Plastic surgery disaster

Welcome to the Arab Spring – not a new brand of fnaar fnaar bottled water to be served in The Ivy restaurant but the adopted term for the numerous uprisings in the Middle East. Tunisia fell, Egypt fell, Libya is falling, Bahrain and Yemen are on the brink. Despots are being toppled like dominoes, with the remaining leaders only staying because they have better Top Trumps Dictator scores for ‘brutality’ and ‘largesse of army’. By this rating, President Mubarak of Egypt was only ousted because he scored extremely poorly in ‘not looking like a sun-dried prune with a face drawn on it’.

Yes, heroic revolutions are sweeping the continent, challenging a clan of rulers who have presided over their countries for decades. Take Colonel Gadaffi (whose name should now include the suffix ‘The Mentalist’ in light of his deranged speeches and botched 1980s plastic surgery which makes him indistinguishable from a crumpled carrier bag) who somehow remains ruler of Libya. He began his rule in 1969 and has promised to “die a martyr” in his continuing fight against rebels and insurgents.

That’s a full 42 years of Gadaffi rule, a time in which he has ticked all the boxes of despotism. State-sponsored terrorism? Check. Unabashed nepotism? Check. Amassing an extraordinary personal fortune at the expense of his people? Check. Assassinations of opponents, past and present? Check. It’s almost as if he’s a bad person.

Still, the likes of Tony Blair managed to find it in his Christian heart to forgive Muammar (his official name – he prefers to be known as Colonel, presumably because he wants everyone to think he makes the best deep-fried chicken in North Africa). Blair once said God told him to invade Iraq, so who told him to become good chums with the Libyan leader?

A report from The Daily Telegraph in 2010 stated “Since leaving Downing Street, the former Prime Minister has been advising firms including JP Morgan about investment opportunities in Libya”. I have less faith in religion than Richard bloody Dawkins but even I know that nowhere in the Bible does it state “Thou shalt take thy oil company’s hand and lead it to thy promised land of riches”.

The West pressed for and won a vote at the United Nations to impose a ‘No-Fly Zone’ across Libya, which allows UN forces to protect the rebels and halt Gadaffi’s killings. Everything short of an “occupation force” should be used to avert more loss of life, so the resolution implores. Immediately, Gadaffi called a ceasefire, which the West took at face value, giving Gadaffi more time to implement his plans and attack the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Notorious for his insanity, why did anyone take this promise from Gadaffi seriously? The subsequent fallout, when everyone realised that the Colonel’s attacks hadn’t ceased, meant it quickly become the world’s most costly game of ‘hide and seek’ in history. Western leaders like David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, so instrumental in getting the resolution together, basically gave the hated dictator a head start. They turned away, covered their eyes, counted to ten, and then said “ready or not, here we come”.

And so we came. British forces bombed targets and we were back at war again. It was also reported that teams of Brits were heading out to Libya to unite and assist the opposition rebels.

That’s all Libya needs: a load of post-graduate Brits in their early thirties with a degree in Business Management, making spider diagrams and mind maps, discussing ‘inter-personal skills’. The rebels will be overrun within days. It’s also magnificently British as well. Only we could send over logistical planners for what could turn out to be a bloody and violent revolution. At least they will be able to bury the bodies in an orderly fashion. 

All the rulers in the region have been affected in some way by the uprisings. Even Saudi Arabia have been watching developments with a wary eye, which goes some way to explaining the recent oil price hikes.

Despite the tumultuous events of the past few months and countless brave individuals risking their lives in order to safeguard a better future, a large contingent of people in Britain just want to moan about the price at the pump. When I go past the nearest BP garage, I can almost hear the man filling up his Ford Mondeo whispering under his breath “Why couldn’t those bloody protesters wait a few weeks? Me and the missus are going on holiday to Cornwall next month and my spending money has to go on filling up the motor instead”.

Revolution can wait. Democracy can go figure. Fairness can be postponed. Mondeo Man needs to save fourteen pence on his petrol bills.

Take Me Out and kill me

What have you done? Yes, you. Sitting there in your trendy jeans and your summer-time t-shirt that you’re oh-so-coolly wearing in spring. Speak up! You must have done something terrible because ‘Take Me Out’, ITV’s new dating show, which is as harrowing as Martha’s Choice and about as exciting, is still clogging up the airwaves. The show’s humour is so achingly low-brow I’ve had to have mine stitched to my upper lip after watching the show for twenty minutes.

Paddy McGuiness strides around the studio appallingly arrogantly, matching up single guys with single gals. The concept is hideous. Each single bloke is invited on stage and at any point the girls can extinguish their light in front of them which means they are not interested. Once the final girl is left, the pair shares a glamorous night out in Manchester.

But who on earth goes on a glamorous night out in Manchester? It seems such a strange place for romance to blossom. Blind Date, the precursor of ‘Take Me Out’, at least sent the wannabe lovers somewhere exotic like the Maldives, with sandy beaches, villas by the sea and pushy owners forcing you into their restaurant.

This also made better viewing afterwards because if the two of them failed to get along, the VT showing the holiday just contained two grumpy faces sitting at opposite ends of the dinner table, stridently ignoring each other for a full seven days. Trouble and relationship disasters – it was enough to cheer anyone up on a Saturday evening. Now, presumably to save money, ‘Take Me Out’ are sending the couples to a night club round the corner, meaning that if they are completely incompatible, they can simply get the last bus home. It may save a few pennies but this seems a massive cop out.

The contestants are revealed when Paddy shouts far too enthusiastically “Single man, reveal yourself!” Honestly, say something similar to a woman in a public place and you end up with Community Service. Say it on prime time television and you are awarded a plum contract. Life’s not fair.

Anyway, the single man travels down a makeshift lift and is exposed to the baying mob of lasses, to whom he struts and prowls before. Paddy catches up with him once more and asks the single man to introduce himself. The girls have a chance to extinguish their light after the slightest of glimpses into the man’s personality, and many of them promptly take that chance.

Then Paddy asks the girls why they turned their light off, which seems to spoil the main point of the show – surely a woman who is disinterested turns their light off and nothing more needs to be said. When you ask a girl out, if she says “No sorry, I’ve got a bone in my leg”, you swiftly make an exit and don’t hang around for afters. Asking why each girl switched off their light is as peculiar as going up to the girl that just rejected you and asking “Was it the fact I’m an ugly git that put you off? Or my personal hygiene standards?”

My favourite response was from one girl who rejected a Scottish lad in a white suit because “he looks like a big piece of chewing gum”. Somehow everyone laughed and clapped, although if you said that to someone on a Friday night, you’d be lucky to avoid having a face that looks like a binned KFC Bargain Bucket.

After some more gauche banter, Paddy asks the remaining girls why they kept their light on, presuming that some of them did. Some of the least sexy repartee ever seen on television follows. The stilted conversation is as erotic as Vanessa Feltz deep-throating a Cornetto.

The contestants also choose their own music to enter the show with, but all their choices seem to do is make an easy joke for one of the girls who turn their light off. Coming on to Justin Timberlake, one fella was told “He’s definitely not bringing sexy back”. Another hopeful said “He’d have to be living on a prayer to go out with me” after Bon Jovi raised the roof. If I went on the show I would choose an obscure album track by The Fall, something like ‘WMC-Blob 59’ from their third. Try making a joke out of that!

‘Take Me Out’ combines all the familiar elements of reality television into a new, terrifying genre. There’s ritual humiliation, a whiff of hanky-panky, a host with bad jokes and a swooning audience whose existence seems to be centred on cheering and hollering and booing like they are watching a pantomime on steroids.

Where did I put that application form?