Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Imaginary Peer Review

Dance Activity and Perceived Risk Taking by Dr William Routledge
The National Journal of Musical Psychiatry, Vol. 22, pp 205-241

A year ago, Doctor William Routledge wrote his groundbreaking study on the increase in disinterest permeating through the hip-hop industry. Entitled Rapathy, the paper (reviewed in these pages last February) told of the worrying tendency of rap fans to wave their hands in the air out of boredom, as if they just did not care. Now, the eminent musical psychologist has published his latest work after twelve months of intense study.

Doctor Routledge investigated various people in nightclubs and social events where music was playing. He was interested in the behaviour of the attendees at these functions, and he made various observations, noting them down in what he describes in the methodology section of the paper as “a jotter with a picture of Hannah Montana on the cover”.

Routledge noticed a strange trend in the behaviour of the subjects. Immediately prior to, and during, the act of dancing, most of the people displayed classic signs of nervousness and fear. They appeared to be enjoying the dancing, but levels of perspiration and body language seemed to indicate that the people were fearful of something. As Routledge notes:

“The subjects, whether at a disco or a party, all seemed to want to dance. They
seemed to be enjoying the dancing. But yet, at the same time, it was as if some
kind of risk was involved. They felt like they were taking a chance.”

This chance-taking has been noted before by many researchers, but not with such a detailed level of study. Ciccone & Timberlake (2008) found that people would “Take a chance tonight” before they “groove [themselves] to the world.” A 1984 study by Estefan and Sound Machine says that to dance is to “take a chance today”; this appears to be just as relevant a sentiment in 2009 as it was then.

Routledge notes these prior studies in his introduction, and also mentions other research which shows that this phenomenon is not limited to any specific genre of music. Kee (2004) proves its existence in gospel (“By faith take this chance/as an act of faith get on up and dance”), and Cheetah Girls et al (2006) have found it to be present in tango (“Take a chance/feel the tango/when you dance”).

But why should people be feeling like they are taking a chance when they dance? What possible reason could there be for this perception of risk?

One reason, Routledge believes, could be insecurity in one’s dancing skills. But while this is understandable for many amateur groovers, even when a dancer gains experience and confidence in their abilities they seem to be feeling like they are taking a chance with the boogie.

Routledge considers the addition of an evolutionary explanation. He believes that dancing is one way to try and attract a mate. As the author puts it himself:

“Many people feel that by having a dance they could find some romance. For
example, if, when they dance, they make an obvious glance they may enhance their
chance of a romantic advance. As long as they don’t prance. In France.”

But by putting themselves out in the open, they may also be increasing the opportunities for competing suitors to confront them, leading to what Jackson (1997) described in his paper, Blood on the Dance Floor. By heightening their own awareness of risk, this evolutionary adaptation on the part of the dancers means that if they sense danger, they are more ready to take flight to the bar or bathrooms, for example.

Routledge’s conclusions are both intuitive and elegant, and show that he is once again the master of the field of musical psychiatry. His prose, diagrams and font choice are all of the highest order, and this reviewer is once again humbled by an excellent paper. I for one can’t wait until he completes his next essay, On the Veracity of Atmospheric/Ocular Comparison, or Why Don’t Your Eyes look anything Like the Skies?

Friday, 20 February 2009

What Should you Give Up For Lent?

Huzzah! Lent is coming! Lent is coming!

Everyone loves Lent, but the modern Lent-lover would be forgiven for being undecided when it comes to what they should give up for 40 days and nights. Have no fear, Imaginary Review-fans! I will show you the way! For I am the Imaginary Reviewer: Usher at the wedding of Fact and Fancy!

Crying is a great thing to give up for Lent! A good weep uses up around sixteen quartacres of water; multiply this by a daily sobbing and you’ve got enough liquid to put into a bucket and use to demonstrate inertia. Why not give up crying for Lent, save all the water your tears would have taken up and send it to Africa?

You may be tempted to give up Hats for Lent. This is madness. Hats keep us warm during these wintry times and for God’s sake it’s windy out! Put a hat on before you catch your death of cold, you nutter!

It’s a little-known fact of Christianity that God doesn’t look too favourably on Murder. So why not give it up for Lent? Instead of shooting, stabbing or defenestrating people between Ash Wednesday and Easter, why not simply maim them instead, and leave the killing to God? He knows what He’s doing.

40 Days and 40 Nights is a terrible film about someone giving up sex for Lent. Why would anyone do that? It’s silly! Don’t give up sex for Lent, give up this film! Avoid 40 Days and 40 Nights until after Easter (or for the rest of your life).

Lots of people like to give up Religion during Lent. Abandoning their faith at this time means that they don’t have to give anything up, which means that they can do whatever they want to, including being religious! Doing this actually creates a paradox which may end up sucking all of existence into a black hole, so it’s best not to do it.

During Lent I like to give up my acceptance of Peano’s Second Axiom of Mathematics, the one that says “For all natural numbers x and y, if x = y, then y = x.” For 40 days and nights I refuse to believe this self evident tautological statement. Yes, once Ash Wednesday begins, I will remain convinced that even if ‘2’ is the same as ‘2’, the second ‘2’ is actually different from the first. You won’t believe the number of fights I’ve had with mathematicians over the years during Lent.

Many people try to give up Booze during Lent, but this is too difficult, even for the most hardened Lent-lover. After six days the whisky starts talking to you, then if you’re still dry after three weeks you start sleep walking to the liquor store. At least I do, anyway. Start simply, and just give up a specific drink, like Bean Brothers 2005 Oak Cellared Chardonnay.

I hope I’ve managed to guide you through your many options when it comes to quitting things for Lent. If you have any other ideas of things people might want to give up, why not mention them in the comments? I’m sure someone will care.

The Imaginary Reviewer will not be held responsible if nobody cares.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

The Imaginary Reviewer Reviews his own Valentine’s Day Cards

Being facially flawless, an Adonis in the body and utterly hilarious when I intend to be (and sometimes when I don't), I have a great many admirers from all of the genders. And on a day like today, when romance is in the air like pages from a discarded newspaper, these admirers tend to send me their declarations of love, romantic admiration and lustful intent.

Indeed, such is the weight of the cards that cascade through my letterbox on February 14 that I am forced to stop my cat from sleeping in his favourite spot by the front door, lest he drowns in the swathes of Valentine’s Day mail.

This year is no different, and I thought I would share and review the many wonderful letters and cards that I received today.

First off, a beautifully written letter came all the way from an anonymous sender in Britain. In honeyed words and sweet, sweet verses, the person who wrote the letter conveyed their love for me with such poetic grace that I was almost moved to tears. Phrases such as “previous months’ payments have gone unpaid,” “collection agency” and “failure to pay will result in legal action” brought back memories of a more innocent time, running through wheat fields and playing by a lake. To whoever sent me this letter, I will certainly think fondly of them in the future, even if I don’t take up their offer to “call and discuss [my] borrowing arrangements as soon as possible,” as they so sexily ask.

Picking another Valentine arrival at random, I find a melodic and wondrous affirmation of someone’s desire for my booty. With a photograph of a slim and attractive woman on the front (is it too much to think this may be the sender?), the interior has a dulcet piece of romantic poetry, written by a hand no doubt angelic and tender. “Join Cavendish Avenue Gym/Save 15% on membership fees before March,” it begins, and my heart melts into blissful ardour.

But not all the mail I received today was as romantic and moving as these last two. One attempt at visual poetry, in my opinion, crossed the boundaries between good and bad taste, sinking into the pit of perversion and indecency. The letter, full of pictures of food and household products, was no doubt trying to kindle feelings of desire and lust within me, but this 8-page piece of filth did the opposite. Even the text - “25 cents off” this and “buy two get one free” that – was nothing if not crude.

But finally, one letter stands out above all the others. The beauty, strength of feeling and romance contained within it could in my mind be seen to equal anything written by Shakespeare, the romantic poets or even Terence Trent D’Arby. “Dear Imaginary Reviewer,” it begins, “thank you for your interest in our magazine.” Ah, I shudder to copy those words down myself! It goes on: “But we regret to inform you that your piece entitled ‘6 People Who Changed the Way We Look at Canaries’ has been deemed unfit for publication in Fortune Magazine. Good luck with your future endeavours.” Ah, Graham Belevedere, commissioning editor of Fortune Magazine, you saucy minx! I shall hold your letter close to my heart as I lie in my boudoir tonight, thinking of the sweet love that you have conveyed to me in this missive!

And who knows, Graham, who knows? Maybe one day we shall meet, and then we shall see if the love you make is as beautiful as the love you commit to paper.

The Imaginary Reviewer’s Valentine’s Cards have been donated to the British Museum for posterity. They can be viewed in the large blue bins outside the back of the building until Tuesday, when the recycling vans come.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Restaurant Review - Pitchfork: The Restaurant

Pitchfork: The Restaurant

[Pitchfork Media; 2009]
Rating: 6.3

Buy a meal from Insound

Download a menu from eMusic

Online music magazine publisher Pitchfork Media has branched out into the world of fine dining, opening Pitchfork: the Restaurant. Located in Boston, Pitchfork Media’s home city, the restaurant marks a departure for the company, who had previously branched out into television channels as well as concert and festival promotion. This is their first time doing anything not directly related to music.

It’s a risky move to be sure, and on first glance it’s a silly one. The gastro-hipster scene is filled with similar restaurants, from Fried Bear - the eatery seen as starting the movement – to the newly opened Shut Your Mouth and Eat Restaurant, which is, as everyone knows, the side project of Bruno Mincemeat. Next month the long-awaited electro-gastro café, [lightning bolt], will open, and many gastro-hipsters seem to be rallying against what they see as the selling out of their favourite culinary haunts. Now would not seem to be a good time to be opening a new eating place.

As expected, the restaurant wears its influences firmly on its sleeve, and yes, these influences aren’t surprising, much to its detriment. Take Pitchfork’s Chutney Sandwich, for example: the lettuce arrangement seems to have been taken wholesale from DeKlassay’s Tangerine Salad. And while the casual eater will marvel at Pitchfork’s Ham en Croute, seasoned scenesters will recognise elements of meals from little-known restaurants like Dipthong Tragedy, Exclamation Point! Misuse, and Café of Montreal.

But at the same time the chefs at Pitchfork know what they’re good at, and when they stick to this formula, they do it well. There’s the occasional foray into avant garde food, echoing the 60s food dub experiments of Colonel Insane’s Ohm Beat Restaurant, but this is thankfully brief. The ponderous, meandering Beetroot-infused Scallops is one such victim of the urge to think too much about a meal, and suffers accordingly.

A quick trawl through the dessert menu shows some definite gems. Blancmange is a wonderful example of good food done well, while Chocolate Sorbet echoes Dizzy Holness at his most fragile. Even Lemon Cheesecake holds a certain poignancy not seen since Gustark Malfinch opened his much-missed limited edition café in 2001.

But in a world of great eateries, the question remains: If Pitchfork: The Restaurant didn’t exist, would it be necessary to invent it? The answer, sadly, is no. Two years ago, this would have been a hugely successful hit restaurant, but blame the food criticism media for building the gastro-hipster scene up too much, because the genre is saturated. Not even an excellent cheesecake can save Pitchfork Media from this fact.

Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/pitchforkrestaurant

- Imaginary Reviewer, February 10, 2009

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Last Night’s TV: Jesus Job-Swap

Jesus Job-Swap, the latest reality TV show from the makers of Wife Swap, Trading Places and Let’s Make a Koala the Mayor of Innsbruck for a Week and See What Happens, debuted last night on DBC. It takes a well-worn premise – two people switch jobs for a while - and stitches a little new life into it: one of the people swapping jobs is Jesus Christ, son of God and major player on the religious scene.

Saturday’s episode had Jesus swapping roles with Delores, owner of a small catering firm in California. As with most shows of this ilk, both participants were built up for a fall from the beginning, with the producers showing each of them oozing bravado and confidence at the task ahead. Jesus, for example, is unfazed by the prospect of having to cater a wedding reception for five hundred people the following week. “Five hundred people?” he asks, unimpressed. “I’ve had to feed ten times that before. No worries,” he laughs.

Delores was equally ebullient from the onset, quoting her “excellent man-management skills” as reasons why she’s more than qualified for the role of Son of God. She does warn, however, that while God may be the all-knowing, all-seeing creator of the universe, “He’s going to have to learn that I don’t take crap from anyone.”

But, as is always the case with these shows, neither Jesus nor Delores has an easy ride. In the course of the hour-long programme, the American woman learns that being figurehead for a belief system is no mean feat. Conversely, Jesus gets to know that the catering business isn’t a breeze, even for a man worshipped by millions of devotees.

It’s during these scenes that the best moments in Jesus Job-Swap arise. When the irate newlyweds confront the Son of God over his deviation from the agreed menu at their reception, it’s car-crash television; I couldn’t look away. As the bride violently asked why the steak tartare and scalloped potatoes had been replaced by a simple bread-and-fish meal, I thought for all the world that she was going to punch the earthly incarnation of the Creator. Luckily, fate intervened and an earthquake interrupted the fight.

Delores didn’t have it any easier, either. All the way through the episode she has to repeatedly tell her new boss that “you can treat your own son like that, Mister, but you can’t treat me like that!” She also becomes extremely fatigued at the task of making her face miraculously appear in food products, and in doing so, realises that being the Son of God isn’t all lambs and magic wine tricks. “There’s some self-sacrifice in this job, you know,” she tells the camera, wearily.

And ultimately, as with most shows of this genre, both participants learn many things about their switchee and about themselves, which in turn gives the viewer a sense of accomplishment and closure. Both Jesus and Delores realise things that we, the external viewers, could already tell. Delores becomes nicer to her staff and doesn’t insist on working them as hard, while Jesus resolves to stand up for himself more, especially when it comes to his Dad.

Jesus Job-Swap is another great reality TV show that promises to be essential viewing throughout. I haven’t enjoyed the company of Jesus this much since the time I sat on his lap in a shopping mall at Christmastime, all those years ago. And next week’s episode, in which Christ swaps roles with a Muslim cleric, promises to be even more volatile than this one!

Jesus Job-Swap is shown on DBC (Satellite Channel 148 between the Washroom Channel and the Bob Hope Underpants Auction Channel), Saturdays, 10:00pm, from now until Armageddon (six weeks tomorrow).

Thursday, 5 February 2009

New Magazine Round-Up

One of the hottest new magazines in the 9- to 14-year-old age group is Renaissance Tween. Fifteenth-Century Italy is huge among youngsters these days, and RT is at the forefront of the Renaissance renaissance, being one of the biggest-selling publications on the stands right now.

This month’s magazine has a great guide for making oil paints from scratch, with handy hints on locating the best pigments around the home. I found this fascinating, and had no idea that if your parents don’t have any ultramarine stored away, you can simply grind up Mum’s blue eye shadow with a pestle and mortar.

Also in this issue: There’s an informative article on becoming apprentice to a great master, Miley Cyrus discusses Chiaroscuro, the Jonas Brothers share their tips on creating depth in landscape painting using grid-style perspective techniques and Who is Dreamier: Michelangelo’s David or the Mona Lisa?

Look out for the great free gift, a block of wax for making scale models of your favourite sculptures!

One of my own personal favourite magazines is Magazine Reviewer Magazine. This month’s issue is one of the best ever, with a free cut-out-and-keep guide to similes that one can use when reviewing magazines. It’s really useful, like a…a…a…like a…oh, my mind just went blank there, sorry.

February’s MRM has some great features, like an article outlining ways in which reviewers can read as much of a magazine as possible in the store without having to buy it. There’s an ethical debate on the morality of reviewing naughty top-shelf publications, with contributions from Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Tobermory Flange and Reverend John DeWitt. A free gift is also included in this month’s issue – a copy of next month's Magazine Reviewer Magazine, for reviewing purposes.

Finally, I was pleasantly surprised by new publication The New Yorker Reject Pile Magazine. This promising journal features all the articles and columns that were sent to the New Yorker but which were rejected. I was expecting the articles to be poorly researched, badly written and derivative, but there were a lot of gems.

John Eager’s wonderful Things I Have Found in my Ear is a great, 16-page article that made me laugh, cry and snot up a little. Also, the excellent opinion piece Why Don’t You Publish Any of My Articles, You Snobby Know-Nothing Magazine Editor by Ian Struggle is a vitriolic treatise on the plights of a freelance journalist.

Not everything in this magazine is as good as these examples, though. David McWriter’s Letters I Received from the Bank is far too unbelievable for my liking, and Judith Craptacular’s photographs of twine are nothing short of dullsville. But the rest of the mag is well worth a read, even the barcode, which consists of a very aesthetically-pleasing series of lines and numbers.

Magazines are available from shops.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

The Imaginary Reviewer Writes a Letter, Part the Sixth

For some of my newer readers, the hatred and anger I occasionally show to Now Magazine may be confusing. What do I have against Toronto's largest and most revered listings publication? Why do I write mean things about them - such as the fact that everyone who works for them smells of poo and hates freedom - on my blog?

Well, click on the links to the right, entitled "The Imaginary Reviewer Writes a Letter" Parts 1 to 4, and you shall see why. I wrote several letters of extraordinary quality to that very journal early last year, asking them for a reviewing job, and they did not have the decency to send a single reply. Part 5 of that series showed me receiving similar treatment at the hands of Toronto's second listings magazine, Eye Weekly.

Well, screw them. Screw them hard in the bum.

Now Magazine had their chance. They could have hired me to write reviews for them, and they would have been inundated with fan mail and increased ad revenue, but no. Now I wouldn't even write a review for them if they begged me to. I have set my sights higher, far, far away from the Papist dogs of Toronto's awful magazine. I have set my sights on something much better: Vancouver's Georgia Straight listings magazine.

The letter reproduced below was sent to the editor of the Georgia Straight several weeks ago. As it had to travel from one side to the other of the second largest country in the world, I am not surprised that I am still yet to hear back from them, and I remain confident that an offer of long-term employment will be soon forthcoming.

As usual, click on the small image for a far more readable version.