Gossip Girl ‘How to succeed in Bassness’

Gossip Girl has always been built on one implausible storyline after the next, but this week the space between Manhattan and reality got whole lot bigger.  It was Halloween, and that meant frightening times on the Upper East Side.

Taylor Momsen, Connor PaoloScariest of all was Jenny, who appeared as a manifestation of every parents Halloween nightmare.  Her Machiavellian rule the school tactics have got her slowly morphing into bride of Frankenstein, hair and all.  The big question with her was ‘in costume or not in costume?’ – blood-red lips, black eyes, electric shock hair, fishnets – and that was just for school.

With mascara as a weapon and teenage hooker as her look, she continued a descent into despotism that would have made Blair proud.  Threatened by coated almonds and a coup from Jonathan (Eric’s boyfriend, keep up) involving him sitting, like, OMG, higher than her on the Met steps, she of course had to plot his absolute destruction.   And so came what will henceforth be known as ‘the great yoghurt incident of 2009’. 

Meanwhile, in a bid to do one up on daddy, Chuck was inexplicably set on opening up a fashionable club but, with impeccable judgement, chose help from Serena over Blair, because apparently there aren’t any other imbecilic blondes in Manhattans publicity business.  Blair is predictably narked, so Serena explains ‘maybe todays not all about you’.  Oh silly Serena.  Don’t you know the world revolves around Blair Waldorf.  It spins around on its axis powered by her bitchy energy. 

For Serena, it’s a big deal, a moment for her to impress her scary fem-bot like boss (much easier to do when you don’t have your best friend hiding in your office as you work, sweetheart).  Clearly, she’s in way over her head, and it becomes clear that it was not such a great move for Chuck to choose Barbie over brains.  Luckily he came to his senses just in time and Blair was back in the game, backstabbing Serena in the process.  Ergo, Chuck’s prohibition era party (essentially an excuse for the wardrobe department to have some fun with hats and flapper dresses) got closed down by the authorities, obviously making it SO legendary Perez Hilton cried because he wasn’t there.  rufushumphrey

For lighter comedy we had Dan at his ultimate awkward best, variously freaking out when Olivia gets papped with her hand in the condom jar and because he finally watched her lame Twilight copy film and saw the chemistry between Lizzie McGuire and her Robert Pattinson knock-off ex.   We also learnt Rufus is a GREAT BIG HALLOWEEN GEEK, right down to the fetching wig he wore as part of his Ramones costume.  But Rufus is not in Brooklyn anymore, and apparently trick or treating doesn’t happen in swanky NYC apartment blocks.  So in true Lily style, she hires three kids to pose as trick or treaters, coming round several times in different costumes (including a freakishly good Lady Gaga outfit).  Rufus wasn’t fooled, but it made for a very touching moment.  Only in the GG world is paying child actors to cheer up your new (sixth?) husband what amounts to true love. 

Why so implausible?  Well, for starters, WHAT is with everyone going to the same party always.  Thank you Rufus, for stating the obvious point that troubles all GG watchers – and for that matter OC watchers – there is nothing classy (or cool) about going to a party with your parents.  In no reality after barmitzvah age does that happen, and just because the actors are all in the mid twenties does not mean it should. 

And for that matter, WHY are Jenny and her minions going to this prohibition party?  Aren’t they like, eleven.  Just because you wear drag queen make up doesn’t make it legal.  In fact, how does an eighteen year old get a liquor license in super-strict over 21-years only Manhattan.  I’ve been out in the city, and they ID.  So ridiculous. 

As for Serena’s supposed job – much to comment on, from the fact that she has apparently been delivering James Franco’s underwear, or best of all that she is now dating someone (Olivia’s Z list ex) for work.  Hmmm. 

In most places, they call that something a little different…

Safety checks for school exchanges

Safety checks for school trips! Whatever next, people cry. Disney characters behind glass screens at the Magic Kingdom? A counselling session after reading Roald Dahl’s BFG? The poor little darlings are far too overprotected. They will go on to grow up unexposed to reality, with no life skills and street sense. Knock ’em about a bit, make ’em suffer. That’s how it was in the good old days.

Well, maybe. But as someone who went on a foreign trip as a schoolgirl and had a pretty grim experience, I say bring on more stringent checks. The concept of packing off kids for a week in some random village in France is antiquated and could be dangerous.

Age 13, I set off with a friend on a French trip to La Rochelle. After a lengthy coach journey, everyone was met by host families with whom they would stay for the week. Teachers went off to the hotel, see you in the morning suckers!

My friend and I were met by a quiet man, who gruffly confirmed our names then packed us into his car. Half an hour later we were still driving through dark, desolate countryside.

Abrupt stop, and wordlessly we were deposited in what looked like a bleaker version of the shanty towns we had been studying that term in geography. Nearby, a huge alsatian was barking wildly. We were vaguely directed into a room, whereupon we were left. Alone. Not shown a bathroom, given no food. The man hadn’t even introduced himself. He might have known who we were, but we had no idea who he was. He could have been anyone, that’s the terrible thing.

Time passed till we eventually ventured out. Met with a hostile manner, but thankfully we managed to communicate in broken, Year 8 level French that we wanted to use a phone (This being BB, as in before Blackberry).

Not that there was one in the shack  house. The man, still silent, drove us half an hour away to a solitary phone box on the side of a road. My friend, distraught, broke into hysterical sobs to a family member back home.

What could have happened there? We will never know, because an alarmed parent had called the school, who took the very sensible decision to come and rescue us in the middle of the night.

In the end, we were fine. A new host family. A sweet old couple with a cat and a rural cottage were found. Baguettes for breakfast, coffee in a bowl, the ideal French trip experience.

But it could have gone horribly wrong, not just for me but for all those others put with families out for the money and not the welfare of a tounge tied teen. By all means, take kids on school holidays abroad. Expose them to new cultures and a polyglot lifestyle. But what parent in their right mind would send a child off to stay with a perfect stranger. It is no better than meeting a kindly internet friend and asking them to babysit.

More stringent checks, that’s all l’m saying. Because at least before GCSE, most school kids don’t know the French for ‘help I’m being abducted by a total stranger (who smells of garlic and eats something that looks suspiciously like a snail!)


What price, democracy?

Here’s a question. If you have to spend upwards of $100 million of your personal finances in order to win an election, does that make you a good candidate? New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, evidently thinks so. As The Sunday Times reported:

[He] emerged yesterday as the biggest personal spender in the history of US election campaigns.

The media billionaire has so far spent $85m (£52m) of his own money on his bid for re-election on November 3 and is expected to burn through at least another $30m.

His opponent, William Thompson, has deemed this ‘obscene’. Political posturing on the part of the Democrat of course, but he has only spent $6 million. Stingy b*******.

Really though, spending any amount of million seems a bit obscene, especially during an economic crisis. It may sound preachy and sanctimonious to make the point ‘think what you could do for society with all that money’, but it is kinda true.

America has always been a global leader in extravagant campaign spending, even despite reforms in 2002. Despite his involvement in these reforms, in August 2008 alone the McCain campaign spent $41 million, $23 million on advertising. That is a mindboggling figure, made all the worse for the fact that he didn’t even win.

Obama, hailed as the internet campaigner and revolutionary grass-roots candidate, spent $53 million that month, with $32 million on advertising. Grass-roots indeed.

Realistically, running for an election costs money – even on the most micro level of student politics, for example, you’re going to have photocopying expenses. But in the internet age, with Twitter, blogging, Facebook and so on, it has never been easier to get the message across to people. So it is ludicrous that Bloomberg (and he’s not alone, just the worst offender) is spending more than ever.

In Britain we’ve been up in arms over MP’s expenses for the better part of a year now. With an election forthcoming, isn’t it time we start a discussion on this?

Because it seems to me that the price of democracy has been set a little too high.

Gossip Girl ‘enough about Eve’

Dark days for the girls of gossip, as Blair, Serena and Vanessa all managed to self-destruct in a variety of imaginative ways. Defying Newton’s law, it seems a New Yorker cannot continue scheming indefinitely without some sort of Machiavellian karma stepping in.

Basically, there was a speech, and it was the single most important thing ever for Blair to do (until the next most important ever issue comes up). Putting a spanner in the works was that she was third in the running to make it, behind celebri-student Olivia and social-whiner Vanessa. Evidently only four girls actually go to NYU, and clearly Georgina wasn’t going to be asked.

Blair being Blair, this wasn’t a good enough situation. So she manipulated everyone to try and improve it, however, in a bizarre plot twist involving Chuck and a gay kiss (apparently not his first!), her scheme backfired. At episodes end, Chuck hated her and she was in some sort of (Brooklyn?) purgatory, mournfully eating croissants with Vanessa.

Why was Vanessa giving Blair the time of day? Because the self-righteous one had taken a leaf out of the Waldorf playbook and, second in line for the speech, had tried to destroy Olivia and Dan’s budding relationship to give herself centre-stage. Well, she didn’t get to give the speech, but she did lose a hell of a lot of moral credibility, only somewhat redeemed by the revelation that her intensely annoying personality IS NOT HER FAULT. No, no, Vanessa Abrams is that way because of DNA. Her mother, visiting for the occasion of ‘the most-important speech ever’, turned out to also be a sanctimonious bore, disappointed even by her uber-ideological daughter. As she ragged on Vanessa that ‘knowledge should not be for sale’, I almost, almost, felt a bit sympathetic towards her. But then I came to my senses.

Meanwhile, in a strange plotline that had pretensions of Casino Royale, but was more akin to a bad Austin Powers spoof, Serena and Nate were playing poker, to save Carter Baison from a fate of hard-labour for his prior sins. Apart from the obvious – that in 21st century Manhattan, who exactly gets exiled to what came across as a North American gulag – here’s something to ponder. Does Nate actually go to Columbia? Or does he spend all his time trotting around on dangerous liaisons with Serena, with $25,000-plus in his jacket pocket, so that the writers can create enough sexual tension between them for them to finally get together?

As it turned out though, Serena and Nate won’t be living happily ever after, at least not in the near future, because he backstabbed her to help his family’s political ambitions, then she returned the favour right back at him. The marvelous thing about the GG universe though, is that such actions rarely have beyond-the-episode consequences. Bets are (poker pun intended), they’ll have an affair by series end.

Good episode, complicated by too many disparate strands of scheming. Best line had to be Blair, in response to Lily’s rather less-than sympathetic words of wisdom after Blairs very-public meltdown: ‘Where did you learn to give a pep talk, Guantanamo?’

Well, probably.

Liked that Blair was referring to Sun Tzu for battle technique, with some help from Napoleon (‘he’s always good for a few zingers’ she says). Found out why Serena is such an airhead; she spent her formative years in Monte Carlo, which is obviously great preparation for a normal life. Also, for the odd moments we saw Jenny, she looked like she was dressed for Halloween, with her blood red lips and heroin chic eyes. Can’t work out if that was intentional.

A few quibbles though. Where was Blair’s headband when she was playing power-games at the meeting with the man in charge of the speech. And how much do you have to hate someone to bring them back from Japan either a talking ‘compliment watch’ or a ferocious looking giant claw. Olivia clearly has some anger issues.

Oh, and one last thing. Vanessa, the fancy dress store called. They want their Red Indian costume back.

For richer or for poorer

Hey, good news guys. The recession is over, as of last night. Go back to big bonuses, flashing designer handbags without any embarrassment. Ignore the Tories and get the champagne flowing, buy a new house and an expensive car while you’re at it.

Oh, but sh**. It isn’t over at all. Back to a life of rations, misery and doom. Cut out fancy labels from your clothes and pretend they came from Primark. Only eat out when you have a 2-4-1 voucher, buy all food on a bogof basis (remember to return to Tesco to claim the second item next week). Staying in is still the new going out. Keep on munching on the credit crunch.

All nonsense really. As if a projection by a bank, the government, a think-tank or whoever is going to change the actual situation. Either you have money, or you don’t. Either you can find employment, or you can’t and have just printed out your 1000th CV to mail out (or would have until the postal service stopped doing their job).

For crying out loud, these predictions don’t do anything. It is meaningless to arbitrarily ‘decide’ Britain is rich, poor, or anything in between, and its a reflection of our soundbite culture that these things even get media coverage. Some say the credit crunch was made much worse because as soon as we heard the term ‘recession’ being waved about, we went into panic mood and consumer spending plummeted.

People stopped shopping, going out, spending disposable income. And of course, some people really were spending way beyond their means and needed a wake up call. But not everyone did, and by targeting those people, the ‘stop-spending’ crusaders did nothing to help the wider economy recover.

So what if Alistair Darling thinks economic confidence is returning. Has he seen the inside of your wallet?

Moir-gate; how could she be so stupid?

Blogging on Running in Heels about Jan Moir’s controversial comments following the death of Boyzone star Stephen Gately. Where does free speech cross the line? Where do opinions become downright lies? And how many more complaints will the PCC get?

Blame it on the cyclists?

Could the death of the commute mean the death of the newspaper?  I investigate the impact on the biz of a future where we work from home.