Wednesday, 30 May 2012

'Serbian Sinisa' Sets Example for Sport

To say Serbian football has experienced an eventful past two weeks is an understatement to say the least.

First came the signing of former Serbian International and Serie A record-holder, Sinisa Mihajlovic to a two-year contract as head coach of the Serbian national team.

Less than one week later the team had to take on the defending World and European Cup champions Spain, in a pre-Euro 2012 friendly played in St Galen, Switzerland.

However, perhaps the most dramatic event came on Monday when Mihajlovic asked current Serbia player, Adem Ljajic, to return home after failing to join his teammates in singing the national anthem prior to their clash with Spain.

A statement from the Serbian Football Federation expressed support for Mihajlovic’s move and announced that by not singing the anthem, Ljajic had “breached the team’s code of conduct.”

This is not the first time Ljajic has landed himself in hot-water for his conduct on the football field.  The Fiorentina star found himself at the centre of another storm earlier this month when he was attacked by then Viola boss, Delio Rossi.

Ljajic was hauled off by Rossi in the 2-2 draw with Novara, a decision he greeted with a sarcastic gesture.  Rossi then went for the 20-year-old, throwing punches as he sat on the bench.

In spite of this, Mihajlovic’s move has been labelled by some as dangerously heavy-handed and rather questionable.  A vast majority however have rushed to applaud his actions and see this as a possible turning point for this Serbian team, yet to live-up to their undeniably great potential.

Questionable it may be, but a drastically novel idea it is not.

Following the ‘French Fiasco’ of World Cup 2010 when players staged a mutiny after Coach Raymond Domenech sent Nicolas Anelka packing for misconduct, the French team quickly fell apart and was eliminated from competition.

In a sentence; their attempt to assert their authority over the coach ‘Le Bleu-up’ in their faces.

Laurent Blanc, like Mihajlovic, a former international star of the game was appointed in the lead-up to Euro 2012 qualifiers and left to pick-up the remains of a team left in tatters.

Like Mihajlovic, one of Blanc’s first motions as new coach of the French national side was to pass the words of the French national anthem onto his players and demand they sing it before their first qualifying game with Belarus.

“They perfectly know what I think.  I’ve passed the lyrics on to them,” Blanc said.

“Everybody is free to do what he wants but when you know La Marseillaise, you sing it,” he added.

Much like in Serbia’s case, the changes extend far beyond simply having to sing the national anthem and are about instituting a strict code of conduct through a number of responsibilities.

“When you’re a coach, you can try to ask your players to behave on the pitch in a way which can inspire them for their day-to-day living,” Blanc said.

Blanc now asks his players to do simple things like collecting their empty water bottles at the end of each training session, something they rarely did under Domenech.

Therefore the rule is not exclusive to Serbia and to say it is, or to say players should simply “do as they please”, whether naïve or simply stupid, is in no way productive to Serbia’s rehabilitation as a powerhouse of world football.

“Football should be entertainment for all fans who love the game, including women and children, while commitment, passion and patriotism must go hand in hand with a player’s talent,” Mihajlovic said.

A member of the Red Star Belgrade side that claimed a historic UEFA Champion’s League title in May of 1991, since accepting the top-job, Mihajlovic has made no secrets of his intentions to overhaul both the reputation and fortunes of Serbian football.

Following an arrival at World Cup 2010 as the ‘dark horse’ of the tournament and a historic 1-0 defeat of Germany at group stage (the first time ‘Die Mannschaft’ had lost at group stage in 24 years), the ‘White Eagles’ failed to progress past group stage, finishing in bottom place.

Then came a disastrous Euro 2012 campaign, which saw Serbia’s side going into it with no coach, after Radomir Antic was suspended for several games following an altercation with a FIFA official and shortly after sacked.

Under the hastily appointed Vladimir Petrovic as coach, the team conceded more goals, seemed generally out of sorts and even had to forfeit a match in Genoa against Italy due to crowd violence and hooligan behaviour from some of their fans, robbing them of a vital three-points.

Clearly there was something deeply wrong here.  Something deeper than tactical changes and player formation that needed to be addressed.

Renowned for being a hard-man and no stranger to controversy in his time playing at the highest level, Mihajlovic certainly seems to have the strength of his convictions and has made clear his plans to deal with this.

“I will ask the FSS to make sure we play only in venues where fans will behave in order to stop tarnishing Serbia’s reputation which is already blotted by a plethora of incidents,” Mihajlovic said.

“The players, on the other hand, will have to sign a code of conduct binding each and every one who represents Serbia to learn the national anthem, behave at international and club level and put their hearts on the sleeve,” he added.

Why then is it that a coach who is demanding his players adhere to a strict code of conduct, teamwork and behaviour befitting professional athletes, being so hastily questioned about his actions?

As the profile, involvement and financial value of the world game grows, have we lost respect for the people who officiate it?

According to some experts, the type of behaviour demonstrated by Ljajic is essentially what has dogged the Serbian National Team for years, and indeed many professional football teams in recent times.

Marko Savkovic, a researcher at the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, agrees a firm approach like Mihajlovic’s is also a very necessary one.

“It’s imperative to tackle discipline both and off the field, as well as in the stands because of the flow-down effect they can have on one another,” Mr Savkovic said.

“Discipline and a strict hierarchy have already been mentioned [in the past] as characteristics of ‘hooliganism’ and football in Serbia.  Finally we see someone, doing something about it, and with the support of the Football Federation,” he added.

Unfortunately, much of Mihajlovic’s criticism seems to have been generated by people as unwilling to read between the lines as they are to look beyond the headlines.  Ljajic was not “permanently banished from the team” as some reports have suggested.

A statement from the Serbian Football Federation in fact read: “The door has not been closed forever on the national team but [Ljajic] needs to change his attitude and officially notify Mihajlovic that he has done so.

“Then when his form merits it, he can return.”

It also seems important to clarify; Ljajic (along with every other player named by Mihajlovic in the Serbian national side) signed a code of conduct promising, among other things, to “sing the national anthem of Serbia at every match.”

He signed an agreement, didn’t adhere to it and was duly dumped as a result.  Therefore, he wasn’t simply “dumped for not singing the national anthem” but rather for breach of contract through violation of the team code of conduct.

At the heart of it, what Ljajic has done is make an individual choice in a team sport and it seems disappointing that Mihajlovic’s critics should have to be reminded about the importance of “No ‘I’ in TEAM” philosophy.

Given the nickname, the ‘Bomber of Borovo’ due to his lethal left boot, Mihajlovic was a member of the Yugoslavia team of the 90s and early 2000s that played amidst the backdrop of the bloody Balkan wars.

He therefore knows a thing or two about the importance of standing as a member of a strong team and presenting a united front.  When speaking at his first press conference as the newly appointed coach of Serbia, his words echoed this sentiment.

“You all know as I do that as a footballer, I made many mistakes, both on and off the field,” Mihajlovic said.

“So when I decided to accept the role as coach of the Serbian national side, my main motivation was to in some way educate the younger players, the players who have chosen a career in professional football, not to repeat the same mistakes I have made,” he added.

Mihajlovic’s commitment, even if some may not realise it, is a pivotal step in the right direction for Serbian football and Serbian sport as a whole.  An example many sporting federations could do well to follow.

Yes, outside in the ‘real world’ one can wear what they like, sing if they please or do as they will.  However, for those 90+ minutes, this is not the ‘real world’.  Do not forget, this is a job.  It is these players’ workplace.  In the same way that when you go to work, you adhere to a dress code, follow a code of behaviour and behave in accordance with that work culture.  So should they.

Quite simply, Ljajic was sent home, not by Sinisa Mihajlovic the ‘son of a Croatian mother’ or by Sinisa Mihajlovic the ‘husband of an Italian wife’.  He was sent home by ‘Mihajlovic the coach’.  Whether or not you like the man, you must respect the position.

Melbourne Victory FC ‘Blue & White Brigade’ member and ‘Footy Fans Down Under’ award recipient, Peter Lukic, says it’s a very principled step by Mihajlovic and any criticism levelled at him is unwarranted.

“The talk about rights is sadly thrown around with little knowledge of their actual place, role or application.  There’s a difference between disrespecting and disciplining,” Mr. Lukic said.

“Honestly it’s disappointing to have the same people who complain about changes coming about too little too late then also complaining about things being done too fast too soon!  Shut-up, sit back and let the man do the job he has been courted for over 4 months and signed to a two-year contract to do,” he added.

No, footballers are not singers.  But by that definition, they are not paid to be national ambassadors or role models either but these are responsibilities and expectations that accompany the job title.  Singing the anthem demonstrates a level of respect, unity and a willingness to follow the orders of the coach, without question but rather complete trust and faith in his or her motives.

New Zealand rugby players are not dancers but it is understood that they will perform the Haka before each match.  Like the anthem, it is a tribute and way of paying respect to the culture and to the nation you are representing.  To defy that and choose not too sing it with your teammates is a spit in the face of any citizen or supporter not lucky enough to wear the same colours.

Like it or not, these are the rules.  Just like wearing the correct uniform, demonstrating sportsmanship and attending training.

Whatever the case may be, a lack of respect for the coach, country or team can have devastating repercussions.  Whether that be the French team’s troubles of 2010 or John Terry’s attempt to instigate a mutiny against former England boss, Fabio Cappello, it is clear the institution of discipline by a coach early on is vital to a team’s success and cohesion.

In the meantime, sing the anthem loud and proud, respect the selector and 'Hajl' to the chief!

*Serbia meets France tomorrow and Sweden on June 5 for the remainder of their scheduled friendlies.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Euro-Mission – A Journey to Eurovision 2012

Welcome to the unofficial, unabridged, unprofessional but undeniably amusing re-cap of Eurovision 2012.  Immensely popular in Australia, it’s like ‘Contiki: The Stage show’ – 26 countries in 4 hours with 3 hosts and zero dignity.  It’s no surprise Eurovision’s so popular in Australia as it’s so relevant to our most recent leadership challenge.  It was tacky, thoroughly entertaining and the Australian public was not allowed to vote.

So nice to see Aladdin’s dad opening the show.  Great Azerbaijani rendition of “A whole new world.”  Sadly too many pillows clearly inhibited the flying rug taking off.  On top of that, if all those stewardesses are on stage with him as back-up dancers, who’s serving drinks on Etihad Airlines right now!?

It was particularly nice to see last year’s winners from Azerbaijan performing.  They were of course ‘Anonymous Arab girl’ joined by Charlie Pickering, dressed by ‘The Backstreet Boys’ collection.

So here’s a rundown from A to Ж – showing exactly what can be achieved when nations spend their gross national income on glitter rather than feeding their people. 

United Kingdom
Engelbert Humperdinck.  It’s so nice to see someone that was around to perform at the original Eurovision.  This is disappointing, now there’s a whole generation of kids out there who are going to think of Engelbert Humperdinck as ‘The man in black’ now rather than Johnny Cash.  It’s appropriate that the UK was ‘#1’ in the performance schedule, as that’s in all likelihood the number of votes they’re going to get.   UK, it doesn’t matter if you completely sucked.  You’re the official sponsor of the language for 96% of performances for the night.

If the dress code was ‘Formal S&M’, you have dressed more than appropriately.  How are you all wearing so much leather?  Somewhere in Hungary a field of cows died needlessly.  On top of that, the performance was erratic, off beat and unsettling.  If this is indeed the “sound of our hearts” as the song title suggests, there’s a good chance you have a clogged artery and are about to have a heart attack.

Side Comment:  I like the intermittent cuts of Azerbaijanis playing polo.  It’s what I imagine England’s elite would look like if the Dubai oil boom keeps up.  It’s also what Ralph Lauren clothing will look like if they get bought out by a Saudi conglomerate.

One for the kids this one, because they finally get to see the wicked witch from all of those stories they’ve been reading.  Albania’s performer – the answer to the question ‘who bought locks of Bob Marley’s hair off eBay?’  The flag with a double-headed goose dragon on it, offers-up a ‘feast for the senses’.  In that their performance hurts your eyes, your ears whilst also managing to leave a nasty taste in your mouth.  For a country that is so heavily involved in the illegal organ trade, it’s clear they haven’t been dealing in musical wind instruments on the black market.  It makes sense to have had so much smoke on the stage during the performance though, because their performer would have had to have been smoking something good to think she was singing well.  There is something beautiful about Eurovision, and it is not Albania.  That song and her off-key performance gave me goose-bumps.  Not good goose-bumps either.  The kind of goose-bumps you get when you hear a paedophile has been relocated into a nearby housing estate.

Great commitment by Lithuania.  During the last performance the audience probably wished they’d had blindfolds and now the Lithuanian performer is wearing one.  Not sure about the glittered sparkles all over it – it look like Lady Gaga donated one of her Libra pads to your Eurovision cause.  Some call the blind performance ‘brilliant’, I call it disrespectful to performers like Stevie Wonder who aren’t blind by choice.  Not particularly original either.  Britney Spears and Amy Winehouse were performing blind on-stage years ago.  Good thing for Lithuania “love is blind”.  That means it didn’t have to see witness those dance moves then.

The only country of the night to have a hyphen in their name, so that deserves credit.  It would be great if in keeping with that, mid-way through the performance the singer split into two parts.  Bosnia-Herzegovina, as you can see by their flag, is this evening proudly brought to you by ‘Bank of Queensland’.  The sad thing about the performance is they left the piano cover locked and forgot to let out past representative ‘Deen’ who suffocated two-thirds of the way through this performance.  First good song of the evening, but it’s a good indicator of where a country’s finances are at that they can only afford a performer, rented piano and a backing track.

‘Mother Russia’ becomes ‘Grandmother Russia’.  Not so much a performance as a ‘work for your pension’ scheme.  It’s also important to notice how the six Russian grandmothers get shorter from left to right because that’s how they all arrived in Baku – inside one another in two separate ‘Babushka dolls’.  Really catchy tune from the old ladies and I’m still humming it, but being able to remove your teeth does really enable you to harmonise well.  This is Russia’s take on LMFAO – it loosely translates as “I’m sexy and I’m Soviet”.  All these women are actually only in their 30s but it just goes to show you the toll a life of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll in the USSR takes on your body.  Ten points for knitting your own outfits.

Ironically, for a country that gave us one of the most intense natural disasters of recent years, that spectacle did not rock my world.  Plus, you guys are to blame for Bjork and your country’s name is blatantly misleading.  Zero points for Iceland.  Twelve points for Disneyland.

Side Comment:  I find myself saying about so many of these songs, “this would sound so much better in another language.”  I also find myself playing the game with these duets “guess if these singers are sleeping together.”

Ivi Adamou from Cyprus – ‘the divided country’.  In the interests of balance, Ivi is Greek but her upper-lip hair is distinctly Turkish.  However, if being tone deaf was a disability, she surely got priority parking at the Eurovision arena.  For a country that’s given us Marcos Baghdatis, Halloumi cheese and a highly popular plant for the garden, this performance was not quite so popular.  Interesting fact though:  With the money they saved on the set, Cyprus was able to fly in two extra back-up dancers.  Turkey and Greece will share the six points I am giving you.

The Euro-zone financial struggles meant only half the performers for France could afford shirts.  Unemployment’s also clearly rife in France as they had to outsource their singer.  That being said, ‘vocal gymnastics’ in performing are nothing new but surely you’ve got to get points for separating the two and having live vocals and real gymnastics.  If you enjoyed Anggun’s performance, you can see her next week starring in Thailand’s version of ‘Ladette to Ladyboy’.

Italy’s performance was very appropriate for TV show ‘The Voice’, in that you got as much out of it by having your back turned to it as you did facing it.  A catchy tune but sorry my Italian friends, that was certainly not ‘one with the lot’.  As a sidenote, I’ve started doing a shot every time a performer winks at the camera.  I may not survive to see Sweden’s entry.  Yes, the song was performed in English but in keeping with Italian tradition, three back-up singers were docked points and red-carded off-camera for diving.  Bravo!

Loved the tribute to Mr Bean in the intro with the spotlight shining down on the perfomer.  Eight points right off the bat for singing in your native tongue and hitting the right notes, bar one.  Sadly, you know you’re performance is too one-dimensional when the only option for the camera crew is to stick to a one-shot and repeatedly circle your face while ignoring the creepy ice-queen in the background.  Is she a ghost!?  If you were awarded points for movement, you my friend would be seeing less digits that the Greek National Bank.  Despite that, the Estonian community of Australia is going nuts right now!  I know this because I can hear both of them next door.

Hold the phones, we have ourselves another look-alike!  Sorry Collingwood but it looks like Sharrod Wellingham is going to be late for training again tomorrow.  ‘Tooji’ – if it wasn’t for Anders Breivik you would be the most disappointing male to come out of Norway in the last year.  You look like the member One Direction rejects.  Also, you don’t have to wear a hood on-stage, this is not 8-Mile.  I do however appreciate the inherent irony of your song being called ‘Stay’ while all throughout it I hoped you’d pack-up and leave.  Also, you had 1500 spotlights above you – it might have been worthwhile flicking one on your back-up singer.  That guy spent more time in the shadows than Jennifer Aniston’s brother.

The song was called “When the music dies”, which is also the theme for so many of the performances at Eurovision.  Another interesting fact: all of the chickens from which those feathers on performer, Sabina Babayeva’s dress were plucked were actually used to feed all of the performers at Eurovision 2012.  It was also interesting to see her dress doubling as a projector screen as well.  Adele is apparently doing the same thing with IMAX when she comes to Melbourne.  Babayeva should hold her head up high after that performance.  It’s tough to do of course with those enormous lips, but she should still give it a try.  She was of course singing in the ‘European’ language, which is English with the most intense accent you can apply to it.

Actually a very enjoyable performance.  Sadly Romania, most Americans still think you are ‘the capital of Italy’.  With a Latin-inspired performance that combined moon-walking, men in white suits, bagpipes and accordions, this officially makes it even harder for people to identify where exactly in the world your country is.  Certainly a classy performance from a country where there is no discernible class system.  People may not realise the skill required to be able to create all that music while playing no instruments.  Still, they did supply their own language – Ten points!

Denmark’s music industry – the reason Princess Mary travels abroad so often.  Singer, Soluna Samay was apparently wearing a dead busker’s hat.  I can then only assume she was also wearing Muammar Gaddafi’s military shoulder pads.  In keeping with her busking past, the singer accepted dollars instead of points.  Greece gave no points.  Realistically, your song sounded a bit like Seal’s song ‘Crazy’.  If you’re not going to sing in your own language Denmark, then at least stick to creating apple and apricot-based pastries.

“Aphrodisiac” – The most aptly named song of the night.  The Greeks have a history of creating amazing pillars and the twin-set on singer, Eleftheria Eleftheriou are no exception.  The fact that you could even finance an entry and return airline ticket to Eurovision is admirable.  Definitely a catchy song that will no doubt have Greeks wishing they had money in their iTunes account to go download it immediately.  Lucky the Greeks didn’t win, as their budget will only allow for Eurovision to be held at the Parthenon.  You get extra credit for being able to pull-off traditional Greek dancing in heels.  This is the beauty of Eurovision, sometimes you see a performance that’s so good you can set it to mute and still enjoy.  12 points… for each leg!

All I can say about Sweden’s performance is that someone clearly enjoyed the girl’s performance from horror movie ‘The Ring’ so much they had to have her represent Sweden.  Apparently the physical embodiment of a feeling of ‘euphoria’ manifests itself in the dance moves of MC Hammer and a tai chi enthusiast.  Not really sure what purpose Mr T. served at the end of the performance but it’s good to see him getting some post-Snickers work.  With a catchy dance track and simple lyrics, somewhere David Guetta just realised he could quite easily nab himself a Eurovision title next year.  This is about as Swedish as victory on the battlefield or anti-pornography laws.

For a country named after a type of poultry, you’re not doing yourself any favours to be taken seriously.  Congrats to you for being able to get Sacha Baron Cohen to sing for you but that being said, your back-up dancers look like their mums sewed those costumes for a Turkish production of ‘Batman’.  I truly hope your ‘human ship’ is not indicative of Turkey’s naval fleet.  Those guys looked a little too comfortable ‘climbing aboard’ one another.  For those wondering, all that material - $15 at the Istanbul Spotlight store.  This gave me no Turkish delight.

The country whose language comes with an in-built lisp.  You sang beautifully, dressed elegantly, used your own language and were devoid of ‘kitsch’.  The fact that you made it through to the final of Eurovision is nothing short of a miracle.  Didn’t win but perhaps if the competition had been held on clay you would have had a better chance.  I give you five ‘hot tamales’ out of five!

For a nation that has fought the English in every major war you’ve been involved in, it’s surprising that for the fifth year in a row you’ve turned-up singing in their language.  Plus, someone should’ve told you that your lighting kind of makes it look like you’re performing from inside an upside-down sieve.  On top of that, your singer’s name is Roman Lob.  Seriously?  There’s no excuse for turning-up to a European competition with a singer named after an Italian football technique.  You only manage a NEIN out of ten from me.

80% of your name makes up a key ingredient in beer so you’re alright by me.  Although you must have drunk a lot of it before you went out and got four matching haircuts.  Not sure about the fingerless gardening glove on the lead singer either – it looks like a metrosexual Michael Jackson trying to do D.I.Y.  Not a horrible effort from the Maltese but you should definitely stick to producing delicious chocolate balls.  I hope you didn’t miss the opportunity to set your guitarists up on a double date with Jedward.

F.Y.R. Macedonia
Where do I start?  Perhaps that I’m really really thankful your singer wore pants and resisted the urge to don a mini-skirt.  If she is indeed a middle-aged bank teller as her appearance would suggest, that was an inspired performance.  Pity you couldn’t get a point for every letter in the title of your country or you could’ve cracked the top three.  F.Y.I. – Not a good claim to fame when Eurovision is older than your country.

I really hope Jedward are wearing the military uniform of Ireland.  If so, there’s a good chance we can indict them on war crimes after that performance.  Either way, thanks to you boys, Star Wars’ C3-PO was left with nothing to wear on a Saturday night.  If ever there was a time for a pyrotechnics disaster, this was it.  The song was called “Waterline” so at the end of the performance you both walked straight into the water.  I hope you’re back next year with a song called ‘Firing line’.  At least we know what the twins from ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ have been doing since the show ended.

What a performance from the country where more people will vote in a Eurovision tally than in their own presidential elections.  Also, the only member of the musical group ‘Yugoslavia’ to go on to have solo success after their break-up in the 90s.  You’ve got to admire the irony that three of the most prominent countries not in the Euro-zone made-up the top three in one of Europe’s biggest competitions.

Not to be entrusted with music or nuclear reactors.  It felt like they were scaring diabetics in the audience unnecessarily by having giant dancing jelly babies on the LCD screens during the performance.  Still, for a country whose chief export is cabbage-based jams and picked vegetables, it’s great they could send these guys here.

It’s often the case that in life we save the best for last.  This is not true of Eurovision.  You’re really a country Moldova?  Really?  I now have even lower expectations of any series of ‘Moldova’s Got Talent.  If you’re going to join the long line of countries singing in English, it’s important that you know there is no ‘w’ in the word ‘lyrics’.  You sent a cobbler, and what I can only assume is every woman under the age of 60 from your country, to sing for you.  I give you five points – one for each hot girl on-stage.

So there you have it, a total re-cap of Eurovision 2012.  Special note: if you like any of the performers from tonight’s show, they will be available for mail-order purchase at the end of the week.  And remember, Eurovision does come only once a year, but fortunately the beautiful Julia Zemiro, the hilarious Sam Pang and regular euro-based SBS programming last all year long.  Goodbye Baku!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Fighters or Fakers: A Beginners Guide to Authentic Armies.

As the month of April fast approaches and we’re bombarded with stories reminding us to remember heroes fighting wars abroad and cheap ANZAC Day Contiki cruises to Gallipoli getting people to ‘remember wars aboard’, maybe it’s time that in addition to remembering the heroes, we take time to talk about the zeroes.  The armies whose stories will not be chiselled in steel or stone, but at best will be scribbled on toilet walls.  Those who fight so blindly for too long, in the quest of causes unknown, to achieve so little for so many… ‘Best we forget’.

We’ve all seen our fair share of ineffective and unthreatening armies – the ‘Barmy Army’, the ‘Kiss Army’ and of course the ‘Swiss Army’ – the army that turned compact cutlery into a weapon of messy distraction.  Most of all though, there is one select group of silent under-achievers that drag their feet ever so quietly below the radar.  An army whose ‘home front’ is actually the front of your home!  Of course I’m talking about the ‘door-knocking gentry’ – the ‘Salvation Army’.  Among other things, the main issue I have with the Salvation Army is its title.  There needs to be some criteria that must be met before you can call yourself an ‘army’, which is why I’ve used the Salvation Army as a case study to compile this handy ‘how to’ guide for all would be armies.

First and foremost, if you spend more time fundraising rather than fighting, you’re not an army – you’re a cohesive band of beggars.  If ‘asking for money’ made you an army, then the traffic light-based window washers of Melbourne would be our national defence force.  On a smaller scale, it’s the same way that just because you have a friend who constantly asks to borrow money off you, that doesn’t mean he’s a ‘soldier’.  What you need to realise is that when Elvis Costello sang about ‘Oliver’s Army’, he wasn’t talking about Oliver Twist.  No one’s going to respect an army that’s so poor, they constantly have to ask for spare change and donations of things bogans couldn’t sell at a garage sale.  So pick-up a weapon and start a fight.  Or better yet, drop the ‘Army’, grab some matching rings and just call yourselves the ‘Salvation Team’.  At least that way people might mistake you for superheroes rather than people out to wage a holy war.

The next step to becoming an army of any worth – you have to show some track record of success in fighting an enemy.  It’s Australia – there are enemies everywhere.  Declare a war on ‘drought’!  Load yourselves up with water-pistols, hoses and 1500 angry farmers, head out into rural Australia and start spraying.  Call yourselves the ‘Farmy Army’ if you have to, but just start fighting.  If it starts to rain by chance while you’re out there, claim responsibility for it and say you “called in air-support.”  Whatever the case, they’re all points to add to your ‘army resume’.  Like any job application, people are going to want to see that you’ve had experience.  Be careful though, if Nazi Germany taught us anything, it’s that there is such a thing as being ‘over-qualified’.  This my friends is where I have no respect for the Salvos, because they’ve never won a war.  They haven’t even won a battle!  They’ve had one battle to fight for 70 years now – ‘poverty’ – and they still haven’t beaten it!  How is it this hard for you to beat poverty – by definition, it’s horribly under-funded and seriously under-equipped.  McDonalds doesn’t even have an army and they’ve almost decimated ‘anorexia’!  And they did it with just a clown and a burger thief.  Shape-up or give it up.

Thirdly – weaponry.  You’ve got to be wary of any army that lists it’s ‘battlefield kit’ as: ‘collection bucket, trombone and confident smile.’  An army is supposed to be something that can at least defend itself if it’s not prepared to attack, so when the only baton you’re ‘armed’ with is the one you use to conduct the Salvation Army band, you need to re-evaluate your situation.  If you’ve got no weapons, no battlefield experience and deal in cash, there’s a good chance you’re not a Salvation Army – you’re a Salvation Business.  And no one was ever defeated by an army that had more shareholders than soldiers and an ABN instead of an AK-47.  This is why I suggest the standard army kit includes at least a Swiss army knife.  It’s perfect – you don’t need a licence to own one, it’s compact, fits conveniently into a trumpet case and this way, your arsenal is at least on par with one nation’s defence force.  Plus, for the Salvos, it’s red and white, so the colours match.  Figure out a way to work ‘Target’ shopping centres and ‘Redhead Matches’ into the mix and you’ve literally got yourself some firepower and a target to practice on!

Yes I know what you’re thinking – surely I must be down on every ‘non-violent’ army.  Not true.  Like every argument, there is an exception to the rule.  Do you want to know my favourite army?  ‘Dad’s Army’!  It was funny, efficient and gave work to the elderly, and while their kill rate wasn’t high, they were at least packing heat.  By the way, it’s more than a little ironic that the Salvos aren’t allowed to carry guns.  It seems like it’d really help their fundraising a lot more.

The last point for armies to take into account is uniform.  Uniforms serve two purposes – to either make you completely undetectable to your enemy or to make you highly visible to onlooking media and public as you demonstrate your awesomeness.  The two best examples of this are the traditional khaki camouflage versus the rabbit-fur hats and white gloves of the Chinese Army.  And let’s face it, when you have the biggest army in the world and you’re armed to the teeth, you can pretty much wear whatever you want.  The best tip here, when sorting out your uniform, stick to the ‘3B’ rule – Black Jumpsuit, Boots, and Balaclava.  The headwear is the real deal-breaker, without it you’ll just look like you work in pest control.  During the night you’ll notice improved cover, and during the day you’ll see a marked increase in people’s willingness to hand over money to you.

For the Salvos this is pretty much the ‘Arab that broke the camel’s back’, so to speak, because they have neither.  They haven’t even tried camouflage – they wear black pants and white shirts.  The only hope they have of blending in with their surroundings is if they’re fighting a battle in the middle of a group of Mormon door knockers or QANTAS choir children.  Even then, you’ve got the annoying rattling of the spare change tin that’s going to make you more easily detectable than Peter Pan’s crocodile, and who really needs the extra stress.

In the end, I suppose I feel the same way about groups like the Salvation Army as I do about police bands – I’m not really sure what purpose they serve, and I’m not entirely comfortable with them associating themselves so closely with sections of the defence force.  Here’s the deal – they can keep the title of ‘army’ as long as they accept everything that goes with that, be they ‘Barmy’, ‘Salvo’, ‘Swiss’ or ‘Kiss’.  What better way to scare the Taliban than to send over to Afghanistan 300 leather-clad, face-painted Englishmen armed with only cork-screws, flick-knives and trombones?!  At the very least, the introduction of conscription and an out-dated policy towards employment of homosexuals could be just what these groups need to be allowed to call themselves ‘armies’.  The point is, unless you meet the above criteria, you’re not an army.  At best, you’re slightly similar to an army, in the same way that Polish dancing is slightly similar to pole dancing.  So change your name or earn your stripes.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Gender-ally Speaking – A Pocket Guide for the Sexes.

Girls and boys – they make-up approximately 100% of our Earth’s human population, despite being native to Venus and Mars respectively.  Sadly, the ‘boy-girl relationship’, not to be mistaken with the ‘lady-boy relationship’ native to parts of Thailand, has experienced its fair share of obstacles.  From miscommunication to general misunderstandings, what’s clear is that between the two groups, much like a bootleg DVD with subtitles (also native to parts of Thailand), too much is getting lost in translation.  So for any of you that have ever been picked-up, put-down, pushed aside or pulled-inline by the opposite sex, but for whatever reason, you didn’t know why, this guide my friends, is your new bible.

First off, a quick history lesson on relationships.  They were invented in the year 43 B.C. by Noah son of Lamech who boarded animal pairings onto a ship for 40 days and 40 nights of sea-based ‘relations’.  Thus trade-marking and giving us the term ‘Relation-Ship’.  Then in the year 1486, bought the rights to the ‘relationship’ name and got a 510 year jump on the internet.  Their idea was to create an effective way of helping people around the world to get over the doom and gloom of the Dark Ages by pairing like-minded individuals of the opposite sex together for the sake of enjoyment on land.  Several decades later, San Francisco, Sydney and most of Germany purchased a stake in the franchise and tweaked the ‘opposite sex’ feature significantly to cope with the mass post-World War 2 funk everyone was in.  In the years that followed, the ‘relationship’ brand was opened-up to the public so that citizens by birth-right could all become minor shareholders and have greater access and freedom to operate the product to fit their own needs, a process that continues to the present day, everywhere except in the Middle East.  Sadly, since then we’ve witnessed a growing dissatisfaction with the ‘relationship’.  With no apparent operation manual, decreasing understanding of its operation and maintenance abounds.

Now that the history’s out of the way, here’s the reality.  The general consensus is that neither guys nor girls have any idea what’s going on.  Girls talk to other girls, guys talk to other guys, who are all as clueless as one another.  So like children at a special school trying to cheat off each other, they end-up getting the wrong answer no matter what.  So here’s a list of general info that may help navigate you through the haze of foundation, blush and Lynx deodorant that we now call ‘the boy-girl relationship’.

First point – know the status of the relationship.  This doesn’t mean consulting Facebook, because in five minutes I can find 13 guys who have Jennifer Hawkins listed as their wife and the ‘Terminator’ listed as their brother so you know it’s essentially become Wikipedia’s retarded cousin.  What I mean is, know when you’re being hit-up by a buddy or just being hit-up for some booty.  Now girls, this is where I need you to pay a lot of attention, because this is about to rock your world – you do not have as many male friends as you think you do.  100% of the time, if a guy’s single and is friends with you, he’s either gay or interested in you.  And unless you’ve seen him in a compromising position with one of his football teammates, you can count on the latter.  Your first tip-off should be this – if a guy feels the need to reaffirm his ‘B.F.F.’ status with you, you can be sure he just wants to check on the progress of his ‘B.E.D.’ status with you.  Any ‘B.F.F.’ that looks for a pat on the back is asking for a slap in the face.

If you’re having trouble identifying this guy, let me help you out.  He’s usually the guy that even if he’s in the middle of rural bushland with minimal cellular reception, will somehow find a way to be one of the first to comment or click ‘like’ on your newly posted photo or status.  And you’re probably thinking to yourself right now “No, we’ve been friends for years, that’s way off.”  Well let me tell you this, guys will hang around longer than a dedicated partner of a coma patient waiting for a sign of life.  Odds are he is your friend... for now.  But in reality, he’s just waiting around long enough for you to exhaust every option and make as many bad choices as you can until he doesn’t look like such a bad one.  It’s also known as the ‘Shane Warne effect’.  Now for an important safety warning – ladies, if you post a ‘posing picture’ of yourself, (you know which ones I mean.  The ones that you secretly took 34 cracks at ‘til you got it right before you posted it, and then when you get complimented on it you say things like, “Oh no, I look awful lol!”) – Well if any guy on your Facebook profile writes something to the effect of “looking hot” or “stunner” – delete that douche.  You’ll be saving yourself an awkward pick-up line, vapid conversation and being the recipient of a ‘Rohypnol cocktail’ later on in the relationship.

Also very important to keep in mind that the way you’re looking at a relationship’s status is completely different to how a guy is charting its progress.  It’s a widely accepted notion amongst men that relationships are like employment – even if he starts off as a lowly receptionist, taking after hour calls and running errands, slowly he’ll move up within the organisation until he’s in a much better position.  Preferably something with a nice room and a headboard view.  It’s a subtle difference but what you call being a good ‘B.F.F.’ he calls ‘extended work-experience’.  To the guy, he’s essentially doing an apprenticeship, and we know how much you love a tradie!

Another point of caution – be aware that as illogical as it seems, a guy invariably believes the car he drives will exponentially increase his chances of hooking-up with you.  If you’ve already got to rely on this methodology fellas, my advice would be to roll with a motorcycle.  It’s perfect – just the right amount of wheels, more power than is necessary and the fact that no matter how much the woman you’re transporting might not be interested in you, she has to wrap her arms around you and cling on for dear life until the end of the journey.  On some level, girls really do have a visceral love of them.  All I’m saying is you never saw a Chiko model straddling a Ford Fiesta with unsurpassed fuel economy.

Next-up – learn to communicate verbally.  This means addressing the issue of texting – both via phone and Facebook.  Example; barring if they’re in surgery or operating heavy machinery, no guy or girl should take more than one hour to reply to a text.  Any more and they’re most likely playing games with you, and if you want to play games on an electronic device, buy Tetris.  If you want to have a conversation, pick-up a phone.  As a sidenote, the text message isn’t indicative of real conversation girls.  There’s a reason that ‘phoney’ is spelt the way it is.  If it were indicative of real conversation, you’d go out for a date, ask a question and an hour later the guy would look back at you with a cheesy smiley face and just say “lol.”
On top of this, if you’re over the age of 18 and haven’t made grammar your bitch, pick-up the phone because texting is only going to hurt you.  Bad grammar is the new nose-picking of social faux-pas, and it’s just as big a turn-off.  It paints a bad picture of the relationship’s future.  Best case scenario you’re going to end-up with the wrong inscription on your wedding rings.  Worst case scenario, your weekly ‘couples time’ becomes waiting in line at Centrelink because the workforce tends to frown on resumés that look like they were written by a 13-year old girl via SMS.  Bad grammar can be a big early deal-breaker and there’s a good chance the other person is silently judging you.  It’s not fair I know, but it’s called ‘Preju-text’ and it happens.

Now for a fun fact, and girls, this is a really important piece of bite-sized knowledge for you – the longer the message a guy sends you, the less thought that’s gone into it.  And God help you if you’ve gotten the ‘one word’ text or Facebook comment where the guy either just writes your name or “hi”, because not only does he want your attention badly, but he’s desperately trying to not look interested and get you to make the first move.  Oh and you can be sure he’s run that message past all of his friends and most of his immediate family to proof-read before you even got a glance at it.  To make an informed decision, jot this formula down.  Before you get a message from a guy, give him about two hours in the bank.  Then subtract one minute from that two-hours for every word that he’s written to you.  The time you’re left with is the approximate amount of time he’s spent just composing and fine-tuning that message.  And if you’re headed out to catch-up with a guy that’s just sent you a text with less than six words, well then I’m afraid you’ve unwittingly just bought yourself a front-row seat to the ‘Muppet Show’.

Also important for you to keep in mind – appearance is a big deal and looks are as important as people make them out not to be.  No one ever looked a across a crowded dancefloor checking out someone’s sense of humour.  Keeping this in mind, I’m sorry girls, but stop getting so angry at other girls who’ve had work done.  There’s no sense in angrily chastising ‘fake’ boobs.  They’re not fake – you can see them and you can touch them so they’re real.  Unless you go to feel one and your hand passes through like a hologram out of Star Wars, then they’re real.  It’s just a modification.  If you renovate your house, that doesn’t make it a ‘fake’ house!  As for the fellas, the female gender is totally aware that they have the upper-hand in the looks game.  I can explain the reasoning behind this very easily.  You could be the most attractive guy and that may just get you a date, but if you mess-up the first impression on your date by doing anything stupid or inane, a girl can instantly be turned-off.  They’ll call all their friends and give you a worse review than if they just sat through ‘Big Momma’s House 3’.  But girls, it’s just as important that you know, we’re not so discerning.  If you’re an attractive girl, you could run over our mother, kick our dog, spit in our cereal and we’ll still justify it to everyone by saying, “Yeah but she’s hot!”

Another important note for both guys and girls – the ‘looks to brains’ ratio is not uniform across the sexes.  I went out with a girl recently who had both and girls can because they’re able to multi-task.  A girl can focus on appearance while still doing some non Cosmopolitan-based reading.  That being said, there are sadly a lot that exercise the right to choose not to.  However girls, if you’re expecting the same from guys, then you’ll be sadly disappointed.  It happens, don’t get me wrong, but that’s mainly with guys who were fat in their formative years and then got their looks later.  So they still had a chance to get the IQ up before the cholesterol went down.  Also, I’m sorry to disappoint more of you girls out there, but there is no such thing as a juice-head with a brain.  For every kilo of muscle, feel free to subtract 15 IQ points.  It’s why you’ll never see an obituary that reads ‘Nobel Prize-winner and Mr. Universe finalist’.  They tend not to have a lot upstairs, and according to all medical research, not a lot downstairs.  It’s also the reason why ‘creatine’ sounds so much like ‘cretin’.

This leads me to my next point – make sure you’re reasonable in what you’re looking for.  So to the girls, don’t say you’re look for a ‘bad boy’ that you can turn good.  If you really were then where are Ivan Milat’s groupies?  Surely he’s a bad boy.  Some would say the baddest.  In fact, I’d say that if you’re looking for a fixer-upper, look no further.  You’ve found the commission flat of fixer-uppers.  But guys aren’t fixer-uppers – that’s why shows like ‘The Block’ work the way they do – with inanimate buildings rather than men.  If girls had their way, Scott Cam would rock-up to a house in the eastern suburbs, take an unemployed biker with a criminal record and go to work on him.  Remove the existing rotting framework, install some high school education, do some landscaping, extend the downstairs area and ensure there’s still something going on upstairs so he’s ready to go to auction.  But no plaster… he’s had enough of getting plastered.

The next part of this ladies, sorry but you’re not going to get that happy medium where you find someone who’s got something dark about them, but is also reputable and caring.  This isn’t ‘Beauty & the Beast’.  You rarely end-up with a bikie that loves to baby-sit and are more likely to end-up with a priest who touches kids.

Finally – Ground rules for if you make it to the dating stage.  This is the final and perhaps the most important yet most commonly mishandled part of the boy-girl relationship.  These are three of the most important “do’s and don’ts”.  Firstly, to both genders – don’t say you have a type. This is essentially relationship racism.  It’s as offensive and prejudicial as saying you have a type of person you’d employ – “Um, I’m really just looking for someone taller and not Indian.”  You don’t have a type of food or t-shirt.  Sometimes you’ll try something on and decide you like it and maybe even want to be seen in public with it on you… wait that sounded weird.  I digress, and sure you may prefer French cuisine, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy a cheap pizza.  Catch my drift?  Don’t be afraid to give new things a chance.

Next, and this is mainly for the girls – if you’re 25 or over, you’re legally obligated by a statute I just made up from a constitution I just fabricated, to provide a person with a minimum ‘3-date tryout’.  It’s a warranty to insure you and the person interested in you against the pickiness that’s kept you single into your quarter life.  And guys, don’t set the standards so high.  There are plenty more fish in the sea, but if you aren’t prepared to slay a few dragons to get to the princess, you risk spending the rest of your life waiting around, with your rod in your hand.  And on another note, no guy should ever call a girl after 10pm if he’s pursuing a relationship.  Nothing wholesome was ever sought-after past 10pm. You’re either after greasy potato cakes & chips or a booty call.  And unless the girl you’re calling is Greek, it’s unlikely you’re calling about the former.

Ultimately, not since the mass consumer hysteria over the ‘Yo-Yo’ and ‘Yo-Ho Diablo’ have so many people partaken in a venture that they have absolutely no idea how to operate, with the exclusion of course of the Australian political system.  In spite of that, maybe what’s best about the boy-girl relationship is that often you just don’t know what you’re going to get out of it and you can’t explain it.  It’s like an X-rated Kinder Surprise, where one in ten eggs contain a kick in the nuts but the rest have something great inside for you to play with.  In any case, as long as you make sure your intentions aboard the ‘SS. Relationship’ are honourable and you don’t plan to take a leak in the dating pool, you should be fine.  That being said, whatever you do, keep the guide handy and it might just mean you avoid your ‘happily ever after’ becoming a ‘happily shortly after’.