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Thursday 28 November 2013

Bianca Alsop and The Fact That UK Toddler Pageants Are A Thing

Today is Thanksgiving in the USA. I lived in America for a while, and was there to partake of this event last year. The food was nice, but faced with the lure of an amazing discount on a really big TV I decided I wanted, I naively decided to go out and queue outside Best Buy from about 6pm to when it opened at midnight. I should explain that the day after Thanksgiving is the official start of the Christmas shopping season in the US, and is known as 'Black Friday'. If you are wondering why it is called that, so was I, so I asked a guy who was in the queue with me (well, we had a long wait, it made sense to chat). This guy, who happened to be black, put forward the idea that it was because with the heavy discounts (which are limited to a set number of products and only on that day), it was the only time the black people could afford the stuff they wanted. This says quite a lot about a lot of things in the US, but fortunately it isn't anything that stunningly racist. Actually, the real reason, I discovered later, is that this was traditionally when most stores would go from the red into the black, fiscally speaking, for that quarter.

In any case, it did not go well for me, queuing there in the cold. Just when the store was about to open, with me and my new friend in a pretty good position to get the bargains we were after, some random lady told a passing cop that we had jumped the queue. We hadn't, but the cop decided to believe her because, I suppose, it gave him something to do, and told us if we didn't leave the car park of Best Buy we would have to go to jail. Yep, a cop with a gun threatened me with the cells for trying to buy a television.. The Boxing Day sales on Oxford Street look as simple and unthreatening as the inside of Justin Bieber's head compared with this annual bloodbath. Obviously I never got inside the store, but I imagine it was the nearest thing someone in 21st century Seattle could experience to being at the Somme.

What does this have to do with the crux of this article? Well, the US has offered us many great things, but there are some things they do there that other countries should be saying 'awwww, hell no' to. Black Friday is one of them. Fox News is another. And a third is the toddler pageant.

Sadly though, there are some people in the UK who have looked at this, at best, vulgar, and at worst, soul clutchingly frightening US phenomenon, and thought 'that is fucking awesome, I totally want to dress my kid up like a drag queen and put them in one of these'. This is why there is such a thing as the 'Miss Glitz Sparkle' pageant. This pageant for male and female children takes place in that well known home of glamour, Lincoln. And fuck me is it weird.

With toddlers in ballgowns and sparkly bikinis, it is a pretty odd spectacle to begin with. I don't want to get all Daily Mail about it and start on about paedos and the sexualisation of children, but it is pretty hard to imagine who else would be entertained by that. I wouldn't. I mean when I was a kid it was a job to get even your parents to come to your dance recitals and whatnot, on account of how boring it is watching some kids ponce about, and they didn't even have the creepy undertones of us all being slathered in fake tan, body glitter and swimwear. To any normal person, this, as an evening's entertainment, sounds about as much fun as going water skiing in shark infested waters with bloody lamb shops for skis, so these things must exist solely for the benefit of the molesty types, and Britain's twattiest mothers.

The mother who has gained the most press coverage over entering her kids in this and other pageants, is one Bianca Alsop. Her four year old daughter Ocean won 'Most Beautiful' at the Glitz Sparkle pageant, in which she also entered her twin baby sons. You'll never guess what she called these poor bastards. Milan and Madrid. Whether she was going for the Brooklyn Beckham angle and was just too thick to realise that nobody would think twins could possibly have been conceived in two different cities in two different countries, or whether she is just really fucking sad, we'll never know for sure (unless she lets me interview her), but there is a lot of evidence to support both the stupidity and the sadness as motivating factors.

You may think I am being harsh here, and I'm sorry, but it's going to get harsher. You see, this is someone who likes to put her kids, the boys almost certainly too young to know what the hell is even going on, into competitions where other people judge them on their hair, their smiles (Madrid won 'Best Smile', which is pretty fucked up when you'd think his identical twin Milan would have the same smile) and their ability to do a little turn on the catwalk, in the hopes that her offspring will be pronounced cuter than some other twatty woman's offspring and she can feel good about that. And that to me makes her a fucking jerk. So let's turn the tables and judge her instead. You may feel better about all of this unpleasantness if I tell you that I have a source who was bullied horribly by her at school, so this isn't conjecture, I have it on very good authority that she is a complete fuckwit.

Now, a lot of the stuff I am basing all this on is from an interview she did with the good old Daily Mail, which you can read here (it also has pictures of her which may help you appreciate this article. I don't put pictures up on here because copyright law baffles me and also, as a words person, I am to photography what Mother Theresa was to shoe design). I know that means looking at the Daily Mail, however, and since I appreciate you may not want to do that, there is another story here on some parenting site or other. In the latter she says:
"We've got dull, old-fashioned, apron-wearing mothers making their comments, but no one criticises them because their children are boring."
Yep. She honestly thinks the only people who would criticise her are some dowdy housewives who as far as I can tell exist only in her imagination and 1950's TV shows. Well, I'm not a mother at all, and I certainly can't be old fashioned because I've got an iPad and I know who Miley Cyrus is. And yet, mysteriously, I still think she's a cunt. Weird, huh? And besides, exactly how does putting make up on a kid make it less boring? I suppose it does make it more hilarious to look at, but it doesn't actually morph it from being a normal kid into a latter day Oscar fucking Wilde, does it?

Now, it may seem like really, this is all harmless fun and actually no different from normal stuff little girls do where they get to wear pretty outfits like dance or gymnastics or princess parties or whatever the hell the kids these days are into, and I can sort of see that argument - to be honest, when I was a little girl if my mother had said 'hey, do you want to prance around in a ballgown and full make up?' I would have pretty much been thrilled about it (yeah, it might weird you out if you know me but 'soccer girl' over here was really into Barbie). But it's the lengths Bianca and the other mothers go to to prepare their kids that makes this way more eepy-cray than your average kids' dance show:

"I like Ocean to be tanned so I don't put high factor sun cream on her. Instead, she sunbathes with me and I let her wear the tan-enhancing factor 15 that I use.

"Our family don't like fake tan but will use it on her if she hasn't been on holiday."
I bet that somewhere in her house she has her family crest with the Alsop motto beneath it: 'We Don't Like Fake Tan!'. Seriously though, I'm not the most responsible person in the world and even I think using weak sun protection on a little blonde kid is questionable as fuck. It gets sadder still though:

"Ocean has a sticky-out ear which she has inherited from her dad - we call it the family 'ear'-loom. As soon as she is old enough to have her ear pinned back, I will be taking her to have it done. That's no big deal. In fact, I would consider that a minor imperfection that just needs tweaking."
Now, aside from that unforgivable 'ear-loom' pun, have you seen the kid? Sure, if she was walking around looking like the bloody FA Cup and had a complex about it, the surgery to pin back an ear is relatively simple, but she looks fucking fine. Just keep her hair down until she's old enough to decide for herself. If you are telling a kid at that age that they have this fault that is going to hold them back in the world of pageanting, and that that simply won't do because pageanting is a thing people honestly give a fuck about your achievements in, then what the hell is that doing to their psyche? They're going to end up as one of those twatty girls who wants a boob job for Christmas when they are 13 or... Oh, wait...

"I put a boob job on my Christmas list from the age of 13. Dad finally gave in and paid for them on my 20th birthday.
"I get birthday Botox each year - I've been doing that since I was 23. "
Personally, when I was 13 I got an electric guitar for Christmas. I had asked for a Brazilian Butt Lift, but my dad didn't want to get me that.

Jesus fucking wept, woman. How would that conversation even go? 'Dad, my tits aren't big enough - sort it out, will you?'. Also, and this is a bit of a personal dig but if you have seen the picture of her in the Daily Mail piece, errrrr, you're 26 and you have been having Botox since you were 23? Why do you have all those crows' feet then? Seriously, it struck me as off that a 23 year old would bother to have Botox, I know some people who have it but they are all in their late thirties or early forties, but Christ, what would she look like without it, The Emperor from Star Wars? It might, possibly, have something to do with all that tanning...

You hear this kind of bollocks all the time from trashy celebrities with kids, like Katie Price or Kerry Katona or that one who's married to Steven Gerrard, but this is just some random Northern bird who used to work behind the counter in HSBC. It's fucked up. I'm trying to stay away from criticising her parenting too much because that really lacks any credibility coming from someone who doesn't have kids themselves, but I reckon there are probably crack whores out there who would nod sagely and say that this vain assed weirdo shouldn't be left in charge of raising anything more sentient than a Furby.

So, well, fuck you, pageant mums. You suck. Thank you and goodnight. Oh, and stay away from Best Buy tonight if you're in America.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Weird Italian Landlords

Those of you who have read this blog before will know I don't very often write about my own life. This is because the only people who care about my life are my friends, and they can read my mundane Facebook status updates (that's a callback to my last article). However, it was this or write about the John Lewis Christmas advert, and that would have just been several paragraphs of jokes about how Lily Allen singing Keane is a horrible abomination and whoever came up with the idea should have to go to prison.

In any case, people unaccountably love those stories about how someone they don't know moved to Italy and had lots of hilarious, adorable misunderstandings as they came to adjust to the local way of life, all that Under The Tuscan Sun dreck. Because I'm a writer and I live in Italy, people keep telling me I should write one of those books because publishers eat it up with a spoon and people who watch those stupid TV programmes where a smug couple buy a house abroad buy the crap in droves. And I might just do it. But to give you an idea how different my book would be to Under The Tuscan Sun, which I have admittedly not read because it sounds boring, but am certain contains absolutely no sexual harassment, I am going to talk today about my landlords.

For the past two months or so I have been living in a really nice apartment in a small town by Lake Trasimeno (revealing my location may not be wise just in case there are still any people left who want to murder me for what I wrote about Liverpool FC at the start of the year, but fuck 'em). I am bored of explaining why I moved here from Seattle, where I was living before, so now the only explanation you'll get out of me is that I saw iCarly do it on TV and I want to be just like her. My apartment is huge, has many balconies where I can smoke or pretend to be Juliet, and because it used to belong to an old lady who died, is full of really weird stuff. It's like a museum of old lady crap up in my crib, I'm telling you. There's a statue of the Madonna that changes from blue to red when it's going to rain. The first time it happened I thought it was a miracle and was wondering if I ought to inform the Pope or try and exploit it for financial gain, but it transpired, rather disappointingly, to be more a kind of 'mood ring' type arrangement. Even so, moving into a place fitted with glittery colour changing religious statues is fucking awesome. I like it very much. There's a bar over the road, too.

So, you might imagine I am living quite the life, writing, drinking wine, watching Serie A and waving my hands around a lot when I speak in Italian. And I would be. If it wasn't for my fucking landlords.

They are a fairly old couple, mid sixties I would say, and they live in the apartment upstairs from mine. Their apartment, like mine, has tiled floors, and I'm convinced they rearrange all of their furniture every single day just for the sheer fuck of it, because it sounds, from dawn till dusk, like there is a fucking squash match going on up there. 'Just sit the fuck down!' I plea in my head as I try and drown them out with MTV Italia, which plays the same four terrible songs over and over again. Oh good. Robin Thicke. I haven't heard Robin Thicke for 20 minutes. I was starting to forget how that song went. What rhymes with hug me?

But the noise is the least of my worries.

At first, it was just the constant disturbances (as opposed to the genuinely 'disturbing' stuff that has started happening since). I'd be minding my own business trying to write something or dancing around to Robin Thicke (nobody 'wants it', Robin, you look like Justin Timberlake's dad), and my buzzer would go. Because the lady who lived here before was 172 years old, it is very fucking loud, and scares the b'jaysus out of me. Once I spilled my sambuca. It would usually be 'her'.

She has a weird fascination with my eating habits. I always thought one of the upsides to being an adult was that you could eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and if that happens to be nothing until 11 o'clock at night when you might fancy some Pringles, then so be it. But no. She notices if she doesn't see me go to the supermarket for a couple of days (which usually means I have enough wine), and has to come down and bother me about whether I have eaten. This usually results in being force fed pasta and cake. I know this doesn't sound that bad, but it is a fucking pain in the ass when you have plans. It is impossible to say no. No excuse will be tolerated. I tried saying I was on a diet or going out for a big meal later or I'd already eaten or I was doing Ramadan, and none of it stopped the feeding. Being English, I couldn't cause offence by saying 'fuck off! I am 30 and have mastered such things as eating!', obviously, but I tried everything short of that.

While force feeding me, they would sit there and chatter away at me in Italian, and because I only understand about 50% of what they are saying I found myself nodding politely as I wondered if what he was telling me about a Romanian guy with two wives was a story, a joke or a racist tirade.

Of course, this stuff isn't that bad, it just sort of makes me feel like I have moved into a 1970's sitcom about European stereotypes, and that's quite a laugh in some lights, after a few Peronis or some of their God awful home made wine. But the disruptions to my day piss me off. I find myself in a catlike state of readiness throughout the day, just so if the buzzer from hell goes off I don't jump so much I drop my cigarette and burn the place down or poke my eye out with my mascara wand. It's stressful.

I have therefore tried to make it look as inconvenient as it is in the hope they'll think 'hey, maybe she's busy, let's not go round and ask her if she's happy with the curtains in the guest room she never goes in, maybe it can wait until the next time we see her on the stairs or something'. I spun some bullshit about working for American clients and needing to work at night and sleep during the day and then pretended I had been asleep every time they came round for about a week, but that meant I had to be completely silent all day and I missed my MTV Italia. So I started opening the door with a towel on my head in my dressing gown so it looked like I was in the bath when they disturbed me (because they don't actually go away if you don't answer or shout that you're busy, they just keep buzzing), but that just meant spending all day dressed like I was at a spa. Next I think I might get a man to come round and just walk around in his underwear and be all like, 'hey, you totally cockblocked me, bro' when they show up. Though I'm not sure how that translates to Italian.

In any case, the disturbances were just the start of what has become a far creepier problem. Not to put too fine a point on it, the old man has become a bit of a sex pest. To begin with, he would just sort of stoke my hair in a creepy way while he was talking to me, which I didn't like (really, you should only be touching my hair if you are my hairdresser or my boyfriend. And I don't currently have a hairdresser or a boyfriend), but which you could take as just being affectionate. Rather than kissing me on the cheek twice as is the custom in Italy, he'd do it about fifty times. This was annoying, and made me uncomfortable, but I thought hey, maybe I'm just being uptight and British and this is normal.

Then he started telling me weird stuff like how he and his wife hadn't had sex for 20 years because of some gross health problems I did not need to know about, and going on about how important it was to 'make love'. In a flash of inspiration I at this point announced that I was deeply religious and had no interest in such matters but that seemed to work as well in putting him off as that old ruse of pretending you and your best mate are lesbians when some douchebag wouldn't leave you alone in a bar worked – i.e., not at all. It was at this point that the ass grabbing started. Whenever he'd say goodbye, he'd try and grab my ass.

Now, I could give him the benefit of the doubt over the hair stroking and the cheek kissing and the 'too much information' conversation topics, but when you grab someone's ass that sends a very clear message, and the message is that you are a lecherous little monstrosity. You can't pass that sort of shit off as fatherly affection. You can't pass that shit off as anything but ass grabbing.

I was so genuinely shocked the first time it happened that I didn't do anything, but since then I have attempted subtle evasive maneuvers of the kind probably normally employed by men in the showers in prison.

So now he keeps trying to grab my boobs, which is worse. I'm not sure why, it just is.

Now, I'm not actually scared this is going to go from your kind of Carry On film level of sexual harassment to something worse, because the guy is a tiny little old man and I'm a 5ft 11 young woman, I am pretty sure I could take him in a fight or at the very least out run him. But I'm not really sure what a good approach is to stopping it. I can't really move out, because I only got this apartment despite not having residency and whatnot (in Italy, even if you are from an EU country, which I am, you are supposed to get residency before you do anything, and it's quite the faff) because the estate agent is my friend, and I can't really say, 'hey, can you do me another solid because that really nice landlord guy you think is great keeps molesting me'. And I can't really slap him, because that might cause problems. Also, he's ex-police, so probably not someone I want to be on the wrong side of.

I therefore think I am going to have to solve this sitcom style problem with a sitcom style solution, and so I am planning to get a friend to pretend to be my new boyfriend and glare at him, in the hope that some mild intimidation from another man will work. I got the 'fake relationship' idea from every sitcom ever, and it almost never leads to misunderstandings and terrible problems. It'll be fine. It's happy hour at Shenanigans again, people!

Still though, this brings me, finally, to the point of today's article. What the fuck is with old Italian guys? It's not just this guy, it's not just Berlusconi, there are loads of them that seem to think it isn't at all unlikely that women a small fraction of their age are going to be happy to be felt up by them. In England if an old guy talks to you in a pub or wherever, you assume he wants to have a chat with someone. You do not assume he has some weird idea in his head that you want to sleep with him. Since I moved here I've been hit on by more people who look like they went to school with King Herod than I can count, and where, when a young guy hits on you and you're not interested he generally accepts it and goes off to try someone else (sometimes calling you a lesbian first), these guys are weirdly persistent. Some of them even offered me money. Now what the fuck is that all about?

I just hope it's a generation thing because I am now concerned I may stay in Italy forever, marry some awesome guy, and then one day, when we're in our sixties, he'll suddenly turn into some kind of creepy sex criminal. I'll do you a deal, future husband – you don't do that, I won't start shuffling around in a dress like a sack.

Thursday 7 November 2013

That 7 Ways To Be Insufferable on Facebook Article

Shazam, bitches, I'm back. I was having difficulty deciding what to write about in my first post since January, and while I did ask for suggestions from my friends, half of them wanted me to write about how Liverpool supporters sacrifice kittens to Satan in the hope it would start another entertaining war (and I'm not that much of a one trick pony), and the others came up with stuff that wasn't really in keeping with the tone of this blog, like 'how nice orange Chewits are'. I even had a little look at The Daily Mail's website, but there was nothing there worth ranting about for once, although they do claim that payday loan companies are using adverts to brainwash your children, so, you know, be scared about that if you like.

Instead, I decided to revisit the subject of annoying Facebook usage. I first wrote about this when this blog was new back in 2010, and I still stand by the points in it, though some of the trends mentioned seem to have happily fucked off - I don't remember the last time someone asked me to do anything with a farm or become mayor of Yeovil. Of course, there are new annoying things, like those really big fucking yellow faces people use in chat windows now and of course the Bitstrip (I had a beer earlier that was really hard to open. It foamed up a bit and some beer went on me. That story would by some people be deemed interesting enough to warrant a representation in cartoon form). I must admit I have only just got on the 'finding them annoying' bandwagon, at first I found them kind of cute and not that bothersome, but a tipping point has been reached and I have to say I have only seen one that I actually laughed at, and I only laughed at that because it was an in joke I was in on. I'm not saying the people who made them are unfunny people, by any means, but there is something willfully unfunny about the medium. As an experiment, I have struggled for days to think of even a single joke I could turn into one, not counting inside jokes, and I can't, unless you can just make them not be about you and be about Luis Suarez instead, then I can think of loads. The worst part is they have started to remind me of that Nemi cartoon in the Metro, a cartoon that sucked with such astonishing ferocity (probably still does, I haven't seen a Metro in over two years) that even an advert for something really useless like, I don't know, a solar powered vibrator or Jamie Carragher would have been a better use of space.

In any case, another writer by the name of Wait But Why (possibly a pseudonym, though I prefer to imagine that's his real name and he just had a really batshit crazy mother) tackled the territory of the annoying Facebook status update recently in an article on The Huffington Post entitled 7 Ways To Be Insufferable on Facebook. This article gained a lot of traction, and a few other sites have already expressed their views on it. The ones I've read were all a bit whiny ('it's my Facebook, why can't I write that I'm having a banana or that it's sad that there was some flood and thousands of people died, you don't have to read it, unfriend me if you don't like it!' being the tone - yes, fair argument, but you sound like a gimp and you are basically defending your right, which you do of course have, to be bland. Plus, there was a load of stuff about how really we should all talk to each other face to face instead anyway, which sounds like something someone old would say and has, essentially, nothing to do with anything in the Huff Post article). So I thought I'd have a stab.

Wait But Why (I've only typed that twice and I'm already annoyed with him for not calling himself something proper) starts off with an example of what is admittedly, a stratospherically shit status update he saw somewhere. No problems so far, I was on board. But then he gets on to what makes the difference between a good status update and one that he doesn't like and wants to die, and this is where I do not agree with the fella.

His overarching point is that for a Facebook status update to have any worth, it needs to either be very interesting or very entertaining - to everyone who will see it. Well, actually, that is true. If you are a business carrying out some Facebook marketing and targetting a specific demographic. For normal, personal accounts, it isn't even possible for most people. If I post a link to an article I find interesting about football, a lot of my friends will not find any value in it - many of them couldn't give a jet propelled fuck what Eden Hazard is up to - but then many of them also would be interested in reading it. Equally, if you post a review of the restaurant you ate at last night, chances are many of your friends will not get anything out of this either, because you probably know some people who don't live where you live. But that doesn't mean these things aren't worth sharing. Sure, you can set it up so only certain people see certain posts but who can honestly be bothered to go through the hundreds of people they know and sort them into 'people who might like reading stuff about Eden Hazard', and other such categories? Not everyone is going to get every joke or give a damn about every picture of your cat or your children, but that doesn't make them worthless in terms of what Facebook is for.

He then gets into his list of seven habits of highly insufferable people. While he does acknowledge that he is as guilty as anyone of them, presumably thinking this stops him sounding all 'Ooooh, I am King Wait But Why, handing down life lessons from my pedestal of perfection' (though he still kind of does), this to me is why the whole argument he presents is kind of shit. In my 2010 article I said it annoys me when people intentionally spell words wrong and write shit like 'whoop whoop!' - these are things I don't do because I think they're stupid, and if you think they're stupid you don't do them either. These sorts of articles, the way I see it, are supposed to make the reader (if they agree), laugh and go, 'oh yeah, those things are annoying'. By going into detail about things, some or all of which just about every user does (except those weird people who only log on every few years to announce they've had a baby or moved to Myanmar or some other big development) doesn't make people feel entertained, it makes them feel a bit crappy. Are we all just annoying the fuck out of hundreds of people every day? Does nobody care that you got a speeding ticket or had a bad day at work or beat your best time out running? Does everyone secretly think you're a bit of a twat?


Firstly, he hates bragging. That kind of makes sense on the face of it, nobody likes a smug bastard after all, but what he terms bragging seems to be essentially 'saying anything at all positive about your life'. Saying you graduated, got promoted, are going on a nice holiday, or even just had a good weekend doing something fun, all of this apparently makes you quite the tosser. It doesn't though, does it? Of course it will vary according to how well you know the person how much you give a shit about their news, I'm not denying that, but have you ever honestly seen someone's post saying they got promoted (unless you were after the job yourself) and been pissed off that they deigned to bother you with their happiness?  He thinks people write this sort of stuff because they want people to be envious, to craft a certain image of themselves, or simply out of vanity. I'm sure some do. But are these status updates, in and of themselves, insufferable? I say no.

He does, in this section, also talk a bit about those kind of soppy status updates people sometimes post about their relationships and how much they love their significant other. Personally, I'm not a fan of these because I've seen a few people go from banging on endlessly about how wonderful their boyfriend is to a few months later banging on about what an absolute cock he is now he's an ex, and sure, you're going to be doing that to your best friends anyway but to everyone you know, all the time? Bit humiliating. Also sometimes it gets massively overdone and can be a bit gross. But again, he says people do this as a brag to try and make their friends jealous of their fabulous relationship, and that's a bit of a cynical way of looking at someone showing some affection for someone else.

Cryptic Cliffhangers

The next one he talks about I don't like either - the vague, cryptic status update where you are basically just sort of fishing for everyone to go 'What happened?" and give you lots of attention or sympathy. Now, while I do find these status updates annoying because, well, they are, I don't necessarily think it's that obnoxious to be basically asking for people's attention if you are excited to share something, or to seek out a bit of support from your mates if you are sad or pissed off, so I think it is a bit harsh to say that everyone who does this, albeit quite irritating thing, is just some high maintenance drama whore. I'd just rather they spat it out in the first place.

Mundane Status Updates About Your Day

I covered my thoughts on this in my previous article so, you know, you can read that if you care. Sure, I don't think anyone in the world gives a shit about half the stuff we all say, but it's a way to while away the hours until death, isn't it? However, I think Facebook would be more fun if, when you're bored and feel the need to say something, instead of writing the things you are doing if they aren't very interesting, you wrote the random thoughts in your head. This always leads to way more interesting comments because I find people tend to be way more ready to debate whether spiders have souls or what would happen to a mosquito if it bit an AIDS infected lion (lion AIDS is a real thing and I think Bono should be doing something about it, by the way) than engage with you about how you have just eaten a pear.

Inexplicably Public Private Messages

I do this all the bastarding time. This is the one where you tag a friend in a status that doesn't really have any relevance to anyone else, or you post something related to an inside joke or secret that most people won't understand. He reckons people do this because they think they are still in high school and looking popular is important. In my case he is absolutely right.

The Out Of Nowhere Oscar Acceptance Speech

This is Whatsisname's name for when someone randomly writes something about how much they love all their friends and how they thank them for all their support and whatnot. He says people do this for attention, or because it's Christmas. I think people only do it when they've been dumped and have had some vodka, personally. Sure, it's a bit cheesy and I take his point that it could be construed as insincere because it's unlikely (unless you keep your friends list small) that you actually are grateful to absolutely everyone, but these are pretty infrequent posts so they don't reach the level of insufferability of many things he doesn't mention, like 'if you don't share this you don't support X good cause that everybody supports and there's something wrong with you and you should be in prison', or its close friend 'share this if you love your kids/mum/dad'. What, really, are there people on my Facebook who think 'hmmmm, Melanie Jones didn't share that picture I shared confirming that she thinks guide dogs are good. I suspect she is a Nazi and a psychopath.'? I don't think there are. It's usually Twitter where people form those sort of deranged ideas.

Incredibly Obvious Opinions

This one actually does bore the granny out of me I have to say. You know the drill - something bad happens somewhere, whether it's a natural disaster, an accident or a terrible crime, and your news feed is suddenly full of people basically saying that it was bad and they are sad about it. Just as with not feeling the need to repost things mentioning that, yes, I do indeed think nurses are a good thing or it's bad when babies get meningitis, I just don't think there's any point in saying that kind of thing because it's sort of obvious (hopefully) that you don't like it when loads of people die tragically. I think you need to have something more to add if you are going to bother commenting on upsetting major news events, not because it's obnoxious to care and express that you care, but because if you aren't throwing in anything above and beyond 'mass murder bums me out' you are just adding to the hundreds of other identical comments in everyone's news feeds. I agree with the concept Whatshisname is raising here, but I would once again say that the motives he suspects people who write these, admittedly, unimaginative and boring, but far from unpleasant statuses come over as a bit harsh. Yeah, I sometimes feel like certain people are a bit like 'look at me, I'm a nice person, I care!', and sure, I suppose that is in some ways 'image crafting' as he puts it, but is it really that bad to want people to think you are nice? You know, if you actually are and you're not just trying to mask the fact you're a sociopath.

The Step Toward Enlightenment

Those inspirational quotes, well, they bug the shit out of a lot of people I know so maybe I'm with the guy on this one although it depends a lot on what the quote says. If it is that fucking Marilyn Monroe 'If you can't handle me at my worst...' one you can fuck right off for starters. I have to say though, that again, I think he's wrong about why people do it. It's not because they vainly think that they have the answers and want their friends to see them as inspiring people - if it was they'd post their own words not stuff anyone can find that the Dalai Lama might have said. I think generally people do it simply because they saw it and thought it was a good thing to say.

In discussing these points with some friends and seeing other comments from other people who had read the article, it bothered me how the knee jerk reaction was 'well, nearly all status updates fall into one of these categories'. If they do, why do we even read them? So, I've been paying closer attention to my own friends' updates and looked back over a lot of my own, and I have actually reached the conclusion that no, they don't. While all of these behaviours do exist, a lot of what I also see from the people I am connected to on there are witty observations, attempts to voice an opinion about something, funny anecdotes about things that happened to my friends that day, creative stuff they have done that they are sharing and statuses designed to start interesting conversations, or inevitably, arguments about football. Take a look at your own friends, chances are there's a lot of good stuff there too.

Monday 21 January 2013

Lance Armstrong Made You Look Stupid

It was a week when Luis Suarez spoke fairly candidly about the perception that he cheats (presumably in a bid to win over the public or at least stop people trying to hunt him for ivory - yes, that was a joke about his teeth - because it didn't do him any favours with his boss, football's answer to David Brent, Brendan "if you don't believe it, you can't achieve it" Rodgers), and Lance Armstrong's Oprah confessional was broadcast. In news terms, this was a week where crime and punishment in sports was a pervading theme. Well, that and imaginary dead Canadian women, but I am still far too confused by the whole Manti Te'o "Catfish" debacle to organize my thoughts into a post on that.

Lance Armstrong's fall from grace has been a story that has enthralled the sporting world, and rightly so - it's an interesting one that teaches us a lot about the way certain recesses of professional athleticism operate. However, the outrage accompanying it from some camps really teaches us more about the media's need to have a narrative, heroes, villains, triumph over adversity, the whole fucking Star Wars shebang, when it comes to sport.

This is why people are so pissed with Lance Armstrong, and why his punishment, which he somewhat histrionically refers to as a "death sentence", has been so much more severe than the punishments received by other cyclists found guilty of doping: he's done something far more offensive to the person on the street than cheating at cycling. He's defied the narrative created around him as a shining beacon of all that is good and pure, as a role model for the otherwise morally doomed children of our age, and he's made anyone who'd guzzled down that particular flavour of Kool-Aid look a bit fucking stupid.

Lance Armstrong had, you see, overcome cancer, and returned to his professional cycling career, only to reach even more amazing peaks of success. And we wanted that to be true, because in the narrative world only good people ever get cancer, and if the bastarding X factor has taught us anything over the past decade, only people with a tragic past deserve to win anything.

The thing is, first of all, cancer isn't really like that. Cancer is one of the fucked up flaws with the human body (well, animals get it too - which is super sad, especially when it's kittens - but you know what I mean), and can develop seemingly arbitrarily, in just about any organ, in anyone. In your lifetime, people you love will get it, but that doesn't mean it is some intelligent evil that preys on good people - there is just as much chance that, had he lived longer, Hitler would have got it too. The fact Lance Armstrong had cancer, therefore, doesn't tell us anything about him other than that he isn't superhuman. It was surviving it and picking his bike back up that made him one of the heroes the media believes we so badly need to keep us interested in sport.

Surviving cancer depends on a lot of factors, but it is widely known that mental fortitude can have a huge impact on your chances, providing other things are in your favour too. There is a lot to admire about someone being brave, determined and tough enough not only to get through the illness and the aggressive treatment, but also to stop cancer from preventing them from enjoying life and achieving their personal goals afterwards. There is even more to admire if they take their experiences and use them to try and do good for other people going through the same thing, by getting involved with charities. But apparently, it isn't enough to admire that in and of itself and find it inspiring when it is a celebrity rather than a nice lady you know. Because once the media has got its claws into someone's "narrative", the cost of admiration is the responsibility to behave like a saint, or face its wrath.

The other thing, then, is that sport isn't really like that either. Being the best at something, when it comes to sport, requires a lot of things - some inherent, some mental - but not one of them is "being a lovely person". Talent is also arbitrary, and that means that the highest echelons of sport are filled with the same complicated combination of personalities as most other populations. There are extremes of goodness and philanthropy and cuntish Joey Bartonyness, but most sportsmen, like the rest of us, exist somewhere in the middle, just sort of bodding about being human and sometimes a bit shit. And that shouldn't matter in sport. This is where this obsession with creating a narrative that fits with our age old understanding of how stories are supposed to go just shouldn't be applied to sport.

You see, while talent is arbitrary, results are absolute. If a guy is the fastest, or scores the most points, or has the most skill, then he is a sporting hero. It doesn't matter whether he has Didier Drogba's record of giving to charity or Kaka's story of triumph over adversity, or whether he's a perceived asshole who cheats on his wife or gets in fights outside of nightclubs - those things don't alter the results. Sport isn't a movie where you are likely to get the ending you want. Sport isn't there to teach us how to live better lives or to shine a light on the human fucking soul. It is ultimately, just a bunch of stuff that happened.

For me, that makes it better than a movie. It's not escapism, it's real, and that means it can still surprise you. There isn't that sense of security you get with knowing that, while you can't see how just yet, good will ultimately prevail and everything will make sense - and that's a sense of security that you can't always depend on in real life. But this is something the media, especially in America, struggles with, and why sportsmen falling from grace offends people more than really, it logically should.

When you build up a story about someone and get people to buy into it, sometimes it turns out to be a load of old crap, and that upsets people disproportionately to the actual crime committed, because as has been demonstrated, people get really fucking pissy when someone makes them look a fool.

Lance Armstrong cheated, and lied, and supposedly did a whole host of other things he isn't very proud of, like bullying people who threatened to call him out on his bad behaviour. But he isn't even the only one in his own peer group to do that. Be angry with him, by all means, for denying the people who should have won the 7 Tour de France trophies that now have no winner, be angry with him for making a mockery of the grand and noble sport of, er, cycling, but don't be angry with him for not turning out to be the fucking angel you were promised he was by an industry desperate to make every person of note's journey fit a literary template.

Thursday 17 January 2013

Internet Tough Guys

A couple of days ago, I wrote an article on here about some Liverpool supporters who had been giving me grief on the Twitter after the Manchester United game. I thought this was good, funny material to use in a post, and while it would almost certainly piss off some people, well, there's not really anything on this blog that wouldn't piss off somebody, so if I'm prepared to rip into religions, celebrities, journalists and, er, cyclists, a bunch of Twitter lobotomites wasn't going to be the one I stayed away from.

When I finished the post and published it, as always I put the link out on Twitter, but I also tweeted at the people mentioned in the article so they could take a look. Sure, this was going to fan the flames a bit, but it also, I thought, gave them an opportunity to, if they were really butthurt about it, ask me to remove them from it. While the main reason I wrote the thing in the first place was that I just thought it was funny, and thought my readers might too, there was also an element of "well, you've been needlessly and pointlessly aggressive to me and you think, like every other time you've done that to someone, you can just go away and feel self satisfied about it. What if this time, someone called you out?". In order for that to mean anything, the people talked about had to know about it. 

None of the people mentioned did contact me and ask me to remove them, but one of them did enlist the help of an "organization" (though I'm 90% sure it's just one guy who thinks he's fooling people with his multiple Twitter accounts) called The Honourables, who is, I found out, quite literally (cue fanfare) the worst person in the world. 

The Honourables, who you can get an idea of the mentality of from the comments attributed to them on my last post, pose as a group protecting the memory of the 96 people who died in the Hillsborough disaster online. That sounds like a good thing, right? Well, no. What they actually do is find anyone who writes anything bad about Liverpool supporters, even if (like my post), it has absolutely nothing to do with the Hillsborough disaster, and play the Internet Tough Guy with them, all in the name of "Justice for the 96", basically trying to use the trademark of human suffering that many people have adopted to act like a very shit thug, and claiming that anyone who doesn't like it "mocks the dead". This is why their website is always getting taken down for abuse. It was suspended yesterday, which they have been blaming me for, and I'm telling you readers, I believe in free speech more than anyone, and I couldn't really be bothered with that sort of cry baby bullshit anyway, so it was probably one of the many other people on their little "shit list".

So, what did the League of Extraordinary Fuckwits do with regard to me? Well, it started with the thinly veiled threats on the comments on the post, which are all still there if you want to see (as if I'd delete anything that funny), claiming that my post was "libelous" and that LFC would be "very interested in it from a legal point of view". 

Well, I didn't buy that. You see, all I had done was take a few public tweets sent to me and used them in my post. I had taken the piss out of the posters for their basic rape of the English language and their illogical points, but I hadn't tried to find anything out about the people who tweeted them, or lied about them, or really said anything particularly contentious. If that's libel, then I am amazed I can't paper my walls with letters from lawyers for the jokes I've made over the three or so years I've been writing this blog.

Also, after the Jen Chang fiasco, I can hardly see LFC wanting to get into another PR disaster by taking me, and every other blogger who has written anything suggesting that, guess what, some of their fans are fucking wanksmiths (and masters of the trade), to task. What are they going to do, get Luis Suarez to come to my house and personally kick me in the shins? I would fucking welcome seeing exactly how seriously a Premiership football club takes the bleatings of one of the kind of fans it probably would rather do without about some blogger in America being mean about some pointless LFC supporter's inane tweets.

The comments got more and more threatening, and then took a bizarre twist when the guy told me to "stick to writing Pokemon". This was frankly baffling at first, and I just put it down to a very crap attempt at humour (as I said in my reply "I can see why you don't go in for the jokes much"), but it turns out it was something even weirder than that. You see, The Reckoning this guy had been threatening the whole time, actually involved him Googling me, in order to find out personal details he could post on one of his Twitter accounts (and if you want to see this shit, take a look at the timeline of one @ANonyMousse2) as he does with anybody who doesn't like him and his ragtag bunch of arsehole followers. The Internet Tough Guy thing had begun.

So, how did he come to think I "wrote Pokemon"? Well, in his "digging", he found my LinkedIn page. I find LinkedIn horribly boring, and only actually have a LinkedIn page because at the time I set it up, I was writing a book on social media and was doing some research. I haven't updated it for about two years, but the last time I did update it, I had set up a copywriting business called Ninja Mongoose. I have since stopped using that business name in my work, but I haven't updated LinkedIn because, and I can't stress this enough, LinkedIn is fucking boring. 

The Honourables found the name Ninja Mongoose, and then Googled that, finding someone who, completely coincidentally, had been using the same name as a handle on a site where they wrote Pokemon fan fiction. They are a 14 year old boy. 

So, The Honourables did the Honourable thing, and started telling his moronic throng of mouth breathing buffoons that I write Pokemon fan fiction posing as a 14 year old boy, thinking he had found out some dark secret. They all found this hilarious and ripped the piss out of Ninja Mongoose's work (which actually, considering it is stories about electric rats written by a kid, is not that bad - he can certainly structure his words better than the cretins I wrote about), thinking it was me and oh, how hilarious, what a sad twat. Trouble is, it wasn't me, was it? They were all ripping the piss out of an actual 14 year old kid, as well as (and this probably would count as "libel", were I to be that special kind of whiny twat who hurls that word around all the time), telling people that I like to pretend to be 14 years old and male on the internet, like some kind of pederast.

So, so far, The Reckoning had involved some light Googling and being mean to a child. What good cyberbullies they are! I felt the need, once I'd worked out where the hell they'd got the idea this kid was me, to disabuse them of this idea in a tweet, which The Honourables responded to with more of their impotent brand of terrifying menace. They had already been talking about me on their timeline, posting things they thought they had found out about me (basically they had managed to find my Facebook page, which you would obviously need some l33t haxor skills to do), including some photos, the names of some people I know and, weirdly "where my dad lives". They didn't even get the right country for that one, so again, congratulations on being the most inept cyberbullies ever. 

At one point, he says to the girl mentioned in my original post (yes, the one with the "alluring" profile picture), "She has her location and her family on Facebook, what a stupid bitch". 

Well no, actually. Having your location and your family on Facebook is fucking normal, if you aren't some pussy hiding behind an anonymous Twitter account or three who goes around threatening people, and you just use Facebook to, you know, interact with people you know. Implying that the fact that he managed to find this (in any case, very inaccurate) information means I am stupid implies that this information is in some way useful to him and his army of gobby little twats, but what does that mean? Are they going to beat up a guy my cousin bought a dog off of outside of a KFC? No, they're going to sit there tweeting away hoping that one of the people who reads their nonsense is enough of a psycho to do something more than just tweet at me that I am a slag or something.

He then encourages his followers to block me and "report spam". Obviously my personal Twitter account is not a spam account, I pretty much just talk about football and whatever I'm watching on TV, and joke around with my mates, so what does that mean? Well, if an account gets reported as spam enough times, it gets automatically suspended. The Honourables wants people to falsely report my account for spam so I won't be able to use it. This doesn't matter, because like him I have a few other Twitter accounts I have used for various business or writing projects that are currently idle, so it would be nothing more than a minor inconvenience to switch to a different one, hell, I recently stopped using Twitter altogether for a couple of months for no other reason than to knuckle down and get more work done without the distraction, but seriously, what a twat. 

He then encourages his band of Scousers to come after me on Twitter. The ones who decided that was a good idea, in spite of the fact that it was Scousers coming at me on Twitter that caused me to write the offensive article in the first place (I actually suspect a lot of them would like me to include them in a post and were trying to provoke just that, but the way I see it, I picked out three examples for the first post, and the rest of them were all exactly the same so a second post in the "let's all laugh at the stupid people" vein would be redundant and gratuitous), were mostly going with "You're a fat, ugly fucking Yank so you don't know shit about football and you've never even met a Scouser". Those of you who know me, or who have been reading this blog for a while, or, I don't know, aren't completely retarded, will see the several obvious flaws in that line of insult that stopped it from having any meaning whatsoever, but I didn't let them in on the joke, it was too priceless to ruin.

One woman seemed particularly keen to get a mention on here, absolutely refusing to fuck off with her repetitive nonsense and insults. I didn't want to encourage her by saying this at the time, because seriously, she would not fucking go away, like a scrappy little Jack Russell biting away at your ankle and refusing to fuck off even though you really don't want to fight it because you could just kick it against the wall and kill it and it doesn't seem right, but she first appeared with a picture that made her look like a Tuesday afternoon stripper, and then replaced it with one where she looked like a Tuesday afternoon stripper's mum. God, this woman was boring, and boring for a long time. She did "educate" me about a lot of shit that I couldn't possibly have otherwise known though, what with being a Yank and spending all my time eating cheeseburgers in my Chevy pick up truck and all, like that "the stereotype of Scousers being criminals and benefit frauds went out of fashion before Chelsea FC even existed". Again, so many things wrong with that statement. She got very frustrated that I didn't want to satisfy her endless, harpylike tweets, which in my head all came through in this horrible, shrieky version of Mimi from Shameless' voice, that she put it down to me "having a lack of football knowledge" and not wanting to pit it against her "encyclopedic football knowledge". I expect, being an LFC fan, the "encyclopedia" she is referring to is one that came out in about 1988.

Anyway, I have never blocked anyone on Twitter before, because it does seem like a bit of a dick move, but I got so bored of her I had to do it. A couple of my followers had been so pissed off with the stuff she was saying that they decided to get in a row with her after that, even though I did warn them that her idea of winning an argument is just basically boring the will out of you to the point where all you can do is take an Advil and lie down in a dark room for a couple of hours until the headache goes away.

Still, apparently people should not associate with me, now I'm on The Honourables' shit list. If people talk to me now, they are apparently instantly deemed worthy of the "tweeting information about you to our followers" crap. They tweeted location and name information about two guys who spoke to me, just to be cunts. They are not crusading to protect the memories of the fucking 96 by starting on a random person who happens to agree with something I, the one who supposedly mocks the dead (I don't though, I just made a mild joke about the fucking charity record) said. They never include the person they are talking about, instead preferring to tweet screenshots of their tweets and their names, meaning that if you didn't look at his stupid timeline, you wouldn't even know they were targeting you. If you look at it, he will say you are stalking him. This guy is a grade A moron who is doing nothing more than using the tragic events of Hillsborough to be a bastard to people, and that, if you ask me, is far more "disgusting" (and illegal) than anything I or Alan fucking Davies or anyone else who doesn't agree with him, has ever done.

So, what have we learned from this? Not much. My site and my Twitter account are still up. The original post is still there, unchanged. Everybody I know is still alive and well, and I haven't heard from LFC's legal team. In fact, given their site is down, and I've now written again, exposing what a shitty operation this douche is running in the name of the victims of Hillsborough, you could almost suspect that I'm not scared of them at all, and that you shouldn't be either.;

Sunday 13 January 2013

Pointless Twitter Arguments With Liverpool Fans

One of the best things about following football is having some fun banter with supporters from other teams. Most of the time. When they are good at it. People often ask me what it is that makes me so anti-Liverpool, and I think my experiences today go some way to explaining it.

Today Man U and Liverpool met at Old Trafford, in a game that was never going to be friendly, and therefore promised a whole host of opportunities to take the piss. I was looking forward to it. As a Chelsea supporter, on paper a Liverpool win would have been better for me, given that Man U have been pulling away from us and everyone else in the Premiership, but fuck that for a game of soldiers.

In general, I have always respected Manchester United and Alex Ferguson (though I can't look directly at him because for some reason he makes me feel really nauseous. I think it's the chewing). A good team, who back up their record historically by still being, you know, good. Manchester United are one of football's biggest teams, and not just in the minds of people who are all nostalgic for the days when footballers retired at 35 and bought a pub, but in everybody's minds. Manchester United's fans are also, in my experience, good fans to banter with. They get the spirit of it. I can happily argue for hours with an articulate Man U fan about their team and ours, and will generally end up wanting to buy them a beer rather than set fire to their dog. Of course, if an argument between a Chelsea fan and a Man United fan gets too heated, one of you can always defuse it by saying "Fuck Liverpool, though, right?".

For these reasons, I have quite a lot of Manchester United supporters on my Twitter, and like many of the Chelsea supporters I talk to on there, I have a propensity to back them up in the banter against the Liverpool fans. The trouble with this is that it seems that all of the smart Liverpool fans are in a bunker somewhere working on a time machine to take them back to the days of Ian Rush, leaving only people whose debating skills begin and end with "I know you are, but what am I?", and whose imagination when it comes to finding things to have a pop at Chelsea fans about begins and ends with some nonsense about plastic flags, which I believe was first brought to their attention by that Go Compare guy looking fool who reckons he's going to manage Real Madrid when we finally get rid of him.

My story of Liverpool fan induced rage begins, as these things are wont to do, with the inevitable "Munich thing". This is the single most irritating thing in a cacophony of irritating things Liverpool supporters en masse will do. For all the bleating they do about Justice for the 96 (including that bloody Christmas record, which if you ask me took the piss. He Ain't Heavy? For people who got crushed to death? Seriously? Why not go the whole way and do Harder to Breathe by Maroon 5? Actually I have quite a few of these "songs they should have done" jokes but unlike Liverpool supporters for the last 23 years, we'll move on), they think it is absolutely fine to go on about the Munich disaster when they meet with Man U. By all accounts the Munich chants were out during the game (and you could hear it on TV during the bits where the Liverpool fans weren't silently sulking), and on Twitter, #Munich was trending in Liverpool, and I don't think it was because they were all discussing the Bundesliga.

Whether the other stories coming out of Old Trafford, like that there were Liverpool fans spitting on disabled Man U fans, were true only someone who was there could tell you, and I wasn't, but frankly, would you put it past them? The Munich stuff was there for all to see.

A Chelsea fan I follow on Twitter said something about Liverpool fans thinking it is fine to sing whatever they want, but crying if anyone does anything back (e.g. raising the whole "Heysel thing", you know, with the murdering and such - the one part of their "history" they don't want us to bang on about for the rest of time, because it's more than a little shameful). I replied to him, saying "90% of their songs are about Munich, aren't they?". It was a mild barb that I thought he would agree with the spirit of, nothing I thought anyone other than him would really notice, but it started this whooooole thing, which basically served as a microcosm for all of the things I hate about Liverpool fans and their lack of banter skills.

First came somebody calling themselves @ILOVEFOWLER - I have provided the link so you can see exactly what kind of semi-literate we are dealing with here, because it makes what she said all the more amusing. I know that really, saying anything remotely mean about someone who really loves Robbie Fowler and lives in, as she calls it "shit wrexham" (sic), is like beating up a retarded kid and therefore not cool, but if you're going to get all ad hominem on me over a tweet about the classless behaviour of your team's fans, then I'm probably going to write about you.

She replied with:

I can see why someone might think I was a thick fuck if I had done a statistical analysis of all of Liverpool's chants and reached the solution that 90% of the chants were about United (I had actually said 90% were about Munich, but we'll gloss over that for now) - that would be wrong and show me to be appalling at maths - so I explained as follows, that that was not the case:

I'd wager quite a lot of money that ol' Charm School here does not know what "hyperbole" means, and would probably, were she to try and say it, pronounce it "hyperbowl", so I know this was kind of a smug wanker sort of reply, but hey, whose go to response for being called a "thick fuk" isn't to use a long word and criticize the spelling and grammar of the antagonist? Standard. Her reply, I suspect, was also standard:

Well, at least she learnt to spell "fuck" the second time around - I feel like one of those people who's taught a monkey to count to potato or something. Nobody's ever called me ugly before, but I am so hurt that on the back on my tiny Twitter picture this person can tell that indeed, I am a hideous beast, and presumably nobody has ever had the heart to tell me before, that rest assured, I'll be calling a cosmetic surgeon first thing on Monday morning.

Later, she despairs at the pasting all the nasty people on Twitter have been giving her for saying things like the above to me, and something along the lines of "u hit evry branch on da way out of da ugly tree" to some man (I am paraphrasing, I am not great at this spelling like a cretin thing), by announcing to her followers:


Elsewhere, there was this guy:

Incorrect, fucktard. I used to live a short walk from the Bridge and go all the time. I live in Seattle now, so not so much (though I do have a season ticket at Seattle Sounders, which apparently offends these people, who don't believe you can be a "real fan" and support two teams in completely separate leagues but fuck, what am I supposed to do, live and die within ten miles of where I was born like some kind of dark ages peasant? Give up liking football because I emigrated and get really into the Mariners instead? Become an "armchair fan" and take all their shit for that equally heinous crime?), though thanks to Chelsea's US tour last summer I did get to see them play live once in 2012, which is one more time than a lot of Liverpool fans I know in the UK. This guy is a season ticket holder at Anfield, so I'm not having a pop at his dedication, but he suggested I wasn't a real Chelsea fan because I was (heaven forfend) talking about Liverpool instead of Chelsea (on a day when Chelsea didn't play), when he has as his Twitter page background... Well, take a look: - if that isn't about Chelsea then I don't know what is.

The glory hunter thing came up a few times, and seriously, it is deeply meaningless when it comes from Liverpool supporters from places like "shit Wrexham". These people have no idea how long I have supported Chelsea (it's since about 1994, when I first got into the sport), but in any case, to assume that a team that was consistently top six before Roman (I got told off for calling him by his first name in a tweet as well, so I'm doing it again) bought them, which featured great players like Gianfranco Zola, and had success in the FA Cup and European Cupwinner Cup had no supporters at the time is just assinine. In reality, Liverpool's non Liverpudlian fanbase comprises almost nothing but glory hunters if you think choosing a team that win things and has players you admire when you're a kid is a bad thing, it's just that the kids that picked Liverpool in the 80's have now grown up to find the glory isn't coming, and they are so butthurt about it they have to knock people who made better fucking life choices, and consequently not only get to enjoy watching good football, but also don't have to pretend to like Luis Suarez or that they don't find the Scouse accent as horrific as everybody else does.

Check out this guy:

His Twitter backdrop says he wants to be buried at Anfield, because that's where he was born and where he will die. He called me and a few of my friends glory hunters. Pretty tough talk, I bet he's Liverpool through and through, probably lived there his whole life and... No, wait, he's from Canada. The French part too.

Good football banter is about the players, the culture, the managers, the topical stuff going on. It is imaginative, funny, and somewhat tongue in cheek, and you get into it fully prepared to take a "mullering" yourself from time to time. You get to crow about it when you win, but when your guy skies it, or you lose to fucking QPR, you know you're going to get it in the neck and you have to take that with good humour. You don't cry, you don't say "it's disgusting for you to say that X player was a bad buy because of X tragic thing that happened a really long time ago", you don't refer anyone who criticizes your team to some arbitrary point in history when you were good, and you don't have a hissy fit and start making baffling and unfounded personal insults. And you certainly don't do this:

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Monday 7 January 2013

Football Awards

I have to admit, I wasn't expecting a lot of surprises from the FIFA awards, especially not for the main award, the coveted Ballon D'Or (which is French for "ball of gold" or "golden ball", and is the name FIFA have given to the trophy, as well as, as we all know, the singular name for what David Beckham's scrotum houses a brace of). I was thinking before it was announced that it may as well have been called the "Forgone Conclusion of the Year" really (you know, only in French), because with Messi having beaten the all time goal scoring record previously held by Gerd Muller, and apparently also possessing the ability to make the blind see, anybody else winning would have looked fucked up and, FIFA don't do fucked up things (insert your own list of fucked up things FIFA have done here)...

There was the potential that the Women's Player of the Year award could have thrown up some surprises, if Abby Wambach had perhaps turned up wearing a J-Lo dress held on with toupee tape, but no, as expected she looked like she'd raided KD Lang's wardrobe circa 1995.

Still, watching the "gala", which was much gayer than Abby with its shirtless karate dancing men and weird "guy in an armadillo suit" mascot, I did find myself very surprised indeed to discover that overnight, every football league in the world except for La Liga had blinked out of existence. That's La Liga, the league that has become marginally interesting this year because it now has three teams instead of two, but is generally about as exciting from a competitive point of view as the SPL before Rangers went the way of the pear. That's right kids. It's just possessionball and tiki-taki (which is what all the houses that look just the same are made out of, isn't it?) and players with just one name from here on out. Everyone else is dead.

Sure, the players in the FIFPro World XI are all fucking great, but they are all from Real Madrid or Barca except for Radamel Falcao, who despite the media trying to link him with moves to everyone from Chelsea to Heart of Midlothian and Exeter City, plays for Atletico Madrid. And that kind of pisses on the Bundesliga, Serie A and the Premiership, and I imagine Zlatan Ibrahimovic's normally present erection withered in seconds when he heard. Christ, I bet even Heskey was a bit gutted he wasn't considered, now he is enjoying kinglike status in the A League, where his Newcastle Jets, last time I looked, were in a healthy 7th place (out of 10 teams).

So much for the players then, what about the managers? Well, the three finalists were Del Bosque, who lead Spain to win the Euros (despite employing that weird "we don't need a striker" strategy - not that that is a bad strategy when your best striker is Fernando Torres), Mourinho, who I quite honestly worship as a God but who they all hate at Real Madrid, and Pep Guardiola.

So, er, Pep Guardiola. For what he did in 2012. Well, at the start of 2012, Pep Guardiola was manager of Barcelona, who just about everyone agrees is the best team in the world, and featured The Great and Powerful (but quite short) Leo Messi, as well as fellow Ballon D'Or nominee Andres Iniesta, and over half of FIFA's World XI. With that team, in 2012, he won exactly fuck all trophies. Mourinho's Real, in stark contrast to this season so far, bettered them at every turn, and RDM's Chelsea managed to break his winning formula with their defensive tactics, knocking Barca out of the Champions League which as we know from experience, UEFA really, really like them to be in the final of. Pep then basically had a nervous breakdown and fucked off to New York, mumbling something about Andy Warhol. He is currently still on his little sabbatical, allegedly waiting for Fergie to retire so he can manage Man U (which I imagine is a bit like being Prince Charles, waiting for the Queen to die). Likes a challenge, then, our Pep.

Basically, the whole thing may as well have been called the Bola de Ora and the ceremony just have been replaced by an hour long broadcast of Sepp Blatter noshing off the King of Spain while a man in an armadillo costume pranced around awkwardly at the side. Though, in fairness, then we would have missed Pia Sundhage's surprisingly good country singing. They didn't even bother translating all the acceptance speeches that were in Spanish (though at least Cristiano Ronaldo telling kids to be "humble" if they want to become great players like him was in English, so no kids watching it in the UK or America have any excuse not to become legends of the sport now), and I was watching it on American TV - they give us subtitles to help us get through Being: Liverpool (and rightly so given Jamie Carragher's voice sounds like someone going at some pig iron with a chainsaw).

Given how the awards were a bit bollocks, then, I have decided to name my own award winners. There are no trophies and no gala, and no armadillos. I can do any dance off of Dance Central 2 on medium difficulty - you can picture that if you feel there absolutely needs to be some dancing.

Note - I'm not doing the women's ones, because a) I basically agreed with Pia Sundhage and Abby Wambach's wins, and b) other than Abby I can only name about five female football players, all of whom are American. Abby is my favourite. Mostly because she plays like a man and men's football is much better.

Ballon D'Or

This should be Messi, as I said before, it'd be fucked up if it was anyone else. Grant Holt has been doing quite well for Norwich, though... No, Messi - it's Messi. Having said that, as amazing as Messi is, he isn't the type of player I tend to like best from a personal taste perspective. I like the big, terrifying Drogba type players. In the same way as a lot of people will tell you boxing at lighter weights is much more impressive, and I will tell you I still prefer watching bigger guys hit each other. It makes a nicer sound. This is why I am looking forward to the future when Belgium dominates instead of Spain and I can give this award to Romelu Lukaku.

Manager of the Year

I would like to give this award to Roberto Di Matteo for doing what nobody else had managed to do and winning the Champions League with Chelsea, as well as for breaking Pep. It might seem a bit mental to give the Manager of the Year award to someone who was only actually a manager for a part of the year though, so I offer up a couple of other names for those of you who don't agree with me to choose from:

Roberto Martinez - A lot of clubs have tried to lure him away from his beloved Wigan, but he's not having a bar of it. He's just bloody adorable, isn't he? During the Euros, he appeared on American coverage to let us know what was going on on the scene like the BBC's Kate Adie in the first Gulf War, reporting with her army hat on from some shithole. It was great. Granted, that's partly because it meant Michael Ballack wasn't talking. Ballack is a lot more boring than you expect when he speaks, even when arguing with Alexei Lalas. By the way, Alexei Lalas doesn't like it when people say "cunt" on Twitter. Use that information as you see fit.

Alan Pardew - I just like him.

Roy Hodgson - Clearly attempting to troll Kenny Dalgleish, he attempted to do well in the Euros with King Kenny's (sorry, what is he king of exactly? Mount McTwattybollocks?) sorry assed Liverpool team. The Liverpool team in question, when reduced to only its English members, being the saddest thing imaginable. Did better than most people expected. Comes across like a nice uncle who might give you a fiver when you go and visit him.

Paolo di Canio - Fucking mental, and therefore amazing.

Jurgen Klopp - Will nobody think of the Bundesliga?

World VI of People Who Don't Play in La Liga


Joe Hart (Manchester City, England), even though he's been a bit crap lately. Not as crap as Reina has been, but you know... He gets extra points because he's English, and we were despairing (and that's not hyperbole - it was genuine despair) that there might never be a good English goalkeeper again after David Seaman, and we'd be condemned to use Rob Green forevermore.


Ashley Cole (Chelsea, England) - The best left back in the world, and one of the hardest working players. Sure, he likes putting his Nokia where no Nokia should have to go, up his actual arse, but he saves both Chelsea and England's metaphorical arses just as regularly.

Jamie Carragher (Liverpool, England) - HA! Just kidding.

John Terry (Chelsea, England) - I know it's a bit predictable that a Chelsea supporter would choose JT and Ashley Cole (hell, why not throw a Gary Cahill in there for good measure?), but Ashley really is the best left back in the world, and JT adds a level of leadership you really miss when it isn't there (especially when Frank Lampard isn't there either). He is also one of the most hated and divisive players in the world, and that's cool.

Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund, Germany) - Will nobody think of the Bundesliga?

Vincent Kompany (Manchester City, Belgium) - Belgium is TEH FUTURE. But Kompany's pretty good now. Very tall too.


Juan Mata (Chelsea, Spain) - Little Juan Mata is Spanish, but he doesn't play in La Liga so he can be in the "anti FIFA XI" XI. In a team in a league full of excellent midfielders, Mata is still one of the greatest and most reliable guys you could ever want on your team, and his patience trying to feed a struggling Torres shows what a team player the little 'un is.

Andrea Pirlo (Juventus, Italy) - Just fucking outstanding in the Euros, and for Juve, Pirlo shows that if you treat a player in his mid thirties well, he can outplay other guys in their prime. This is something Chelsea's board should pay attention to - Andrea and Frank Lampard are roughly the same age.

David Beckham (formerly LA Galaxy, formerly England) - If you're reading this in the UK or elsewhere in Europe and aren't all that familiar with MLS, perhaps believing Piers "the cunt" Morgan when he compares it to a pub league, you're missing out; it's actually pretty fucking tough. Beckham's now former team, the LA Galaxy, won a second consecutive MLS Cup in 2012 despite fierce competition (and as a Seattle Sounders supporter I am still pretty butthurt that we didn't get past them in the Western Conference final, but it's Beckham, and you can't stay mad at Beckham, it's like kicking a puppy), and while he did have a lot of help from Landon Donovan (while he wasn't off writing emo poetry and generally having a sad) and Robbie Keane (who in America is somehow really good - like actually good, not just perceived as good like our Heskey down under), Becks was still in a class of his own. Neglected by Stuart Pearce for a spot in the Olympics, Beckham deserves some recognition for what will probably end up being his last year in a major league, so here you go, mate!

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich, Germany) - It was a bit of a toss up for me (and the one person I discussed this list with - see, I have a panel, just like FIFA) between Schweinsteiger and Arjen Robben, and in league and Champions League play both had serious merits. However, Robben and his whole team were a bunch of arse in the Euros, and Arjen was simply unable to score against his former team, Chelsea, in the Champions League final, so that decided it.


Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund, Poland) - Lewandowski was on fire in the Euros, and the link to Manchester United that never came to fruition over the summer sounded like it was going to lead to some pretty terrifying things. Man U probably don't mind too much given how well Robin van Persie has bedded in so far (and if I do one of these next year, it's going to take a quite horrific slump between now and then to keep RVP off the list), but Dortmund's Polish striker would be a tasty proposition for any top flight club.

Edinson Cavani (Napoli, Uruguay) - While a lot of what made Cavani so impressive in 2012 at Napoli was his partnership with Lavezzi, who has since left the club to become a feature in the Paris St Germain menagerie, even alone his work rate and prolific scoring mark him out as one of the stand out strikers of the year.

Goal of the Year

Papiss Demba Cisse for Newcastle, against Chelsea on May 2nd 2012. Why? Well, because I remembered it, so it must have been the best one I saw all year. Flawless logic. In any case, it was better than that Neymar goal that was on FIFA's shortlist.

So there you go. Feel free to argue with me below if your favourite player/team/manager wasn't represented.