Saturday, 26 June 2010

The New Cash Machine

I turned up at the Cash Machine this morning, because I needed a tenner to get a train to Bangor, and the Cash Machine had been turned into the control desk of the Starship Enterprise.  It used to be your average ATM: a bit grubby, worn out 'Enter' key, Jamie heart KayLee UVF scratched into the side wall, and the odd bit of chewing gum/vomit/unidentifiable substance on the keyboard.  It was a good way to save money, that cash machine, because you had to be reasonably desperate in order to use it.

Anyway, today, as I say, it has been replaced by the flight desk of a space shuttle.  It's all neon plastic, nice fonts, clean buttons and new flashy screen.

Worryingly, there is a large sign saying 'If you notice anything suspicious about this cash machine, please contact the Police'.  I cannot decide whether it is suspicious that the cash machine has, overnight, become capable of teleporting me to Venus, so I take my tenner and leave.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

How To End A Tennis Match

So apparently when they wrote the rules of Wimbledon, they decreed that if a final set is tied, the players should keep playing until they die, and we are watching this in style right now, as Isner and Mahut battle it out on Court 18 in what is now the longest ever game of anything at all in the world, ever.

At 25-all it was quite a spectacle, but once it got to about 50-all, we were getting a bit fidgety.  Then it went dark and they had to stop, and now they're back and at it again.  The difficulty is that it has reached the stage where neither of them can move their feet, but they are both good at serving, so essentially it keeps going 'Ace, ace, ace, ace' *swap server* 'ace, ace, ace, ace' and so on.

Quite what will happen when they reach 100-all is anybody's guess, because the scoreboard only goes up to 99, and one gets the impression that nothing so out of form has ever happened in Wimbledon.  The only thing more controversial would be if the Queen descended from the royal seat to take a few shots herself.

Anyway, it got me to thinking: how will it all end?  And what, short of shooting the pair of them, could be done to stop it all?  Thankfully, I have some ideas:

1. Penalty shoot-out, but in the style of 10-pin bowling.  Keep kicking tennis balls at each other; first to fall over loses.

2. Introduce variables.  It's all too same-same so far.   We need to find new ways to distinguish them.  For instance, keep making the court smaller and smaller, and the net higher and higher.  Eventually they'll have a postage stamp each, and be expected to serve over the height of St Paul's Cathedral.  Or have a hopping round, or a left-handed round.

3. Toss a coin.  Whoever wins is going out in the next round anyway, let's face it: they've played more tennis already than the average champ plays in the entire tournament; stick either of them against anyone with any glucose reserves and they're done for.  So let's just get it over and done with.

4.  Keep both of them in.  Let them take it in turns or something.  You know how you do with Round Robin in table-tennis - one person hits it, and then has to run round the table, while the other person takes the next shot, and so on.  Their opponent stays still, obviously, since there's only one of him.  Or tie them together, like a three-legged race.

5. Turn out the lights, shut the gates, toss in a few crates of bananas, and leave them to it.

I trust this helps.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Things That Really Feck Me Off: Using An Accent For Foreign Words In An Otherwise English Sentence

I was listening to a podcast the other day, as I drove back from my parents' house, where I had been visiting for my birthday, because it was my birthday last week, I don't know if I mentioned it (thanks for the vouchers though.  At this rate I'll have an iPod Touch by the time I'm 40); anyway, the point is, I was listening to a podcast of Frank Skinner on Absolute Radio, except it was Lee Mack presenting because Frank's at the W***d C*p.  They were talking about things that annoy them, like phrases, such as:
'Are you all right?'
'No, I'm half left'
'I literally died laughing'
and so on.  So I got to thinking about things that people say that annoy me, and felt that I had to share a particular irritation, in the interests of helping you all not to annoy me.  So here it is.

The thing I find possibly more irritating than anything else in the conversational world is when people who are speaking English come to a foreign word, and say it in a foreign accent.  For instance, someone is talking about their friend 'Cecile'.  Instead of saying 'I met se-sEal for lunch', they insist on saying 'I met se-sEeeeeeeel for lunch'.  Or, for instance, there is a road near me called 'Thiepval Avenue'.  If you're from these parts, you call it 'Theep-ville'.  But some people call it 'Tyepp-vallll', and that annoys me.  Because it's ok to anglicize things, and not have to show how good you are at talking foreign.

As an example, consider the sentence 'This summer I will go to Paris'.  If you say 'This summer I will go to Pareee', unless you are joking, you will sound like a tube.  Thus, by extension, we can see that it is ridiculous to foreignize other words, and my point is proven.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Some Assistance

I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, it's WhyNotSmile's brithday tomorrow, and I do not know what I will get her...  But don't worry.  Vouchers is fine.  Amazon vouchers.  I'm saving for an iPod Touch.  Or you could just give me an iPod Touch, of course.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Junior Apprentice: The Final

The final task. 6.45am, and Arjun's in his jammies, answering the phone.  They're to meet Lord Shugagh at an aquarium... GREAT!  They have to design a new kind of shark, and sell it to Hamley's!  Looking forward to this!... oh, wait, no.  It's about water.  They have to design a new kind of water! More H, less O!... Oh.  No.  It's bottled water.  They have to design a bottle of water, and market it, and make an advert and stuff.

They are split into boys (Arjun and Tim) and girls (Kirsty and Zoe).  This being Week the Final, everyone who's been put out so far is back to lend a hand, and there's an excruciating moment when they have to pick teams, and Jordan is left standing all alone until Zoe says 'We'll happily have Jordan', and I like her a little bit more, because she may have saved us from watching him cry.  So, the boys have Rhys Rosser, Adam-all-better-now and Emma Walker (16, sells eggs and sweets), and the girls have Hannah (favourite colour: blue), Hibah (16 going on 65) and Jordan-Lloyd-Grossman-de Courcy.

Did you know we spend £2 billion pounds on bottled water per year in the UK?  I think that's about the same amount that it would take to supply clean drinking water to the entire developing world.  Just sayin'.

They also have to chose between 8 types of water.  Yes.  These include: Mineral, Table, Sparkling, Sterilised and 'Ozonated'.  Not that it ends up mattering much, as we see later, but they spend a while sipping out of glasses and remarking on how similar it all tastes, or doesn't taste, since it's water.

TeamArjunTim are aiming for the late 20's market, and also Arjun has manned up since last week.

TeamZoeKirsty are surveying a table of bottles of water, and thinking they'll go for the teen market, although they're not sure it exists.  But they could start it.  They like the ozonated water.  It's all terribly serious.

Meanwhile Tim has thought up the advert, and is acting it out to Arjun.  It's all to do with some guy getting naked.  KirstyZoe's lot are running through fountains asking people how they feel in water.

Kirsty comes up with the name Hidr8, which Zoe doesn't like, because it's too much trying to be 'down with the kids'.  She and Hibah don't use '8' on Facebook and MSN; they use full words.  Only year 4s shorten words.  Well, excuse us.  Hibah suggests 'Splash' and then 'Drip Drop'.  Zoe phones Kirsty to tell her they have thought of a name, and then also that she has had an idea for the logo, which she carefully describes over the phone, to Kirsty's barely concealed disgust.

Zoe and Hibah then go to see some footballing teenagers, to ask about whether they like the idea of 'Drip Drop'.  Two points:
1) They spend quite some time trying to work out how to fit in with a group of teenagers.  Like the way a 30-year-old might think when they're asked to take the Youth Group for a few weeks.  But... they are teenagers.  I imagine not entirely typical ones, but surely they can have a conversation with other teenagers without resorting to 'yeah, right innit'?  They've had enough practice with LorShugah if they want all that.  And there'll be TV cameras on them, so it's not like the nasty chavs are going to stab them or something.
2) The last time Zoe and Hibah spoke to a 'focus group' we ended up with the cardboard camping cupboard.  Just saying.

Obviously the teenagers love the water, which you tend to when you're being interviewed by Zoe.

TimArjun aren't getting on well with brand names.  Emma wants something that doesn't sound like water.  Like the way you wouldn't call a car 'Car'.  But you would, says Rhys; the 'Ford Ka'. Tim and Adam are interviewing yoga people and asking why they buy water.  To drink it, basically.  Somehow they come up with 'A Bottle of Water' as their name, which is quite good, and fits with Tim's naked man advert.

Zoe and Hibah are now with Rael, who's coming up with a jingle.  So far, they have 'When you feel like you wanna flop, have yourself some Drip Drop', but Zoe thinks Rael's tune is too country.  Kirsty, meanwhile, is creating a logo, which is yellow, with swirly bits and the name in black.  It looks quite good, but Zoe phones her and starts talking about Jackson Pollock, the artist, who said that colours which go together are 'blue and orange' or 'purple and yellow'.  Hannah comes into her own at this point, with the most impressively bland 'Cheers yeah, good input, fanks' we have seen in quite some time.  Then Zoe spells out Pollock.

Arjun's lot are still struggling with an idea for a logo.  Tim and Adam are in a cafe eating chips, but when Arjun calls they pretend to be busy.  Arjun suggests a wave for a logo, and Tim is utterly bemused for a few seconds, until it finally clicks... 'Oh, a wave, like on the sea?'.  Yes Tim.  Not just Arjun's hand saying hello.  A water wave.  Because it's about water, yes?  Good.

So overnight some poor sod is bottling up the water and sticking the labels on, and at 8am on morning 2, the teams are presented with their samples.  There is much excitement.  Hannah would buy a bottle of Drip Drop. Tim sings a little song about water.

Off to a housing estate, where Kirsty is directing the Drip Drop commercial.  Two wee lads drop a bottle of Drip Drop just out of reach, and then it gets nicked by a girl.  As LorShugagh says later, it 'looks loik a muggin on a cancil estayte'.  Still, they have fun.

Meanwhile in a park, Arjun is directing a bloke to run naked, and is getting quite excited.  He nearly gets beaten up by a surly extra who was hired by mistake and came all the way from Hertfordshire for... nothing.  Eventually Arjun gets him to be a passer-by, which seems to calm him.  Karren is getting all maternal about Arjun, as I think are most of the nation.

While filming is going on, Zoe and Tim are surveying their launch venues: a couple of empty rooms which they can decorate as they please.  Zoe's still trying to be wif it and down wiv da kids 'n that, and has booked the 'Graffiti Kings' to come and draw her logo on the wall. She hasn't thought to bring the actual logo along though.  But it's not like it's hard to describe... it's yellow, with 'Drip Drop' in black writing.  Like, seriously, get Kirsty to take a photo and send it over, it's not 1986.  Or, you know, draw a doodle on a sheet of A4 and glare at him till he agrees to use it.

Tim is going for the simple approach; just big bottles all along the wall.

Day 3 - Launch Time.  Miraculously, the Graffiti Kings have managed to reproduce the logo correctly.  Zoe is pleased with her doodle, although it is also possible that they've used the crate of actual bottles of Drip Drop that have appeared in the corner.

During rehearsals, all the pitches are going badly, and everyone's shouting, but eventually it's 7pm, and the Big Retailers arrive.  They're starting at Tim & Arjun's place, with The Bottle Of Water.  The concept is simple - getting back to basics.  The advert is really good; mercifully they seem to have sidelined Tim's singing, or we would have had another 'Treasure Flakes' moment.

The Retailers are impressed, and then ask stupid questions, which Tim and Arjun fend off well.  Some guy asks which brand they're going to kill to get their brand on shelves.  Tim basically says 'all of them'.  Arjun is offering a 150% profit margin, which they love, although it turns out not to be true, because he's forgotten he might want a cut.

Off to Drip Drop, and we watch the mugging again.  Everyone looks a bit uncomfortable.  Kirsty is keen to point out that teenagers will be mad about introducing ozonated water to the UK.  Some guy asks about their logo, which he thinks looks like petrol.  Yeah, but, it's clear water, so it's obviously not oil, so don't be so STUPID man.  Someone is impressed that they presented without notes, because Ben doesn't do that.  Ha.  Yeah, Ben, IN YOUR FACE!

In the boardroom, we see the transformation that occurs when 60% of the people involved have no chance of winning; they all love Tim and Arjun and Kirsty and Zoe, and think they led brilliantly.  Adam calls Tim and Arjun 'delightful'.  Jordan calls Kirsty and Zoe 'a pleasure to work with'.  Zoe says 'onomatopaeic'.

The ex-people leave, and Arjun, Tim and Kirsty exchange glances nervously, while Zoe fixes LordShugagh with an icy stare.  Then there's a bit of talking backwards and forwards, and after a while we found out that TimandArjun have won, yay!  Zoe and Kirsty leave, hug and cry (Kirsty, obviously, not Zoe).

So TimandArjun go outside and wait while LordShugagh and Nick and Karren talk about them, and then they get called back in.

They have to sell themselves, and Arjun produces a spiel about how great he is and how he should win, and so on and so forth. He talks about the cupcake costume again, and how he wore it for 4 hours and worked from within it.  I hope he has photos, because a LOT of people are going to be hearing the cupcake story from Arjun in the years to come.  Tim looks a bit nervous, and says he'd only packed a week's worth of stuff, and didn't expect to get this far.  He talks about how he used to shear sheep and how nice it was and how it was all worthwhile when he saw the cute ickle lambs being born, but also it's all about the money, especially about the money.  Also, Arjun is a prefect.

It's hard to know for sure: it's always looked like it had to be Arjun for the win, but Tim has come round in the inside lane and it's looking like he might just pip him to the post.  But not that much, because Arjun wins!

His little face lights up, and though we feel sorry for Tim, a rosy hue has settled all around, we get the feeling we're on solid ground, and for a spell or two, no one seems forlorn.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Junior Apprentice: Week 5

The difference between Little Apprentice and Big Apprentice is that, with Little Apprentice, you kind of reach a point where you like them all enough to want them all (but not Zoe) to win.  Or maybe I'm just having a warm-hearted week.  Although other evidence would suggest not.

Anyway, this week's task starts with a phone call telling them to go to Amsterdam, causing a frenzy of excitement, shrieking and leaping up and down, such as would make you think none of them had ever been any place foreign before.  Tim, of course, keeps his feet on the ground and his expectations low: 'There's not any place in England called Amsterdam, is there?'.  No, Tim, there isn't.

So after some talk of windmills and clogs... and tulips!, an appalling Dutch impersonation by Tim, a traffic jam, and sleeping on a flight, they are in a big warehouse thing with Nick, Karren and a TV screen, upon which appears Lord-couldn't-be-bothered-to-fly-to-Amsterdam-Shugah.  The task is this: go see some Dutch designers, pick 2 'cutting edge' products, flog them to retailers in the UK.  Two shops have already agreed to be 'pitched at', and the teams are also free to set up any other selling opportunities they can dream up.

The teams this week:
  Instinct (are we really still on that?): Led by Kirsty, consisting of Tim, and overseen by Nick
  Revolution: Led by Arjun, containing Emma, dominated by Zoe, and overseen by Karren.

Zoe is in the mother of all huffs; it is not clear why, but it's something to do with Arjun asking her to do things ('being authoritarian') and not asking her to do things ('leaving her out').  So over at Revolution it's all loud silences and pouts and sidelong glances.  Not so on Team Instinct, where Tim and Kirsty are having a blast on a canal boat, with Nick in sunglasses.

Anyway, onto the designers (who get to bring 2 things each), and we are treated to a demonstration of the dangers of legalising drugs:
1. The Hair Hat - a hat woven from human hair.  We don't see much else of this; nor do we find out what else they brought.
2. A big thing that appears to be a combination lampshade/bird house/see saw, but which we don't get to hear about.
3. A set of lights which kind of look like little mushrooms, and an individual cutlery set (including a story about the cutlery, which I'm not anticipating is a page-turner).  Quite why these go together is left as an exercise for the viewer; Zoe is almost asleep during the demonstration; and Emma states insightfully, 'when you design a product, surely you should know what the function of the product is'.  Yeah, and when, not 3 weeks ago, you came up with a camping product made of cardboard, you should probably be a little less harsh on designers.  Tim asks about negotiating on price, which shows some business acumen.
4. Stuff for dogs: a trailer thing to wheel the dog about behind your bike, and a 'dog bed on legs', which disgusts Emma.  Again, Emma, a cardboard camping cupboard?  Really?
5. Two bikes: the Bub(?), which is basically a bike with colour-coded plastic bits, or something; and the Stepper, which is like a combination of bike and cross trainer, because bikes don't give you enough exercise.
6. Knotties. 'Organic baby comforters which can be tied into the shape of a rabbit, or an elephant'.  I promise I didn't make that up.  Tea towels, essentially, albeit organic ones, with a slit in them so you can make the ears.  Emma isn't sure that a child would be able to tie the knot to make their knottie into a rabbit; given that these are aimed at newborns, you might think she has a point, until the guy points out that the parents are meant to do it.

So now they have to choose 2 designers each.  Arjun loves the Knotties (I have to admit, if I had a baby and someone gave me a Knotty, I'd be ok with that, but I'm not sure I could sell the 10,000 of them that are going to be required to beat one bike sale) and the bikes.  Kirsty likes the cutlery/lights and the bikes.

There is a vaguely tense stand-off over the bikes, with Kirsty saying Arjun can have the bikes if they split the profits from them (what?  Are they allowed to do that?  Just 'cos Lord Shugah isn't in the country, doesn't mean you can just get all fast and loose with the rules, lassie).  Arjun keeps saying nothing, and eventually, somehow, it ends up with Arjun having the Knotties and the cutlery/lamps, and Kirsty having the bikes and the doggy things.  Those of you who have a good, graphic imagination, will have anticipated the problem here: the team of three have a few lamps, some boxes of cutlery and a few tea towels to transport; Tim and tiny wee Kirsty have 2 bikes, a trailer, and a dog bed on legs.

Zoe's still in a huff, and says she'll do the pitch if Arjun wants her to.  Then she stops talking.  Loudly.  While sniffing.

They have the Yellow Pages out, and are phoning around various places to make appointments.  Tim has a conversation which goes like this:
Tim: Hi, can I speak to the manager please?
Man on phone: What's it regarding?
Tim: It's regarding a sales pitch
Man: Where are you calling from?
Tim: We're calling from Highbury
Man: Yeah, sorry, which company?
Nick rolls his eyes

Mercifully, they have appointments set up by LorShugagh, and they head off to them.  Zoe's huff has sunk deeper, and she's getting quieter, but apparently everything is 'fine'.  Then she stops talking.  Loudly.

Arjun's lot are off to 'The Chain Store', which they seem not be allowed to tell us is House of Fraser.  Zoe starts in about the Knotties:
Zoe: 'There's nothing like this on the market!'
House of Fraser man: 'It looks like a dishcloth'
Ah well, onto the mood lights.  Unfortunately, they didn't think to ask about whether they could negotiate on price, which doesn't impress House of Fraser woman, and they leave, looking worried, but thinking it went 'really well'.

Meanwhile, Tim and Kirsty are off to Liberty, 'the destination of choice for lovers of good design', as we are informed by voiceover man, who almost has to shout to be heard over the squeak of the brakes on one of the bikes.  Tim's going to pitch.  Once they get in the door.  Which they do, after a fashion.  First up, the Doggy Ride.  And, as Tim points out, you can put you shopping in it.  Or sling the kids in.  Maybe all three.  The guy loves the dog bed, though.  Onto the bikes.  In Liberty, remember.  The bikes are 'Bat-AY-vus', but Tim calls them 'BRAT-a-vus';  Nick is appalled, but frankly I can't see that it's going to make things any worse.

Now Tim and Kirsty head to House of Fraser (or 'The Chain Store', as we're still calling it).  Tim falls over the Doggy Ride.  Unfortunately, House of Fraser don't do exercise or cycling, and the bloke has 3 dogs, and wants to know how they'll fit.  Clearly the answer is 'They won't, you crazy, crazy man; don't be so fecking ridiculous', but Tim suggests he 'buy a large one'.  Blank looks.

Onto the bikes, then.  And House of Fraser have not, in the interveening 3 minutes, started an exercise section or a cycling section. Thankfully, Tim is now getting a bit fecked off by the annoying little man who doesn't like his bikes, and decides to say it straight:
Man: 'Where do the bikes fit into our store?'
Tim: 'They don't'

Arjun and Co are now in Liberty, unpacking their Knotties, cutlery and lamps from a plastic bag.  Arjun is pitching the cutlery.
Arjun: 'This is very much for the individualist, for people who like eating on their own'
Woman: 'So who likes eating on their own?'
Arjun: 'People who live on their own and like living on their own.  Somebody who likes being separate from other people' 
Ah yes, knives for psychopaths.
Blank stares.

Now it all goes back in the plastic bag, although not quickly.  Seriously, how long does it take to stick knives and lamps in boxes?

Next up, they have 4 hours to flog the stuff to anyone who'll buy it.

Arjun is relieved to be shot of Emma and Zoe, and enjoys some time with his comfort blankets.

Meanwhile, Emma is playing to Zoe's strengths and letting her do all the talking.

Tim is flogging bikes, although mostly trying just to keep control of both of them at once.  Weirdly, he takes them into a shop, fails to sell them, and then comes out with only one.  Why?  What's he done with the other one?  Is Nick pedalling furiously behind?  We never find out.

Kirsty is struggling under the weight of her doggy things, and tries hawking them to a dodgy-looking pet shop which has nicked the Jumanji name and logo, and then to Doreen's, which looks like it's probably more a 'Pitbulls and Piranhas' kind of establishment.

Zoe tries, and fails, to sell the posh lamp things to Poundland.

Tim gets his bikes caught in some automatic doors, but what he lacks in finesse and ability to manouver bikes, he claims to make up for in negotiating skills, as evidenced by him being really good at Monopoly.  Tim is a bit like James from last year; you get the impression he's kind of taking the piss, but actually is turning out to be not too bad at all; he sells 6 of the weird colour-change bikes, but no cross-trainer-bike things.

And so to the boardroom, and off they head with their suitcases.  We see interviews with all of them saying how great they are and how they're the best and not going to go home today, and the complete package, and really good.  They all look really nervous, and I'm even warming to Zoe, a little bit.

Lord Shugah makes a joke about 'Clever clogs', and they all laugh obligingly.  For the record, he later makes jokes about whether Arjun was 'William of Orange or a right lemon', and that one of them will soon be 'on yer bike'.

After some discussion on how Arjun was a bit indecisive, and how he was a bit autocratic and wouldn't make decisions himself (eh?) and how Kirsty shouldn't have let him have the lamps, we get to hear how much they sold.

First, the sales pitches they set up themselves:
    Arjun: £1146.45; Kirsty: £2529.09.... ooooh, Kirsty's ahead
Next, House of Fraser:
   Arjun: £9025; Kirsty: £0... That's Arjun on £10000, Kirsty on £2500.
Finally, Liberty:
   Arjun: £0; Kirsty: £39700



40 grand... and a new Apprentice record.  And Arjun's eyes nearly fall out.

There's no prize this week, so Kirsty and Tim head back to the house to play table football.

The others retreat to the Cafe of Doom to discuss what happened.  I'll tell them what happened.  Kirsty The Invincible and Tim The Clueless But Friendly landed on their feet and can't believe their luck.  But obviously they can't say that, so they blame each other.  Back in the boardroom, in fact, they form a nice little trinity of blame: Arjun thinks Emma should go; Emma thinks Zoe should go, and Zoe thinks Arjun should go.  Emma points out they did lots of stuff wrong; not that she did anything about it at the time, as is also pointed out.  Lord Shugah tells some complicated story about a zebra and a lion.

Then they get sent back out and then they get called back in, and are asked why they should stay in.

Arjun points out that he has the skills to thrive, which makes Zoe purse her lips.  He points out that he has the potential to become the greatest businessman in the world, which is pushing it a bit.

Zoe says she did everything she was asked.

Emma says she is not the best seller or pitcher, but she tries really hard, and then she cries a bit, and I feel sorry for her, because she's not bad, just a bit too earnest, but she could probably do quite well if she unwound a bit.

Lord Shugah sums it up:
Emma's rayzoomay is quite good, with lots of enterprising ventures (such as selling eggs and sweets), but is not that great on tasks.
Arjun is maybe too nice
Zoe is just... Zoe

Anyway, Arjun's in the final, yay! (dirty look from Zoe) and Emma's 'got summink there' and Zoe might not change her spots, but Emma's fired and cries.  As she leaves the room, she whispers 'well done guys', and gets a sneer from Zoe.

So Zoe and Arjun go back to the house, and Tim and Kirsty ask how it went, and ask Zoe what Lord Shugah said about her, and she says 'he said loads of positive things'.  So at least her confidence has not been dented.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Junior Apprentice: Week 4

It is a rare thing when I watch the Apprentice and they end up doing a much better job than I think I would have done, but such was this week's episode.  The contestants were (for unexplained reasons) taken to some David Beckham aircraft hanger and told they were going to sell art.

Tim (beardy sheep-shearer, earlier seen straightening his hair, and yes, you read that corerctly) had previously committed to leading a team, so he's in charge of Kirsty (the wee Scottish one) and Hannah (the one we love to be ambivalent about).  At one point there is a delightful shot of the girls each making the other look totally out of proportion.  Emma (16, sells eggs and sweets) is put in charge of the other two - Arjun (FTW) and Zoe (Dun Dun DUNNNNNNNNNN).  The task is basically to visit some artists, choose the two they like the best, and put on an exhibition of their paintings, with the aim of selling them.

The teams' approaches could not be more different.  Tim declares himself not that into the whole 'arty-farty' world, and Kirsty and Hannah are equally uninspired.  On the other hand, Zoe is, like, a total expert, because her parents are artists and she knows all about art and oh, how did she not end up team leader on this one because she would be so awesome?!  During the course of the show, her parents, in fact, evolve - starting as art teachers, they first turn into artists and then top artists, all in the space of several hours; this information is used to stamp Emma, the artists and the prospective buyers into the ground at every opportunity, and also at some points which were not opportunities until Zoe got hold of them and beat them into submission.

Anyway, they have to see 6 artists each, so both teams split up.  Tim and Hannah go off together, with Tim doing the talking and Hannah writing things down.  Kirsty is packed off on her own, and manages to offend the artists by going in and saying 'AreTheseThemThey'reNiceTheseOnesTooOKHowMuchAndCanWeNegotiate' and then walking out again.  However, she does see a lady whose 'art' involves her going to people's houses, dressing up as them, and having her photo taken.

Zoe is also on her own, and is saying all the right sorts of words to artists, apart from talking about price, and we are treated to a brilliant moment when she has shmoozed all over one of them and then, as she leaves, remembers she was supposed to ask about whether the prices are negotiable, and has to turn and go back.

Presumably Arjun and Emma are also seeing artists, but we see little of this.

They each have to narrow it down to 2 artists, and Team Emma choose the bloke who makes things out of bendy lights and mirrors, and the guy who does urban prints which are nice and cheap.

Team Tim also chose the urban prints guy, but the urban prints guy chose Zoe, so they ended up with a photographer and some mad canvases which resembled something you might end up with if you let the kids loose with paints and a white living room wall.

They then press-gang some people into coming along to their exhibitions, which will happen tomorrow.

So, the day of the exhibitions, and the bendy lights guy tells Zoe she has displayed one of his 'items' the wrong way.  'It should be landscape!' he declares, with a roll of the eyes, before storming off.  Not so much of a problem with Tim's lot, as they have barely got the stuff out of the vans, and one of the artists is having to price pictures as the crowds start to arrive.

Hannah is keen to mingle, and to share her knowledge 'Yeah.  Blue's like my favourite colour too'.  Kirsty sort of hovers around, and, to be charitable, at least avoids getting in anyone's way.  Tim is chatting everyone up, and clothes himself in glory by selling £1000 of photos with 5 seconds to go.

Over on Team Zoe, every opportunity for conversation between any two people is being interrupted by the Lipstick herself, in case they didn't already know how expert she was.

Not surprisingly, in the board room, Arjun and Emma turn on Zoe, who rolls her eyes and clearly resents having to be on a team with anyone else, never mind these two specimens of ignorance.  Thankfully, they've won anyway, so yay! and they're off to get suits made by some tailor guy.  Arjun and Emma set off in front, with Zoe trailing behind.  Whether this is because she is not speaking to them, or because there's only so fast you can go when you're pouting, flicking your hair about and shooting sidelong glares at the people in front, we cannot tell.

Team Tim retreat to the losers' cafe to argue.  At this point it is important to observe that Kirsty seems to have a special invincibility shield.  She has won only 1 task, and yet has hardly been in the boardroom, and has got off scot free every time.  And let's face it, it's not because she's that great at the tasks.

So anyway, back to Lord Shugah, and they all get hauled over the coals.  Tim is blamed for Kirsty's appalling artist-shmoozing technique (see, invincibility again); Kirsty reminds Lord Shugah that she has lost loads of tasks but has never been fired yet (and again), and then Hannah gets fired for being too smart.

Next week they're off to foreign parts, and Tim falls over something.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Worrying too much about trends.

I've recently discovered 'Stuff Christians Like', a satirical blog which is sometimes very funny and sometimes very American and sometimes both.

Today being 'Serious Wednesday', it features a serious post, which I hereby link to because it's something I've been thinking about and it says things better than I can, although I'm honing my thoughts and may put them here soon.

It's all about how we shouldn't worry first and foremost about trends when we think about church planning, but we should worry about things that matter. I do a lot of stuff with our Community Centre in church, and I can assure you that very few people there are terribly worried about whether we sing Robin Mark or Keith Getty or Graham Kendrick or Charles Wesley or just sit there and think; they couldn't care less whether we have small groups or big groups or no groups or one big massive group; they lose no sleep at all over the time of the Sunday evening service; they are entirely ambivalent about whether we have drums or organ, screen or hymnbooks, pews or chairs. They do, however, enjoy a laugh with people who care about them; they like being part of a community; they like feeling that their children are valued and cared for; and when big things happen in their lives, they may just remember that the people of God are there to do what they can for them, and they may just start to wonder whether that means God cares about them too.

Worrying too much about trends.