All entries for September 2006

September 25, 2006

Alan Sugar– "I'm a plonker

“This is not a game, this is a 16 week job interview” so says Sugar’s voice at the start of every episode of The Apprentice. Most job interviews are an hour at most, and that’s generally enough to judge if someone is the right person for the job. So you’d think with 16 weeks (well, 30 days or however long it actually is) you’d be bound to get the right person right? Wrong.

The Apprentice winner Michelle Dewberry is to part company with Sir Alan Sugar.

Following a series of secret meetings, the former checkout girl will receive a “substantial pay-off” after agreeing to leave Sugar’s Xenon Green computer disposal firm. She set up her own company, Michelle Dewberry Limited, thirteen days ago.

Six million viewers tuned into BBC Two in May this year to watch Sir Alan hire Michelle in favour of 28-year-old Ruth Badger. However things took a turn for the worse just weeks later when news of Michelle’s pregnancy and relationship with show rival Syed Ahmed hit the tabloids.

A source told the Sunday Mirror: “It just wasn’t working out. Sir Alan and Michelle had huge hopes for the partnership when she won the hit BBC2 series. They really felt it would be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

“But it just hasn’t worked out the way either side had hoped. It feels like the whole thing has been cursed. There’s been one problem after another, and in the end both decided it was best to call it quits.”

For crying out loud.

That just about makes a mockery of the entire show and shows Alan Sugar up for the useless twat he his. After firing all the best candidates he’s left with a bunch of numpties, and finally awards the job to the most numpty-ish of the two left, and then realises that she’s a bit shit. All through the show you see Sugar firing extremely competent people, disagreeing strongly with his choices but justifying it by saying “They might be good, but they might not suit his company”. Well turns out Sugar doesn’t know who suits his company either.

I watched the US version of The Apprentice when it first started and it was wonderful, Trump made good calls getting rid of the worst performers and ending up with a brilliant final two that it was a visibly tough decision. Season 2 continued in this ilk albeit with the two strongest candidates going out early on due to Trump’s ego (Bradford got fired after giving up his immunity as he was so confident in his position, which Trump thought was stupid, and Pamela got fired because… okay to this day I’m still not sure why Pamela got fired). But then things went downhill – the producers and Trump saw how shocking and dramatic it was when he fired Bradford unexpectedly, so went on to engineer double-firings, quintuple-firings and whatever other shocking things that they could come up with.
It reached it’s nadir with the season 5 final four. With two teams of two the losing team go into the boardroom. It goes something like this:

Trump: “So who should I fire”
The two girls: “We’re not going to point fingers at each other or blame each other”
“Well who should I fire?”
“Don’t fire either of us”
“Well I’m not going to do that”
“You choose then, we’re not going to act all bitchy and disloyal to each other, we’re friends”
“Well you’re going to have to”
“You’ve seen us the past 14 weeks, just choose who’s best”
“No, tell me why I should fire the other person”
sigh “Okay” girls start attributing blame to each other
“Shut up, that’s enough. You’re just being bitchy and can’t even be loyal to each other. You’re both fired”
“Are you fucking retarded?”

There was some small relief to be garnered from seeing Trump’s viceroy Caroline agree half-heartedly with all his decisions at the end while wearing a look on her face that said “you fired him? you crazy fool”, but apparently she’s now left the Trump organisation and won’t be back next year. Boo.

The point of all this? It took Trump a couple of years to start messing up and making bad calls, it’s taken Sugar just the one. I really love the concept of The Apprentice (and yes, I realise that’s two entries on Mark Burnett created TV shows in a row) but it seems there’s no-one left out there capable of executing the concept in a decent fashion. Shame.

September 18, 2006

Survivor: All Stars

This is an entry about Survivor: All Stars, the 8th season of hit US reality TV show Survivor.

There’s three problems with this entry. The first is that anyone that knows me and my attitude to the likes of Big Brother and Pop Idol might wonder why the hell I’m watching Survivor as I hate reality TV. I don’t hate reality TV. I hate bad reality TV, which is basically every UK produced reality series except The Apprentice. The US have some pretty good reality shows, including the afformented Survivor and there version of The Apprentice, plus The Amazing Race is also aces.

The second is that this series has never aired on UK TV to my knowledge so most people reading this won’t understand the concept, hence I’ll provide a brief precis. The show is not about surviving outdoors under
harsh conditions with little food. Sure, that’s part of it, but that’s just the backdrop. The show is about making deals and alliances to get you as far as possible in the game. The show generally starts with 2 tribes living seperately, and they compete in tribe challenges, the losing tribe each week having to vote of one of thier own, done by secret ballot.
Then about halfway through they merge together into one, voting off one person every week. The challenges then become individual: winning one makes you immune to being voted off that week, everyone else is vulnerable. So the only way to stay safe is to have a voting block or alliance that puts you in a majority. Throughout this there’s also various twists and turns to try and shake things up somewhat. This specific edition features competitors from all the previous 7 series so it’s a little different in that many of them have formed friendships previously, from both being in the same series, or from the various Survivor parties and fund-raisers since.

Problem number three is that this particular series aired on US TV around 3 years ago and I’m only just catching up on it on DVD right now. Generally when I have strong feelings about something that happens I read Television Without Pity or Reality News Online and find out that someone has already made the point at the time so I’m content that it’s out there, but seemingly no-one picked up on this one so I have to write it here just so people googling this in the future might come accross it and realise I was right.

So after the longest introduction to an entry ever, here we go:

There’s a point in this series of Survivor where there are two tribes: the first has 6 members led by Rob. The second has 5 led by Lex. Rob has started a relationship with a girl on his tribe called Amber, which is also a strategic alliance. Now the tribes are quite closely knit within each other, and they’re anticipating a merge, so they know whichever tribe goes into the merge with the most members has a great advantage, as they can just vote all the others out. If they merge now Lex’s tribe could be in trouble, however he has an old friend and alliance partner, Tom, on the other side who he thinks he can swing to his side, thus switching things around.

However in a twist rather than an immediate merge there’s a tribe re-arrangement, and Amber ends up on Lex’s tribe, who then go on to lose the challenge, meaning they have to vote someone out. This gives them the chance to get rid of Amber who is clearly still loyal to her boyfriend and the other tribe, head into the merge at five each, and if Lex can turn Tom, give them a big numeric advantage. If he can’t they’re still even.

But on the way back from the challenge Rob promises Lex that if he takes care of Amber, he’ll take care of him. So in a strategically stupid move they vote off one of thier own and keep Amber around. Rob then goes back on his word and Lex is the next voted off, come the merge. Now Lex was an idiot to do that, that’s well established. He’s seen Rob play in prior seasons and knows he can’t be trusted. And lying and scheming is all part of the game in Survivor.

So that’s pretty much everyones reaction – Lex shouldn’t be upset about it, even though he and Rob were friends, this is a game and all Rob was doing was playing the game. And normally when such things happen I agree with this – if you’re playing poker with friends you don’t get upset that one was lying to you if they bluff – it’s stupid to get emotional over it.

But in this case, I think Rob was in the wrong. It didn’t sit well with me, and Lex being upset about Rob’s actions seemed right. So I tried to work out why this was – why I’d reacted so differently in this case than in previous ones.

When Rob asked Lex for the favour, Lex didn’t see it as ‘Please keep my alliance partner around and I’ll help you out’, he saw it as ‘Please keep my girl around and I’ll help you out’. Lex said as much – he didn’t see Rob’s request as to do with the game, he saw it as a personal favour. Had Rob had a close two-person alliance with another guy, and the same thing happened, Lex probably would have got rid of them without a moment’s thought. And Rob would likely never have even offered a deal. The primary reason he asked and that Lex aquiesed was that he really liked this girl and didn’t want to lose her. From Lex’s point of view he already had one stratagy that had a good chance of working, involving voting her off. But Rob promised to take care of him, and he knew he could get as far with Rob as he could with his current stratagy – he likely knew Rob would turn on him eventually, but so would members of his current alliance, that’s how the game works. For Lex, either stratagy was as good as the other, but by keeping Amber around he could also do his friend a personal favour, as Rob had given him the option of being able to help him out while not adversely effecting his own chances.

But this of course, was dependant upon Rob keeping his word – but Lex didn’t see that as an issue, as he didn’t see this deal as a deal in the ‘game’ but as a personal favour, and as such he expected Rob to keep his word, as he would in real life. And make no bones about it, it was a personal favour on Rob’s part – this wasn’t Lex mis-interpreting things. Rob was very upset that Amber had gone to the other tribe and was desperate to get her back – this wasn’t a piece of stratagy on Rob’s part.

And that’s why it didn’t sit right with me – Rob used his pre-existing friendship with Lex to keep Amber around, even though he knew that meant ruining Lex’s shot at winning the game – he abused that pre-existing friendship and that’s why it was a nasty move to make.

Normal blogging services will resume shortly.

September 16, 2006

Argueing on the Internet

So I’m debating the Nintendo’s pricing and marketing choices for the Wii on an internet forum (more here on Nintendo tommorow, perhaps) and I use the word ‘tautology’.

Yes you read that right. I used the word ‘tautology’ while debating video games on the internet. As you can imagine, it didn’t go down well:

“Trying to be clever are you?”

“I’m not trying to be clever. I am clever, so it just comes out that way.”

September 06, 2006

Edinburgh Blog – Day 19 – August 19th

“Nail bombs under every seat…”

At 1pm today I’m supposed to be going down the road to the cinema again to see a full 90 minute Q&A with Kevin Smith as part of the film festival. I have a ticket and everything (got it just before it sold out, they’re pretty rare). But I wake up at midday and despite 8 hours sleep feel like I haven’t slept. Uh-oh. See, you stay up for 40 hours and it messes up your body, but you also get that delayed effect – the previous few days I’m fine but 4 days after the event and ‘boom’ now you’re going to be exhausted. So I weigh up my options, and decide to forgo the Q&A as have very early starts scheduled for the next two days and this will be the last chance for a lie in. I put my head back down and the next thing I know it’s 5pm and I actually feel like I’ve slept.

After this I go off to see Amateur Transplants (Medina & Negociants, 19:00 & 21:00) – they’re the ones who did the London Underground song that anyone with the internet has probably heard by now – they’re mean to have my name on the door as a reviewer but don’t, but I blag my way in anyways. It’s a weird venue, everyone sits on cushions on the floor. It’s also a bit weird as it’s the first show I’ve asked to review, rather than been assigned. It’s very good though.

From here I go to see Political Animal (BabyBelly, 10:15pm), Andy Zaltzmann’s politics themed gig, with Pops and his mum. Richard Herring is on, along with Danny Bhoy and someone else whom I forget. Herring continues to deconstruct his performance during his act by pulling apart a played out conversation between two different aspects of his personality, testing the audiences’ patience. It’s not laugh out loud funny buy it sure is interesting to see a comic that doesn’t care about the audience response just fucking with us.

Then I meet up with Henry’s flatmate and his friends, who I first met at the WoW guild meet-up a few weeks back. We go for a few drinks and they want some hints on what’s good and what isn’t. They also want to go and see Cowards, since I gave it a bad review and all the other critics loved it, so they want to know who’s right!

The last few days have been fairly uneventful as I’ve been recovering somewhat from the Mark Watson gig, but things should get busier and more show-packed over the next week or so, and these entries should get longer and more interesting!

Edinburgh Blog – Day 18 – August 18th

“This is a bit weird, but the gig has to stop now”

The weather hasn’t got any better, and while my next lot of reviews don’t start until tomorrow I promised Owen and Jem I’d go see The Adventures of Bitter and Twisted again and write them a review. I finally figure out how to turn the heater on ten minutes before I’m due to leave, which doesn’t make my still damp jacket anymore comfortable to put on. Switching to a long sleeve top helps but it’s still icky. Am soaking wet by the time I get there so it doesn’t really matter anyway. They’ve tightened up the show a bit and it flows a lot better now which is good, alas they’ve only got one more day then they’re back of home.

After this I go back home and dry the jacket some more. On the plus side it’s stop raining now and I’m off to the UK premiere of Clerks 2 (part of the film festival), which is at the cinema literally just down the road (5 mins walk) so I leave it to dry and just wear a jumper. The film is ace, although my comedy critic neurons start firing at one bit as they take the gross-factor a little too far a little too unnecessarily. I won’t spoil it since it’s not even out here yet but where Clerks was a lot more about clever writing and understated grossness (“You fucked a dead guy?” “It was dark!”). Clerks 2 shows a lot more. It’s just one bit but it’s not necessary and seems to be just there for shock value – the joke itself is over after 2 minutes when you get the gag, the rest is just milking it. Still I really enjoyed it and it’s a nice continuation of the franchise. Kevin also does a nice little Q&A after the film which is pretty entertaining, though he doesn’t seem to be on as good a form as usual.

After this I pop back home, get my jacket and hop on the bus into town to meet with Andy and the avalon folks to go to Late ‘n’ Live (Gilded Balloon, 1am). Here it gets a bit weird. First it’s close to sold out so we have to wait ages to get in, till after the gig has started, and end up sitting in random seats around the hall. Now here’s the thing. I never went to Late ‘n’ Live last year, last time I went was 4 years ago when it was still in the old Cowgate venue that burnt down. The new rooms sucks. There’s fuck all atmosphere, there’s a few tables (10 maybe) at the front with table service, it’s probably fun if you’re sat there, then there’s just rows of seats, fuck all leg room to cram in as many people as possible. Since there’s no intervals and not enough room to get past people sat down, everyone in the row has to stand up if someone wants to go get a drink…. basically it’s shit. And of a weekend it’s even worse as it’s packed the brim and full of drunken hecklers and just becomes a bear-pit of the worse kind. The only reason it’s still selling out is that it’s trading on it’s name as back at the old venue it used to be the best and one of the few late night gigs. Now there’s tons of them (the Underbelly has 2, plus another one in the Caves!) and people are still going to Late ‘n’ Live as it was the ‘place to be’ five years ago and so still has brand recognition, despite being a totally different gig in a totally different venue.

But that’s not the weird part.

Before we went in we discovered there was a water problem and the toilets were out of use. After Rhod Gilbert’s set Russell Howard, the new regular compere, comes back on and tells us that a water main has burst and there’s no water supply to here, the Udderbelly or the Pleasance Dome. So they have to stop the gig and will give us refunds. As I say, bizarre. So that was it for the night – all the late night drinkeries in the surrounding area are closed for the same reason so there’s not much else to do but head back home.

Edinburgh Blog – Day 17 – August 17th

“Oh, you’ve already seen it”

Nothing to review today, picking back up the schedule in the next few days, so another long lie in. Went to see Ed Byrne (Pleasance Grand, 21:50) (you know, the cheeky Irish chappy that did the Carphone Warehouse ads… who the hell calls them car-phones anymore anyways). His show was fairly middling – funny jokes but nothing special. He did have a great idea though, that while the set-up for a joke, was pretty clever in and of itself. The idea was that people should go out and buy headphone splitters, then when on public transport, listening to their iPods, they wave the splitter at another likewise occupied passenger. If they get the nod, they put the splitter into their iPod and play you a song. Then you put it into yours and play them a song. You don’t talk to the other person, but you connect through the music. I’ve had similar thoughts myself before so I really liked this, am writing it here to do my bit for spreading the idea around.

I also had two rather interesting flyering experiences, one from a cute girl flyering Jarred Christmas’ show, which meant for the first time this festival I was able to use the ‘I’ve already seen the show’ line and genuinely mean it. The second was some girl coming up to me and serenading me with a song about me, as I apparently looked a little miserable (actually: tired) – can’t even remember what the show was but I have to commend the effort.

Also spoke briefly to Pops (Adam) who is up for a few days, though he was just headed into a show as I caught him. After this went for a few drinks with Andy and three American people he’d got talking to – students, two men, one girl. Apparently he’d accidently kicked her in the head the previous night then rejected her advances or something. I think she’s very pretty but in that 5ft-tall-and-I-have-a-thing-for-short-women sort of way so the reactions of more normal people will be less predictable. First we went to the Hollyrood, then the Underbelly and then they went off to find a club to go to. I didn’t, as had left my earplugs at home and didn’t fancy having tinitus for the rest of the festival. She was hot, but not risk-my-hearing-hot.

During this time the rain had finally broken well and truly and it was a cold and miserable walk back home, being soaked by the end of it. On reflection, I should have got a taxi. Plus I can’t figure out how to make the heaters in the flat work.

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