Soccer Manager, Part 1: Friendlies

I’m following up on last week’s intro post about my new hobby of playing Soccer Manager 2018. I’m managing the Chicago Fire out of MLS and the team played three pre-season friendlies.

How did it go? Oooohh fine?

I mean how well can one draw and two losses be? At least it wasn’t three losses, I reckon. A preseason record of 0-1-2 with a goal differential of minus-four is not a good start.

I had a bitch of a time trying to figure out a formation. I settled on 3-4-3 midway through the first half of the first game when one of my players (Dax McCarty) was sent off with a red card. After the game, I looked up the real Dax McCarty’s career stats. He has played in MLS since 2006 and has never once been sent off with a red card. In my game, he get sent off in the 32nd minute, game one. So much for realism.

So I played a 3-4-3 which was really a 3-3-3 because McCarty is a mid-fielder and then we lost by three goals.

This makes me wonder if soccer players play games like this the way basketball players game with the NBA2K series or how wrestlers play the WWE games. I have no idea what a soccer player does to unwind, especially one who plays in the U.S.. I assume every European footballer ends up in Ibiza taking x and edging in a hot tub. Which is, y’know, one way to live.

The next game we won 2-2. I know that 2-2 is technically a draw but that’s a victory as far as I’m concerned because we actually scored goals and didn’t lose. Not to mention you don’t learn anything from victory and I didn’t learn anything from that game.

After losing the next game 1-0, I began to wonder what the real-life Fire formation is so I looked it up. It’s definitely not a 3-4-3 which I ran the entire pre-season. It’s a 4-2-3-1, which means nothing to you but to means when the season starts I’ll have the team play that formation instead even though they have no experience with it.

On the management end, I sent some scouts out to find me a new goalkeeper and some fresh meat for the youth team and I took an English forward on loan even though I didn’t know anything about him. I should scout players before I take them on.

Onward to the season! Chicago Fire 2018: We Cannot Possibly Lose Them All!

Queen in the 80s, Part 2: Hot Space

When I started this series I looked forward to it and that enthusiasm was partially warranted because I was starting off with “The Game”, a good and very popular album.

Then I realized that I would have to review the album they made after “The Game” and I started to wonder if anyone would notice if I discontinued this series about Queen studio albums released between 1979 and 1990. I’ve seen the numbers. You won’t care. But I will.

“Hot Space”, Queen’s 1982 album, contains the hit collaboration with David Bowie, “Under Pressure”. I have received a lap dance to “Under Pressure”. Not at a party by some jerk, but in a strip club by a true professional! This remains the second strangest song I’ve ever received a lap dance to (#1 being “Stan” by Eminem).

“Under Pressure” has Queen at the peak of their “The Game” success having finally become the biggest band in the world having a mindmeld with David Bowie, in the phase between the artistically successful “Scary Monsters” and the enormous commercial success of “Let’s Dance”. “Under Pressure” came out in October 1981 and made a run up the charts all over the world, remaining a classic for the vocal interplay between Bowie and Freddie Mercury and for John Deacon’s bassline (stolen outright a decade later for “Ice Ice Baby”).

Six months passed between the release of the “Under Pressure” single and the “Hot Space” album in May 1982. Whatever fans were expecting when they heard the new album, they had to be puzzled and disappointed by the sounds on “Hot Space” which were neither hot nor spacelike.

Bad albums by great artists are somehow more fascinating to me than great albums by the same just because the post-mortem contains so many possibilities. And “Hot Space” is bad.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad like “Lulu” or “Thing-Fish” or a late-period Urge Overkill album but “Hot Space” is incredibly disappointing. For one thing, where are the singles?

Going back to 1974’s “Killer Queen” from the “Sheer Heart Attack” long-player, every Queen album had at least one smash hit song that would keep people interested in the album it came from. Where was the smash hit for “Hot Space”? “Under Pressure” preceded the album release by a whole six months.

How did Queen promote their new album? With the release of “Body Language” as a single. Let that sink for a minute.

(WARNING: The members of Queen are fully dressed throughout this video)

“Body Language”, a Freddie Mercury composition, sounds nothing like any Queen song before or after it. I’ve never been in a gay bar but every time I hear this song I feel like I’ve walked into the wrong building and now I’m at the Blue Oyster from those Police Academy movies. It’s as if some Hollywood executive said “we need a song to play in the background while the main characters are entering a gay bar in this gritty action drama about two homophobic detectives trying to solve a string of murders”.

Amazingly, “Body Language” actually reached #11 in the US charts. I’m stumped as to how that’s even possible.

I’m looking at Wikipedia and it says that “Under Pressure” only made it to #29 in the US. Nothing makes sense right now.

There are at least two songs on “Hot Space” that sound like Freddie Mercury is the only band member present at the recording, “Body Language” and album opener “Staying Power”.

“Staying Power” starts off with a similar synth-bass/drum-machine riff to “Body Language” except Freddie Mercury erupts by shouting “LET ME SHOOOWWWW IT TOOO YOUUUUUUU, YEAHHHHHH!”

What are you showing me, Freddie?

They hired Arif Mardin to add some horns to the song. It literally sounds like Stevie Wonder horns over a half-assed metronome while Freddie Mercury wails on about “I wonder when we’re gonna make it. . . I wonder when we’re gonna stick it!” and occasionally there’s a guitar lick. “Body Language” is the gay bar. “Staying Power” is the VIP suite of that same bar.

There’s a lot of competition for worst song on this album, but “Dancer” by Brian May could very well take the cake. A wanna-be dance track that uses both the Phil Collins-esque gated-reverb snare, the song is about a guy who either can’t dance or is too timid to try. Brian plays his customary guitar solo over a synth bass rhythm but it doesn’t work. The sounds of Brian “Guitar Choir” May over the synth bass feels like a scoop of ice cream served on a circular saw blade.

Track 3 is John Deacon’s “Back Chat” and is the first time they sound like they’re all in the same room being a band making music together. It’s actually a decent piece of post-disco dance music. Slick, even. From a track listing perspective, it’s surrounded by a lot of terrible music because the next song is “Body Language”, a song that I can’t believe anyone enjoys unless it is ironically.

Closing out first side is Roger Taylor’s “Action This Day”, which struggles to cross between early-80s new wave and mid-60s r&b with its back-and-forth vocals between Freddie and a bunch of overdubbed Rogers. It’s fun for about two minutes and then it has a brief synth breakdown into a drunk-sounding sax solo. Given the circumstances of this album’s recording, I would not be surprised if the band met the sax player at a bar and dragged him in after it closed to cut a solo. For all we know, Roger loaded up on vodka and farted out the sax part himself.

“Put Out The Fire” is next, written by Brian May and inspired in part by the murder of John Lennon outside his NYC apartment in 1980. Years later, Brian admitted to recording the solo drunk after many failed attempts to get it right. To be fair, most of this album sounds like it was recorded under the influence of vodka, cocaine and/or exhaustion. I wish this track was better than it is because the best thing about it is the poignant transition from its final notes to the opening bells in Freddie’s “Life Is Real (Song For Lennon)”.

For the first ninety seconds, “Life Is Real” is a note-perfect Lennon homage until the guitars come in when you’re reminded that oh yeah this is Queen but even the lyrics are blunt in a Lennon-esque way (“Success is my breathing space/I brought it on myself/I will price it, I will catch it/I can take it or leave it/Loneliness is my hiding space/Breastfeeding myself/What more can I say?”) Mercury as Lennon-by-proxy or speaking about his celebrity life while musically cosplaying. It actually works.

You’ll have to excuse me if I get a small laugh out of Roger Taylor titling a song “Calling All Girls” and putting on the same album with some of Freddie Mercury’s most blatant peacocking. Freddie Mercury calling all girls. The song is fine. Incredibly, it was released as a single and the follow-up to. . . you guessed it, “Body Language”.

That just makes it funnier.

“Hot Space” is also the beginning of the band’s concept music video period. Before then, Queen videos were typically mimed performance whether they were on a stage or in Roger Taylor’s garden (where the videos for “We Will Rock You” and “Spread Your Wings” were shot).

“Body Language” featured the band surrounded by half-naked, sweaty dancers. Freddie dances with some large black women and one of the fat black women falls into a giant bachelor party cake. “Calling All Girls” features the band in a parody of George Lucas’s “THX 1138” where the band rebel against robot guards. Freddie IS THX 1138! In “Back Chat”, the band is in some sort of dystopic disco factory filled with steam and Freddie is modeling leisure wear.

Just realized that “Calling All Girls” is way more pathetic than I remember it being just for its sad attempts to recapture the magic of “Under Pressure”. The opening lyrics are “Calling all boys, calling all girls, calling all people on streets around the world.”

Then a seven-note guitar lick comes in that is vaguely reminiscent of the “Pressure” bassline. If I have it right, it is A A A A G G B while “Pressure” is D D D D D D A but to do that right after the “people on streets” reference has to be intentional.

Lastly, the wailing “love” that begins every chorus. Is it meant to be a inward version of Bowie’s echoey “love” from “Pressure”? I don’t even want to listen to this song anymore, let alone pick it apart. It’s like the band is saying “Remember that great song we did last year, remember how great that was?” Shame on them.

Two more songs round out the album. “Las Palabras De Amor (The Words Of Love)” by Brian May and “Cool Cat” a Deacon/Mercury co-write. “Palabras” is an ode to the band’s South American fans, having toured there for the first time ever the previous year. It’s the best of the three May songs here.

“Cool Cat” is one of the most hated Queen songs by Queen fans themselves. Something about it drives them nuts. It’s not very Queen, musically. Then again, nothing on “Hot Space” is Queen-esque. This is the last track and maybe Queen diehards hate it because  the realization kicks in that whatever hopes they had for this album. There’s no late-inning saving grace where everything comes back to Queen-land and we’re all better off than when we started. Nope.

On its’ own merits, “Cool Cat” is a fine song. It’s smooth, such that the guys from Yacht Rock gave it their approval on their podcast “Yacht Or Nyacht”. They gave it a 54% which means it is sufficiently smooth enough to be allowed “on the boat”. In other words, Queen made a song that verged on yacht rock and their fans still hate it. Seriously, there are fan polls and that song is always at the top of the list.

AND THEY ARE WRONG. “Cool Cat” is the only good song on “Hot Space”. It is the only song that does what it set out to do in the first place. The band attempted to make an album that explored black music: r&b, disco, funk, soul. Brian May wanted to keep rock elements involved in the mix while trying these new sounds out, which is why “Back Chat” has a guitar solo in it. There’s no Brian on “Cool Cat”, therefore Deacon gets to do whatever he wants and Freddie sings his heart out.

Oh, after all that “Under Pressure” is tacked on at the end, which is almost a slap to the genitals after everything the listener has been through. Ten songs, many of them failed genre experiments, some of them flat embarrassing but at the end here’s this song that’s not only good it’s a classic. Fuck you.

I agonized over writing this. I’ve spent way more words on this lousy album than I did “The Game” which is a bonafide classic. In my next entry in the series, I hope to get the word count back down, but it’s highly unlikely because I don’t know if you know this. . .

. . . but all we hear is radio ga ga, radio goo goo, radio ga ga.

Ooh boy.

Not The Next Sir Alex Ferguson

How do I get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, man. Practice.

How do I get to the Premier League? Tactics, man. Tactics.

I needed a hobby so I made a Steam account. My friend and former bandmate Matt has a game on Steam called A Robot Named Fight that I recommend you check out. I don’t have the game myself because Matt has the nerve to charge for money for it and spending money is for suckers but if you’re into that sort of thing I strongly suggest you give it to him.

I downloaded a free game titled Soccer Manager. It is a competitor to the more-famous Football Manager series. Football Manager is the Madden NFL of international soccer only more so because masses of young men (mostly British) have thrown the best years of their lives away on this annual series.

In both games, you pick a team and see them through their season, their transfers, their tournament games, friendlies and whatnot. Do you want to run a fourth-tier British team? NOW YOU CAN and that’s part of the appeal for a player to try to manage a club from the lower ranks of association football all the way to the top division. Consequently, you can also do such a terrible job that the club chairman fires you before you do any more damage. It’s an extended multi-season head coach mode. You pick the players, the formation, the tactics and you let the computer do the work.

The difference between Soccer Manager and Football Manager is that FM costs about $50 USD and that’s not a sound investment for me. Soccer Manager costs me nothing but time and I have plenty of that. FM costs money but has more detail and allows you to do more, but that’s not what I need at this early phase.

I enjoy the sport of soccer but I sure as hell don’t understand tactics. The transfer window is beyond my comprehension. It’s hard for me to get too frustrated about losing games when I admittedly have no clue in the world.

You can see why it would be foolish for me to spend $50 on a game I would in all likelihood be terrible at. Maybe if I get better at SM, I will consider promoting myself to the next level and actually paying for a FM.

From time to time I will write about my progress or lack thereof. For this new venture, I have picked the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer (as MLS lacks a promotion/relegation system so I can’t screw it up so bad they get kicked out of the league).

I apologize to Chicago Fire fans in advance.

Queen in the 80s, Part 1: The Game

A series talking about that era of Queen music that most fans tend to avoid, the years between 1979 and 1990, when the band raised their international profile while making music less significant than their ’70s output.

Our first entry is 1980’s The Game, the band’s eighth album and the first to include synthesizers after seven years and albums bearing proud declarations that “nobody played synthesizer”. It was also the first Queen album to be recorded digitally and part of that is probably due to new producer Reinhold Mack, who would continue to work with the band through 1986’s A Kind Of Magic.

The band ran two sets of sessions, the first during the summer of 1979 (pre-Mercury moustache) which produced guitarist Brian May’s power ballad “Save Me” and their first #1 song in the US, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. The next set of sessions, from February to May 1980 (post-Mercury mustache), provided bassist John Deacon’s “Another One Bites The Dust”, the other Queen song to go #1 in the US.

Synthesizers open the album with the fade up to Freddie’s “Play The Game”, one of the best tracks on a very good album. Mercury also contributes the aforementioned “Crazy Little Thing” and an off-beat number titled “Don’t Try Suicide”  with lyrics “Nobody’s worth it, nobody cares, you’re just gonna hate it, nobody gives a damn!”

If “Don’t Try Suicide” was Freddie’s way of seeing how many times he could put the word “suicide” in a Queen song (nineteen, smashing the previous record of once in “Death On Two Legs” from A Night At The Opera), fair play to him.

Warning: Do not play “Don’t Try Suicide” to a suicidal person. It rarely helps.

Drummer Roger Taylor comes through with two tracks, the new-wavish “Coming Soon” and the Cars-esque “Rock It (Prime Jive)” which features Roger on vocals after an brief intro by Freddie. The worst point on the album is Roger singing “you really think they like to rock in space? Well, I don’t know! What do you know?” This is followed immediately a bleep-bloop synth that wants to sound like Devo but sounds more like Synthesizer Patel on “Look Around You”.

I am now imagining the Cars playing “Coming Soon” and Devo playing “Rock It” and I can’t believe these songs turned out this well. Credit to the band for a vital performance on songs that couldn’t even make it as B-sides.

John Deacon’s other contribution to The Game is “Need Your Loving Tonight”, a breezy bit of power-pop not unlike Taylor’s songs except that Deacon actually knew how to write songs so there you go.

Brian May sad songs are nothing like Freddie Mercury sad songs. With Freddie, you get high drama, tension, desperation, peaks and valleys. With Brian, a sad song is just sad and especially if Brian sings lead like this album’s “Sail Away Sweet Sister”. Past examples include “Leaving Home Aint Easy” from Jazz and “All Dead, All Dead” before that from News Of The World.

Mercury adds vocals to the bridge of “Sail Away” and sings lead on Brian’s “Save Me” which livens it up a bit. Confusingly, Brian also writes “Dragon Attack”, which is as funky as he ever got and features a rare John Deacon bass solo.

The first half of The Game is front loaded with their US singles, with “Dragon Attack” being the lone exception. The “no synthesizers” rule is broken sparingly on “Play The Game” but not until “Rock It” opens the second half do the synths take over. It should be noted that during the 1980 sessions, the band (mostly May) worked on the Flash Gordon soundtrack which is mostly synths and it was inevitable that there would be a bit of crossover.

The Game is one of the band’s finest albums, a collection of smash singles and good album tracks. The new engineer/producer Mack seems to be working well, as is the new digital recording and the synths. Enjoy this brief moment of restraint from Queen because from here on out it gets heavy on synths and at times downright embarrassing.

In part two, we will skip the Flash Gordon soundtrack and look at the band’s second most ill-conceived venture, 1982’s Hot Space.


requiem for a bastard

I groggily turned on the TV this morning, channel on MSNBC. Kept it there long enough to see what is the main story of the day. We are in a dumpster time and I can’t focus on the news long enough. Take it like a shot of whiskey.

This morning’s shot  was the revelation of Paul Ryan’s resignation from his position as Speaker of the House. Ryan will finish his term in January but will not seek reelection. So it is time to consider his place in Congressional history.

At the tender age of twenty-eight, Ryan was elected to his first term as a Wisconsin republican in 1998. He had not yet married Janna Little, the mother of his three children.

If you run for Congress before the age of thirty as a republican, you may have significant problems.

I don’t want to tiptoe around him and I don’t have to. This man has a proven track record of confidence masking incompetence. Paul Ryan has a yacht’s worth of confidence in regards to his own ability. In the position of Speaker, he could barely get anything done unless it was detrimental to humanity. This self-promoting deficit hawk with a plan to get the budget under control blew up the deficit so badly that the United States is currently masturbating on webcam for Chaturbate tokens just to make some spare scratch.

I can’t get it out of my head how this guy sees people like me as a drain on society. Me, the guy on Medicaid and Medicare and on benefits. Me, the disabled guy. The person who needs SNAP. So its in his interest to take an axe to programs he and his loved ones don’t need and won’t use.

If you calculate his annual salary, his pension and his effect on the public via policy, there is no one in America who has been a bigger drain on the taxpayer than Paul Ryan himself, with the exception of the First Family.

He promoted himself as the one who could solve the country’s deficit problem. republicans’ first choice when trimming budgets is to go after social program, to go after the poorest citizens who need these programs. It would be justice to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthiest instead while deescalating our international military actions. However, poor people who are burned out on war don’t have a lobby as powerful as Lockheed-Martin or Amazon so to hell with them.

When history is written, there will be many people who have written odes and condemnations of the current Speaker. One of them should at least be done by someone currently affected by his policies. Let me make it clear: Paul Ryan was callous and wasn’t even strong enough to be the bully. He was the bully’s friend, the smaller shit-kid who laughed while the big bully pushed your head in the toilet.

If there was any justice in this world, Paul Ryan’s body would be hung from meathooks on a high pole but media polarization has become so terrible that partisan politics has become Us Vs. Them, where our team is never wrong and there team is never right. There are people who would vote for a dog if it ran as a democrat and people who would vote for a puddle of parking lot rainwater if it was republican. And it is this lack of objectivity that allowed Paul Ryan to flourish for way too long.

Paul Ryan was a cartoon villain and I pity his family for having to spend more time with him after January.


Wrestlemania weekend came and went and I binged on it. I watched too much wrestling and I ate too much food. Never even made it to New Orleans, the host for this year’s Mania.

My stomach hurts like a bastard because I had too many snacks. The GERD hit me like a flash and I felt like I was back in the bad old days. I have to stop watching wrestling. It is killing me.

Let’s talk about wrestling. Wrestlemania was a typical WWE dish with more wrestling than one could require. It was a seven-hour show. I should have been intoxicated. There’s no other way to watch seven straight hours of wrestling.

I would like to take a moment to make a list of wrestling bros that are good for drinking beer with in a parking lot.

John Cena. Total bro. 10/10. Spent the first two matches of Wrestlemania in the crowd watching the show. Absolutely would drink beer in the parking lot before and after the show.

Daisuke Sekimoto. Big Japan bro. Totally the kind of guy who you can get baked and eat popcorn with while staring off into nowhere before snapping out of it to arm wrestle on the bed of a truck.

Nick Gage. MDK. Totally loves us and will completely beat the shit out of anybody who talks shit about him therefore we don’t. Drink beer in the parking lot and if somebody starts some shit turn around so you can plausibly tell the cops you didn’t see anything.

Rusev. Another WWE bro. If he grills out, even better.

Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook bro. Not a wrestler. Totally harvesting our personal data to use against us. 11/10 would drink beer in the parking lot before hitting him in the stomach.

Ray Davies. Kinks songwriter/singer. Former WWE Intercontinental champion. Would drink lager in the parking lot while taking medication. Wrote “You Really Got Me” which is pretty good but no John Cena theme song.

Alice Cooper. 1/10 WOULD NOT DRINK BEER WITH. Addict in recovery, sober since the 80’s. Appeared at Wrestlemania III. Would talk to him about Jesus Christ Superstar while drinking bottled water.

Kerry Kenney-Silver. Not a bro. Trudy from “Reno 911”. Best woman bro to drink parking lot beer with (except possibly Kate Bush).

Twitter. Great social media app. Would party with 10/10 24/7/364. Rockin’ out like a bad mofo. Co-wrote most of the great rap hits of the last fifteen years.

I’m A Bipolar Bitch

We live in a cruel and unimaginative society.

Go to the Wikipedia category for “People with bipolar disorder”. It’s a mindblower. Some of them are brilliant, some are fuckups and some are both.

You will see how bipolar disorder does not discriminate by race or gender. Many of them died long before we gained a better understanding of this disorder. Some of them committed suicide.

Fifty years from now, our sons and daughters will look back on this age gobsmacked at how underdeveloped we are. How much we self-medicate for our pain and suffering. We smoke and drink and get high and self-medicate and we stay at home and we drink tea and meditate and we walk and exercise and we take our medicine and we try to deal with it and work through it and some of us make it but some people don’t.

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Can you see the bipolar around a person? Is it anything like gaydar, whatever that is? Can you tell just by looking?

Do you ever get paranoid or are you resigned to the difficulty that comes with life?