On being nine points clear at the top of the table…
I would really wish that you would all try to, I don’t know, we switch – you come here and I go there. Tomorrow it could be seven and then we play against Man City and it could be four, it’s possible. I’m not the smartest person in the world but I’m really not an idiot – not always at least! So it’s really nothing, it’s absolutely not important how many points you are ahead in December, even if it’s the end of December. So what you all create, and I get that, how can you not be positive about us? But all of you are the first, if we drop three points, the next headline is ‘Are they nervous now?’
So that’s an easy job. I would love to be in your situation. We cannot play that game and we don’t do it. Before the game, we all heard about the result of Tottenham, but do you think the party started already? I didn’t see a smile on any face in the dressing room. We came here in this situation with 54 points after 20 matchdays with completely being focused on the situation, and now it’s not about creating headlines, creating stories, it’s still about preparing football matches, play them as good as you can and try to get as many points as you can. That’s it.
On whether it will be different going to Manchester City as the league leaders on Thursday…
What do you think? When we went to City last year, do you think I had the table in the dressing room and said, ‘We are fourth, they are first?’ It’s just not important, we wanted to win the game. We wanted to win the game – the league game, which we obviously didn’t do but we wanted to win it that day and I think everyone who remembers it saw that. The only thing that has changed is that you all ask [about] it, that’s all. It’s not a problem, you can ask what you want. We go to City not with whatever-point distance, we only go there to try to play the best football game we can play. 100 per cent.
On whether the challenge is different depending on whether you’re chasing or leading at the top based on his experiences at Borussia Dortmund…
No, it was not for us [at Dortmund]. That’s the only thing I really remember, that it was not for us and we never thought about it. We were four points ahead for a while then we had Bayern at home. We won the game and Bayern missed a penalty, then we had six or seven points but the next game was the derby and stuff like that. It is a supporters and journalists’ game [talking about the points gap at the top] – and that’s absolutely OK, play it. But we cannot – we cannot be part of it, absolutely not. The only thing that can get annoying after a while is answering the same questions, so maybe you think a little bit about what you ask and not all the time the same! Then you will make my life easier!
You might think there’s nothing sweeter about being a Liverpool fan right now than seeing the club leading the Premier League while playing fantastic football, but I don’t know, I think I enjoy seeing Klopp treat the British sports media with the acidic contempt they so richly deserve just as much, maybe even more. And like I said before, he gives good copy, so they have to keep coming back for more, even as he reminds them again and again how trifling they are.
It can be hard, though, to accept that morality motivates violence. Maybe there’s something wrong with thinking of violence as moral. Isn’t the point of morality to care for people, or at least not hurt them?
We are told that a “surprising new scientific theory explains why morality leads to violence.” It turns out that people are willing to be violent over the things they care most deeply about, especially if those things are considered rare and irreplaceable. I suppose this is “surprising” to anyone raised in a Skinner box, unacquainted with the great philosopher-poets who already addressed this inherent shapeshifting, transitory, mysterious nature of life long ago:
“How could anything originate out of its opposite? For example, truth out of error? Or the will to truth out of the will to deception? Or selfless action out of self-interest? Or the pure sunlike gaze of the sage out of covetousness? Such origins are impossible; whoever dreams of them is a fool, even worse; the things of the highest value must have another, separate origin of their own—they cannot be derived from this transitory, seductive, deceptive, lowly world, from this turmoil of delusion and desire! Rather from the lap of being, the intransitory, the hidden god, the ‘thing-in-itself ‘—there must be their basis, and nowhere else!”— This way of judging constitutes the typical prejudice by which the metaphysicians of all ages can be recognized; this kind of valuation looms in the background of all their logical procedures; it is on account of this “belief” that they trouble themselves about “knowledge,” about something that is finally christened solemnly as “the truth.” The fundamental belief of the metaphysicians is the belief in oppositions of values. It has not even occurred to the most cautious among them to raise doubts right here at the threshold where it is surely most necessary: even if they vowed to themselves, “de omnibus dubitandum.” For one may doubt, first, whether there are any opposites at all, and second, whether these popular valuations and opposite values on which the metaphysicians put their seal, are not perhaps merely foreground estimates, only provisional perspectives, perhaps even from some nook, perhaps from below, frog perspectives, as it were, to borrow an expression painters use? For all the value that the true, the truthful, the selfless may deserve, it would still be possible that a higher and more fundamental value for life might have to be ascribed to appearance, the will to deception, self-interest, and desire. It might even be possible that what constitutes the value of these good and revered things is precisely that they are insidiously related, tied to, and involved with these wicked, seemingly opposite things—maybe even one with them in essence. Perhaps! — But who has the will to concern himself with such dangerous Perhapses!
The rest of the book was covered in graffiti like a boxcar parked too long outside the train yard: scribbles, circles, underlines, arrows, and rambling marginalia, all against a backdrop of pink highlighter swipes.
— Michael Perry, Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy
I’ve never understood why people do this to their books. I mean, strictly from a pragmatic point of view, wouldn’t it be easier and better to keep a notebook (or blog) for recording your thoughts as you make your way through a book, where you can annotate to your heart’s content? It’s the clutter that bothers me — the garish colors and illegible scrawls. It’s like trying to think after walking into a small, loud room. How can I profitably absorb anything with some Pink Highlighter Notation-bro braying at me the whole time? And how much space is there in the margins to record anything of substance anyway? It’s like having a Twitter feed scrolling alongside your reading. I’ve only ever used a red pen to make small brackets around a line or paragraph for future reference. My Darwinist attitude is, if I can’t remember why I bracketed this section, I probably didn’t have anything worthwhile to say about it anyway. And now that I’ve bought myself a Scanmarker for Christmas, I don’t even need to do that anymore. (It goes without saying, but people who dog-ear pages should be put in thumbscrews.)
Despite the occasional marketing hurdle, however, clearly these books are selling just fine. That’s the surprising thing about all of these supposedly irreverent titles. The premise of their humor is that they’re shocking, but they’re now so prevalent that it’s hard to imagine being shocked by them. They are “the product of a culture in which transgressing social norms has become an agreed-on social norm,” as essayist Dan Brooks wrote of the “naughty” card game Cards Against Humanity a few years ago. That game has been so successful that G-rated board games like Taboo and Cranium now tout “dark” or “adult” versions for people who enjoy dirty jokes, but can’t conjure them unless they’re printed on a deck of glossy cards. Profanity is now utterly basic.
As I said recently, I do identify as a person of colorful language, though I mostly only use it privately, typically toward inanimate objects. I have a rule of thumb for cursing around friends and acquaintances: never be the first one to start working blue, as it were. If they feel uninhibited enough to swear in my presence, then I might reciprocate, but otherwise, I’m happy to never cross that line. Not because of any middle-aged squeamishness, but because I prefer to avoid overly-easy familiarity. I value modesty and restraint more as a rule, keeping a reticent arm’s-length. But, yes, there’s also the fact that profanity is just unimaginative and boring as currently used. As Melissa Mohr suggested, there are some words and phrases that could be artfully deployed to cause actual shock, but we aren’t that brave yet. Personally, I’d rather unearth some forgotten classics. Let’s all try to bring back “swive,” shall we?
Copcot was making his way through Shotover forest, to the east of the city, on his way to mass at Horspath church on Christmas Day 1376, amusing himself by reading Aristotle as he went, as undergraduates do, when suddenly he was confronted by a wild boar. Scholar and beast eyed each other. Then, according to an account printed in 1876, “as quick as speech the taberdar thrust the volume, vellum, brass and all, into the animal’s throat, and then finished the business with the spear, whilst his opponent was digesting his classics.” An 1823 account gives the “touching climax” to the story: “‘Swallow that, if you can’ (cried the unarmed student thrusting his Aristotle down the boar’s throat). ‘Graecum est’, cried the boar, and expired, foaming at the mouth; for he found Aristotle (as many other throats had done and will do) too hard for him.”
— Andrew Gant, Christmas Carols: From Village Green to Church Choir
We’ve seen quite a few bears on our hikes, including a mom with her cubs. This convinces me that I should start carrying some Zizek and Habermas in my pack for protection.
Back in the days when Freudianism dominated literary criticism, the critic Edmund Wilson complained of those who gave psychological explanations of Scrooge’s conversion. The story is essentially a fairy tale, and it’s as meaningless to psychoanalyze Scrooge as it is to ask about penis envy and the death wish in Little Red Riding Hood. Dickens’s friend and first biographer, John Forster, insisted that Dickens took a “secret delight” in giving “a higher form” to nursery stories, and that’s probably the best way to read A Christmas Carol.
It’s naïve of me, I know, but it previously would never have occurred to me that adherents of the various schools of criticism would have felt called to practice their dark arts on such a straightforward story. But this is the second time in as many days that I’ve been, uh, “enlightened.” Stephen Nissenbaum, in The Battle for Christmas: A Social and Cultural History of Our Most Cherished Holiday, writes that Scrooge is “essentially a member of the petite bourgeoisie” who has failed to understand that such relentless hard work and striving is no longer required of him. “Whatever else Scrooge’s conversion represents, it also marks his realization that he has “made it,” after all — that he can finally afford to ease up on himself and others. Considered sociologically, Scrooge’s conversion may mark his entry into the easy culture of the upper-middle-class world, a world for which he has previously been eligible only in an economic sense, but which his temperament has heretofore barred him from joining.” He goes on to stress that this still occurs within limits — Scrooge has a turkey sent to the Cratchits; he doesn’t deliver it himself. His Christmas is spent among family at his nephew Fred’s house, signifying the transformation of the formerly rowdy, carnival-esque atmosphere of Christmas into one captured by “domestic ideology.” Furthermore, even providing your employees with gifts is just “good business practice,” a strategic means of ensuring their continued loyalty. Coincidentally, it was at just this point in the book when I finally pressed the “eject” button.
As it happened, publishers and booksellers were the shock troops in exploiting — and developing — a Christmas trade. And books were on the cutting edge of a commercial Christmas, making up more than half of the earliest items advertised as Christmas gifts…In fact, even before books were actually labeled as Christmas presents in the newspapers, they were being marketed for that purpose.
That tone of strongly-implied disapproval runs throughout the book, a tedious Marxish archeological dig below the foundations of the holiday to unearth the telltale potsherds of paternalism, classism, nativism, and, worst of all, rapacious commercialism and inauthentic consumerism. What the materialist cynics never understand is that even amid humble, degraded origins, something noble and timeless can still shine through. Here, as with the ancient Icelandic tradition of jólabókaflóð, is a reminder of the sort of old-fashioned Christmas values we would all do well to resurrect.
The version of Cantique de Noël on this album may just be my favorite one yet (there’s a sample at the bottom of the page.)
Instead, the Sterling affair has been blown up into a political football to be used in the favourite game of British snobs: giving all common football fans a kicking as racist thugs, sticking the boot into the tabloid press for allegedly stoking prejudice and violence, and demanding stricter policing of both. Behind all that lurks the fashionable belief that working-class Brexit supporters are a bigoted mob.
Cometh the hour, cometh the Spiked article about the snobbish Elites looking down upon the People with fear and contempt. Spiked, the stopped clock of online magazines, has found its twice-daily occasion to be correct. (It’s even more touching that Hume, a torch-carrying Trotskyist, should finally have the chance to be right about something for a change.) For those blissfully unaware, during the Chelsea/Manchester City match a couple weeks ago, the television cameras caught several Chelsea fans shouting abuse at City winger Raheem Sterling as he went behind the goal to retrieve the ball for a corner kick. Thousands of amateur lip-readers quickly formed a consensus that one fan in particular had called Sterling a “fucking black cunt.” (American readers may or may not be aware that the dreaded c-word doesn’t carry the same offensive gendered connotations among our British friends; the outrage was over the modifier.)
This sparked a great National Conversation about the specter of racism in football. The Daily Mail, which never saw a barrel-bottom it wouldn’t lick for clicks, helpfully published the scoundrel’s name, age, and address, with a bonus picture of his house, no doubt to facilitate healing conversations between him and well-wishers in the community, and later gleefully snickered at his “having a moan” over losing both his job and lifelong season tickets. The Guardian, which responds to a hint of social injustice the way a flaccid male member responds to a dose of Viagra, temporarily eased its attempts to proselytize for women’s football in order to testify to the omnipresent menace of racism. Nike, fresh from sponsoring Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling rebellion, quickly bolstered its own woke credibility by producing an ad with Sterling. The media spotlight attracted plenty of other people looking to insert themselves into the story somehow. Inevitably, we were reminded that racism is always and forever everywhere, even, or especially, when it doesn’t seem to be anywhere.
Lost in all the furor and soul-searching was the villain’s insistence that he had called Sterling a cunt of the Manc variety, not the black one. (I assume residents of Manchester don’t yet qualify as a protected species under hate-crime laws.) There seems to be a question-begging circularity to the whole spectacle — how do we know he didn’t, in fact, say “Manc” instead of “black”? The shape of one’s mouth appears plausibly similar in both instances, and unless Britain’s CCTV surveillance has gotten even more quasi-totalitarian in recent years, I’m pretty sure we don’t have conclusive video analysis of how, precisely, the blackguard’s tongue was pressed to his teeth in order to form his consonants. The answer seems to be, well, wouldn’t you expect a racist to feign innocence like that? A cynic might suspect that we’ve invested too much in the story to have it all fizzle out over something as prosaic as the facts, so even if it’s not literally true in this instance, it’s generally true that there are racists out there who would say such things, so we should testify to that higher truth anyway. Besides, who would say that there’s anything wrong with a mass revival denouncing racism? I think you know who.
All in all, there’s no redeeming moral to the story. It’s just a sordid spectacle that makes a misanthrope out of the observer. But yes, when the man’s right, the man’s right. This was largely a solidarity-building exercise for a familiar type of pious liberal for whom the threat of racism would have to be invented if it couldn’t be found already existing. Like war games on the cultural level, it’s an opportunity to rehearse maneuvers and test weaponry. But if there’s one thing British sports journalists love more than sermonizing, it’s reveling in drama surrounding Jose Mourinho, and a merciful God delivered just that opportunity this week by having Mourinho finally get fired as Manchester United manager, thus sparing us from further ritual penance.