Report review in the style of…The Independent on Sunday

Posted on February 24, 2010

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Being a spineless pinko bedwetting hippie muesli-eater, my natural inclination when buying a newspaper is the Guardian. A few years ago I fancied a change and started getting the Independent on Sunday (not every day, just on Sundays), but soon gave it up. It’s an OK paper and it does some excellent news features, but I found the Sunday extras too annoying to read week after week, and it has a pomposity that makes it’s Private Eye nickname of ‘The Indescribablypious’ a well-deserved one.

The bit that sticks in my mind was the movie reviewer, I think his name might have been something-Gilbert. I’m a big movie fan and I like reading the reviewers’ opinions, but this page should have just been called “This week I was too intelligent for the following films”. Week after week he ripped into perfectly good films with a casual condescension that never failed to wind me up. So, I left the IoS and rarely ventured back.

This Sunday I was shopping quite late in the afternoon and was left with a choice of the Indie or the Daily Hate. My feelings on the latter are already documented here, so I headed Indiewards. And I was not disappointed. In the Arts section, there was a review that slated Pam Ayres for not trying to challenge her audience. Yes, that Pam Ayres. For those of you unfamiliar with her work, Pam Ayres is a poet who writes friendly, cosy verse that gave a generation of primary school children its first introduction to poetry for simple pleasure rather than a school chore. She performs her work in a gentle, melodic Shropshire accent – imagine Lindy from Shrivenham reading the course admin notices in doggerel and you’re pretty much there. You can listen to her on Youtube if you’d like a taster (Ms Ayres, not Lindy). If Byron and Coleridge are absinthe and laudanum, Pam Ayres is a warming cup of Horlicks. I suppose that makes Alan Bennett a glass of sherry, but I digress.

Reading this review made me wonder what it would be like if our reports were reviewed by simpering critics. Here’s my take on the matter.

Case 56/2010 (Smith) by Happy Monkey (review by Ptolemy Felchingbury-Sandwich)

No one has ever been disappointed by Happy Monkey’s work, I will give him that much. One turns the first page expecting a forensic report covering some digital media or other, and that’s precisely what one gets. 56/2010 (Smith) is written along similar lines to his previous efforts, with only the details varying. One might almost suspect that portions of the texts are copied and pasted from one manuscript to the next – his explanation of matching a USB storage device to a drive letter, for example, is almost identical to that given in 268/2009 (Khan), a report that I already found derivative and lacking narrative momentum.

The report starts in the usual way by describing the remit of the work and going on to introduce the exhibits. As dramatis personae, I find this litany of devices and documents to be tired and stale. Do we really want to read another report where the computer is the centre of attention?  I found the principle protagonist, a Sony Vaio laptop, unconvincing and rather vulgar. Yes, it may have a beautifully designed exterior and a heart that hides corruption and fraud, but do we, as audience-participants, really care any more? In this post-economic meltdown era can we really be expected to follow such an un-deconstructed leitmotif through to its predictable conclusion of guilt? I think not. As I said in my review of the Hitachi HDR-81 user manual last week: we are all Darfuris now.

There is nothing new in this report. The acquisition and verification hashes match, removing a potential cause of much-needed conflict in the opus, and after this there is little to hold the attention of the intelligent reader.

This post was brought to you with the help of gunpowder tea. One of the most refreshing teas I’ve ever tasted!