Sunday, 31 July 2011

Who's What?

We've just been to Sunderland Air Show, where the announcer was talking about a pilot who won some award that has been won by lots of daring people.

He said that the list of previous winners of the award read like...

"A who's who of famous people"


Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Enter the Dragon

So, thanks to a phone hacking tabloid scandal featuring the captain of the Latvian women's shot-putt team, James Caan is forced to exit Dragon's Den.

No, not really, only joking.

It would seem that there are two types of Dragon in the Den.

The first type that say they are entrepreneurs, but really it's quite obvious that they're wannabe TV celebrities. We know this because they do TV adverts for Loans4Chavs, or they turn up at media festivals in Cannes.

The second type really are entrepreneurs. They spend a couple of seasons in the Den, enough to get themselves known, which increases their own market worth for book deals, new business ventures and so on. And then they move on.

James Caan is the second type.

He is replaced by a woman who, in any case, wouldn't be able to do a TV advert for Money Supermarket because her shoulders wouldn't fit down the aisles.

On her BBC profile, Hilary Devey describes herself as "funny" and says that the quality she admires most in her employees is self sacrifice.

She also enjoys working with children, as they don't have the same ridiculous salary expectations as adults.

I'm a Celebrity!! Get this Inmate Out of Me!!

Well, well, well.

This week, we saw Piers Morgan on the American version of The Celebrity Apprentice. He's not a celebrity. He's not American. But that's OK, because Donald Trump doesn't have a comb over, so everyone's happy with the lie.

We saw Stephen Baldwin prancing around on a table with two half naked boxers, tipping coffee into the team laptop and ruining all their hard work.

The US Apprentice is very different to the UK version, with blatant product placement from corporate sponsors. In the boardroom showdown, the Trump asked the man with the hair if he could even remember the model name of the excellent value and high quality new printer from Kodak that they were supposed to have been selling. Hint, hint.

And his parting words to the loser were, "I love you, but you're fired".

Can't see Lord Sugar saying that.

Anyway, we digress. The point of this ramble is to share the wonderful news that the police enquiry of phone hacking at the NOTW has moved on. No-one really believes that hacking over 3,000 peoples' voicemails, all in the public interest of course, was limited to the NOTW. So let's see... what other tabloid newspapers had a history of dodgy reporting methods? Like faking a photo on the front cover of a British soldier beating up an Iraqi prisoner? Erm... that would be the Daily Mirror, under the editorial leadership of...

Piers Morgan!!

No wonder he was so keen to dash off to the US to seek his fame and fortune as a posh spoken, podgy faced English twit.

Now you may recall, and if you don't you can read the story here, that Piers Morgan denied, to David Hasslehoff's face, knowing anything about his staff putting a video of the drunken Hoff on the Daily Mirror website.

Did he know that the photo, and the story, on the front page of the newspaper, was faked?

No, of course not. As editor, he wouldn't get involved in such details as that. He'd leave that all up to an independent contractor who is no longer with them, and who moved to South America, and anyway, he's dead. And we deleted all his emails. And we can't even remember his name. But he wore sunglasses. And a blue suit. And had a posh voice. And was last seen arguing with Stephen Baldwin...

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Apprentice Limps Home

Oh dear. The Apprentice finally limps home to its big anti climax.

No final task. No return of the contestants to sabotage each other. No cheesy adverts and pitches to baying crowds of industry experts.

And we didn't even get to see much of the interviews either.

We got to see a lot of waiting around, a lot of fake smiles, a lot of cars shuttling people back and forth and a lot of... well, hot air, really.

This year's final was based solely on each contestant's business plan, which were as follows:

Tom Devices. No, a monitoring service. No, devices to prevent loss through absence. What he meant to say was "orthopaedic office chairs".
Susan Cosmetics that she made in her kitchen using margarine and porridge.
Helen A service to make dentist appointments for poor people. Otherwise known as a 'concierge service franchise'.
Jim A service whereby Jim tells Alan how fantastic he is each day. We mean e-learning skills to teach schoolchildren how great Alan is. We mean employability skills. And if they're lucky, employment by Alan, who is great.

OK, so spot the odd one out. Three business plans based on what the contestants already do for a living and would like to continue to do, funded by Lord Sugar Daddy. One business plan based on the premise that Lord Sugar is vain, egocentric and can't see past his own fringe. But Jim's big mistake is that this is the British apprentice. The judge is not Donald Trump but Sir Alan Lord Sugar OBE. He can't win him over by buttering up his comb-over.

Jim tries bravely to recover by suggesting that his business is a non-profit venture. Charity may begin at home, but you're not at home, Jim. You're in Alan Sugar's house. And Al is in da house, and he already "does his bit" for charity, so they can all get lost. The bloody spongers.

And Jim is therefore the first casualty of this dog eat everydog, one trick dog and pony show. Take your tired old clich├ęs and stick 'em where the sun don't shine, sunshine.

Susan's business plan is based on a simple premise. She can make a grand in a weekend at a tourist market in London, employing 15 illegal immigrants and making the products in her kitchen with no safety testing or regulatory costs, so if she had stalls in 20 markets, multiplied by 52 weekends, that's a million pounds!! Easy!

Why didn't we think of that?

Oh yes, because we're not 21 and we've got some common sense, that's why.

Susan's biggest selling point is to have Alan Sugar's name behind her brand. Right. Alan Sugar, darling of the cosmetics industry. Walking advert for skincare.

Wouldn't that be like using Duncan Bannatyne's name to sell a book on how to be pleasant?

And Susan was out on her ear.

Helen's business plan was simple. You do people's admin for them. Now, because the editors chose not to show us much of any interest, it's difficult to see how she planned to make money out of it. Basically, you do it in one of two ways, you charge a fee to the customer, and/or you charge commission to the services that you use. But make any money out of it?

All that it came down to was the fact that Lord Sugar doesn't do service businesses. He likes products. Scale. Volume. Licensing. Retailers. Margin. Money. More money.

It's no wonder that Lord Sugar found the decision so difficult. There wasn't a clear winner in terms of the business plan, so he had to go with the person. The reason that Tom won it was that he was the only person who put forward a plan based on a mass produceable product.

And, as it transpired in the after-show interviews, Lord Sugar isn't actually interested in the chair at all. He wants the curved nail files. He wants to sponge off Tom's past ingenuity and hard work.

Careful, Tom. He wants to own your ass.

Now, here's what we would have done if we were Lord Sugar.

We'd have gone into business with Tom and hired Helen as Operations Manager and Jim as Sales Manager.

Now that WOULD be a bloody good business.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Natasha is Just Not Interested

"The remaining candidates fight for the chance to be Lord Sugar's bitch.... we mean business partner"

This final competitive task is, in his Lordship's words, "To find out which fast food restaurant's got legs"

Well, we think that KFC's got legs. We just don't know from what species.

What about mini pies? They're more suitable for women, according to Helen. So let's create mini pies, for women with smaller appetites, and then give them three, just so they don't feel left out.

Susan is, according to Jim, the resident expert on Mexican food. Susan lives up to this lofty expectation with, "Have you ever been to Mexico? What do they eat? Chiili? Tomatoes? Ariba! Ariba!"

We think the closest Susan has come to Mexican culture is watching Speedy Gonzales. She could have taken a leaf out of his book when it came to customer service.

Helen is in the pie lab with Heston Blumenthals' younger brother. He tries to convince her that putting live frogs and an exploding goat into a pie, made to look like a pineapple but tasting like cheese would be fantastic. Helen sticks to her guns.

Natasha and Susan spin round in their chairs, staring into space, trying to think up catchy brand names. And that is why they are not inventors. Because they presume that the answer is in their own heads, and if they stare into space for long enough, it will magically appear.

Tom, on the other hand, is a real inventor. He goes out looking for inspiration, misreads a sign and MyPy is born. This is how all of the great inventions are born. Dyson invented the vacuum cleaner by looking at cyclonic filtration systems in factories. Thomas Edison invented Small Pox by hanging around with dirty milkmaids. And Og the Inventor invented the wheel by watching a fat Brontosaurus rolling down a hill.

That's what it's all about... inspiration.

Natasha and Susan turn to their great leader, their creative muse, their spiritual guide for help. Jim.

"We're struggling"

"OK, what about something catchy and Mexican... Caracas? Is that the word? Or is it Maracas? No, Caracas"

That's right. A Mexican restaurant named after the capital of Venezuela.

With a solid and inspiring brand to rally around, Natasha and Susan set to creating the whole Caracas experience. A polystyrene cactus and some sombreros. Natasha wants peppers in the logo. Susan, professor emeritus in Mexican culture, says that you don't have peppers in Mexican food, so they can't have a pepper in the logo.

Whoa, hang on. No peppers in Mexican. Not even chilli peppers? A chilli pepper like in Chiquito's logo?

Never mind. She's the expert.

Meanwhile, Tom, inspired up to the eyebrows, creates a real brand. And it is utterly, utterly brilliant.

The restaurants are open, and Susan is telling people that their food will be out in just 10 minutes. Maybe 15. Not only does she have a slender grasp on Mexican culture, she is also struggling with the concept of 'fast' food.

It's feedback time from the fast food experts.

MyPy - what would you do in the summer?

Tom's inventive brain leaps to the rescue... "Cold pies! Like, pork pies would be nice" That's right.

It's MyPy's new summer collection! All the stodge and none of the temperature!!

Jim is challenged on his business model. How many people can he serve in an hour?

Well, if we serve 60 people in 2 hours at £7 each, that's... erm... four thousand.... no... two hundred... no hang on, Susan, lend me your toes...


But the question was "in an HOUR"

So that's £210.

And when Jim went and picked the brains of an oddly co-operative Mexican fast food restaurant owner, he was told that they serve over a hundred people in an hour. Jim is projecting 30.

Well, at the rate they served people, even 30 is ambitious.

Natasha explains her brand positioning to the experts. "We like to encourage our customers to hang up their sombreros".

The results are in and the board are looking gloomy.

Helen and Tom get 7/10 for their pies

Jim, Natasha and Susan get 4/10 for their lukewarm pseudo-Mexican slop

Praise the bloody Lord!!!!

Tom looks utterly, utterly dumbfounded. He is literally stunned. He cannot comprehend the fact that he is in the final.

And you know what? Our money, or at least some of it, has been on Tom for some time now. He isn't a salesman, and Alan has made it very clear that he doesn't want a salesman. Tom is also a team player, an inventor and a details man. Perfect.

Jim, on the other hand, is nothing but a salesman. He's great when he's chatting up the ladies to buy an umbrella, but put him under pressure to defend the details and he absolutely falls apart. There is nothing behind his charm.

Susan admits that none of the team had a business plan. Natasha blames it on a lack of communication.

But Natasha has a degree in hospitality? Why didn't she step up and sort out the food? Well, she studied International Hospitality Management and she never was interested in food, and she didn't want to do it, and she was never interested in it.

Jim is looking very, very worried. He is really struggling to defend himself from the combined onslaught of Susan and Natasha. Why? Because he has used up all his charm. He has fallen right into their trap. He can only charm them when they want him to, when they are happy to go along with it. But put the big prize on the line? Jim is easy prey. Very easy. We think that, as much as we like Jim, that puts him out of the running.

All that Jim can manage is a feeble, "I am totally open, I have always said what I think"


Lucky for Jim, Lord Sugar's decision is now based on who he think that he can stand to work with the least, and since Natasha has fallen from being a gutsy, go getting, no prisoner taking, tough talking power woman to a mardy, miserable, introverted, "lacklustre", withdrawn wallflower, she has cooked her goose. WITH peppers and smeared in greasy cheese and served up in a limp fajita with sauce oozing all over the place.

Stiil, she's probably not interested.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Above the Law

Part of the fuss about the News of the World is the way that Rupert Murdoch just shut the newspaper down, literally overnight, in an attempt to show how seriously the executives take the allegations of illegal activity, and that they are fine, upstanding media professionals who won't stand for such a dreadful show of ill manners.

Yeah, right.

Murdoch did not close down the NOTW to show that he won't stand for such behaviour.

He did not close down the NOTW because the newspaper was too filth ridden to rescue.

And he didn't even close down the NOTW, as some have said, to try to hide evidence and make it difficult for the police to identify what actually went on and who knew what.


What Rupert Murdoch did was show the British government, police and people that he is above the law.

You don't like the way I run my newspaper? I'll show you what I think of your pathetic laws.

Try to tell me how my reporters should behave? I'll kill them all...

His decision was purely and simply a demonstration of his mighty power. And the British government can't do a thing about it.

Oh no! All those jobs! How could he?

We know this sounds cruel, but every employee at the NOTW is complicit in maintaining that cesspit of filth. It's like the people who think it's entertaining to chase and corner a wild animal and then rip it to pieces as it either dies slowly through blood loss, or mercifully quickly through stress, complaining that banning fox hunting has caused the loss of literally some jobs in the poor old countryside.

And not too long ago, many people would have been up in arms about the job losses when slavery was abolished. Where will I get a job as a slave driver now? Oh, what's this? A call centre team leader? I think I could do that...

The politicians all know what's going on. The question is, what will they do about it?

Answers on the back of a stamp...

Friday, 8 July 2011

Farewell, News of the World

And good riddance?

Unfortunately not. Of course the NOTW is not being closed down. How ridiculous.

There will still be a News International, sensationalist, bottom feeding, soft porn Sunday newspaper. It just won't be called the News of the World.

Today, David Cameron (British PM) said that what had happened was "illegal, unacceptable, despicable and disgusting"

I think, to be fair, he knew that months ago when News International were trying desperately to contain the damage. But everyone hoped that the wronged celebs could be paid to keep quiet and that the problem would go away.

If you're wondering what this is all about, then the current hot news in the UK is that one of Britain's oldest, most popular and least respected Sunday newspapers is closing with a week's notice because of a scandal involving the behaviour of its own reporters. A 168 year run brought to an abrupt end.

To be fair, the paper's reporters have always employed questionable techniques. Over the years, they have used methods such as secret filming, entrapment and impersonating various officials to extract 'dirt' from celebrities and public figures. They have brought countless careers to an abrupt end.

And all in the name of the "public interest"

Oh, the public are interested all right, that's why people buy the newspaper. But is it in the public interest? We would argue not.

Let's look at what happened.

Earlier this year, it came to light that NOTW journalists were 'hacking' into celebrities' mobile phone voicemail services. The concept is easy; you can call a number to retrieve your own messages from any other phone. All you need is a PIN. In the old days, you didn't even need a PIN unless you had set one up. But now you can only access it if you have already created a PIN. For years, gutter journalists have bribed mobile phone call centre operators to pass on the details of phones owned by celebrities.

So you have the number, all you need to do is guess the PIN. And with an autodialler, it's relatively easy to stage a 'brute force attack', trying every PIN until you hit the right one.

Once you have the PIN, you just keep dialling in, listening to the messages and hoping to pick up some juicy gossip.

But what if the voicemail has no PIN? Ah... well... it turns out that most of the mobile phone companies will allow you to access your voicemail from your own phone without a PIN. So you'd just need to pick-pocket the celeb's phone, right?

Wrong. You just use a 'spoofing' service that enables you to make one phone look like another. As long as you promise to be sensible and not use it for any illegal purpose.

Mind you, while you're in, you might as well set up a PIN, then you can access the voicemail from anywhere.

When this first came to light, the NOTW blamed one reporter, who didn't even work for them, he was a freelancer, and he's very naughty, and we had no idea he was doing it and now we've fired him to show what a fine, upstanding and respectable media business we are.

The celebrities involved were paid damages and the whole thing was swept under the carpet, along with all of the other questionable reporting practices at the newspaper.

Over 3,000 victims have been discovered to date. I think that shows that this is not an isolated incident.

The newspaper's owners and editors of course condone and are fully aware of what goes on. Rupert Murdoch's son was on TV, saying how awful it was and that they knew nothing about it. So they don't read their own newspapers? This is like the moment on Pier's Morgan's chat show with David Hasslehoff when he claimed to know nothing about the Daily Mirrors' publication of a photo of David Hasslehoff in a drunken, alcoholic haze. He was he editor at the time, and knew nothing about it?

Media such as the NOTW view celebrities as public property. We made you famous, so now we own you. However, some celebrities don't agree, and in particular, Richard E Grant, would not allow the matter to be forgotten.

The police were in a difficult situation. They largely turn a blind eye to the activities of reporters, in fact there are also allegations of reporters bribing police. Well, doesn't almost every TV drama feature a reporter who gets information from a police source? Didn't the police and reporters all drink in the same pubs? They each regard each other as a necessary evil.

The problem is that the celebrities involved would not shut up, and sooner or later, the police have to accept the fact that they are allowing a criminal act to go widely publicised yet unchallenged. The editor said sorry, so that's OK.

To cap it all, one of the phones that the single, lone wolf, rogue journalist hacked into was that of Milly Dowler, the British girl who was abducted and murdered a few years ago. What were they hoping to find? Evidence to pass to the police? Of course not.

Now the police are involved, everyone's coming out of the woodwork to say how awful it all is. The British PM, Rupert Murdoch's son.

It turns out that the 'rogue reporter' story has been spun too many times. Now the NOTW's editor, Andy Coulson, is being questioned by police, possibly even arrested.

The bottom line is that the NOTW, its editors and all of its staff had a good run. They got away with as much as they could for as long as they could. They stepped over the line countless times, and one time too many.

But what difference will this make?

Will it block News International's bid for BSkyB? Of course not. The activities of a few rogue individuals can't possibly bring the credibility of a global business into question.

Will it mean proper regulation of the media? There is talk of replacing the Press Complaints Commission with a better regulator. Of course not. Society is much bigger than one industry.

Will it mean that the media conducts itself more honourably?

Don't be ridiculous. The media just gives people what they want.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

It Was Melody's Time

In this, the tenth week, Kool and the Gang visit a warehouse in London to pick up some tat, or as Screaming Lord Sugar calls it, tut.

He dances about like a little fairy. Why? Because he's lovin' it. In his element. Up his alley. In his sardine tin. A cash and carry is his spiritual birthplace.

The teams have two days to sell as much tat as possible based on a starting investment of £250.

But wait for the catch - the task is about reinvestment. He wants them to get back and restock as much as possible. Sell. Smell. Buy. And repeat to a count of ten. And.... relax.

Reinvestment. He really wants them to remember the point of the task, no excuses for missing it like they have done in every other task. Every one. Idiots.

And will they remember?


Melody jumps into lead her brave Logical warriors. "It's my time", she says.

How prophetic...

"Is everybody behind me?", she asks her team.

"Yes" they say. Yes, Melody, behind you all the way. Pushing you right out the door.

Susan begs to be PM for Venture. "I'm very good at picking up on what can sell", she claims.

Right, at the end of the day, look in the box. Whatever you've got least of, that's what can sell.


Susan decides to go door to door in Kensington selling duvets. Door to door! Kensington! And all without an ID card proving that she's a young offender being sponsored to make a living selling overpriced household crap. Will she never learn?

Melody has an inspired idea - the mark of a true scapegoat, we mean leader. Buy some crap from a wholesaler and then go and sell it to some retailers. Erm...

They go into Pound Star. Here's a clue. They don't sell stars. They offer the man some nice £50 watches for just £25. Pound Star. Never mind.

Next, they take duvets into a hardware shop.

Meanwhile, Tom is at the London Eye selling nodding bulldogs, sunglasses and.... a pressure washer.

A pressure washer?

Maybe he should have sold it to the London Eye to keep the capsules clean.

Natasha is really panicking. She says, "I'm not panicking", just to prove it. She tries her hand at selling duvet covers in Covent Garden. Are they union jack, royal wedding commemorative duvet covers?

No, beige polycotton. £25. To tourists.

Helen has had enough and tries to mount a one woman mutiny. She is overthrown by the queen of bigging herself up, Melody.

Back in the boardroom and was Melody a good PM?

"No. Terrible"

Well, that was the most honest answer from the whole series from Helen. However, Helen can't avoid the blame, because she did come up with the idea of buying stuff from a wholesaler and selling it to a retailer.

"After a few retailers, we realised that they want to buy at wholesale prices"

WHAT? Now you tell us....

Natasha consistently failed to reinvest. Now, what was the point of the task again? Let's think... we're sure Jim mentioned it once. Or half a dozen times.

A £100 fine for Venture for failing to reinvest. Harsh!!!

You see, the two teams were told, very plainly by Lord Sugar, that the task was reinvestment, and the success criteria was ASSETS. Not profit. Not turnover. Not sales volume. Not empty boxes. ASSETS.

Team Sales + Stock Purchases Assets Fine Total
Logic £1204 £476 £728 - £728
Venture £1154 £303 £851 £100 £751

What the teams didn't work out is that stock is an asset, because you can sell it tomorrow, and cash is an asset, because you can spend it tomorrow.

So it didn't matter that they had stock left over.

Ah well, it's only Lord Sugar's money at the end of the day.

Natasha won by default, so no treat for Venture. And straight to bed with no tea!!

Back at the house, they're having a very grown up debate about the situation. Natasha says that the reason she completely failed to misunderstand the nature of the task, right at the beginning, was because Susan was complaining on the market stall.

And in the boardroom, Melody takes a massive gamble and pretends to take responsibility. We've got to hand it to her, she's figured out the game and is chancing her hand.

"I should be fired if we just go by this task"

Melody, his Lordship was only too happy to oblige.