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Saturday, 23 July 2011

In Praise of Amy Winehouse


I don't tend to write about this sort of stuff, as I often think blogs that deal with these sort of subjects are always striving to make a more serious, political point, or
the writer is writing about the subject because they feel they have to comment on it, not because they're genuinely emotionally involved in the subject. But coming home from work today and hearing the news that Amy Winehouse had died, aged just 27, has genuinely thrown me. Not just because she's so young; not just because of all that untapped potential she still had within her, but because she was somebody who I liked, somebody who I admired, and trying to grasp the fact that she's died is truly bizarre.

Tomorrow, the media will be full of articles that celebrate Amy's life; I'd be willing to bet every penny I own that they focus on her 'tragic heroine' label; the failed relationships, the alcohol and drug problems, the fight to stay sober. As such, Amy stops being a person; she stops being a human being. Instead she becomes an exhibit, a statue for the media to hold up and say 'look! look what drugs do to you! Stay clean, kids, or end up like poor Amy'. The majority of these media outlets are the ones that delighted in posting pictures of 'sad' Amy looking dishevelled and lonely, because that sort of things sells papers. To them, Amy stopped being an actual person the moment she fell out of a club looking a bit worse for wear. Her life story is tragic, yes, but the media presence in it makes it all the more heartbreaking. There's a wonderful two-sidedness to the British media; kick them when they're down, praise them when they rise to the criticism and martyr them when they fail to fight their demons.

I won't remember Amy as a troubled figure, or as a junkie. I'll remember her as a musician, as a woman who was one of the best lyricist of the last 10 years. Her voice was beautiful; she was soulful, she put so much meaning and emotion into her songs and her lyrics walked that fine line between wit and heartbreak. 'Love is a Losing Game' is, in my view, her best creation. By all accounts, she was a warm, funny person who suffered the same problems as so many of us do; break-ups and make-ups, and it was these flaws that made her who she was. Mixing traditional jazz with modern rock and her unique, Cock-er-nee voice made her so different to listen to, and Back to Black moves from songs that make you dance to songs that make you cry in a matter of seconds.

I'll miss Amy Winehouse. I won't miss her being used as tabloid fodder, but instead I'll miss the girl who broke into the music scene and took it by storm. The music world has lost an incredible talent and it is that spark that we should remember her for. She was a real person, a real, flawed person, and it was because of that that so many people grew to love her. RiP Amy.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Apprentice, Episode Ten

The Apprentice, Episode Ten
After letting the candidates invent their own products, and subsequently make a pigs ear of it, Lord Sugar decided that the safest option for this week's task was to let them sell some pre-made items that had his seal of approval. The point of the task was re-investment: working out what sells, then replenishing your stock and selling it on for a profit. The majority of the candidates, however, failed to grasp this, none more so than Natasha, yeah?

After shouting down Susan's efforts to become project manager - this happens every week. Susan puts herself forward with all the enthusiasm of youth and is shouted down by some dead-eyed, hard nosed businesswoman who resents Susan and everything she represents - Natasha decided that she and Jim would go push some tacky umbrellas and nodding dogs on the unsupsecting public, whilst Susan was told to go and sell door-to-door duvets in Kensington. Trying to sell cheap linen to a resident in Kensington is like trying to sell Primark clothing to Kate Middleton; it's never happening. Jim, after having a quiet few weeks, proved that his Jedi force was back in full swing as he charmed, flirted and even creeped out hundreds of poor tourists into buying a cheap, Rule Britannia nodding dog and an umbrella that looked like it would break the second you put it up. Nick, who has been rapidly falling out of love with Susan, was thoroughly impressed by Jim; "he's offering them hugs and kisses, and do you know, I do rather like him", Hewer said. He was obviously hoping that Jim was going to give him the hug that he is long over-due. I don't blame you for trying, Nick.

Natasha, who I feel should have 'yeah?' added on to the end of her name as it's all she ever says, did sod all, and fail to realise that the point of the task wasn't to sell all the stock. Despite Jim repeatedly pointing out that they needed to invest more, Natasha couldn't understand why you'd buy stock when you already had some left over. She settled, instead, for patronising Susan, who was once again irritatingly bearable. Maybe it's because Natasha's immense idiocy balances out Susan's grating voice. Who knows? But Susan did something that Natasha has yet to do; she took a punt, and bought a product (some cheap bracelets that wouldn't look out of place in Jordan's wardrobe) that she knew she could sell. And sell, she did, leaving Natasha lurking in the background like the ugly sister at Cinderella's wedding. Obviously irked that Susan was doing better than her, she simply sniped at Susan at every possible opportunity, rather than getting off her arse and actually doing some work.

Poor nerdy Tom had the misfortune of being stuck on the same team as Melody again, who quickly appointed herself as project manager as Lord Sugar "hadn't seen enough of her". I'm not entirely sure how this is possible, as Melody is like a fungus; she is everywhere, at the most inappropriate times, and is a real pain to get rid of. She sent Tom off to the city centre to sell some nodding dogs to the public - presumably she didn't want to deal directly with the public, in case she caught something nasty off them - and she and Helen decided to target the retail shops to gain a big order. This seemed pointless when the task in hand was to reinvest in the stock, and not just sell it on, a point which was proved when Melody tried to sell a £25 duvet to the owner of Poundworld. "I can't buy it for £25 and sell it for a £1" the owner pointed out. "No, I see that" said Melody. Do you really, Melody? I mean really?

Tom proved to be in his element selling the nodding dogs to kids. Despite me fearing that he was going to get mugged - some of those kids looked well hard - he got into the real swing of things, and sold all the nodding dogs, a point which Melody promptly ignored and decided to invest in things she wanted. It shouldn't be a massive surprise to anyone by now that Melody always does things her own way, nor should it be a surprise that her wonderful judgement came back to bite her in the arse. Helen, the type of woman who looks like a swear word has never passed her lips, decided she'd had enough of Melody's bullshit and suggested to Melody that she should be project manager instead. "Well... no" was Melody's reply. Helen obviously needs Jedi lessons from Jim in how to manipulate the will of others.

Natasha's idiocy meant that her team were deducted £100 from their final total, although I think that Sugar should have just thrown that jug of water over her and told her to get out of his sight. Helen pointed out that Melody was an appalling team leader; Melody snorted and raised one perfectly manicured eyebrow, a move I'm sure the Dalai Lama taught her. Despite the fine for being a moron, Natasha still managed to win the task, but there was no treat for Natasha and her team. What they should have done was let Jim and Susan go on the treat, and then send Natasha home to think about what she's done. Natasha and Susan then had an argument over whose fault it was that they weren't allowed a treat, whilst Jim sat back and rolled his eyes like an irritatedmother watching her children squabble. Natasha said that she hadn't understood the task because Susan sold well, or something to that effect. Natasha doesn't talk in sentences; she talks in business cliches and makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It's unbelievable that she's still in this competition to be fair.

Melody, who was obviously not expecting to win, decided that everything that went wrong was everyone else's fault. Helen put the boot in with Melody by telling her, in polite terms, that she's a know-all who talks out of her arse. Tom, bless his heart, pointed out that once again, he'd told Melody what had sold, and once again, she'd ignored him. For one horrible minute, it looked like Sugar was going to fire Tom, but he swerved at the last minute, and opted to get rid of Melody, as he didn't think "he could work with her". I don't think there's one reasonable, sane-minded person who could work with Melody, so maybe Sugar's got out of this one well.

Melody is an excellent saleswoman, there's no denying that. It's everything else that comes out of her mouth that is complete and utter bullshit. I still have no idea what she does in her day to day career; all I know is that if I had to work with her, I'd be investing in a pair of earmuffs. And shares in aspirin, for when her grating voice eventually gets too much for me.