Friday 27 July 2007

Special Report: London Rug and Mat Week

Welcome to a special Imaginary Review, coming to you fresh from the biggest shows at London Rug and Mat Week. In the last few days we’ve seen more rugs and mats than a paraplegic postman, so come with us and listen to our reports, as common folk would listen to bards in days of old!

First up was the wonderful show by the Mat House Blendissimo, home of homewear haute couture. This show was typified by some wonderful avant garde creations, such as the ‘Vertical Blue’ welcome mat (both blue and vertical) as well as the Gypsy Kings rug, a ten feet by four feet rug featuring all of everyone’s favourite foreign yodellers, the Gypsy Kings.

From the fabulous to the functional now, with the great display of rugs and mats by Ichython. Their new Summer range really stuns, and some of their new works are wonderfully useful, too. Consider, for example, their bold new take on the ‘Welcome’ mat. Otherwise identical in shape, size and design to the classic entryway adorner, it is designed specifically to be placed upside down, so it can be read when leaving the house; it’s a must for agoraphobics everywhere!

Not all the things on offer were as good, however. After witnessing the show by up-and-coming Barcelona-based rug emporium Honest Kev’s Smashing Rugs, Inc., I purchased one of their flying carpets, to find that it didn’t fly and nobody was around at the store to give me a refund. I’m starting to think that it wasn’t made by Belgian virgins, too.

But one can’t end such a wonderful festival of rugs on a downer, and so let’s concentrate on the marvellous things at Shrapnel and Hyde’s stunning show. Celebrities such as Victoria Beckham, Peter Sissons and the gay one from Boyzone gasped in amazement at the beautiful tartan rugs that are going to be so popular this year. My particular favourite was the all-white tartan, in which all of the stripes were the same shade of white. Tubular!

London Rug and Mat Week was due to continue until Friday, but an outbreak of lynchings has forced it to end prematurely.

Wednesday 25 July 2007

Uncle Review: Dave’s Uncle Ted

Being an uncle these days is hard work. It’s not a job that anyone takes lightly, and the recent uncle shortage in the UK has shown us that demand for uncles is as high as ever. Who could forget those harrowing images of children and young people forced to advertise for older male relatives who would poke fun at their Dads, and the reports of one uncle selling his services on eBay for fifteen thousand pounds?

With all this in mind, then, it’s good to see that Dave’s Uncle Ted is, in many senses, a typical uncle. He sends Dave a ten pound book token for his birthday and has invited Dave to two football matches, both when Ted’s mate Eric was sick and didn’t need his season ticket. It’s a shame he lets himself down in so many other areas of unckling.

Last year, I am told, Ted travelled to America for a two-week holiday with his girlfriend, Barbara. As with many people his age, Dave was overjoyed at this, telling his friends how his Uncle was going to bring back all the latest video games and as-yet-unreleased-in-the-UK DVDs from the States. The gift he received upon Ted’s return? A bag of peanut M&Ms.

Unlike most uncles, who enjoy past-times such as snooker, car racing and petty thuggery, Dave’s Uncle Ted has very dull hobbies. It’s a shame because the love of football, while a good start, is not enough to propel him into the ranks of great uncles. A love of gardening, amateur HAM radio and opera, however, are enough to make his nephew dread the prospect of a prolonged conversation with him.

But let’s not dwell on the bad. Ted does have other plus points, and scores highly on the longevity scale because of them. His former problems with alcohol, for example, mean that Dave does have bragging rights with his friends in that regard. In university, Ted played bass in a band who would have opened for Deep Purple, had their lead singer not caught gout. And let’s not forget, Dave’s Uncle Ted has never worn a dirty mac and hung around the park, talking to himself, a trait that is all too rare in today’s Unckling world.

To summarize then, Uncle Ted is a purely average uncle, nothing major to write home about, but at least he’s not a kiddie-fiddler.

Tuesday 24 July 2007

At Last! Spoolight is here!

The button-nosed So Cal cheerleader looks into the sky and one word passes her lips. The Japanese businessman looks up towards the clouds and says a single word. The British postman, cycling on his round, stops, steers his face towards the heavens and utters one word. That one word is the same for all of them.


It has been three months since Spoolight first came into our collective consciousness, but those weeks have seemed like an eternity. Now Spoolight is upon us, and the verdict is awaited. Does Spoolight live up to the hype?

Well, the hype was always a lot to live up to, but it comes close. Without wanting to give too much away, it does everything it said it would do and more. Will everyone get as much out of it as they had hoped? That remains to be seen. But no matter what people think, Spoolight will be a part of our lives for a long time to come, although my initial reactions to it are not 100% positive.

My main qualm with Spoolight is that the emptiness that pervaded beforehand is still there, albeit in a much smaller amount. After several days experimenting with Spoolight, I lack the gapes, but my colander soul still occasionally leaks tears as small as gunshot residue. Is that intentional, maybe? Is it possibly to truly appreciate being hole-less when one is whole?

More questions arise: Will the children bend iron like the commercials say? It’s a big possibility. But what price iron-bending children without the knowledge of the iron which they bend? Is Spoolight giving us too much too soon? Twenty dollars is too much to resist for even the strongest weakling.

Spoolight takes away our need for the things we don’t need, which, like the things we do need (and the things that give those things to us), we need. Especially in the current climate, when the world is full of asbestos burns, cyanide flatulence and Tom Cruise exhaustion. Will Spoolight leave a residue? I cannot see how it cannot; for history will repeat itself upon us should we totally forget it. And historic acid reflux is the worst kind of temporal gastropain.

We do need Spoolight, like the admen, adwomen and adchildren told us. Thankfully, for Spoolight is here to stay.

Monday 23 July 2007

Book Review: The Logic Problem Puzzle Compendium

The Logic Problem Puzzle Compendium is the latest in a long line of popular books, though, having read through this one in the space of an afternoon, I am unable to say from where their popularity arises.

More like a series of short stories than an actual narrative, I was bemused by the events making up the book, and could not find a way to connect them. Indeed, they seem like nothing more than a disparate series of situations and comments about them! On one page I read of children doing different things in order to make money (selling lemonade, babysitting, mowing the lawn, etc), and then, when I turned the page, eager to see how the events unfolded, I was confronted with an entirely new situation, about Christmas presents being bought for family members at various locations. What happened to the children? What became of their money-making schemes? Presumably the author (un-named, I hasten to add) wishes us to guess the outcomes for ourselves!

The laziness of the author does not end there. There is no semblance of character development or literary technique in this book whatsoever. In chapter six, for example, we are told that “John did not go to the party with Mary.” Why not? What had Mary done for John to spurn her party invitation? More to the point, who are John and Mary? It continues: “Nigel (who isn’t a banker) attended the party with the Estate Agent.” What kind of scene setting is that? How are we, the readers, expected to use this sparse description to come up with any sort of interior picture of the story?

And don’t get me started on the so-called ‘illustrations’ adorning most of the pages. Almost identical childish grid-like structures appear almost everywhere within the book. Presumably this is the author’s idea of a suitable accompaniment for a publication that lacks content, narrative structure and any merit whatsoever.

A truly awful book from start to finish.

Thursday 12 July 2007

Music Festival: SwampAid

The SwampAid music festival has now reached its eighteenth birthday. Since the first concert in which founder Sinclair St Claire played banjo on a soapbox in front of twelve apathetic goats, the festival has gone from strength to strength. The aim of SwampAid is raising money to have the Bennibjorn Swamp in Annifridagnethaville dredged, in the hope that Sinclair will one day recover a bicycle that was thrown in there by an angry spouse.

This year promised to be one of the highlights of the North American festival scene, which includes Canada. Many top acts performed throughout the two-day event, and the Imaginary Review pulled up a lawn chair and got in the way of some dancing hippies.

The first band to really strike a chord was Death by Dry Hump, a hot up-and-coming rock band from Deepstain. They had a lot of support from their loyal fans (Sandra and Michael), who had heard about the gig on MySpace. DbDH played their major-label debut album, Great Scott!, in its entirity, including their latest single, I Can't Find My Plectrum (Oh, There it is by The Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers). The band's sound is best described as plump, with acidic overtures and a lean downbeat. Their twenty-minute wigout version of their breakthrough hit, Nnng, completed their set magnificently. Death by Dry Hump: Watch out for them!

Next up on my list of bands that I saw and enjoyed was the more established Teddy Trio and the Sextuplet Duo. Their unique cello-drums-acoustibass metal sound has been well known in the Gartersnake area for some time now, and they certainly pleased the crowd with covers of Megadeth's Symphony of Destruction, Slayer's Seasons in the Abyss, and Enigma's Sadeness (Part 1). Unfortunately, the band's set ended in tragedy when Trio attempted to crowd surf while carrying a glockenspiel.

Punch the Baby's set was cancelled, as their gig at the Dallas Rhododendron cannot be stopped. The band have been playing constantly since they came onstage at 7.00 pm last Tuesday, and if scientists cannot find a way to get them to cease playing, all members of Punch the Baby will be dead before the week is out, due to exhaustion.

Snippets of Plenty wowed the crowd with their own brand of progressive electronica, despite a power cut halfway through their set. The highly professional group continued their set through barber-shop quartet-style harmony singing. In fact, their recent hits, Don't F*ck Wit Da Bassline and Sh*tting Da Beats into Your Ears both improved greatly from this change in style. Dolly Parton, guest vocalist on forthcoming single Force-fed a Gallon of Funk, came onstage and joined in the fun for their grand finale. Inspirational!

Unsurprisingly, the biggest pull of the festival were headliners Regrettably Eggy, who showcased their new guitarist, eight year-old Sammy Wonders, in his first gig since taking over from the sadly missed Ian Leviathon. Wonders really managed to fill his predecessor's shoes well, playing the complex solo from Welcome to the Bureau of Foreign Affairs with gusto. All of Eggy's hits were there, in a set that was as crowd-pleasing as it was amiable. Fledgling Parrot, Bag O' Tits and the massive hit A Bucket no More were accompanied by other, lesser-known tracks, as well as a cheeky cover of Ini Kamoze's Here Comes the Hotstepper.

SwampAid was, once again, a wonderful event, full of great music of all types. Sadly, the money raised by the show wasn't enough to pay for the hire of a dredger, so it looks like Sinclair will have to put on another great festival next year. Never mind eh, Sinclair!

Wednesday 4 July 2007

New Wine Releases: Pinot Gris Roundup

The new Cabernet Sauvignons are out, but let’s forget about them! It’s summer, so we all want to be sitting on the roofs of our sheds with a rose between our teeth and a bucket of Pinot Gris between our legs, right? Right! Onward!!

Fleeting Gannymede (by the good men and women of Shattered Flask Vinyards in Western Australia) is a queasy, flaky panhandler of a white wine, with a few extra balustrades added to the tannins for good measure! It loses a few points for being a little sentimental, body-wise, but overall it has a quaffability-to-furtiveness ratio of at least three quarters! I give it a Seventy-Two!

The Pig that Died (Bonus Beats Vinyards) is nothing if not contagious. And it’s not contagious. So it’s nothing to me! You hear me? You’re NOTHING TO ME! Forty-nine points.

Sir Elton John has acquired some grape fields in southern Italy, and the first release is Rocket Man Pinot Gris. Like the man himself, this is a short, tempestuous wine that doesn’t age particularly well. Best enjoyed around 1978. Sixty-six points.

Pinot Gris is well-known in the wine world for going very well with salads, particularly when eaten off the back of a leopard. This has never been more true than in the case of Waįn Sweaty Barrel Select from McVinYards Vinyards. The addition of ball bearings to the drink really emphasizes the middle eights and suspended sevenths, but watch you don’t choke on them! This gets my best score of the day, ninety!

Wines available from the following stockists: Strangebins, Felchers, Talladega Nights and Ron’s Top-Notch Wine Emporium by the Seaside.

Tuesday 3 July 2007

Theatre Review - Snickerthon

When he revealed his ideas for a new musical to them, Dwayne Borsnapp’s friends told him he was mad.

‘They said, “You’re mad!” and then started hitting me on the knees with shatterproof rulers,’ quoths the gung-ho theatre producer, adding, ‘and then some of the rulers shattered, which shows you how hard they were hitting me.’

Well, it’s fair to say that Borsnapp’s friends are probably laughing on the other side of their measuring instruments now, because Snickerthon, his new musical, is about to become the toast of the West End (in London!)!

Snickerthon relates the story – familiar to all people in Britain who were there at the time – of how the popular chocolate, nougat and peanut bar called ‘Marathon’ was rebranded and called ‘Snickers’, and the very devastating fallout that this was to cause.

Getting the project off the ground was not easy. Says Borsnapp: ‘Potential investors were slightly dubious about the money-making potential of a three-hour musical extravaganza chronicling a chocolate bar’s name change. But I showed them. Oh yes, I showed them.’

At this point in the interview Borsnapp started rubbing his hands and staring into space, and no amount of prodding or nose-hair singeing could stir him. I decided to leave him and sit in on the final rehearsals.

Beginning with Britain in a golden age of chocolate bar heaven, where Starburst were still called ‘Opal Fruits’ and where Secrets and Pyramints still existed, the musical moves on through the initial decision-making process to the promotional material and finally to the world as it is today. As the events move on, things on the homesphere get worse and worse, until we arrive at the apocalyptic shitheap of today’s Planet Earth. International terrorism, bird flu, global warming, Mel Gibson….could all the wrongs that exist be due to ‘Marathon’ becoming ‘Snickers’? The play never really answers the question, but it puts the question in your head and that’s almost the same, isn’t it?

Musical highlights include the song It’s Political Correctness Gone Mad and What the Fuck is ‘Oil of Olay’? which cover the plethora of changes to products’ names that have occurred since, and Weren’t Frazzles Great Too?, a paean to the nostalgic snacks movement of comedians like Peter Kaye.

Snickerthon is a wonderful afternoon’s entertainment for anyone who enjoys chocolate, or, perhaps more appropriately, for people who used to like chocolate a lot more than they do now. Superb.

Snickerthon is running for the next two weeks at the Odium, Central Place, London. Tickets are outrageous.

Monday 2 July 2007

Tonight’s Reality TV

Looks like we’ll be having another interesting episode of America’s Next Top Gynaecologist (Sky One, 9.00) tonight. Fan-favourite Morris’s speculum technique is improving, but his failure to wash his hands could mean the end for this popular contestant. Watch out for an exciting hissy-fit between Callum and Dave over correct ultrasound technique. Riveting.

ITV’s Celebrity Porn Star Challenge (7.30) is really hotting up. Since the departure of Ann Widdecombe (MP) last week, the rest of the contestants are really pulling out all the stops to try and win a leading role in the next Seymour Butts movie and £30,000 for charity. As host Jenna Jameson says this week, the celebrities really have what it takes to be the next big blue movie star! Tonight will see TV host Jenny Powell and comedian Russ Abbot pairing up for some hardcore action while former Olympic javelin champion Fatima Whitbread will be in a threesome with journalist Christopher Hitchens and OJ Simpson.

The makers of Channel Five’s Extreme Sandpaper Threat Hour (5.30) are taking no chances with their new show: all preview copies of the show sent to reviewers have contained hour-long footage of a kitten in a birdcage. Expect the unexpected from this show, folks!

Finally, Stare at the Big Man (BBC2, 11.00), which showed so much promise when it began last autumn, is turning into a massive turkey. From the looks of things, the big man himself isn’t too pleased with all the staring, either.