Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Apprentice 2010: Week 4

The episode begins with our friend Stuart Baggs The Brand answering the phone, presumably immediately changing it to 'sold'. They have about 30 seconds or so to get up, dressed, and to the Science Museum, where they are introduced to this week's task, which is the one where they take wick inventions and try to flog them to shops.

The teams get swapped round again, but I don't care.

Weirdly, and with cavalier lack of self-awareness, Melissa is gagging to be in charge of her team, but so is Jamie.  Mel has all the relevant experience, such as it is, and Jamie has none, so they vote for Jamie, because they're not complete fools.  Mel looks all disappointed.  On the other team, Chris Bates is put in charge.  Yawn.

And so to the inventions, which are truly insane.  A helmet thing that allegedly reduces fine lines, and definitely makes you look like you're being melted.  A thing that shrieks every time you dare to slouch.  An exercise thing made almost entirely from elastic bands.  A t-shirt equivalent of suck-your-tummy-in-granny-pants (£50 a pop).  A spade with 2 handles, which appears to be the gardening equivalent of chopsticks.  A water-saving shower head (actually not insane, but lets Stuart Baggs the Twit do his David Brent impersonation).  And finally, a baby grow which changes colour when you blast your baby with a hairdryer.

Both teams want the baby grow, but Stuart Baggs the Brand was obnoxious to the inventor woman, so she chooses the other team, which is Chris Bates'.  They end up with:
Jamie's team: spade and shower head
Chris' team: baby grow and t-shirt

Pitch one, and Jamie and Mel are in Debenhams, who don't sell spades or shower heads.  Mel thinks they should start though.  Really thinks they should start.  Really thinks it would be a great idea.  Seriously, Debenhams people, just open a spade and shower head department, it will be quicker and easier.

Pitch two, and Chris, Alex and Liz are in Debenhams.  The t-shirt is all well and good, but it costs £50, which is a rip off.  Liz has more success with the baby grow; Alex insists it will be all over the news and on breakfast tv.

I can't quite understand why I dislike the baby grow (the stated objective is to allow parents to monitor their baby's temperature), but I think my reasons include:
1. You'd need at least 10 of them, and they cost £25 each.  Because, let's face it, how many parents are going to sleep well the night they put the baby down in a regular baby grow instead of the magic temperature reading baby grow?
2. You have to be looking at the baby to see whether the baby grow has changed colour.  With this restriction, I cannot think of any circumstance in which a thermometer would not be as easy, and more accurate.
3. I distrust clothes that change colour.  It does not seem natural.
4. I am not convinced it would survive washing and ironing.

Alex Epstein has gone all encouraging, though, and I like him more.

But now we hit a snag: Jamie wants to pitch tomorrow, but Mel thinks it's because he's too stupid to see how great she would be at doing it.  She has a very strong skill set, she says.  We have yet to see it, of course.

Anyway, on Day 2 (because 2 meetings with Debenhams seemed to take up all of Day 1), they have an appointment with B&Q, and they can also set up any other meetings they want.

Melissa is pitching to a plumbing wholesaler in Leamington Spa.    It is unfortunate that the demonstration thing has picked up an airlock in its travels, and can only manage a dribble of water.  Stuart starts biting it.  This does not help, and they don't want to buy it.  But Mel really wants them to buy it, because she's driven all the way from London, but they don't want to buy it, but Mel really thinks it could do well for them, but they really are not interested... this goes on for a bit.

On the other team, Paloma, Sandeesh and Laura are trying to flog the t-shirt in what appears to be a range of gay sex shops.  They do ok initially, but then it all breaks into a screaming match about orders and exclusivity, right on the doorstep of the shop.  Nick hovers in the background, one eye on the girls, and one eye on the range of rubber goods in the shop behind him.  The upshot of it all is that they give some guy an exclusive deal, only to phone Chris and be told that they can't do that.  Well, that solves the row about who gets credit for the deal, then.

Over at B&Q, Jamie, Jo and Christopher are bigging up the shower head, and their own grand ambitions, and how they're all ears.  The other half of their team (Stuart, Stella and Mel) are all over the moon because they forced half a dozen shower heads onto a bloke in a shop.

And so to the boardroom, where both teams have actually done quite well, and could, potentially, not make complete prats of themselves.  Fortunately, Stella, Mel and Stuart have fecked up by selling the shower too cheap; meanwhile, Laura, Sandeesh and Paloma get a ticking off for the Big Row, which is now known as the Battle of Old Compton Street.

The numbers come next: Apollo (Chris' lot) got £76,518.80 of orders, while Synergy (Jamie & Co) got £122,225.95, or thereabouts.  Flip.  Gasp.  Synergy head off to a spa, while Apollo are off to the Cafe de Doom to stare blankly at each other, and then bicker a bit.  Melissa's vocabulary gets all inventive; she claims there was no room for manouverment in her pitches.

In the boardroom, Lord Shugah tells them that Mel, Stella and Stuart only brought in £800, and that is crapski.  Stuart blames Melissa, and she turns on him for getting an airlock in the shower thing, and then Karren says that the people in the shop though Melissa was really annoying, which comes as a surprise to Melissa, at least.  Stella admits that she didn't know how much the stuff she was selling was meant to cost.

So who's coming back in with Jamie?  Please let it be Mel and someone.  Please let it be Mel and someone.  Please... YES!  It's Mel and Stuart Baggs The Brand.  They go outside and Melissa sulks.  They come back in, and Jamie gets told off for leaning on the table.  Melissa complains that Jamie gave her no feedback, and didn't help her learn.  Jamie says she's like a firework that goes crazy, and she says she's not like a firework that goes crazy, at least not in her analysization.  Melissa is trying to be a poor little lamb, while maintaining her professionality.  She has a bag of potential skills.  Not actual skills, note.  She calls Lord Shugah 'Sir Lord', which I quite like.

Stuart claims he should stay in because:
1) He's 21
2) He'd like some of Lord Shugah's massive resources (snigger)
3) He's really good at selling yo-yos in the playground

A tough choice.

But since Melissa's been so obviously hopeless, she gets firedicated.

We then see the finest Apprentice exit EVER.  After a brief pause where we wonder if she's going to stage a sit-in, Melissa storms out, glancing back over her shoulder to say 'Well done for ganging up on me.  Horrible people'.  She won't accept the standard fake hug from Jamie, and tells him 'I have nothing to say to either of you.  Save your skin and come out of my face.'  In the taxi, she is more level-headed: 'Karmically, they will be retributed.  The universe speaks louder than I do.'

Flicking over to 'You're Fired', because that's bound to be fabulous, we discover that Melissa has, in the year since this was filmed, got rid of the glasses and become a long-ish haired brunette.  She looks totally different.  You wouldn't recognise her.  Which is probably best.

Complicated Things Made Simple

Here's a thing which recently struck me as odd.  Why does no one ever seem to know when the clocks change?  It's the same every year - last Saturday/Sunday in October.  It is not complicated.

When I was young, I got the impression that it was something to like 37 days after the sighting of the first unicorn in a forest north of Narnia.  I was quite surprised to learn that it's really not that hard.

Friday, 29 October 2010

The WhyNotSmile Guide To Halloween Costumes

Now WhyNotSmile is not one for parties and dressing up and all of that, but nevertheless is a surprising wealth of opinion when it comes to creating a good costume for Halloween.  It feels appropriate to share this now, for many of you will be going to Halloween parties this weekend, and WhyNotSmile does not want you to look like idiots.

So, here are my top tips for a good Halloween costume:

1) Consider the long term.  It's all very well to walk in and have everyone gasp in awe at your outfit, but there will come a point in the evening when you wish to participate.  A cousin of mine once went to a fancy dress party as a bunch of grapes, by sticking balloons all over herself, which was rather ingenious, but she couldn't sit down all night. You may wish to try your costume beforehand, by performing the following activities: sitting, eating, relieving yourself, and standing within speaking distance of other people.

2) Don't go too obtuse.  No matter what your costume, there'll always be someone who can read the wrong sort of thing into it, and you don't want everyone secretly thinking you came as something rude.  Better to be obviously a ghost, than have people think you're dressed as poo.

3) It is not good to make your costume, or any part of it, from food.

4) It is best to be unique, but there are certain acceptable duplicates; it is quite ok for a Halloween party to have more than one ghost, witch or Wonderwoman.

5) Home-made costumes are better than bought ones, but there are 2 bands of acceptable effort: lots of effort, and no effort.  Basically, the chart of effort vs impressiveness is U-shaped.  Lots of effort = attention to detail, secure fastenings and a convicing outfit.  No effort = bedsheet ghost.  Either is fine, although you won't win best costume for the ghost.  What's NOT fine is a half-assed attempt at Daffy Duck.

6) Ensure everything is securely fastened.  Do not leave a trail of glitter all over the floor if you ever want to be invited back.  Equally, and I cannot emphasise this enough, make sure your costume won't fall off.

7) Know your limitations.  It is fine to concoct some kind of costume which allows you to appear to take your head off and spout blood everywhere, but you can really only get away with it twice in one evening, unless guest turnover is quite high.  Do not keep repeating your trick all evening, as it will become tedious.

8) Do not go as any of the following: yourself, someone who couldn't be bothered to dress up, a normal person, someone dressed as yourself, or you at work.  Those are all stupid.

I trust this helps.

Monday, 25 October 2010

I Am Not Laughing, And I Want To Be Very Clear On That

I have a dilemma.  Long-term readers will know that here at WhyNotSmile, there is a morbid fascination with all things Richard Dawkins.  The enthusiasm has waned of late, because there's only so long you can listen to him, let's face it, but it has been piqued again with the news that it's all gone a bit, as we might say, 'tits up' over at

First of all, a few months ago, there was a Whole Big Thing when the website forum got shut down all unexpected-like, and people's accounts got deleted and posts were removed and all sorts of things which you wouldn't have entirely expected from a 'free-thinking oasis'.  There were all kinds of outrage, which seemed to surprise The Prof no end, as he had presumably not heard of 'the internet' and didn't know that it's basic raison d'etre is to allow all the twits and psychos of the day to come aboard and spout abuse at anyone who's fool enough to pay attention, and at many who aren't.

Now it has been announced that Dawkins is taking his web guy to court because web guy has been embezzelling funds from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

So the dilemma is this: on the one hand, since the internet seems not to have picked up on it yet, I have a reasonable chance of getting Quite High On Google if I blog about it, and I could use the publicity.  On the other hand, it is bad to steal things and it seems a tad spiteful to take the rip out of it.


Hang on, he basically called us all terrorists in his book.  Sod it.  Let the rip-taking commence.

First of all, the story is rather odd.  The basic facts are that web guy Josh Timonen was hired in 2007 by Richard Dawkins to build and maintain his website; for this he was paid $278,750 (approximately £177,000) in 3.5 years.  The website involved a shop, from which one could buy t-shirts with big 'A's on them, and some DVDs of Dawkins spouting off; the money from this was to go to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (introduced here).  Then there was the thing about the forum, which appears to be incidental, and then in May they had a big row and fell out and now Dawkins is trying to sue ole Josh because he has allegedly fiddled the books and slipped 90% of takings into his own pocket.  Josh, of course, denies this.

This raises various questions:

1. Why on this earth was Josh being paid £50,000 per year to run what is an embarrasment of a website?  I'm not even referring to the content, which comes from Dawkins, and is what it is - you have to work with what you're given, let's face it.  I refer to everything else, which gives the site an aura of 'built by a colourblind 12-year-old with little time, patience or skill'.

2. Why did no one notice that they seemed to be selling an awful lot of t-shirts for the $30,000 dollars the site was bringing in?  I mean, if you have a heap of t-shirts in the office, and then it disappears, and the bloke who sold them is handing you some magic beans and telling you the site's 'just scraping by', you would think you'd start to wonder.

Naturally, atheists are in a (very earnest) frenzy over it all (see here, for instance), mainly in a gloating kind of way because they'd all fallen out with him over the forum thing, but also in a slightly alarmist 'think of the ammunition the theists will think they have now' kind of way.  One commenter was betting that the Vatican are peeing themselves laughing, which I think rather over-estimates the Vatican's interest in Richard Dawkins and his doings.  But if you live in a world where everyone believes that every theist believes that every theist is morally superior to every atheist, you can see why they'd be concerned.

In any case, you have to have a certain amount of sympathy for all sides.  Dawkins, for clearly not taking enough interest in how things were going, and Josh, for having the stupidity to get caught when he'd only embezzled about half a million dollars.  He should take some tips from these guys; say what you like about Christians, but when they go all immoral, they do it in style.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Apprentice 2010: Week 3

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm warming slightly to Alex Epstein.  I just wanted to get that out of the way before we begin.  I would also like to apologise for the lateness of this review.  The thing is, we're now slap-bang in the middle of the traditional Apprentice Lull, where we sort of know who's not going to win, but we can't really start to say who might win, and it's still more about weeding out the little sickly ones than anything else.

It begins at 6.30am, with Alex Epstein answering the phone to be informed that they're all being picked up in half an hour.  For reasons unexplained, Alex Epstein is already wearing his suit.  Does the man not own jammies?  It is quite possible he does not.  I want to stop thinking about that, but I can't.  So he heads off upstairs and wakes up everyone else in a very clear, decisive voice.

They all go to Fortnum and Mason or somewhere, where they're told they are going to be baking buns and stuff.  It's sort of like the sausage task again, but with flour instead of sawdust.  It's "turning flour inta serious dough", in fact.  Lord Shugah attempts to stop the fighting by swapping them all round.  I no longer have any clue who's in what team, and also I refuse to use the team names, because they're stupid.

Jamie thinks he'd be great as project manager, and Melissa thinks she'll be great too, and they both really want to do it, so the team vote and put Mel in charge.  She promptly spouts some marketing crap, and then falls to pieces.  On the other team, Shibby (who last week I was calling Chris, but hey!) is happy to be in charge, which is good because no one else can be arsed.

So far, so good.

Now they have to decide what they'll bake, and then they have to go to some hotels and stuff and get some orders from them.  Shibby and co decide quite quickly that they'll make breads and stuff.  On the other team, Mel is using her expertise in the food distribution industry:

"In my experience, people buy... It's difficult to say... If I'm thinking about it, and I keep coming back to it... It's a good idea to step out the box slightly, and introduce someink new"

But enough of this, let's go sell something to someone!  So half of each team troop off to the hotels to meet the people Lord Shugagh has set up meetings with; the other half go to the industrial bakeries and wear funny hats and exclaim over how much olive oil goes into stuff.  The first sales pitch is in a posh-looking hotel, so it would be wise to not look like twits.  Just saying.

Mel's lot go in, and it starts like a GCSE English project, in which the main objective is to make sure that everybody says something, whether it makes sense or not.  It doesn't, obviously.  It is, in fact, utterly witless.  The hotel people want some bread rolls, and Melissa begins working out costings, because the middle of a meeting is a good time for that.  After about 10 minutes of calculator tapping, the hotel people suggest they go outside and take 2 minutes to work out the cost.  Now seriously: packet of baps in Tesco, about a quid for 6 maybe?  So about 20p each, ish.  But this is wholesale, so, we're maybe talking in the region of 10p each, give or take.  They have a list of ingredients, so they can use that to get something more accurate.  Add it up, bit of dividing by 1000.  It's not that hard.  15 minutes later, they go back in.  Mel has her price: £1.82 per roll.  Yeah.

So Shibby's lot go in and are charging 6p per roll, which is more like it, and can make as many millions as they want, and come out with an order for 1000 rolls, and 900 other things, such as muffins, croissants and so on.  They "absolutely guarantee" the order will be delivered, and we realise they are doomed.  They phone the bakers to tell them, and the bakers have a fit, because they don't know how to make croissants, and they're already making other things, and then Sandeesh goes on strike, which appears to make no noticeable difference to production levels.

Back to Mel, who's trying to sell stuff to a coffee shop.  She puts Alex Epstein on maths, because she's crap at it and he's a nerd.  The bloke wants to know what size the muffins are, which seems to be a question pitched a little above their capabilities, but Alex does some quick adding up, or possibly says a random number, and the day is saved.

Shibby's off to another meeting, with a restaurant who want baguettes and buns and stuff.  The thing is, they want lots of them, so Shibby goes into a huff, because it's so unreasonable of them to want so much stuff when he can't make it and is not Superman.  Also, there appears to be no point in being polite about it, even in front of customers.

At Mel's bakery, things are going with military precision, because Christopher is in charge, and has a Plan.  At Shibby's place, Sandeesh is still in a wibbly, and they don't appear to have heard of the hotel order that they flipped out over earlier, so they haven't even started making rolls, never mind 1000 of them.  Still, in the car going home, Shibby and Paloma and Laura talk about how Sandeesh doesn't do anything.

Next morning, Shibby's lot have to deliver the 1000 rolls they haven't made, so they throw 16 of them in a box and head over.  Sean the chef freaks out, and Shibby fails to help the situation by laughing in his face.  Now, the thing to do here is to jump back in the car and leg it (I'm not saying that is the Right(TM) thing or the moral thing; merely that if one's primary objective is to win a crappy job in a dodgy computer firm on a tv show, then this is the thing most likely to forward that objective); Shibby, however, ends up giving the bloke £130.

Meanwhile, Mel is delivering her muffins, which are judged to be not classy enough, so that's a bummer, but the bloke likes the bread and at least they have some huge muffins to sell on the streets.

Onto the flogging stuff at markets, and it's the usual story: Chris inexplicably dressed as an oven, Sandeesh standing round hoping the muffins magically sell themselves, and a lot of 'sell, sell, sell'.  There is a glorious moment when Melissa thinks someone is French, and says (according to the subtitles) "You to buy the product and I search the toilet for you".  The other highlight is when Alex Epstein tells Melissa to stop being so obnoxious (but he says it nicer than that, which I think is why I've warmed to him), and they end up having a big row which he attempts to win by reciting his GCSE results.

So they sell all their stuff, or most of their stuff, and it's off to the boardroom.  To cut to the chase, Shibby's lot have lost, and he declares later "Even if we didn't pay that compensation to the hotel, we still would have lost".  Ah yes.  An excellent point, and well made.  If you had been less crap, you still would have lost.  You were 2 levels of crap below winning.  Excellent.

Mel's lot go off to some belly dancing, which gets a bit uncomfortable.  Shibby's lot go to the loser's cafe, which is selling Mel's muffins.  They all blame Shibby, which is not unreasonable.

Back in the boardroom ("I've heard about bread winners, I'm looking at six bread losers"), bit of a telling off from Karren, "Sixteen bladdy rolls out of a thousand!", blah blah blah, Shibby's bringing Paloma and Sandeesh back in.  Paloma's going to eat him alive, you can tell; Sandeesh goes along with it, and Shibby's fired.  Part of his defence is that he was so busy selling muffins that he didn't even have time to break wind, so it's probably fair enough.

Next week looks like things may pick up a bit, as it seems to involve drying a baby with a hairdryer.

I've also discovered an excellent video summary of the episode:

Friday, 15 October 2010

The Apprentice 2010 - Episode 2

So this week they're taken to Heathrow and told they're not going anywhere ha ha ha.  Shugaghmeistah hasn't bothered to turn up, as he has 'pressing business' to attend to (I'm guessing his wife's made him do the ironing again, heh), but he's on a big tv in the departures lounge, and things get going regardless.  We get some big news to kick things off - Raleigh ('It was SHAMEful') has gone home because his brother's been injured in Afghanistan.  Which is not really funny, and he's all right now, so let's move on, with a slight sense of regret, because Raleigh had comedy potential.

Anyway, Stella gets put in charge of the boys, who all start to dribble.  This week is the design one, where they have to think up a new thing that hasn't been thought up yet, and make it and flog it.  It is, in other words, the week which has previously given us the cardboard camping crap thing and the exercise-and-read-and-stretch-and-do-dishes crap thing, and much else.  The reason they're at Heathrow is, rather disappointingly, not because they have to design a new plane ('wings are like, really naff, it should have, like wheels on really long legs so it can just go on the roads but it can go over houses and in the sea and stuff'), but because they have to design a new thing for the beach.  Now, a team of 7 People Who Knew What They Were Talking About would struggle, I imagine, to come up with anything truly innovative for the beach in one afternoon, so we should be in for a treat.

Laura gets put in charge of Apollo (I missed the reason, but I think she remembered one time when her teacher liked her drawing of a sandcastle, or something), and then the girls start screaming at each other.  And I mean SCREAMING.  Laura barely gets a word in edgeways, and they continue this for about a day and a half, managing somehow to design the most crappy piece of crap in the history of the show.  But we'll come back to that in a moment.

The boys, meanwhile, are drooling over Stella, who's reading the riot act.  Then, sensibly, they get down to business.  First up with a Cunning Plan is Chris The Surgeon, who wants to make a big hand thing that you can use to put sunscreen on your back.  You know, that job that those of us with friends and family get them to do.  The next biggest problem you face on the beach is trying to keep your drinks cold, so it is eventually decided that they'll make a thing to keep your drinks cool.  But, obviously, this is The Apprentice, so it can't just be a thing that keeps your drinks cool; it has to be a thing that keeps your drinks cool, and you can lie on, and you can keep the baby in, and makes you look really cool; it does not, of course, need to do any of these things well.  And they call it the Cuuli, with umlauts above the 'u's to look like smiley faces.  They ask a bloke what he thinks of the name, and he thinks it's pants, so that settles it - the Cuuli is 'more, like, for women'.

Still, it's better than what the girls come up with.  Now, in fairness, they only devoted about 3 minutes of actual thinking time to it, when they got bored of shouting at each other, so we shouldn't judge them too harshly.  On the other hand, 3 of them did actual market research, which consisted of playing beach volleyball with 2 random people who laughed at all their ideas, because they were rubbish: for instance, the 'foot glove' to 'protect your feet from the warm sand'.  Yeah, they should have done that.  They could have called it 'The Sock'.  But what they actually come up with is the Book-eazee (no idea how they spell it), a device to make reading on the beach easier.

Now, I am more of a nerd than anyone you know, and I will buy anything at all that I can find pertaining to reading, but the Book-eazee will not be on my Christmas list, because this is how it works:
1. Find beach
2. Open box and remove 8 separate parts of Book-eazee
3. Construct Book-eazee by randomly attaching 8 identical rods in a particular, but unspecified, order
4. You have now formed an arch, which you should stick in the sand
5. Attach plastic sheet thing, and place book in polypocket
6. Get brick or something to prop up the whole device which is now sagging under the weight of the book
7. Read first page
8. Remove book from polypocket, turn page, and put back in polypocket
Repeat step 8 for every other page.

To improve things further, they then get a big box of sand and haul it around to the 'hawking to retailers' bit, because the main thing that will confuse people about this is how you put it in the sand.  You wonder what positive things any of the retailers will find to say about it, but then a very nice lady says she likes the name, so that's good.  On the other hand, one of them says that 'the main difficulty' she see's with this is that it would blow over really easily in the wind, which is like looking at a plane that's crashed in your garden and wondering how you'll ever fix the topiary.

Meanwhile, the boys spend some time taking photos of Stella in a bikini; they use the excuse that she's lying on the Cuuli, which they need to take photos of.  She's wearing the bikini because they made her, by the way.  Onto their presentation, and we have Chris (the surgeon one) demonstrating and Chris (the 'really funny, anything but mediocre' one) reading from a Ladybird book in monotone. 'This is Chris.  Chris is at the beach.  Chris looks cool.  Chris wants to phone his wife.  His phone is in his Cuuli.'  Stella had earlier tried to stop him doing the pitch, because of how crap he was at it, but he threw a very quiet, mediocre strop and called her management style 'piss-poor'.

Alex Epstein (for some reason, we seem to have surnames for everyone apart from the 2 Chrises and the other bloke whose first name hasn't even been mentioned yet) also chips in, with something about the Cuuli allowing parents to keep their baby's food at an optimum temperature, or their baby at optimum temperature, or something; he's so earnest that I just can't listen.  Incidentally, I forgot to say last week that Alex Epstein is an 'Unemployed Head of Communications'.  Really?  Is that a thing?  Is it like being a 'very athletic corpse' or something?

On to the boardroom, where the girls scream at each other some more.  Eventually someone gets them to shut up, and Nick and Karren read out the figures: the boys sold 100 Cuulis, and the girls sold nothing at all, so they all start screaming again.  The boys go to play golf, where Alex Epstein is very awkward, and the rest of them high-five and jump about and generally lower the tone.  The girls have a change of screaming venue, where they yap and yap and yap and yap and yap at each other and blame each other for everything.

Then they go back to the boardroom and scream some more, and get told off by Karren for being a disgrace to women, and business, and book reading devices.  Laura has to decide who she'll bring back into the boardroom; evenutally she decides she'll bring Joanna (who has managed the impressive feat of being the loudest and screamiest of all) and Shandeesh (who doesn't seem to have spoken yet), and then swaps Shandeesh for Joy, without any real reason.  They sit outside and sulk in blessed silence and then come in, and, to cut a lot of screaming short, Joy gets fired for not doing anything, proving once again that being an average, not obnoxious person gets you nowhere on this show.  They skip the customary insincere hug-and-mutter-'allthebestkeepintouch', and Laura and Joanna skip back to the house, hand in hand, where they are greeted by everyone but Chris, who seems to be sulking that they came back, or something.

A loud episode, and frankly I think Joy got off lightly, and am starting to doubt whether my eardrums will survive.

Still, next week is making buns.  Please, please tell me they split the girls into individual teams or something.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Apprentice 2010 - Episode 1

We have many reasons to be thankful to The Apprentice, but surely the greatest is that they take 16(? sometimes it seems like a lot more) egotistical, self-aggrandising twits, and remove them from the job market for several months each year.  Then they put them on tv so we can all point and laugh.

The first few episodes, of course, are about giving us a broad overview of what we can expect once things really kick off.  Now it is clear that, in many ways, what we can expect is much of the same, and yet, with every passing minute, we see new methods for executing the same old idiocy.  Not initially, naturally, because we start with the usual string of twits saying things like 'I'm the whole package', 'I'm the best', 'I'm just totally unique'.  There are some variations on the theme, as you would expect: we're treated to a guy with a posh accent and the eyes of the dead gravely telling us that he's hilarious; another proclaims himself to be 'Stuart Baggs - the brand' and says that 'everything I touch turns to sold'; a third warns 'My first word wasn't mummy - it was money'; Alex Epstein (a chap who talks like he's reading the news and looks like he's just seen a wasp land on your head) sticks with the obvious, basically saying 'I'm mental, me'.  Charmed, I'm sure.

Not that Lord Shugah helps, as he brings them into the boardroom and bigs up the metaphors... 'You have to sink or swim, and I don't do lifejackets'.  He also declares 'You all look good on paper.  But then so does fish and chips'.  I've no idea what he's getting at here, since fish and chips are also good when you lift them out of the paper and eat them, but it makes everyone shift slightly in their seats.

And so, into teams, boys and girls, and off you go.  The task is to make and sell sausages, starting RIGHT NOW.  So they all head off, with Nick and Karren-with-two-arrs in tow, to bicker about team names and who'll be project manager.  The girls start by briefly considering 'Winning Women', before ditching it in case, like, boys join the team some week.  After some discussion, they plump for 'Apollo', because it went to the moon and they're shooting for the stars, or something.  A blonde girl talks about how she knows loads and is brill, and says she doesn't want to project manage, and eventually Joanne says she'll do it, at which point blonde girl basically takes over again and starts wittering about costs.

The boys, meanwhile, are listing Christian nightclubs: "we could be called 'Fusion'"; "I like 'Synergy'" (I can't be sure, but I think both those options were mooted and rejected by the Junior Apprentices earlier in the year).  I think they eventually go for 'Synergy', but I wouldn't swear to it.  Dan becomes project leader, and quickly sets out his stall: 'I'm going to lead, and you lot will do all the work'.  I seem to be able to see further up Dan's nostrils than would be considered normal; I also cannot decide who or what he looks like: I think it's some kind of root vegetable with the facial features of a Muppet.  A mupnip, if you will.

Anyway, off to Smithfield market, where they try out their bargaining skills and buy loads of meat.  They have different strategies: the girls (after speaking with, and actually, in a departure from The Apprentice norms, listening to a butcher) decide to make gourmet sausages, with flavours like 'lamb and mint'; the boys buy a load of sawdust and mix it in with the legal minimum amount of meat which is required to be allowed to call a sausage a sausage.  Or, as StuartBaggsTheBrand says, 'we're pushing crap'.

And so to the sausage factory, where it's a mixture of The Generation Game, The Weakest Link, and Lord of the Flies - on the boys' side at least.  Dan The Mupnip (in blue shower cap) is yelling and swearing, and the rest of the boys are making tubes of sawdust, badly.  The girls fare a little better, and two of them even have the nous to do some sums to figure out what they need to charge for their sausages to make money.  Blond girl, though, is already fecking me off by calling them 'sauce-aaaah-jis' (rhymes with 'badges', but more drawn out).  One of the girls is called Paloma.

Onwards and upwards, and off to market.  StuartBaggsTheBrand (in jaunty blue boater) starts pinning down passers-by and jamming sausage down their throats, yelling 'finest locally produced sausages!' (what happened to 'pushing crap', huh?), and annoying Jamie The Sensible, but, admittedly, selling stuff.

The girls are finding that trade is slower, I'm guessing partly because they didn't bother making any samples, and partly because at least half of them are still wearing the boiler suits they wore in the sausage factory.  After a time, they take the hint from Nick's eyebrows, and fire up the griddle so people can try before they buy.

For reasons I miss, both teams also decide to start hawking their wares in the general localle as well.  The girls go to pubs; in one, they meet a chap called Dan (I think), who is interested enough to come back to the stall to see for himself, and then gets caught up in a row between Joanne and blonde girl, over who gets to 'close the sale'.  Girls.  Please.

The boys are marvellous; one of them tries to flog the sausages to a florist; Mupnip Dan goes door-to-door, knocking and then shouting through the letter box 'Want to buy some sausages?'.  As Dara O'thingie says in the 'Point and laugh at the person who got fired' show afterwards, it is quite probable that there is no product one would be less likely to buy door-to-door than sausages; even magic beans would be more appealing.  They then head off to local offices, because office workers are quite likely to buy raw sausages in the middle of the day, ho yes they are.  Oh, no they're not, apparently.

Back in the boardroom, and after some squabbling girls and then Lord Shugah telling Dan to sit up straight (guess who's getting fired now), the girls are pronounced winners by £15 (presumably it would have been more if they'd taken into account people who will sue because they ate the crud the boys sold them, and died painfully).

The boys are off to the Losers' Cafe, to be told again by Dan how great he is; the girls go and shriek at the marvellous house they'll be staying in.

Boardroom Mark II doesn't take place till the next morning, and the boys are all feeling rather buoyant.  StuartBaggsTheBrand hasn't even bothered to pack, so confident is he that he's not going home today.  Presumably the plan is, if the Shugahmeister fires him, he'll throttle him with the sausages and take over immediately, because, based on his performance thus far, he's going home today.

The boardroom is great.  Alex is basically an arse, and shows it.  Raleigh (? - the ginger one) talks sense, but in a voice that makes you want to slap him in the face with a wet fish; rather delightfully, however, he talks about Dan's bullying and arsing about and then declares, in a suddenly grown-up, serious voice, that 'It was SHAMEful'.  I tell you, if we ever need to declare war, we have our voiceover man RIGHT THERE.  However, Jamie The Sensible describes StuartBaggsTheBrand as 'cringeable', and the nation is united once more.

Boardroom Mark III is Dan, Alex and StuartBaggsTheBrand.  It goes like this:
Dan: I was brave, I said I'd lead the team
SBTB: Yeah, but you sold... like... (types on imaginary calculator, the tube, the STUPID STUPID FECK TUBE)... nothing
Dan: I was brave, I said I'd lead the team
*shot of Alex, looking like he's seen a wasp on Nick's head*
SBTB: Yeah, but you sold (whips out imaginary calculator)...
Sugahmeistah: Shut up StuartBaggsTheBrand
(repeat for 20 minutes)

Shugahmeistah: why shouldn't I sack you?

SBTB (probably now wishing he'd packed): If you hire me and I feck it all up, I'll give you a refund.  I'm unique.  I'm 21 (umm... note... pretty sure that's not THAT unusual).  I'm a grafter.  I'm the whole package.  I'm not a cliche (probably he'll also give 110% and he's not afraid to get his hands dirty.  I'm guessing).

Alex: fires off some soundbites and watches the wasp

Dan gets fired, thankfully.  I mean, they're all three of them absolute twits, but on balance, Alex and StuartBaggsTheBrand offer better viewing, which is essentially all I'm asking.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Another tremendous Tesco offer

You remember that thing a while back about the Bran Flakes in Tesco?  Where it was cheaper to buy more of them than less of them?

Today's offer:

I did spend some time trying to figure out whether the two prices refered to 2 different types of bread, or something, but I couldn't see that they did.

That being said, I didn't spend too long, as I'd already been hanging about trying to take the photo.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Things That Really Irk Me: Jeopardy!

It's been a while since I've featured anything from my list of things that drive me nuts (you may note that this category has been renamed, in the interests of family-friendliness), and so it is high time to continue the series.

Today's topic: Jeopardy!  Before we go further, I must admit that I've never actually watched a full episode of this, but since it's the format that I loathe, rather than the implementation,  I believe that my concerns remain valid nonetheless.

For those not familiar with the format of the show, it is basically a question-and-answers game with a twist; namely that it's an answers-and-questions game.  In other words, the contestant is given the answer, and have to state the question.

Now, in some hands, this is comic gold: Mock the Week, for instance, do an excellent round based on the same principle.  A sample from last week:
The answer is: 7 years
Suggested questions:
How old is the world, according to Sarah Palin?
How long does it take the idiot in front of you to use the self-checkout?
How many years good luck would you get if you broke Jeremy Clarkson's face?

Excellent stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.

But in actual Jeopardy, the answer is more like*:
"The Father of Our Country; he didn't really chop down a cherry tree"
and the question is "Who is George Washington?"

The thing is, if someone said 'Who is George Washington?', you would never answer 'The Father of Our Country; he didn't really chop down a cherry tree', unless you were a pompous twit.  You would say 'He was the first President of America', or 'He was a well-known American', or 'I don't know', depending on your level of knowledge.  Of course, if you were further pressed, with the question 'Did he chop down a cherry tree?', you might reply 'no', or 'yes', or 'I can't say', but the point is that you wouldn't dispense that information simply in response to the question 'Who is George Washington?'.

It is also no more challenging to do it this way round than the other way round.  It's not as if the presenter says 'The Father of Our Country; he didn't really chop down a cherry tree' and then the contestant has to perform a feat of mental gymnastics to turn 'George Washington' into 'Who is George Washington?'.  They might as well make them answer the question while hopping, or looking at the ceiling, or wearing red shoes, for all the difference it makes.

If they want to jazz up the traditional 'question-answer' format, they need to think wider.  For instance, dispense the various parts of the clue one at a time, and for every part that gets dispensed, release a wild boar into the studio, so the quicker the answer, the less chance of a gory death.  Or make them answer while eating marshmallows.  Or while whistling the theme tune to Jonny Briggs.

Or anything, really, that actually makes a measurable difference to how easy it is to answer the question.

* I stole this from Wikipedia, by the way