2016 is gone and good riddance I say. On a personal level there hasn't been much more difficult during my 45 revolutions of the sun than the combined events of the last year.
I was pretty chuffed to reach my target of averaging 1000km a month on the bike. In the end I made it to 12,178km which is a bit less than in some previous years but more than good enough considering I had 3 weeks overseas, some time off sick and it also rained an amazing amount for Canberra! My goal for 2017 is to keep up the distance whilst trying to ride more often with other people. In the last four years I've clocked up just over 50,000km and the majority of it has been by myself.
One of the things I enjoy most about time off work is the opportunity to read. Usually there is so much going on in my head that I can't read for enjoyment and instead throw on some headphones to listen and relax. The local library allows us to "borrow" books electronically so I've read a few ebooks as well as the real thing. At the moment I'm reading the fifth book in Spike Milligan's WWII collection after spotting it on a bookshelf at work. The first three deal with his time in uniform during the war in North Africa and Europe and are frankly hilarious. His descriptions and stories are just priceless. Book four remains a mystery to me as I've never seen it. Knowing Spike it doesn't really exist and this is a huge joke designed to keep me scouring second hand bookshops. The fifth book is about him travelling through parts of Europe immediately post WWII whilst appearing with a band. Probably not as side splittingy funny as the first three but it still has its moments.
I've just finished Duff McKagan's autobiography, "It's So Easy". Duff plays bass guitar for Guns N' Roses as well as Velvet Revolver and Loaded. I'm not a huge GnR fan but I thought I'd give the book a chance anyway and it turned out to be worthwhile. Along with the now seemingly standard 80s heavy rock band antics Duff writes well about his journey to sobriety, family and now success that he actually remembers and enjoys. The story of him destroying his body with drink and drugs and then finally turning all of that around through martial arts, mountain biking and education is pretty inspiring to tell the truth. If you're a Gunners fan then read the book for quite a deep insight into the machinations of the band. If you're just interested in people and the human experience then read it too. I think one of my favourite bits is Dave Dederer (the guitarist from Presidents of the USA - remember them?) helping Duff learn to write essays to get into college.
Presidents of the USA - Peaches - https://youtu.be/VvcohzJvviQ
Velvet Revolver - Fall To Pieces - https://youtu.be/9JhsUFuqbCM
Whilst I sat out the Billy Joel / Elton John show that the band put on for New Year's Eve, George made sure I had plenty of music to listen to. Knowing that I really don't have much time for Phil Collins, the second Genesis album, "Trespass" was included. I'm giving this one a long time to seep into my consciousness though. The few reviews I've read of it are quite divergent and this leads me to believe that it's definitely an LP worth persevering with. Watch this space I guess.
I was saddened by the death of actor William Christopher who was of course most famous as Father Mulcahy in the Korean War TV show M*A*S*H. People die all the time and remember folks, it's natural, but that doesn't mean it's not a downer. Christopher's portrayal of the padre who loved boxing and had a strong sense of what was right and wrong was very much an integral part of M*A*S*H. Whilst Hawkeye was often the outraged, outspoken and over the top anti-war crusader, Mulcahy was the quiet moral compass within us all.
Here's a quick movie review of Captain America: Civil War. In two words, "don't bother". What a waste of screen time and CGI. The film looks great but the storyline is dreadful. Compared to other Marvel films it is a stinker. I just got around to watching Ant-Man and it was a million times better.
I was very fortunate to receive an original vinyl copy of KISS' LP, "Hotter Than Hell", from DJ Al-ee-sunshine for Christmas. What's amazing is that although the cover shows the wear of about 30 years the record itself, seems almost unplayed. It's been played now and it sounds great all these years later. It was interesting to read that in all the cover photos of Ace Frehely his makeup is airbrushed on as he'd injured himself in a motor accident close to the photo shoot.
KISS - Hotter Than Hell (live 1975) - https://youtu.be/EQi0ilHkOMQ
Neil Finn & Paul Kelly got together a while ago for a live concert where they combined their talents. I was sceptical and I needn't have been. Whilst I understand that Paul's voice and Neil's Beatle-esque songs may not be for everyone, this is a well recorded and enjoyable live performance by a couple of bonafide legends obviously having a good time. The energy and enjoyment shine through in the delivery of the songs. I think there is a DVD of this as well so I might have to track it down.
Neil Finn & Paul Kelly - Four Seasons In One Day - https://youtu.be/YTU5gkYa7_4
According to Jason Isbell, the previous song is about his Netflix viewing habits! The good news is that he's about to return to the recording studio to lay down a new album. Woo hoo!
Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free (Live at the Grand Ole Opry) - https://youtu.be/fVP4PqcfOck
Quite a few of my friends have written books and quite successfully at that. A couple of weeks ago I was trying out the ebook app from the library and ended up with. "The Best Music Writing Under The Australian Sun", edited by Christian Ryan as well as, "RockWiz Decades", by Toby Creswell. The collection edited by Ryan was very patchy but a particular piece about a man and his wife at a concert interstate during a family crisis caught my eye. The RockWiz book, however, is fantastic with short pieces about a whole heap of songs that mean something for a huge range of reasons. So I'm inspired and I figure if I put it out there in public that I might just get on and write something about music, gigs and guitars that have had an effect on me. In the end I know that very few people will read it but the fun is seeing if I can cobble something together that is coherent and even half interesting. After writing a few things down I've been fortunate enough to receive some constructive feedback and I'll take it onboard and keep on typing. I'm eternally grateful that, in 1985, my school was forward thinking enough to make us all learn to touch type!
Belle & Sebastian - Wrapped Up In Books - https://youtu.be/iBU-MxydbWQ
Finally, George Michael; dead at only 53. You may or may not agree with all of his life choices but there's no denying that he had an amazing voice. There are quite a few stories emerging about how he was, very quietly, a very generous man and that's something that really warms my heart at a time like this. RIP George.
Wham - Freedom - https://youtu.be/BFwOs-jy53A?t=1m12s
And here's George with Queen from a while back. No-one else even comes close to Freddie Mercury but this is sublime.
George Michael and Queen - Somebody To Love - https://youtu.be/LjZ9Qny7Z28
Have a great 2017 folks.