Thursday 29 May 2008

Summer Wine Reviews!

Once again, the hot weather is approaching, and for most of us that means watching cricket from a silly mid-off position and clapping politely when a bowler scores a maiden over or takes several wickets in quick succession. And what better way to accompany the world’s silliest sport than a box or two of high quality wine? I had a look at some of the newest plonks hitting the supermarket shelves.

Chateau LeTrec 2006 Sauvignon Blanc is a delightful wine that really stands out from the crowd with its wonderful label. My eye was really drawn to the picture of an ostrich wearing a monocle and bowler hat, eyeing up a glass of the wine with a speech balloon saying “magnifique!” No doubt about it, this wine is excellent; the colours are superb, with really lifelike ostrich colours on the bird itself and a very jolly crimson background.
Tasting notes: White.

Cavernous Cavern Zinfandel comes from California and was, I found, a little indistinct. The picture on the label merely shows a panoramic scene of some mountains. Even worse, it’s in black and white, which is totally unforgivable in today’s excellent wine-label-producing climate. I hope for more from future vintages, maybe someone on a pogo stick jumping a chasm, or even a cute bird.
Tasting notes: 13%

Chateau Pays-Medoc 1984 came highly recommended from a well-respected wine magazine, so I decided to try some. I wish I hadn’t. At more than a hundred pounds for a bottle (you could buy a case of Gallo for that!), I expected a lot more. The label, though much bigger than most modern ones, contains mostly writing, with a tiny, poorly-drawn picture of a castle at the top. Is that where the wine was made?, I wondered. If so, they should throw all bottles of it from the highest tower at once. Truly dreadful.
Tasting notes: Winey.

Cute Little Kitten with a Broken Leg Chardonnay is the best wine I’ve ever had, and will be the only wine I will ever buy from now on. The label features – get this! – a little tabby kitten! But look! One of his liddle legs is in a plaster cast! Aw! He looks so sad and cute! I want more and more of this wine because I never want to stop looking at the label! Look at the kitten! Aw!
Tasting notes: Wet.

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Now Toronto Magazine Respond!

My regular readers will be familiar with my attempts to secure employment with Now Toronto Magazine and my inexplicable lack of success therein. Even after four letters to four different staff members on the publication, I have heard nothing from the esteemed halls of Toronto’s largest source of dominatrix shemale small-ads.

Despondency crept into my bones, and I started bemoaning my lot. “I feel so rejected,” I thought. “If only I had a way of getting back at Now Toronto. If only I had a means of ridiculing them in some public forum. Possibly in the form of a sarcastic review.”

Then – miracle! Now Toronto replied to my letters, with a personal letter! “Huzzah!” thought I, “I have something to review!”

And so I set about analysing the contents of the epistle. Firstly, I was surprised by the presentation of the letter. From my time working in the offices of large companies, I am accustomed to sending and receiving letters written using a word processing package and printed out on headed notepaper. It was with some surprise, then, that I found Now Toronto’s reply written using crayon on a piece of thick blue paper.

The content of the letter was very interesting. The author of the missive (who omitted to attached their name to the letter, such was their modesty), has an amazing vocabulary, as many unknown words have been included in the letter. There were so many words I didn’t understand that I had to consult a dictionary for assistance. When the words did not appear in my Oxford English Dictionary, I looked for the words in various online foreign-language dictionaries, and remained unable to decipher many of them. Words like ‘Becoz’, ‘Pleez’ and ‘magaseen’ escaped any attempt at translation; such words could only be the work on an intellectual, and I was forced to abandon my attempts to understand them.

(Incidentally, it was quite lucky that the letter even reached me, given that my address on the envelope was misspelt in several places and my name was obscured by what appeared to be caked-on pasta sauce.)

As a result of my difficulty with some of the obscure words used by the letter’s writer, I am sad to say that much of the meaning seems to have passed me by. I gather that they are thanking me for my enquiries into reviewing for Now Toronto Magazine; but given that one of the paragraphs is halted abruptly, mid-sentence, so that the writer could draw a doodle of a flower and a bee, I must confess that I cannot state with any certainty what overall meaning the letter is trying to convey.

In summary: Of all the letters I have ever received, from the ‘Cease and Desist’ orders from the estate of Jorge Luis Borges to the gallons of fan mail I get each week, I have to say that my reply from Now Toronto is one of the weakest. I understand that they must be busy writing reviews of new Japanese restaurants and sweaters, but I think their writing staff needs to make more of an effort with correspondence.

Oh, and the letter smells of poo.

Sunday 25 May 2008

A Review of the Viral Story

Splotchy’s second viral story, started several weeks ago on the blog I, Splotchy, shows no sign of abating. The sheer length of column inches dedicated to the general phenomenon is growing, and the number of articles on the subject are too numerous to count, let alone discuss here. A few do stand out, however, and interested parties would be well advised to seek out Christopher Hitchens’ Splotchy’s Viral Story: A Game of Consequences for the Blogosphere (The Atlantic, May 2008, p 28-34). Also worth a look are John Searle’s article for the journal Mind, entitled Splotchy’s Viral Story as Evidence of Jungian Collective Unconscious (May 2008, p 3-7, with an opposing article by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett in the same issue, p 8-10), and Julie Birchill’s article for the May 18 Observer, No Vaccine Required: A Virus Worth Having. Given the multitude of writers commenting on the viral story as a whole, I thought I’d turn my attention to a particular offshoot, which I have entitled The Russian Story.

As with all versions of the story, we begin with the receipt of a mysterious package, as told by Splotchy himself. The address is smudged, and it appears to have been hand delivered. This is good; there is much scope for advancement of the story. As Christopher Wise writes in Diacritics, the basis for a well-realised viral story is open-endedness. Here, Splotchy has left a variety of readings available for the situation at hand (proof of this is to be found in the myriad of ways in which the story has been taken from these beginnings).

From here on in the story takes a variety of intriguing turns, involving a note from within the package, Russians and a trip to the airport that ends with our loner waking up, drugged, in the back of a cab. The caretakers of each avenue of the viral story – Bubs, Splotchy again, SamuraiFrog and Captain Incredible – have done a marvellous job in following on from where the previous author left off. There is cohesion, yet each voice remains intact, individual. Here lies another benefit of the viral story as an art form: The ability to write in numerous voices is much prized in today’s literary market, and what better way to achieve this than to have numerous writers? Sometimes, the best answer is the most obvious.

But all good things must come to an end, and, while the previous custodians of the story are to be applauded for their additions, they are sadly let down by the next bearer of the viral story torch. The Imaginary Reviewer, a blogger whose sole ability seems to be writing reviews of things that don’t exist, takes the baton from Captain Incredible, and, I regret to say, undoes all the good work done by his predecessors.

The Imaginary Reviewer’s section doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the story’s aesthetic. Problems begin when the unnamed main character finds himself transported to an abandoned warehouse. For someone who seems to pride himself on their imagination, The IR has picked the most obvious and trite location possible! A train station, a suburban house, even a small café specialising in brunches would be more interesting than an abandoned warehouse! But no, The Imaginary Reviewer presumably has used up his imagination reviewing hats.

Next, The Imaginary Reviewer has his character tied to a chair – how original – and after a short wait introduces a new character, presumably the instigator of the whole affair. Things do start to improve here; it appears that the bad guy of the piece is a well-known children’s character called Desmond the Dinosaur (in actual fact a guy called Gerald in a large, fuzzy, green suit). Our hero knows nothing about Desmond, and has no idea why the TV ‘star’ has captured him. He asks about the package and the money, and it seems Desmond has no idea what our hero is talking about. Our character’s receipt of the package and his kidnapping would appear to be coincidental.

And so, with that, The Imaginary Reviewer allows the story to be carried on by someone else. I pity the poor soul who has been left with this detritus after such promising beginnings. (For his sins, Splotchy has been tagged again, but how he’ll manage to salvage anything from the Imaginary Reviewer’s mess is beyond me). I mean, the whole story has been ruined by the IR. The dinosaur character, while presumably added for levity, just looks like the writer is trying to claw back some interest from a story that he has spoiled beyond recognition. The coincidental element of the package arriving the same day a stranger plans a kidnapping is harder to swallow than a razorblade sandwich. All in all, I think the Imaginary Reviewer should be ashamed of himself for the injustice he has done to Splotchy’s story, and viral stories in general.

I would add a concluding comment here, but I’m just too damn upset.

Thursday 22 May 2008

Musical Theatre Review – Andrew Lloyd Webber: The Musical

The career of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has been an incredible success story, with many of his musicals running for years in the West End and on Broadway. He has placed in the Sunday Times Rich List of the top 100 wealthiest people in England for several years, and he has been both knighted and made a life peer. The one thing missing from this prolific musician and composer’s résumé is a stage musical about his life. Until now.

Written by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber himself, Andrew Lloyd Webber: The Musical follows the life and times of the great man, from his promising school days through all three of his marriages and the success of his many musicals, including Evita, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera and The Beautiful Game. Webber’s fans will be ecstatic to discover that he has revisited many of his old songs, updating the lyrics to reflect the points in his own life.

There are times when these new songs work very well, such as when a popular song from Joseph is rewritten for the birth of his children (Webber and Sons), and when one his best-known songs illustrates his rise to fame (“Lloyd Webber/Superstar/Written some songs now he can buy a car/Lloyd Webber/Superstar/We always knew that you’d go far”). At other times, unfortunately, this technique seems to limit the composer, and the songs seem to fall flat. This is particularly evident when the famed Evita anthem is rewritten for Lloyd Webber’s first divorce (Don’t Cry for me Andrew Lloyd Webber). While this was being sung I noticed a lot of awkward shuffling in the seats around me.

Another quibble I would have with the production is the set. For much of the play this is a realistic representation of Lloyd Webber’s surroundings, but at the end, when the composer has become famous, a giant replica of his head comes down from the rafters, almost filling the stage. I was terrified by this apparition, so what the children in the audience made of the grotesque spectacle, I can only imagine.

The music is as good as you’d expect from such a production, and Gareth Mead shines as the eponymous musical genius. (His performance is even more amazing when you consider that he was selected through a reality show, Who Wants to be Andrew Lloyd Webber?) It’s also nice to see that Lloyd Webber, fearing accusations of egotism, changed the titled from Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber: The Musical, to remove the mention of his knighthood. The man doesn’t have an egocentric bone in his body!

All in all, this is a good, if slightly flawed production, but one that is sure to please Webber’s many gibbering, Cats-t-shirt-wearing fans. As the song goes, never has there ever been a composer so clever as Magical Mr. Lloyd Webber!

Tuesday 20 May 2008

We Interrupt These Reviews and Letters to Bring You a Viral Story

I was recently tagged by p0nk in a viral story meme by Splotchy. If that sentence made no sense to you, check out this link here for the dilly-o, then come back. The story so far is as follows:

I had been shuffling around the house for a few hours and already felt tired. The doorbell rang. I opened the front door and saw a figure striding away from the house, quickly and purposefully. I looked down and saw a bulky envelope. I picked it up. The handwriting was smudged and cramped, and I could only make out a few words.
"Interesting", I thought to myself, "I don't know anybody named Ted Kaczynski." Unless it's going to clear this damn sinus infection in my head, I'll have to open it later.I set it on the kitchen table, and prepared my tincture of herbal tea remedies.
As I watched the lengthy glossop of honey slather into my tea I heard a rustling noise behind me. Having spent my childhood in a rotating house (due to some awkward foundations) I am quite adept at craning my neck and utilised this skill in the current situation, looking behind myself like a six-foot-tall owl.

The envelope - so stationary seconds before - had started to move, an event that I found somewhat odd, given that I was four days away from celebrating a year of sobriety. I picked up the nearest implement of swatting size without thinking, and slowly approached the bubble-wrapped delivery.

The envelope continued to shuffle and shake as I stood poised with the potato masher held in readiness over my head. A small bead of sweat edged down my temple, hitting the floor at the same time as a lump of congealed potato from my weapon. There was a tearing sound, and I froze, unable to move, as a disembodied hand broke through my mysterious delivery. I blinked, and the thumb and forefinger of the hand formed a mouth.

I will tag the following people to (hopefully) continue the story. I hope my contribution was worthwhile. Incidentally, every blog mentioned in this post is worth checking out. Please do so.


The Imaginary Reviewer Writes a Letter: Part 4

Regular readers of The Imaginary Review will remember my previous attempts to secure employment at Now Toronto Magazine, the foremost listings and reviewing entertainment-type publication in Canada's largest city. They will recall how utterly superb these letters were, full of correctly-spelled words and subtle threats. They will also remain bemused as to my total lack of success; not only have I failed to receive a contract for a high-paying reviewing job, but I have also failed to receive acknowledgement of any kind.

It occurred to me, therefore, that the good people of Now Toronto must get letters like this all the time! They're the best, and it should be no surprise that every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to pen their analyses of soon-to-be-released movies and CDs.

I therefore decided to go all out. My one, final throw of the dice. A letter so brilliant, so completely erudite, so gargantuanly splendid, that two pages were not enough to contain the superlative sentences and 100% correct verb conjugation. A letter so fantastic that only the celebrity presence of Yogi Bear could carry it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: My Fourth Letter to Now Toronto Magazine. Warning: Clicking the picture below to enable legibility may give you an overwhelming desire to offer me employment, whether you are in a position to do so or not.

Friday 16 May 2008

New Equipment Reviewed

I decided to break into an equipment show the night before it opened and ran out with as much stuff as I could fit into my wheelbarrow. Thanks to my thoughtfulness, dedication and crowbar, I have more stuff to review than the editor of Spam Lover Fortnightly.

First off, from Helix, comes the Shatterproof Girlfriend. Are you sick and tired of your girlfriend accidentally shattering while she’s cleaning windows or waving at geese? Then get a shatterproof one! I tried this girlfriend for several hours and I found it to be very resilient in normal usage. But please remember: Shatterproof is not a challenge.

The Home Photoshop Set from Adobe is a wonderful gift idea for anyone wishing to take advantage of the wonderful things that Photoshop can do, but who doesn’t have a computer. Consisting of some paper, glue and scissors, this kit will give anyone buckets of fun. I spent literally minutes cutting out a picture of Donald Trump’s head and sticking it on a picture of a man in a kilt. Saving your creations is simply a matter of putting them in a box in a cupboard.

Music-lovers will enjoy toying with the Bjork Voice Box Emulator. Speak into the special tube and press the ‘play’ button; the words you just said are repeated to you with squawks and strange gibbering noises. It also has several settings, allowing you to replicate her latter Bobby McFerrin phase, and comes with a small bag of spores. Coming soon: The Gordon Ramsey Voice Box Emulator, which adds a swear word to every other word you speak into it. Both should be highly popular come Christmas.

Apple’s latest creation is the iTree. Once you plant it in your garden it grows various different types of fruit, all of which are selectable by you. The iTree has various extras, including a vibrating hammock and a pleasing bird in its branches. There will also be a special iTree Store online in a few months, allowing iTree users to purchase items for the gadget, including new leaves, an owl and some moss. I liked my iTree, but found it to be incompatible with MS Garden, and it caused my hedge to crash.

Finally, Clatterwhack Industries have developed a Toast Clamp. This remarkable device holds a slice of toast at the sides, and allows you to rotate your breakfast bread by one hundred and eighty degrees. Why? you might ask. Well, I’ll tell you. By buttering both sides of your toast, if the slice falls off your plate towards the floor, the laws of physics that make the toast land buttered side down are thwarted. The piece of delicious crunchy satisfaction hovers an inch from the carpet, spinning around as the physics Gods try to decide which side must face down when landing. You can retrieve your breakfast at leisure and resolve to stop being so clumsy. An excellent invention.

Wednesday 14 May 2008

The White House Collection of Presidential Romance Novel Cover Portraits

When George Washington became the first president of the United States, he was worried that the people of America would not accept him as a strong, unifying leader. To make sure he was seen as someone worthy of being in charge of the country, he had a portrait commissioned by one of the greatest artists in the country at that time. Being wary of the public’s suspicion of the English monarchy, Washington paid the artist to paint him in a scene that would show the American public his strength, sensitivity and intelligence. He was painted as the hero in the cover to a romance novel.

Since then, one of the lesser known parts of the constitution makes it essential for all American presidents to have their portraits painted in this way. Until now, the pictures have been hidden away along a corridor of the White House, seen only by the presidents themselves and their families (and lovers!), but now the collection has been released for a world tour, and I was at the press premiere, like a dashing international playboy/thief.

The paintings show a wealth of different artistic talent from the decades of American history. Each canvas shows a world leader in a different romantic pose, their muscles bulging and with a fair maiden in their arms. All bosoms are understandably ample.

It is interesting to note the personalities of the presidents shining through in each picture. John F. Kennedy, for example, is shown as a dashing buccaneer, swinging on a rope from ship to ship with a knife between his teeth and a buxom blonde in his large, muscled arm. The expression of intent and fearless derring-do in his eyes looks all the more tragic with the benefit of hindsight.

Fast forward some decades and George W. Bush’s romance novel portrait looks somewhat odd in comparison. The reason for this, undoubtedly, is that the current president did not adequately explain the purpose of the picture to the artist, and Mister Bush was painted as the damsel in distress, rather than the hero. The wags present at the exhibition commented on how prescient the artist must have been. I stifled a giggle.

The delight in many of these paintings comes from the details. For example, note in the portrait of Bill Clinton (reproduced here), the bulge in his trousers as he clasps his arm around the infatuated redhead. The long knife in his other hand, situated to the left of the groin area, gives some impression of the size of what lies within Clinton’s tight beige pants.

Ronald Reagan’s portrait shows him dressed as a fire fighter, rescuing a nightgown-clad woman from a blazing building. What sets this painting apart from the rest of the collection is that while the females in the other paintings are universally attractive (allowing the American people to envision themselves as the second half of the President/Public Partnership that makes democracy), here Reagan is rescuing a rather aged, ugly woman. On closer inspection, the love interest appears to be Margaret Thatcher. An interesting and telling detail, and no mistaking.

All in all, this exhibition is a thoroughly enjoyable one, and shows off both the greatest romance novel cover artists of successive generations, as well as the way that American presidents were seen by them. If you can get over the disturbing nature of some of these pictures (The one portraying Richard Nixon as a Victorian-era Schoolmaster actually made me burp up a little bit of sick), there is a lot to enjoy here. And while you do, why not try to picture the next president of the US, whoever that may be, as the subject of a romance novel cover painting? It’s fun! Really it is!

The White House Collection of Presidential Romance Novel Cover Portraits will be travelling all over the world, starting in Australia on Monday, Japan on Tuesday, Russia on Wednesday, Germany on Friday (it’s having a rest on Thursday) and Mexico all weekend. Postcards are available, but none have pictures on them.

Tuesday 13 May 2008

The Imaginary Revewer is Going Away For a While

The Imaginary Reviewer will be spending the next seven days in a shack somewhere very remote, without access to the Internet, television or food. Because of the stuff about kidnapped mailmen in my last post I have to get away for a while, until the heat dies down, which I believe will be a week at most (the hierarchy of kidnapping importance goes as follows, from most important to least: Blonde child; politician; not-blonde child; policeman; ugly child; postman; everone else).

But put away your handkerchiefs and your shotguns, for there will be Imaginary Reviews while I am away, thanks to the wonders of Blogger's new Future Posting tool. I have written some excellent critical analyses and set them to appear on my usual posting days of Wednesday and Friday, so you shan't be without your favourite writings. Ain't I luvverly?

Of course, I won't be able to respond to your no-doubt plentiful comments until I get back, but please don't let that deter you from reminding me how much you all love my brilliant blog.

Until next week, this isn't goodbye, this is merely adieu.

Monday 12 May 2008

The Imaginary Reviewer Writes a Letter: Part 3

When I - unfathomably - failed to receive a reply to either of the two letters I sent to Now Toronto Magazine, I considered giving up. Every morning I would go downstairs to the mailbox, checking to see if the good people at Toronto's premiere listings magazine had responded. Once I had found nothing in my own letter box, I forced open my neighbours' letter boxes and found nothing but birthday cards, cheques and medical results, all of which I kept for sentimental reasons. I then started ambushing the mailman each morning, and was eventually forced to lock him up in my basement until he revealed the location of my mail. He was most uncooperative, but no matter. He is with God now.

And so, all this rejection started weighing heavily on my mind. What if the good people at the magazine were not interested in my services? What if they hadn't enjoyed my reviews? What if I wasn't good enough? What if I sucked?

I quickly came round from this delusional state, and realised that both of my previous letters must have been undelivered, due to the problems inherent in Canada's postal service (not least their shortage of delivery persons, caused by a spate of mailman abductions in my area). I wrote another letter, addressing it to another member of the Now Toronto staff, and made sure I used my best handwriting on the address. I will not be deterred!

As before, if you click it, it will be legible.

Friday 9 May 2008

DVD Review: The Golden Rump-Ass

I came to The Golden Rump-Ass having heard absolutely nothing about it beforehand. It would seem that the production company (Fancifully Handful Video) did absolutely no marketing through the usual channels, a move that I find somewhat puzzling. Of course, I could be looking in the wrong places, but I watched this movie with no preconceived ideas about it whatsoever. Perhaps this is an advantage.

The director of The Golden Rump-Ass, the enigmatically named Oliver Klozoff, appears to have been at the helm of a large number of films in his impressive career. Despite the fact that I have seen precisely none of the movies listed as directed by him, the sheer prolificacy of the man impresses me a great deal. Similarly, none of the stars of this film are recognisable to me, but seem to have had parts in many movies. I imagine they were all small, independent releases.

The story, in summary, goes as follows: Lyra, a young lady (played by Hilary Muff), has to find her way to the arctic, guided by the advice and wisdom emanating from her own rear end (the Golden Rump-Ass in the title). Along the way she meets various interesting characters, and Lyra interacts with them in a somewhat surprising way. She has sex with them.

This is, I believe, the first major problem with the movie. While a sex scene can improve a film (when it is done tastefully and doesn’t affect the pacing of the storyline), here I found that the many scenes of coitus were just tacked on, and did very little for the plot. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why Klozoff had chosen to include them all in the film. I would watch the story unfold, enjoying the advancement of the plot, but then my concentration would be interrupted by a poorly-scripted genital interaction between Lyra and, for example, a giant talking bear. It really did the story no favours, and I am at a loss as to why all these sex scenes were added to the movie.

But yet, while the film did annoy me for the director’s unfathomable insistence on including an instance of lovemaking every ten minutes, I seemed to gather a subtle message from the Mister Klozoff (who also wrote the screenplay, such is his untapped genius). “Don’t try to read too much into the film,” he seemed to be saying as the fourth instance of girl-on-girl action began with the intertwining of groins, “just enjoy the lush interplay of light and shadow on this woman’s ample breast.” As Freud once said, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Here, sometimes an arse is just an arse.

And as I watched more and more of The Golden Rump-Ass, I started to see homages and influences everywhere. I was made to think of the films of Kenji Mizoguchi, with the delightfully brief interplay between characters before they realised their passion for each other. The director’s focus on the eponymous rear end reminded me of Kandisky’s paintings of circles, with sleek curves rippling in front of the camera like a ramekin of jelly on a turbulent plane.

My second complaint about the film is that the male actors seem woefully incompetent. The acting skills of Bobby Dazzler and Jake Intercourse were almost non-existent; it almost seems as if these cast members were cast because of their members (which were large to the point of frightening). When watching any of the men onscreen, I couldn’t help thinking to myself how much better the scene would have been if someone like Hugh Jackman or George Clooney was in it. But I guess that’s personal taste, and I doubt whether these actors even knew about The Golden Rump-Ass.

All in all, I will give this DVD four stars out of five. The story is well-written, the acting (from the female side of the cast) is good, and there’s enough exciting action to satisfy anyone’s needs. Look out for Oliver Klozoff’s forthcoming picture, which will be released next month, called I am Sexy Legend.

The Golden Rump-Ass was released (hur hur) on Monday. Philip Pullman is weeping somewhere right now.

Thursday 8 May 2008

An Apology

Last September, I wrote a post in which I reviewed several hats. In this review I passed comment on a small hat, to which I referred as a "stupid hat", and indicated that because of its size it was somehow inferior to other hats, hats that fit on one's head adequately.

It has been brought to my attention by the Small Hats (Including Trilbys) Society that my comments regarding hats of lesser dimensions were both insensitive and wrong. Small hats of any variety are just as good as big hats; they are both stylish and practical. A small hat wearer is just as much of a good human being as someone whose eyes are covered by headwear of massive proportions. Remember: it's not the size of the hat, it's how you wear it that counts.

I apologise profusely for any offense caused to the S.H.I.T.S. by my idiotic and insensitive comments.

There: I did it. Now return Mister Muggles as you promised, you small-hatted freaks.

Wednesday 7 May 2008

The Literary Wrestling Alliance

In the shadow of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), various smaller wrestling franchises have sprung up, offering a different experience to the hype-ridden fireworks of Vince McMahon’s behemoth. One such franchise is the LWE, or Literary Wrestling Alliance, which has been gaining popularity in the Midwest states of the US. This week, I took my favourite notebook and witnessed an LWE show first hand.

Euclid Hall in Mansfield, Ohio, is a fairly sizable venue, and it seemed that everyone under 30 in the city had shown up for a night of quality book-inspired wrestling. The crowd cheered and booed throughout the show, everyone being familiar with the characters and their plotlines. I noticed a lot of people holding home-made posters with slogans such as ‘Sherlock = Sheer Luck!!’ and ‘Oliver Twist Wants More Smackdown!’ Plus, as well as the young male contingent always showing up at these events, I could also see a lot of middle-aged and older men in tweed jackets. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought they were English professors.

The first match of the night was between two high-flying young men, Romeo and Tybalt. There had been bad blood between these two fighters for some time, since both were vying for the hand of Romeo’s valet, Juliet (who also happened to be Tybalt’s cousin; incest is a great way to make a bad guy – or ‘heel’ – seem even more unpleasant). Things had turned even worse between them recently, when Tybalt ended the career of Romeo’s former tag-team partner, Mercutio.

This was a great match, full of acrobatic athleticism and brilliant timing. The winner was Romeo, much to the joy of the crowd, who loved watching him put his body through so much abuse to get the win. I must admit, I was a little sad to see such a young man taking so many risks in the course of a match, and if he keeps this up, things could end tragically for young Romeo.

Second on the bill was a tag-team match between the current champions, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, a pair of up and coming new wrestlers. Ros and Gil were laughably ineffective as a team, and from the moment they decided who would start the match in the ring (by tossing a coin), they did nothing but argue all match. The only time the champions looked like the might lose was when Quixote was nearly counted out after he ran off to fight the scaffolding. But experience beat youth in the end, and Guildenstern was knocked out by Quixote’s patented Windmill Smash. After their defeat both wrestlers vanished from the centre of the ring; rumours have it that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead to the world of wrestling.

Next up was a 30-man over the top Battle Royale, a massive pile of mayhem. First to be thrown out of the ring was Grendel, thanks to a concerted effort by all the other wrestlers working together. After that, it was a free-for-all, with Winnie the Pooh being eliminated fairly easily (he really is a bear of very little wrestling ability, I noted), and Moriarty looking pretty strong after his win over arch-rival Sherlock Holmes in the Waterfall match last month. In the end, it was Captain Ahab who looked like he would win, throwing Heathcliff, Gandalf and Nicholas Nickleby over the top rope in quick succession. But a giant new wrestler jumped out of the crowd and eliminated him, leaving the Captain furious. (This newcomer was called The White Whale, and I think I can see a feud brewing between him and Ahab) In the end, the winner of the match was Deus Ex Machina, who dropped down to the ring from the rafters, prompting much booing from the crowd, who considered this a bit of a cop-out. I must say I agree.

A real grudge match was next, between the immensely popular George “The Rock’ Wickham and Destroyer Darcy, one of the biggest heels in the game. The two men had been fighting over Wickham’s valet, the lovely Miss Elizabeth for a long time, though it was clear that Elizabeth had no interest in the arrogant bully, Darcy. The fight went back and forth, with Elizabeth shouting encouragement in Wickham’s corner and Darcy drawing boos from the crowd each time he pulled off a good move or proudly kissed his own arm muscles. The fight started to go Wickham’s way, but as he was about to do his finishing move, the Meryton Mangler, he was distracted by Elizabeth, and Darcy countered with his own finisher, the Pemberley Punch, and won the match. Angered by his loss, Wickham turned on Miss Elizabeth, much to the disgust of the crowd, who started cheering for Darcy when he came to Elizabeth’s aid. In the aftermath, Wickham walked back to the dressing room in a hail of empty cups and chewing gum, while Darcy and Elizabeth embraced triumphantly in the ring. Surely, this is one of the biggest combined heel- and face-turns in the history of wrestling, and something I never expected.

Finally came the main event, a ‘Loser Leaves Town’ match between Macho Man Agamemnon and Aeneas the Troy Boy. These two huge specimens went at it from the start, with massive piledrivers shaking the building and some pretty dirty play from both fighters. In the end it was Agamemnon who won, despite being bloodied and battered by the final 1-2-3 count. And so, Aeneas was forced to leave town, and American wrestling, for good. I believe he is currently fighting in Rome, where he has set up his own franchise.

Macho Man Agamemnon celebrates his victory over Aeneas The Troy Boy. In the week following the event revewed here, Agamemnon was defeated by his wife Clytemnestra in a mixed-gender match.

I think LWA is a pretty decent wrestling company, and the fights are as enjoyable as the ones that occur in its competitors’ events. I’ve got to say, though, that the storylines are a little less believable than those in the WWE or TNA wrestling; the victory of Deus Ex Machina and Mister Darcy’s face turn being particularly disappointing. But I look forward to watching some of their upcoming events, particularly next week’s fight between Oliver Twist and The B.F.G. (Big Friendly Grappler). That should be funny.

Monday 5 May 2008

The Imaginary Reviewer Writes a Letter: Part 2

Last week I posted a letter that I had sent to the entertainment editor of Now Toronto magazine, asking her if the publication needed someone to write some reviews for them. Several weeks later, the letter still has not been replied to, a development that I find somewhat odd, given the quality of the epistle and the fact that I recently acquired a new printer.

So it occurred to me that my strategy had been all wrong. The entertainment editor of Now Toronto was probably the wrong person to contact. How busy she must be! Toronto is a large place and entertainment is on practically every corner! Indeed, I know of some corners where entertainment is available in pairs and even threesomes (Dutch is extra, however). With all that entertainment on offer, simply selecting what entertainment to review must take up a lot of her time! She can't be expected to respond to every single urchin who comes begging at her door! So, I decided, maybe I was setting my sights too high.

For this reason, then, I wrote a second letter to Now Toronto magazine, for the attention of their Senior Music Writer. And to make sure I was not ignored again, I added a diagram. I imagine the brilliance of my letter must have knocked the gentleman in question out of his seat, making him bang his head on a desk and forcing him to take several weeks off work to recover, as I am still awaiting a reply.

As before, click on the image to embiggenify.

Friday 2 May 2008

Special In-depth Review: Imaginary Friend Finder

Finding imaginary friends has always been a difficult task, and it’s hard to be sure that your special immaterial pal is the right one for you. Now, with more people engaging in busy lifestyles, it’s getting even more tricky to find enough time for imaginary friend searching. The new website Imaginary Friend Finder ( claims to be the solution to our friend-finding needs, whether we’re too busy, too shy, or if we just want to meet as many new imaginary friends as possible.

My own imaginary friend, Sally, left me over a year ago, hoping to find herself on a deserted island in the middle of the River Thames. It has been a personal struggle to get over the loss, but I feel I have moved on enough to be able to find a replacement. With this in mind, I decided to give a try.

My first reaction to the site was how easy it was to join. I opted for the Premium Membership, at a cost of $39.95 per year, which allows me to upload as many photos of myself as I wish and send unlimited messages and emails to other users of the site. The free membership has limits on these actions. Once I had uploaded a few pictures of myself, written about myself and my interests and ticked various options for the types of friends I was interested in imagining, I was ready to go.

Scanning through the imaginary friends’ profiles, I was struck by the wealth of different personalities and interests of the people on offer. Some were interesting to me, others less so. From my stated interests the website recommends imaginary friends whom they think will match up with my profile. I chose some that piqued my interest and arranged to meet them.

The first of my prospective new imaginary friends was Gladys, a three-hundred year old masseuse from Portland, Oregon. She met me on a flying cloud and talked at length about peanuts and how they were originally mined in ways similar to diamonds. I sensed that our conversation was making the other patrons in the bar feel awkward, possibly due to the volume of Gladys’s voice. I was getting looks of sympathy from the couples and waiting staff, and I knew that it was not to be between Gladys and I.

One good feature of is that comments can be made on the veracity of people’s claims on the site, and to the accuracy of the imaginary user’s photographs. So the next time I logged in I was forced to make it known that while her picture showed an attractive blonde (not unlike a young Brigitte Bardot), when we met she had green skin and teeth made of fingernails.

It should be noted that there are various different categories of imaginary friends on the site, catering for different needs. I chose ‘serious illusory companionship’, but it is also possible to be a member who is looking for a casual fictional friend or an erotic hallucination.

My second date was somewhat better than the first, and Mike (who I met in the park) was nice, if a little shy. Apparently he was also new to the online imaginary friend service, but the news that I was in a similar situation seemed to calm him. I’d have to say that my time with Mike was enjoyable, if a little dull, except for the part when we sat next to a mother and her child on a bench. For some reason she felt the need to take her child away, giving me a disapproving look as she did so. Despite the innocence of Mike’s and my platonic friendship, I guess a same-sex imaginary relationship is too much for some people.

After several more meetings with prospective imaginary friends, all with similar results, I decided to try one of Imaginary Friend Finder’s famed ‘speed imaginary friend finding’ sessions. Held in the prestigious Miltoff Hotel, I signed in with the twenty or so other website members. We were led into a hall with numerous tables, each with a different imaginary person sitting opposite an empty seat. We took our places and had two minutes to chat with the made-up person at our table before we had to move on. Scorecards were given out so that we could note any phantasmal creations with whom we could see ourselves being chums.

It was here that I met Julie, who I’m proud to say is my new imaginary best friend. We do everything together, and she has a mischievous streak that I find particularly wicked. Even in work, or when I’m writing, she’s looking over my shoulder, chatting with me and helping me. Sometimes she tells me to burn things, but I try to ignore her when she’s in one of those moods.

It has been three months since I joined Imaginary Friend Finder and in that time they set me up with the most wonderful imaginary friend that I’ve ever had. I couldn’t be more happy with their service, and I recommend it to anyone who has trouble meeting that special non-existent person.

What’s that Julie? You want me to burn them? Burn them all? But…but that’s wrong! I won’t do it! I won’t!