Archive | December, 2010

New year’s resolution for 2011? Avoid WMDs

20 Dec

What do Fifa corruption, tuition fees and Wikileaks have in common? They were all clouded, distorted, and overshadowed by Weapons of Mass Distraction.  You are as much a victim of these WMDs as I am.

The original WMDs – the Weapons of Mass Destruction – were themselves also Weapons of Mass Distraction back in 2002.  In an attempt to strengthen grounds for the illegal invasion of Iraq, Blair’s government claimed that Saddam had developed weapons that could wipe out everything we hold dear – and the population of Staines – in less than the time it takes to get to the front of a Post Office queue.

Instead of questioning whether that would justify the winless death-fest that was the Iraq War, attention centred on how the BBC could dare accuse the government of ‘sexing up’ the report. This diversion was partly thanks to spin doctor Alastair Campbell, proud owner of a vast weaponry of mass distraction.

Weapons of Mass Distraction (WMDs) are as prevalent today as they were then.  When Panorama exposed bribery by Fifa bosses, WMDs helped to divert people from condemning the institutional corruption to instead just whinging about how the media scuppered our chances.

The bigger picture hidden by those WMDs?  Two votes cost us £15million.  Compare this sporting spending spree with the cuts to school sports funding, which will leave us with yet more generations of blobby kids becoming fatter than the sofas that encase them (and no world cup hosting in sight).

Reporting of the student protests showed an even greater use of WMDs. British youths finally peeled themselves away from watching Deal or No Deal to become politically active in the cold and snow, protesting against education cuts and tuition fee increases.  What did WMDs do? Turned us into tutting disapprovers, shaking our heads at footage which obsessively focused on the violent minority.

This violent minority included people who broke some windows, people who splodged paint onto the royal car, people who actually prodded Camilla with a stick (surely that should be a national sport?), and a disabled bloke in a wheelchair. In an interview with him, BBC newsreader Ben Brown actually asked Jody McIntyre whether he had provoked the police into dragging him onto the ground, by “wheeling himself towards them”.  You can imagine the fear in the interviewer’s eyes, probably brought on by nightmares involving the Paralympic basketball team rolling their wheelchairs en masse in his direction.

The focal talking point was how unruly those yobs were, rather than questioning why the generation will have to pay more for less (up to triple the tuition fees for an education system lacerated with brutal funding cuts). It is the equivalent of making someone pay Fortnum & Mason prices for a trolley of Iceland shopping.

Finally, the worst use of WMDs is in the focus on Julian Assange’s sexual assault allegations to divert from the content of the Wikileak cables. Papers were plastered with news of his alleged assault (which wouldn’t classify as rape in this country), instead of investigating the cables’ claims that the U.S. ignored torture in Iraq and that drug company Pfizer tried to blackmail their way out of dodgy clinical trials. Rather than holding our leaders to account, we’re been tasered by these WMDs – shooting the messenger, whose biggest crimes seem to be omitting to use protection and being so bad in bed that the woman actually stayed asleep through his efforts. Unforgiveable.

These WMDs have attacked our better judgment and diverted us from the bigger picture. It’s like hearing someone shout, “There’s a man-eating lion behind you!” and responding with outrage at the tone of his voice, rather than dealing with your impending carnivorous annihilation.

So, make your 2011 new year’s resolution to evade the power of WMDs, which currently pose a far greater threat to our society than any of Saddam’s weapons ever did.


Luxmy Gopal

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The Apprentice: has the world gone mad?

9 Dec

Now, we understand that a 12-week “job interview from hell” must take its toll. But does that really explain the madness of last night’s Apprentice? Yes, it seems no-one was beyond the realms of insanity in the latest tour bus task.

Tourists were not in the mood for a Cockney knees-up (Credit: BBC)

Liz tried to pull off Cockney impersonations (as we’ve established, she is in fact Footballers’ Wives Susie Amy and acting was never her strong point). Jamie thrilled tourists with his inside knowledge of Westminster Abbey: “It’s a church”. And Chris broke away from his trademark monotone to shower Stuart with expletives. Even level-headed Stella was reduced to singing a degrading rendition of Old Mother Brown.

But, as always, Stuart stole the show. Yes, after wooing tourists with lines such as “have a bite of my jellied eels” and charging them £35 for the privilege, we thought his time was up. This was, of course, before the boardroom speech of a lifetime.

“I’m not a one-trick pony. I’m not even a ten-trick pony. I’ve got a field full of ponies” – wise words from Stuart Baggs

Yes, the 21-year-old brand pulled out all the stops to secure his place in next week’s interviews. He regaled Sir Alan with tales of horses, declaring he was not just a one-trick pony but a “field full of ponies”. Even his shameful yo-yo antics came out of the closet, as he revealed the only money he’d ever taken from his parents was for yo-yo stock. Oh, and he’s going to start up a new company for Sir Alan (clearly not a fan of dodgy Amstrad electrics, then).

It was enough to leave us all feeling a little bemused. But while ponies and yo-yos may have confused us mere mortals, he was clearly talking Sir Alan’s language. “It makes sense to me,” he told Stuart, as Liz faced the full force of the tycoon’s index finger.

So, as Stuart survives another week, we’re left wondering if there’s anything the young whippersnapper can’t do. If his bewildering patter does make him the next Apprentice, here are a few suggestions of what his next venture with Sir Alan may involve:

  • Translation service: As we’ve seen, Stuart is the master of many tongues. Whether it be French, German or Cockney, the brand can adapt himself to any given situation with a simple “Das ist wunderbar” or inconspicuous beret.
  • Diplomatic relations: Stuart’s diplomacy skills may be a little on the unusual side, but we can’t help marvelling at how his management style hasn’t incurred so much as a black eye. Reverse psychology proved to be his forté last night, as he told Chris, “Go on, hit me then,” and asked the tourist information office to report him to the police. Remarkably, neither happened. We believe he could use these skills to achieve feats such as Middle Eastern peace and a ceasefire between X Factor feuding couple Simon and Louis.
  • Horse racing: Livestock is one area Sir Alan hasn’t dabbled in, but Stuart has a field full of ponies to offer. Plus his canny intuition and knack for triumphing against the odds mean he will always back the winner.

Of course, all this will come under Stuart’s unmistakable brand trademark. Unfortunately, previews of next week’s interview suggest the Baggs brand is still not recognised by everyone…

Strictly’s Ann Widdecombe to perform barn dance

7 Dec

So recent events have proved Britain is no country for old women, with X Factor’s Mary and Ann Widdecombe deemed past their sell-by dates. But fear not Widdecombe fans: your next fix may be closer than you think.

The epitomy of grace: Strictly's Ann Widdecombe

Yes, the Strictly contestant has announced she won’t hang up her sorely mistreated dancing shoes. And this time she’s taking her talents to a far less discerning audience: cattle.

Ann has divulged that she will relive the waltz on her regular country walks.  “Before the startled eyes of roaming cattle, I shall dance around the damp, uneven ground, imagining myself in a glittering gown, waltzing in the arms of Anton du Beke,” she told the Radio Times.

Now, normally we would refuse to envy farmyard animals, but this proves there is an exception to every rule. The idea of Ann performing her own, confused-Granny-style barn dance is nothing short of genius. In fact, it could even better her all-too-literal interpretation of the sinking Titanic.

Yes, she may be a Tory and have a fondness for words like “jolly”, but her unique routines have won her a place in our bewildered hearts. In fact, all MPs should take a leaf out of her book. Would David Cameron not seem infinitely more appealing if Anton du Beke dragged him around the floor like a bedraggled, canary yellow mop? I rest my case.

So Anne, we salute you. In fact, words are not enough to convey our admiration. Please accept our song as a poetic tribute to your superior dancefloor prowess:

The Right Honourable Dancing Queen

(Set to the tune of Abba’s Dancing queen)

Saturday night and the scores are low,

Anne doesn’t know where she’s meant to go,

Whether it be rock music,

Whether it be swing,

She does the same dance.

Anton was meant to be that guy,

His smile was fixed and his patience high,

He looked out for another,

Anyone would do,

But it was Widdecombe.

And then she got the chance…

To be the dancing queen,

Two left feet,

Scoring seventeen,

Dancing queen,

Feels no beat,

From the tambourine.

She can’t waltz,

She can’t jive,

Even if to save her life.

Oooh see her dance,

Don’t watch her feet,

And she is a dancing queen.

(Fade to a scene of Anton carrying Ann in a characteristically unceremonious lift).

So Anne, you will always be our dancing queen, trophy or not. Now we can only look forward to your bizarre partnership with Craig Revel Horwood on tour…

No country for old women

6 Dec

Farewell Mary, and adieu Widdy. Last weekend saw a Great British public rejection of aged ladies, with Ann Widdecombe voted off Strictly Come Dancing, and Mary Byrne left in the bottom two by X Factor voters, finally ditched by judges in favour of teenage scowler, Cher.

Widdecombe and partner Du Bec

In the shadow of Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly being turfed out by BBC bosses for not getting Botox, was the weekend’s result a ringing endorsement by the nation that there’s no place for women on the telly if they aren’t in their twenties, or at least look like someone whose face has been lifted, stretched and pinned back into their twenties?

Mary Byrne could have been the new Susan Boyle (or at least, the Tesco Economy version, without the Demi and Ashton Twitter-following). The 51-year-old belted out songs with a Bassey-esque voice, but viewers preferred youthful-but-bland Rebecca, man-flu victim Matt, and One Dimension, sorry, Direction – the gang-ling that resembles the cast of a Gap Kids advert. True, the final decision was cast by the judges, but was their verdict a reflection of popular will? Or was the only perpetrator of ageism here the fickle music industry, attempting to play God (or, as Simon Cowell calls it, attempting to play Simon Cowell) as they do in all Pop Idol genre shows?

Indeed, Strictly Come Dancing viewers have kept in grandmother of two, Pamela Stephenson. She is only two years younger than 63-year-old Widdecombe, yet comes across as Fiddy compared to Widdy’s Biddy (ok, that was a stretch). So, it wasn’t a vote of age discrimination: just a sign that the voters had tired of Widdecombe’s lumbering attempts at dance routines – routines which made John Sergeant’s stomping-toddler-dragging-teddy-behind-him moves look Billy-Elliotly elegant. Turns out people no longer want to spend Saturday nights watching a scene akin to a yellow, sequinned sack of potatoes being heaved around by Rob Brydon’s Twin.

Then again, on Strictly, too, did the judges play their part. While they had no casting vote over the bottom two, last week marked the first time they made unanimously negative comments towards Widdecombe, with even praise-generous Alesha Dixon saying “The honeymoon’s over”, and Len Goodman comparing the former Tory MP to the recent snow: fun at first, but eventually you get sick of it. For the first time this series, all of the judges were saying in effect, “Go home, Ann”. And for the first time, the voting public chose not to save her.

Equally, the X Factor judges seemed to have written off Mary Byrne before the voting lines even opened. During her second performance, when she broke down with emotion because the song had been her late mother’s favourite, they interpreted the tears as her saying “Oh woe is me. Lamentably, this is the end of the road, old fogey that I am!”. Cheryl Cole et al commented that this wasn’t the end, she’d still have a career, with Cowell reassuring her that she would not be returning to the Tesco payroll. It hadn’t crossed their minds that she might perhaps go onto next week’s semi-finals, and maybe even win – heavens no! Not when she is practically the same age as the other contestants combined.

So, the gains of last year’s Susan Boyle movement were short-lived. There is no place for you on the box if you’re an oldie. Lest we forget, Strictly’s judge, Alesha, was brought in to replace middle-aged Arlene Phillips, amid cries of ageism. The BBC never explained their reasons for doing so, but avid advocate of alliteration, Arlene, would probably call it the disgraceful discrimination by dirty TV execs, ditching dames in favour of damsels, damn them. Or something like that. The message is clear. Female twenty-somethings: the voting public may not mind you, but if you don’t want to be at the mercy of TV bosses, your time is running out.

Luxmy Gopal

The Apprentice – even when they’re shit, they’re good

2 Dec

It was the quote that summed up Stuart Baggs’ entire stint on The Apprentice. Last night’s edition of You’re Fired saw ‘the brand’ tell the house: “How great is that – even when we’re shit, we win!”

Yes indeed, even when Stuart is aimlessly driving around race tracks, confusing Germans and telling them he has a white sausage, Stuart always manages to pull it out of the Baggs, so to speak. Which left the whole nation wondering: how? Is he just plain lucky? Or is he covertly using hypnosis on Karen and Nick (with Stuart, any skill is possible) to fiddle the figures?

Either way, he’s becoming compulsive viewing. Last night being French emerged as one of his many hidden talents, which so far have included a surprising number of voice-over personas and a complex German vocabulary. Then, on his trip to Paris, he stunned us once again by ordering wine with a suave “s’il vous plaît” and skipping around Paris in a beret. It’s times like this when we wonder why Anglo-French relations are so sour.

Footballers' Wives Chardonnay

But while we could wax lyrical all day about Stuart’s talents, a far more pressing matter has come to our attention. Yes, it seems boardroom favourite Liz is actually an impostor. According to our sources (by sources, we mean us) Liz is the exact body double of Susie Amy, best known as Chardonnay in landmark trash TV series Footballers’ Wives.

We believe Susie is hoping to escape her shameful Footballers’ Wives past by reinventing herself as business-minded “Liz”, a serious contender in Sir Alan’s boardroom. Only this will ever win back the respect of her colleagues, who reportedly shunned her after the end of her on-screen marriage to Gary Lucy.

The Apprentice's Liz Locke

The question is: will Sir Alan still champion “Liz” after he discovers her X-rated past as a Footballers’ Wives glamour girl? He doesn’t seem the type to approve of her character’s antics, which have included not-so-tastefully-done bondage sessions and several brushes with plastic surgery. Still, only time will tell.