…of Making Lists with a Vengeance

It’s been a odd year. A good year, for sure, but an odd one. I’ve got a list as long as my arm (I have short arms) of things I’d hoped (and failed) to achieve, but I’ve also got another arm’s worth of awesome adventures, surprises and happy co-incidences. As I get older (and I talk about getting older a lot), I’ve started to realise how unimportant it is to tie our successes and failures to the arbitrary boundaries of a calendar system dreamed up by a bunch of men in togas. The theme of my year has become “These things are what we make them”. Life will sometimes hand us lemons, and other times boxes of chocolate, and sometimes the chocolate boxes will contain only peppermint creams, which are kinda gross unless you like eating chocolate filled with toothpaste, so then you have to hand them back and ask for lemons, because at least you can make lemonade with those if you have enough sugar, which hopefully you do. Point is, good stuff happens and bad stuff happens and how you chose to deal with the stuff is entirely up to you.

Ramble over. Music wise it’s been a mixed year for me (we’ll get to why shortly), so for a change I’m going to expand my review out to include some of that life stuff.

Stuff I did

In April my lady and I travelled to Japan for 7 days, visiting Osaka, Hiroshima and Kyoto. I’ve always had an interest in Japanese culture, but actually visiting the place, seeing the sights and being around the people turned interest into love. It’s a magical place, and I’m hoping it won’t be too long till we’re able to return. In the meantime, I’ll continue spend as much time playing Yakuza and Final Fantasy as I can.

While I was in Osaka, I also made my a life commitment to one of my first true loves.

In an effort to become more active (that is to say, actually active), I started training in Taekwondo. So far I’ve learned that I’m fairly terrible in anything that involved hand, foot and eye co-ordination and I’m pretty much as unfit as I expected. I’m also incredibly un-disciplined. Classes are fun, and I enjoy it while I’m doing it, but making time to practice outside of classes has proven to be difficult. Which is to say that, while I’ve taken a small step towards becoming active Mark, I’m still a long way off actually sticking to this whole ‘self improvement’ thing.

Over the long weekend in October I made another life commitment, this one not Batman related. While on a trip down south with close friends, watching a beautiful sunset over the ocean, I decided it’d be a good time to propose to my lady. Fortunately for me she said yes, even if I didn’t have the foresight to have purchased a ring. We’ve had some amazing adventures together, and I’m very much looking forward to many years of many more.

A good chunk of my November and December were spent in the Philippines. The company I work for bought another company that uses an offshore call centre, so I was sent over for four weeks to train their staff in our systems. Any time my interest in work begins to wain, I’m offered an opportunity that reignites my interest. Working with the staff in Manila was an incredibly rewarding experience, and I can’t help but think that, if the staff at home were half as passionate about their work, I’d be less reliant on drugs to get me through the day.

Stuff I liked

Childish Gambino‘s Everything: I was already a huge Community fan, but when I heard Donald Glover was releasing music under the name Childish Gambino, I set about obtaining all I could. Fortunately, most of his past work is available on his website, I Am Donald. If you like any of it, make sure you go out and buy his album Camp

The Naked and Famous’ Passive Me, Aggressive You: Sure, our nation’s youth radio network kinda played the death out of Young Blood and Punching in a Dream over the last 18 months, but their debut album dripping with awesome, and has been my go-to for any time I’ve needed a pick-me-up during the year.

Post Rock Bands Red Sparowes, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Explosions in the Sky, Hideki Taniuchi, MONO: All bands I’d heard I should listen to, but it wasn’t until this year that I gave them the time they deserved. It was on a table in a tattoo studio in Osaka where I first heard Red Sparowes; the soundtrack to a truly transcendent experience. The rest have all been sitting in hibernation on my iPod until I was ready.

The Twilight Singer’s Dynamite Steps: Any year that features a new release from The Twilight Singers (or any Greg Dulli project for that matter) is a good year. This year we were spoilt with both Dynamite Steps, and the Singer’s first ever official live album. It was also the year that the number ofTwilight Singers releases overtook the number of that other band he used to play with. And just as we thought he’d been able to escape the shadow of the amazing Afghan Whigs, they go and announce a reformation tour for 2012.

Podcasts: (See also: The reason music took a back seat this year). Here’s my theory – when you reach a certain age, the sound of musics in your ears becomes less appealing when compared to the sounds of people talking about things that you’re interested in. It’s why I figure older people listen to talk-back radio. And now I’m old, I guess this is where my brain is heading. So, this year my ears have spent much time listening to people talk about stuff that I like, including comics via the fantastic chaps at Noncanonical, nerdy interests via The Nerdist, and stand-up comedy via WTF with Mark Maron. I’ve been educated and inspired, and I’m hoping to do something with it all in 2012.

And I saw perform live:

Owen Pallett, The Antlers, Warpaint, Blonde Redhead, Les Savy Fav, Foals, One Day as a Lion, Primus, one of my teen heroes Slash, Rob Zombie, Third Eye Blind, Stone Temple Pilots, UNKLE (thanks Ryan), Gary Numan, The Grates (including an awesome hug from Patience), the disappointing Modest Mouse, The Hives, The Kills, Pulp, Elbow, Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, the face meltingly good …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Mono, The Walkmen and the phenomenal The National.

2012 is already shaping up to be a big year. I’ve tickets purchased to see Roger Waters perform The Wall in January, Laneway Festival and Roxette Feb, Henry Rollins in May, and European travel plans for July. Plus weddings galore and adventures aplenty.

And maybe more than 3 blog posts. But no promises there.


Author: Mark Ampersand

Budding writer, connoisseur of fine popular culture and Batman fan.

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