On the record 2018, Week 46 – Making the difficult choices

I’m gonna get right to it – this week I had to make the choice between Imagine Dragons and Muse. HARD. In the end, despite knowing that I’d love the Imagine Dragons album, I figured I should go for something a little bit more outside my comfort zone.

And so, Mr C’s choice has to be something a little bit different. It didn’t take long for us to settle on Joan Jett – kick-ass rockstar. I wanted to listen to Bad Reputation but unfortunately that’s not available on Apple Music. So, instead, it’s all about rock ‘n roll.

It’s gonna be a pretty rocking week I think!

Out of the shadows

When we watched the new Tomb Raider film back in July, I was quite inspired by some of the behind the scenes footage that showed Alicia Vikander getting super fit to play the role. I wanted to be super fit like that too! Get to the gym, lady, and sort it out!

It worked, for a bit. But how funny, then, that it’s also the fault of Lara Croft that my workout schedule has been interrupted in recent weeks.

I wrote some initial impressions of Shadow of the Tomb Raider and I’m glad to say that getting to the end of the game has only increased my satisfaction – obsessed is a word I would use, particularly getting through those last few levels.

To reiterate and expand on my thoughts:

  • The story was a lot more interesting than the last two, I thought. Granted, I still skipped a lot of the detail of the documents but followed all the cut scenes with interest.
  • The locations are dazzling, it’s no wonder they put in that photo mode. Gorgeous.
  • The facial expressions on these characters are amazing. Even the slightest raised eyebrow, or the crinkled nose of a thought process, very well done.
  • Great puzzles, really, really good. And some echoes of ye olde Tomb Raider too.
  • Lots of lovely running and jumping and catching and climbing. That’s my area.
  • Swimming controls are impossible. That’s not my area.
  • The physics of the overhang climbs and jumps is… questionable to my mind.
  • The animals are brutal in this – jaguars and wolves and god knows what else.
  • The Cenote level is about as disturbing as it gets, we ran through that in the quickest time possible.
  • The Hidden City though, absolutely glorious. Huge, sprawling, packed with real people with real stories doing real things. It got repetitive by the end, I’ll admit, but what a joy to run around a piece of civilisation rather than solely spending time alone in the jungle.
  • I don’t know if it’s intentional or a bug but there’s a bit where you can get attacked by piranhas and then jump out on to a raft and they’ll still be nibbling at you until gradually fading out. Nightmare-inducing..
  • Did I mention the swimming controls are hard?
  • If you are playing this now and come across the wandering merchant, buy the lock pick and the rope ascender IMMEDIATELY. You will need them both and you will never be able to find her again.

This time out, we went a bit nerdy, and kept a track of everything we could think of. In previous years, we’ve taken the route of getting as far as we can through a game and then resorting to a walkthrough of some kind (recommended) to get the coveted 100%.

For this game, with our increased enjoyment, enhanced concentration, and a Bear app full of #tombraider notes, we got to about 97% without any assistance at all. We were missing a revisit of one whole level (who knew you could go back to Cozumel?), a couple of base camps and documents, plus a challenge that I would genuinely never have found without help.

The relief at getting to the end was clear but equally, what a ride it was. And we opted for a season pass purchase so will be looking at new stuff very soon. This game really was the gift that kept on giving.

Cake or crumble

I mentioned before how the household is looking to make healthier choices, and that involves me spending a bit more time in the kitchen than I have been doing over the last few years. I’m not the best cook, but I do quite enjoy the process and whilst my presentation skills are essentially non-existent, I can occasionally whip something together that tastes nice.

At the moment, my mealtime focus has turned to using fresh ingredients wherever possible, and avoiding ready meals. It takes a bit more effort, but is worth it. Meanwhile, my baking focus has turned towards sugar-free. I was a bit sceptical of the sugar-free movement when it first arrived (and by that I mean when Davina first started banging on about it), but now I’m intrigued.

I don’t think I have a particular problem with sugar but I quite like the idea of replacing it where possible, and that means I have now actually bought both of Davina’s books and tried a few recipes.

The digestive biscuits were nice but not quite what I was hoping for. The flapjacks were delicious but crumbly as anything. And last weekend, I tried my hand at the Victoria sponge cake.

If I thought the flapjacks were crumbly, the cake… it was on another level. I took one picture which I had to significantly crop to try and make it as presentable as possible. This doesn’t quite capture the carnage as soon as we tried to slice the cake. Nor the clean up efforts required once it was demolished.

My immediate tweeting was thus:

It really did taste amazing. The spelt flour added a nutty flavour, the maple syrup replacing the sugar and bringing its own unique taste. Although the presentation wasn’t the best (crumbled up cake in a bowl with a spoon – enjoy!) the taste made up for it.

Now my mission is to figure out sugar-free mince pies in time for the festive season. There’s no way they can be as crumbly too, right? RIGHT?

On the record 2018, Week 45 – Not water under the bridge quite yet

This week, I’ve opted for an album that probably would have passed me by any other time, but I’ve heard the main single from it so many times on Julie’s Beats1 show that it’s lodged in my brain. EL MAL QUERER by ROSALÍA. There’s also a Beats1 special where she goes through the album track by track, which I’ll also have to listen to. It makes a big difference when you can put these things in context.

Mr C’s pick this week is in the completely opposite direction. We realised I had only listened to a more recent Red Hot Chilli Peppers album, and that needed to be rectified quite quickly. So: Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Which I am spending quite a lot of time calling Love Angel Music Baby because I am weird. Looks like quite a long album, but should be interesting.

Oh, Mr C is also hoping this will rectify my “mistaken” belief that the All Saints version of Under the Bridge is better than the original.

Are you Team TARDIS?

We’ve seen four episodes of the new series of Doctor Who and that’s long enough for me to cast my opinion on the whole thing. Heck, it only took a couple of episodes to know I wasn’t keen on Capaldi, but where do I stand on the Whittaker era?

Good news: I love it! It’s fresh, fast, funny, approachable, likeable, different and new. Here are five slightly more specific thoughts:

  • I really like this Doctor.I mean, Jodie Whittaker is brilliant with it. It’s lovely to have a more upbeat Doctor rather than one tormented by so many demons gone by. I’m sure we’ll see some of that as she begins to find herself, but for now it makes a refreshing change. I really like the balance between the cockiness we know of the Doctor coupled with the uncertainty of being in a new body – that’s lasting longer than usual, I think, and I like it. More than anything, I just enjoy that Jodie’s Doctor is reminiscent of David Tennant’s: kinda quirky, trying to fit in, mostly having fun, holding their own when required.
  • They are officially Team Tardis.The one member of the team I, and many others, weren’t sure about when the group was announced was Bradley Walsh. I’ve not really had an opinion on him one way or the other before, but could his cheeky chappy daytime quiz show style fit the sci-fi universe? I actually think Team Tardis are a really good crew. Misfits, with Yas and Ryan providing the young and enthusiastic element, and Bradley providing just a bit of grounding. It’s an interesting part he’s playing really – up for it but also nervous, vulnerable, asking the questions we often want to ask. Given recent companions such as Clara and Bill who were ready to explore every inch of the universe and then some, this more tentative attitude is fascinating.
  • There’s a clear new style on show.Lots of close ups, lots of blurry moments, playing around with depth and deception, faces looming in and out in a dream-like state. Sometimes I think it can be slightly over-used but overall I like the more arty style.
  • Standalone stories. As mentioned, it’s nice that this Doctor is so far upbeat and not tormented. It’s also nice that these seem to be straight forward monster-of-the-week stories. There’s no over-arching big bad, not yet. I think there’s room for both in Doctor Who, but at the minute it’s nice to have the standalone episodes.
  • There are some niggles. I like pretty much everything I’ve seen so far, but it’s worth pointing out two things. I really like the outfit, it’s functional and iconic, but I can’t be the only person that spends at least ten minutes of each episode worrying that the gorgeous coat will get dirty? Also, I am not on board with the new theme tune at all.

So to sum up, I’m on board. It’s not perfect but I’ve enjoyed each episode so far and look forward to the next, and that’s pretty much all I ask from my Doctor.

On the record 2018, Week 44 – That’s what I deserve

We’re really getting towards the sharp end of the year now and album releases are picking up. I’ve got seven weeks of this year’s album adventure left and at least ten albums that I had hoped to fit in. Some hard decisions are going to be made about who makes the cut this year and who gets relegated to next year.

I’ve also noticed a significant number of albums left on my 2017 list that are soon going to drop out of my reach. (For those new to the game, my choices have to be current year or prior year.)

I do move my leftover albums to Mr C’s list (he gets the pick of the rest of musical history, so unfair) but I don’t know how many ever make it to my ears. Oh well. It’s no bad thing for there to be too much music in the world.

Anyway, this week:

Empress, by RAY BLK. I love, love, love Run Run, and Empress is pretty good, so hopefully the album stacks up. It’s only short but I’m hoping it’s brilliant.

And Mr C’s choice this week is OK Computer by Radiohead. Which Apple Music previews with the following: “The greatest album of all time? Plenty of polls suggest that, with Radiohead’s third set of songs frequently vying for that almighty accolade.” So , no pressure then.