Final Update

I’ve noticed that a few people seem to be discovering this site lately, and I figured that some people might see this and think that it’s going to be continually updated.

It’s not. Sorry.

After a long time of not managing to keep up with Absent Conclusion, I decided it was best to just start all over. I’m now posting regular articles over at my new project, Overthinker Y, so check that out!

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Update

A very quick update on what’s up in the world:

Yesterday, I hit 10,000 words of my National Novel Writing Month attempt, so I’m pretty happy about that! I’m also still actually feeling pretty good about keeping it up, so things are looking good.

And, because I would feel remiss if I didn’t at least mention it, Wednesday saw The Apprentice lose ‘I’m the best at pitching’ Natalie, whose first televised pitch came off like some amateur had stuck the audio file into Audacity and made overzealous use of the ‘insert pause’ function.

Have a wonderful life!

I’ll be back, and hopefully when I am I’ll have a novel to show for it.

Getting Ruthless

Get it?

This week’s edition of The Apprentice saw surprising success on both sides, or so it appears at first. It’s possibly the first week that honestly felt like it could have gone either way right up until the results were revealed; both sides made errors, sure, but both sides did (or were carefully edited so as to appear as if they did) fairly well when unleashed into the London Pet Show.

Frankly adorable project manager David – don’t ask me which team he was the manager of, one’s Connexus and one’s Versatile but I doubt I’ll ever know which is which when they keep changing who’s on them so frequently – brought a possible new high of enthusiasm to this week’s proceedings, practically gushing over the animal-related products available for his team to sell. It was also something of an interesting experience seeing the Apprentices interact with people who’ve already attained the kind of success they want, although I suspect the fact that they were face-to-face with actual start-up product designers and business managers was probably lost on them amidst the squee-eliciting things with rabbit’s faces on. I wasn’t particularly sold on the T-shirts, and as it turned out neither was anyone else, but you can’t fault the childlike glee of Team David as they strutted about their weirdly bricky interview room clutching animal balloons. Was it strategy? Was it just genuine joy at getting to have animal balloons? I lean towards the latter, but the point has to be that it worked.

Meanwhile, Team Scott – we’ll get to Scott later, but he might well be rising up to the top of my favourites list – got straight to business; too much so, if anything. Brett, well known for his adherence to specifications, took charge of the balloon pitch. It was obvious from the get-go that Team Scott would never win the custom of the balloon vendor, not when Team David spent apparently the entire time getting hands-on with every product that came their way, but Scott cleverly passed their eventual decision as ‘we’ll target cats’.

Then there were the actual sales. Selina was the standout here, I think, in that she stood out of the way while everyone else got on with it. Scott combined charm and legitimate business aptitude to make more sales than anyone else on his team (the numbers will never be revealed, but I suspect that made him the highest-grossing candidate of the week), while Ruth’s charm offensive made potential customers get slightly defensive. You really can’t fault Ruth’s enthusiasm, as even Executioner Claude admitted, but you would think there would come a point that she would realise her stream-of-consciousness sales pitches were turning off punters like James Joyce turns off people who aren’t really into reading.

Ultimately, it made sense for Ruth to go. It’s a shame, because I was really rather starting to like her, but I’m the kind of person who finds it genuinely hard sometimes to watch people embarrassing themselves. And that’s what Ruth was becoming. I do want to know where she gets her suits, though.

To be honest, if I was in Alan’s position (did anyone else hear one of the candidates accidentally call him Alan at one point?) I would probably have let Selina go purely on the grounds that I would NOT BE ABLE TO STAND WORKING WITH HER. GOD. Her not giving a toss was a slight improvement on her hounding Charlene every other moment, perhaps, but Selina has to be holding the position of my least favourite right now.

Meanwhile, Scott. Scott, everybody. He must be the first PM ever to bring two people back into the boardroom and have nothing but positive things to say about how hard they’d tried, for which I absolutely love him. He’ll probably be fired next week. It says something about a candidate when the worst thing Lord S can think to say is that they’re ‘not ruthless’ enough; I suppose ruthlessness is a legitimately important quality in a businessperson sometimes, but it did sort of feel as if there was an inability on the judging panel’s part to say anything genuinely negative about Scott as a person or a project manager. I love Scott. He’s my new Solomon, and if his business plan is sixteen pages of boats I will cry into my cheap noodles.

Tune in again next week for… something. I am appalling at remembering what’s in the next time previews. Pretty sure it looked horribly cringey, though, so I for one can’t wait.

Doing A Novel

November is fast approaching, and with it NaNoWriMo. I’m having slightly mixed feelings about it, which I wasn’t expecting. I guess it’s hard to sustain the process of thinking about writing over a long period of time when you know you can’t actually start writing until a certain day – and actually, I’m finding it kind of hard to imagine actually starting to write. I’ve had this story developing in my head for a while now, and more actively since I decided to make it my NaNo project, but I think perhaps there are mixed feelings of excitement and that ever-annoying self-doubt starting to creep in.

I’m hella excited. I don’t know how long it’s been since I was excited in this way; it’s a different sort of anticipation than most others. I can get excited for upcoming events, that sort of thing, but it feels different to be excited about creating something, especially when I haven’t tried to for so long. I’m excited to see what I can do, but more to see what actually ends up written down; I’m eager to get that feeling of having accomplished something for myself and to finally be able to read this story that I want to tell and put into words.

I’m also kind of scared. Well, not scared. Scared isn’t quite the right word. It’s something like a nagging concern that I’m not gonna be able to do it, that it’ll get to the end of the day on November 1 and I won’t actually have written anything down yet. That first day is for sure the most worrying to me; I feel like if I can start writing, I’ll have done the hardest part. That’s not to say that there won’t be other hard parts coming up, for sure: I know the end of the story so well at this point that I’m thinking the easiest part will be the last few days (assuming I can actually finish it in that time, since I’m starting to think it might take more than the standard NaNo 50k words), but the middle is still something of a grey area to me. Apparently this is a fairly common problem: writers find it easy to come up with a beginning and from there an end – or even come up with an end first and work backwards from there – but it’s rare to have the middle worked out before actually starting to write. Supposedly it just sort of comes once you’ve got the beginning down, but we’ll see.

I think I’m still more excited than nervous. Whatever happens, at least I’ll have tried – and, much as I hate to admit it, I don’t know if I’m self-motivated enough to be able to write without the added push of taking part in NaNo. If I’ve managed to complete it by the end of November, even if the story isn’t finished yet, I’m hoping I’ll feel more able to write off my own steam in future.

It’s a fun time. Hopefully. I’m definitely looking forward to it, anyway!

Also, thanks are definitely due to Hannah, who’s been making sure that I actually stick to blogging for once and has been so proud of me for trying NaNo that I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to do it if she hadn’t been. If I do manage to come up with a decent story, it’ll be thanks to her. So cheers. I love you.

Stay tuned, and with any luck I’ll be reporting writing success before too long!

Jenny, We Hardly Knew Ye Either

Welcome back to what I’m now considering my weekly Apprentice recap, since I’ve now done two. This week’s episode saw the unfortunate demise of Jenny, who I’ll admit to not having realised existed for the entirety of episode one, in what I can only describe as a mostly-boat-related loss.

This week also saw the return of cheeky thriftiness, courtesy of that guy whose name I can’t remember for the life of me, but he looks a bit like Hugo Weaving except with a face that manages to be simultaneously rounder and more oblong. This lovable quality of all good entrepreneurs, particularly those from the London area, made a notable appearance in the last series when Solomon (bless his heart forever) attempted to pass off a paper skeleton as ‘anatomically accurate’. To be fair to him, it actually was, and much cheaper than the opposing team’s full scientific skeleton to boot. If I’d been in HRH Sugar’s position, I’d probably have rewarded such ingenuity. Emperor Sugar did not take as favourably to it, suffice to say.

Anyway, this season’s first real display of loophole abuse came courtesy of Hugo-adjace, who interpreted the specifications’ (I’m surprised Brett didn’t get involved) request for a certain size of inflatable boat to mean that a toy one would suffice. He was right, to be fair, with his purchase coming in at a handy £245 under the hapless girls’ legit boat.

What we learned this week is that the girls don’t seem to work well together. I don’t want to think that there’s something about the female condition in general that causes what is perhaps best termed ‘cattiness’ when attempting to haggle en masse, but I think there’s something about this particular set of people that just makes it really hard for them to see eye to eye on… anything. It’s likely more to do with the entrepreneurial disposition than the feminine, although it’s almost difficult for me to even continue referring to the contestants of The Apprentice as entrepreneurs or business people. What they are, more than anything else, is reality stars.

It comes down to a general trend in television and its viewership, really. Jenny, while she lasted, was largely unnoticed – I was actually surprised when Vana elected to bring her into the boardroom for her inactivity, as there were certainly people who would have better served the team had they decided to contribute less. In fact, I was sort of coming around to Jenny. She was probably the most normal-looking (by which I mean least excessively expressive) and most well-adjusted-seeming of the girls’ team, if not the contestants outright. She seemed like a real person rather than a dialed-up caricature of what BBC producers deem one of the seven or eight representatives of the ‘entrepreneurial type’. (There’s the slow one, the hard seller, the one who takes all the credit, the difficult one, and so on. It’s sort of like how I assume the characters on The Only Way Is Essex must be, having never seen it: pick a type of person, whether it be businessman or socialite, then derive a few key characteristics and base everyone in your case on one of those taken to its absolute extreme.)

Admittedly, that image of Jenny was somewhat lessened by her bizarre outpouring once she was revealed as the unlucky firee of the week. I was reminded of a previous candidate who, once released, had sort of slowly edged out of the door as if pulled by an invisible force of ineptitude while constantly pleading not to be fired. Jenny was slightly more accepting of her fate, if not that it meant she was any less likely to succeed in the world. Still, I guess you have to be at least slightly egomaniacal to consider appearing on a show that essentially now amounts to selling yourself.

Speaking of which, I have to comment on The X Factor. I’ve not watched it this year, because having tried to get into it in the past I’ve learned that the people I think are ‘good singers’ are not the people who tend to do well, and that’s nothing if not frustrating. But I have been aware of the ‘six chair challenge’, a needlessly cruel addition to the already overly dragged-out audition stages in which each candidate performs, is told whether they have one of the six places in the next (and I would hope, but not assume, final) stage before the live shows, and then might well end up losing that place if somebody after them does better.

That’s already a bit messed up, but it’s the role of the audience that’s really ground my goat when I’ve caught snippets of the show. They seem to have got into a kind of routine: chant ‘Seat! Seat! Seat!’ for every half-decent singer that takes to the stage; enthusiastically call for the beheading dismissal of one of the people they previously demanded be given a seat (in a really uncomfortably personal display of hatred); rain hailstones made of weirdly self-righteous anger on the judge when they acquiesce and let one of their six go. Then there’s the optional final stage, in which they demand ‘Bring them back!’ and quite often have their demands met. Simon freaking Cowell, ostensibly head honcho of the whole damn thing, was brought to bear by an angry audience; they yelled and screamed that they wanted someone called Joe back until King Cowell finally called producers over. Then someone presumably had to go and find one of the candidates he’d fired (sorry, still in Apprentice mode) about four auditionees ago, before Cowell restored him to a place.

Naturally, someone else had to lose their seat in the process, for which the audience booed lustily.

It’s a dangerous game, reality TV. Particularly when you start to give the audience real power. Show them that they can change the course of the game and they will do all they can to make it happen. I don’t even think they cared about Joe’s singing all that much; it’s a power play, more than anything else. If they can get someone brought back, they will, because then they’re relevant and powerful and they have a say in what goes on.

Thank God The Apprentice isn’t filmed in front of a live studio audience,

My NaNoWriMo

This November, as it is every November, is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a while, but never got around to for various reasons, mostly uni.

I hadn’t heard of NNWM until I started university, and by the time I’d found out enough about it to know that I wanted to do it, it was already past time to start writing. The next couple of years, I either told myself I had too much uni work on or I thought I just wouldn’t have time with trying to maintain commitments to studying and a long-distance relationship.

Anyway, now both of those things are over. (Only the long-distance part, though.) So I really don’t have any more excuses not to write, and this is my promise to myself that I am in fact going to write a novel over November. No excuses, no back-out, no being dumb and going ‘ugh, nah’ for whatever reason. I’ve been meaning to be the sort of person who writes a novel… pretty much my whole life, and now I’m 21 it’s at the point where I’m either going to be the pathetic guy who wanted to write novels, or the pathetic guy who wrote a novel. I know which I’d rather be.

Anyway, this is the first time in years that I’ve had an idea I’m excited enough about that I’ll be legitimately disappointed if it doesn’t get written. It sounds kind of hackneyed to say that I feel motivated to write the story for its own sake and not for mine (‘you’re letting the LITERATURE down!’) but it’s kind of true. The only ideas I’ve cared about enough to actually put into words have been other people’s; a friend in high school had a fantasy trilogy concept that (while we now both accept was terrible) was exciting enough to me that I managed to write the first book of it, a 100,000 word piece of what I at the time thought was pretty good writing. Then there was I Am The Chosen One, the play I co-authored with a friend last year. He then directed it, and it actually did fairly well (in terms of audience reaction, at least. It was a uni society play, not Broadway), but the point is that it wasn’t really my idea. I guess I felt more comfortable contributing to someone else’s creativity than I ever have indulging a concept that’s entirely my own; I didn’t really own it. I was just the guy who came in and brainstormed, then helped out with the actual ‘writing’ part and whatnot. It was fun, but I think it’s time I finally made a story of my own.

I’ve been meaning to do it forever, after all.

Anyway, the fact is that I probably should have done NNWM long before now. Tons of people go into November without so much as a thread of plot; they just start writing, and by the end of the month they have 50,000 words that they’d never even begun to conceive of before they actually started putting words to a page. It’s lame, but I suppose I never really believed in myself enough.

I’m not sure I even do now. Maybe I’m just mature enough at this point to realise that it doesn’t really matter whether I believe in myself or not. What matters is that if by the end of November I’ve produced a novel, then I will have done something I’ve always wanted to do – and maybe proved myself wrong along the way.

(I’d like to thank my co-pilot on this one, Hannah, who sat on my butt and waved my arms about for a bit while reading back what I’d written. Thanks, Hannah.)

Dan, We Hardly Knew Ye

The Apprentice is back! And with it, 18 new hopeless ‘entrepreneurs’ vying for a spot at Lord Sugar’s side. I only really got into the show for the first time about two years ago – it was the year with Luisa and Jason, and I can’t really remember anyone else. Hannah and I got very attached to Jason for his lovable face and bumbling ineptitude, which as it turned out became something of a pattern.

Jason was great. He managed to sell a caravan one week and got a personal well-done from the Lord himself, which was as unexpected as it was vindicating for those of us firmly in Camp Jason. The look of terror on his face when he was called back in, followed by the confused delight, was the highlight of that season (alongside his wonderful delivery of the sentence ‘I think it’s to go with the potatoes’, which will live in our hearts forever).

Then, next season, there was Solomon. Solly (as he was apparently known to some) came across as one of the nicest and most genuine people ever to appear on the show, and he was even commended as such by Claude Littner, interviewer and psychological torture enthusiast extraordinaire. That is, until he was ripped apart for having a business plan that was basically just a load of pictures of boats.

Still, Jason and Solomon both managed to get fairly far in their respective series. So I was hopeful when this one started that Dan, a sweet-looking curly-haired fellow with an interesting sales technique (‘Would you be interested in buying a salad?’) would also get further than his generally nice demeanour would suggest.

How wrong I was. Dan was eliminated on the very first episode, which he took in typically rather upbeat fashion. This is the point of the show that suffers somewhat from oversaturation, what with having to get to know 18 people enough to care if they get fired, and episode two had me going in feeling that I didn’t really know who anyone was. Except Brett. He makes things to the specifications.

We’re also getting to know the aforementioned Claude, who takes over this season from Nick Hewer as Lord Sugar’s resident eyebrow-raising watchman. It’s unfortunate that his surname happens to be Littner, because all I can see whenever that gets mentioned is his face on Yoko Littner’s body. It’s not pretty.

So the show chugs along, as it does at this stage, and we’re coming to get to know each person well enough to have some sense of whether they might make a decent businessperson or not. There’s Ruth, the surprisingly astute token older woman with a penchant for wearing what looks like Elmer’s skin made into a suit; Jennifer, who I didn’t even realise was a person until she suddenly piped up in the boardroom at the end of episode two and got a surprising amount of support; Magin (sp?) who sounds a bit like a dopey goat; Joseph, resident obvious dickhead who I’m expecting to turn out to have a heart of gold at some point but who is probably legitimately as misogynistic and dopey as he appears; April (emphasis on the -pril), who becomes far more Jamaican-sounding every time someone mentions she’s from Jamaica, and… everyone else.

So far the gang have sold fish and marketed shampoo, and surprisingly the boys did rather well at the latter. I say surprisingly not because I think men can’t market shampoo but because nobody ever does well on early marketing tasks. There was an interesting billboard featuring a man with foam dripping endlessly into his eyes, which while painful-looking was at least more professional than Ruth enthusiastically shushing her entire audience. So far, I can’t say I particularly want any of them to win. It always ends up coming down to the business idea they submitted before the show even started, which gets completely forgotten about between episodes one and penultimate, so it’s almost impossible to pick a winner until those last stages.

Still, at least we’ve still got Brett. He can be trusted to make fishcakes to the right specifications, even if it means he runs out of ingredients with 200 still to make.