Tag Archives: Books

Advent Calendar Day 22 & 23: The Missing Day & The Book Thief

I really needed today to go perfect, after spending all day yesterday catching up on sleep and the week’s previous events I needed one perfect day at least. I’m happy to say it started out good and for once stayed that way. With getting the two premium packs of FIFA 365 cards in the post I was worried that might turn out to be the high point of the day, a case of starting good but not ending up that way. And to make it even better I got a Philipp Lahm card in the second pack:

20161223_191030-1 philipp-lahm-fifa-365-2016-17-fan-favourite-cardI started writing this post on Friday after I got back, I didn’t get very far though. I was a litle more tired than I thought, so today should actually be yesterday. The point still stands though, the day did go fine.  There were a few minor things I got in a flap about but most of that doesn’t seem so important now. The main thing being the newly configured Christmas market, I read in the news about extra security measures and all that but didn’t really know what that would mean here. It just caught me by surprise, half the stalls not being where I expected them to be. I’m not complaining of course, I understand why, they don’t want any stalls closer to the road than they have to be.

As for everything else I think I’m too tired to be obsessing over anything. Just the other day I was reading about some idiot online who doesn’t believe that social anxiety is a real thing and that people who claim to have it are just nervous really. That it’s normal to feel nervous in new situations or a little uncomfortable at times. There was so many things wrong with what they think I’m not even going to bother to go into it, I don’t want to ruin my day. But there are two points I want to make, I would give anything to just be a little nervous. And secondly anyone who thinks that way should consider this, in a strange way I’m grateful to be so tired today simply because I can’t think straight and thus won’t obsessing over anything that happened yesterday. That’s not to say those things won’t come back and bother me later though, in fact I can guarantee they will. It’s not just about feeling uncomfortable sometimes, for me it’s never feeling comfortable, no matter how well I know someone or how much I trust them. It’s always second guessing myself, always doubting if I’m saying or doing the right thing. It’s the fact the simplest of conversations require so much thought put into them that it’s easier to just never talk at all. Like I said there’s nothing I wouldn’t give to just be a little nervous.

Forget about the bad stuff for now, as well as the cards there’s something else I got yesterday. Everytime I get a little extra money in my pocket I spend it on books, and yesterday was no different. Two of them I’m particularly happy about, not just because of the subject matter but how nice the covers are. I don’t normally take pictures of the books I buy but I’ll make an exception here, they are two delightfully Germanic covers:

20161223_190929-1On the subject of books that brings me to the second topic in the title, my annual re-read of The Book Thief. The plot point which bothered me last time still bothers me a little, yet I want to read it anyway. It’s not so much I don’t care, more that the positives outweigh the one negative point. Reading it again is like seeing an old friend you haven’t seen for a long time, like a good friend you accept it’s flaws as being part of them. It’s one of those books I feel like I can never get tired of and each time I read it I get something new from it. I think it’s a very fitting book to be reading now. Not because it’s about Germany, where it takes place is not really relevant to what I’m thinking about, it could be anywhere. It’s the people that are important, not the place. It’s foolish to think that the Holocaust is some uniquely German thing, all people are capable of that level of hate and of acting on it.

Time and time again I’ve tried to work out why it’s one of my favourite books. If it’s because the story is being told by death or because it’s set in Nazi Germany. Actually whilst both those things play a part neither of them are the main reason. I think I know now what that reason is, it’s Liesel’s foster-father, her Papa Hans. And no it’s nothing to do with his name, though I will admit it’s really hard to type Hans and not Hansi. It’s what he does for Liesel, the way he helps her as best he can make sense of the world. It probably doesn’t make much sense to him either but amongst what’s going on he takes care of her, teaching her to read and so much more. I could do with that right now, someone to explain all of this, to make everything make sense. That’s part of it anyway, the other thing is the words themselves, the very topic of the book. But it’s not stealing books which I’m thinking about, rather stealing words.

The Book Thief made me realise it’s something I take for granted, being able to read that is. I never considered what it would be like to find that hard or be unable to read at all. I taught myself to read at a young age and have never liked or needed to be read to. The importance of being able to read can’t be understated, yet it’s not all there is. Reading is one thing, understanding what you’re reading is another thing all together and what I worry about the most. Not just with the written word but in conversation too. There’s one particular event in The Book Thief which really sticks with me, one line which I can never forget. “You can steal a book but you can’t read one.” And it’s how Liesel solves her problem which makes it so memorable to me. Unable to read the book in front of her she starts reciting from memory a chapter from The Gravedigger’s Handbook. Reciting but not necessarily understanding, that’s why it sticks with me. So much of the time I feel like I’m saying and hearing things but not really understanding them. I’m never really quite sure about what I’m saying, or if it makes any sense. It feels like words are my best friend and my biggest enemy at the same time. I hate them but I need them.

That’s enough about books and words for now, just one more day to go, today is the final day of the calendars. At least I don’t have to worry about how the final post will go, I have that all planned out and there won’t be a lot of words in it, there’s no need, the pictures will speak for themselves. But before that is the previous two days, day 22 & 23. Day 22 saw striker Harvard Nielsen make his appearance in the Freiburg calendar and he was followed by Christian Streich who needs no introduction. I won’t have any problem picking  a good picture or GIF of him that’s for sure. And in the Dortmund one was Raphael Guerrerio and Marco Reus:

20161223_190702-1Christian Streich & Amir Abrashi - 1.FCK v SC FreiburgChristian_Streich_celebrates_Freiburg_v_FurthChristian_Streich_goal_celebration_SC_Freiburg_v_1_FC_Union_BerlinChristian Streich - SCF v RBLChristian_Streich_celebrating_promotion_2015_16Christian Streich & Alexander Schwolow – SC Freiburg v Heidenheim 1SC Freiburg - Meister der 2.Bundesliga 2015-16 - Christian Streichchristian_streich_and_nils_petersen_celebrate_sc_freiburg_v_eintracht_frankfurt

Advent Calendar Day 6: Snow King Florian and Papa Sokratis

Sometimes you get some sleep and it seems to fix everything, other times like today it makes no difference at all. Waking up I was just as tired as before I went to sleep and it took what felt like forever to actually get out of bed. I really did want to stay there, to not have to move and get up. I had nothing I really had to do today yet I felt that way anyway.  And I don’t feel much different to yesterday. In fact I feel worse in one way but that’s entirely my own fault. I shouldn’t be reading about such things when I’m in a good mood let alone when I’m feeling like I am right now. It’s not like I need a reminder of people’s ignorant attitudes toward disabled children and disability in general. I recorded three games tonight and haven’t really watched any of them. I’ve seen a little bit of all of them and that’s all I’ve done, I just couldn’t focus on anything. And to make the night a little bit more disappointing I didn’t get a Jogi video. Though I did at least get one of Miro to make up for it. So at least that’s not so bad. There’s nothing like that to make up for the rest of the stuff but at least I got something to show for the night, even if the day once more went to waste the night didn’t. Well not for me anyway, for Gladbach on the other hand it’s a night they’ll very much want to forget having lost 4-0 to Barcelona. Bayern were also facing Spanish opposition in the form of Atletico Madrid. They got a much wanted 1-0 win, the points meaning nothing in terms of the final group standings but it being very much a point of pride. The goalscorer was Robert Lewandowski and he has something else to be rather proud of, announcing that he’s going to be a father.

I don’t know how to straighten this all out, everything I’ve tried hasn’t worked. Leaving me to consider that at this point maybe I should just accept it. I mean it’s not like it makes much difference,  I have nowhere to be in the day. It’s not going to cause any real problems right now. All that matters is being awake in the daytime for weekends. No-one would care if I disappeared out of sight completely during the week. It would be a relief in a sense to stop fighting it. I don’t know what if anything I should do, I’m just tired of feeling tired and I want all of this to go away.

When I wake up I can’t and don’t want to think about anything. And after a few hours when it gets really late then I can’t stop thinking. All these thoughts come out of nowhere and I don’t know what to do with them. Most of them aren’t of any use, there’s nothing to channel into a story. It’s just anger and frustration at the ignorance of other people mostly. There’s nothing that can be channeled into anything constructive. And right now that anger extends to the book I’m reading. It’s the Icelandic one I mentioned in yesterday’s post named “The Draining Lake.” The source of my anger being the fact Erlendur agrees with a suspect who makes a comment about how you’re not allowed to call mentally disabled people halfwits anymore. They both agree that political correctness has rendered language useless in order to avoid offending anyone. From my experience people who complain about language being too politically correct these days are usually the ones who want to say the most offensive things and are unhappy they can’t anymore. How would they feel if they had a disabled relative and someone saw fit to refer to them as backwards or a halfwit. No doubt they wouldn’t like it very much. But then such people tend to be hypocrites of the highest order. It’s a curious book to be reading right now because part of it takes place in Leipzig and there are characters named Tomas, Niels and Emil. With the setting and that last name it just adds insult to injury. I really don’t like Leipzig, not the city of course, just their football team.

I don’t want to be thinking about any of that but it took root in my mind and I got fixated on it just like always. I want to be thinking about the stories I’m meant to be finishing but they aren’t going well. It’s just so hard to focus on anything. When it’s late enough like it is now I can at least read, whilst I’m grateful for that I’d much rather be able to write something. I hate not doing anything, if I’m going to spend all my time alone in my room I at least want something to show for it and something other than countless hours racked up on yet another game. Not that it’s an option anyway, I can’t even be bothered to do that. The only thing I really care about is getting back to my stories, writing is the only thing which feels important. I know ultimately it’s just as meaingless as anything else I do but they matter to me. Obsessing over the fact I’m struggling to write probably isn’t helping. I should be working out how to get in the right kind of headspace to do that, focusing on being calm and relaxed enough, in other words not getting angry at random people on the internet. I think spending a bit less time reading such things and more time reading books is what’s called for. I do at least have plenty of books to read and I don’t have to worry about picking any either. I know what I’m reading over Christmas, one of those books being  my by now annual re-read of The Book Thief. Plot hole or not it’s one of my favourite books and reading it in December has become something of a tradition now and you don’t mess with traditions. Speaking of Christmas I woud have liked to finish Jogi and Hansi’s Christmas story by now, it would have been perfect with it being St Nikolaus day but unfortunately it’s nowhere near finished. It’s just like everything else I’m working on right now, a lot of ideas but all of it in fragments and half written chapters, no coherence anywhere in sight. Which could pretty much be said of everything right now actually.

As for what to do now I have no clue, stay up and I’ll end up regretting it, go to bed and I’ll end up feeling much the same way. Whatever I do it ends up feeling wrong. I feel the same way about my plans on Thursday but I’ve said yes now, so there’s no backing out. I don’t like letting people down. Besides it’s the same as deciding whether or not to stay up or go to bed, whatever I do I’ll end up paying for it and regretting it.

At least it was a good day in terms of what the calendars had to offer, two players that I like a great deal, the Dortmund one having provided one of my favourite ever GIFs.  The player in question being Sokratis Papastathopoulos, or for those who don’t want to brave that tongue twister of a name and are somewhat fond of him Papa:

20161207_044604-1Thomas_Tuchel_celebrates_Dortmund_v_MainzSokratis- Augsburg v Dortmund - DFB Pokal 2And Florian Niederlechner is plenty special too having scored plenty of important goals for Freiburg in their promotion campaign last year, not least the winner against RBL which is the reason he’s called the Snow King and both goals against his old club Heidenheim on the penultimate day of the season. Funnily enough he also scored against his old club Mainz when Freiburg played them a few weeks ago:

Florian Niederlechner - SCF v RBL 1Florian Niederlechner - SCF v RBL 2Florian_Niederlechner_first_goal_SC_Freiburg_v_1_FC_HeidenheimFlorian_Niederlechner_s_second_goal_SC_Freiburg_v_1_FC_Heidenheim

Sticking with It: When to give up on a book

I don’t have a hard and fast rule about when to give up on a book. I’ve often thought I should have one but have never been able to decide upon what the rule should be. Nor am I sure if indeed I should have such a rule. Sometimes you just know you’re not going to get to the end of a book, from the first few pages you just know it’s not for you. I don’t like making snap judgements about books but sometimes you just know. Equally there are other books you stick with even though you have negative feelings about it based on the first few pages or the first chapter. I stick with it usually because someone has promised me I’ll love it. I’m reading a book right now that required me to make a decision of that nature. Whether I should force myself to continue reading it. The book in question is “A Man Named Ove.” I was excited about getting it and I liked it at first. Then about fifty pages in something changed. When I realised I was spending more time thinking about the book than actually reading it then I decided to give it another shot. In doing so I found that continuing is the right course of action and also came across a potential reason why I stopped reading it.

As the title suggests it’s about a man named Ove. His wife died recently and he plans to kill himself to be with her. Because he thinks he can’t live without her. As he put it he never lived before he met her and not afterwards either. I’ve read a little over 100 pages and so far two of his suicide attempts have been interrupted by his neighbours in some way. In other words life keeps getting in the way. His determination to complete his task is still there but he’s doing these things, helping these people because his wife would want him to. She’s gone but he’s still living for her. He wants to be with her but he doesn’t really want to die.

Death and deliberations over such matters is something which occupies my thoughts quite a bit of the time. Without realising it the book got to me. It’s why I stopped reading it I think. I’ve never gotten that far in such a plan but I’ve certainly made a lot of plans. Like with Ove life just keeps getting in the way. The problems remain, the reasons for wanting to do it are the same but there’s also reasons not to. And those reasons aren’t real. There are times I want everything to go away and I think the only way to achieve that is by not being alive anymore. Except it’s not really what I want, I have to keep reminding myself of that fact when I think such thoughts. It’s what Ove himself is learning. At least I hope he realises it by the end of the book anyway.

To get back to the topic of giving up on books it’s not something I do often. I can remember the few books I’ve started and given up on. Three autism related books, one which was written by a so called professional and I had to stop reading because the way the author talked about people with autism and learning disabilities was just downright offensive. Two others which were personal accounts, one I just didn’t get along with and the other wasn’t especially well written. Though it’s a translation so that may be the reason. Either way I couldn’t finish it. Another book I gave up on after reading just a few pages was one about a team of soldiers who’s role is to defuse explosive devices. It covered their tour in either Iraq or Afghanistan. It felt like it was trying to be Generation Kill and I realised I’d rather just read that again than a cheap imitation.

Unless I really hate a book I don’t like to give up on it. I don’t know why, maybe my obsessive and completionist nature has something to do with it. I’m more likely to put aside a book and come back to it later than give up. I did eventually finish A Man Named Ove and it was worth the battle to finish it. All those people who got in the way, or he saw as getting in the way, he helped them without even knowing it. His life with his wife was over but it didn’t mean his life had to end.Without even trying to he found that his life still had purpose. He carried on doing what he always did, helping people and always doing the right thing. And he never did get around to killing himself.

I know from reading reviews online that some people found the book a little too depressing, that they didn’t like the fact Ove complained about everything. But he didn’t, he just called things as he saw them. Not everyone likes to pretend that everything is all fun and games, that life is great. It’s one of the things I liked about Ove, that he didn’t feel the need to pretend. I don’t usually like books about relationships or romance of any kind but this I liked. Seeing the effect his wife had on him was sweet. It didn’t matter how other people saw him, he knew she loved him and that she could see the real him. It’s all that mattered.

Some books you have to battle with to finish and others you get through so fast you’re disappointed you read it so quickly. The book I finished reading yesterday falls into the latter category. The book in question is Shtum. It’s about an autistic boy named Jonah and his parents fight to get him into a school which can meet his needs. Right up until the end of the book I thought it was perfect. It gets all the autism stuff right (which is to be expected because the author has an autistic child) and it doesn’t sugarcoat it. It shows honestly the challenges of taking care of an autistic child and more importantly of the way such challenges are made more difficult by the very people who are meant to help. It illustrates perfectly the cruelty of the bureaucracy in relation to the education system and special needs. The author employs a neat trick to do this, part of the story is told through letters and reports about Jonah. Laid bare in front of you is the often dehumanizing way such systems view children like Jonah. The way they reduce them to meaningless phrases and statistics. One point he makes well in this way is the fact the education system points out they only have to provide an appropriate education for Jonah. Not the best, not one which is most suited to him, it just has to be “appropriate.” You wouldn’t accept that for a non-disabled child so why is it good enough for a disabled one? And what they mean by appropriate is often far from it. They want to send him to a standard special school, one where they won’t really teach him anything. He’ll spend his days in a classroom just being occupied, being kept busy.

In some ways it succeeds where the TV show The A Word failed. The book is mainly about autism but it shows the rest of their life too, it makes it perfectly clear that whilst autism does take over your life in a sense the world around you is still there. Showing the constant battle with the education authorities and social care and all the rest of it the book makes one very pertinent point. The autism is difficult to deal with, but it’s not what necessarily consumes your life and runs you down till you have nothing left to give. More often that not it’s the refusal of the education authorities to do what they are meant to. The way the system works kids are set up to fail. In fact when it comes to autism they have to fail before they can get help. That’s the kind of thinking the system is predicated on when it comes to autism. They won’t just send them to an appropriate school to begin with. You have to try mainstream first, fail terribly, watch it at all fall apart and then get the right placement. They seem not to care that they’re destroying a person in the process.

Not pulling any punches means the book may make some people feel uncomfortable. No doubt they’d prefer the world portrayed in The A Word where you get whatever you need just by asking for it. In spite of showing how hard it can be to take care of an autistic child the book also shows how much they love their son. It gets across the point that finding it hard to take care of him doesn’t mean they love him any less. They aren’t sending him away to school for their own sake or because they want him gone, it’s what best for him.

The book itself is perfect, it’s the afterword that’s the problem. There’s two points I find contentious. First of all the author likes and praises The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. I’m disappointed that anyone who knows anything about autism can like that book. It’s a book based on crude stereotypes and does nothing to change perceptions of autism. Secondly he talks about how views of autism have changed in recent years. How autism, especially Aspergers has almost become fashionable and that it’s even been adopted as a badge of honour. In his words “This was galling to me and, no doubt to the countless other families dealing with the day-to-day misunderstandings and devastation it could bring.”

Now I don’t view it as a badge of honour, but it’s a part of me and I accept that. What’s the alternative, to be ashamed of it? Also he’s speaking for himself, he should realise that, his view is not necessarily one other people share. Whether that be autistic people themselves or their parents and families. You can recognise the difficulties it causes and be sad about that yet at the same time be proud of the good things. It’s a shame because one good point I was going to make about the book was that it gets across the fact it’s not all doom and gloom, yes it’s hard but there are funny moments and happy ones just like with any other child. This is one count The A Word fails on to me,  but then his mother is too obsessed with making him normal than accepting her son for who he is and trying to make him happy, so that’s no surprise really.

It’s the fact he specifically referred to Aspergers that annoys me, the reason being that sometimes people like to try to make the argument that it’s not a real disability, not in comparison to “real autism.” I’m not saying he’s implying that but still it bugs me. In the foreword his son is described as being “profoundly autistic.” In other words his experience is of a severely autistic child with learning difficulties. Point is his experience is not with Aspergers. So maybe he should refrain from commenting on or trying to tell to us how we should view it. If someone who has Aspergers wants to view it as “a badge of honour” then that’s their prerogative. It’s not the way I feel about it, but if someone feels that way about it then I respect that.

A Bad Moment or a Bad Day

I can’t remember which prompt or even which day but I remember reading something which more or less made the point that one moment is just that. The day is made up of a thousand and one tiny moments, why do you have to let the one bad one dominate everything else. I’ve had plenty of time to ponder such thoughts this morning having woken up at around 4:00am. It’s not so bad, I did get to bed early so it’s not like I’ve only had six hours sleep. And it’s only thee hours before I was meant to be getting up anyway.

I went to bed in a none too happy mood so it’s not at all surprising that I woke up in one. It took a while before I realised that what happened yesterday really is just a minor disagreement. Certainly not something to still be obsessing over now. Their comment may have been a little thoughtless but that’s all it was. It still hurts but there’s no point in getting hung up on it. Which I know is easier said than done, I’m trying at least. It’s just such a painful reminder, that in other people’s happiness is a reminder of the things I can’t yet do. I’m happy for the person in question, I really am. Making the step towards living by yourself is a big deal and for them it’s a bigger deal than for most. They aren’t the problem, it’s other people making careless remarks and asking questions without really thinking about what they’re saying that’s the issue.

I resisted getting up at first because it was so early. Now I see I should have just gotten straight up regardless of the time. All staying in bed and trying to get back to sleep achieved was providing more time for such obsessive thoughts to take root. It’s better to get up and do something, even if that something is just watching TV. Now I’m all woken up and busy worrying about today. Staying out of trouble is a lot easier when you don’t spend that much time around other people. Today it’s going to be put to the test, spending half the day with someone and avoiding any difficult topics of conversation. Plus remembering not to talk about, well almost everything I like. Which makes me wonder, why are we friends again? Or are we even friends anymore. I just have to remember, it’s just a few hours. Soon enough it’ll all be over and I can get back here to see Dortmund’s game against Porto tonight. And if I need any help in staying cool I should just think of Toni Kroos. Just because you’re under pressure doesn’t mean you have to show it, not at the time anyway.

Yesterday I was trying to work out what the problem is with Monday’s, lately they’ve been a particularly non-productive day. I went through all of the days of the week and noticed the pattern I’ve fallen into. The start of the week is readjusting, the middle point of the week is starting to think I might be getting somewhere and then along comes Friday and the weekend and I’m back to square one. I could as I’ve been doing try to change the pattern, which hasn’t been going at all well. Or I could just write off Monday, accept I won’t get much done and make the most of the days I can actually do anything.

In trying to straighten out my schedule I think part of the problem is how I react when I can’t sleep. I get impatient and want to get out of bed and do something, feeling like it’s wasted time and if I’m not going to sleep then I may as well be getting on with something. But then I don’t know that because I give up long before I should. I think reading fan fiction or anything online when I’m in bed is bad idea. Reading is fine in itself, but it has to be an actual book. Of course I’ll have to pick what book it is carefully. The two books I’m reading right now certainly aren’t of any help. One is about Colombian drug cartels and the other is about a man who wants to kill himself so he can be with his recently deceased wife but the world and well meaning people keep getting in the way. I’m not sure I even own any lighthearted books which won’t give me nightmares or cause troublesome thoughts which will just keep me awake even longer. I wonder if comics will be suitable. I’ve never been a fan of them but I’ve giving it another shot, I just bought The Complete Winter Soldier. The reason being my recent fascination with Bucky and Sebastian Stan. It’s a worth a shot I guess. Who knows maybe I might dream about the winter soldier as a result. Even if it’s a nightmare it would be worth it, just to have him in my dreams.

Halfway Back to Normal

Almost there now, the Bundesliga is back and in full swing. Now all I need is for the 2.Bundesliga to resume and everything will be back to normal. Freiburg play their final pre-season friendly this Sunday, their first game back at home. They’ll be playing Amir Abrashi’s former team Grasshopper Club Zurich. It’s their final test before the league resumes and they play Bochum on the 5th February. I’m grateful they’re playing on a Friday the first week back, it’ll take a while to get used to having to get up early on the weekend again.  There won’t be any time to waste in readjusting after that, Freiburg don’t play on a Friday for the next three weeks afterwards. They won’t be playing on a day which isn’t Saturday or Sunday until March when they have a midweek game right at the start of the month. By then everything really will be back to normal, more of the DFB Pokal, the Champions League and the Europa League. Not to mention the international break in March. There will be plenty of games to watch, too many in fact. But then it’s better to have too much to do than too little. One game I am really looking forward to is the clash with RB Leipzig on the 7th March. Once again the tie gets the honour of being the game of the week and thus they play on the Monday night.

Tonight the second weekend of the Rückrunde kicked off with Mainz playing host to Gladbach. Both of them were looking to bounce back from a defeat, Mainz in particular needing a win after only taking one point from their last three games. They certainly worked hard for the three points they collected tonight, keeper Karrius in particular having another excellent game. His save in the 71st minute was nothing short of outstanding, so good was it in fact that I needed to make a GIF of it:

Karius_save_Mainz_v_GladbachHopefully when Freiburg’s season resumes I can get back into a good routine in regards to sleeping patterns. Because in truth this week has been something of a disaster. Not only do I not remember a great deal of it but I’m not happy with how much I’ve gotten done either. I’m sure if I’d gotten more than one good night of sleep along the way I could have done more. I’ve had plenty of ideas story wise and I’ve made lots of notes, I just don’t feel like actually doing anything with them yet. So I’ve only gotten started on one of them, I have nine pages so far of “Hansi’s Busy Day.” Other than that my major achievement of the week is collecting all 100 steel ingots in Fallout 3. I’m also thinking about the video I’ve got planned in celebration of Jogi’s birthday next week, it’s close to completion. I’ve got about a minute left to find pictures for. The one for Hansi’s birthday is already done ironically, given his birthday is towards the end of the month.

Getting that finished is my number one priority, everything else can be dealt with afterwards. I know I should be trying to think a little more long term but it’s just not possible right now. This week getting dressed has been enough of a challenge, I’m not looking for extra ways to put pressure on myself. I’m trying not to beat myself up about the fact that I don’t think I’ve gotten out of bed before 10:00am this week. The one day I know I was up in the morning doesn’t count because I’d been up all night, so it was a question of still being up rather than getting up.

I think I may have done a little too much last week and gotten a little too excited about the return of the Bundesliga. I probably should have skipped seeing The Hateful Eight. I’m certainly paying the price for it now.

The one advantage to being too tired to do anything means I haven’t really talked to anyone. Which in theory should mean I have nothing to obsess over right now. But I do thanks to the internet and my own impulsiveness. Though I’m trying not to see if that way. Instead of focusing on it as just a mistake to obsess over I’m trying to see it as something I can learn from.  Whether I did anything wrong or not I don’t know and I have no way of being sure. I have to make my peace with that. I did what I did and there’s no going back on it. Working out if I’ve done something wrong or not and just what that might be is not what I’m trying to work on. What I’m trying to work on is that sometimes the answers you seek aren’t there, sometimes you just have to let it go.

One thing I can’t stop thinking about is an article someone mentioned online, about asylum seekers being made to wear wristbands in order to receive food and being threatened with being reported to the authorities if they didn’t comply. Apparently the practice has been stopped now and the company in question has apologized. I find that of little comfort because they only did that after it was reported on in the media. If it hadn’t been brought to their attention no doubt they would have continued with the practice. Whilst the idea in itself is somewhat troublesome it’s not what I found most troubling about the whole thing. What bothered me the most is the comments I read online. It’s troublesome that many people don’t see a problem with it. Not only do some people not see a problem with visually identifying people in such a way but even suggesting they should just be grateful they’re being helped at all.

It’s troubling they can’t see how dangerous it is, that separating people out that way is never a good thing and can easily lead to other more troublesome practices. I found it disturbing personally because of another similar idea a while back in relation to disabled people. A local politician got this harebrained scheme about how disabled people, particularly those who don’t have visible disabilities should wear some kind of identification to identify them as such. When they were of course roundly criticized for it they claimed not to see the problem, claiming that it would be helpful for other people to know, like if they were in a situation they needed help and couldn’t tell people they had a disability or that they required assistance. I don’t buy their explanation, not least because what they describe already exists. I have something to serve that very purpose, it’s an autism alert card which has on it all the relevant details plus emergency contact information should it be required. The point is it’s a card I keep in my pocket, I use it when I choose to. I don’t wear it round my neck or have it pinned to my jacket for everyone else to see. Because in no world should anyone have to do that, to tell everyone they encounter about their disability or that you even have one. It’s your right whether you chose to disclose it or not, you don’t have to tell everyone you meet. Their crazy idea would take away that choice.

Not to mention it could have disastrous consequences. In a perfect world no-one would get picked or on or pushed around for any reason. Meanwhile back in the real world ideas like these wristbands and wearing identification of that sort can be a short cut to getting more attention than you’d like drawn to you. The last thing you need is another reason to stand out. I know that from personal experience at school and college. Whatever school I’ve gone to I’ve found that being associated in any way with the special needs class puts a target on your back that it’s impossible to get rid of. Personally I’m not bothered about that or ashamed of it any way, I wasn’t then and I’m not now. I really don’t care and if someone was willing to judge me on that basis then they’re not worth knowing anyway. What I do care about is getting hassled.

The other reason I can’t stop thinking about it is because of a book I just finished reading called “Ajax: The Dutch, the War.” It tells the story of Dutch football throughout WW2 and beyond, it also looks at the relationship between certain clubs, the role Antisemitism still plays in Dutch football and how political changes in Holland affect such things. One of the most interesting topics the book addresses is whether or not the Dutch were good or bad during the war. Like other countries in Europe they had a system set up to deal with collaborators and to assign appropriate punishment to those deemed to have worked with or for the Germans, particularly when they didn’t have to. One of the myths about Holland during WW2 is that they tried hard to save their Jewish population and also that the population was heavily involved with the Resistance. In actuality the Dutch were surprisingly efficient about co-operating with the Germans and their efforts to help got them a special mention by the Germans in correspondence regarding the operation. Despite the reality the myth was somehow propagated that  the Dutch were good. In truth the majority of the Dutch population was not particularly good or bad. For most people life simply carried on as normal.

It’s a fascinating read and I’ve learnt a lot from it, not just about the Dutch clubs and the culture of Dutch football but about politics in Holland too. Also I learnt a few new things about WW2, particularly in relation to Denmark. I’d heard the oft repeated myth that King Christian wore the Jewish star in solidarity with the Jews. It’s a myth because the star was never imposed in Denmark. But there is a bit of truth in the myth. What actually happened was that King Christian said he would wear it in the event it was introduced. Trivia aside there was another interesting point the book made. Denmark saved the majority of it’s Jewish population, helping them escape across the Sound to neutral Sweden. And the ones they didn’t get out of the country they still helped, making sure they stayed at Theresienstadt instead of being sent to a death camp. But Danes don’t like to talk about it or make a big deal about it. The book mentions a quote from the first major book written on the subject which praises the “special character and moral stature of the Danish people.”

Unsurprisingly Danes were embarrassed by that kind of talk,  it is quite over the top. What bothers me about it is the idea that saving someone makes the Danes or anyone else special for doing that. The idea that helping out a fellow human being is in some way special or remarkable. It should be normal, but I know that’s a very naive way of seeing things.

Getting back to the point, the author mentioned the Danes to make a comparison. His point is that the Dutch for years told a false story of having done all they could to help the Jews, yet the Danes did actually do it but they didn’t like to talk about it. In a way I do understand why the Dutch or anyone else would have liked to tell themselves they and their fellow countrymen did something to help. It’s certainly more palatable than the truth. To admit to yourself that you didn’t even try to do anything. From that perspective it makes sense someone might not want to be honest about the past. A review I read criticized the book for being too angry and too over-critical of the Dutch. I don’t agree with that at all, but if the author were a little angry I think it’s understandable. After all why wouldn’t someone be angry about what happened during WW2, I know it made me angry to read about policeman willingly helping German soldiers rounding up people. Not because they were threatened, not them or their families. Nor were they threatened with being sent to a camp or to work in Germany. No, the only punishment which awaited them was losing their holiday time. If that doesn’t make you angry then I think you should question why that is.

December: The Month of Dieter

December could only be named for Hans-Dieter Flick and it’s quite fitting that I start writing this post now because on the day I started writing it there was a new video of Hansi posted on the DFB site. It’s also fitting in the sense December is the month you get gifts in and he and Jogi have certainly been the source of many gifts this past year. And now Matze too of course. In fact at the moment I have more Matze chapters in progress than Jogi or Hansi ones. He’s proving to be quite the little character.

Despite the month being named for Hansi it’s not exactly my favourite time of year. I’ve never been a fan of Christmas and I’m still not. But I did have a little fun this year, the Bundesliga took care of that because on TV Christmas morning was a repeat of Freiburg’s 6-3 opening night win against 1.FC Nürnberg. Seeing it again didn’t take the sting out of losing the reverse of the fixture two weeks before Christmas but it was still a lot of fun.

The only gift I really wanted for Christmas this year was for Freiburg to be autumn champions, they just missed out on that honour with RB Leipzig in pole position instead. It would have been nice but it is ultimately meaningless, what counts is where they are four months from now. That’s all that counts. At least they did get to start and end the month with a win, two routine victories in both cases. First a 3-0 win against 1.FC Union Berlin and then against 1860 München.

As things stand the gifts I did get turned out to be quite nice. A few books including the kicker Almanach which has almost all the German related football stats you could dream of. A most useful gift. I also got two DFB calendars, two Dortmund programs one with Thomas Tuchel on the front and one with Matze Ginter on there. Plus some Matze Ginter cards. The real highlight however for me was the wrapping paper. I love all my gifts but I love the wrapping paper the most. Three kinds this year, Freiburg, Dortmund and the by now traditional Jogi & Hansi paper:

IMG_20160111_182837IMG_20160111_183337IMG_20160111_183434IMG_20160111_182926Matthias Ginter - SC Freiburg 2011-12 signed card Matthias Ginter - SC Freiburg 2012-13 signed card Matthias Ginter - Borussia Dortmund cardAs I expected it was a rather strange month, even more so than usual. For one thing I watched thirteen films. Nothing I watched could beat the first film of the month which was The Secret in their Eyes. Every time I watch it I just fall in love with it a little bit more. It gets more perfect every time I watch it. I also saw a very odd filmed named Stuart Saves his Family late one night when I couldn’t sleep. I watched it purely because Vincent D’Onofrio was in it but it ended up being quite an interesting film and certainly gave me something to think about.

I’m not sure I’d say I liked the main character Stuart, in fact I’m not even sure I enjoyed the film but it did intrigue me. So much so I drafted a post in relation to some of the themes it covered. Gist of it is Stuart is a little addicted to self help groups and is a little overbearing. When you meet his family you understand why. He has his own TV show which is not at all popular and when it gets cancelled his life falls apart. In between dealing with the dramatics of his family he gets another chance at a similar endeavor. The second time round it works out. And it’s partly because of what he learned from his family that it does. Eventually he realises that you can only help someone up to a certain point, if they don’t want your help or are unable to recognise they need help then there’s not a lot more you can do. Sometimes when it comes to your family you have to just accept them as they are and stop trying to fix them all the time. Which is what Stuart does, he’s always trying to fix things. Sometimes you just have to play the hand you’ve been dealt. His motto is “Progress not perfection.”

This is what I meant to entitle the post but as I mentioned I’d been up late when I watched the film, thus it was even later when I drafted that post and as a result I ended up typing “Perfection not Perfect.” It amuses me but I’m not sure why, perhaps because I’m so much of a perfectionist that I couldn’t even contemplate typing the real title and accepting that something could be anything less than perfect.

At the cinema I saw Star Wars which I have absolutely nothing to say about, a disappointing Christmas film called The Night Before which I only went to see because Michael Shannon was in it (he was terrific, as always) and Black Mass which was the true story of Boston gangster Whitey Bulger. I know the film got quite mixed reviews but I quite enjoyed it. It was certainly a passable film for an evening at the cinema anyhow.

Other than that I revisited some old favourites. In the spirit of Christmas tradition I watched one of my favourite James Bond films Goldeneye. I also watched Ratatouille which is surprisingly moving for what is essentially an animated film for kids. The scene where the restaurant critic is served  the dish ratatouille and it takes him back to his childhood memories always makes me cry.  On the subject of childhood memories I also watched Toy Story and Toy Story 2. I’ve seen them at least twenty times each but I’ve only watched the third one twice, and I never watch them as a trilogy. It’s not because I don’t think it’s a good film or because I don’t like it. I think it’s more because in the third one Andy grows up and gives his toys away, I’m not good at accepting change of any kind. I think it bothers me that Andy grows up and gives away his toys. That’s the whole point of the film, about moving on, accepting changes, starting a new chapter in your life and all that. Except it’s quite so cut and dried for me. There is no clear delineation between chapters because the events which normally mark the beginning or end of a chapter aren’t happening for me that way.

Book wise it wasn’t a good month, I know I read The Book Thief but I can’t recall what else I read. I certainly hope I did read another book and I just can’t remember because if I really did read just the one then that’s a new low for me. On the other hand reading The Book Thief was extremely important. I did so to test a theory, to see if I still loved it as much and whether or not the plot hole bothers me. I’m happy to say it doesn’t, that I’ve fallen back in love with it. Though I don’t think I ever stopped loving it. I like to think of it like this, no person is perfect, everyone has their quirks and annoying habits but when you love someone it doesn’t matter. So why should a book be perfect.

It’s like two of my favourite games Mass Effect and Assassin’s Creed. Neither of them are 100% perfect but I love the first one in the series for both way more than the others. Because for me the other games don’t have the same feel to them, they don’t have the same kind of charm. I don’t care that Assassin’s Creed is a lot more repetitive than AC2. I love the setting, the characters and everything about it. I know the flag missions annoy some people but I actually quite liked them. I’m not saying there’s nothing good about AC2, there is and I did enjoy playing it. I must have done since I’ve completed it three times. But it just doesn’t conjure up the same kind of feelings and excitement that the first one does. Same with Mass Effect. It’s why I’ve played through Mass Effect at least six times and why I haven’t done the same for Mass Effect 2. Though I have to admit part of the reason I don’t love Mass Effect 2 is because I’m still annoyed at not being able to have Kaidan in my squad. I was doubly annoyed because on my play-through with the female version of Shepherd he was my love interest. I really missed Kaidan and as much as I like Garrus, I would have preferred having Kaidan back.

Back to the topic at hand reading The Book Thief again was important for another reason, I found out just why I like it so much. That it’s not because the book is narrated by death or because it’s set in Nazi Germany. The person who recommended I read it told me just those two facts about it. As if that’s all I needed to know. They weren’t wrong, the first part alone would have made me read it. But reading it again lead me to think of it a little differently, a little deeper. Only this time around did I think about what I have in common with the book thief Liesel. I didn’t have many books when I was a child, though to be fair no matter how many I owned I wouldn’t have thought it enough. The books I did own I treasured. As much as I loved my Playstation and my Gameboy it certainly wasn’t as much as those books. And considering my Gameboy was like an extension of my right hand during my Pokemon phase, I mean  a lot. In fact I still have most of them in storage. But it’s not just about the books.

It’s about the words, about being able to tell your own stories. Unless you can read and write you can’t do that. When we meet Liesel for the first time she can’t read or write. It’s her foster father who teaches her to read. But that would never have happened if her brother hadn’t died, if she hadn’t stolen the book from a careless grave digging apprentice who dropped it and didn’t realise. And if the war didn’t happen she may never have met her Papa Hans who taught her how to read. She never would have met Max who helped her realise just how important words can be.

I didn’t have that problem, I taught myself to read before I started school. I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember. And I think sometimes I take them for granted, not just the books but the written word in general. Not only being able to read but being able to write my own adventures. Just like some people overestimate the importance of being able to read and write so I underestimate it. Because whilst those people are wrong, whilst they are over simplifying the issues, words do matter, they do help. Because as I’m coming to realise when it comes down to it they are all I really have. At least words of the written variety anyway. Because when it comes down to it a lot of the time it’s the only way I can reliably express myself. For someone who talks a lot I actually say very little. That is whilst I can talk about my special interests until I tire myself out I can’t talk about what’s bothering me. I can’t explain what’s going on in my head. For that I need the written word. I need my stories and my characters. Without them I can’t make sense of anything.

As well as being a quiet month book wise so it was in terms of collectibles as well, obviously with it being Christmas I didn’t have as much spare cash as I would have liked. That didn’t stop me from purchasing one very important item however, something I’ve dreaming about getting since last year. The item in question is one of the newer DFB polo-shirts, the ones for the Euro qualifiers. It’s not a blue one like I wanted but the white one is quite nice too. The other small notable items I got include two signed Match Attax cards, one of Roman Bürki and the other of Vincenzo Grifo, a card signed by Joachim Löw and a signed Nils Petersen Bremen photo:

IMG_20151211_171831IMG_20151211_171922Roman Bürki – signed Freiburg Match Attax cardVincenzo Grifo - signed Hoffenheim Match Attax cardJoachim Löw – signed Eintracht Frankfurt cardNils Petersen signed Bremen photo

November – the month of Nils

I’ve been putting off writing this post all month, telling myself that I didn’t have enough time. That wasn’t really true, I could have found time. I just didn’t want to. I didn’t want to put down on paper (well virtual paper) my thoughts about this month. But I had to, for three reasons. Firstly if I didn’t Nils wouldn’t get a month named after him and if there’s anyone in the Freiburg squad who deserves a month named after him then it’s him. Secondly it would bug me, the incompleteness of it, every other month has a post, which means November needs one too. Regardless of whether or not I wish I could wipe all memory of the month from my mind. But I can’t do that and I can’t pretend it didn’t happen which is the third reason for needing to write this post. Pretending it didn’t happen won’t help, I need to accept that it did and writing this post is part of doing so.

It’s strange how it all worked out, at the start of the month I wasn’t that enthused by the prospect of the international break which is odd in itself. They are after all my favourite times of the year, but not this time. It was partly for football related reasons, I just didn’t want to have to wait two weeks to see Freiburg play again. As things turned out the break was good for them, they put an end to their streak of three games without a win. It wasn’t so good for me. How it went is mostly likely related to why I’m not at all looking forward to the next one which thankfully is not until March, so at least I’ve got some time to work all of this stuff out. At the start of the month I was musing over what would happen if I put a stop to my current obsession, if I were to pack up my collection. I sort of feel that way right now but for different reasons. One thing is the same however, I’m not sick of them. Not Freiburg, Jogi, Hansi, Matze or Manuel. Not any of them. It’s not that. It’s just if I’m not interested in them then I won’t be bothered by what’s currently bothering me. I’m trying to think of this logically which of course when it comes to obsessions and special interests simply does not work. The strangest thing of all is I worry a lot about pretty much everything, but never before have I actually been given a reason to really worry, to really be afraid. And the most confusing thing of all is it wasn’t myself I was worried about. I’ve never experienced that before, being so concerned with someone else’s feelings and their safety. I realise that must make me sound like a bad person who doesn’t think of others. But it’s true, I never have been so scared for someone else. I’m still trying to make sense of that part of it.

Obviously other stuff happened in November but everything is overshadowed by all of this. I would have had an easier time of letting go of it were it not for the reminders at every turn. Some of them coming in the most unexpected of places. Like asking Nils Petersen about it in an interview he gave before the game. Now if I had been watching an interview with one of the players in the Germany squad then I would have expected such a question, hence why I actively avoided any of those videos. But Petersen wasn’t there, he wasn’t on international duty. Why ask him about it? Freiburg were meant to be my escape from it all, and it should have worked. Because at the moment they have no German internationals in the squad, not in the A team, they of course have plenty of players in the youth ranks.

Since then I’ve just been pretending none of it happened, which of course is not the way to go. Not only was I pretending that it didn’t happen but that I didn’t feel the way I did. After wanting to talk about it I then avoided doing so, even when I could have. I’ve finally had part of the conversation I needed to have back then, plus I wrote several pages working through it all which I think helped somewhat. But it was the conversation which was most helpful, admitting and saying out loud that I was afraid for them. For reasons I don’t entirely understand that was important.

The month started out with me in not such a good mood, partly because I was still obsessing over a mistake I made, an error I made in a social situation. That situation is never going to be resolved and truth is it doesn’t really matter. I’ve made mistakes like that before and I’ll most likely make them again in future, that is if I ever allow myself to talk to people I don’t know that well again. Point is such things don’t really matter, not in the grand scheme of things. There are after all things which are so much more important to worry about. Words aren’t meaningless, most certainly not, but in this one case they are.

Seeing as how I ended up with quite a bit more free time than I anticipated I got to watch a few more films than I expected. First up was Burnt which I only saw because Daniel Brühl was in it. I didn’t like the film that much but then I didn’t expect to, I just wanted to see Daniel doing something different, he didn’t disappoint, he rarely does. Spectre on the other hand was disappointing. I’m just glad I’m no longer a fan of Christoph Waltz, were I still a fan of his I would have been hugely disappointed. In both the film and his performance. Usually I hate the film but like him, not so here. I also took the time to revisit an old favourite, James Spader in Two Days in the Valley. Some things never disappoint and James Spader is one of them, the film is quite good too which is a bonus because I’ve sat through many a bad film in my Spader quest. It’s right up his street, a creepy psychopathic hitman. And of course even though he’s the bad guy I still root for him, every single time. Along with Burnt and Spectre I also saw Bridge of Spies at the cinema which as forgettable in just about every way possible. My film of the month would have to be What we do in the Shadows, it’s quickly becoming my bad day film. The film I watch when I don’t know what else to do, when I need cheering up. I wish I could explain why I like it so much, I’ll have to try and do that some time. So far all of my attempts have failed, it’s hard to put into words and to pin down just why it amuses me so much.

Naked Among Wolves is also worth a mention. I watch a lot of Holocaust and WW2 related films, too many in fact. After watching so many and finding fault with a lot of them it’s hard to imagine coming across one that’s any good or that stands out in any way. This one did, though it may have been because of the time I watched it at and the reasons I watched it. I picked it thinking it would make me feel something, it didn’t work that way. But the film stuck with me, the main point of the story. If we can’t even protect a three year old child then what are we. Sometimes you have to sacrifice one person to save more, but they couldn’t do that, not here. They risked an uprising which had several thousands of people’s lives at stake, because sometimes the little things do matter. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter most of all.

Reading wise it was not a good month at all. I read just two books but I did enjoy both of them though in very different ways. Oddly enough they were both connected though it wasn’t deliberate. The first was Savage Continent, it’s a book I’ve had in my collection a while, since January in fact. I kept meaning to read it and just never got round to it. Part of the reason I kept putting it off is because I knew it would make depressing reading. Which makes it odd that I chose to read it in the middle of November and to keep reading it. It’s about the aftermath of WW2, about how it wasn’t the neat picture of reconstruction that some documentaries and books make you think. It certainly wasn’t how certain governments portrayed it and a lot of thing got swept under the rug. Not just the way Germans were removed from Poland, Czechoslovakia and other countries but how some of those countries treated other minorities. One fact is made clear the war did not end on VE day, not for a lot of people. In Poland for example there still fighting going on in relation to Polish troops and Ukrainians. It’s a fascinating read, if not a thoroughly depressing one as you would expect.  Only now do I think I understand why I kept reading it. I wonder if I kept reading it because it was a reminder that bad things have happened before and will happen again. That what happened in France was a terrible thing to happen but it was just one of many. That bad things happen but you can’t hide away forever. I don’t know, it’s just a theory, I’m really not very good at making sense of such things.

The other book I read was Grobar Partizan: Pleasure, Pain and Paranoia. It’s about a man who for work moves to Serbia and it charts his journey of picking a team to follow whilst he lives there and of watching said team, he chose Partizan Belgrade. Like I said it’s related to the previous book in that the book whilst being about football is also about politics and how the two of them are connected. It’s kind of an odd concept, for sport to be so politicized. It’s not something I’m at all familiar with. It’s certainly not the case here.  Here most fans are so apathetic they don’t do anything about rising ticket prices, sure they complain and grumble but most people don’t actually do anything. But in Serbia it’s very different, there’s a very different relationship between certain sections of fans and their clubs. It’s not necessarily a good thing either, whilst the author admires some of their dedication to their club and recognises some of the positives he also doesn’t shy away from noting the negative sides of the situation.

Football wise of course it was not a particularly good month, for one thing the football was not really about football, not in relation to international games anyway. As for the play-offs for Euro 2016 I got neither of my wishes, Freiburg defender Mensur Mujzda and his Bosnian compatriots will unfortunately not be going next summer and neither will Denmark, which also ruined a second dream I had in relation to the group draw. I would have loved it for Denmark to get drawn with Germany again. On a Freiburg front they played three games in November. First they drew 1-1 with Duisburg in a game they obviously should have won. After the international break they beat Paderborn 4-1 in an outstanding performance. In their third and final game of the month they also took all three points but their performance was overall rather forgettable, they got lucky. They didn’t deserve to win, not really. As disappointed as I was with their performance I have to admit it was kind of a thrill, winning with a last second winner like that. The game whilst being a derby was not a classic, not by any means. It was in actual fact a rather unpleasant watch, but that last second goal, it was special. And I’m happy that it was Karim Guede that scored it, very happy. I just hope next season that Freiburg will once more be facing Stuttgart in the Baden-Württemberg derby. Not that facing off against KSC and Sandhausen wasn’t fun, it was. But I want revenge for that 4-1 defeat at home last season.

Collectible wise I got quite a few good additions, some great tickets both for my Freiburg and my Jogi collection, a signed Nils Petersen trading card and finally the most special piece of all, a match worn SC Freiburg shirt of one Matthias Ginter:

Nils Petersen - signed SC Freiburg Match Attax cardIMG_20151222_190515IMG_20151222_190704