Song Of The Day – Delayed Response by Michael Robinson

From the album ‘Trembling Flowers’ (1991)

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So, in almost eight years of blogging, what’s the most embarrassing thing I’ve written?

The older I get the more I hurry when doing mundane tasks. Often I attempt to do three things at once and in a fragmented mess fail to conclude any of them, that or I carry a general anxiety that I’m not doing enough with the time I’ve got. It’s the ultimate form of futility that causes disorganisation and ultimately costs time. The best analogy I can come up with is of trying to clasp really fine dry sand in your hands – the more you squeeze your fingers together and tense the muscles the quicker it seeps out.

Instead of dwelling on the existential nightmare that is our present (as The Pistols rightly concluded – there is no future) and in an attempt to do something more constructive than ‘doing a Peter Sutcliffe’ (which involves wandering around GTA V hammering random pedestrians over the head), I decided to attack my neuroses head on, and avoid present-day introspection for good measure, by indulging in a wee retrospective. Yes children, we’re fast approaching the eight year anniversary of WLWASIOH.

Life events have instigated this, which I won’t bore you with. This blog was started after a significant event. Creating it helped me through that time, and is now there to distract me again when I most need it. The date of WLWASIOH’s creation to the present day essentially bookends a period of great change for me personally. Let’s just say I’m in the mood to reminisce about it and other things beyond.

Morbid curiosity is at play here too. With one housebound day bleeding into the next, usually I can’t remember what I had for tea the previous night, so I’ve got little chance of remembering what I wrote on here several years ago. Just what disasters lurk?

Having accepted that I’ve reached a point in my life where I simply don’t have enough time (or patience) to be embarrassed by my failings, I endeavoured to read all my content again with a more forgiving eye. Lately I’ve been reminding myself of the following; ‘the goal cannot be achieved without suffering’ and ‘the purpose of life is not happiness, but usefulness’. Even if we successfully find ways to delude and distract ourselves, we know this life is all about adversity, and you’ve just got to cope with the varying degrees of it as best you can. WLWASIOH may fail to be useful and I may not be suffering enough to succeed (and that depends on what you define as success), but it does sufficiently distract me from nihilistic and fatalistic thoughts. For me, that’s invaluable.

Surprisingly I came away feeling quite enthused by the body of work on WLWASIOH. It’s not…dreadful? That’s…something? I’m really proud of the short stories, articles about music and TV. Yeah, there are subpar offerings in each of these categories and elements in all I would change, but broadly speaking, I actually enjoyed re-reading them.

I’ve gotten some ‘hot’ take opinion pieces right too, even though they irksomely belong to the realm of clickbait journalism more than beguiling creativity or intellectualism. My piece on Ched Evans’ return to professional football after he was released from prison for rape is a particular highlight. Sure, I was right, after the initial outcry died down he started playing football again and nobody cared. The whole episode exposed the dishonesty and cynicism inherent in cancel culture, that it’s mainly populated by self-serving and fickle poseurs obsessed by the egotism derived from (predominately social media) status, who temporarily focus ire on a specific target, before moving on to the next outrage to maintain their visibility in the vanguard of the milieu. While this process has aggregated to permeate some cultural attitudes (some for the better, others not), we can say with complete certainty that it’s impossible to expunge someone like Kevin Spacey or Michael Jackson retrospectively. Most us of don’t and won’t let our lives be dictated by guilt. I mean, really now, you’re not gonna watch ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ or ‘The Usual Suspects’ cause Spacey is in it, or dodge ‘Off The Wall’ and ‘Thriller’? Piousness of that degree is an impossible standard and makes you an insufferable bore.

But, anyway, just like cancel culture, this is all about me. And it’s clear the opinion piece genre has produced my worst articles. Lowlights include arguing that the cynicism with which Liverpool football club’s American owners had ran the club would demolish and demoralise Jürgen Klopp. Quite the opposite happened – though I still contend that’s mostly thanks to the incredible qualities of the German. My excitable theory of Yes campaign’s momentum being unassailable, as evidenced by the infinitesimal ratio of Yes stickers appearing in Glasgow windaes compared to ‘No Thanks’ ones, ranks high (I mean low) too. But the pièce de résistance was my column from early 2019 where I was convinced that Scottish independence was inevitable by simply waiting. It is my worst take on WLWASIOH, and recent events has seen it clinch its place at the bottom.

I’m left quite bewildered by all of Salmond trial stuff (pre, during and post), the abject failure to protect the anonymity of his alleged victims, the selectivity of prosecutions for contempt of court when covering the case: it seems that writing for a newspaper, no matter how crap it is or how much of a hack you are, affords you establishment immunity, whereas a blogger disseminating the same information is prosecuted, oh well. The idea of there being a SNP government led conspiracy against Alex Salmond seems really far-fetched, particularly when there’s abundant proof of government ineptitude to chew on. As someone who isn’t versed in the internal politics of the SNP, why an SNP led Scottish Government would go out of its way to destroy Salmond, who hasn’t been an MP or MSP for nearly four years, makes no sense, even if they suspected he may, at some point, return, as he now has. It’s the Madelaine McCann syndrome. For too many, a conspiracy theory is preferable to uncertainty or no (good) theory at all. The truth is often supplied by the most obvious explanation – that there were a series of fuck ups, followed by a succession of other fucks ups trying to rectify or cover for the initial errors, given those involved likely became aware of the consequences for themselves professionally. Acts of panic can be mistaken for guilt very easily.

The latter doesn’t absolve the shocking failure to date to hold them to account, however. More importantly this episode and the SNP’s inertia over independence (to use a trite football analogy, you have to shoot to miss an open goal, the SNP haven’t even cocked the leg in this parliament term) has harmed the chances of it. Will Alex Salmond’s list party enhance it? I don’t know. Either way, we’re about to find out.

So yeah, my delusion that independence was inevitable just because of, well, continued popularity and that that can ever be perpetual without delivering on its main purpose, was the most foolishly shite thing I’ve blogged in eight years. Not bad all things considered. Having established my instincts on this particular political subject are continuously defective, mixed with my growing pessimistic despondency that Scottish independence will ever happen, means it’s all but certain the opposite will transpire. I’ll conclude with the caveat that, particularly at a time such as this, having hope for the future, whether arrived at spuriously or otherwise, is a dangerous, but necessary, thing.

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Song Of The Day – Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd

From the album ‘Second Helping’ (1974)

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Song Of The Day – Make Me Smile by Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel

From the album ‘The Best Years Of Our Lives’ (1975)

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Football Manager 2021 has proven an excellent distraction during lockdown, but it’s missing a certain something

Sheesh. Just in case you were vain, or happened to believe you were okay looking, FM 2021 is here to remove any doubts or delusions. It allows you to use a mugshot to generate a likeness of your face in the game, an option which I foolishly pursued. Here I look as though I have one of those ghastly genetic disorders which manifests itself with grotesquely sunken distortions in the facial structure. Just for clarity the disparaging commentary is in reference to the picture on the right. You snidey twats.

Still on furlough then? Or having to work from home? Aww diddums. This spuriously designated key worker says fuck the lot of you. Have you finished Netflix and Amazon Prime yet? Gone down too many YouTube rabbit holes? Finished your backlog on Steam? Have you developed an online poker habit? Were you planning to use this second lockdown constructively but lack the discipline to follow it through? Or maybe you had that discipline, have cleaned out the shed, hoovered out the car, done a few bits and pieces of DIY, alphabetically ordered your vinyl records and cleaned your vintage coin collection, but have no mundane tasks left to fritter away any more hours. Are you a parent at their wits end having to home school and you have the insatiable urge to drop kick the little bastards in the eye socket? Has lockdown made you pine for office small-talk, but spicing it up for shits and giggles? To the point that you’re worried that your social skills and graces are now compromised? “I’m going to have my cat put down.” “Oh interesting. What day is the execution, can I come and watch?”

Clearly you need to find something else to take your mind off missing the things you might otherwise be doing given a full suite of choices. Enter Football Manager 2021. Given the current circumstances, the series may finally escape its niche status of appealing solely to sad bastards. Go on, join us in the geek squad. There’s even better news, you have no reason to feel guilty or insecure that you truly are one. No concerts or gigs on. The clubs and pubs are shut, and will be for some time yet. Bingo halls and bowling alleys too. It’s either this, social media (aren’t you bored of it yet?) or shitposting on 4Chan. You have excuses.

There have been some considerable improvements since the last iteration I played in 2015 and wrote about. The game is still, broadly speaking, excellent. But given current events there’s something missing this year, and that’s my main gripe with it.

While predicting a pandemic is impossible, l find it hard to excuse Sports Interactive selectively ignoring Covid-19, as FM 2021 was developed during much of the first lockdown. Little doubt this lamentation will rile the insufferably pious holier-than-thou mob who exasperatingly lack any appreciation for dark humour (I’m not an anti-vaxer dickhead advocating the virus’s spread, okay?), but I’m disappointed that there’s no pandemic simulation in the game, even as an option. The game seems oddly sanitised without it and bans for clubs and players for instances of crowd racism or racial abuse by players on the pitch, which happens far too often throughout Europe. Look, I understand why certain realistic flourishes are excluded. There are legal reasons for having no incidents of racism occur in the game, as the rights of real club names and players are used. It would leave the game open to accusations of hypocrisy, as it strongly sports the ‘Kick It Out’ campaign on its intro screens. I also recognise it’s ethically shaky to include a hyper-realistic feature that’s caused the deaths of two and half million people (to date) in your product as a selling point.

Scouting for a third tier Scottish side with a 50k transfer budget. Living the dream. FML.

I’d accuse Sports Interactive of slightly betraying their core audience by failing to add such a topical feature. Most of the effects of the pandemic are already written into the game’s algorithm in some guise or other, and, if you choose to manage a British football club, particularly in the upper echelons, the effects of Brexit are encoded and felt. Not to mention the dreaded (and antagonising) VAR is included too.

How hard would it be to have the 2020-21 season behind closed doors? Players missing games to self-isolate (they already simulate players getting the flu), or fixtures being postponed due to outbreaks at clubs? Thankfully, if you choose, there are fan made mods out there which will create certain conditions and additional challenges to suit, or, if you’re a Remainer, will remove Brexit. If only it were that easy in real life, eh?

Which begs the eternal question that dogs the Football Manager series. Should it, which prides itself on detail and immersion, allow sanctimony to encroach on realism?

Clearly, that would be yes. Sports Interactive’s intent is driven by how most players play the game, and that it’s still a game. Even among the FM diehards very few will find perverse pleasure amid the exacerbation of trying to get a result when most of the key players in the squad have to self-isolate on the eve of a six pointer. Without Covid-19 added there are already enough built-in challenges and a multitude of possible career arcs to explore. And if you ever get bored messing around carries an appeal. Hate a particular football club – in my case I chose Millwall, because they’re Millwall – create a save called ‘The Locust’, make sure you purchase the editor, select the ‘make unsackable’ option, and, to quote Billy Butcher, be as fucking diabolical as possible.

For most, being able to find a means of escape that doesn’t remind you of the way things are or other depressing asides associated with football, and perhaps led you to playing 300 hours of FM, will be welcome. Over the last two months I’ve had a blast taking Partick Thistle from the Scottish third tier to European Champions. In real life this would never happen, it’s bloody Thistle man! But, against the backdrop of covid-19, FM2021 sums up life quite well, anything’s possible, and it’s inherently strange. Case in point – Football Manager’s come to the fore during the most surreal of times by choosing to ignore it.

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