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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

And We're Back!... again

When I was a little kid, my parents didn't believe in corporal punishment. They believed in psychological torture instead. Whenever I was bad or did something naughty, they would give me this look like I had become the greatest embodiment of human disappointment and then with a heavy sigh they would say, "Brooks, Let me see your hand"... and so I would fearfully put out my hand and they would tap it firmly with their finger and say "Bad Brooks! Bad Bad Bad Brooks!" and then I would weep uncontrollably.

Ah... Childhood memories. Just remember parents, mental scars are the kind that don't heal.

Anyway, I'm returning (we'll see for how long (no promises!)) to blogging. I know I pretty much screwed the pooch for the IF competition, not even getting to half of the entries. (though may I say that I was pretty down with the results) I think I'll put up a post later on talking about how my general reactions, etc.

Why was I away for over a month??? Well let me tell you, my charming and well-endowed readers: It's none of your damned business. But let me just say that I couldn't bring myself to review the next game on my list, "The Bible Retold: The Lost Sheep" because I was an asshole and had signed up to beta-test that particular game and had flaked out on the author. This would be bad enough on its own, if that very same author hadn't beta-tested my own (and only) game and was one of my two best testers! So I'm sorry Ben Pennington! You are awesome!

So I didn't want to write the review, so I just kept putting it off and, well blah, blah, blah. Anyway, we'll see how this current batch of posts does me. I'm actually much busier now than I was in the past month. Work has been crazy, I'm just gearing up for a play I'm in, I'm applying to Grad-school and the holidays will soon be upon us, which, and I think I speak for all of is, means that we'll be getting an extra dose of crazy in the way of dysfunctional friends and relatives. 

But I'm back, and thanks for staying with me, or coming back.

P.S. - For those people who are simultaneously puzzle solvers, Interactive Fiction hobbiests, and Top Chef fanatics, you are going to LOVE this blog. For the rest... you can find pictures of grammatically challenged cats saying adorably stupid things here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mite – A review

Believe it or not this is a stuffed dust mite.

Next on the docket, we have “mite”, and “might” I say I am a “mite” intrigued by the title. Are we playing a tiny spider? Is this in reference to size (a nice contrast to the other size related title “gigantomania” (which I haven’t played yet)? I don’t know. What I do know is that it takes a certain amount of confidence to give your story such a simple and homophonic name.

Note: Please remember I spoil things in my reviews. Mostly everything. That’s just the kind of guy I am: a big stinkin’ spoiler. Consider yourself warned.

Final Verdict: Beautifully told though trifling game that becomes somewhat marred by an off putting conclusion.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ninja’s Fate – A Review

I’m going to go out on a limb here, and guess we’re going to be a ninja in this one. Call it a premonition, call E.S.P. Maybe I picked up powers of “concentration” from the previous game (god, I hope not. I could live a nice long happy life without those kind of visions, thank-you-very-much). I just hope there’s not much combat. I’m not much of a combat-game kinda guy. I like to consider myself a pacifist. Most other people like to consider me a namby-pants sissy boy.

Anyway, on to “Ninja’s Fate”!

Note: There will always be spoilers in my always too wordy reviews. Please don’t read until you’ve finished the game. Thank you.

Final Verdict: A tribute game that is incomprehensible unless you’re very familiar with the games of the late Paul Panks(which I am not, by the way).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

One Eye Open – A Review

Here's another thing with only one eye.

Another glulx game, eh? Well, the last one was pretty awesome so here’s hoping this one is too! It’s called “One Eye Open”. Hmmm… What are some things that have only one eye? Let’s see, there’s telescopes, victims of botched Lasik surgery, and pirates… Oh wait, no. Not another pirate game!! For the love of Graham Nelson, not another pirate game!

Don’t worry folks. It’s a Glulx game. It’s gotta be good, right?

Note: If you like having your game ruined for you via copious spoilers, I’d recommend reading the entire review. Or you could play the game first, like a sensible person.

Final verdict: Wow. Okay, so… I’m sorry about the pirate crack before. This is a really good game. Twisted, disturbing, and deeply uncomfortable but also really really good.

How to Write a Musical

So I've been talking with a good friend of mine and we've been discussing about possibly adapting a play I wrote a while ago into a musical. But I'm having a difficult time getting my thoughts together. If only there was an instructional video somewhere online to help me out... Hmm...

Oh! Thank god! I would never have thought of coming up with a "story", and it was very helpful to realize that a character who feels depressed can sometimes turn out hopeful in the end. What is the technical term for that? I also didn't realize that I would "need to create music" in order to write a musical. Thank you, lady-musician-and-performance-instructor-who-taped-this-mere-blocks-away-from-Broadway. You certainly seem qualified to give helpful advice on the craft of writing and musical composition. Thank you.

Oxygen – A review

At long last, I’m reviewing the first of many (nice!) Glulx games! Glulx games and Z-code games are actually pretty similar beasts, considering they both compile the same programming code. But Glulx has multi-media capacity and also allows for much larger (memory-wise) games than Z-code interpreters do. The larger the code, the more work one can (sometimes falsely) assume the writer put into the game. That or they have pictures and sounds! Either way, I’m looking forward to some good Glulxy action!

So get those lungs ready and join me for a big heaping breathful of “Oxygen”.

Note: My reviews give away everything that can be given away. Endings, solutions to puzzles, etc. If you have any plans on possibly playing this game at some point in the future, do that first before reading further.

Final Verdict: …And we’re back. A game that balances puzzles, story, and cool mechanics in a sinfully playable package brings us back to quality games I can whole-heartedly recommend.

Full review after the jump:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pen and Paint – A review

On to the next entry in the IF Comp! This one’s called “Pen and Paint”. Hmm… Are we an artist? Are we a writer? Perhaps we’re locked in a room with a set of water colors and big tub of Indian Ink. Obviously the correct solution is to embrace the sweet kiss of death by downing the entire contents of the tub. Why more escape the room games don’t take the easy way out is beyond me.

Note: A reminder. The review will contain spoilers. Please play the game before you read further.

Final Verdict: Game starts off wonderfully but then gets mired in unpleasantly tough puzzles.

Full review after the jump:

Your Public Service Announcement for the Day

You're welcome.

A Quiet Evening At Home – A Review

Well, frankly after reviewing four games, I’m placing my bets that we’re already past the slump. Actually the first two games were pretty good! And after the last debacle, I predict smooth sailing from here on out. So what’s up for today? Why it’s “A Quiet Evening At Home” by… well… I don’t know. Someone! But I like the title. It sort of reminds me of the title of this blog. I like Quiet Evenings At Home. Put on a bit of music. Snuggle up with a good book or a puzzle. Eat your own weight in cheese and crackers, am I right ladies?

Or maybe that’s just me.

Note: Be warned that the following review will be spoiler-ific. Proceed with caution.

Final Verdict: If you’ve always wanted to play a game where you were forced to do tedious house-hold chores by yourself, then this is the game for you!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

R – A Review

That’s right folks. Your eyes do not deceive you. The game I’m reviewing next consists of one letter: namely the letter R. I guess letters of the alphabet moonlight for IF titles when they’re not off sponsoring episodes of Sesame Street. Who knew?

What more: this is the only game of the competition using a home-brew interpreter, meaning it’s not written in one of the major IF languages. As someone who’s played through quite a few previous comps, this is usually a very poor sign. But here’s to optimism. Here’s to the hope that the letter R can break out of the mold. Fingers crossed everyone!

Note: As always the full review will have spoilers and eyes are like children: they shouldn’t be spoiled. So proceed only after playing the game.

Final Verdict: So much for crossed fingers.

Full review after the jump:


Just letting you know, I've got a new crossword up. I'm really proud of the theme, though the grid's not the greatest. But so far, no complaints, and usually when I do something stupid like misspell something or have an inappropriate clue my inbox is filled with emails letting me know. So far, so good.

The People’s Glorious Revolutionary Text Adventure Game – A Review

So… what’d ya think about that title, eh? Quite a mouthful. Either this game is an earnest piece of Marxist propaganda or it’s a scathing satire from the Tea Party crowd. Or maybe it’ll just be a fun adventure game. Here’s hoping for the later!

Note: As always, the full review will be replete with spoilers. I’d advise against reading it until after you’ve played the game.

Final Verdict: Haltingly amusing. The game is under the impression it’s much funnier than it actually is.

Full review after the jump:

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cream of the Crop - "Elite" as an Epithet

There is a fascinating article over at Slate about the growing use of the word "elite" used as a term of abuse hurled around by the Republican party. He has a particularly telling segment in which he describes an interview during the 2008 campaign when both John McCain and Sarah Palin were asked the question "Who is a member of the elite?" While McCain went off about those rowdy academician, good ole Palin was a bit more to the point:
Palin responded first. "I guess just people who think that they're better than everyone else," she said.
That's one good lookin' Objectivist
The article goes on to point out how most of her own campaign staff would qualify as "elite" under that definition, according to her own memoir. But the whole article definitely made me think about the charge of elitism in a different light. In this light really; the emotional root of a political slur boiled down the feeling of rejection of a math-phobic kid in Algebra.

I mean, it's always seemed a strange thing to boil out. I mean, most of those republican guys seem to sure like the ole capitalism, don't they, and the whole idea behind capitalism (at least according to known cult-leader and snappy dresser Ayn Rand) is one of a meritocracy. Isn't the "elite" by definition, the best? Isn't the elite to what we all aspire? The elite group of athletes who get to represent their countries in the Olympic games, the elite group of writers whose work outlasts their careers, etc.

If the people are going to reject politicians because they're being too elite, then perhaps we deserve leaders like this. But don't listen to me. Go read the original article. It makes a much more interesting point.

Accidental Youtube - The Ironwood Horror

So I was thinking to myself: You know, what this blog needs to spruce itself up? Random crap! Luckily for me and you, the internet is practically made of random crap. It's like walking through a log cabin and realizing everything is made of wood. You walk around the internet and you say to yourself, "Wow! This all of this stuff is made of crap! Random random crap!"

So anyway, I've decided to start a new semi-regular blog post entitled "The Accidental Youtube Clip". Here's what I do: I take a random word, generated here, and then search you tube. What I find, I post, indiscriminately. I'm not a big fan of hopping on the whole viral bandwagon, but there's an awful lot of stuff out there, and why should the videos people have seen a bazillion times get all the love? So here's my first find: It's a pretty good high-school film project. Wait, did I say film project? I meant to say horror film project. I present to you: The Ironwood Horror.

Favorite quote: "I am doing something. I'm critiquing." It's funny, because it's true.

Fun fact: This video confirms that Stephen Sondheim's broadway smash "Into The Woods" should only be performed by professionals. High school theatre is a magnet for serial killers. True story.

Rogue of the Multiverse - A Review

Oh my. This is a little sad isn't it? Back in the day half the Comp entries would be in Z-code and the other half would be written in TADS, but this year there's only one entry, which is a tad (no pun intended) disappointing considering how much work has been done to create that vibrant and highly useful programming language. A lot of great things have been written with TADS and I hope that this downturn is only a minor hiccup in the history of Interactive Fiction. Though it could have been worse. We didn't see ANY ADRIFT entries this year. I can't say I'll be missing those awkwardly programmed games (no fault to the authors, the ADRIFT system itself seems unwieldy).

Anyway, our second game in the 2010 IF Competition is entitled "Rogue of the Multiverse". Hmm... sounds like Sarah Palin meets Fringe. Let's hope it reminds me a bit more of the later...

Note: As always, my reviews are filled with all sorts of spoilery goodness. I'd advise you not to reed it until AFTER you've read the game.

Final Verdict: Weird and goofy game with clever gameplay. I recommend.

Promised spoilery goodness after the jump:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Warbler's Nest - A Review

Okay! It's time to review the first game! I'm excited! I've decided to review the entries based on their folder names in reverse alphabetical order. First up: "The Warbler's Nest". Hmm... Looks like we're going to be dealing with song birds? Maybe stealing some eggs and cooking them? I love omelets! Let's see if I'm right!

Note: This game is FULL of direct spoilers. DO NOT READ if you have not played the game.

The Final verdict: Creepy and enjoyable. I recommend!

The spoilery review after the jump:

Creating Interactive Fiction With Inform 7

So before I go ahead and start reviewing all of the IF Comp entries, I've decided to review something else! A book! A book called Creating Interactive Fiction With Inform 7, by one mister Aaron Reed.

Warning: The rest of this blog post will be very boring if you are not interested in CREATING INTERACTIVE FICTION WITH INFORM 7. I don't mean the book, I mean the concept. If you're looking for crossword puzzles or amateurish cartoons, stop reading now before you lapse into a coma.

For the rest of us... follow me after the jump!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Four Square

Greetings puzzlers! With all of this Interactive Fiction talk, you might have thought I'd forgotten about you. But the crossword bug rises yet again and today I'm giving you a doozy.

I present to you four separate 5x5 crossword grids. Your job? solve them! I've even given you the middle letter of each grid. But, because I'm being so nice, I've decided to muddy the waters a bit. Below you'll find four groups of ten clues each. Each clue is to one of the ten five letter words in each grid. But the clues are in random order. Only on solution (I'm pretty sure) is available for each grid. Also, not only are the clues in random order, but each group of clues is also in random order. So the first group of clues do not necessarily correspond to the first grid. Keep an eye on those middle letters, as they're your only hint as to which group of clues belongs in which grid.

Don't worry, it's not as hard as it sounds... or is it...? I'll have the solution to this puzzle and the movie puzzle on Wednesday! Until then, good luck! I'll start the IF game reviews tomorrow!

Clues after the jump:

Interactive Fiction Pet Peeves

So I thought before I dive straight in to the games, I'd talk a little about the criterion I generally use when evaluating Interactive Fiction.

I know that writing an IF game is very hard and time consuming. Even a seemingly small and sparsely implemented game can be a herculean effort. But I also know that when writing my own game, there were certain obvious standards I tried to adhere to. I am not a programmer (half the things I learned in Aaron Reed's recent textbook were ENTIRELY new to me, despite having read through the manual pretty thoroughly (or so I thought)) and not an aficionado, but there were things even I knew to try to include. Here are things that I look for to determine immediately whether or not a game is worth playing (though I promise to try to play through ALL of the games):

List of pet peeves after the jump!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Why I Love Interactive Fiction

Hello! I'm back! Yeah, I know. So much for blogging on a daily or even weekly basis, huh? But I've been pretty busy at work during the day and pretty busy working on this show during the evenings, so... yeah. But I promise for the upcoming month I plan to post on a regular basis and to focus my posts (mostly) on a particular topic which brings me to the subject of this post: 

I love Interactive Fiction.

What is Interactive Fiction, you ask? Well, mostly it's a particular medium of computer games originating in the late 70's early 80's that is entirely text based. Classic titles, like Zork, and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and this awesome Sherlock Holmes Infocom game I spent MONTHS playing when I was in the fifth grade. The conceit is pretty simple: You're presented with a piece of text and then a prompt. Let's take an example from Savoir-Faire by Emily Short after the jump...

Saturday, September 18, 2010


As you know, I love making puzzles. But not everybody loves word puzzles. So this one's of a more visual nature. I've taken ten well known movie posters and removed the title from each film. Can you identify the following ten movies from their posters alone? To help you out, all of the movies have something in common.

I know. Too easy, right? Well if you didn't think so, don't worry. I'll have the answers posted this upcoming Wednesday.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Care Package of Love

So yesterday afternoon I received a care package from my best friend. She's a student in Washington D.C. and so sadly we don't see enough of each other as we'd like. This summer was particularly tough because she spent the entirety of it in Kenya doing Good Works. So I was particularly delighted when I received these awesome gifts in the mail!

Kenyan teas! Kenyan cards! This awesome hand made journal! And especially this gorgeous African (almost quilted?) apron! Now you might be saying to yourself, "An apron? That doesn't sound too exciting..." But there are two things you must understand:

1) I do an awful lot of baking. I've really gotten into baking bread over the last year. It's a very calming (though time intensive) hobby, that is also very very messy. By the time I've finished my first proof, the kitchen looks like a flour bomb exploded everywhere. If I'm stupid enough to have forgotten to wear an apron my clothes (usually work pants for some god-forsaken reason) also look like I got a big bear hug from the Pillsbury Doughboy. In other words, an apron is the perfect gift that only someone who knows me very well would even think of getting me.

My Apron is a zillion times better than this one.
2) This thing is gorgeous. It is now, without a doubt, the most attractive possession I own. Very vibrant, African patterns, lush greens, reds, etc. I tried to find a facsimile image online but I couldn't find one that replicates the vibrancy. All I found were bland aprons with a flag attached (see photo).

BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!! She also sent two C.D.'s. One with authentic Kenyan music (which I haven't listened to yet...) and an incredible mixed C.D. that despite a Lady Gaga or two, had just the perfect kind of music to drive to, which I've been doing a lot lately since I've become more involved with theater down in Colorado. There's the Bird and the Bee, the Decemberists, Wombats, and more! Don't believe me? Check out my new favorite song from Scottish songstress Amy MacDonald:

Yes, Amy MacDonald. This is the life. With friends like these, who needs anything else?.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tale of an NPR Geek-Out

Local NPR DJ and Geek Celebrity, Kyle Dyas
So last night I went took part in this reading of a screenplay at Wendy's house. It was a fun time, and unlike the other actors who either left right after the reading or stood quietly on the sidelines, I took a very active part in the workshop discussion afterwards. I may have even found a new writing group to belong to!

But that's not the reason for this post. Because, there was someone else at the reading. Someone, who I'm sure wouldn't turn the heads of most people, but for me it was a total celebrity geek out moment.

Now I live in Cheyenne, Wyoming where we get two NPR stations. We get Wyoming Public Radio and we also get KUNC. I listen to both pretty much all the time. I flip back and forth. If I don't like the programming on WPR, I usually like the programming on KUNC, and vice versa. For instance, WPR carries Talk of the Nation, whereas KUNC carries Market Place and the Splendid Table. They play This American Life at different times. What I'm trying to say is that I listen to an awful lot of KUNC, and there's this voice who DJ's the music selection, Kyle Dyas who I've listened to for the past three years and last night HE WAS AT THE PARTY!!

Garrison Keillor, a face for the radio if there ever was one
I know that for most people meeting a spindly local public radio personality wouldn't be much to write about, but for me it was like meeting an honest to God celebrity. I sort of freaked out, and babbled on and on about how much liked NPR and what an honor it was meeting him. I don't think he really understood. I think he just thought it was weird putting a face to the voice (which was a little disconcerting (ever seen a picture of Garrison Keillor?)) But I was in honest-to-god celebri-shock.

I have a good friend who lives in New York, and he's seen/met many celebrities. For him, it's like walking across the street. "Oh, Hi Gweneth". Me? Not so much. And honestly if I were to meet, say, a famous actor, I don't think that would even have the same effect on me as meeting someone whose voice I've been listening to almost every single day for the past three years. I know this makes me a huge NPR geek. I know that I need help. But if loving NPR and geeking out at the appearance of local DJs is a disease, then I don't want the cure.

The Wednesday Cheat Sheet - September 14 2010

So it's been slightly over a week since I started this blog and you know what? It's been pretty awesome. I've started drawing cartoons again, I get to publish puzzles, life is good. What else was going on in the world? Well... according to the Weekly Review from Harpers: 

In Amarillo, Texas, 23-year-old skateboarder Jacob Isom stole a Koran from David Grisham, director of Repent Amarillo, before Grisham could burn the book. “I snuck up behind and told him, ‘Dude, you have no Koran,’ and took off,” Isom said. 3 Religious leaders held an emergency summit in Washington, D.C., to denounce the “anti-Muslim frenzy.” “We know what it is like when people have attacked us physically, have attacked us verbally, and others have remained silent,“ said Rabbi David Saperstein. ”It cannot happen here in America in 2010.”4 The House of Representatives was evacuated after an unidentified white powder was found in the chamber. Some thought the substance was yellow.5 Tea Party activists rallied in front of the Capitol. “When we got here last year, at Union Station we could hear the roar,“ said Tea Party supporter Rob Pittman, who traveled from Long Island. ”I’m not hearing the roar this year." 6 An invasive species of predatory shrimp, which often leaves its prey uneaten after killing it, was found in the waters off England. 
And more!  But enough of that depressing crap! Click on the jump for the answers to last week's puzzles!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Heart Belle and Sebastian

A few years back I was in a pretty dark place in my life. I was stuck in a cold house in the middle of winter all by myself for months on end. No car, no friends. It was pretty bleak. But whenever I'd feel really depressed there'd always be one way to get myself out of the funk (besides drinking a quart of cheap wine): I'd put on a Belle and Sebastian C.D. and instantly I'd start to feel better. Led my lead singer Stuart Murdoch, Belle and Sebastian has the kind of peppy calming melodies that instantly make you feel better. This is a new(ish?) video I found on their website, celebrating the release of their new album: "Write About Love".

The second half of the video after the jump...

Remember to Put on a Condiment

In this puzzle, each line holds three five-letter words, each going from left to right, and running into each other. Once you've answered all of the clues, there will be three related words running down the gray stripes. Have fun! I'll post the solution, along with the answers to last weeks puzzles tomorrow!

1. Bay city of Florida
2. Half of a 60's quartet
3. Sideways
4. Give the slip
5. Belief system of Benjamin Franklin
6. Scent
7. Puccini opera
8. Prickly plants
9. Give 10% to, say
10. Persian Gulf country
11. "Little Miss Sunshine" Oscar winner
12. Early Peruvian
13. Yellow tropical fruit
14. Gentleman's gentleman
15. Old-time anesthetic
16. Synagogue scroll
17. In the lead
18. Grown up
19. Nether world
20. County near London
21. An American in Paris, maybe

Why I'm Going To Watch "Top Chef: Just Desserts" (and Why You Should Too!)

The "Chef-testants" on Top Chef: Just Desserts
Anyone who knows me, knows that I like television. Anyone who knows that I like television, knows that I love Top Chef. Top Chef, for those of you who don't know, is a cooking competition on Bravo, a network devoted to producing trashy reality television shows about rich assholes (see here, here, here, and here), when they're not producing great competition shows (see here, and here). Unlike Hell's Kitchen (where they get a bunch of mediocre line-cooks and Gordon Ramsey screams at the top of his lungs at them for the entire hour), Top Chef prides itself on casting their show with talented and promising chefs. Many of the contestants have been James Beard award winners or finalists, and in general, they all know how to cook their pants off. (not literally but that might be a show worth watching...), and mostly the show is not about watching people out of their depth fail and fail again, but about watching professional craftsman performing feats of creative genius under ridiculous pressure. Previous challenges have included making gourmet meals from ingredients purchased in a vending machine, creating a healthy and fancy meal for a ton of school children using school's restricted budgets, and producing fine tasting courses using "offal" ingredients, like tripe, kangaroo, and duck tongues. It's an amazing show, and if you haven't been watching it you should. It deserved the Emmy, especially for its last season which was probably the best of the bunch.
Luckily she owns a restaurant in Vail, Colorado!

Unfortunately, this current season, Washington D.C. hasn't been Top Chef at its A-Game. Since now, it seems as if each season has offered a stronger crop of chefs than the last, but Top Chef D.C. has been sort of a slide in reverse, especially compared to some of the amazing skills shown by the previous season's chefs. (Kevin, I still love you!) And now that my favorite, Kelly Liken's been booted off right before the finale, I don't really have a dog going into the race.

But, none of that matters, because after tomorrow evening, Top Chef D.C. will have officially closed its season of "bleh". With its departure brings a new Top Chef spin off, which instead of focusing on savory chefs, will focus of poultry chefs. Here are a few reasons why I'm looking forward to this new spin-off show:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

New Title!

Okay, I'm retitling the blog. "Foul Deformity" was a way that I thought I could vaguely describe my asthetic while quoting Shakespeare at the same time! But honestly, I don't think it's going to be a good title for this blog. I was working on a comic (which I'll post tomorrow!) and it occured to me that the types of stuff I'm going to be posting on here (puzzles, comics, reviews, etc.) aren't deformities in any sense, but are instead quiet diversions. They bring to mind opening up the Sunday paper and spending all late morning and afternoon in a quiet entertaining manner. So that's what I'm calling this site: "The Quiet Sunday". I'd like to think of it as a place where people can come and take a small break from the busy week, and replicate the calm and relaxing hedonism of a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Hope the new title is welcome, and as always, let me know what you think!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Three Minute Fiction

After a summer hiatus, one of my favorite writing competitions is back on! NPR's Three Minute Fiction contest has always been fun to listen to and read. I think this year I'm going to submit something myself. I'll post my submission once I've finished. If you want to try your hand, you can find out everything you need to know at the npr website. Check out some of the earlier winners and runner ups. It's a great contest, but what are you doing reading this? Get writing!


My interests in crosswords is somewhat recent, compared to my general love of puzzles. When I was a kid, I got a subscription to Games Magazine and even though I loved the puzzles, I would pretty much entirely avoid the crosswords. Logic puzzles? Check. General word puzzles? Check. I liked those, because they involved less of having to know bits of trivia, and more on being able to see a pattern. And my favorite puzzles were cryptograms, those puzzles where you have a passage or a list, except each letter of the alphabet has been substituted with a different letter. If you'd like a literary example check out one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories: The Adventure of the Dancing Men.

So it's really no surprise that my first attempts at crosswords were with "Coded Crosswords", crosswords that didn't have any clues, but where each little white square had a random number between one and twenty-six, and each number corresponded with a letter of the alphabet. They're basically cryptograms crosswords. And I love them. They're still among my favorite puzzles to solve, though, if you're pretty good at cryptograms like I am, they can be a bit too easy.

Anyway, here's a small little cryptogram crossword that I whipped up. I've given you two letters to start out with. Have fun! I'll post the solution sometime soon...ish!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Drowsy Chaperone

Earlier this week I discussed a musical I wasn't very pleased with. So I think it's time I talked about a musical I'm actually really enjoying: The Drowsy Chaperone- music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. Now, again, I'm not much of a musical fan, but as I've been listening to and re-listening to sound track, I feel just like narrator of the play, becoming increasingly infatuated with the entire production.

The Drowsy Chaperone is bookmarked and continually narrated by a solitary shut-in stuck in his urban apartment with only his record collection of old musical soundtracks to keep him company. And so, he provides an endearingly snarky guide through a fictional 1920's musical called (you guessed it) The Drowsy Chaperone. The musical-within-a-play is constantly being interrupted by knowing asides by the man in his apartment and real life interruptions, like a phone that won't stop ringing. The plot of the musical itself is the kind of fluff marshmallows are made from, but it's this whole-heartedly silly giddy fluff that becomes more and more infectious the longer you're exposed. It's like the chicken pox that way.

I'm not going to go into the "plot",  or try to give context, because the plot of the musical within a musical literally irrelevant. As our narrator says at one point in the play "It's mechanics. It's like pornography.[...] In pornography the story is simplistic --"how do I pay for this pizza?" being the classic example. My point is, as in a musical, the story exists only to connect the longer, more engaging production numbers." Here's one of my favorite musical numbers from the show, which ends "Act 1" (Even though the show itself is a full-length one act play, the musical-within-a-play has two):

In other words, if you aren't familiar with this musical, I highly recommend it. Fun, funny, and catchy as the plague. It's even allowed my curmudgeonly heart to grow three times. Don't worry, it's still shriveled and black, it's just larger than a kidney bean now.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Abbot and Pope Show - Part 1

Yes, there will be more. And that's a threat.

Double Trouble

Okay! It's puzzle time! I spent most of last night watching old Columbo episodes and working on a new puzzle. I think Peter Falk makes me smarter. Anyway, I've decided the nice thing about having a blog is that I can publish things I can't anywhere else. For instance, I've been publishing these crosswords, but the website only allows for regular 15 x 15 crosswords and that's it. Last night, I came up with an idea for a word search and now that I have this blog I can share my work with my adoring fans, all one of you. So without further ado:

Double Trouble

You solve this puzzle much like a regular word search, except for every space where one letter would be in an ordinary word search, in this one there are two. Whenever you find a word, regardless of which direction it's reading, you read the two letters clumped together from left to right. Also, instead of giving you a list of words to find, I'm instead giving you a series of clues, the answers to which are located somewhere in the grid. To assist you on that count, the clues are listed in the alphabetical order of their answer. Furthermore, after each clue, a number in parenthesis will tell you exactly how many letters the answer will be. But be careful, some answers may consist of compound words. One more solving aid: when you solve the puzzle, every two-letter square in the grid will have been circled as part of a larger word at least once. Here's a small sample to give you an idea:


Witticism (8)
Sepulcher (6)
More macabre (6)
IHOP order (8)
What some sculptures start out as (8)
Feral canine (6)
Hypnotic (8)

Aaaaand... Here's the solution:
The words were:


Okay, not too hard, right? What about this bigger one?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Attack of the Christmas Schooner

So I'm on the board of my local community theater, and specifically on the "programming committee", which means that I get to help decide the upcoming seasons. So we're reading plays. Lots of them. Some of them are good. Some of them are not so good. 

In that later category, I'm gonna have to add "The Christmas Schooner", which, as you'll never guess, is about a boat during Christmas. Now close your eyes and imagine yourself in the late 19th century. A family of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation German immigrants is trying to adjust to the American lifestyle. They long for "ein Tannenbaum", and the safe return home of the father figure from his possibly ill-fated voyage to return freshly cut evergreens to the good people of Chicago. If this sounds potentially interesting, just wait! Imagine all that, an intriguing and possibly heartwarming premise, a neglected historical demographic, and songs! Songs about Christmas! What could possibly go wrong?

Well... for starters: What if over half of those songs sounded like Irish funeral dirges? What if the only "joke" in the show was "How can a sailor's nose tell him the weather?... When it's wet, it's raining!" Bad-a-bump! (followed by the sounds of crickets). The show is so unbelievably goddamn earnest it makes me want to roll around in the mud. I mean, maybe I'm missing something (I notoriously am not a fan of musicals), but our Theater Director highly recommended the script and he's not the only one who liked it.

But I think the thing I hate about it, (and believe me, I can make you a list) is that it's obvious that it was written by someone with the same sense of humor as a door stop. Now, again, I'm not so big on the whole "singin' and dancin'" thing, but when you look back on serious, dramatic good plays, one thing a good playwright knows is that you have to leaven tragedy with comedy. This play takes itself so gosh-durned seriously that at least for this reader/listener, it was impossible to enjoy. Avoid, my friends. Avoid this foul deformity like the maudlin piece of treacle it is.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A New Day, A New Blog

Hello! And welcome all to my new blog: "Foul Deformity", which I think is a pretty concise description of myself and my interests. Among those interests will be interactive fiction, cooking, politics, etc. I'm going to try to post some of my crossword puzzles here too, if I can figure out how to post them interactively. I've published quite a few over here, but I have to wait almost ten days for them to publish my puzzles, so I'm thinking of publishing them here instead.

Also, I'm planning on reviewing the upcoming batch of entries from the IF Comp.This will be of interest to the, oh, maybe fifteen people on the planet who are interested in Interactive Fiction. A third of those people are Italian. Why have an interest in an impossibly obscure and some-might-argue obsolete entertainment? Because Interactive Fiction or "IF" for the savvy/nerdy appeals to that strange subsection of literary minds and puzzle solvers. If James Joyce were alive today, you can bet he'd be writing IF. Lengthy byzantine IF. Impossible to read or play, IF. What I'm saying is that Finnegan's Wake is impossible to read and shouldn't be tried by anyone.

Anyway, on the with the show. I might be back later to see if I can publish a crossword or two. Oh, and if you're interesting in playing some IF written by yours truly, you can do so over here.