Author Stephen Unwin sure has picked a mind-aching subject for his latest book: proving the likelihood of God by plugging numbers into mathematical formulas. But The Probability of God:
A Simple Calculation That Proves the Ultimate Truth turns out to be a witty and thoroughly readable account of one of life's big mysteries. "Uncertainty has always played a role in the way I believed in the existence of God," Unwin says. "I wanted to start with a truly blank sheet." And the smart money's on the Big Guy: "The bottom line is that there's basically a two-to-one shot in favor of God's existence." Unwin is at Joseph-Beth Booksellers (13217 Shaker Square) at 7 tonight. Admission is free; call 216-751-3300.
Friday, February 20
Nothing is essentially the Cuban version of Amélie, that ultra-charming French fantasy that was a hit three years ago. Nothing's impish heroine, a forlorn postal worker longing for a ticket to the United States, opens the mail that comes across her desk and rewrites it in an effort to bring goodwill and happiness to its recipients. Director Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti does some nifty stylistic camera tricks too. Slapstick, political commentary, and a love story all combine in an imaginative movie that fools around with time, place, and logic. Nothing screens at the Cleveland Cinematheque (11141 East Boulevard) at 7:30 tonight and 6:45 p.m. tomorrow. Tickets are $5 and $8. For more information, call 216-421-7450.
Saturday, February 21
Pharaoh's Daughter does more genre-jumping on its latest CD, Exile, than most groups do during their entire careers. The New York-based quintet -- technically a Jewish folk ensemble -- blends klezmer, Middle Eastern, Indian, and Balkan music. Onstage, it swings effortlessly from Old World rhythms to new-school beats. Pharaoh's Daughter performs at 8 p.m. at the Ohio Theatre, 1519 Euclid Avenue. Tickets range from $22 and $32. They are available by calling 216-241-6000.
Sunday, February 22
Pennywise has been covering OutKast's "Hey Ya!" in concert lately, so be sure to request it if you go see the veteran punk combo at the Agora tonight. You'll certainly hear a bunch of new songs from its seventh album, From the Ashes, which streamlines a world of political unrest and social angst into bite-size three-minute songs. Like-minded rockers Guttermouth, Stretch Armstrong, and Bleed the Dream open. The show starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Agora, 5000 Euclid Avenue. Tickets are $15.99 and $17.50, available by calling 216-241-5555.
Monday, February 23
Monday night at the bar isn't about scouting for mates -- it's about cheap drinks. Behold these bastions of bargain beer: O'Reilly's (3837 Ridge Road; 216-631-3888) has $1.25 drafts and well liquor till 9 p.m., McCarthy's Ale House (16918 Detroit Road in Lakewood; 216-228-1340) has 50-cent drafts and 15-cent wings, Mick's Pub & Grill (36200 Euclid Avenue in Willoughby; 440-946-2400) has 50-cent drafts, and the 5 O'Clock Lounge (11904 Detroit Road in Lakewood; 216-521-4906) has cheap brew plus free pool all night. Really, who needs football?
Tuesday, February 24
In a way, the work of 19th-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge was a precursor to movies: His pioneering images captured rapid movements, inscrutable to the naked eye, that told a brief but linear story. Time Stands Still: Muybridge and the Instantaneous Photography Movement is the first exhibit to comprehensively gather and document his landmark pieces, which feature action sequences like galloping horses and fisticuffs. More than 170 objects -- including photos, equipment, and drawings -- make up this spectacular display. It's at the Cleveland Museum of Art (11150 East Boulevard) through May 16. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (closed Mondays). Admission is $4 to $8. Call 216-421-7340 for more information.
Wednesday, February 25
While the 1893 World's Fair was unfolding in Chicago, America's first urban serial killer was making the rounds in the city. Author Erik Larson deftly unites the two true tales in The Devil in the White City, now out in paperback. "There's only one book there," Larson says. "I didn't want to do one about just the killer or one about just the fair. Although the two [main] characters never actually encountered each other, the two stories meshed perfectly. This couldn't be written as a [fictional] novel, because nobody would believe it." The bestseller -- a National Book Award finalist -- is a riveting account of a country working its way toward the 20th century. Architecture, cultural milestones, and vats of skin-eating acid converge. "They identified the forces that would shape the century," Larson says. "Fundamental changes in the nation allowed the killer to thrive." Larson discusses and signs his book at 7 p.m. at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, 24519 Cedar Road in Lyndhurst. Admission is free. Call 216-691-7000 for more information.
Guitarist Robben Ford has been an able sideman for guys as diverse as Miles Davis and George Harrison. On his new album as a leader, Keep on Running, he enlists a bunch of horn players, grabs a songbook filled with old R&B tunes, and makes a shuffling, bluesy soul record that connects the dots between Otis Rush and Elvis Costello (via a cover of Nick Lowe's "Peace, Love & Understanding"). Through it all, Ford's crisp, clear playing surges toward the groove. He plays Wilbert's (812 Huron Road) at 8:30 tonight. Tickets are $23 and $25, available by calling 216-902-4663.