The Apprentice

It’s the final of The Apprentice tonight. For no reason other than I’m at home, it’s raining and it’s on, I’m going to attempt one of those fashionable and modern ‘live blog’ things during the show. Also, they reckon nine million people are going to be hitting BBC One for tonight’s episode, so if even one per cent of those people also read this blog (which I’m sure will definitely happen), I’ll triple my all-time hits in one fell swoop. I never said I was an altruist, did I?

It’s always funny when a series of The Apprentice comes to an end because you realise that a) each run of the show lasts forever and b) television reality shows do really provide the most fleeting kind of fame. For example, who the fuck are any of these people?

Exactly.

Anyway, until we get underway at 9pm I’m going to catch up on last week’s fast-food episode and everyone else can watch this amusing Apprentice auto-tuned clip mash-up.

Hit refresh for the updates from nine!

9.00pm Go! First up, it’s the LAST WEEK ON THE APPRENTICE round-up. Natasha gets the boot about 200 weeks after she should have done. Aah, so we get to find out the business plans, and hear Jim say confusing things like “now we’re just four people standing on our own two feet”. More on Jim’s astonishingly hackneyed garbling later.

9.10pm Here come the interviews, which have always been the best bit of The Apprentice. Tom’s up first.

‘Boffin’ Tom, who’s now presumably doomed to lug around that prefix, applied to him in editorials across the media due purely to the facts he wears glasses and has previously been employed in jobs that require the incumbent to think, forever more. Or at least until we all forget about him at eleven tonight.

Here’s an artist’s impression of what Tom winning would look like. I think we’re all looking forward to that.



9.15pm Jim’s getting nailed for his cliches. “It was really good,” he says. It really wasn’t mate. You definitely didn’t have “the minerals”.

I did some digging on psycho-eyed Jim’s cliches earlier…

A sales professional, public speaker and more. These aren’t my words, they’re Jim’s, from his own website, www.jimeastwood.co.uk (to the best of my knowledge it’s actually his – either that or a seriously elaborate parody). Presumably that enigmatic “and more” is referring to serious aggression issues, a talent for sledgehammer-style manipulation and generally coming across like he wants to fight you to the death even when he’s being nice.

His stunning website is like a microcosm of The Apprentice itself: toe-curlingly excruciating, plank-headedly stupid and bloody hilarious. Take a look at this actual picture grabbed from the site.

I didn’t make this. It’s actually on there – and he continues with the whole Jordan-esque person-as-a-brand thing throughout. You couldn’t make this kind of gold up, actually – jimeastwood.co.uk is packed with idiocy, cliche, horrible typography and platitudes. Like this one:

Or this one, where he spectacularly manages to trip himself up over his use of the third person, which he employs throughout the site when referring to himself:

And if all that isn’t enough for you, Jim has plenty more solid business tips to impart over at his buzzing Twitter feed:

Sound advice. Anyway, enough of all that. Onwards…

9.20pm
Next up, there’s The Winner of This Year’s Apprentice Helen, who’s pretty much a buttoned-up shoo-in simply because she’s not a staggering idiot and on the whole manages to speak without garbling out a load of cliches and xenophobia. Before she was on the show, Helen worked in a senior role at one of the biggest firms in the north, she says. It turns out she’s actually secretary to a sausage roll salesman.

Yep, this kind of sausage roll. On a slight tangent, they’re actually doing four for £2.30 at the moment, which seems both amazing and frighteningly unnecessary. I mean, I like a nice hot sausage roll in me as much as any other normal human, but four in a row?

9.27pm
Fish joke. That was kind of brave – respect.

9.31pm
And Susan now, a pretty dimwit who surely can’t seriously ever be employed again after asking the now fabled question, “Do French people drive?” (or something to that effect).

Yes Susan, yes they do: a quick look on the internet would have tied that one up for you, as this snippet from WikiAnswers proves:

And if any further proof were needed that people who live in France do indeed drive, here is some actual video footage of Frenchmen operating not just cars, but a series of different, increasingly more tricky to handle vehicles.

I think that puts that one to bed.

9.36pm
They’re all in the board room, backed by some sort of Inception-style soundtrack. Margaret’s there. In the world’s brightest clothes. The dude who used to edit FHM cuts everyone down to size, then everyone tears into Jim, they all have a laugh, and then uncover the Irishman’s creepy Alan Sugar obsession. Not so much laughter there – presumably they’ve realised he actually looks like he could have a murder or two in him. Could have.

9.42pm
Call them in.

9.50pm Karren Brady has apparently come dressed as some sort of Edwardian schoolgirl. Jim tries to justify stealing Alan Sugar’s rubbish branding for his own business plan. Alan goes all Jerry Maguire, “show me the money” on him. It’s coming…

9.55pm Susan gone. I think she’ll go on somewhere, do something, Alan says. Maybe introduce the automobile to the continent, something like that.

Two left, then, The Winner of The Apprentice Helen and the smart one off Thunderbirds, Tom, who still looks like he’s trying to work out how all this happened to him. He’s not the Curvy Nail File Guy, though, he knows that much.

Helen talks a good game. You can see why she’s good at helping a man sell fattening pastry goods.

9.59pm Big revealing close-ups of faces, and, fuck – The Winner of the Apprentice Helen loses The Apprentice, leaving Tom to step up and do a big cheesy click of the heels and high-five to himself – weirdly almost exactly like that Spongebob picture from earlier. In the real world, probably the smartest choice in every sense, actually. Hello Dara, goodbye live blogging. That was hard work and, I think we can all agree, not entirely successful.

I’ll leave this kind of thing to the Guardian in future…

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Internet

Last week I learned that Spider-Man is going to die. Going to. Before it’s happened. I have no feelings about this but, by god, some people do. I learned that people in Greece were braced for another day of demonstrations in downtown Athens, and discovered, before it had been reported by a ‘proper’ news provider, that the smell of tear gas could be detected lingering in the air. I learned that some of us have the bizarre capacity to unleash hitherto unexpected levels of anger on to their keyboards when two dogs tragically die in a hot car, and yet barely blink an eye at reports of unimaginable pain and terror and suffering being experienced by and inflicted on fellow humans in not so far off lands. I learned that people don’t like Gordon Ramsay very much. Last week, I looked at the Internet.

Amazing to consider that even 10 years ago many of us were still unfamiliar with this wonderful and weird and informative and scary and shocking and contradictory place. It is an amazing evolving tool with the capacity to change the world, a charge that it has in recent months began to fulfil in ways that could never have been expected. It’s also tits and arse. And cats. Its great entertainment and funny videos and recipes and reviews and essays and boobs are all vital threads running through its rich fabric. It is an encyclopaedia and museum and lecture and dumping ground. It is absolutely impossible to live without and yet something I often question how I can continue to function with.

Why? Because the internet is also a think first, worry later world that often indulges a reactionary culture of sneering and one-upmanship. It’s a world where mob justice can rule and where numbers that would be terrifying in the real world can be rallied into a fervent rage, baying for blood, sometimes metaphorical, sometimes actual, over things like a journalist not properly attributing quotes or a man who’s good at football having an affair or a columnist writing something unpalatable, despicable even, but probably not deserving of death threats or having their address posted for all to see and do with as they please. It’s a world where a magazine with 380,000 social networking followers can post that ‘research’ says that having a cup of green tea in the morning will help you feel better, without linking to or even citing the source of said research, which some people might consider an abuse of a tacit position of responsibility. It’s a world where enough people read the Daily Mail with the intention of being outraged to actually boost the paper’s traffic. And one that can lead to a man being hauled in front of a court for making a joke that other people don’t get.

“Are you seriously? Are you going as Disney princesses? You wanker, we’re not five. I’ve got to put this on Facebook,” shouted a woman at her astonished friend on a train I was on the other day, out of the blue and many decibels higher than their until-then muted conversation. “I mean, it’s just not very expansive, is it? You can’t really go off list with it. I like going off list.” Aside from asking the obvious question of what the hell this even means, the point is that she did put it on social networking. There and then, on the train, forcing her devastatingly embarrassed friend to slide sheepishly down her chair, shell-shocked at what had just happened, at how in a single moment she had been so ruthlessly and comprehensively humiliated in both her real and virtual worlds.

This kind of blurring of the virtual and reality is the crux of my problem with how many people use and see the internet today. The often quietly held but nevertheless palpable smugness contained in the notion that more friends or followers on a social network somehow translates to, if not necessarily being more popular, being somehow better in the real world. Taking pictures of anything and everything without discretion with the sole purpose of posting them online to have moment after moment validated by an online entity virtually anonymous to that person in their actual life, as if somehow those moments don’t hold any value otherwise.

I am both astounded by the Internet and totally overwhelmed by its weight and that of the information we’re expected to absorb. I’m curious to know where it will lead. We’ve evolved into a species that is able to both shop and shit at the same time and that should be, I think, a source of both amazement and concern. Which way will the internet take us. How far will it go? Is this evolution at all, or are we regressing, learning to not need to know or do anything for ourselves at all?

Where are you meeting her?

Dunno, but I’ll find out from my phone when I get there.

You still use a phone? Luddite. I’ve got had of those communication chips sewn into my brain.

Oh great, can you search-engine how to tie a shoelace for me?

Why would you need to do that? You’ve got electronic shoes.

Is this how it’s going to be?

Thank you for reading. I obviously don’t have the answers but I would like to make a few suggestions about how it might be possible to survive this brave new world with at least your dignity, respect for others and humanity in tact. A kind of internet manifesto, I guess.

Keep your head out the clouds even if everything you own will soon be suspended in one. Don’t let ‘like’ become shorthand for ‘I can’t be arsed to think’. Consider not commenting unless you truly understand and have an argument propped up with some solid facts to bring to the debate. Take a step back, read that article to the end before reacting – maybe even get a bit objective and read a couple of different views on the subject. Ask yourself if what you’re doing is constructive, if will add anything to this incredible resource. If you have to shop and shit at the same time, be mindful of the fact that it’s only acceptable on the toilet with an internet-connected phone – Sainsbury’s will take a dim view of anyone who attempts this in one of its stores. Remember it’s always OK to slag off Gordon Ramsay. And please think twice before sharing pictures of what you’ve put on your fucking toast.

Code 99

I arrive at the gym all set to hit the treadmill, lift some weights and just generally wheeze and splutter my way through all of the other gym things. I’m inherently lazy, though, so I’m mainly looking forward to kicking back in the sauna and steam room afterwards.

But as I’m getting changed this sentence is read out over the tannoy: “ladies and gentlemen this is an announcement for all staff – there is a Code 99 in the male steam. There is a Code 99 in the male steam. Thank you”.

No sir, thank you. I was planning to go into, as you call it, the ‘male steam’. But now I’m not so sure. I mean what’s a Code 99? It could be anything.

I ponder this for a while. It can’t be anything too serious. I mean, if it was a heart attack or some sort of terrifying men’s-showers-in-prison-style rape or something, it would surely be a Code 1 and there would definitely be a more palpable panic in the air. Also there was a slight hint of amusement in the announcer’s voice, so it’s definitely not that level of bad.

But Code 99. Quite feasibly that could mean there are at least 99 problems that this gym imagines are within the realms of possibility in ‘the steam’. Presumably a bitch ain’t one, given that this is the male steam. So what could it be? What kind of incident could be bad enough to have its own code but still amusing for staff?

Then it hits me: could it be a shit? Has a man actually done a shit in the male steam?

It doesn’t really matter what it’s code for anymore because that’s in my brain now. I head upstairs for a bit, do some treadmill, listen to Negative Creep by Nirvana – which, by the way, with all the running and sweat and noise and Code 99s in the male steam is just a little too much on the wrong side of hectic for a gym environment. But all I can think about is the incident. I take a sip from the water fountain and as I’m doing so detect a slight whiff of poo. It’s found its way into the water supply, I think.

And with that I go home. I probably won’t be going in the male steam for a while.

Let’s just get on with it: an addendum

A little under a year ago, I wrote a post for this blog called He’s In There Now, So Let’s Just Get On With It. David Cameron had just wangled his way into power and, despite some quite serious misgivings about him and his cronies and the Conservative ideology in general, I was sick of the endless, empty tweets and blogs full of vitriol and insults and hate but without any sense of balance or the requisite facts to back them up. Much of the ‘opinion’ being bandied about was focused more on what the new PM’s, admittedly quite funny, face looked like than an actual desire to debate the facts.

I wrote that I hadn’t wanted Dave to get the keys to Number 10 but that this wasn’t anything to do with his, admittedly quite funny, face. I wrote: “It’s not because Big Dave has a slimy face, although he quite patently does – in fact he looks like a porcelain man who has been slathered in Vaseline before having his eyes smashed out, his soul hooked out through the holes and a creeping mass of deep, dark contempt for the human race piped back in its place.”

Fast-forward to today. Now I can’t really substantiate the Vaseline comment but I feel pretty damn happy about backing the “creeping mass of deep, dark contempt for the human race” bit. I had tried to write a balanced piece, holding the Conservatives to account for some questionable stuff from the past but giving them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it was a streak of naive optimism; maybe I was just playing Devil’s advocate. What I was really trying to get at was that as none of us really knew what was going to happen we should just wait and see. Except we did really know what was going to happen, didn’t we?

“So let’s just get on with it, eh?” I wrote. “Perhaps it won’t be that bad.”

It is quite bad, it turns out. I’m not going to write about the fact that the City bankrolled the Tory election campaign; that Michael Gove is playing with our education system as if he’s just found a big, school-shaped dolls’ house but doesn’t understand what all the bits do; or the box of savage cuts that has been opened and unleashed on the public sector, on care, on provision for the elderly; because we all know about all that and it’s already been documented much more eruditely by many people better placed than myself to comment. This excellent blog is one example.

But what I will comment on is the arrogance and ignorance of Cameron himself. It makes me a little bit sad, for example, that a country as culturally varied and exciting as ours can have a prime minister who will stand up, on our behalf, and state that multiculturalism has failed. The context doesn’t really matter; whether he made some sensible points doesn’t really matter. He surely must have known that there was only one sentiment that would stick from that speech but he went ahead and said it anyway. And that gives massive tumescent pricks like the English Defence League something to grasp on to, as they did. And the problem is that for all the balanced, sensible people out there, there are a scarily large number who will just read that headline and think, “that’s what I’ve thought all along and now even the prime minister agrees”.

Anyway, that’s just the one thing. There are obviously many more but as I’ve said you can read much more informed stuff elsewhere. I just wanted to get this off my chest. Can we have an election now, please?

The pod shoot

Queueing in Tesco, I notice this sign above an innocuous-looking white box behind the till:

Under no circumstances must anything other than the pod be inserted into the pod shoot.

Hmmm. I look around. Nope, I’m not in Star Wars. Definitely still in Tesco. But I do have a question. The obvious question that any right-thinking human would be asking:

What, the fuck, happens when you put something that’s not the pod in the pod shoot?

I have no idea what the pod is or does. I also have no idea what the pod shoot is or does. But I am overcome by an unshakeable urge to insert something that’s not the former into the latter anyway.

Of course, there will be people who work in that Tesco who do know what the pod is for. Consequently, they’ll also no doubt know what the pod shoot is for. Which raises another pertinent question:

Why is anyone who does know what happens when you put something that’s not the pod in the pod shoot doing it in the first place? Why is it happening so much they need a sign to warn people off doing it? And, again, what the hell happens when you insert something that’s not the pod into the pod shoot?

It must be AMAZING.

The following, while entirely made up, is a conversation I imagine must happen on a daily basis on the shop floors of Tescos around the country:

“What’s wrong with the pod shoot?”

“Dunno. It started making funny noises after I inserted something into it.”

“What did you insert? Was it the pod?”

“No.”

“What then?”

“A Twix.”

“P45.”

Journey

I’m on a packed but characteristically silent train from Croydon to Clapham Junction, standing in the vestibule with a few other people unable to find a seat. One of them, a straggly looking woman, wearing a baggy tracksuit and glasses with lenses that look like they’ve been cut off the bottom of wine bottles and magnify her pupils to the size of conkers, talks at an unnecessarily loud volume into her phone.

Hi Mum, it’s only me. I’m just on a train to Victoria because I’ve arranged to meet Roland. He says he’s really sorry about Monday but he can’t go. Because they’re burying his friend. Hello, Mum, can you hear me? HIS FRIEND. THEY’RE BURYING HIM ON MONDAY.

The conversation, understandably, piques the interest of some of the other passengers. People strain and crane their necks, looking down the aisle to catch a glimpse of the woman, who continues to yell into her phone.

Eh? You know, Roland’s mate, Jim. The one that got killed. I’m just going to meet him at Victoria now. No, Roland! Anyway, I’m just calling to say he can’t go on Monday, Mum, because he’s going to a funeral.

OK, bye.

She hangs up the phone. I look out the window, secretly wishing she was still talking. Then:

Hi Sweetie, I just phoned mum. I told her that you’re sorry about Monday but you can’t go because you’ve got a funeral to attend to. She says don’t worry about it at all, it’s fine. No, no, no, NO Roland, I won’t. We’ve just got engaged, everything’s all right now. Of course I won’t. I’m definitely not going to leave you now, not in this state. I’m here for you thick and thin. Roland… just… wait there. I’m coming to Victoria right now.

The woman hangs up the phone and nonchalantly looks out the window, as if she’s just had the most normal conversation in the world. Then, suddenly, she runs past me, up the aisle and into the next carriage.

I get off at Clapham, traumatised.