Monday 7 December 2009

The Last Few Weeks in Review

I’m sure you’ll all agree that the period of time including the month of November and the beginning of December 2009 has been one of the most creative, side-splitting and intellectually verdant of the Imaginary Review’s history. Indeed, not since this blog began, more than two years ago, has there been a period containing as many well-written and interesting reviews of the calibre of those of the last few weeks.

For that reason, then, I think you’ll forgive me for indulging myself in a bout of recent nostalgia and self appreciation.

At the beginning of November I reviewed a batch of music merchandise that I had been sent in the past. Readers will recall my excellent analysis of the Rhianna-branded umbrella, which was “quite nice to look at, but quite useless for its intended purpose of rain-hindrance, given that it is made of fishnet stockings.” I was more complimentary towards the Jonas Brothers Acne Cream which, when applied to the face and neck, gave me a “tingly feeling not unlike that of realising one is reaching the apex of puberty.” My favourite comment on this post was by new reader Andrew, who said “I don’t get it, is this real, lol”.

An analysis of the latest reality TV shows came next, and I looked at programmes like Neck Swap, Pimp my Kidney and America’s Next Top Public Defecator. My favourite was What? You Think You Can Dance? Yeah Right. Prove It. No, Go On. Prove It. Dance For Me. Dance For Me. No, Dance For Me. See, You Won’t, Because You Can’t Dance, You Liar. In the review I said that “the ultra-aggressive attitude of the judges is refreshing to see, and many a hopeful contestant has been reduced to tears before even reaching the stage. The fact that many of the people trying out are as young as eight only adds to the pleasure.”

In that post, I didn’t reply to all of the comments I received, so I will attempt to fix that here, with some personal replies.
Mr London Street: You can, but you have to remove the false moustache first, otherwise they may take a swipe at your face.
Katrocket: I agree with you in principle, but I think the probability of seven people all falling into the trap at once is a little unlikely.
Beckeye: You’re wrong; I’ve never been to Norway.

My next review, of the new Cirque Du Soleil show Guttenberg (which chronicles the life of the popular actor from his appearance in the Police Academy films to his tragic death while filming 3 Men and a Baby Whale) contained one of the finest sentences ever written in the English language: “If I ever see another stilt-walking clown attempt to do handstands on a high wire again, I’ll saw all his limbs off.” I have been contacted by the Oxford English Dictionary people, who want to put it in the new edition as a definition of “Brilliance”.

Last week I reviewed the new romantic comedies for the holiday season, such as Colin Firth’s The Awkwardly Uptight Englishman Who Falls For a Fast-Talking American Girl and Has to Meet her Family at Christmas with Hilarious Results. My favourite part of this movie was when Firth stutters a lot and looks awkward while his girlfriend (Jennifer Garner) shows new facets to her personality when in her home setting. Also recommended in this post was the new Sarah Jessica Parker/Matthew Broderick film, The Man Who Married a Horse.

Finally, to respond to some personal emails I received regarding these posts, I would like to say the following:

Yes, I’d love to mention Tungsten Steel Wedding Bands in my blog, because they’re both stylish and durable.
I keep telling you: I’m married, and so are you.
You know the one! Of course you do! It’s the one that goes “Na na na na naaaar…na na na na nuuuuuur!” Don’t tell me you don’t recognise that!

Coming soon I shall be counting down some of my highlights of the last decade, as is customary towards the end of years that end with a '9'.

Finally, I’d like to remind everyone that it’s not too late to vote for me as Blogger of the Year in the Annual Drysdale Awards. If you haven’t already done so, I’d be very happy if you’d show your support, even if other people have been cheating.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

I'm not dead


Wednesday 28 October 2009

Special Halloween Costume Guest Post

The Imaginary Reviewer has never been trick or treating in his life, as his father forbade him from taking part, claiming that it is “a form of begging”. In order to get into the spirit of the time, he has asked his 8-year-old nephew, Graham, to review some of the newest costumes for this year’s frightfest. Take it away, Graham!

Hello I am Graham and I am 8 and a half. Uncle Reviewer asked me to write about costumes and said if I didn’t then he wouldn’t give me any Xmas pressies so here I am.

This year I am going trick or treating as a vampwolf. If a werewolf bites a vampire on a full moon he turns into a vampwolf and can fly and that’s what I am on Halloween. I will have teeth and fur and go grrr and chase everyone. Gregory Simms says that vampwolfs don’t exist but I don’t believe what he says because he says he saw a baby come out of his sister but I don’t think her mouth is big enough to eat one whole so he’s a liar. When I am a vampwolf I will bite Gregory Simms and he will fall over and die.

Lots of people in my class are going out dressed as accordions. They’ve got buttons and make noise and everything. I don’t like accordions because they make a really horrible noise that sounds like the pigeon that Malcolm Beswick’s Dad ran over and wasn’t dead yet but Malcolm Beswick’s Dad got a spade out of the back of the car and hit it and it stopped making a noise and I saw its brains. That’s why I don’t want to dress up as an accordion. They sound like death.

One boy in my class is going out for Halloween as a Pea Salesman. He will dress up in green clothes and have a big metal tray full of peas. I told him that a pea salesman is not even a real thing but he said that his Mum said they used to have pea salesmen when she was a girl but I think she didn’t want to buy a real costume. She probably found the peas on the floor because his family is poor and they can’t afford to waste peas. This is a stupid costume and I hate it.

Another popular costume this year is Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. I think this is the scariest costume of all because Milton Friedman’s wrinkled face and bald head remind me of the unstoppable march of time that will carry us all down the path of history towards the unexplained infinite blackness of death. Also I find Friedman’s economic policies to be highly flawed but Julie Blackbury says she is dressing up as Friedman because his policies were influential and beneficial. I told Julie Blackbury that tax lowering as a tool of stimulating economic growth is empirically proven to be less effective than increased government spending but she said that the Friedman-inspired Reaganomics of the 80s ultimately recovered the US from stagflation but I said that the country would have recovered anyway without Friedman’s statist and totalitarian views and that the 2007-8 economic crisis was a direct result of Friedman’s policies and then I put a worm in her hair and she ran away.

Graham’s regular entertainment column will be appearing in Now Toronto Magazine from November 3rd. The Imaginary Reviewer had to fix a lot of the spelling in this review, and so Graham will be getting a Christmas present as promised, but it will be rubbish.

Monday 26 October 2009

The Imaginary Review Visits Another Magazine

Some of my more long-suffering readers will remember a review I wrote a while ago for a music documentary entitled Behind the Music: The F Sharp Minor Story. It was then, and remains now, I am proud to say, one of my finest reviews.

Around a year ago, excellent Toronto online magazine Feathertale asked me to expand upon it and include some other documentaries, in a feature-length review for their website. After much editorial handwashing, arguments about payment, tears, walkouts and blackmail, the full article has finally made it to print.

So here, now, finally in print, is my expanded article, in which I look at documentaries focusing on F Sharp Minor, the 8-Bar Drum Intro and the Baby/Crazy Rhyming Couplet.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Music Documentaries for a Saturated Landscape.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Pens! Pens! Pens? Pens!

As long as there are Post-It notes, there’ll be pens. The reason for this is that Post-It notes won’t go through a printer; instead, they’ll stick to the rollers and clog it up in a mass of yellow semi-adhesive inconvenience forcing office workers everywhere to snarl and curse and cry and hate their lives that little bit more. So as long as people need to pop an easily-removed note on top of a pile of documents that says “Greg, check the Montalban a/c and sign off, thanks! Debs”, there’ll be pens with which to do so.

Ian’s Marvellous Pen Company have released a brand new line of pens, and I checked out their blue pen. What a pen this is! With overtones of velvet, canard and frangipane, and a rating of approximately 18 kiloblots per square inch, this pen is quite simply a joy to use. It’s especially good when drawing circles, and by example I mean Venn diagrams, balloons or cowpats.

Don’t look now, but there’s a new ballpoint pen on the block, and it looks mean! Penny Pennington of Pennsylvania’s Pens (both the Writing Kind and the Animal Holding Kind), Inc are building a name for themselves with their take-no-prisoners writing implements. The red pen I tested was very good when it came to marking essays (performing extremely well on margin utility and spelling error underlining), but was quite deficient in marking multiple choice quizzes. The ticks and crosses were both very poorly defined, with abysmal conviction vectors; they also had a worrying taste of limpet.

A word of warning: Watney Heckbulb are advertising some new pens at excellent rates for mail-order purchasers, but don’t be taken in. Customers are actually being sent chalk, and when they receive telephone complaints, customer service representatives just repeat what you said but in a high voice, which is really annoying.

On paper, the new Dervish QV7 is a terrible pen. However, on other surfaces, it’s excellent. It draws exceedingly well on orange peel, bricks, sponge (both kitchen and bobsquarepants), chips (US and English), fannies (US) and bums (UK). Granted, if you ever attempt to write on a piece of paper with the QV7, it will fall apart, but as long as you remember this it should serve you well. I highly recommend it for scribbling an insult onto a potato and throwing it at a nearby Jesuit.

Finally, Shugborough-Tweedle have created a single-use disposable pen for suicidal people. Each carries enough ink for one letter, and it writes wonderfully. Sadly, though, I found that it does tend to run out quickly if you ramble on about how you thought your life would get better once you’d had the patio refitted and nobody noticed your new hairstyle even after they told you to make more of an effort if you wanted to make Janice jealous after she ran off with Marcus, although she shouldn’t blame herself because before you met her your life was a barrel of rotten pigs’ trotters and she’ll always be close to your heart.

Pens come from the shops. Other things that come from the shops include newspapers, sausages and plants. Things that you won’t find in the shops include graddical flumes, twingmar delobets and corporeal nattttttttttttttttttwhips.

Sunday 18 October 2009

I am Somewhere Else Today

Hello chaps and chappessesses! Today I have crossed the pond over to the excellent Mister London Street's blog, where he has posted a review I wrote of a holiday I didn't go on recently. Please go and check it out if you haven't already, and if you're not already following Mister LS, I recommend you do so as he is a writer of the utmost calibre. Oh, and he's British, so you know he's ace and quality and has a great accent like mine.

Seacrest out.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

The Journal of the National Society of Obvious Studies

The National Society of Obvious Studies meets twice a year to engage in enquiry that is of the utmost importance to humankind. They attempt to answer questions that people ask every day, often without hearing a response. The Journal is the collected findings of this eminent group. Published annually, it is available to anyone who is on a special list.

This year, there are many important discoveries and intriguing studies. Take Professor Sturgeon Heseltine’s exceptional paper, On the Excretory Habits of Forest-Dwelling Ursine Creatures. Five years in the making, this study shows an amazing level of dedication to stating the mundane. Prof Heseltine was relentless in his quest to discover what woodland bears do with their waste products once all nutrients have been absorbed from their food. With the aid of two dozen research assistants and keen students, the good Professor travelled the world to observe the animals in their natural habitat.

With methods such as “watching the bears” and “looking for poop”, Professor Heseltine has amassed a great wealth of evidence to support his conclusions. Now the world can sleep soundly at night, safe in the knowledge that bears do indeed shit in the woods.

The studies in the NSOS Journal are not limited to zoology. Theology is also covered, with Denizen Balabroit’s paper, An Investigation Into the Religious Inclinations of High Ranking Papists.

This paper sheds exciting and much-needed light on the personal beliefs of the pope: his faith, his spirituality and his philosophy. With over a hundred pages of supporting documents, from personal letters to diaries and shopping lists, Balabroit builds a case for his findings with stunning levels of detail and rigor.

And what findings they are! From his opinions on birth control, the existence of an all-seeing and knowing sky-creator, and the transubstantiation of communion booze and biscuits into the actual blood and body of Christ, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that the Pope is Catholic. Balabroit goes into far more detail in the paper, and it is well worth a read.

I don’t have enough space to discuss the other excellent papers in the journal, but another one worth reading is Diphthong et al, On the Appearance of the Visible Atmosphere with respect to the Light Spectrum, which concludes that the sky is blue. Less successful is Spengler’s piece, entitled, Is the Atomic Weight of Cobalt 58.9? I fear Dr Spengler has failed to enter the spirit of the Society with this paper. Maybe next time.

Thursday 8 October 2009

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.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Imaginary Debate Review

A good debate can be likened to a game of chess. Taking this simile further, truly exceptional debaters are like grandmasters, anticipating their opponent’s future actions several moves before they have occurred, trapping them into positions of weakness with the Queen of Syllogism and the Rook of Logical Infallibility. Before long, the Counterpositional King is held in the checkmate of self contradiction, and the debate is handed to a worthy victor.

I was lucky enough to witness one such contest week, in a public forum, and it was clear from the onset that this was a debate that could be likened to the famed Fischer-Spasky chess matches of the 1970s. For such was the argumentative éclat of each party that I was left breathless with heady appreciation.

The debate began with the position “You never let me do anything”. Taking the ‘pro’ stance on this was Veronica Blatherwick, while her mother, Rebecca, took the ‘anti’ stance. The location of the debate was the exterior of the Safeway Supermarket in Ashdon-Under-Lyme, a very public site which allowed the maximum number of people to enjoy two capable debaters at the height of their powers.

The began conventionally, with Rebecca outlining examples contrary to her daughter’s position, including letting her go to that party at Graham’s house instead of visiting her Nan after she’d had that fall. Veronica countered this with a list of examples supporting her own position, such as not going to Thorpe Theme Park and not being allowed beer with her pub lunch.

While these tactics are less than outstanding, they formed the basis for a thrilling discussive competition that included all the staples of a momentous debate. The oft-misused Jenkins Forward-Reversal was utilised to great success by Veronica, while Rebecca showed herself to be a master of the Rogue Phoenix Gambit, a technique first described in Sun Tzu’s famed “The Art of War of Words”.

The contest reeled like a drunken Irishman before the older combatant created a negative retraction from her opponent, forcing her to acknowledge various instances where Veronica’s own neglect had led to the removal of privileges. Known by experts as “Wittgenstein’s Knob”, subsequent personal research has failed to yield a better example of this debating manoeuvre.

Sensing herself on the ropes, Veronica threw out one final desperate gambit, the “You never loved me; I bet you’re not even my real mother” technique. Opinions are divided as to how best deal with this tactic. Conservative thought rests on the “Stop being silly” rejoinder, which does have a risk of ending the debate on a stalemate. Here, though, Rebecca desired no such result and, sensing the weakness of her opponent, called her bluff: “It’s true. You’re adopted. Your real mother didn’t want you so I got stuck with you.”

As a debate-winning manoeuvre, this is unbeatable, and all witnesses agreed that Rebecca ended the argument as clear victor. Whether the price of that victory – long-term emotional damage and seething resentment on the part of the loser – was worth it, remains to be seen.

Veronica and Rebecca will be engaging in another debate at their home in Welch, on Thursday at 7:00. The topic of this one will be "If you think I'm letting you out looking like that, young lady, you have another think coming".

Thursday 1 October 2009

Theories of Everything

One of the goals that science has tried to achieve in the last few centuries is a unified theory of everything. Such a theory would explain everything there is to explain, like ‘what is wood made of’, ‘how many legs does a fly really have’ and ‘why do people watch The Hills’.

So far science has not been able to find such a theory, with most attempts falling at the wayside like a fat kid on a cross-country run. It seems to some scientists that maybe science doesn’t have all the answers after all, and maybe there really is a magic sky pixie who wants us to eat Jesus Biscuits on Sundays and hate gays. But that hasn’t deterred some of the finest minds in the planet, and their new theories are reviewed below.

Many people have heard of String Theory. This is the view that everything is made up of tiny strings that are actually waves which exist in an 11-dimension multisomething. Superstring Theory is very similar, but it’s faster, you can control the end bosses and Chun-Li can shoot fireballs. Neither has really taken off, but maybe Sillystring theory will.

Everybody loves webcomics. This one from is The inclusion of a picture in this post will hopefully encourage people to keep reading, despite the prohibitive amount of text.

Sillystring Theory is the idea that everything is actually made up of multicoloured foam. According to the theory’s main proponent, Doctor Isabella Cartography, if you look inside the nucleus of any atom, you’ll first see a tiny man unaware of the futility of his own solitary existence, and just behind him you’ll see sillystring. This material wobbles slightly (like the aforementioned fat child) and the differences in wobble (known as “tremble disposition”) cause matter to take different forms.

While this theory makes perfect sense on paper, when you actually vocalise it there are numerous contradictions that make the universe collapse like a fat kid being made to run around the school field on a wet November morning. For example, at a recent conference, Dr. Cartography explained her theory to a room full of boffins, and all of them turned into steam. It just doesn’t work.

Slightly more successful is Stanislav Dögel’s Unification of Gravity, Quantum Mechanics and Hotdogs. This theory assumes that gravity is a constant force, that observation on a quantum scale is subject to a probability cloud (in which more probable outcomes form denser parts of the cloud), and that hotdogs are delicious. Under these assumptions, calculations have proved that all matter, force and temperature can be reduced to a single substance that is not affected by the ‘time’ variable. Furthermore, supposed paradoxes of quantum mechanics are pushed aside using eight-dimensional probability matrices. And ketchup and mustard are mathematically proven to be the best accompaniment for hotdogs.

I do like this theory, but it is weakened by the fact that it only works if the number six is brown and wears a coat.

Finally, the Bisley/Steiner Theory of Everything posits that everything is, like, connected, in this kind of invisible way, and that everything you do is, like, connected to everything else and when you do something, yeah, it, like, affects other things, although maybe not in this big way that’s like noticeable and stuff, but the more things you do the bigger the effect is on other things, and so eventually it becomes noticeable and that’s what deja vu is, man.

I can’t say for sure whether this theory is correct, but on a purely theoretical level it would explain a great deal about humanity and our interactions with the world. Preliminary tests have shown that the B/S ToE is accurate on a quantum level, but whether it is applicable to a sub-quantum level (with quarks and shit), is yet to be seen.

There are also rumours that Bisley and Steiner are working on a follow-up study in which they update their theories to include the fact that some Cheetos would be, like, awesome right now.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Oh My God it’s a Toronto Fashion Week Preview!

Next month it’s Toronto Fashion Week, a superb opportunity to check out the latest in trousseaux, millinery and gussets. All the venues are wiping the blood from their catwalks and replacing the dead light bulbs in their dressing table mirrors in preparation for this essential civic event. But before the designers start running around in a panic with pins sticking out of their mouths and tiny chapeaux on their heads, many houses are having special preview shows here in the city. I sneaked in and watched, like that kid in Madonna’s Open Your Heart video.

The first show I watched was by French designer Jacques Du Plex. His spring collection, entitled “Herbs I Have Worn” is full of luxurious lavender, with balsamic undertones. The skirt lengths ranged from ‘serpentine’ to ‘insane’ on the Kupwatt scale. A highlight for me was a hat that looked like a glockenspiel and which fell off the model’s head as she walked down the catwalk, nearly killing Mick Jagger.

Menswear was the name of the game for The House of Ian, and their suits were of the highest calibre. With an asymmetry that can only be described as ‘oxymoronic’ and playfully obtuse lapel angles, I loved these works of wearable art. Even the shirts had an unmatchable pillion density, which is an added bonus in these harsh climes.

What about Elizabeth’s Classified Information, I hear you ask. Well, the saucy underwear manufacturer was out in form, with a great range of tights and bodices made of molluscs. Women everywhere will be able to tempt their man into bed with the smell of cockles and mussels when the new collection is released in November. Oh, and great legs.

Derek’s Vests was a surprise hit with fashion-mongers and –istas. Some of their models were wearing blue vests and red vests but I was quite fond of the cream-coloured vests and maybe also the yellow one. At the end Derek came out on a motorcycle and we all cheered.

As usual, the collection by Colander-Upshot Studios was a disappointment. When will they learn that nobody wants to wear shoes made of coral any more? And their petticoats were woefully badly made, with a tawdry two inch tartan pattern and no hint of glebe on the wrimples. Don’t get me started on their gas masks, either. Utter shite.

For me, Pierre LaPierre will always be synonymous with the 2002 show in which his models walked the catwalk while covered up in large sacks and described the clothes they were wearing when they got to the end. This year LaPierre has gone one step further and had no models at his show at all. Instead, the designer himself appeared and answered yes/no questions about the items in his collection. From what we could gather, the new range will have some green skirts, there’ll be a hat in the shape of a wasp, and Pierre was thinking about a man who is in the entertainment industry but not an actor.

Finally, enigmatically-named designer :Blism: had a show that totally underwhelmed. His pastry-inspired creations didn’t even look like clothes (except the profiteroles, which kind of resembled a muumuu), and some of the models fell over in the slippery cream that dribbled off the first choux bun. Even the music for this show was crap, a kind of faux-gangster rap-pop made by cretins for cretins with no human emotion or sentiment behind it. Ugh.

Toronto Fashion Week will last for approximately seven days and famous people will sit at the front and try to look pensive but fail because the only thoughts actually rotating around their skulls involve wondering how they look on camera and the best way to promote their new sex tape without actually coming out and mentioning it. For tickets call that guy who works in the mailroom who always has tickets for things.

Thursday 17 September 2009

Television Review: Llost

Now that popular American cop drama Law and Order has an English spin-off, it seems that the time has come for more UK versions of US shows. Plans are already underway for CSI: Bromsgrove and Las Vegas: Blackpool Edition; producers hope that they will fare better than Jodrell Bank – Above and Beyond, which was cancelled after one episode in the 1990s.

The BBC’s most eagerly awaited new American inspiration is Llost. Based on a popular US show, Llost opens with a man waking up to find that he has been a victim in an airplane crash, and that he is stranded on a small island off the coast of Wales.

While the island is no more than a rock in the middle of the sea, barely a square mile in area, there is more to it than meets the eye. For example, in the first episode our intrepid hero espies a clan of mysterious creatures. What could they be, with their oddly shaped multicoloured faces and weird ways of walking? Upon closer inspection we discover that they are puffins.

A puffin, for those who have never seen one before.

Another feature of this island of the damned is a strange large black cloud that looms over it for much of the series, adding to a sense of dread and foreboding. Our hero agonises over the meaning and intentions of the mysterious entity for some time, and the mystery is not solved until episode seven when it is revealed that the cloud is full of rain.

Throughout the show we are treated to flashbacks of the man’s life, when we see all sorts of coincidental things related to Wales and islands. In one flashback, he buys a CD by Tom Jones. In another, we see him consider a Hawaiian holiday. The only exception to this trend is episode nine, which contains flashbacks from one of the puffins. To be honest, this is one of the weaker episodes.

I won’t reveal all of the secrets to the show here, but suffice to say that for each question that is answered, many more are asked. Like, what is all that brown foamy stuff that washes up on the rocks each day? Does the island exist outside the normal laws of time or does it just feel like that because the days are so boring? And, is it possible to eat rocks?

Llost is certainly a show with promise. Whether it will match the success of the American original remains to be seen, but the episodes I have seen are full of ennui, despair and existential suffering: just what the UK television audience expects from its drama series. Indeed, an episode of Llost is nearly as depressing as a half-hour of Coronation Street or Eastenders.

Llost, every Tuesday at teatime. For more information on Wales and Welsh Islands, please visit the Welsh Tourism Hut, or see their website at If you interested in puffins, or would like to adopt or befriend a puffin, the police would like to hear from you.

Monday 14 September 2009

Album Review - Leonard Cohen: The Remixes

Leonard Cohen’s contribution to the world of dance music cannot be overstated. Since his appearance as guest vocalist on the acid house anthem Gimme Ecstasy (Take it Higher) by DJ Marvellous in 1989, the Canadian troubadour has been synonymous with big beats, thumping basslines and hardcore rave.

That said, it is somewhat surprising that nobody has seen fit to compile the dance remixes of Cohen’s songs until now. Few artists have appeared on as many twelve inch white label releases as he, and the compilers of Leonard Cohen: The Remixes must have been faced with a daunting task when they tried to select an album’s worth of tunes.

So for that reason alone, the producers of this compilation are to be lauded. They have pulled off a remarkable feat here, and the album must rank among the greatest dance albums of all time, alongside Elliott Smith Live @ Gatecrasher and the impossible-to-find Tony Bennett vs Felix Da Housecat bootleg.

Take the Armand Van Driver remix of Suzanne, one of Cohen’s best-loved songs. The soft, almost whispered vocals and arpeggio guitar are really accentuated by the chunky 240 bpm bass and newly-added vocal accompaniment on the chorus from what sounds like an angry robot with a sore throat.

While Suzanne is still recognisably Cohen, some other remixes take the balladeer’s music to entirely new places. Famous Blue Raincoat is another fan favourite, but DJ Malty Treat’s remix removes most of the lyrics, the guitar and the backing vocals to make it utterly unlike the original. Consisting of the line “Famous Blue Raincoat” sampled and repeated over a melody created by the sound of drills breaking up concrete, it’s fair to say that this remix, while danceable, takes the song way beyond the one that Leonard wrote.

The main selling point of this album is the remix of Halleluiah by DJ Ubiquitous Ocelot featuring MC Caralarm. It was impossible to escape this track in the clubs of Ibiza and Agia Napa in 2002; for many clubbers it was the song of the summer, and high chart positions over the world resulted. Due to a copyright issue over the use of a Glenn Medieros sample in the track, it could not appear on any compilations until now. And what luck this is for us! With uplifting European house beats and a hint of happy hardcore in there for good measure, the secret chord that David played and which pleased the Lord (but you don’t really care for music, do you?) never sounded better.

Not every track on this album is as good as the ones mentioned above, though. DJ WasBobSagetsDaughterinFullHouse tries to give True Love Leaves No Traces a sparse drum n bass makeover, but it falls flat. From this tune, it’s clear that the songs of Leonard Cohen are really not suited to minimalism.

All in all, this compilation really succeeds in showing the danceable side of Canada’s favourite dour singer/songwriter. From the high-speed German techno gabba of DJ Kuntz’s Avalanche remix to the melodic house of The Dub Waiters’ version of Don’t go Home with your Hard-on, there’s something for everyone here.

Leonard Cohen: The Remixes by Various Artists is released Tuesday on Dance, You Twats! Records. A special double vinyl gatefold edition is available with free dancefloor and doorman. Mp3s can be downloaded for - heh, get this, they’re expecting people to pay for it, the naïve fools - $6.99 from the record label’s website, which I couldn’t be bothered to look up. Just Google it.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Summer Kittens: Part 2

I'm in way over my head here.

I'm supposed to be reading a page of The Little Kittens and the Gumdrop Garden by Norris Squee every day. For those of you who a) didn't read the last post and b) are too lazy to scroll down, I'm doing this in order to finish the book by the end of summer and get the same feeling that the people reading the 1000+ pages of Infinite Jest over the summer must feel.

But it's hard going.

The first page almost finished me off. I lost count of the number of times I had to read it in order to understand it fully. From what I can gather (and the depth of meaning here has left me with the impression that I'm missing some layers of interpretation), there were some kittens. And these kittens were little.

I will confess. This blew my mind. I was thinking that maybe I would be able to read more than one page on the first day, and possibly get ahead of myself, giving me some leeway. But now I see that this was optimistic bravado. I couldn't get my head to understand this first page, and I had to lie down. This could also have been partly due to the pictures in the book; many of them have so many colours that looking at them for any length of time is like pressing my eyes into an LSD-laced box of rainbows.

God, we haven't even entered the gumdrop garden, and I'm already thinking I've bitten off more than I can chew. I need a rest.

Monday 7 September 2009

Summer Kittens: Part 1

I just discovered the website Infinite Summer. It's basically a project in which people try to read David Foster Wallace's epic novel, Infinite Jest, in one summer. At more than a thousand pages long, the book is apparently the ninth longest in the English language. It also has copious endnotes, and contains massively long sentences and words you've never heard of and have to look up if you're going to understand. Because of this, the 75 pages per week needed to get through the book over three months is pretty heavy going, even for those crazy people who can read entire novels in a weekend.

I would quite like to read Infinite Jest, but I've come in too late to really attempt to it before the end of summer. However, I do like the idea of blogging my findings as I go through a book, so I've decided to try another work instead.

Before the summer is out, I, the Imaginary Reviewer, hereby proclaim that I will have read The Little Kittens and the Gumdrop Garden by Norris Squee, before the end of summer. That's sixteen pages, all of which I have to have read before September 22, a rate of one page per day.

It's a big task, but I'm pretty sure I'm up to it. I'll post regular updates here if I can manage to fit that in between reading. Wish me luck!

Wednesday 2 September 2009

My Wedding: Imaginary Reviewed!

As many of you know, I am finally no longer living in sin. Yes, I am now a husband in the eyes of both God and my wife, the two things I fear most in the world. Just kidding! I don’t believe in God.

The ceremony itself was beautiful. As I mentioned before I left, we got married in Hawaii, on the picturesque island of Maui, which lends itself to all sorts of wedding-related puns, none of which I will subject you to here.

The location of the wedding was absolutely perfect. Our setting was a beachfront plantation house with gorgeous views and all-you-can-drink seawater, and the ceremony itself was sheltered by tall, majestic palm trees. Only one guest was maimed by falling coconuts, and his family was treated to a complimentary deckchair.

As my bride and I stood there in front of our friends and family, we listened intently to our priest trying to make himself heard over the sound of the waves, the wind and our weeping bank manager. It was that point when I looked at all our happy guests, my beaming bride and the caterers setting up the tables for the reception, and a big, contented smile ran across my face. Yes, I thought. This is a truly wonderful day. This is a day that I will remember forever, a magnificent and auspicious day. For today I can reveal to my guests that while I told them that there is an open bar, it is actually a cash bar. They may think they’re getting free booze, but I’m not spending a penny on their alcoholism.

You should have seen their faces.

After the ceremony, Mrs. Imaginary Reviewer and I had our photos taken by our excellent photographer (whose thumb is so well-structured that we don’t mind its appearance in most of our shots. In fact, it’s an improvement on my face in many of them).

During the reception, we opened the floor to anyone who wished to make a speech under the strict condition that they did so while trying to avoid a barrage of crossbow fire that my wife and I sent their way from the head table. There was only one taker, and Great Aunt Helga should be commended for her excellent oration and impressive (but not impressive enough) ducking and weaving skills. She will be sadly missed.

Many of our guests informed us after the wedding that they enjoyed the food greatly. In fact, they almost enjoyed it as much when it came back up again, hours later.

Rather than have a DJ at our wedding, we decided to save money by having an iPod reception. We would recommend that anyone doing the same thing should get a dependable, responsible (and preferably sober) person to control the music. As it was, due to my Uncle Vigo’s inebriation and unfamiliarity with new technology, our first dance was to a medley of songs by Extreme Noise Terror and the first twelve seconds of The Macarena repeated sixteen times. The reception carried on mostly in this way, with interesting musical juxtapositions being created between disparate acts such as Alien Sex Fiend, Dolly Parton, Napalm Death and Falco.

After the wedding was over and the landowner had chased us all away with shotguns and dogs, my new bride and I retired to our condo, tired but happy. It was at this point that the marriage was consomméd. After adding a mixture of ground meats, egg whites and tomato to our marriage, we simmered it for a while and then filtered it. The result was not entirely what I was expecting, and I can’t really see what the big fuss is over marriage consommétion. I’m told it gets better with time, so I think Mrs Imaginary Reviewer and I should try again some time. It does make a mess of the bed, though.

So now we are back to the reality of Toronto, with the smog and the raccoons and the unending despair that comes with each day that Now Toronto refuses to respond to my daily begging letters. Thanks to everyone who has sent me congratulatory messages, normal Imaginary service should be resumed shortly!

Sunday 30 August 2009

I'm Back! And More Married than Ever!

Mrs and Mister Imaginary Reviewer, just after tying the knot

Hey chaps, I'm back from Maui, a great time was had by all and Future Mrs Imaginary Reviewer left the "Future" part of that name in the grounds of a plantation house by the sea. I have about five hundred blog posts to read (or skim, or just click "Mark as Read"), so please forgive me if I don't comment on everything just yet.

Oh, and have no fear: the wedding will be imaginary reviewed.

Finally: The following people did not update their blogs while I was away, but please do not take this to mean that we are one and the same: Falwless, Words Words Words, John Hodgeman, my Brother-in-Law, G. Henry. Thank you.

Thursday 6 August 2009

In which the Imaginary Reviewer apologises for his absence

Some of my more eagle-eyed readers may have noticed a bit of a lessening of my Imaginary Output recently. I'm sorry for that, but there are good reasons, which I'll come to shortly.

Sadly for you, the fans, this dearth of review-based hilarity will continue for a few more weeks, with (hopefully) occasional posts added intermittently.

The extremely good reason for this recent and upcoming radio silence is that on Monday I shall be boarding a plane bound for a small island that rhymes with "Howie", where I'll be staying for several weeks. My reason for going? Well, let's put it this way: In two weeks' time, Future Mrs Imaginary Reviewer will have lost the "Future" part of her name. I'm sure you'll agree, this is exciting news, especially as it makes things a bit easier to say.

So for the next few weeks any posts will be ones that I've written in advance and posted to the future using Blogger's super magical future blogging tool. My comments on your blogs will be even more rare than they are at the moment. But I promise I shall return, a wiser, more tanned and more eager Reviewer, ready to tickle your chuckle spots with my inane rantings.

On that note, I shall say: This isn't goodbye. It's merely see you later.

Thursday 30 July 2009

The Musical Economics of the Barenaked Ladies

Professor Dexter Duncan of the London School of Economics is one of the most eminent thinkers in the field of Musical Economics. His 1970 paper, A Third Staircase (Just for Show): What Could I Buy If I Were a Rich Man?, was a sensation and is credited with starting the Music Economics boom. Duncan’s most famous paper, Living in a Material World, explained the ostentation of the 1980s fiscal music scene.

Duncan’s latest work, If They had $1,000,000, is another grand project of aural economic analysis. In it, he tests the theories laid out by the Barenaked Ladies in their popular 1992 song, If I had $1000000, and tries to determine whether their claims are valid.

At more than three hundred pages long, this is a very dense and almost impenetrable work, with some formulae and passages that would be far too difficult for the casual reader. However, sticking with the text reaps some wonderful rewards.

As many music lovers know, the song begins with the assertion that if he had a million dollars, the singer of the Barenaked Ladies would “buy you a house”. Using current Canadian house prices, Professor Duncan determined that this would set back the singer $326,613. Several chapters are then devoted to the implications of buying such an abode and the differences between a building of this price in the different Canadian provinces.

Furniture is the next purchase mentioned in the song, and the singer specifies either “a Chesterfield or an Ottoman”. Using a complicated series of calculations based on musician psychology, wealth ratios and fabric costs, Duncan determines that the most likely item of furniture bought by the Barenaked Ladies’ frontman would be a $3,000 Chesterfield from one of Toronto’s premium seateries.

Here lies one of the more galling omissions from the paper. While his reasoning for coming up with this value for the Chesterfield is sound, Duncan does not assess the merits of having a large house and only one piece of furniture. This seems to me to be somewhat lacking for a gentleman of means, owning his own house and only a Chesterfield to sit/sleep on. This scenario brings to mind the frugal miser, rich yet reluctant to purchase fripperies like beds, wardrobes and tables. Is this really an image we see in the twenty-first century?

There are other oversights that do detract from this otherwise excellent piece of investigation. In estimating the cost of a llama (one of the “exotic pets” that the Barenaked Ladies would purchase), Duncan only takes into account the purchase price of the creature. There is no mention of cost of food, lodgings, training, etc. The same can be said for the monkey, a bargain at $8,000, but less so when you consider the extra money needed to house and feed the animal.

Sadly missing in the analysis is the cost of John Merrick’s remains. In the song, the singer wants to buy “them crazy elephant bones”, but according to Professor Duncan this would be easier sung than done. The remains belong to a London museum, and despite repeated requests for information, no employee would put a price on the bones.

Also, the song states that the singer would buy “some art; a Picasso or a Garfunkel”. Art Garfunkel does not make personal appearances, so Duncan had to find a reasonably priced Picasso work. In the end, he found an original sketch for $70,000.

All in all, Professor Duncan’s analysis of the Barenaked Ladies’ ability to purchase everything mentioned in the song for a million dollars is sound, although he really ought to have given more room to considerations of inflation since the song was written. There is also the question of differences in exchange rates between the song's appearance and now.

Duncan's conclusions – that the items in the song could be purchased for less than half a million dollars, leaving enough money to buy “your love” – are sound. He also adds that this much money would probably be required to buy someone's love if you bought them a house and only one chair, not to mention a fake green dress and lots of Kraft Dinner. But there are some bad omissions in the paper, and these are enough to sow the seeds of doubt about some of Duncan’s methods, and therefore, his conclusions.

I'm the kind of guy who laughs at a funeral. Can't understand what I mean? You soon will.

Tuesday 21 July 2009

My Evening with Katrocket: Reviewed!

A while ago, excellent fellow Torontonian blogger Katrocket posted a competition on her blog, the prize being a custom beaver belt buckle from her good pals at Barbie’s Basement Jewellery. Entrants were asked to say what they’d do to win such a prize, and my entry – coming to meet Katrocket in person (thus saving her the price of postage) and reviewing the meeting – was deemed worthy of a second place prize. My reward: custom cufflinks of my choice.

Well, this weekend our busy schedules were freed and I met up with Katrocket and the Beevers, owners of and geniuses behind BBJ. I was given my excellent Tom Petty cufflinks, and my review follows now.

I will admit, first of all, that it was not without trepidation that I ventured across Toronto to the Beeverdeck. The city has been in the grip of a garbage collector strike for many weeks now, and our raccoons are getting more strong and brazen. Old people and children are now forbidden from going out alone, as these monstrous creatures have been known to pick off weak and infirm humans, gorging themselves on the skin, entrails and tripe. So as I got off the bus I made sure I was ready to run at full pelt, should the need arise.

Luckily I made it to my destination without incident, and was greeted warmly by Katrocket (real name: Katrocket) and the Beevers, who put me at ease by immediately thrusting alcohol into my hand. As a guest, my shyness prevented me from asking for a glass into which to put the alcohol, but I was later given one and a towel for my shoes.

Before we could retire to the Beeverdeck, I first needed to be given the basics of self-defense, and my hosts instructed me on the finer points of asparagus fencing. Raccoons are surprisingly unfond of this vegetable due to their mothers making them eat it as children, so it makes for a great weapon against advancing animals. As well as thrusting and parrying the floppy foodstuff, I also learned techniques known as the ‘Blatter’, the ‘Haichu’ and the ‘gullet-poke’.

Armed with the asparagus and my new knowledge, I was now able to go outside and enjoy the drinks and company. Katrocket and the Beevers are excellent conversationalists, and we debated such topics as the current situation in Chechnya, James Joyce’s lesser-known works and the merits of quilted toilet tissue. Before we could reach a conclusion on this last subject, though, an advance party of raccoons swarmed towards us and we were forced to take up arms.

After around half an hour of solid fighting, we felt that we had got the better of the creatures, and they were beginning to retreat. Sadly, they regrouped with reinforcements (several of which were armed with catapults and pepper spray) and so we decided it was a good time to retire to the sitting room, where the Vicar’s wife entertained us with an aria from Verdi’s La Traviata, accompanied by Mister Humbleby on piano. When they had finished we were forced to inform them that they were in fact in the wrong house and that the Cruikshanks were next door. This was a little vexing to them as they had brought their own piano and it took them a long time to get it back down the stairs.
A quick note on the food: I very much enjoyed the foie gras with vanilla bean compote and desecrated coconut, but the caviar burger with caviar-infused bun and caviar sauce was lacking something. I think it needed more caviar.

Some time before the witching hour, I was forced to bid my excellent hosts a fond farewell, and retired into the night, where I was promptly mugged by a pack of teenage raccoons who were brandishing cricket bats. Sad at the loss of my wallet and shoes, I walked home, happy at a great evening out with some wonderful people, and proud of my fantastic cufflinks.

Now I only need to buy a shirt so I can wear them.

The Imaginary Reviewer would like to thank Katrocket and the Beevers again for their warm hospitality and fantastic cocktails. He would also like to take this opportunity to apologise to any raccoons who were orphaned at the hands of his asparagus.

Tuesday 14 July 2009

The Imaginary Reviewer’s Tour of England continues with some Tourist Attractions

A lot of tourists go to England for the history, and culture. They marvel at how clever those mediaeval people were when they built their castles so close to where the train stations would be, and buy all sorts of things with an extra ‘e’ on the end, like ‘ye olde corkscrewe’ and ‘ye olde amusinge postcarde’.

But England has a lot of other things for tourists, and in my recent trip (which actually lasted less than a week, but somehow managed, TARDIS-like, to house several weeks’ worth of activities), I went to visit them.

One of the rides at England's most popular amusement parks, Funville

Firstly, Suffer Gardens in Shuffleborough is a brand new amusement park based around the concept of pain and physical anguish. As such, it’s not a whole lot of fun. I queued for six hours to go on their most popular ride, “The Uncomfortablator”, pressed against other tourists and families with screaming children and idiots who can’t keep their hotdog condiments on themselves. It turned out at the end that the queue was the ride. Avoid.

According to the pamphlet given to me when I entered, The Twitter Museum in Gaviscon-upon-Cretin is a wonderful love-letter to the latest social media craze. But then, I noticed, it’s a love-letter in building form. And a love-letter without any perfume sprayed to it. Or embarrassing hearts drawn on it. Gosh, this is nothing like a love-letter, it’s a bloody museum! What an awful pamphlet. The Twitter Museum gets no stars because its pamphlet is misleading. Next.

A Boy Who Looks Like Harry Potter is the biggest draw for tourists in Shirehamptonshire since the World’s Biggest Cloud exhibition was called off due to the cloud going missing. The boy stands on a plinth, dressed as the eponymous character, and visitors have to pay ten pounds (about sixteen hundred groats) to get within four feet of him and take a picture. I’ll admit, he does look a lot like the character, but when I saw him he didn’t look very well. And his constant complaining to the crowds about “needing the toilet” and having not eaten “in weeks” did ruin the image for me. No points from this reviewer!

Finally, the Hedgehog Acrobatic Troupe have their home in Strathcarnage. With hedgehog trapeze artists, hedgehog high-wire acts and balancing-on-lots-of-chairs-routine hedgehogs, their twice-daily shows are billed as “fun for some of the family”. I will say that I had a fun, enjoyable time watching all the flying spiky rodent things, but you should think twice before sitting in the first twelve rows. I counted more than eleven fatalities from errant animals flying into the crowd, and many children’s faces were punctured like brain-filled water balloons. Tragic.

Pour encore d’information sur l’Angleterre, consultez un map ou un livre. Je pense que la Grande Bretagne est un pays joli avec les pommes frites et un tranche de biftek. Si vous voulez, manger beaucoup de fromage commes le Francais! Et joyeux Bastille Day. Pamplemousse!

Wednesday 8 July 2009

The Imaginary Reviewer Takes on England!

One thing I wanted to do when I was back in England was to visit lots of places I’ve never been to before. Sure, there’s London, Manchester, Liverpool and Royal Leamington Spa, but I’ve been to all of them before and I love trying new things in new places with new faces and new spaces. Here’s what I found in my travels, like Bill Bryson but without the facial hair.

The village of Flatbrush in Upper Denmarkshire is famous among locals for being “that place that’s mentioned on all the pieces of paper that the postman brings”. It is home to Britain’s largest stuffed mandrill, which weighs more than a car seat and is tall enough to ride Space Mountain at EuroDisney. I loved it in Flatbrush, with its street-lined trees (very handy for stealing apples) and children playing army games with skipping ropes and needle-nosed pliers. Visitors should avoid the aquarium, though, as the fish are all made of innards.

A stuffed mandrill with quite an angry face, yesterday

Crannymagnet is a delightful town located between Blattford and Chorlton-cum-Bucket. It is full of small tea shops run by little old ladies who provide the most wonderful scones with clotted cream and jam. The rooms are all charmingly decorated with twee patterns and chintzy doilies, and the pensioners themselves are all delightful to talk to. Furthermore, give them fifty pence and they’ll take you into the back room and show you their underwear. Splendid!

There’s a tiny hamlet called St Laurence of the Leisure-Suit on Splee, and in order to find it one must first enter Godswood Forest in Bliss (near Bagshot), find a particular wooded glade and recite a poem written by sixth-century monk Douglas Twanky. Then, when the moon glides in a self-satisfied manner towards the South, scatter the ashes of a deceased rhythm guitarist around you and clap three times. A hole will appear in the ground, and when you walk through an imp will ask you three riddles which you must answer correctly or you will be turned to lymph. Only then will you find your way to St Laurence of the Leisure-Suit on Splee. And to be honest, all they’ve got is a crappy souvenir shop and a McDonald’s, so I wouldn’t bother.

If you like custard, you’ll love the city of Cataract, which is down the M18 from Tattersby (turn left before you get to the mill). A tragedy in their pudding factory means that the entire city is covered in eight feet of custard, and daring scuba divers are encouraged to visit and see if they can find any more remains. Anyone is welcome to gorge themselves silly on sweet and gloopy yellow liquid, so long as they bring their own spoon.

Finally, I have heard great things about the village of East Frottage on the cusp of Dantwedge and Throttle. The scenery is beautiful, with gorgeous parks and all-you-can-eat lawns. Museums and art galleries of the highest quality fill the place; in fact, there’s so much culture in the village that the average IQ of the residents is six thousand. I wish I could have seen it all, but I couldn’t as there are no roads which enter East Frottage, only ones that leave. This town planning oversight is quite egregious, and thus I cannot recommend this place at all.

England is open from Monday to Saturday, 06:00 to 23:00, except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Entrance is free to under 12s and racists.

Monday 6 July 2009

The Toronto Fringe Festival

I’ll be writing more about my trip to England later in the week. But for the time being, the Toronto Fringe Festival is running and I’ve been invited to a lot of preview shows just so that I can relate my opinions back to you all. Let’s face it: you can’t have a preview without the word “Review”. Without it, you’d just have a “p”. And you can’t just have a p in a theatre, you have to go to the toilets. I know. I’ve been thrown out of enough shows.

One of the most talked-about shows in the festival is An Angry Transvestite Talks About His Crotch, a one-man show in the Gashlycrumb Tiny Auditorium on Yonge and St. Muffin. I’ll be honest, if you’re not interested in transvestites, crotches or high-pitched laughter at one’s own jokes, you’re not going to find much to enjoy here.

Gratuitous Swearing in the Motherfucking Title
is a new play from the drama club of Saint Liberace’s Middle School in West Parody. In all my years of reviewing things, I have never seen anything quite so violent, so sexually explicit, so foul-mouthed and so gut-wrenchingly bleak as this performance. It made Harvey Keitel’s Bad Lieutenant look like an episode of Smallville. God, this was fantastic. Take your kids. If you don’t have kids, take someone else’s. You can usually find some outside a shoe shop.

If you like improv, you’ll love the Statue of Ad-Lib-erty, which is running from Tuesday to Tuesday following, at the Whiplash Theatre in the Jerseying District. Shout out things that you think are funny and receive rolled eyes from the performers who really do actually see you as a barrier to humour, rather than a facilitator. Oh, “Nantucket”, how hilarious, nobody’s ever shouted “Nantucket” before. Are you sure you’re not Colin Mochrie or something?

A Tribute to Someone You’ve Never Heard of features the comedy stylings of Dan the Faux Misogynist, Deborah the Traffic Warden Who Wears a Mexican Wrestler Mask for Comic Effect and Ted, That Guy Who Pretends to be Mentally Slow by Slurring But Actually Isn’t Because He’s Really a Financial Advisor in Real Life. Anyone who watches this show is guaranteed at least one and a half actual laughs or your money back. Free show, then.

Finally, a thoroughly enjoyable play stars Edgar Badmoustache and Jemima Duddlepuck as two old people who sit and reminisce in front of a fireplace. The play, which doesn’t have a title, is showing at Grumbly Street Nursing Home, every day until December. The play is free, though viewers are asked to donate several biscuits and tea for the performers.

The Toronto garbage collectors are currently on strike, meaning that the city streets are piled high with crap and rubbish. That this is occurring at the same time as the Fringe Festival is purely coincidental.

Wednesday 1 July 2009

The Imaginary Reviewer back in England! Pubs Reviewed!

As I mentioned recently, I just spent a week back in the old homestead, Blighty, the place of my birth, Britannia, that sceptred isle, and so on, et cetera. Now, as many of you gorgeous readers know, there's one thing us Brits love: Booze. And something we love nearly as much as booze are places in which booze is sold for consumption on the premises. So while I was over in the Kingdom of Unitedness, I thought I'd check out some of our finest (and not so finest) pubs, and relate my findings back to you, my loyal fans, because I love you all, even when you give me that look that you know annoys me.

A really impressive pub is the Cuckolded Arsewipe in the beautiful village of Dripple-on-the-Gabe. This visit was my second, as I had been there several years before. I have to say, the place has really improved in the intervening time, a fact that - I am told - is due to the regular customers removing the previous landlord in a bloody coup and leaving his lifeless body in the beer garden as a warning to all. They have an excellent selection of beer, engaging portraits of the barmaids in various states of undress, and very enjoyable food. The Ploughman's Lunch was particularly delicious, although he wasn't very pleased when he caught me eating it.

The Gratuitous Mention is a very nice pub hidden away in Smothkenyonhampton, the picturesque town in Kooganthomsonborough. It's a great place to find people you know and haven't seen in a rather long time, even if they are a bunch of absolute piss-heads. It does pay to spend a lot of time here, too, because otherwise you won't get any of the the in-jokes, but it really is worth it. Oh, and the weekly quiz is fun, but rigged.

I wasn't a big fan of the Craven Beverley which is situated in a secret location at 34 Christendom Lane, Chatterstoft, because of the terrible curtains. The beer was excellent, the clientelle was fun to be around, the food was delicious and the prices were all top-notch. But why (oh why?) did they decide to make their curtains out of screaming children? It really does put a massive dampener on an otherwise brilliant pub.

The locals in The Fantabulous Fountain of Fancy Footwear and Firkin in Dullard, Kent, are wonderful people. They were amazingly kind to this out-of-towner, and helped me to choose from the many ales and lagers, going as far as to buy me several pints of their favourite drinks. They even helped me to find a nearby hotel when I started feeling a little poorly, and apparently made sure that I made it to my room without incident. Sadly the hotel must have had some kind of security problem, as when I awoke the following morning, my wallet, passport and all my clothing had been taken. Also, I also appear to have a scar on my chest which appeared at some point in that night and may or may not be related to the fact that my pancreas is missing.

Finally, The Dog and Steamroller is a delightful little establishment in the back streets of Cockthrobton, a small village just south of Badford and Goodbury. The Dog (as locals call it) is the only pub in England licensed to serve Saint Godspeed Methadone Ale, a locally-brewed tipple that really hits the spot. In fact, I found it very difficult to only drink one pint of this excellent beer, and still find myself craving the sweet, sweet liquid and oh my God I have to go back for some RIGHT NOW BECAUSE NO MATTER HOW HARD I SCRATCH THE ANTS ARE STILL UNDER MY SKIN CRAWLING CRAWLING CRAWLING PLEASE I NEED THAT BEER RIGHT NOW.

The Imaginary Reviewer is not responsible for any injuries suffered as a result of pinching the buxom barmaid's bottom.

Thursday 25 June 2009

Steven Wells RIP

This won't mean much to anyone but me, really, but indulge me for a minute or two.

When I started writing (real) music reviews for my university newspaper, the person I idolised the most was Steven Wells, writer for the New Musical Express. He knew practically nothing about music, hated most of the bands I loved and nothing he ever wrote could be believed (such as the time he wrote an editorial saying anyone who knows more than two sporting facts should be locked up as mentally ill, about a decade before becoming a sports writer for the Guardian). But every Wednesday, when I got the NME home, I'd scan through it for articles by Swells (as he was known) and laugh myself silly at his brilliant reviews and articles.
Whenever I've written anything since, I've tried to follow the rules I imagined he did: even if the readers don't agree with your opinion, it doesn't matter so long as you entertain them. One of my favourite comments about my music reviews in the Warwick Boar was "I totally disagreed with your review of the Stereophonics single, but I couldn't help but laugh at it".
Sadly, Swells died yesterday, having been suffering from cancer for some time. The last piece he wrote for the Philadelphia Weekly (his local newspaper since he moved to America some years ago), published today, showed a man who knew his time had come, and who was ready to face his end. I feel I should celebrate the man who inspired me to write this stuff on my blog, and if one day - God forbid - I ever make a living out of sitting poised over a keyboard, trying to think of another witty simile, it will be due to him.
Godspeed Swells, you cranky, crossdressing, vitriolic, unashamedly socialist, Belle-and-Sebastian-fan-angering, Daphne-and-Celeste-loving bloke.
A typical Steven Wells piece, from a Nine Inch Nails live review:

Mr Trent Reznor, I’m sure you’re a wonderful guy, I bet you love small children
and dogs and are a warm and sensitive lover. But onstage you are about as much
fun as Christmas in a genital cancer ward. An evening watching your band is
about as pleasurable as three-way sex with Mr and Mrs Himmler.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

I have returned

Hello loyal readers! I am back from my sojourns in the good old Kingdom of Unitedness! My liver is sore, I am in danger of having a Cornish Pasty overdose and my cor blimey guv'nor levels are off the charts. But what a great time I had!

Sadly, I have come back to a lot of work that has built up in my absence. Now Toronto Magazine, for example, have removed a lot of the offensive graffiti I put up on their building, which will have to be replaced. And, of course, I have a lot of things to review. But in the meantime, until my new ones are written, I thought I'd give everyone a chance to see one of my favourite old reviews, one that I wrote long before I had any readers. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my review of Hats!

New Hats, (September 2007)

Wow! There are so many new hats available this week that I had to review some of them! Huzzah for hats!

The first hat that I will review is a blue hat. It is about six inches tall with a furry bit on the top. The furry bit is slightly darker than the rest of the hat, which is lighter than the furry bit. The blue is a very nice colour. This hat is a nice hat!

Ooh! Next I've seen a small hat. I don't like the small hat. It won't fit on my head! Why is this hat so small? What were they thinking? Stupid hat. Too small.

Round red hat: The round red hat looks funny, so I like wearing it. It has a lovely tassle on the top for swinging the hat around your head. The round red hat with tassle can be thrown at cars, donkeys or clouds. Hat!

My favourite hat of the week is the Woolen hat. The woolen hat is very warm in winter, and makes for a lovely centrepiece in summer. You could use it as a teacosy! Woolen hats are good for the environment because removing wool prevents sheep from getting too big and taking up all the fields. Woolen hats save the planet! (Earth)

Today I saw a man wearing a Baseball cap with a funny slogan on it. I can't remember the slogan but it made me smile and forget all the bad things that have happened to me recently, like the dog that gave me a funny look and the earth-shattering despair that has grabbed hold of my soul and is squeezing the life out of me. The cap was, therefore, my favouritest cap ever, since the woolen hat, which I already said was my favourite.


Friday 19 June 2009

Apologies for my absence

I am staying in England until next week.

There will be no time for reviews as my days are full of the following:

The weather is lovely, as you can see:

Thursday 11 June 2009

Wine wine wine wine WINE!

As summer approaches like an angry stepfather, a young man’s thoughts turn to wine. Ah, what could be more pleasant in the warmer months than sitting on someone’s cottage roof with a box of Sauvignon Blanc and a catapult? Nothing, that’s what. Here I will sample some of the new white delights and assess them with impartiality, except in one case where I have accepted a kickback.

The 2007 vintage of Chateau Le Bronjames Semillon has finally been released from captivity, and the prospect of tasting it is making everyone lick their lips like chapstick tasters. It certainly is excellent on the nose and rigid on the tongue but sadly it is also disappointing in the ears. There are overwhelming indications of carbuncle and mimsy in the aftertaste, and it does incur a tendency to be sodden in the backsplash. This wine gets a score of sixteen.

Dizzy Hipflask Wineries have just started exporting their Nomenclature Pinot Gris, which has a picture of a whelk on the bottle. After tasting it, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a bad wine, really; it has just fallen in with some bad Pinot Noirs that have led it astray somewhat. It’s nothing that a good grounding – and, failing that, military school – won’t fix. C plus, with no prospect of parole.

The latest 2008 White Zinfandel Special Edition from Australia’s Sprightly Sprocket vineyards comes with a host of extras, including a making-of documentary, grape profiles and a wonderful series of winemaking bloopers. Bonus material aside, this wine holds its own extremely well, which is handy for those of us who have run out of wine glasses. A good slosh in the mouth produces a scintilla of trustworthiness and oak. Twenty-nine points (subject to change).

Fans of utterly awful wine will be thrilled by the latest crap from Ted and Frank Shufflebotham Wines of Distinction and Quality and all that other stuff that Wine People Want. Their new Sauvignon Blanc is like drinking a cup full of battery acid and sorrow. The bouquet has elements of primary school janitor’s jockstrap and sick, and the lingering aftertaste is like waking up in bed with your brother’s girlfriend and having no recollection of the previous night after the point when you decided to split up the taxis outside the club. Nul points.

Finally, there’s a new winemaker on the block: Pierre De Fenestration. Wow, he’s so cool and mysterious! Does anyone know anything about him? He makes all the other winemakers look dull and boring…I wonder if he has a girlfriend yet? I heard he has a motorcycle and told the Vinyard Inspector to “shove it”. Sigh, he’s so dreamy. Eighty-four points.

All of these wines are available from your local booze emporium, or that man who smells of chips and cigarettes in the park. If you are under 18, please get a passing stranger to purchase your wine for you. Contains sulphites.

Friday 5 June 2009

Concert Review: Freestyle Open Mic Night at the Royal Conservatoire

For an inexpensive evening of music, Open Mic nights are usually an interesting way to experience a variety of styles and performances, from folksy guitarists to up-and-coming rappers. This week, I grabbed myself a table at the Royal Conservatoire of Music on Bellhop Drive, where the Freestyle Open Mic Evenings are becoming somewhat legendary.

The R.C. has been home to some of the most talked-about events in open stage history. Who could forget the hardcore cello battle when L’il Stradivarius publicly called out V-Valdi from the stage in 2004? And nobody who witnessed it could forget the historic surprise appearance from Des Dead Prez in 1999 when he previewed his as-yet unreleased sonata for solo harpsichord.

With these memorable moments in my mind, I was full of anticipation when the first act took the stage. He was a talented young bassoonist called Shoo-Bert, and it was clear from his combination of flicking and venting techniques that he’s going to go far. He had total control of the crutch, and his glissando was anything but wack. Keep an eye out for him in future!

Next up was a freestyle duet between timpani and triangle. God, that was dull. It was like refereeing a sprint between a comatose snail and an asthmatic sloth.

Sadly, regular performer Bach Daddy was only able to rock the mic with his extreme piccolo skills for about a minute before excessive heckling from another area of the crowd forced him off the stage. It seems that BD’s crew – the BaRoqckers – have been in a violent turf war with the Renaissance Renegades, and this latter group were responsible for the interruption. Both groups were ejected from the Conservatoire for the disturbance, and I’m told that a fight broke out in the car park straight away. Apparently several reeds and violin bows were damaged in the melee.

While the fight was going on outside, within the RC we were being treated to a great performance by the locally popular Tuba-ng Clan who performed from their excellent Enter the 36 Chamber Music album. The twenty-three members all worked the stage with their French Horns, Tubas and Clarinets, ad-libbing and freestyling like old pros. This was a wonderful show, made even better by some excellent honk and response that really got the crowd involved.

Finally, the attendees at the open mic night were blessed by a truly remarkable performance by an amateur glockenspiel player. I wasn’t able to see the crowd’s reaction to this stellar young artist’s recital, but judging by the stunned silence that accompanied his incredible playing I’m betting that they were impressed. So awed were they by his amazing command of the glockenspiel that they even maintained a reverent calm after his performance had finished, during the time when they’d usually clap and cheer. In fact, when I – whoops, sorry, I mean he – came off the stage, he was greeted by the international symbol of “great show!” Yes, everyone was covering their ears with their hands and looking pained, obviously to tell me him that when I he stopped playing, they felt a pain in their souls.

The Freestyle Open Mic Night at the Royal Conservatoire is highly recommended for all B-Boys (the ‘B’ stands for ‘Beethoven’!) and flygirls who can’t get enough of that crazy French Horn madness. I’ll be there next week; will you?

Freestyle Open Mic Night is every Wednesday at the Royal Conservatoire, Bellhop Drive, Toronto. Doors open at 7:00, but you’re still not allowed in until 7:30, when the building has warmed up. Bring a xylophone and lay down some dope ass tinkles.

Wednesday 3 June 2009

New Art Exhibition: Lost Cat by the Wilson Family

The Wilson Family is a guerrilla art collective based out of Prentice Drive in Toronto whose exhibitions across the city are garnering much attention from the establishment. Their previous works include the much-lauded Garage Sale on Saturday exhibition and the limited edition piece entitled Please Do Not Park Here. Their latest work, Lost Cat, is their most ambitious yet.

Lost Cat takes the same form as the Wilsons’ previous projects: 8 x 11 inch paper in the portrait orientation, stapled to various telegraph poles and fences around the Prentice Drive area. Fans of the Wilsons are encouraged to seek out the artworks in a four-block radius of the Wilson abode, as there are four different posters, each of which appears to have been duplicated and displayed at least fifteen times.

The subject matter of Lost Cat differs from Garage Sale and Please Do Not Park Here. Whereas the previous two were scathing commentaries on capitalism, property ownership and personal space, Lost Cat is a poignant paean to loss and regret.

The first artwork that I found was delicately stapled to a wooden telegraph pole. At the top of the work was the title, “Lost Cat”, and underneath it was a black and white photograph of an adult tabby. At the bottom of the paper was information on the cat’s name, age and a number to call if we, the viewers, see this feline. The other three posters in the series all conveyed similar information, with slightly different wording and pictures.

The first thing to strike me about this artwork is that it truly captures the sadness and disappointment that comes with loss. Here, the loss of something precious has been conveyed through a beloved family pet, but the artists could so easily be talking about the death of a relative, the theft of an heirloom or the pain of a love gone astray. When the thing can no longer be found, and when it is something that is not responsible for its own non-being, then we are forced to try and find it ourselves, and here the exhibition evokes a new emotion: futility.

The more posters that one sees displayed in this exhibition, the more one feels the sense of desperation and ultimate failure that the Wilsons are trying to convey. The wording of the posters, with their plaintive ‘please’ and ‘reward offered’, also creates tenderness, false hope and a sense of impending mourning.

The pictures of the cat are a wonderful masterstroke. He looks for all the world like a regular household pet, lounging in that way that cats are wont to do, ostensibly in better times, when he wasn’t ‘missing’. The viewer is brought in by this added layer of interaction, our mind’s eye can picture this poor, lost feline trying to find its way around the city, not knowing where its favourite blanket is. Extend this mental picture to a vision of a deceased loved one or forgotten romance, and it become all the more sad; we see the cat as a representation of our doomed affairs, and it becomes clear that we will never again have that innocent love.

I also love the placing of the artworks. Each is held up by a single staple, showing an almost tactile fragility that could allow it to be blown away in a strong wind. The breeze creates a movement within the pieces that bring us closer to them. This movement and fragility also shows us how fleeting our relationships are; how quickly they can be taken from us.

I would certainly recommend that anyone in the Prentice Drive area check out this exhibition, which is running until all the posters are covered by ads for roofing companies, or until Ruffles is found, whichever comes first.

Admission to the Lost Cat exhibition is free. If you have any information about the whereabouts of Ruffles, please call the Wilson family on 416-555-5055.

Friday 29 May 2009

It had to happen sooner or later

Imaginary Review fans! Remember last November, when I wrote the following review:

Well, have a look at the following from today's Onion:

BURBANK, CA—Executives at ABC announced Monday that the network will premier a new Lost spin-off series this fall based around that show's popular smoke
monster character.

The new series, a half-hour family-oriented comedy called Where There's Smoke, is
touted by ABC as the new anchor of its Thursday-night lineup.
"Somewhere between the smoke monster's first appearance on Lost— when it was depicted as a strange unseen force uprooting trees—and that episode in season three where it grabbed Mr. Eko and smashed him against the ground until he was dead, this character became the breakout star of the show," said Stephen McPherson,
president of ABC Entertainment. "And that's exactly why we're so excited about
Where There's Smoke. We get to see the monster's light comedic side in a show
about life, love, and good friends having good times."

"Because after all, Where There's Smoke, there's laughter," McPherson added.

ABC sources reported that the series will transplant the evil black cloud from the
island of Lost to the suburbs of Chicago, where it works as a sports radio host,
surrounded by "a whole new group of crazy characters." Actress Lea Thompson has
signed on to play the monster's long-suffering wife, who must put up with her
husband's screwball antics while raising the couple's two rambunctious children,
Tanner and Smoky, Jr.

Veteran TV producer Chuck Lorre, of Dharma & Greg and The Big Bang Theory fame, will helm the show, which he said will focus mainly on the deadly creature's adjustments to suburbia and fatherhood, and its comically contentious relationship with its boss, a fussy radio station manager played by Richard Kind.
"The whole concept began with us asking, 'So what happens to the monster after it kills somebody and disappears down that ancient temple vent? What kind of life might it have?'" Lorre said. "And what we realized is that audiences really relate to this character and would like to see it in everyday situations, shooting the breeze with buddies at a local watering hole or murdering its son's soccer coach and depositing his lifeless body in a tree."

"And of course, you'll be hearing lots of its classic catchphrase,
'Brrrrr, chk-chk-chk-chk, muuuuuuuuuuuuaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrhhh,'" Lorre

Lost producer Jack Bender has confirmed that the smoke monster will no
longer be part of his show's regular cast. However, ABC has promised that Where
There's Smoke will feature a number of guest appearances from Lost regulars.
Sources said the pilot episode will feature an appearance by actor Michael
Emerson as a slobby houseguest named Benjamin Linus who overstays his welcome,
much to the chagrin of the smoke monster's wife.

Though the project has been in development for almost a year, negotiations reached a standstill last winter when representatives for the mysterious, billowing actor expressed concern that their client would risk being typecast as "just a smoke monster" if the role were carried into a new series.
"We're always sensitive to these kinds of things, but we actually think this new vehicle will make people realize [the monster] is a sophisticated actor with a great deal of range," said McPherson, who agreed to pay the show's star $2 million per episode after scenes between the smoke monster and a nosy, ethnic next-door neighbor tested well with audiences. "People love the smoke monster, and people love to laugh. This series is a can't-miss."Added McPherson, "And I'm not just blowing smoke here." I being paranoid?

Wednesday 27 May 2009

New Number Review: Eight (The Remake)

The number Eight has been popular for a great many years now, and has lots of fans in the worlds of science, astronomy and sports, amongst others. Our base ten system of counting has ensured a plethora of sequels to Eight, including Eighteen, Eighty and Eight Hundred and Eighty Eight. Each sequel has varying degrees of popularity.

In an attempt to cash in on Eight’s fame and prestige, the number has been the subject of a big-budget remake. Fans of the figure are divided between those who have excitement at the prospect of a worthy addition to the number pantheon and those who are scared that this new Eight will debase the essence of the original. I’ve had a look at the new digit, and I give you my thoughts here.

Due to a convoluted time-travelling plot involving the number Twenty Two going back in time to prevent the Square Root of Negative Four becoming an Imaginary Number, the Eight Remake is on a completely different timeline to the original. This is very important to remember, as it has allowed the makers of the new figure to take it in directions very different to those of the original.

These new directions vary between inspired and godawful. The new Eight is no longer divisible by four, and cannot be multiplied by twelve. These changes are definitely in the latter category, as they make using the number incredibly difficult. What if I have eight cats and I want to split them between four people? I can’t do that any more.

The good changes to the new Eight include the fact that its square root is now a whole number, and the number itself is more shiny. Also, raising any other number to the power of the new Eight is a lot easier, and provides the user with a picture of a shark.

Fans of the original Eight will be interested in the cast of the new version. The digits that add up to Eight are now a lot more young and attractive, and two of them (I’m not saying which) actually have a chemistry that goes far beyond their counterparts in the original. Its impressive budget also means that the Remake of Eight has better special effects: eight explosions are now much more impressive than they used to be, and the same is true for a fight involving eight people.

Overall, the remake of Eight is highly enjoyable, and a fine addition to the world of numbers. I’d even go as far as to say it is worthy of the title of ‘Eight’, though some hardcore fans may disagree with me. True, it does diverge from the original Eight in many ways, not always successfully, but at the same time it is its own number, and that is to the new Eight’s credit.

Eight will be on widespread release in June. Previews are currently available to Jon and Kate, if they’re interested. If not, sod them. Seriously, if they don’t want the new Eight, that’s their loss, and I won’t shed any tears for them. The bloody ingrates. Now look what they’ve done. They’ve gone and made me mad with their New Eight Hating. Their hEighting, if you will. Just because they’ve got a crapload of kids they think they can dismiss a new numerical entity with an arrogant sneer and a wave of the hand? Well they’ve got a lot to learn. Ooooh, they make. Me. So. Angry!

Thursday 21 May 2009

Children's Magazines

I have always loved magazines, since I was very small. Even now, I read many magazines on a weekly basis, mostly to find their editor’s address so I can send them begging letters. Sometimes I even read the articles, and then I sneer at the amateurs who write them, laughing at how low the journal in question has fallen, and how much they need The Imaginary Reviewer writing for them, to bring them up to a high level of quality.

This week I decided to take a look at the children’s magazines on offer, and see if they’re as bad as all the other magazines that don’t even have the class to respond to my unsolicited submissions.

This month’s copy of Kid Blast! magazine has a wealth of features and news. For example, there’s an exclusive interview with Dora the Explorer’s former boyfriend. He tells of the popular character’s harrowing addiction to painkillers and sherbet. Many pages are dedicated to secretly obtained photographs from Lazytown, where popular stars Stephanie and Robbie Rotten have been romantically linked. Also in this fascinating magazine are questions about Maisy Mouse’s recent weight problem: Could it be due to a serious illness? And which of the Backyardigans is gay? Find out inside!

Kindergartener Quarterly features an essay by Umberto Eco on the multilayered empirical interpretations of the Spot the Dog stories, which I found to be both thought provoking and enjoyable. I especially liked the very pretty pictures. A new short story by Margaret Atwood about a girl and her favourite pony is also a good addition to this journal, as is the investigative report on the economics of transport and how they are affecting anthropomorphic tank-engines. On the other hand, the article which investigates the possibility of a future terrorist attack by the Grinch is nothing short of salacious hackery.

Finally, Martha Stewart Pre-Schooler magazine is jam-packed with great ideas for the average three-year-old. This month, she shows how to liven up any dolls’ tea-party by adding a wonderful blend of imaginary spices to the non-existent tea. There are also fun ideas for brightening up one’s Wendy house with recycled dummies and Lego bricks, and also the top ten ways to wrest Mummy’s attention away from that annoying new baby brother.

Children should be supervised at all times when reading magazines and books, lest their innocent brains become influenced by subversive ideas, and they learn that they’re adopted.