Thursday, 28 October 2010

Lord Suralan, you're hired!

Apologies in advance if you're not a fan, but I am a complete addict.  Series six of The Apprentice began a few weeks ago on BBC1 and for me it's compulsive viewing.

Right from the off, you're sucked in.  The strings and brass burst into Suite No. 2, Op. 64ter Montagues and Capulets from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet and instantly command your attention.  It also has the side-effect of instantly compelling those watching to hum, "dum de dum" or whistle along, which can get interesting on the high notes.  Personally I'm a "dum de dum"er, or on occasion a "doo do do"er, mainly because my whistling skills leave a lot to be desired.

But yes!  The dramatic music strikes up and the camera pans across the London skyline, looking shadowy and intimidating.  Then we get our glimpse of all these "hot shot" apprentices, usually walking purposefully along, wheeling their suitcases behind them.  There's always a moment of "ha!" or "aww!" when they show someone who has already been given the boot (for better or for worse) but there is also a sense of anticipation: who'll screw it up the most this week?  Who'll say something cringeworthy?  Who'll square up to whom?  Who will fail spectacularly?  Who will we want to punch?

Note that we don't ask ourselves who will succeed, who we'll like or who we want to do well.  This is because, essentially, the success of The Apprentice is mainly due to our inclination towards schadenfreude and our desire to see those who think they are brilliant fail spectacularly.  And why not?  Everyone needs taken down a peg or two at some point in their lives, but these people generally need to be taken down ten.

With this in mind and with the music gone, we await the arrival of the man himself: Lord Sugar (formerly known as Sir Alan, correct pronunciation "Suralan", and now dubbed by my mother "Lord Suralan").  And like Santa's grumpy cockney cousin, out he comes to reveal this week's task.  Sometimes this is done in video form, which I think must be a little awkward for Nick and Karren (his henchmen), who inevitably have to stand on either side of a big flatscreen TV on wheels and look as solemn as if they were standing beside the man himself.

The tasks are usually pretty much along the same lines - make something and/or sell something, which is fair enough in a show about business (that being pretty much the overall aim of businesses in general).  There's always a bit of a fight about who wants to be the Project Manager (although in the first week it's usually a case of "no way, you do it!") and then they're off, racing around London to accomplish their goal, usually unprepared and mostly without a modicum of common sense between them.

There's usually someone who has said all along how brilliant they are at business and then seems to have no ability to actually do anything when faced with a business decision.  There's usually someone mouthy who doesn't know when to shut up already.  There's usually someone who fights with everyone and is generally destructive.  And there are usually people who are quiet, stay in the background the whole time and make you wonder "why on earth did you apply for this if all you're going to do is stand there, and who actually thought you would make a good contestant?!"  The contestant who got the boot this week, Melissa, managed to encompass an impressive three of the four categories above.  I have wanted to slap her repeatedly for several weeks now and I was entirely delighted with Lord Suralan pointed at her and said those magic words, "you're fired!", not to mention when the audience of Dara O'Briain's The Apprentice: You're Fired! show created a sea of red "Fired" cards when asked to vote whether or not Lord Suralan made the right decision to throw her out on her ear.

See that's the thing about The Apprentice - when you actually sit down and give the show your full attention, you feel genuinely annoyed when someone is not pulling their weight, genuinely embarrassed for the über failage on display and genuinely delighted and relieved when the team you wanted to win the task actually pulls it off.  A lot of the time you don't actually really "like" any of the contestants (I think you have to have a fairly big ego to be considered suitable for a show like that and narcissism is rarely an attractive quality), but you certainly cultivate dislikes for specific people as the episodes go by and start to think that you wouldn't really mind if others won.  Of course it's all cleverly edited to make you feel that way, but in fairness if someone says or does something stupid, it's going to be pretty evident no matter what bias you try and put on it!

As for this series... well, two of the three contestants that I deeply disliked have now been fired (Dan and Melissa) and I can't imagine the other is far behind (Sandeesh).  I quite like Alex and Stella but no-one else has really shone for me yet, although Liz did phenomenally well in tonight's episode and Jamie didn't completely piss me off, so perhaps there's hope for them yet.

All I know is that my Wednesday evenings from 9pm to 10.30pm are reserved purely for this televisual sadistic treat and there will once again be a Lord Suralan-shaped hole in my life when the series finishes.  If rumours are to be believed it seems that series seven won't be too far behind (sometime in 2011), and perhaps before that there'll be the American versionDonald Trump doesn't have have the same appeal as his twinkly-eyed, grey-bearded, British counterpart but the contestants are usually even more full of themselves and therefore even wider open for ridicule, so it's all good.  And so before I go to sleep (long past my bedtime), I leave you with this thought:

Dum de dum de dum de dum de dum de dum de dummmm dummmmm....

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

My own personal thanksgiving (minus the turkey and yams)

Sometimes in life it's important to count your blessings and express thankfulness for those little things that make life so wonderful.  On Monday 11th October it was Canadian Thanksgiving and their American neighbours are due to follow suit on 25th November.  I think it's quite healthy and positive to have a day where the entire country has to stop being so fecking ungrateful for a change and actually think about the good things we have going for us.  We have no such day here in the UK (potential Facebook campaign? Oh wait, there are at least three already. Fair enough.) and so it is in this spirit that I have today decided to write about something that really matters to me.  Something that has enriched my life for many years and provided comfort and companionship when I needed it most.  I speak, of course, of my deep love for the Interwebz...

The Internet* and I go way back.  We were first acquainted back when I was at the tender age of twelve, when a burgeoning interest in IT led me and a friend to enroll for a week's IT summer school run by a local university.  In the end we learned very little about IT in general but we did discover a little blue 'e' icon on our computer desktops.  So this was the Internet - that crazy new invention that all the kids were talking about.  But what to do with it?  Not having discovered search engines yet we started looking high and low, in newspapers and on advertisements, for web addresses to visit and explore.  However all that was pushed aside when we discovered Yahoo, and with it the wonders of the humble chat room.  Much entertainment was gleaned that week from the random strangers on the other side of the world, but that was pretty much all the Internet really had to offer, right?  Easy access to a quick laugh and a chat with some oddballs from the USA?

Fast forward six years and in an entirely different chat room, there I was, wasting my A-level "revision time" by chatting to yet more randomers (and "random" really is the most appropriate word here) and fending off approaches from horny teenage boys whose introductions were along the lines of "hi wanna cyber?".  No thanks!  Then, just as I was about to call it quits, up pops a message from a young man my own age from across the Irish Sea, also avoiding studying, who seemed, well, "normal" isn't really the right word, but in comparison to some of those other crazies, we'll stick with normal.  An agreement to move from the chat room to MSN Messenger (yep, we were just that cool) later and we were off, chatting merrily away and getting to know one another.

Fast forward another seven years and we were getting hitched.  To think I wouldn't have met my lovely, funny little Yorkshireman without the Internet is reason enough to give thanks for it.  But there's so much more!

How exactly did one plan a wedding, or book a flight, or discretely find out what the heck someone was on about when they started speaking all intellectual-like before the Interwebz came along?  Google is now my bestest friend.  The majority of my communications with family and friends are by email or Facebook, on occasion even when they're in the same room.  I can window shop without leaving my sofa.  And what of the wonders of inventions like Google Street View?  You can virtually walk down a street or figure out exactly where something is and what it looks like while you're thousands of miles away in your PJs!  Don't even get me started on Google Earth or we'll be here all day.

Yeah so there are bad things about the Internet, but in reality they all have their counterparts in the real world. You can be spammed or scammed through junk mail through your letterbox as well as your inbox; paedophiles can troll kids down the local park as easily as on Bebo; and you probably get more inaccurate information from your mates than Wikipedia.

So, in conclusion, I am entirely grateful for the incredibly shiny Internet, as it allows me to while away the lazy evenings typing rubbish to you fine folks about how grateful I am for the incredibly shiny Internet.  Wow we could totally go into some kind of paradox situation here.  To prevent the collapse of the universe I best go and pay homage to my beloved Interwebz in some other way; I haven't been on I Can Has Cheezburger? in at least six hours...

* Yes, I know, I know - the Internet is the term for the physical network and the correct term for all the rubbish I browse on a regular basis is the World Wide Web, but seriously, who has the time or energy to be that pedantic?  Oh wait, usually me.  Ah well, feck it.

Monday, 25 October 2010

In the beginning...

My husband is a blogger.  He writes a blog, he reads blogs, he comments on blogs and, on occasion, his blog is blogged about on other bloggers' blogs.

In spite of the veritable hours this all takes, I am fairly accepting - if not proud - of my lovely husband and his blog.  However, recently, his blogging activity has taken a most disturbing turn, that is, he has started trying to convince me that I should blog.  Ha!

"You should start a blog y'know", sez he.

"Get away, you big crazy... sure what would I even write about?", sez I.

"I don't know... what do I write about?", sez he.

Hmmm.  Touché.  People do indeed read (and enjoy) his literary meanderings, even though our lives are hardly full to the brim of glitz, glamour or even (for example on Sunday mornings) consciousness.  Evidently there is some kind of demographic out there who are chomping at the bit for personal reports of local events and attractions.  Perhaps these are the same people who, like, watch the news and stuff?

Add to this my recent desire to "get out more" (after years of being advised to do so by everyone from online acquaintances to my own mother) and I figured I could combine the two.  Sure if I'm hauling myself out of bed on weekends to experience all that my wee city has to offer, I might as well write about.  Perhaps someone may even be interested at some point (she says, doubtfully).

So there we go, my little blog's raison d'être.  Now just to think of something of substance to actually write about - eek!  Wish me luck!