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.