Wednesday 25 June 2008

New Illnesses Reviewed!

From the Spanish Influenza craze of 1918 to the SARS Mania a few years ago, the world is always going gaga for new diseases and illnesses. With Bird Flu and BSE now more passé than MC Hammer, scientists are constantly striving to find new and exciting ways to be sickly. I decided to give some the testing of their lives.

Firstly, Gammon Pancreas is a fairly self-explanatory disease that is caught through morally-questionable contact with geese. The foie gras industry is set to be hit heavily by this illness, the major symptoms of which are a gammony pancreas, lethargy and an aversion to Ardennes Pate. I enjoyed this disease, mostly because I love gammon. The cure is pretty enjoyable too: sufferers must wear a skirt for a week. B+

Next up was Reverse Metaphor Virus, a virus which has somehow passed from computers to people. When I tried it myself, I found that the malgerm caused my system to crash several times (which was quite messy and embarrassing when I was using public transport). I was also a lot slower than usual. In some cases, the virus has mutated enough that it’s accompanied by biospam, making its host promote pornography against their wishes. This wasn’t the happy, exciting illness I was looking for. C

The Uncommon Cold is just like the Common Cold, but with hats. Meh. D+

I got Lymph Node Cataracts in a tiny vial, which I then had to swallow. It didn’t taste very nice. Once the disease had incubated in my throat for some time, I felt like I’d died and gone to Belgium, which is just about all that one can hope for when testing new diseases. My body frequently experienced sensations not unlike being crucified inside-out on a steel plinth in front of several thousand rabid foxes. Sleep was almost impossible, and when I did nod off in my dreams I was confronted by the dozens of men I’d killed in the past, all of whom spat at my groin. I felt like I was being followed by an ominous dark cloud wherever I went, a feeling caused by the fact that I was emitting a large dark cloud from my sinuses. All in all, this is a surefire winner. Absolutely top-notch. A++ (Incidentally, the only cure for this disease is, quite literally, The Cure. I had to listen to The Cure for a day and then I was all better. Remarkable)

Monday 23 June 2008

Special Live Blog from the World Extreme Competitive Still-Life Painting Finals

Preamble: Hello everybody and welcome to today’s live blog. I’m writing from Gawain-Upon-Pissant, where a good crowd has turned up to see the current World Champion Extreme Still-Life Painter, Gordon Jordan, defend his title in what should be a great match. Jordan is up against the enfant terrible of the ECSLP world, Telemachus Lewis, who has impressed many fans of the sport with his performances in the qualifying and knockout rounds. His technical victory over the much-fancied Tanoshi Kata from Japan was a tournament highlight.

I’ll be providing you with regular updates on the action, in what I believe is the first ever live blog from an imaginary sporting event. Stay tuned, and feel free to send me emails or comments on the action!

12:00 Today’s referee, Ulrich Ulrich of Frankfurt, has made sure everyone is familiar with the rules before starting the match. We’re using the more advanced Russian set of regulations for this competition, a move that has seen some confusion during the earlier rounds, especially for the less experienced competitors (and who can forget little Jimmy Belford’s elimination on a technicality in the opening match, prompting a tiny temper tantrum from the eight-year-old?). So there’s no confusion, these rules prohibit the use of a four-fold triple dashback unless it’s preceded by a Helmsman Tribune. Slapdown pulls may not be made by a player who is in Nid, and the offside rule has greater cadence.

12:01 Ulrich Ulrich has unveiled today’s subject: it’s a bowl of apples and grapes! He blows his whistle and the match starts! Good luck all round!

12:05 A very good start from the champion here; he has spent the last few minutes speed-drawing preliminary sketches in what has become his inimitable style. Lewis is moving a little slowly, as if the pressure of the competition is weighing heavily on his shoulders.

12:10 Lewis is settling down now and getting into his stride. It looks like he’s going to attempt some difficult perspective work on the surrounding area, which could be risky; he needs to concentrate on the main focus points at this early stage, I feel. Jordan has started using colour now. I think I can see some greens in his pallet.

Incidentally, some people have contacted me with questions about the competitors’ choice of equipment. From what I can see, Jordan is using his trusted oils and the ever-present Windsor X33 set of brushes (which is hardly surprising, given his multimillion dollar sponsorship deal). Lewis has a vast range of watercolours and inks. I don’t know if he’s going to try and use the latter, or if they’re there for moral support after his remarkable black and white victory over Mary Starr in the semi finals. His brushes are all Hockney Extremes.

12:15 Wow! A very risky move from Lewis just got the crowd gasping! It would appear that his slow start was deliberate, and he was waiting for Jordan to get colour on his canvas before getting up and moving some of the fruits in the bowl! Remember: Such things are allowed within the Russian Rulebook, and Jordan is looking very angry indeed. A recovery from this will truly test the champion.

12:20 What a comeback there from Jordan: After a few minutes (in which Jordan seemed to be erasing a lot of previous work and changing things) Lewis went back and put the fruit back the way it had previously been in the bowl! Such creativity! But as he was doing so, Jordan ran around to Lewis’s canvas and painted a large blue stripe across it, from top right to bottom left! Lewis is furious, but if you live by the daring play, you also die by the daring play. The crowd are going wild!

12:30 After that exciting few minutes, both men have reverted back to a more conservative play. Not much has happened since then, but it appears that Lewis may be preparing for a pointillist interpretation of the fruit.

12:33 Penalty!! Amazing! After writing those words we’ve had a penalty call against Jordan! What was he thinking? The referee’s assistant spotted the use of an illegal brush stroke, and replays confirmed it: the highly illegal Devonshire Reverse Swirl. Intentional or not, Jordan has a five-minute penalty, and Lewis must be elated.

12:38 Jordan is back at the easel, and from his expression it looks like he’s swallowed a lemon factory.

12:42 Well, once again the crowd are going wild, but not for anything on the competitors’ easels. A streaker just jumped over the advertising hoardings and was chased by some of the stewards who quickly covered up his tiny penis with a hat. Lewis and Jordan didn’t bat an eyelid, such is their intense concentration during this awesome match. As is the tradition at these events, the naked interloper will be taken out back and shot.

12:50 And now the first signs of pressure are showing on the challenger. His brow is furrowed and sweaty and he’s been making some elemental errors (the most blatant: going for a Yellow Splash straight after a prolonged period of Elemental Grey…I thought that was beaten out of you in training camp). It’s clear that he’s struggling, and Jordan knows it. The taunting is beginning.

12:53 Excellent taunting from Gordon Jordan there. The 53 year old champion is showing why he’s the best in the world, both technically and mentally. And – oh my God! As I write this it looks like Telemachus Lewis has scribbled over his entire canvas and is – he isn’t, is he? – he is! He’s interpreting the still life in an abstract expressionist form! Oh no! This is suicidal by the challenger!

13:00 This is getting painful now. Jordan is coasting while Lewis is talking to himself and using a palette knife to scrape large swathes of heavy ink over his canvas. The referees need to put a stop to this, and soon.

13:02 Telemachus is clucking like a chicken. Even Jordan is starting to look concerned for his opponent’s mental well-being. This is a sad day for competitive still-life painting.

13:04 It’s all over! Victory for Gordon Jordan, who retains the trophy! In the end Telemachus Lewis threw out his canvas and drew eyes on his closed fist, trying to throw his voice so it looked like his fist was talking to the referees. He was asking for directions to the Soviet Embassy. A sad way to end the match, but a win is a win, and Jordan will be defending his trophy next year in Salt Lake City.

Thanks to everyone for your messages during this live blogging session, they really helped me get through the boring parts. Sorry I wasn’t able to respond to everyone, such was the level of excitement during today’s competition. See you next time, everybody!

The Wait is Almost Over!

Hello everyone! I've made it to Gawain-upon-Pissant after several days of travelling (it's been a nightmare; Air Canada managed to get my luggage to the right location, but for some reason I was deposited in Abu Dhabi). I'm really excited about my upcoming live blog from the World Extreme Competitive Still-Life Painting Championships, and I hope I can do the event justice!

I'm leaving my apartment now, see you in a couple of hours, when I'll be at the Press Cupboard of the Elvis Costello Memorial Hall, where all the action will be taking place!

Tuesday 17 June 2008

Coming Soon: A Very Special Imaginary Event!

On Monday (June 23) I am going to attempt something that nobody has ever done before. At 12:00 (Eastern Time; that's 5:00 pm GMT), I will be blogging LIVE from the final of the World Extreme Competitive Still-Life Painting Championships.

That's right! Even though the event sold out in just a few minutes, you can still be there with regular blogged updates on all the imaginary action. Join me, The Imaginary Reviewer, from noon (EST) this Monday, and be a part of the very first ever LIVE PLAY-BY-PLAY IMAGINARY SPORTING EVENT BLOG!

The Imaginary Review's live coverage of the World Extreme Competitive Still-Life Painting Championships is brought to you by Gillette, David Niven Fake Moustaches Inc. and Christie's Auction House of Pancakes (Now with no reserve on the Maple Syrup!).

Monday 16 June 2008

New Computer Software Reviews

Computers are becoming an integral part of our lives, whether for booking hotel reservations, compiling lists of our most memorable self-love sessions or stealing music. Every day, loads of new software is being developed by human beings who are, for the most part, just like you and me, only they get less sun. I’ve been installing, defragging and gigabiting two of the latest utilities for your PC (or, if you’re a bit swish, Mac).

Chat-Room Acronym Accuracy Protector (CRAAP) from Bug-Byte Software is a great tool for parents and anyone who is afraid they may be turning into a twat. Running permanently in the background of your computer, CRAAP activates when you type words such as, for example, “LOL”. Using advanced voice-recognition software and a microphone, it then determines whether you are actually laughing out loud; if you are not, you receive an electric shock via your mouse. Typing “ROFL” while not actually rolling on the floor laughing prompts the software to give you an electric shock large enough to make you roll on the floor in pain.

I really enjoyed using this software, as the constant fear of shocks has given me and my family a Pavlovian aversion to text and chat-room speak. Watching my son Monty writhe on the floor during a game of Counter Strike gave me such a buzz, knowing that his vocabulary wasn’t going to suffer any more. The buzz that Monty received wasn’t as pleasant.

CRAAP v 2.1 will be released next year. It will have an optional LOLCATS add-on and will render anyone who says “WTF” out loud sterile using radiation.

Cameron Diaz Software have just finished beta-testing their MS Office Paperclip Toolbox Helper. Microsoft Word aficionados will have a lot of fun with this kit. Once the program is installed, the Office Helper becomes even more helpful and interactive. According to the programmers, with their software the Paperclip will now have an IQ of 14, up from [negligible], an increase of almost infinity.

To test the software, I began typing a letter, beginning with the phrase “By the time you read this letter, I will be dead.” Almost instantaneously, the paperclip popped up and told me that it looked like I was writing a suicide note, and asked if I needed any help. When I clicked ‘yes’ the little bastard started calling me worthless and telling me that “they’d all be better off” without me. To be honest, this wasn’t the help I was looking for, though had I been truly suicidal I probably really would have topped myself.

While typing out a shopping list, the Paperclip offered his help, and when I accepted he told me that I was almost out of soy milk. This is an invaluable aid to future MS Word-assisted shopping lists, and I don’t know how I managed to write them out before! I probably had to examine the contents of my kitchen, but who has time for that, these days?

The best feature of the software, however, is the one that allows you to torture the Office Assistant to death. For many Word users, simply switching off the Paperclip (or Einstein, Dog, Cat, etc) is somewhat lacking in satisfaction. The MSOPTH has literally hundreds of painful and terrifying punishments for the Office Assistants, with the option of killing them and preventing them from ever coming back. My favourites include the garroting, burning at the stake (Einstein’s screams for mercy really brightened my morning) and death by falling Rosie O’Donnell. Superb. My only concern was that there aren’t enough Office Assistants to torture!

Both of these programs are available from their respective websites for a fee, or for free if you lack scruples. If you like what you read here today, please consider giving me a donation by PayPal. Thank you.

Thursday 12 June 2008

Special 100th Review Spectacular: The Imaginary Reviewed on DVD

When The Imaginary Review started last year, one of our early fans was Nigel Worthington-Rhys, a documentary film-maker from Wales. He realised soon after the first review that this was going to be huge, a massively successful project that would unite and polarise vast swathes of the planet, and he wanted to be a part of the staggering critical behemoth before everyone joined the bandwagon.

Since that first review was printed, Worthington-Rhys has followed up on the subjects of each entry, interviewing them and following their post-IR successes with the help of a video camera. With the 100th Imaginary Review now published, Worthington-Rhys has edited the footage and released it as a documentary entitled The Imaginary Reviewed. Narrated by the film-maker himself, it makes for some very interesting viewing.

The subjects of the film are covered more or less chronologically, beginning with the first reviewee. Winwood Augary, author of The Climes of Despair (a book he translated from Greek into English despite not speaking a word of the former language), is given this honour. Augary is interviewed briefly from the mental institution in which he now resides, which makes for sad viewing from the onset. He appears to be unaware of his place in history as the subject of the first Imaginary Review, and the mention of the book that rendered him insane causes him to break down violently. The story is left to his publisher, Derek Shatner, who claims that the book’s appearance on The Imaginary Review meant that it sold more than the anticipated zero copies. When asked by Worthington-Rhys how many of the books were purchased, Shatner responds, “at least three!”

The effect of an Imaginary Review is a common theme throughout the documentary, and many of the people featured here are thankful for the level of recognition that the website gave them. Even a mostly negative review could have positive results, as witnessed by artist Gustav Chichester, whose Timpani Suicide installation was described as “drama-less tat” by The Imaginary Reviewer. He claims that his exhibition showed a 33% rise in visitors after the review, but adds that this could be because the days following the review’s publication were very rainy.

Worthington-Rhys’s love of The Imaginary Review is highly apparent through The Imaginary Reviewed. In some of the interviews, it is as if the camera is lovingly caressing the people onscreen, such is the bold light in which they are filmed. In the case of the Cheeky Girls (whose Cheeky Manifesto was reviewed last August), Worthington-Rhys is actually caressing them with the camera, which unfortunately does make for some awkward viewing.

For me, the best part of the documentary is the “Where are they now?” aspect. I was highly pleased to find out that the SwampAid music festival in Annifridagnethaville gained so much publicity from our Imaginary Review that this year’s concert will be headlined by U2, Coldplay, The Rolling Stones (playing with the remaining Beatles), Radiohead and God (who will be joined by President Bongo and the Democratic Republic of Phonque).

In the documentary we also discover that Dave’s Uncle Ted (also reviewed last July), was so touched by his generally positive review that he swore off the booze after reading it. He hasn’t been incarcerated since.

Evil Blood II: The Hurtening, was such a box-office smash that several sequels are already in the works; a similar thing is true for The Golden Rump Ass, reviewed earlier this year. In the four weeks since the critique was printed, six sequels have been released, including The Golden Rump-Ass 4: The Rumpening and The Golden Rump-Ass 5: Rump-Asses Gone Wild.

But not all Imaginary Reviews have led to success stories. Garrulous Industries, makers of the Tring 32X, went bankrupt shortly after it was released. All machines had to be recalled after they were proved to cause dwarfism. Gunchen Maladroit, the photographer whose A Life in Frame retrospective was reviewed last October, was investigated by the police after the show contained photographs of a picnic table that were deemed pornographic. He is now in hiding and only agreed to appear in the film if his face was obscured by a large balloon.

Nigel Worthington-Rhys’s narration on the documentary is superb. He knows his subjects inside and out, having spent an inordinate amount of time on research. “Before I read the Imaginary Review of the Nokia 22-20 Gunphone,” he says in the voice-over, “I had no idea it existed. Thanks to The Imaginary Review I know it’s not an excellent mugger deterrent, a view that I put to the machine’s developers in Finland.”

Some time is dedicated to the things listed in The Imaginary Review’s various end of year reviews, and the people behind the top-ranked albums, films, colours and comics are all questioned about their opinions on the website. Mostly none have heard of it, despite their accolades at The Imaginary Reviewer’s hands.

I can’t recommend this documentary enough for the many, many loyal Imaginary Review fans out there. Anyone who wants to know how successful Freedom 2008 by The Right Trema was (and why he was dropped by his record company) should watch it. Likewise, anyone who wants to see whether Men at Work - the wonderful art exhibit - was finished on schedule and under budget, and how much a two bedroom apartment inside it now costs, should get a copy.

The Imaginary Reviewed will certainly be a strong contender for Best Documentary at next year’s Oscars, a fitting tribute to Nigel, as well as the stars of his film, including the many people featured in it who are sadly no longer with us and to whom the film is dedicated. These include Wayne Carroll (who choked on his own vomit shortly after his Complete Drunken Text Message Poetry Collection was released), Ted the Unknown Species (who caught the very un-pet-like Dutch Elm Disease) and Jerry the dead zookeeper, who is currently being sued for traumatising the children at his presentation this month.

Gosh, that was fun, wasn’t it? Here’s to the next 100 reviews! Maybe Now Toronto will have hired me by then!

Tuesday 10 June 2008

New TV Review: Four Radically Different Female Friends who are not Afraid of Discussing Sex in a Frank Manner as They go About Their Lives in Chicago

Inspired by the success of such shows as Four Radically Different Female Friends who are not Afraid of Discussing Sex in a Frank Manner as They go About Their Lives in New York, Four Radically Different Female Friends who are not Afraid of Discussing Sex in a Frank Manner as They go About Their Lives in a Fictional Town, Three Radically Different Female Friends who are not Afraid of Discussing Sex in a Frank Manner as They go About Their Lives in New York and Four Other Radically Different Female Friends who are not Afraid of Discussing Sex in a Frank Manner as They go About Their Lives in New York, ABC Television has been hard at work creating a radically different show. Scriptwriters have been literally holed up in a bomb shelter and refused food and drink until they come up with something that’s never been seen before by television-watching proles. The result? The brilliant new Four Radically Different Female Friends who are not Afraid of Discussing Sex in a Frank Manner as They go About Their Lives in Chicago.

FRDFFwanAoDSiaFMaTgATLiC is more than just a TV show. It’s a brave and ground breaking television event, the likes of which we have never seen before, and probably never will again. It will almost certainly shock and appal the less open-minded of us, as it contains the discussion of sex in an incredibly frank manner. Not only that, but the majority of the discussions are held by the four main characters, all of whom are female.

It’s a twist like this that makes FRDFFwanAoDSiaFMaTgATLiC such a courageous risk by ABC. Another courageous move is the way that the four female friends are so radically different from each other: one is ‘normal’, another is a bit of a prude, one is incredibly cynical and the last one is quite promiscuous. These differences could play havoc with the audience’s perceptions (“you mean we have to memorise the characters of four radically different people? Whoa!”), but while I was a little confused at first, the more I watched the show, the more I remembered who was who. (However, if you’re worried you may not be able to follow the plot, ABC have created a wonderful guide to the characters – with pictures and everything! – which is downloadable from their website)

As I watched this riveting new show, I was constantly amazed by how much these four female friends (who are radically different) could discuss sex. The frank manner that they do this is sometimes shocking, but always enjoyable. Indeed, one may think that they may be afraid to do so much sex-discussing, but they are not afraid at all! This is a very wonderful facet of the show, this lack of fear of discussing sex as the aforementioned four female friends go about their lives in Chicago (with their radical differences, let’s not forget).

And their lives! They’re so interesting! Because the four female friends (who are not afraid of discussing sex in a frank manner) are so different, it’s a pleasure watching them go about their lives in Chicago.

Incidentally, the location of the show was a bone of contention for a large part of the writing process. Apparently, many of the writers wanted to have the show in New York, but some people thought it would be better to have the four friends and their radically different lives (including all that sex discussion) in Chicago. It was a gamble, and I think it paid off.

Given the popularity of Four Radically Different Female Friends who are not Afraid of Discussing Sex in a Frank Manner as They go About Their Lives in New York: The Movie (in which the main character wakes up in a mental institute and discovers that the last ten years have been spent in a drug-induced hallucinatory state in the asylum, slowly breaking down mentally as the realisation that her entire life is a lie sinks in), Four Radically Different Female Friends who are not Afraid of Discussing Sex in a Frank Manner as They go About Their Lives in Chicago can only be a success! I will await future episodes with bated breath, like a fanboy sniper in the prime-time TV war zone!

Four Radically Different Female Friends who are not Afraid of Discussing Sex in a Frank Manner as They go About Their Lives in Chicago would have been shown on ABC, Tuesdays at 9.00 if it hadn’t been cancelled already.

Friday 6 June 2008

The Imaginary Reviewer Goes to the Zoo

The Imaginary Reviewer went to the zoo today, and had a jolly old time taunting the geese, poking the giraffes with sticks and ducking to avoid the monkey faeces. What really caught my eye, however, was the talk given by a gentleman called Jerry, who was one of the tiger house employees at the zoo.

I should be clear from the start: Jerry is not a paid entertainer, nor is he employed to speak publicly. His primary area of expertise is in zoology, or - more specifically - the biology of large cats. My critique of his talk should take these factors into account.

That said, I feel that several aspects of Jerry’s talk was unfortunately lacking in taste. I refer predominantly to a number of off-colour jokes he made during his talk. While the parents and other adults in the audience may have appreciated his comments about ‘pussies’ and ‘tail flicking’, the fact that there were children watching made me squirm in my seat. At one point Jerry even spent several minutes talking about ‘mating practices’, an incredibly thinly-veiled reference to sex. This was, in my opinion, in very poor taste.

Jerry’s speech did have its high points. With the talk taking place by the recently-refurbished tiger habitat, there were some wonderful large cats to watch, and from his position close to the exterior wall, Jerry was able to point out some interesting parts of the animals and their habits. His speech was certainly coloured by a genuine love of his job, and for that I commend Jerry. But I still have one major complaint, one which I feel completely undermines Jerry’s speech.

Was it really necessary, I wonder, for Jerry to stand so close to the incorrectly-locked gate on the tiger habitat? Did he really have to have a scent so overpowering that the four inhabitants of the area forced the gate open? And was it that important to our understanding of the feeding habits of tigers that Jerry allowed himself to be mauled, then eaten by the animals? I think not.

Looking around myself as the huge jaws crushed Jerry’s flailing limbs, I could see looks of disappointment and sadness from the other adults in the audience. They were no doubt upset, like me, that Jerry had taken his lesson one step too far. When the zoo employee screamed at the sight of his innards being fought over by four hungry tigers, I sighed at what could have been. At this point, many of the witnesses were weeping, such was their own sadness at being let down by a poorly-planned talk. And when shock and pain gradually took over Jerry’s body and caused him to stop screaming, when other zoo employees were forced to interrupt their lunch breaks to tranquilize the tigers, when the whole sorry spectacle ended, I found myself angry at Jerry for what he put these children through in the name of zoological education.

I must add, however, that before the speech I had no idea that tigers could devour a human in such a short space of time. It was quite impressive on the part of the creatures. But such a graphic display was certainly not required to make me believe it, Jerry.

While Jerry isn’t due to give any speeches in the near future, I wouldn’t recommend going out of one’s way to see any if he does. For Jerry himself, I recommend classes in public speaking and what constitutes good taste. But please don’t let that stop you from going to the zoo, as there are elephants there and they rock.

The Imaginary Reviewer’s thoughts are with Jerry’s family at this difficult time.

Wednesday 4 June 2008

Dating Website Review: Vacuous People

As time goes by, Internet dating is moving away from the realm of the live-action roleplayer and the milk-stained overcoat-wearing man who lurks in bushes outside gated communities. Sites such as Lava Life have taken the phenomenon into the mainstream, meaning that more and more people are attempting to find love using these websites, with varying degrees of success. One common problem facing these loveless losers is the vast array of different people vying for one’s attention, forcing the user to trawl through pages and pages of unsuitable suitors in the hope that one piece of wheat may be hiding in the chaff of bad haircuts.

But a new website seeks to change all this. Vacuous People was started by Hans and Jurgen Jugendherberge in their native Germany two years ago, and the site has crossed over, with an American version days away.

Vacuous People (VP) filters out inadequate would-be soulmates from their files by ensuring that only blank, inane people are able to enrol. From there, members can read other users’ profiles, safe in the knowledge that the other people are all as devoid of interest as they.

“We use a combination of questionnaire and picture analysis to determine suitability,” Hans told me in his boudoir. “A potential member must answer various questions about their opinions on politics, art, hobbies and so on. If that person shows to feel strongly about anything other than going to the gym or tanning salon and drifting through empty, thankless one-night-stands, we block their entry then and there.”

“Caring about the environment may be seen as an asset elsewhere,” his brother added, “but if it’s more than a superficial nod in the direction of Mother Earth, we don’t want to hear from you. Sorry.”

Existing members are also called upon to view photographs submitted by prospective members. If the newbie seems too interesting, the members give them a low score on a scale of 1 (“very interesting”) to 10 (“Paris Hilton”). After three days, if the rating is less than five (“moribund”), then they are told that they are not welcome. A quick for anyone about to submit their photo: if you wear glasses, the chances are you won’t get in.

In the spirit of fair play, I tried to become a member of, which has been running for two months now. Unfortunately I failed at the first hurdle, apparently getting immediate censure for not ticking “don’t know” as my political affiliation and nailing my own coffin by not ticking “bars” as one of my interests. Even if I had have succeeded here, my picture gained a score of 3 (“somewhat interesting”) and so I would have been turned away at the second hurdle. (Incidentally, some of the comments were quite painful to read. They included “He looks like he could be a talented humorist” and “I’d definitely kick him out of bed for quoting Fichte”)

So I encouraged an acquaintance – let’s call him Ian, because that’s his name – to see if he could join, and give us some ideas of VP’s benefits. He had no trouble being accepted by the other empty-headed denizens, as he is as vacant as a specialist SUV parking space at a Greenpeace office. He spends more per year on fake tan than on transport, and if you ask him what his hobbies are he says “milk”.

Ian went on several dates with members of VP, and he praised the other members highly. They were very attractive (as the website promised) and offered no interesting or stimulating conversation at all. In one case, according to Ian, the date lasted three hours and nothing was said between him and his date throughout. Then they went to his apartment and had sex. really does look like a great place for blank, empty-minded individuals to connect, get to know each other’s lack of opinion or just compare eating disorders. It really isn’t for the type of person who enjoys conversation topics more stimulating than ‘things that are brown’ or ‘I like breathing,’ but it comes especially recommended for rich heirs and heiresses, celebrity impersonators and people with trendy haircuts.

The Imaginary Reviewer likes long walks on the beach, cuddles on the sofa and reviews. Check out his profile at!

Sunday 1 June 2008

Manual Review: The Canon 8300 Combined Printer/Scanner by Gordian

Ask any manual aficionado for a list of the most important user guides and instruction booklets in the last twenty years, and a few titles will invariably crop up more than others. 1988’s Xerox BSIV Photocopier; 1990’s Commodore Junket v.1.01; 1992’s Sony XLS Discman; 1998’s Nokia 22-22; 2001’s Ikea Munta Cabinet Kit; 2005’s Trapped Butterfly metal puzzle solution. The connection between these influential instruction manuals? They were all written by Gordian, the most sought-after and innovative user guide-writer in the business.

A new Gordian-penned instruction manual always creates waves of excitement amongst instruction book fans, and the new Canon 8300 Combined Printer/Scanner has been hotly anticipated since it was announced that this would be Gordian’s first project in nearly three years. But would it be worth the wait? Well, I have a much-prized pre-release copy, and I can say, without fear of hyperbole, that it is not just better than any other recent instruction manuals, it is the highlight of Gordian’s career.

From the first chapter onwards, the 8300’s instruction booklet is an absolute joy to read. The highlight for me is Chapter 8: Troubleshooting. On first view, it appears to be a normal series of questions and answers, much as one would find in any regular instruction booklet. But closer inspection reaps many rewards. The entire chapter is an acrostic, with the first letter of every word forming a very long sentence advising the reader what to do if they have no problems with the hardware, and reminding them how lucky they are. If the layering of messages ended there, it would be just another Gordian trick, but the great man has outdone himself, forming yet another acrostic using the first letters of each word in this acrostic! A meta-acrostic! Incredible! I will leave it for the reader to find out what it says, but suffice to say, I have followed the advice contained within and my salary has doubled as a result.

This manual sees a new stage in Gordian’s career and a new string to his bow with the hitherto-unseen appearance of poetry. The second chapter (Easy Set-up) is written alternately in iambic hexameter and haiku. Sometimes it is even written in a combination of the two, which is technically impossible, but somehow Gordian manages it. I showed a sample of his work to a famous literary professor in London and he wept. That’s how good it is.

Chapter 3 is yet another triumph, where Gordian outdoes his past victories. The subject of this section is the installation of the software that accompanies the printer, but instructions on how to uninstall it are nowhere to be seen. It was only after flicking through the book several times, convinced that maybe the great Gordian had made a terrible omission, that I realised that uninstalling instructions are found by reading the installation chapter backwards! Of course! How simple, and yet so effective! Gordian fans will be interested to note that this chapter replaces his customary palindromic chapter, in a wonderful evolution of his style.

The rest of Gordian’s touches are evident throughout the manual. If one takes a single piece of paper and traces every single full stop mark throughout the book, one will once again find a pointillist reproduction of a Renaissance masterpiece (though I won’t spoil the surprise by saying which one!). The ratio of nouns to verbs is, as ever, 1.618, the Golden Ratio. And so on.

And lest I be accused of concentrating this review on the tricks and touches that make Gordian’s booklets so special, I should say a word on the quality of writing. As always, Gordian’s prose remains easy to understand and not overly technical, while still stopping short of insulting the reader’s intelligence. Indeed, after reading through the manual the first time I began to re-read Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and was moved to throw it down in disgust and stamp on it with my feet; it just didn’t match up to what I had just been reading. Also, the diagrams are superb; Gordian has once again captured the very essence of the USB cable. The guide to the buttons on the printer is so beautiful, it really does create an infinite regression between the spirit of the ideal and the concrete in a way that would make Hegel piss his pants with aesthetic pleasure. I know I did.

I could write superlatives about the Canon 8300’s manual all day, but I will stop so that the reader can go out and get their own copy. But hurry, for they are sure to fly off the shelves faster than free bagels, such is the genius of this work.

The Imaginary Reviewer would like to thank the editorial staff of Instruction Manual Lover Monthly and many of the regulars on for their assistance with this review.