it, I have a couple of questions for you).

October 10, 2004

"Good Boys" at ACT

Every once in a while, we're lucky enough to be reminded, viscerally, of the emotional power that live theater, uniquely among art forms, has to offer.

Tonight, the reminder was served up by ACT's production of Jane Martin's recent play "Good Boys". This riveting, tense, supercharged, and blessedly short play is centered around an encounter between two fathers: eight years before, James' son killed Thomas' son in a Columbine-style shooting at his high school.

Staged in the round in ACT's intimate Allen Theatre, this is a well-cast narrative onion of a play, with the conversation/argument going around and around, peeling back the layers of the tragedy one by one. The brilliant encounter between these two men who've never before met, but who have so much crucial shared history, is prefaced and punctuated with gut-grabbing scenes with their sons, especially with Ethan, the manic, middle-class, but grungy shooter. Ethan's several monologues, energetically and sometimes frighteningly delivered by Michael Scott, offer a look into the mind of a desperately frustrated teen, tempted by and eventually overcome by the kind of evil impulse that's inside us all.

Thomas Jefferson Byrd's portrayal of the former pastor, Thomas, also deserves a special mention: his marvelous artistic choices, from movement to delivery to subtly exposed inner complexity, help us to see more deeply the multi-faceted nature of forgiveness for the unforgiveable.

This wonderful production is still playing at ACT for another week, through October 17th. If you're in Seattle already, or can make it here in time, you owe it to yourself to feel the full intensity of what live theater can give you.

Internet Broadway Database

On the way home from the theater tonight, Kathleen asked who had written a play we'd both enjoyed many years ago entitled "The End of the World, with Symposium to Follow", and this caused me to wonder, rhetorically, why there wasn't a theater equivalent to the Internet Movie Database. Oh, well, I thought, the masses just don't care about the theater like they do the movies.

I knew that the person who'd written "End of the World" had also written the quirky "Oh Dad, Poor Dad (Momma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad)", but try as I might, I couldn't quite come up with his name.

Once I got home, I naturally Googled up the answer pretty quickly (Arthur Kopit, of course), but much more importantly I also accidentally Googled upon the answer to my earlier rhetorical query.

The Internet Broadway Database isn't as "broad" in its coverage as I'd like (it'd be great if it also covered all of the major regional theaters in the United States, for example, let alone the rest of the world), but it's still a wonderful find. Most major plays (and playwrights) eventually find their way to Broadway, so many of the most useful queries still work fine there.

Cool! What shall I rhetorically wonder about next?

October 03, 2004

Surprising Grace

I just finished Christopher Moore's 2002 novel Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal and I'm writing here to recommend it to you.

The layout of the book cover, and the content of many of its reviews, led me to expect a gonzo, irreverent, and perhaps crude, tale of frat-boy-like antics set against (and exploiting) the outlines of the biblical Gospels. This expectation kept me from actually opening the book for several months after a friend loaned it to me. What finally, and fortunately, overcame my reluctance in the end is my good opinion of that friend: she's an observant Christian, after all, and a children's librarian; surely she wouldn't lead me astray, right?

Right. This is an unashamedly down-to-earth story of a childhood friendship between Levi, who is called Biff, and Joshua, the Son of God. It takes us from their first meeting, at the age of six, with Joshua calmly (and repeatedly) reviving dead lizards, through many years of their growing up and traveling together on a quest for the wisdom Joshua needs in order to fulfill his obvious destiny as the Messiah his people are waiting for, and into the events familiar to us from the New Testament.

Throughout, though, the point of view is that of Biff, not of Joshua. Biff is not the Son of God, nor particularly wise, nor clever, nor saintly. What he is, is a funny, earthy, stubbornly loyal friend to a boy, and then man, who desperately needs that kind of a tie to the real world of the people he's been sent to save.

You see, it's never in any doubt, in Lamb, whether or not Joshua is the Messiah. What is uncertain is how he'll deal with this destiny. Moore has written a witty yet sensitive story whose ending you know already, but whose characters you haven't seen in this light before.

I'm sure that, if I were to look at the reviews of this book on Amazon, I'd find some one-stars from outraged and offended Christians. From this atheist's point of view, though, Lamb is a well-written, funny, and ultimately reverent story of a truly unique coming of age.

A Little Loaf of Cinnamon Heaven

I recently was introduced to perhaps the very best cinnamon bread I have ever tasted. The very thought of it brings a tear of yearning to my eye: it's been a week since I last tasted it.

I write of the Cinnamon Chip bread served up by Great Harvest Bread. Specifically, I refer to that baked by the folks at the shops in Factoria (at 3610C Factoria Blvd. SE, in Lohmann's Plaza next to Starbucks) and in Redmond (at 17192 Redmond Way in Bear Creek Village). Since Great Harvest is a franchising operation, there can be substantial differences between shops; these two are owned by the same couple.

Upon walking into the shop in Factoria, I was immediately struck by the marvelous informality of the place, with its open racks of fresh-baked loaves, display cases of yummy-looking cookies, and friendly employees slicing thick slabs off several loaves as free samples for the customers. Just our luck, they started a fresh loaf of the Cinnamon Chip just as we came in. There's a big bowl of butter there so that you can slather it onto your sample to your heart's content (and probably doom).

Of course, fresh-baked bread of any sort is one of life's great treasures, but this Cinnamon Chip stuff is from the next level of Heaven up from the rest. The lovely chewiness of the body is the perfect complement to the zingy wonderfulness of the melted streaks of little cinnamon power pellets, and the butter just capped it off, leaving us unable to speak intelligently until the slice was but an aching memory.

My informant tells me that this stuff also makes a fabulous french toast, but I have a hard time imagining any lasting long enough to be used that way.

Oh, that they were still open at 9pm on a Sunday night!