1. i’ve discovered an interest in football. i still dislike the normal matches, which tend to be pedestrian and gutless, but national matches reveal something, indirectly or not, about national character. The English cannot dribble; when they receive a pass it takes them a few seconds to gain full control of the ball, most of their passes are bad, and they cannot get past defenders. Accordingly, they just kick the ball in the general direction of the enemy’s goals and then hope for the best. They are pampered millionaires who lack passion or intensity; quite often, they made no attempt to intercept a ball because they would have had to run. This reflects the English national character – a total lack of interest in hard work.
The Germans have generally excellent ball control, and can receive a fast pass and neutralise the extant velocity in an instant; some of them can and do slip past defenders, and they work fairly well as a team, compared to England. They mostly play with real zeal and guts.
The English footballers gesticulate violently and curse their team mates after a bad pass. They all look quite vain and sadistic. Consider:
and so on. Stephen Gerrard is the only English footballer who doesn’t look like a vile rapist (he is a Catholic). The Germans by contrast look like human beings, the kind of chaps your grandmother would call “nice young men” and serve Battenburg cake; for example Miroslav Klose:
If John Terry, Rooney, etc. were not footballers they would be drug dealers. Klose et al. would be engineers or gardeners or something suitably Schnitzel-like.
2. i consider myself German now and stopped watching the 2012 Euro thing after Germany lost to Italy (their own fault for not ensuring a solid defence). It was a depressing match as Germany fell apart before the haphazard skill of Italy, principally of Mario Balotelli. This is a good example of the tactical element of football – Italy couldn’t score a goal against the much weaker England because England stacked up a solid defence; Germany had no defence and only managed to score a goal against Italy because Mesut Özil is badass.
My only consolation was that Balotelli did something exceedingly awesome after scoring a goal – he stripped off his shirt and assumed a stance of immobile, Gladiator-like supremeness:
i was struck by his pose, his immobility, very different to the usual Italian volubility, or the English swearing and screaming. To abstain from fuss is uncommon, especially in football (though of course it was a deliberate, ostentatious act).
Within 24 hours the internet was full of photoshopped Balotelli pictures, ridiculing his Gladiatorial pose; for example, holding garden shears. i know the kind of people who do this: my schoolfriend Shrekh, a fat self-loathing Muslim, has a particular taste for grotesque jokes and within a few days of 9/11 was gleefully repeating hideous “jokes” he had found on the internet. After a while i decided not to tell him anything i cared about, as he would almost invariably defile it in some way, without even realising he was doing so. If he had a picture of the face of the BVM he would photoshop it with a spiff or a cock or horns – he wouldn’t be able not to.
i believe such folk are motivated by an Iago-like aversion to beauty or power or achievement. As Iago says of Cassio: “he hath a daily beauty in his life/That makes me ugly”. And Cassio is a relatively ordinary man – just not as base as Iago. The Iagos lack any sense of respect, or of the sacred. They would defile anything they cannot understand, anything beyond them.
Football has become a celebrity circus, so the viewers and journalists prey as much on the private lives of the players as on their performance. Journalists and their ilk are unnerved and then jeeringly contemptuous of anyone who doesn’t offer himself to their understanding. It’s one thing to be a staid family man and do nothing remarkable – then one escapes censure; but to stand immobile and expressionless, this provokes and enrages. Hence the photoshopping.
3. Michael, bemused, asked why i’m not famous. He said i should try to publish my books and be famous. i briefly explained that publishers have no interest in anyone except footballers and TV stars, and i’m neither. Ten years ago, or when i was temping, i fantasized about living as “a writer”, but now it has no appeal at all. i increasingly favour Facebook over blogging because i can choose who reads me on the former; for me, privacy is more important than being connected. When i had comments a goodly proportion were drive-by idiots and deranged stalkers, the kind of abuse Peter Hitchens attracts – patronising, aggressive imbeciles.
The Viking asked what kind of job i want, if i don’t want to teach any more. No idea, really. i no longer wish to be a professional writer; publishers seem, on the whole, to be worthless, self-regarding scum, and anyone who lives in London or is involved in media circles runs a grave risk – of becoming an apple polisher. Instead, i wish to be invisible, to escape their world.
4. Thanks to spotify, i’ve discovered Lana Del Rey. i vaguely remember a review a year ago, mentioning controversy and how people hate her, so i didn’t expect to like her music. It is, however, very good – expertly-written songs and a rich, ornate voice. i would only cavil that the production is too dominant, so on first hearing every song sounds similar. It’s a mannered album, purposefully atmospheric (Tindersticks),veiled, exquisite.
After playing her album several times a day for a week i was moved to read some reviews. To my surprise, she has attracted a good deal of loathing from music journalists. Some of it one should expect – some journalists and websites specialise in contempt, and reserve praise for artists no one else has heard of (when these artists become well-known, they are summarily relegated to contempt).
The journalists seem chiefly exercised by Lana Del Rey having reinvented herself, with a new stage name and look. The criticisms are largely ad hominem, abusive, accusations of insincerity and so on, though the journalists also claim she can’t sing. At this point i think of Dr Johnson likening a bad writer to a bad carpenter – that just as one would tell a bad carpenter his table is wonky, so you may criticise a bad writer; and not being able to write a book or make a table should not inhibit the critic. It’s true that, for example, i feel able to criticise the English football team without myself being able to play. But there is something parasitic and repulsive about hatchet jobs and i feel uncomfortable with critics who spend too much time attacking; especially when one feels they are establishing or reinforcing their reputation as discerning, no-nonsense men of the world, that their attack is itself insincere and reprehensible. For when you criticise you imply your superiority as the discerning judge.
It is common to journalism where one must cause a big splash, say something controversial, rip someone to shreds, or acclaim them as the next Bob Dylan. Music journalists are in addition often quite appalling human beings. It is curious that they should inquire so deeply into Lana Del Rey’s alleged character, as if they know anything at all – musicians seem to me as opaque as actors, and there is little to be gained from biographical examination; nor does it illuminate the music.
But if you are in any way famous, journalists expect you to offer up your innermost heart for their entertainment. It is not enough to play football or make music or write: you must open your life to the parasitic vermin, you must give full-spread interviews and let Hello! in your house and film your own death; and the vermin don’t like to be played. So they hate Lana Del Rey, because she is so overt, she makes no attempt to hide her artifice – rather, her music is inherently artificial and is about artifice, and like Dante’s Commedia, repels modern fools and simpletons. To conceal your heart will provoke those who lack heart; they wish to raven on the lives of others; they have themselves no substance, no passion, and so no understanding.
5. More and more i feel that one can only arrive at worthwhile knowledge through isolation. One must have, to adapt Colonel Kurtz, freedom from the opinions of others; freedom from the opinions of yourself. And for that one requires separation.