Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Apprentice series 8, episode 1: Blank Canvas.

“In business, times are tough. Investment, hard to come by” is the ominous voice over, as we enter the new series of The Apprentice. True to form, the show kickstarts by showing us footage of some arrogant idiots taking absolute shit, “I will literally roar my way to the top”, brags one lady, as a guy says “I have a habit for pulling people’s strings and making them do what I want.” One woman, with striking blue eyes and blonde hair, fancies herself as quite the Uma Thurman, “I call myself the blonde assassin. I let people underestimate me just so that I can blow them out of the water.” But the cream of the crop has to be a self-proclaimed “shark”, who says “I truly am the reflection of perfection.” With this grade of shit-talking, swish suits and 16 egotistical buffoons, we are well and truly ready for Series 8 of The Apprentice.

As much as these characters love themselves, everyone knows there’s one person who calls the shots in The Apprentice, and that is the one, the only, Sir Alan Sugar. Presumably bored of shooting Piers Morgan down all the time on Twitter, Sir Sugar features another kind of bored: the board room. The 16 hopefuls look by turns excited, scared and sure of themselves. One lady is wearing very striking purple eye make-up to match her purple blouse. Sir Alan says that he’s looking for someone who’s the “Marks to [his] Spencer, the Lennon to [his] McCartney.” He then proceeds to brag that if he was on the side of the table as his contestants, he would win. Big talk for a man who once owned Tottenham, trololololo.

The week’s challenge is to start their own print material. They can sell T-shirts or pictures of photos, and whoever makes the most profit wins, the team that doesn’t, fairly standard. Also as per standard, in the first week, it’s men vs women, with Nick being put in charge of keeping an eye on the girls and Karen Brady the girls. Alan Sugar drily warns his contestants to not even think about hiding away. If the preview was anything to go by, I don’t think there’s much danger of these characters of hiding.

We find out a bit about the integral players. One of the women owns her own bridal boutique, one of the men runs a fine wine company. One of the women, who we learn is called Bilyana Apostolova, prides herself on getting herself from a “communist block in Bulgaria to a skyscraper in the city of London.” Another, Maria O’Connor, whom I’d earlier identified as wearing very noticeable eye makeup and is younger than me, is a restaurateur. “You’re either gonna love me or you’re gonna hate me,” she preens. One man, rather unfortunately named Ricky Martin, says “by day I’m a business superstar, and by night, I’m a professional wrestler.” The jokes are really writing themselves here. “I think Lord Sugar saw the potential from me, just sitting from across the desk”, he smirks. Looord.

The contestants this season are situation in west London’s trendy Bayswater, in an apartment that is apparently “big enough to fit all our egos in.” Having watched them for just ten minutes, I’m not sure there’s a big enough building in the world for that. The boys group pick their group name fairly quickly – Phoenix, for the imagery, as do the women, who go for Sterling. I quite like both names, and I also like that “sterling” is quite a masculine word and the women haven’t been afraid to pick it.

What the boys are afraid of, however, is putting themselves forward to be project manager. They all churn out various excuses before Technology Recruiter Nick volunteers himself. He explains that his mind is a bit like an Excel spreadsheet. Knowing the problems I’ve had with MS Excel on the morning of a coursework deadline when I’ve needed it to compute complex sums, I wouldn’t say that was altogether a completely positive thing. He does, however have a fairly geeky, bumbling charm, and I have a feeling I will be rooting for him in weeks to come. The women are less wallflower in their behaviour, as Gabrielle Omar, an architect who has just opened a print store herself and thus has the requisite know how, bravely volunteers.

Next, to decide what they will sell. The boys decide to sell print on bears. Nick asserts “the design comes second, just the product at the moment,” which I think is fairly dubious as most people buy prints for the aesthetics more than the object themselves. The women go for T-shirts, and Gabrielle, who had introduced herself as “a bit quirky” is really pushing the quirky factor as she says words like “zany”. She obviously backs the weird-factor!

The girls decide to target families by going for animal designs on their T-shirts. Business development manager Jade gets the ball rolling swiftly as she makes a few sketches with her Sharpie pen, which are then uploaded online and made into presentable-looking cartoon pictures. The pictures are simple and quite childish looking, but still presenting the animals they’re meant to be well. A Quentin Blake-lite style, I’d say.
There’s a bit of a confusion within the girls’ team in terms of how many actual blank T-shirts and blank bibs they need to buy. They call up Gabrielle, who doesn’t seem sure, so she delegates the responsibility to the team who are at the warehouse. They hand over £280, but no one looks terribly happy or confident with their decision. The women seem none too impressed with their Project Manager, “she’s an architect. She can draw, that’s it”, Maria asserts, whilst various other women pull catty faces.

In stark comparison to Gabrielle’s creativity-but-lacking-pragmatics, the boys are quite the opposite. They have calculated their profit margins down to a T and are comfortably within budget, but as picked up on previous, their product is awful mediocre. “What’s different about this? Nothing is different about it,” Karen Brady notes. The men decide to print pictures of London buses, and I, like Karen Brady, am utterly unimpressed with the lack of invention involved here; there’s plenty of photos of assorted London things all around London. The boys really needed to think a little more outside the box. Union Jacks on teddy bears, really? Not exactly blowing the world away with that.

Next comes the production process. The boys do some spray-painting for the silhouettes of their boring T-shirts, whilst Gabrielle’s girls make a range of bags, T-shirts and jigsaw puzzles of the three animals Jade had drawn, rendered in various colours. The girls’ product has turned out nice and even looks semi-professional. I have a feeling that even if the girls’ team end up losing, Jade won’t be brought into the boardroom because her designs have been great. In making the products, Gabrielle is really in her element as she instructs her team members how to do the lino, printing, etc. Nick observes that she has finally been able to shine now, but that he is disappointed with the “blonde assassin” Katie. He shrewdly notices that “she’d better get involved, or they’ll sense weakness and start turning on her,” which is then precisely what happens.
The boys’ patriotic bears and T-shirts about waiting for buses really are the most uninspired thing I’ve seen, and I’m struggling to think who, apart from the odd tourist with far more money than sense, would really want to buy it when there are so many similar and better produced ones already out in the market. But they’ve got even more pressing concerns, as the process of printing the bags were harder than they’d envisaged, and as such, a few turned out badly and cannot be sold. “I think it’s terrible,” laments guy says of the bland product choice, “but it’s done now.” No use crying over spilt printing ink?

Nick gives his team a talk, asking each of them to aim for £325 of sales each, which is beyond optimistic. What is even more optimistic, however, is that he thinks those run-of-the-mill teddy bears can bring in £15. Really?! I wouldn’t pay £1.50 for them! Fortunately, I’m not the only one who thinks this, as Stephen, a sales manager, voices his concern and thinks they should try selling the bears for £12 instead. Nick, however, possibly more due to his pride being dented rather than any kind of unwavering faith in the bears, refutes this, and chooses to stick with £15.

The Apprentice always has had flawless background music, what with their wide range of film soundtracks and classical music blend, and this episode is no different as Saint-Saëns’s lovely Danse Macabre plays as the Sterling, the girls group, arrive at Greenwich market. They have a marketing trick up their sleeve, to print children’s names on the T-shirts to charge more. I think this should be popular as parents love items of clothing with their kids names on. They’ve also decided to take half of their stock to London zoo, which should be popular as little kids who see the T-shirts will surely want a piece of memorabilia of their day out.
All is not totally well, however, as Maria gets irked as she perceives the other half of the team to be dallying and wasting time, and being the bolshy person she is, tells them so. “Go, you’re wasting time!” she barks at them.

The bears, unsurprisingly, are not shifting for £15. The ridiculous thing is that in Clinton’s, you can get a large teddy bear for £20,and these bears are tiny, and thus not worth anywhere near £15. Finally Steve gets what he wants and lowers the price. “Try and sell it for a higher price if you can”, Nick pleads desperately, but he’s not fooling anyone.

The women in Greenwich market are doing very well indeed, as gaggles of mothers swarm to their products, and the choice to personalize the jigsaws/T-shirts/bibs is also proving popular and many are taking them up on it for the extra £5. However, the girls who were headed towards London Zoo are in gridlock. The bad news is broken to Gabrielle, who is non-too-pleased. Finally, the women arrive at London Zoo, and they know they have to make up on lost time by ambushing any mothers with prams. The rest of the team are not impressed with Bilyana, who keeps speaking to children, which is obviously rather pointless as children aren’t known to carry wallets. Further fractions are caused when the team think she is taking over other people’s sales, to boost her own sale statistics. “You don’t want to be behaving like animals in the zoo,” one woman comments, laughing at her own joke.

The teddy bears, at ten pounds rather than £15, are now actually beginning to sale. Deciding to haul their stock in bulk, they sell some of their bags in bulk to niche stores, for considerably below the price they were selling them for individually.

Meanwhile at the zoo, the women are continue to behave at their catty best. Seeing the zoo as a bit of a bust, they decide to approach local stores. But the walk to the stores themselves cause fights as the women debate the length of the walk towards the shop. With time running out for the half of Sterling at Greenwich market, they too, make like the boys and flog the remains of their products for cut-prices to small shops. The key at this point of the day is no longer making profit, but for making any kind of money.

The women who failed at the zoo finally reach a shop, and try to harass the shopowner into buying their bags. She says, quite reasonably, that she can’t give them an answer today, and the women continue to try and pile pressure on her to no avail. Frustrated, one of them says, “okay, let’s go, we’re wasting time,” which no-one would like to hear in their own store, and, quite rightly, the shop manager gives them an earful for their rudeness.

It’s not just the girls who have some angry customers, as the boys team, who had sold 10 bags to a niche store run by a woman in a polka dot dress, calls them back in, pointing out the imperfections in each one of the ten bags they’d given her. I think that’s really cheeky that they thought they could get away with selling below-par items. “They’ve sold some of their product that deserves to be nowhere other than the bin,” Karen Brady remarks. They end up having to refund the woman, a very embarrassing situation.

With the business day finished, it’s back to the boardroom for Sir Alan’s obligatory speech. He commends Phoenix on their choice of team name, but is less impressed with how none of the men had the balls to put themselves forward for Team Leader. “Before Nick had even finished putting himself forward for Team Leader, half the team were congratulating him,” Karen Brady observes wryly, of a team that consists of so many supposed “leaders.” Next, Alan Sugar appraises the team’s product, which, as I predicted, he isn’t too impressed with. It just isn’t a well-designed product.

Onto the girls group, he questions them how they came up with the name “Sterling”, and the woman who came up with it proudly says how she dreamt it, but receives nothing but an eye roll from Sir Alan. And, like I knew he would be as well, Sir Alan is very taken with Jade’s design (Jade did Graphics at college). The girls banter with him that if he likes them so much he can have one for free.

But the only thing that really matters is the numbers. The girls get a net profit of £214.80. The boys, however, blow that out of the water with profits of almost three times that at £616. For winning this challenge, the boys are treated to canapés and cocktails. I can’t say I fully think they deserve it. Their product was really boring and uninspired and I definitely wouldn’t have bought one, whereas I would have gladly bought one of the cute T-shirts from the girls’ team. To add insult to injury, their prize is food presented in artistic form, such as eating food off a painting tile, and adding flavour to their drinks with a “paintbrush”. It’s gorgeous to look out and is probably even better to eat, and would have been heaven for Gabrielle, herself an art nut. But, as one of the people in the show speak sense for the first time all episode, he notes cannily, “they had eight people going in eight directions, we were all pulling in One Direction.” Aside from making me grin because it alluded to what is currently my favourite boyband, it is also very true. The girls’ product was much, much better, in design and in quality. But where they fell down was in team work. And that cost them.

In a move that will surprisingly absolutely nobody, as soon as the women are sent to the dingy café, they start pointing fingers. It’s suddenly everyone’s fault but their own. In the boardroom, on asking where they went wrong, Jane says “the boys were very focussed on their margins. We weren’t,” and Jade backs this up, saying they only looked at pricing after they’d made the products. Alan Sugar shrewdly points out how the Greenwich mob sold twice as much as the London Zoo group. Nick really lets rip into the girls for the totally unclassy why they tried to bully that shopkeeper into buying their stuff, saying they were like a group of “braying hyenas.” Katie speaks up for the first time in what feels like the whole day, choosing to blame Bilyana for the long walk in which they wasted precious time. Bilyana points fingers at Project Manager Gabrielle for the 20 minutes she took to make decisions, conveniently forgetting it took 20 minutes to walk to the nearest shop. Har.

On being questioned what she did, Katie says she was a “fantastic team player” and claims to make “lots of sales,” something that isn’t exactly backed up with sale figures. Gabrielle chooses to bring Bilyana and Katie with her into the boardroom, which are the two that I would have picked as well.

As they wait awkwardly for him to make his decisions, Alan Sugar gives a small hint on his feelings on the three women. Gabrielle, he observes, seems nice and pleasant, but her management lacked direction, a big issue. Bilyana, he notices, “rubs them up the wrong way”, and he noticed that Nick didn’t have much to say about what Katie did. However, one thing that Alan Sugar is above is falling for easy scapegoating, and is wary of the team ganging up on Bilyana. She doesn’t after all, have excellent credentials, which one doesn’t obtain from being an idiot.

As such, he allows Bilyana to speak up for herself, but she speaks so much jargon that he finds himself cutting in. “You’re talking like a City analyst. This is not brain surgery, it’s a two bob job.” And then, the line of the entire episode, “This is not a takeover of Goldman Sachs.” I laughed for half an hour!
What follows is essentially a verbal catfight between Gabrielle and Bilyana, as they holler at each other and Gabrielle assumes a wide range of furious facial expressions. Then Bilyana gives her life story, “I came here when I was 17 on a scholarship…” that gets so boring that again, Sugar interrupts her. “Shall I get out the violin?” he askes deadpans. Comedy genius.

Sir Alan makes his decision, and chooses to fire Bilyana. He's up against it in, though, as she won't let him get a word in edgeways as she senses he's about to fire her, which makes it pretty funny. "It's unfortunate for them that their demeanor can be their demise," he opines. This is a sentiment shared by Katie, who says "I owe a drink, to be honest." Indeed, Bilyana was VERY annoying in the boardroom and Alan Sugar probably got bored of her whining.

So Katie and Gabrielle go back to the pad, ready to fight on another day. 1 down, 15 to go.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

We ain't got no his-to-ree.

Last night, against all the odds, Chelsea overcame their 3-1 first leg deficit against Napoli to win 4-1 at Stamford Bridge, 5-4 on aggregate, to go through to the quarter finals of the Champions League. They gave a tremendous performance, easily one of their finest of what has been an otherwise highly disappointing season. Roberto di Matteo, the interim manager, picked the side that many feel AVB, his hapless predecessor should have chosen (aside from John Terry, who was injured three weeks ago). He stuck with the old guard of Lampard, Terry, Drogba, Cole. These men, and all the other Chelsea players, repaid him in kind with a team effort that was nothing short of Olympian.

The game began cagily for Chelsea; Napoli’s attacks were plentiful and incisive. The Italian side, very much the flavour of the month due to their ultra-attacking 3-4-3 formation, looked to cause Chelsea problems from every angle and Cech made several good saves when the match was hanging at 0-0. Indeed, so against the run of the play was Drogba’s goal at 28th minute that it felt like a total surprise.
The goal, a bullet header from Drogba following a smart cross from Ramires, knocked the wind out of Napoli’s then full-power sails and Chelsea looked galvanized. Before half-time Sturridge could have made it 2-0 on the night if not for some errant finishing.

Napoli, for all their fluid play, had one notable Achilles heel, and that was that when the ball was crossed into their area. This was exemplified two minutes into the second half, when Frank Lampard’s – so notably absent from the starting XI that lost 3-1 in Naples – crossed and John Terry, back from injury, got his head on the end of it. Two headers for Chelsea, two goals on the night, the tie stood at 3-3, with the West Londoners going through on the away goals rule.

But such was Napoli’s potency that nobody doubted they would score at least one on the night. And indeed, eight minutes after Terry put Chelsea ahead in the tie for the first time since Juan Mata’s goal in Naples had given Chelsea some short-lived joy, it was the Englishman’s own haphazard clearance that found Inler. Inler let the ball bounce then positioned his foot perfectly to strike it accurately, and hard, to go through Lampard’s legs and into the back of the Chelsea net. 2-1 on the night, with Napoli 4-3 ahead on aggregate.

With legs getting tired and Chelsea running out of time – if they scored it would simply bring the game to extra time – Di Matteo took of Sturridge, who had ran his legs off in the game and bought on Chelsea’s £50million Fernando Torres. Torres’ pricetag will not be lost on anyone, least of all him, and the fact that he has gone 24 hours without scoring can not be good for his confidence either, but the Spaniard gave a terrific account of himself – complete with Nike headband – when he came on, chasing lost causes and displaying terrific ball retention.

Then on 75 minutes, when Branislav Ivanovic – playing so attacking that he had been perennially in the Napoli penalty area throughout – met a corner with his head, Napoli’s Dossena was judged to have handled it. Frank Lampard stood up to take the penalty, one of the most pressured ones of his life, and with the expressionless precision of a cinematic Clint Eastwood hitman smashed it down the middle. The Napoli goalkeeper got quite close to it, but such was the power of the drive that it hit the back of the net. 3-1 on the night to Chelsea, 4-4 on aggregate, with extra time in place.

With the painful memories of Moscow, penalties were the last thing Chelsea wanted. After all, Juan Mata had just recently had one saved in the FA Cup against Birmingham (he had also missed in the home game too, up against the same goalkeeper). The ITV commentators informed us that this season, Chelsea had been awarded 9 penalties, and only 4 of them had been scored. It didn’t look good. So Chelsea wanted to win the game in extra-time.

And on the stoke of half time in ET, they were blessed when Branislav Ivanovic was left unmarked in the Napoli penalty area. A cross from Drogba found his right foot and he struck it with a striker’s finish to find the back of the net. Chelsea and Stamford Bridge celebrated riotously and it was just reward for a team who had really given their all that evening.

But Chelsea knew that they could not rest on their laurels in the final 15 minutes, because should Napoli get just one goal, they would be through on the away goals rule. As such, it was all hands to the pump to run down the clock and prevent Napoli from obtaining possession. Didier Drogba revisited his younger, petulant self and gave some fabulous play-acting performances that both riled the opposition and entertained Chelsea fans. Crucially, his diving worked, as more times than not the referee fell for it and it helped use up precious seconds.

The Ivorian could have dusted the game off in the last minute of extra time, when Malouda gave him a peach of a cross, but the 34-year-old Ivorian, who had played all 120 minutes of this thriller, miscued his shot.

No matter. Chelsea saw the game through and when the referee blew his whistle for the end of the game, the celebrations at Stamford Bridge were a picture. Roberto di Matteo ran onto the pitch and embraced and each and everyone of his players, who had played like Spartans tonight. Chelsea knew that they would have to be nothing short of Herculean last night to overcome a two-goal deficit against a spirited Napoli side, and indeed, plaudits have to go to Napoli, who despite losing 4-1, still played marvellously.

Individually, I couldn’t be more proud of the Chelsea players. John Terry truly shone, he led from the back, scored a crucial goal and threw his body on the line to prevent every single Napoli attack. Frank Lampard, so criticised for his role in AVB’s departure from Chelsea, was deployed as a defensive midfielder in di Matteo’s 4-2-3-1 formation and even though it was a role he is not all that accustomed to, played wonderfully, making some tackles that Makelele, the quintessential Chelsea defensive midfielder, would have been proud of. Lampard also showed true grit to take the penalty; he has missed from the spot twice this season for Chelsea, but was unfazed by the past and merely looked to the future as he struck the ball. Didier Drogba, almost anonymous up until he scored, then became the powerhouse Drogba that opposition sides have grown to fear. David Luiz, who’s performance in the first leg was riddled with defensive errors, seemed to have settled in much better with John Terry alongside him, and he, too, made some fabulous interceptions. Even more impressive is that in the dying moments of the game, fatigue clearly got the better of him, but true to the Chelsea cause, he soldiered on. Ashley Cole, Ramires, Torres, Essien, too, were all immense. It truly was a team effort and the smile as wide as the sun on Roberto di Matteo’s face told as much.

Chelsea have had a very turbulent season. Whether or not they’ll even finish in the top four remains to be seen, but considering we have tricky fixtures against City, Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool to come, I’m not holding my breath. Furthermore, should Chelsea draw Real Madrid, Munich, Barcelona or AC Milan in the CL, they are likely to exit the CL in the quarter finals. But they deserved their moment last night; the Chels showed everything that was good about the team, in a fantastic game that will surely go down in European history. Chelsea are now the only English team left in the Champions League, and after a performance as special as that, the squad can dare to dream.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

There's no such thing as broken Britain, we're just bloody broke in Britain.

If you do one thing today, listen to Plan B's latest track, ill MANORS:

The track opens with him sarcastically broken a violin, metaphorically symbolising the stream of sob stories - how the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition percieve the impoverished in Britain, most probably. Indeed, such was the media coverage of the Summer riots starting in London last Summer, that fingers were all being pointed at the perpetrators. Not a word of doubt, they were wrong to loot. But Plan B implores us to look at the other side of the coin too:

The world, and this country especially, is full of contradictions. I’m just highlighting them, I’m not condoning anything. The point being made in my song ‘ill Manors’ is that society needs to take some responsibility for the cause of last year's riots, why they happened and how we can prevent it from happening again.
Britain is currently in austere times, and any proposed tax cuts and tiny amounts of spending are all too small to even make a drop in the ocean. Households have cut back on expenses, but in a recession as deep as this, even that isn't enough. So for the poorest, some simply have no option but to dodge certain rules. It's the law of the jungle, kill or be killed.  It is this kind of mentality that dictated much of the behaviour in the riots, "if you can get away with it, why not?" Adult travel tickets have been inflated ridiculously, yet I don't see an increase in my pay to match it, so why should I pay adult ticket prices? Sorry, but it's the recession and when I can afford to have scruples, I'll have scruples. And that is how I regard the riots, shallow opportunism for some, undoubtably. But for others, a desperate sign of doing what they can to survive.

The song is unashamedly unpolished, with hollers of "oi" that provide the beat in a way the hollering in Kanye West's Power did. And indeed, ill MANORS (a clever play on the word "manors", as chavs are notorious for their reputation of having ill manners as well as living in council estates, ill manors, there's your wordplay), to me, kind of plays like a British version of Kanye's Power. Both have social commentary to the max, as well as some wonderful punnery (in Power, the creme de la creme was "they said I was the abomination of Obama's nation", whereas in ill MANORS the highlight is "let's go looting, no not Luton, the highstreet's closer.") Furthermore, where Kanye alluded to various pop culture highlights ("lost in translation with a whole fuckin' nation"), Plan B reflects on the dire state of the capital by cannily namedropping other songs ("London's burning, I predict a riot" he raps jauntily in one verse).

Musically, too, it's a treat. Like with Plan B's previous hit She Said, strings feature prominently in a catchy riff that features a stream of ominous tremlos, capped off with short, staccato jabs. The arguably "classy" beat is juxtaposed with the RnB beat as well as Plan B's knowingly bolshy delivery. Some of the rhymes are hilarious in their colourful flavour, "Oh shit too late that was kinda dumb, whose idea was that stupid...", with the last word left to our imagination. In line with many of his previous songs, some of his lyrics work on both a figurative and a literal level, as he raps, "fuel the fire and let it burn," talking of the fires set by yobs in the London riots, obviously, but also of the government and the British Meeja's constant agenda against said yobs.  It is a hateful fight being fought where both parties are as angry and as dangerous as each other, albeit in different ways.

Plan B has given some of my favourite songs, including the life-affirming What Ya Gonna Do and one of my favourite break-up songs, Writing's on the Wall. His songs strike the perfect balance between witty banter, a catchy beat as well as life experience translated into lyrics. But previously, when his songs drew on his experiences of the trials and tribulations of life, Plan B this time sings/raps of something even closer to home, that is, social injustice. The music video makes his withering opinion of David Cameron's pretentious empty posturing clear ("We got an Eco-friendly government, they preserve our natural habitat, built an entire Olympic villagearound where we live without pulling down any flats", he remarks sardonically, and in the music video it features the figurines Clegg/Cameron on a wedding cake, with their unholy matrimony being shitted on, quite literally, in the next scene, when a dog poos out the model figures. Genius, again), and the setting of the Summer lootings could not make this song any more relevant.

One last note: on about the tenth listening of this song, I realised something else that ill MANORS reminded me of: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and the underlying question of Who is the real monster? Is it the chavvy youths who commit crime because they're bored, can't get jobs and need money for booze? Or is it the government and the media, who fuel the fires of such common misconceptions, adding to the self-fulfilling nature of these youths, as well as the middle and upper classes, who look down on these people, regarding them as the so-called "scum of the earth", further creating us & them fractions?  Plan B has more to say about Britain in under four minutes than David Cameron has since he has been elected.

Friday, March 09, 2012

March Energy Drink Mayhem

March is going to be an extremely coursework-intensive month, and sleep is gonna have to be a treat that I can’t afford. As such, energy drinks will be as vital to my diet this month as sundried tomatoes. When it comes to energy drinks, I was always a bit of a Red Bull girl, just because of their brand and their hilarious “Red Bull gives you wings!” adverts. However, due to their reputation, they’ve been able to ride on that and charge a fair bit more for their drinks than other brands. As it’s the recession, I cannot afford to tie myself to Red Bull and their big price tags. So I thought I’d shop around and trial a few other energy drinks, and review them, before I find my definitive wing-giver.

So I started with the green-packaged Mountain Dew Energy drink. The reason why I picked this one first is rather obscure; as you may have noticed, I have developed a bit of a thing for the babe that is Lana del Rey, and one of the top tracks on her Born to Die album is “Diet Mountain Diew”. So that’s the reason, tenuous as it is.

The drink itself is extremely fizzy, fizzier than your standard energy drink, and even more so than Diet coke from Macdonald’s, to be honest. The taste itself is fine, fairly fruit and tangy, and it kicks almost immediately; Thursdays are my busiest day so when I drank it I was fairly downtrodden but within 10 minutes of consumption, I definitely felt a kick. It’s very functional too, the kick lasted for a good four hours, rendering Mountain Dew Energy drink a good little investment.
Taste: 6
Packaging: 7
Doing the job: 9
Value for money: 8
Overall: 30/40

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed.

It was the lads yesterday, and now, here come the girls. And what beautiful girls they are!

10. Rooney Mara
If it were up to me, Miss Mara would have won Best Actress at the Oscars this year instead of Meryl Streep. Noomi Rapace's excellent performance in the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo takes some beating, but Mara gave her own wonderful spin on one of the most unique literary characters. Her current jet-black bob is an unusual haircut, definitely, but such are her striking features and slender frame, that she pulls it off, and then some.

09. Troian Bellisario
All the four leads in Pretty Little Liars are absolutely stunning, and Aria, with her big doll eyes and Hannah, with her classic blonde-hair-blue-eyes combination, could probably be considered the more "obvious" pick than Spencer Hastings. But Spencer is the smart, preppy one of the group, the one who always has to call the shots whilst the others panic, and Troian Bellisario exudes this beauty&brains combination perfectly.

08. Naya Rivera
Glee has been nothing short of a mess this series, but the only bright spot is that Santana is being allowed more solos, because Naya Rivera has the voice - and the star power - to justify it. She's incredibly versatile in her vocal range, owns the badass character, and if I had a millionth of the amount of sass this Queen had, I'd be happy. Werq!

07. Mila Kunis
My main obsession point with Kunis is the thing that Justim Timberlake's character in Friends with Benefits highlights: her big, beautiful eyes. Wow. ♥

06. Emma Stone
One word: charisma!!! Emma Stone has it in spades. She made Easy A with her loveable facial expressions and deadpan deliveries and has all the makings of a fine comedic actress. Plus, from interviews and stuff, she seems like an absolute hoot to be mates with.

05. Rihanna
As with Grint on yesterday's list, she's pretty much guaranteed tenure on my girlcrush list due to the fact that so many of her hits are amongst my favourites to dance to in nightclubs! Last year she went redhead, and I think it suited her deliciously.

04. Selena Gomez
Miss Gomez is actually younger than me, but I don't care. I think she's wonderful, she has the best outfits in all her photos, and I love how willing and ready she is to smile for the camera! After all, the smile, as we all know, is the sexiest curve on a woman's body. :)

And... it's a three way tie for first place! ;)

01. Dianna Agron
Dianna is divine. ♥ I've pretty much waxed lyrical about everything I can say about her, but seriously guys, those hazel eyes. WOW.

01. Frankie Sandford
The absolute only thing Miss Wayne Bridge needs to train is to have better taste in men! Queen.

01. Lana del Rey
A new entrant, and straight to number one! I am genuinely baffled by the backlash Lana has received; her history as Lizzy Grant doesn't hinder or help my opinion of her whatsoever - plenty of musicians have stage names. As for picking holes in her live performances, I just put that down to nerves, and believe she will better with experience. The fact of the matter is, her songs themselves are stunning, absolutely stunning, and Off to the Races is one of the most layered songs I've ever heard, seriously. And then there's her lips. I really am not fussed if they're fake; I think they look stunning.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Baby if you love me, take me to the gas station.

Alright, obligatory list is bloody obligatory. Bung's Crushes of 2012. Then I'll come back at the end of the year and cringe at my terribad taste. ;)

10. Frank Lampard
The one, the only. The man who is a strong contender for my favourite player of all time, just so happens to be one of the most handsome. His distinctive, gorgeous green-blue eyes is just one of the many things that I love about him second only to his countless goals for Chelsea. (Bonus swoon factor: Scotty Parker ain't looking too bad in this gif, either.)

09. Harry Styles
Not sure that I'm actually allowed to fancy this boy seeing as I'm not twelve years old, but oh well, the heart wants what it wants. One flash of Styles' cheeky-chappy grin and my knees go weak. HELLO SAILOR.

08. Joe Hart
Nobody, but nobody, chews gum with more swagger than Joseph Hart. England's Number 1 is also a damn good goalkeeper, and the amount of shameless PDA he has with his City captain Vincent Kompany only goes to boost the beautiful, blonde-haired, blue-eyed lad's appeal. Don't ever stop, boys!

07. Rupert Grint
Mr Grint is pretty much guaranteed tenure on this top 10 list, on the basis that I touched his hand when he was at the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 premiere in Leicester Square, haha. But how can you not love a bit of Rupert Grint? Those wide blue eyes, the striking red hair, and best of all, the fact that he seems like a total laugh to hang out with. Love. <3
06. Jamie Redknapp
Mr M&S needs to train not to make such duff adverts, to drop the fake London accent and not to say embarrassing things on Sky (he thought Suarez was right not to shake Evra's hand, lolwut), and is probably too stupid to ever tax evade, but, unf. Those cheekbones, those eyes, not to mention that nobody, but nobody, werqs a suit better than Jimmy Redknapp. So after everything I just said, he literally doesn't need to train. Wheyyyy.

05. Zayn Malik
The second One Direction member on this list, and not the last either. I regret nothing. One Direction may not have anything new to contribute  to the music industry (although What Makes you Beautiful is a delightfully simple ditty), but the fact that they have three of the most beautiful men on the planet in their group more than makes up for it. Honestly, Zayn's face... *swoon*

04. Ryan Gosling
The Gosling bug hit me when I was watching The Ides of March. I still maintain that he's an older, American, more talented version of Tom Felton, something that absolutely nobody agrees with. But let's just agree that he's an exceptionally versatile and talented actor, who is so very, very fine.

03. Louis Tomlinson (second from the right)
Um, yeah, Louis. *swoons* There are a lot of hot boys in 1D, but the thing about this boy that pushes my buttons even more than Harry and Zayn is the boy-next-door look he sports. In fact, whenever I look at Louis, I see the fact of this boy who I once *adored*. Now, me likening the two of them is probably delusion but there you go. Anyway. Louis.

02. Jose Mourinho
When Jose and Chelsea parted after a spat too many with RA, I won't lie to you, it was like a divorce. I couldn't think about anything our special one. And make no mistake, he is still special. AVB came along and he did an admirable imitation, but he could never quite fill Jose's shoes; the original Special One will always be the blueprint. Haughty, self-serving, Machiavellian, and prone to chatting B/S on more than one occasion, but so, so entertaing with it. A bit craggy now compared to his fine-as-fuq Chelseabung does, but, you still would.

01. Peter Crouch
CROUCHIEBUNG. *____* Between my first getting a crush on him in 2006, so much as gone on and changed in my life, but my devotion to the 6'7" giant has remained constant. I just love the sight of Crouchie smiling, and hope, more than anything, that this loveable sweetheart can come to the Euros this year. Crouchie, to quote Shakira, Tu más que nadie merece ser feliz

And that's that! Ladies tomorrow. :DDDD

Thursday, March 01, 2012

First day of the month nostalgia.

Just a little something I'm going to start on this blog: a walk down memory lane on the 1st of every month!