Tag: music

Year of the Console, September Review. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Welcome back to the TLYW Year of Console Gaming. September is suddenly over and so it is time to say goodbye to Month 9 of our specially extended 14-month year. The game of the month was Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004/15) on the Xbox 360.

The 2015 release of the remastered version of this game was the reason I bought the Xbox two years ago. I desperately wanted to play it and have returned to it more than any other game apart from World of Warcraft over the last two years.

September was a hectic business month and I hardly had any time for gaming; despite this, I made more progress with San Andreas than on previous occasions.

If you are completely new to console gaming, like I was two years ago, having spent 20 years with PC games and their mouse-and-keyboard controls, Grand Theft Auto is a terrible place to start. It is fast paced and you will spend two-thirds of your time behind the wheel of an uncontrollable car, mowing down pedestrians and driving into walls at 100mph as you attempt to escape the police. You will not make any in-game progress and everyone will laugh at you as you handle the car like a drunken child.

This time around, I returned to San Andreas with eight consecutive months of console-handling experience. It was like a different game. I found myself able to control the car, outrun the police, complete quests, etc. And so it came to pass that I finally had the experience I wanted from San Andreas, the experience I knew was awaiting me, where I cruised around the beautiful, West Coast city in a series of progressively more glamorous stolen cars while listening to the deep reggae and hard core rap on the 1990s radio stations and only occasionally slowing down to do a drive-by shooting.

I am pleased to report that we have screenshots and actual gameplay.

Here I am in character as gangster Carl Johnson, aka CJ. In this clip, CJ is at the gym. I mainly included this to demonstrate how camp this game is. OK, so I deliberately dressed CJ in tiny shorts for comic effect, but even so. The shorts were there in the in-game wardrobe in the first place. I have to assume that this is how Rockstar Games wants CJ to look.

In this second clip, CJ is on the back of his friend’s bike. His friend is driving and CJ is shooting at police, very amateurishly. It is sheer dumb luck that I managed to hit anything but nevertheless we successfully finished the quest. There are exciting sequences in this clip such as a huge articulated lorry driving off a bridge.

Screenshots

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Rockstar Games (2004/15), Xbox 360. A third-person, open-world action-adventure game set in 1990s San Andreas, a fictional US state based on California and Nevada.  

Plot and setting: Gangster CJ drives a series of stolen cars around a city that’s essentially Los Angeles in 1992, shooting rival gang members, evading the police and wearing a series of camp outfits.

General remarks: I absolutely loved it, it was everything I hoped for. It is funny. It is exciting. The cars handle beautifully once you’ve learned how to drive. The map is large. The quests are meaningful and contribute to plot development without being constraining. The roads are wide. The scenery is attractive, especially out by the coast. The soundtrack is hands down the best music I’ve ever heard on a game and I couldn’t have asked for more from it. The best moments were just driving around the city, listening to K-JAH West. As you recall, I enjoyed riding my horse around the deserts of Red Dead Redemption (also by Rockstar Games) but then the horse didn’t come equipped with a radio and even if it had, it would have played country & western, which, yanno, one would like to avoid.

Thumbs up: Everything. Music. Pleasure of driving. Map and scenery. Comedy. If you take CJ to the local fast food restaurant and make him eat too many chicken burgers, he will throw up on the floor.

Thumbs down: It’s hard to find anything to criticise. I suppose the graphics can be a bit blocky but it was originally released in 2004. When you take that into account, it looks great.

Return to?  Without a doubt. I will return to this game and keep returning to it until I’ve listened to all of the music and seen all the locations. This was one of my favourite games of the year so far, on a par with Ark: Survival Evolved.

We must close with a tune. This is on the GTASA rare groove radio station Master Sound 98.3. If you played the original version of this game back in 2004 and didn’t wait for the 2015 remaster, then you should congratulate yourself because the original soundtrack was longer and even more funky, if such a thing is imaginable. Cross The Track was produced by James Brown.

Maceo and The Macks: Cross The Track (We Better Go Back) (1975)

 

 

Did you break up with that boy?

Hello, dear readers. I’ve been having a frightfully busy time with work and travel, which is why I haven’t blogged in two weeks or played any video games. I thought about doing some gaming now because I have a night off for the first time in ages, but it was that or talk to you.

I spoke to my mom on the phone yesterday and we had a nice chat. She said ‘did you break up with that boy you were seeing?’ She was referring to Harry, as he was the clear winner of that epic period of romance which happened a few months ago and is referred to here on TLYW as Starry Skies.

‘No!’ I replied, in surprise. ‘Why would I break up with him? He’s lovely and we have a very good quality relationship.’

‘You stopped blogging about him’, said Mom. ‘Well because things are taking off, that’s why, and I wanted to keep it more private’, I said. ‘We are getting to know each other and are probably going to start living together. He is an absolutely delightful boy from a nice family and is kind to his grandmother.’

‘Oh, that’s very good’, she said. ‘That’s so important.’

She is right, it is. That’s why he is special. Added to which he has the brain of a mathematician and the body of a model, is a fantastic cook, loves cleaning and loves me. He is irresistible. He is so cute that he lights the place up like a Christmas tree, it’s like Christmas around here all the time. I couldn’t ask for more, could I.

Harry and I were talking the other day, we were standing in the hall where he was kindly tolerating my smoking out of the window. ‘I think I’ve done very well and that I am lucky to have you’, I said to him. ‘If I ever show signs of forgetting, remind me that I said that’.

So that’s where we’re up to. We are having a Relationship and are going to live together. It’s a big step for me as I’ve been single for 7 years, pretty happily. I am out of practice and a bit nervous. It occurred to me the other day that the last time I entered a new relationship, in the sense of committing to an actual partnership, was 2005. I was 39 then, I’m 51 now. My partner back in 2005 was 29, and my partner now is 24, so there’s that. God damn. I feel young. I also feel a bit like Stephen Fry because I am that fat. I also feel a bit like Calvin Klein because I am that glamorous.

Harry bravely gives his heart to me even though he believes that I will one day tire of him. This just makes me love him more, but he is wrong. I will not tire of him. If he wants a serious relationship, then we will see how serious he wants to get. I wonder what type of wedding he would like to have. Maybe I will get that beach wedding in the Bahamas I’ve always wanted. Not while there’s a hurricane there, obviously. Maybe wait for the weather to calm down.

Shall we have a tune? I think we should. Let’s have some vintage Christina Aguilera. I’ve been using Shazam recently. Enough said.

Christina Aguilera: Back In The Day (2006)

 

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Rockstar Games (2004/15), Xbox 360. A third-person, open-world action-adventure game set in 1990s San Andreas, a fictional US state based on California and Nevada. I am playing single player.

Welcome to Month 9 of the TLYW Year of Console Gaming, which thunders through history like a juggernaut, or, more accurately, like 14 juggernauts, carefully arranged in order of the precise moment of history that they are attempting to blow up.

Having left the Batman of the 1940s behind, we unhesitatingly leap forward 50 years this month, entering the 1990s and things that happened within living memory. This month’s game, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was originally released in 2004, only about 10 years after the period in which it is set. It was then remastered for the Xbox 360 in 2015 and in fact this monumental game is the reason why I even own an Xbox in the first place and why I eventually set out on this year-long quest to become better at console gaming.

GTA: San Andreas follows the adventures of CJ, a member of one of two rival gangs based on the Crips and the Bloods, in a city based on Los Angeles. The game features gang warfare, police brutality and events inspired by the 1992 LA riots that followed the beating of Rodney King. This game might be the centrepiece of the Year of the Console. This will be my second or third attempt at carving out time to play it, over the course of two years, and nothing will stop me this time. I will give it as much time this month as I can make available.

Upon its release in 2004, San Andreas won a string of awards, including Game of the Year, Best Soundtrack, Best Action Game (VGX), Ultimate Game of the Year (Golden Joystick), Best Action Adventure Game, Funniest Game and Best Voice Acting (GameSpot). It has an IGN rating of 9.9. The Best Soundtrack award is for San Andreas’s incredible radio stations, which you listen to while driving stolen cars around Los Santos at 200mph and mowing down rival gang members and the police. There are 11 fully-functional radio stations, 20 DJs, the largest track listing of licensed music ever featured in an action game, hilarious spoof commercials and the genres span rap (of course, it’s LA circa 1992), reggae, rock, pop and country. The radio stations are in themselves a reason for playing. Here’s my favourite, reggae station K-JAH West. So many TLYW favourites on this station.

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas: K-JAH West ft. various artists (2004)

gta_grand_theft_auto_san_andreas_characters_graphics_15843_1920x1080

Tribute video commemorating the game’s 10th anniversary, this is what I am in for all this month. Excitedly awaited.

 

Real Food Market at King’s Cross, London

I was passing through King’s Cross between business meetings, and happened across the Real Food Market.

Bread, cheese and cheesy bread formed the basis of a couple of delicious meals with Harry. I was completely enchanted by the doughnuts and bought several, which I then realised I could not sanely eat, as I am already the size of Mariah Carey and I am supposed to be trying to look attractive for my new boyfriend, albeit not in a spangly leotard, so I took them downstairs to my neighbours.

Here’s a link to the official website. Recommended if you are in the neighbourhood.

http://www.realfoodfestival.co.uk/real-food-markets/kings-cross-market/

Dear old Mariah. Here she is, in fine voice in 1990. I didn’t listen to this kind of music back in the day, I wanted Biggie Smalls, Snoop and Ice Cube, but in retrospect I can appreciate what a great voice she had and that she was only about 20 or 21 at the time of this recording.

Apparently she has a new single out tomorrow.

Mariah Carey: Vision of Love (1990)

I have been travelling and there will be more food and travel news soon.

Church.

Diljit Dosanjh is an Indian actor, singer and all-round celebrity who works in Punjabi and Hindi cinema and the Punjabi music industry. I am mainly posting this for the excellent dancing, Indian culture excels at dance, particularly for men. Dance requires men to be strong yet agile, not so bulked up with inflated, balloon-animal muscles that it reduces their mobility. This is why you don’t see Captain America dancing.

Diljit Dosanjh: Sweetu (2014)

 

In which I waver and have dark moods.

I have been in a funny mood the last couple of days, since about Saturday evening. Irritable, pensive and gloomy. To what shall I attribute it?

  • Could be hormones. I am the right age for swinging hormones, or it could be a time of the month thing or it could be exercise-induced testosterone surges or whatever.
  • Eurgh, I have faulty lights in my house and I have to engage an electrician. If the whole place needs rewiring, it will be very, very expensive, running to thousands of pounds. This is enough to make anyone annoyed and depressed.
  • I went on a carb binge over the weekend because I was just so tired of constantly eating raw vegetables and watching my weight waver within a range of the same two pounds for the last two weeks. I am back on the healthy eating wagon as of this morning. I wrote that sentence and then ate several pieces of Mint Aero with my breakfast smoothie.
  • I want to do demanding exercise classes at my gym but at the same time I am plagued by various allergies and itchy skin right now and I know this is a sign that I’ve run down my immune system instead of boosting it. I need to rest and preserve myself and get my energy up, clear my skin, then resume doing insane classes at the gym where you heave weights around until you pass out.
  • There are certain aspects of work that I find annoying, which I guess is true for everyone. I’m not very patient with bureaucracy.
  • Being in an actual relationship for the first time since 2010 brings its own rewards and challenges. On the rewards side, it is a warm and mutually beneficial social exchange, we are genuinely fond of each other and my house is clean all the time. On the challenges side, I picked someone highly intelligent and observant who notices everything and is very interested in getting to know me. This is unnerving because it is something I haven’t experienced for a long time. Usually, my relationships involve making sure the other person is kept at a distance. We don’t discuss deep, personal topics. I discourage personal remarks and they don’t ask penetrating questions. We keep things light and cheerful. I now realise that I haven’t let anyone get to know me well for several years. I just don’t let people get that close. Also, it’s conceivable that I might be a bit crazy. You don’t notice this as much if you don’t let people in.

So that’s why I’m grumpy today. When I’m in a better mood, I actually have some nice photos to show you, but they will have to wait. Let’s have a tune instead. This is 90s rap artist, Da Brat. In this beautiful video, many famous singers and rappers of the era come together for a party and to see her perform. The vibe is gentle and everyone is happy. For me, the most special and poignant moment is at 1:26, where the late Biggie Smalls, arguably the greatest rapper of all time, arrives with four of his honeys, affectionately holding two of them by the hand. He was always a ladies’ man. Precious moments in rap history. Biggie died of fatal gunshot wounds three years later, in 1997, aged 24. If I could choose between having Princess Diana come back from the dead or Biggie Smalls, I would choose Biggie.

Da Brat: Give It 2 You (1994)

Finally, a definition of “over-exercise”

So, as you know, I have been over-exercising. I can infer this because my hair is shedding in large amounts, my skin is breaking out and I have been unusually exhausted (although, paradoxically, feeling more energetic when awake).

This is very, very annoying, esp the falling hair because I am a woman and I want my hair on my head, not all over the floor. Also, I now can’t get my grey roots dyed until it stops shedding, which could take 2-3 months and I can’t swim because chlorine and swimming caps are hard on your hair.

The thing is, we all know in theory that you shouldn’t over-exercise, but how much is ‘over’? Huh? If I knew that I could have avoided it in the first place. It’s not like I’ve been lifting huge barbells for 8 hours a day or pulling monster trucks with my teeth. I was exercising every day but I didn’t think I was overdoing it, I’m convinced that plenty of athletes and body builders around the world exercise every day and I thought the NHS shared the same view.

OK, so I’ve finally found someone who is willing to specify exactly how much is too much. Shin Ohtake of maxworkouts.com says “When I mean exercising too much, I’m talking at least once a day and for a duration of an hour at minimum doing mostly cardio related activities.” That’s me, isn’t it. I was exercising 7 days/week, for an average of 2 hours, sometimes more, doing mostly cardio, such as vigorously marching up and down hills.

Even more annoyingly, according to Shin, over exercising makes you store and retain fat instead of losing it, which explains why I’ve had no significant weight loss in two weeks.

So, how much exercise should I be doing?

Shin says to stop doing long cardio sessions because it eats away at lean muscle mass and makes you hungry.

Do short (eg 30 minutes), high-intensity workouts instead.

He doesn’t say how many times a week to do this, but I looked up the NHS guidelines and they think that on a weekly basis, 75 minutes of vigorous cardio plus two sessions of resistance exercises is about right.

I would like to keep going to Total Conditioning class at my gym because it is a demanding workout and I feel like I’m getting value for money. That class is about 50 minutes, is certainly vigorous and is mainly strength with some cardio. There’s a second class called Body Pump that sounds similar, hopefully slightly less brutal, so I’m going to try that as well. So that’s my plan for a while. I’m going to take two classes/week at the gym, starting this Monday and in between I’m going to do no exercise at all. We’ll see if that helps. No more 10-mile hikes until further notice.

Thanks for listening to me blathering on. Here’s a tune. Don’t get up and dance. You’ll just wear yourself out.

Iggy Azalea ft. Jennifer Hudson: Trouble (2014)