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Stranger Things
After the disappointment of watching "MEN" at the pictures I was very happy to be able to go home and finish watching "Volume One" of season four of "Stranger Things" which has, not to put too fine a point on it, been AMAZING.

In preparation for this series I had sat myself down earlier in the year and re-watched all three seasons so far, and been very surprised indeed by how BRILLIANT it was. As is my FOOLISH WONT I had watched each series in a MAD RUSH the first time around, staying up late and frantically pressing "next episode" whenever prompted, so probably not giving enough time for each one to properly sink in. THUS I remembered it as a whole lot of fun, but had not appreciated quite how DELIGHTFUL it all is, especially the CHARACTERS. As I re-watched I realised how beautifully done it all was, notably the REDEMPTIVE ARC of Steve, who is pretty much my favourite in the whole thing. Him and Dustin, him and Robin, even him and Jonathan, all of these relationships were done a) really nicely and b) in SURPRISING ways. I mean, most of the characters had good bits like this, but Steve was my favourite.

THUS I was extremely happy when the new series started to find a whole HEAP of the early episodes seemed to be about Steve and Robin PALLING AROUND. It is, I think, the mark of a GRATE show when you yearn for an episode where Not Much Happens so that you can just enjoy the characters, and the early stages of this series had a whole heap of that. There are so many characters now, and so many storylines, that it was lovely to have such LONG episodes in which they could all toddle on and do their bit for a while. I was almost disappointed when THE SPOOKY STUFF finally started to happen!

When it DID however, it was also done really well. What I love about this show (NB OK ONE of the things I love about this show) is that they BLATANTLY do homages to all sorts of different things, but do it PROPERLY and also in NEW WAYS. You never feel that they're taking the piss out of 80s Horror Films or whatever, and the way that they use the TROPES from them in interesting ways is I RECKON part of how they make the plots so a) confidently what you expect but b) suddenly totally what you didn't. There is a huge chunk of the final episode which, without going into detail, made me go "What? WOT?" and "I did not expect that AT ALL" and also "BUT OF COURSE now it all makes sense!" It was really really good!

It's also got The Kate Bush bits which, as someone who has never really signed for up Kate Bush Love, are BRILLIANT, and some right proper scary monsters, and some fab callbacks to previous storylines and characters, and also, vitally, ACTUAL FUNNY BITS. Unlike, for example, "Men", it does not confuse Being Well Done And Interesting with Being BORING, and there were loads of sections where I LARFED out LOUD.

What I'm saying is that I liked it a LOT and am slightly DISTRAUGHT to realise that the final episodes are out when I'm a) away at a conference and then b) doing a GIG, especially as the latter features numerous other people who will probably have finished it by then. GUYS! NO SPOILERS!

posted 23/6/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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I went to the PICTURES on Saturday to see the film "Men". I'd read a little bit about it and it seemed interesting, but I must admit that I was mostly going because the PREMISE seemed quite similar to a screenplay what I wrote a few years ago called 6 Billion To One in which, to quote the BLURB, "A scientist accidentally creates a nano-virus which makes all humans look identical, except for one woman. She and the scientist must fight their way across an England in chaos to find a cure before the religious cults and corporate armies who rule this new world can stop them." I didn't think the actual STORY of this film would be like mine, but I was quite interested to see how the general idea of most of the parts being played by one person would WORK.

My most recent experience of going to the VUE to see a film had been really good, but this one was a bit more MIXED. When I got to the ticket gate I was told my film wouldn't be "ready" until about 20 minutes after the advertised time, and that I should wait in a HOLDING AREA until then. As it turend out, the film was actually STARTING then, as all films tend to, so when I eventually got to the screen pretty much the whole rest of the audience was already there. It was in one of the tiny SECRET UPSTAIRS ROOMS they have there which are really weird - for instance when I followed the signs for the LOO I found myself in a strange, cavernous backstage area, like a CAR PARK except with big illuminated screen for each of the fire exits from the screens. It was largely populated by lost souls also searching for the loo, and a COMRADERY evolved between us as we quested forth.

I got back JUST as the film was starting, and was immediately put on edge by a load of TALKING. There was a group of teenage girls sat in the row behind me who did not seem to realise how films work i.e. YOU ARE NOT AT HOME. I tried doing a PADDINGTON STARE, but a) that didn't work at all and b) I was horribly conscious that trying to SILENCE YOUNG WOMEN during a film called "Men" was not a good look for me AT ALL. Also, c) as the film went on I had more and more sympathy with their need to have a bit of a chat to pass the time.

For LO! It was Not Very Good At All. It felt less like a MOVIE and much more like a SET TEXT in search of an 'A' LEVEL, especially when it kept going "LOOK! It's THE GREEN MAN! Oooh, and who's this? Sheela Na Gig? WOT DOES THAT MEAN EH?!?" Also it was one of those films that confuse being profound and meditative with being PROFOUNDLY BORING. There were huge long bits where the lead character just LOOKED at things for ages. "Yes yes, it is a TREE/stained glass window/representation of oppression, WE GET IT" I kept thinking. "GET ON WITH IT."

Disappointingly, the whole "Rory Kinnear plays nearly everybody" aspect was pretty much no fun at all. Partly this was because it wasn't meant to be, I guess, but also because, in the nicest possible way, he is not exactly CHAMELEONIC i.e. he looks like Rory Kinnear In A Wig And/Or Bad False Teeth in pretty much every scene. There's one (ONE) bit where they use Special Effects quite cleverly to make him look ACTUALLY different, but for the most part I kept thinking "Is that meant to be a different character, or just the previous one in a silly wig?"

This was especially Not Very Good in the final section which, without spoilers, does sort of rely on all the different MEN being around but instead looks like Just The Same Rory Kinnear Again And Again. It's meant to be HORRIFIC and TERRIFYINGLY WEIRD but after a while of Just The Same Rory Kinnear Again I sympathised with a) the girls chatting behind me and b) the main character, who just wandered off into another room while it was all going on. "Come and get me when this bit's finished", she seemed to be saying, as Intense Body Horror continued to continue, and I for one supported her.

The special effects were quite good, and Jessie Buckley was very good as Not Rory Kinnear (and Rory Kinnear is an EXCELLENT Rory Kinnear in all things), but the whole experience was very much like being harangued by someone who thinks they're the only person to have ever watched the Wicker Man and has had a GRATE idea for a follow-up. OR, as I read in a review today, "like League Of Extraoridinary Gentlemen without the jokes". Basically, I did not like it very much, and YEARNED for some GAGS!

posted 21/6/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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So Much Telly
I've read a few articles lately saying that the current Golden Age Of Telly is coming to an end, as you can no longer get ALL THE TELLY by having Netflix, Prime and a Now TV subscription. In some ways I can see this, as there are loads of Fancy Shows on Apple, HBO etc that I CAN'T watch but to be honest there is SO MUCH GRATE telly on at the moment that I would rather not have the extra hassle of having to watch even more!

I was thinking about this last week as I REELED from the arrival of Ms Marvel on my list of shows to watch, when I ALREADY had Obi Wan Kenobi and Pistol and Night Sky and Missions on the go (as well as the ongoing DELIGHT of Frasier which doesn't really count as New Telly OBVS) and the prospect of TONNES more. "Why are all these shows suddenly coming on, all at the same time, when there have been not many for AGES?" I wondered to myself, foolishly. It took me about a week to realise that maybe, JUST MAYBE, it might be because of that whole PANDEMIC what we had, which probably had as much effect on TELLY MAKING as it did on Me Going Into The Office. "Oh right," I thought. "That'll probably be it."

It has made for EXCITING TIMES for me anyway - I always LOVE the fact that there are all these well-made and exciting science fictions shows on these days, and especially the fact that I can actually WATCH most of them. As I have said previously, when I was but a child such things used to be the sole domain of listings for Thames Television and LWT, while we were stuck with FARMING PROGRAMMES on Anglia, and so I really appreciate being able to access them now. Also, most of them are GRATE.

"Pistol", for instance, was a HUGE amount of fun. I didn't get a whole lot out of the first episode, and considered giving up on it, but then I DID watch the second one and realised that it was basically a follow-up to Birth Of The Beatles. This is one of the all time BEST Rock Biogs, which pretty much set the template for all that followed, with its repetition of All The Famous Stories, loads of Oddly Wigged Actors playing other celebrities, and of course the traditional Sticking Song Titles Into Dialogue. I think it was the bit where Johnny Rotten says to Sid Vicious "We should call you Sid, after my hamster, who is Quite Vicious" and they both go "HANG ON!" that made me love it, but then it goes on to have lots of ace stuff about Being In A Band and also What The 1970s were really like. I loved it!

"Missions" was less good, in that it started off TRES MUCH like a French Blakes 7 in the first series (good story, cheap sets), then became like a French Doctor Who From The 1980s in the second (loads of crazy science fiction ideas that aren't matched by production itself) and then sadly became a French Lost by the end (entirely nonsensical and disappointing).

Still, with those out of the way there was space for MORE shows, so alongside the aforesaid ongoing "Obi Wan Kenobi" (surprisingly good, although maybe that's just because it's not as DULL as "Boba Fett") and "Ms Marvel" (WONDERFUL) I've now got dug into "Stranger Things" series four. I watched the first three series again earlier this year, and was amazed to find that it was even better than I remembered. The BEST bit about it was how GRATE all the characters are - I especially enjoyed the CHARACTER ARC that Steve goes through, and so when a large chunk of the first episode was just him and Robin PALLING AROUND I was very happy indeed. To be honest I would be more than satisfied if that was the whole thing, possibly with Lucas' sister joining in occasionally, so I was mildly disappointed when The Spooky Stuff began. Having said that, I've just watched The Kate Bush episode, which was (SPOILER-FREE REVIEW) bloody brilliant.

And even after all THAT telly I've still got "The Boys" and "Umbrella Academy" and "She-Hulk" and "Only Murders In The Building" lined up, plus getting round to finishing "Night Sky" (which is not QUITE as exciting/funny as the others) and who knows what else. Oh, and the new "Game Of Thrones" of course, and eventualy RTD back on "Doctor Who", and ... well, you get the idea. Truly, there is SO MUCH TELLY!

posted 16/6/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Recording Update
Development of the new solo album continues APACE, notably this week with a drastic change to the very title itself. Originally I was going to call it "Back To The Office" with the cover being a picture of me sat at a desk in reference to the cover of "Back In The Juge AGANE", but the other day I had a new idea that was a) a bit less BORING than that and b) a lot easier to photograph. ALSO it was somewhat RIDICULOUS, and PRECISELY the sort of thing that I would never be able to get away with usually. Part of the PLAN for this album is to do it all myself without consulting ANYBODY about ANYTHING, thus hopefully making a whole load of idiotic mistakes that would never usually happen, and I feel that the title and image chosen will be a prime example. FEAR NOT, gentle reader, it is nothing AWFUL, but I do think it is quite funny!

Other IDEAS include a GRATE Dance Routine what I have devised for a song about a specific Change Management Methodology, and making stumbling steps towards the realms of TIK TOK which I am going to vaguely try to use to promote it all. These may all take a while to actuall DO but, as I continue to remind myself, the world is not exactly DEMANDING I finish this quickly, so I'm going to take my time!

RECORDING itself has also continued. Last week I got to the stage where there was a DRAFT of every track, and so settled down to try doing some MASTERING. Usually I do this by just sticking tracks into my audio software and pressing COMPRESS, but early attempts weren't coming through hugely satisfactory, so I thought I'd have a go at LEARNING how to do it properly. THUS I downloaded a proper guide which was full of loads of stuff I didn't understand AT ALL, although it did have a couple of really helpful points, notably that you should select a few GUIDE tracks by other acts to listen to in order to work out LOUDNESS and so on. I chose "Kaizen" by Peaness, "Chaise Longue" by Wet Leg and "I Guess I Drifted" by Gavin Osborn. The album doesn't really SOUND like any of these (chance would be a fine thing!) but that's mostly what I'm listening to and LIKING at the moment, so it seemed like something to aim for.

This mostly worked well - apart from GUITARS nearly all of the other instruments have been done via MIDI, so the quality sounded pretty good - until I got to mixing the VOCALS. These sounded rather less good, which I'm sure will come as a terrifying surprise to most. Obviously my SINGING is a thing of joy and wonder, so that couldn't be the problem, and I soon realised that it must be at least partly to do with how it was recorded. I have been using the microphone in my old digital four-track so far, which is not wonderful, and so I've since spent AGES trying to work out how to make it better. Eventually, after wondering about breaking my own RULES and going to an actual STUDIO to record all the vocals, I remembered that I had a tiny condensor microphone that I used to use on my PREVIOUS digital four track to record Totally Acoustic shows. The microphone socket on that device stopped working, which is why I got the new one, but THAT one didn't have "ghost power", which meant the microphone stopped working.

To cut an EXTREMELY LONG and (I think) VERY INTERESTING story short, I spent a couple of hours digging around in my Drawer Of Wires, looking up the above mentioend Ghost Power, mucking around with different leads and sockets, and delving into the hidden mysteries of LATENCY before FINALLY getting to the point where I could use the condenser microphone to record vocals DIRECTLY into my actual laptop. I was hugely delighted by this possibility, and so the next stage of proceedings will be to a) do remixes AGANE of everything without vocals b) attempt to do NEW vocals for everything in this way then c) MIX it and hope it all works this time. As stated previously, nobody is screaming for a release date (although I am sure they will be once these THRILLING DETAILS are UNLEASHED) so i can take my time with it.

I'm also very conscious that it's highly likely nobody will either notice or care about all this - I was reminded of this the other day after about half an hour of worrying about some PIZZICATO VIOLINS in the last ten seconds of one song - but it's a highly enjoyable project for now. I look forward to unleashing the finished product out into the waiting world, maybe even some time this year!

posted 9/6/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Everything Everywhere
I went to the PICTURES at the weekend to see the film "Everything Everywhere All At Once". It was advertised as being funny and about the multiverse, which is pretty much the dictionary definition of Right Up My Street, and indeed I can confirm that it was so far up my street that it was parked outside my house obstructing access to the pavement.

Before I even got INTO the cinema, however, there was a Delightful Incident. I booked my seat using one of those MACHINES they have nowadays, but got a bit confused about where the FRONT of the cinema was. I like to sit RIGHT near the front when I go on my own, as it means I can stretch my legs and go to the loo whenever I want, so I selected what I thought was the front row but then realised there were more seats, so scrolled up and selected the actual front row instead. I paid and was a bit surprised to find it was a LOT more - DOUBLE in fact - than the advertised "£6.99 any time" but assumed that the "any time" had some caveats and headed for the escalators up to the main bit of the cinema.

I'd just got ON the escalator when a small girl chased after me, waving a piece of paper. "You forgot your ticket!" she said. "Poor sweet foolish child," I thought, "I've got my ticket right here!" Being the DELIGHT what I am, however, I ran back down the escalator towards her and grabbed it, thanking her profusely as I did so. It was only as I ascended the moving staircase that i realised that, hang on, maybe this IS my ticket, and I'd actually pressed the "select seat" twice rather than "move seat". I didn't hold out much hope for sorting it out, but asked on the way into the screens and was directed towards The Manager. She looked a) harassed b) barely into her twenties, but she appraised the situation and then just SORTED it in about 20 seconds. I was AMAZED and DELIGHTED at this Efficient And Entirely Satisfactory Interaction, although she did seem a bit surprised by quite how pleased I was. Well done, Stratford vue Cinema!

The film itself was obviously FAB. Apart from the description at the top I had no idea what it was going to be like, and was a bit disappointed at first that it seemed to be a Normal Film about a family running a laundromat, with only very brief hints of Science Fiction. HOWEVER. That soon began to change, and then it changed A LOT before becoming an UTTERLY GRATE parade of BIG IDEAS and also HUGE FUN. There is one gag in PARTICULAR that at first seemd to be Just A Bit Of Fun, then became an HILARIOUS PARODY, but then paid off MASSIVELY as an Actual Huge Part of the entire film. People who Have Seen The Film: I mean the bit that starts with her hands not working. People Who Have Not Seen the Film: GO AND SEE THE FILM.

I'm not ENTIRELY sure that I've fully got to grips with how the main idea of swapping over universes works, but I don't really mind as SO MUCH of it had SO MUCH in it. There were loads of other excellent gags which, again, kept on going as part of the film, and I don't think I have ever become quite so emotionally involved in two rocks before. Or googly eyes. Or a racoon. Or... oh you get the idea, it is ACE!

As is my WONT, as soon as I got out at the end I looked up the REVIEWS and was surprised to see that The British Press had been a bit down on it. Why I was surprised I do not know - this is the same The British Press who have started EVERY review of ANYTHING even vaguely related to superheroes for the past decade with "It looks like the Marvel bubble is finally bursting" and cry out for "imaginative film making" then give five stars to yet another DULL SOBFEST about Poor People made by Extremely Posh People. It's all a bit dreary, but it surprises me every time. STILL, let's not worry about that for now, as THIS review is giving it ALL THE STARS and advising you heartily to go and see it, as it is GRATE!

posted 8/6/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Jubilee Vehicular Excitement
On the Bank Holiday myself and The Trains On My Rails travelled into London's fashionable Central London area of London to avail ourselves of some of the Jubilee Excitement. A big chunk of our own excitement was down to the fact that we were going there and back via THE ELIZABETH LINE which was really rather wonderful - a bit like when St Pancras opened, or when The Olympics happened, it is a THING that is a) British but also b) surprisingly really well done. It was also FAST!

We got into town and then strolled to Trafalgar Square, where we found an ENORMOUS crowd of people standing around waiting for things to happen. We were there in this situation for about half an hour, with everybody being incredibly calm, perfectly pleasant, and altogether not how I remember large crowds like this being. There was no shoving or screaming or Beligerent Smoking or anything!

As the half an hour went on I got increasingly Mildly Fed Up. We'd turned up hoping to get there just in time for the RAF flypast, but it seemed to take FOREVER. We used to live RIGHT on the flight path for these, and used to be able to watch it all go over our heads in the back garden when we lived in Leytonstone, and INDEED it goes pretty close to us now, but this was the first time we'd specifically gone into TOWN to see one. As time ticked on I was thinking "Flipping heck, was this worth it?" and then the PLANES went over and COR! was it EVER! They went RIGHT overhead (OBVS as we were just next to The Mall) and were REALLY low, which was particularly impressive when it was the HERCULES, and UTTERLY AMAZING when it was THE LANCASTER BOMBER. There is something about a Lancaster Bomber that brings out the TINY WEE CHILD in me, and I found myself SQUEALING and CLAPPING DELIGHTEDLY.

The whole thing was ACE - I am fully aware of, and fully support, the arguments against a Constitutional Monarchy (e.g. it engrains and celebrates the idea that some people get to have more than everybody else just because of who their parents were) but CRUMBS I don't half enjoy a flypast, especially when a bunch of typhooons ZOOM overhead in a big "70" and especially especially when the Red Arrows turn up. Has there ever been a better way of ending anything EVER than having the Red Arrows zoom overhead? NO. THERE HAS NOT.

After that we wandered through the almost entirely amiable crowd up to the British Museum for a spot of lunch and a look at the Mary Gillick: Modelling The Queen's Portrait exhibition. I am on record as saying I enjoy A Museum Of One Thing and this was very nearly An Exhibition of One Exhibit i.e. a plaster cast made for the first coin with the Queen's head on. It was Quite Interesting, though the way they blithely said that the BIG plaster version was turned into the MOULD for the actual coin by "reduction by mechanical means" left a LOT of questions unanswered and led to a LOT of googling, which in turn eventually led to the wikipedia page about reducing machines.

posted 6/6/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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People Everywhere
On Sunday I headed into London's fashionable ISLINGTON area of London, fighting my way past all the people buying Islington Suits to do Islington Lawyering (or whatever is supposed to go on there these days - as far as I could see it was mostly FURNITURE) in order to get to The Bill Murray pub for an ACTUAL GIG!

For LO! Mr G Osborn was playing, and I rolled up in SUCH good time that I was there before everybody apart from the bar staff, who had just opened up. Gav rolled up shortly after, along with tour buddy Gecko, and then about A HUNDRED MILLION other people (approx), roughly (roughly) 40% of whom I knew. I was fully expecting to see Mr M Tiller and Mr S Hewitt as we'd pre-arranged, but then there was a FLOOD of Totally Acoustic regulars, pals of old and even Harry From The MA in the end, which was all a bit overwhelming. It was BLOODY BRILLIANT, obvs, as most of these people I had not seen for TWO YEARS, and also GRATE to find out what everyone was up to, but it is a long old time since I was in an environment where people COULD just turn up, and actually DID. It felt like... old times?

The gig itself was fab - as mentioned before Gav's album is EXCELLENT, and having done some REVISION beforehand I now find myself singing them all the time. "I guess I drifted" is the current FAVE, for instance, but it is all GRATE.

Afterwards we did the traditional business of wandering down to the pub for CHAT and AGANE it all felt weirdly NOVEL but also FAMILIAR. We used to do this all the time, and it was lovely to do it again now. It was less lovely staggering home and being convinced I had COVID the next day (symptoms: dry mouth, bubbly tummy, bad head - WHAT CAN IT MEAN?) but otherwise it was rather wonderful to be back!

posted 1/6/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Over the course of the last six years or so, whilst doing THE PHD, I have struggled with what to CALL one of the key ASPECTS of it. It's to do with what makes Doctor Doom (or whatever character you're talking about) Doctor Doom (or whatever character you're talking about), and I've always ended up saying "the Doctor Doom-ness of Doctor Doom" (or whatever... you get the idea). People generally tend to GET this, but it never feels particularly elegant, and I have long wished to sort it out, preferably via a FANCY WORD. Academics LOVE fancy words, and I wanted to GET one.

The problem was always that I didn't KNOW one, but then the other day I realised I had a vast well of RESOURCE which I could use i.e. BRAINY people on Facebook! Over the past few months I have asked a few questions using this method, and have been delighted to discover that I know LOADS of people a) with MIGHTY BRANES b) who are very happy to help, and so I put it to them: "WOT", I enquired, "is a good word for this?"

Good golly, but I was not prepared for the influx of BRANES which ensued. Lots of great ideas came forth, which tended to fall into a number of CAMPS. The first were words around the idea of the "essence" of a character - the things which quintessentially make them THEM. This may sound like exactly what I'm on about, and certainly fitted with how I phrased the question, but to my understanding they sounded like ESSENTIAL things that only that character could have, and without them would not BE that character. That doesn't quite fit with what I'm after because the Doctor Doom-ness of Doctor Doom is NOT exclusive to him (or to one version of him) nor does he HAVE to have all those aspects to BE a Doctor Doom. Lots of characters have a green cape for example without being Doctor Doom, and there are Doctor Dooms which have a slightly DIFFERENT coloured cape but are still him. Similarly, when I ran my survey, most people thought that it was essential for Doctor Doom to hate Reed Richards, but when I looked at the actual TEXTS there were several versions of Doom where Reed Richards doesn't even EXIST, and yet he was still clearly Doctor Doom.

Crikey, I have written "Doctor Doom" a lot of times there - you can see why I wanted to find a terminology that didn't have his name in it ! The next category were SPIRITUAL terms which were a bit more like it, but also slightly too QUALITATIVE, in that they were BROADER than I needed and tended to become more about who one specific individual was, rather than the big old bunch of different yet RELATED versions of the same character that I was after.

None of these MIGHTY THORTS were in any way WRONG, by the way, and I was DELIGHTED that so many people came up with so many GRATE ideas, but there was one clear winner amongst all of them that fitted my requirements precisely, and that was "Haecceity". This was suggested by my old pal Mr C Lawson, and wins because a) it is GREEK and therefore FANCY and b) it directly translates as "THIS-NESS", which is bloody perfect. Not only do phrases like "The Haeccity of Doctor Doom" (almost) literally translate as meaning "The Doctor Doom-ness of Doctor Doom" and similarly "The Haeccity of Lara Croft" as "The Lara Croft-ness of Lara Croft" but it ALSO sounds hilariously (NB to me anyway) MADE UP, as if some Ancient Greek BRANE went "Oh sod it, let's just call it "THIS-NESS" and knock off early for the day.

THUS anyone who attends any of my upcoming Conference Presentations can expect me to be saying "Haecceity" (pronounced, I think, as "Heck SEA At Ee") an LOT. INDEED I expect this to become something that people EXPECT from me, and if I DON'T do it it will become odd, TO THE EXTENT that LO! it becomes part of my own HAECCEITY! What a GRATE word!

posted 27/5/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Last weekend I went once more the the British Museum, on my own this time, to see their new The World Of Stonehenge exhibition. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: it was Quite Good.

It took me flipping AGES to get into the musuem, as there was a MASSIVE queue outside to get your bags checked. Years ago, when I worked around the corner from the BM, you could just wander in, and I spent many happy lunch hours visiting exhibits within or sometimes just sitting and having my lunch in the courtyard out front, but it is Very Different now. There were two queues - one for people who'd bought a ticket for something (e.g. me) and one for people who'd just rolled up. I quickly realised that a) my queue was taking AGES and b) behind me were two people with no bloody idea about personal space. They were the sort of people who think it's FINE to stand so close to you that you can hear their stomach rumbling. I tried the thing of Not Moving Forward when the queue ahead did, and even gently backing INTO them to try and get them to shift backwards, but invariably I'd have to move forward a bit every couple of minutes and they'd be right back in my NECK NAPE. THUS I switched lanes and REVELLED in the fact that I got in AGES before them. HA! Also: TOP TIP for the future!

Once I got through the queue I was directed to a Special Counter, where I thought they were going to quiz me further on the contents of my bag, or ask the reasons for my visit. Instead they were HUSTLING me for CA$H, doing the thing where they make it sound very much like you HAVE to pay to get in, so get confused tourists to make a "donation". "Would you like to give to the British Museum today?" they asked. "NO THANKS!" I said in as jolly a way as was feasible. I did not feel bad about this because a) I pay THE TAXES b) I also paid for a TICKET and c) most of all, once I finally got into the building I bought a small vegan donot and a can of drink which cost roughly A MILLION POUNDS so felt as if I had done my bit!

Anyway, I then went into the exhibition, which was BUSY. VERY busy - I don't think I have been in a room QUITE so full of people since before COVID. It also seemed to be full of EXPERTS as everywhere I turned there was somebody Explaining Things to somebody else, who would then often reply by Explaining The Same Thing back to them. They must have been experts because everything they were all explaining to each other extactly matched what was written in BIG LETTERS on the description boards behind them!

Luckily for me this was not my first RODEO/big exhibition, so I knew what to do - I simply strode purposefully through the first area into the next bit, where people had spread out a bit and had got bored of explaining things to each other. It was still busy though, so I skipped several large chunks until I got to the end, and then went back to the start again - it was getting close to closing time by now, so by this time it had cleared a little and I was able to get a good old LOOK at most stuff.

What I saw was QUITE INTERESTING. As with my previous visit the title of the exhibition was a little misleading, as there was an awful lot of stuff there that was nothing at all to do with Stonehenge. Actually, a surprisingly large amount of it was from PETERBOROUGH or thereabouts! It was more about the TIME that the various iterations of Stonehenge were built in, so I SUPPOSE that the fact it's called "The World Of Stonehenge" is just about excusable. I guess I was somehow expecting there to be some BITS of Actual Stonehenge there!

The really cool thing they did have was a big chunk of Seahenge which was pretty amazing - it was like something from a SPOOKY MOVIE, especially the idea of having an upturned tree in the middle, with its ROOTS splaying out. That was worth the admission on its own, to be honest, but then there were some STUNNING and STUNNINGLY OLD artefacts all the way through which were dead interesting. Also, the THEME of it - which took me a while to GET as I was hopping back and forth - was the way that human civilisation (or at least the bit of it happening in Northern Europe) changed pretty quickly from hunter gatherers to farms to the begins of societies, with stone axes at the beginning and PROPER SWORDS and ARMOUR at the end.

As i say, it was pretty good, although as per I did wonder why Archeologists and Historians are always so completely OBSESSED with EVERYTHING being religious. Reading the boards it seemed like every single thing these ancestors ever did was TOTALLY to do with religion. "We found these broken pots, which would have been buried here AS AN OFFERING", "this sword was buried FOR A CEREMONY", this person was placed like this FOR RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE" etc etc etc. I mean, all right, there might have been a BIT of this, but surely SOMETIMES pots are dropped in a trench by ACCIDENT? Are FUTURE HISTORIANS from SPACE going to fall upon our rubbish tips and be convinced they were grand cathedrals of offerings? "SEE how early HUMANOIDS would ritually BURN A CAR as an offering to their Gods, possibly hoping for an easing of ROAD TAX!"

As I left there was still time to have a quick look at something else before proper closing time, so like a FOOL I went and looked at some Ancient Greek stuff. This was a mistake, as it reminded me that while MY ancestors were tooling around with stone axes and being very pleased with themselves for drawing a very rough CIRCLE, the Ancient Greeks were merrily drinking WINE out of PAINTED AMPHORA and whooping it up with POETRY. Come on, Ancient Peterborians, get your act together!

posted 25/5/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Further Progress
I reached at ROCK MILESTONE over the weekend, as I finished the first drafts of the whole new album! By this I mean, I had got a MIX of every single song done, ready for re-listening, re-mixing, and almost inevitably some re-RECORDING also.

There's still a little way to go before I'm ready to UNLEASH it onto an unsuspecting world, but it did feel good to have got this far. There's fourteen tracks at the moment - I says "tracks" because one of them isn't really a song at all - but the final ITEM may have less. Or possibly more. For some reason the story of BLUR recording "Modern Life Is Rubbish" has always RESONATED with me i.e. their record label rejected the first version and sent them back to record a couple more hits (which turned out to be "Chemical World" and "For Tomorrow") so I always imagine my record label (ME) listening to whatever album I have done and saying "No ME, you must got back and write two more HITS!" Unlike Blur, however, I do not have access to Producers or Free Studio Time and so largely cannot be arsed, invoking the right of THE ARTISTE (also me) to follow their instincts, but I always think it would be nice to actually DO this.

I guess I'll see what happens at the end of the NEXT stage, which is to do SECOND mixes of THE LOT then stick it all together into a vague tracklist and work out if anything needs to be dropped and/or added and/or created from scratch. I've used up nearly ALL the spare songs I had lying around - certainly the ones that are any good anyway - so it would be nice if I didn't actually NEED to go Full Dave Balfe on myself, but part of the OVERRIDING SCHEME for this album is that I'm not planning any dates until I'm totally ready. MANY MANY times in the past we have scheduled GIGS and all sorts around a putative release date, only to have to either a) RUSH everything to actually hit the deadline or b) do gigs WITHOUT the promised album available. I keep reminding myself that nobody is exactly CLAMOURING for this,so there's no need to RUSH - the Universe has gone (checks discography) ELEVEN YEARS without an MJ Hibbett solo album and SIX without a Validators one too, so I'm sure it can wait a few more months.

Having said that, I've just realised that in the six years since I or we last released an album we've had Brexit, Trump, Boris Johnson and Covid. I mean, I'm not saying all that was BECAUSE of the lack of my/our unique brand of ROCK, but you never know do you? Quick! TO THE PRESSING PLANT!

posted 24/5/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Doctor Strange
Last week I went to the pictures with my delightful old chum Mr S Carter to see "Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness". It was good!

The film had been out for a few weeks at this point so we had been both been doing our best to avoid spoilers. This mostly involved not looking at ANY geeky websites, as they have a terrible tendency to spoil things massively while pretending not to e.g. when they say "What THOSE exciting (objects/cameos/other) really mean!" etc etc which tells you there ARE exciting (objects/cameos/other) in the film, or ESPECIALLY when they stick in walloping great pictures of aforesaid (objects/cameos/other). I had been doing quite well until - INFURIATINGLY - they day before we went a Sponsored Advert showed up on Facebook with a BLOODY PHOTOGRAPH of the really REALLY big exciting (objects/cameos/other) in this particular film, intended as a "joke". All I'm saying is, if I was EVER tempted to read "The Collider" I would definitely NOT be doing so now. Take THAT, M Zuckerberg and your stupid algorithm!

ANYWAY apart from that I had not much idea what was going to be in the film, and as it turned out the (objects/cameos/other) bit wasn't hugely important anyway, although it DID lead to some excited GIGGLING from me and Steve as various WORDS and PHRASES were spoken aloud. The actual film itself was quite good for the first bit, then a bit of a mess in the second (where all sorts of THINGS just seemed to HAPPEN, one after the other without much reason), but then BLOODY GRATE in the final section. The BIG FITE at the end was PARTICULARLY crazy and FAR-OUT and I really liked it!

I also liked the way it USED loads and loads of comics stuff but in different an INTERESTING ways, like... well,some of the above words and phrases which we both went "OO!" at. It's really weird with this whole PHASE of the Marvel movies - for phases 1 to 3 there was a clear PLAN underway, but as we discussed on our way out, this time there doesn't seem to be. Does that mean there isn't? Or is there going to be some SUPER AMAZING thing that will turn out to have been there all along? I don't know, and that is IN ITSELF quite exciting - this whole long form multi-movie/telly/transmeida type of storytelling is a whole new thing that Marvel are doing, and I must say I am VERY much enjoying being along for the ride!

I ALSO really enjoyed the fact that Dave Thorpe was thanked in the titles, along with all the other comics people whose stories and inventions had been re-used in the film. Dave Thorpe was the original writer for Marvel UK's Captain Britain strip approx 100,000,000 years ago when it appeared in "The Mighty World Of Marvel", and it was here that the designation "616" was first used for the core Marvel universe in comics. For many years it was assumed that Alan Moore invented it when he took the series over, but nowadays the general consensus is that Dave Thorpe had come up with it but it was an Alan Moore script where it first appeared. Either way, it was AMAZING to see his name pop up alongside lots of MUCH more famous comics creators, and realise that something I bought in the newsagent in Millfield in Peterborough, while my Nan was picking up her copy of "The Weekly News", would one day form a part of one of the biggest movies of the year. All right, back then I probably would have thought "Of course - Captain Britain is THE BEST story ever, and The Fury is THE BEST baddy ever, clearly People Of The Future have their heads screwed on right", but who knows? Maybe a proper adaptation of that story is coming in Phase 5, 6 or 7? If it is, I shall be at the front of the queue, armed with a ticket and FULL EXPLANATION in case anybody asks!

posted 23/5/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Progress Report
I had a very CREATIVELY REWARDING day on Wednesday, all because I couldn't be bothered with going for a walk in the rain. Instead of having my Lunchtime Stroll I went to the shops, and on the way out was WAYLAID by somebody who decided the best place to stop for a chat was IN THE DOORWAY.

This sort of thing winds me RIGHT up - as human beings we have entire LIFETIMES worth of experience of What A Door Is For And How It Works, so why oh why oh why do some PILLOCKS think that they can also be used for Just Standing In, notably when other people (e.g. me) are trying to use them for their primary purpose i.e. MOVING THROUGH? It's even worse when, as happens OFTEN at my work what is an Art College, you get people thinking outside the box in an attempt to entirely reimagine the uses of doorways by SITTING IN THEM. I am pretty sure that there is not a court in the land that would convict me of anything more than General Good Citizenship if I went on a RAMPAGE when faced with this, but my general tendency is to remain calm and GLARE at the perpetrator.

Anyway, that happened and it made my BRANE go through all my usual THORTS on the matter, some of which are featured above. Usually that would be the end of the matter, but this time it combined with the fact that I am working on a SOLO album. It's going quite well at the moment - I'd got TEN (10) songs done to First Draft stage with another TWO (2) just started - and my mind had turned to what ELSE I could have a go at. These 12 were the original dozen I'd intended to record, but all the way through I've thought it'd be nice to have a couple of EXTRAS as I'm planning to do a couple of SINGLES (NB digital ones, OBVS) and it's always handy to have something for a b-side. THUS I thought to myself "Maybe I could write a song about it?"

By the time I got home I had pretty much worked out the entire structure and over the course of the afternoon I kept going back to it, FINESSING lines and rhymes and so on until I had the whole thing pretty much sorted out. After work I got out the ACOUSTIC AXE in order to do a KIND OF demo. My THORT was that I'd record something Quite Rough in The Acoustical Style and then pretend it was an old track what I had found to SAMPLE. I imagined myself crafting a BANGING HOUSE TUNE and gently laying this song o'er the top of it. It was a great plan, with the only flaw being that I have absolutely no idea whatsoever how to make a BANGING HOUSE TUNE, and also that I probably wouldn't enjoy it if I did.

This was all happily resolved by me ending up enjoying the "original" guitar-y version and deciding to stick with that, and so by 6.30pm I had recorded and MIXED the whole thing. As with all of the tracks I'm doing for this album, the current idea is to get THE LOT done to a certain standard, then go back and listen again to see how they sound once freed from PROXIMITY before doing any extra overdubs and remixes. I must say though, I think THIS one (which ended up being called "People Who Stand In The Door" for MAXIMUM clarity) is pretty much DONE, which means it was basically FOUR HOURS from first thought to final MEISTERWERK. I wish the others had been that easy, if they had I'd already be hassling you to buy the album!

posted 13/5/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Pals On The iPod
I haven't really bought a lot of new music over the past two years, as I've not been in record shops or especially GIGS much/at all, and so have ended up listening mostly to the RADIO, where they play it all for you. Also, I wear headphones most of the day for WORK, so going hunting for stuff online felt slightly OPPRESSIVE.

However, earlier in the year I happened to hear a couple of tracks by a new band who sounded dead good and made me want to BUY some stuff. The band were "Wet Leg" who you probably haven't heard of as hardly anybody else has ever mentioned them and .. all right, yes, it is pretty much OBLIGATORY to have listened to them just lately and you cannot move for Isle Of Wight-based bass lines, but I got the album a few weeks ago and thought "this is dead good!"

This coincided with me finishing listening to the MAMMOTH day-by-day series of "Get Back" podcasts from I Am The Eggpod. This was a WONDERFUL thing where they interviewed a different person for their thoughts on every single individual DAY shown in the "Get Back" movies, then released each episode on the anniversary of each day. It was GRATE but by the end of it EVEN I was a bit Beatled out. Usually I listen to Beatles podcasts while out on my daily Government Mandated Exercises, but I felt it was time to take a break.

THUS I went and got myself a new mp3 player to enable myself to listen to the aforesaid Wet Leg album (my phone is FULL!), and as I copied the files over I thought "Hang on, I'm sure I HAVE bought a FEW other records over that past several months haven't I?" I looked at the top of the pile of CDs and found that yes, I HAVE bought some other albums lately, especially if you define "lately" as "since about 2019", most of which I hadn't listened to very much at all. In addition to all of the above, I don't really have a functioning CD player (or other DEVICE) and so any listening gets done via headphones which AS DISCUSSED is not so great. Wandering around in The Olympic Park (have I mentioned I live there?) with an mp3 player, however, seemed like a much nicer way to get some music in my head, so I decided to develop a RULE: I would ONLY transfer music to my mp3 player that was NEW(ish), so I could get some NEW(ish) tunes into my BRANE.

This has proved to be an EXCELLENT plan, not least because it means I have found out what loads of my PALS have been up to. For LO! it turns out that MOST of the albums what I have bought has been by people I know or have at least MET, and often had on at Totally Acoustic. The only real exceptions to this have been the Wet Leg record mentioned and the new album from Peaness which I got last week and is ACE.

Otherwise it's been PALS and COMRADES all the way. This week I've had on the recent EXCELLENT albums from Frankie Machine and Gavin Osborn and my brother-in-law (who I don't think has a BANDCAMP as yet), but I've also caught up on recent-ISH records by Pete Green, Tim Eveleigh, Matt Tiller, The Popguns, The Just Joans, Emma Kupa and Model Village. This latter espeically was one I got AGES ago but never gave the proper attention to and it, like all of the others, is GRATE!

It is a policy, and a pile of music, which I would HIGHLY recommend to anybody. I've enjoyed it so much that I'm almost inclined to go to a GIG again sometime soon!

posted 11/5/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Three Exhibitions At The BM
Last Bank Holiday Monday myself and The Works In My Collection went to the British Museum to look at some of THE ART. The British Museum - or The BM, as all the cool kids call it - is much more known for its Historical Artefacts (even in The Marvel Universe, where it's somehow located in Trafalgar Square, it's All About The Egyptians) but it has a HUGE collection of ART, parts of which we have regularly been to see in the mighty Room 90.

Room 90 is a big room at the back of the museum towards the top of the building, so it feels like you are ASCENDING to rarefied heights when you eventually get there, after a LOT of stairs. It's about the same size as the Treasures Of The British Library exhibition at (guess where?) the British Library, which is the PERFECT size for an hour or so's Looking At STUFF. By the end you feel SATED but not yet completely KNACKERED.

We were there to see THREE (3) exhibitions, all of which fitted into this space and thus were all nice and short. The first one was called Drawing Attention: Emerging British Artists which, to be honest, wound me up no end because a) most of the artists weren't Emerging b) a large proportion weren't British c) a lot of the artwork wasn't drawing! The INTERESTING (to me) thing about it was that they'd done a REVERSO of the usual practice in Modern Galleries i.e. usually, whenever they show OLD STUFF, they feel compelled to stick something MODERN in too, in an effort, I assume, to appear RELEVANT. For this one they were showing lots of their recent modern ACQUISITIONS and had put them next to other OLD stuff that they had in their storecupboard. The Text In My Description pointed out that the effect of this was to say "You thought this was a new idea? Here is someone else doing it 300 years ago!"

The aforesaid Picture In My Frame enjoyed this one more than me - as I say, I allowed myself to get Annoyed by the title which put me off! CONVERSELY I enjoyed the next one more, which was called Printmaking in Prague: Art from the court of Rudolf II. This was MUCH more related to the title i.e. it was a bunch of PRINTS from Rudolf Junior's time in charge and also some other ones INFLUENCED by it. I had never heard of him or INDEED any of the artists involved but I enjoyed it very much indeed, despite the fact that the main artist, Aegidius II Sadeler (for some reason they put HIS number in the middle and Rudolf's at the end, I have no idea why) was completely incapable of drawing HORSES properly, despite having lots of practice. He was VERY good at drawing people and SCENES though, and especially MOUSTACHES and I liked it very much.

The final one was called Raphael and his school: Drawing connections and we BOTH loved it this time. As per the title, it was a collection of DRAWINGS done by Raphael and his pupils, and they were AMAZING. Just seeing the ACTUAL DRAWINGS and knowing that these were the very sketches made by their hands several hundred years ago was MIND BLOWING. Also, the fact that these were loose sketches made them feel much more IMMEDIATE and REAL than the actual finished paintings, which looked very stiff and FORMAL in comparison. It felt like these were REAL people which could have been drawn yesterday. Seeing for instance a sketch of JESUS being carried away from the cross was Quite Emotional in the pencil drawing, as you could see people struggling with the body and being UPSET, rather than the painting which looked quite STAGED. It was gorgeous!

Also of note was that the DESCRIPTIONS got better as we went through - the ones for the first one were full of what we in the world of Art Colleges (hem hem) call "ART BOLLOCKS", whereas the one for Raphael told us what it WAS and what it was MADE OF. For instance, rather than telling us that a picture had "intimacy tantalisingly out of reach" it pointed out that you could see tiny holes around the outlines of figures where pin pricks had been made so that DOTS could be put through onto ANOTHER sheet of paper as a way of transferring the image. I would LOVE to know more about this sort of MECHANICS - if anyone knows of an easily accessible DOCUMENTARY about this sort of thing I would love to know about it!

Thus we completed our ART VIEWING for the day, returning to the ground floor for a really really nice cup of coffee and a pretty bloody fabulous bit of vegan COCONUT CAKE. It was an EXCELLENT day for the SOUL, the BRANE, and also the STOMACH!

posted 9/5/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Divine Comedy at The Palladium
On Tuesday night I met Mr M Sutton for a night of FINE DRINKS and MUSIC. He had SCORED us some tickets to see The Divine Comedy at The Actual London Palladium, so we met up in the traditional meeting place for anyone arriving into Kings Cross Station i.e. The Parcel Yard. What ensued was a DELIGHTFUL evening of BEER and CHAT as we wandered into town to the King & Queen (which was ACE as ever) and thence for some GRUB. I was having such a lovely time that I must admit I was feeling slightly resentful towards Mr N Hannon who was forcing me to go to his gig!

I was somewhat mollified when we got to The Actual London Palladium, got a drink, and found our seats. We had AISLE SEATS! As anyone who regularly attends EVENTS into their late 30s (hem hem) and beyond will know, these are the PRIME POSITIONS, especially if you have just been in the pub, and they were also comfy and nicely SPACED too. Whatever happened, we were going to be COMFORTABLE!

In addition, it turned out, we were ROCKED, for LO! the gig was AMAZING. It's in support of the new GRATEST HITS album, so that is what they played "Just the ... 'hits'" as Mr Hannon put it, and crumbs there are a LOT of them. Gloriously, the set was split into two halves with an INTERMISSION, which is something I think ALL gigs should do - you often see reviews saying "Ooh, they did two hours without a break" but does anyone actually WANT that? Much better to have an ACTUAL break in the middle, instead of everyone shuffling off to the bar/loo during The Acoustic Section.

They started off with "Absent Friends", then "Indie Disco", and then... well, it just carried on like that, with HITS. My favourite in the first half was possibly "The Certainty Of Chance", which is not a song I have ever particularly loved but sounded INCREDIBLE done live, with HUGE backing vocals. In the second half I realised that "How Can You Leave Me On My Own" is possibly my NEW FAVOURITE, we all sang along to "Songs Of Love", they finished the main set with a GINORMOUS "National Express" and then came back for "Perfect Lovesong" and I decided to FORGIVE the TITLE PILFERING, as it was lovely. Again, this is one of those songs I've never really thought much of, possibly because it's on my least favourite of their albums, but here it was ACE. And then they did "Tonight We Fly" and MY GOODNESS ME it was BRILLO. I always remember hearing that for the first time, having got the TAPE out of Leicester Library and being blown away. Several thousand years later, I was again!

It was, in summary, a GRATE evening and a GRATE gig. Live music, it's dead good!

posted 5/5/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Spectrum 40
I had an epic journey to get to Walsall on Saturday, as various LINES were down. THUS I had to get my usual train to St Pancras, a tube to Baker Street, walk to Marylebone, get a train to Birmingham Moor Street, walk to New Street, and then get another train to Bescot Stadium. Incredibly, every leg went perfectly, and along the way I saw one of the GRATEST pieces of Public Information EVERm at Moor Street station:


That's exactly where it was! It must have been SO tempting to put "To facilitate access to services departing New Street passengers are advised to traverse..." (ETC ETC ETC) but just "ACROSS ROAD, THROUGH TUNNEL" totally did the job. Well done Chiltern Railways!

I was doing all of this travelling in order to perform Hey Hey 16K at the Spectrum 40 event, following on from my previous attendance at Spectrum 35 and Spectrum 30. This time it was being held in The Stadium Suite at Walsall football ground, which meant you got a great view of the pitch and also access to the stadium chippy stand and toilets! I arrived to find the event in full swing, with The Oliver Twins on stage talking about the "Dizzy" series of games. I must admit I was a bit hazy on this, as their games came out when I'd gone off to Poly and stopped buying new games, but after that we got a screening of Will Brooker's ZX Spectrum Experience film. It was GRATE - althougb for some reason the bits with ME in had been augmented using - I ASSUME- sophisticated CGI technology to enlarge my delicate nose into something quite NOTICEABLE. I'm not sure when or where the film is going to be officially released, but I would VERY much advise having a look when it is, and you can see a preview HERE:

By this point my avowed intent NOT to have a drink before going onstage had rather fallen by the wayside, and I was wandering about having a chat to various people, notably Ms E Pemberton who'd come along especially, and Mr L Fogarty, organiser and Person Who'd Booked Me. We'd agreed that I'd go on after the raffle (the BEST support act), but when it came to it there were two small problems: there wasn't a stand for the microphone, and there wasn't an easy way to plug my guitar into the PA. Luckiliy I HAD had a couple of pints by this point, so I just got the microphone, said "HELLO it is ME I am now going to SHOUT" and then just did Hey Hey 16K without PA. It seemed to work out OK, but I'm glad I didn't have to do more than one song, my throat is a bit out of practice these days! You can judge for yourself, HERE:

After that I spent the evening talking to various people and being MOVED by how LOVELY they all were. It was really nice to be able to mooch around a room full of people with a similar interest, but who also had LIVES and THORTS and were all-round DELIGHTFUL. An absolute highlight for me was talking to Sandy White of "3D Ant Attack" fame. I asked if I could have a picture with him, and to my surprise he said "I was just about to ask you the same thing". Sometimes you meet someone and thnk "But you're really nice, can we have a pint please?" (INDEED now that I think of it I have done written a whole song about it) and this was very much one of those occasions.

I must admit, earlier in the day, I'd been a bit WARY of the idea of spending approx FIVE HOURS to go somewhere to play ONE SONG, spend the evening in a hotel, and then travel all the way back for, but it was TOTALLY worth it. I suggested to Lee that they do "Spectrum 48" next, and hopefully I'll get invited back!

posted 3/5/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Newsletter Day
Strew the streets with bunting! Call out the Red Arrows! Give the local urchins 47p and a bag of crisps! For LO! today is that most wondrous day, long-awaited and much missed - it's NEWSLETTER DAY!.

This is a holy day what has been much in ABEYANCE as late, largely because I haven't really had much NEWS to share. Well, I personally have, OBVS, but I like to think that the newsletter contains only content relevant to the world of ROCK. THUS I haven't sent one since November last year, and before that not since June, because what with COVID and the PhD there hasn't been an awful lot going on in that direction.

To be honest there hasn't been THAT much going on THIS month either, but there ARE a couple of gigs coming up and I do have news of The Solo Album to share, so I thought I was justified in sending it out. I was also able to include some news about releases from other Validators too, which I would highly recommend you seek out.

I'm hopeful the newsletter will be coming out slightly more regularly again now. There's the aforesaid solo album to bang on about, and there's this OTHER THING that I've been working on for approx 17 MILLION YEARS which I'm hoping will come to fruition soon as well, and there may even be further GIGS too. I can't promise that this'll all have reached a point of Newsletter Unleashment by the NEXT Last Working Day of The Month, but I can promised that you'll be one of the first to find out if you simply join the mailing list!

posted 29/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Back To League One
Fans of SPORT, particularly PROPER SPORT, will be very much aware that Peterborough United were relegated this weekend from the Championship to League One i.e. from the second to the third tier of English football. When it was finally confirmed several people got in contact to commisserate, which was very much appreciated but thankfully unnecessary.

For LO! what I have witnessed of Championship football this season has not been to my liking. For one thing, it is MEAN-SPIRITED, in that these nasty bigger teams have deliberately and with malice aforethought been significantly BETTER than poor old Posh, even when they have known full well that we have only just arrived in their league. It would have been POLITE for them to take this new arrival under their wings, show them around the TIER, maybe give them a few free goals just to get them started, but OH NO. Apparently that is TOO MUCH BOTHER for these Fancy Dans.

Worse still, I fear that the Championship is rife with CHEATING. On a number of occasions I have noted play which has led me to suspect that many of these teams have been PRACTICING beforehand, sometimes even TOGETHER, working out what they are going to do with so-called "set pieces" well in advance of the game itself. I may be wrong, but I think there may even be SECRET SIGNALS used to indicate where a ball is going to be kicked, and sometimes I think they may even be moving in some kind of FORMATION.

This is, of course, very much against the TRUE SPIRIT of PROPER FOOTBALL which is to HOOF it as far as you can and then for everybody else to chase after it. In these darkened times we need this pure form of IMPROVISATIONAL SPORT and I must say I am very much looking forward to it being re-instated and - most importantly - RESPECTED next season. Then, and only then, will FOOTBALL itself be the winner!

posted 27/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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The Ikon Gallery
Last week the Dates Of My Annual Leave and I went up to Birmingham to see some a) pals b) ART. Executive summary: all were GRATE!

Once we got to Brum we met aforesaid pals at the Ikon Gallery, an amazing SPACE that (according to The Internet) is a former school that has been re-done (according to our party) in a really lovely way. Within it there were THREE (3) exhibitions, all of which complied with my stated preferences for such things i.e. they were short and they were dead good.

The first was my favourite, "Shadows In The Sky", a collection of paintings by RENAISSANCE painter Carlo Crivelli. Whenever you go to a big gallery you see LOADS of religious paintings from back when they used to be hung up in churches, but these ones were AMAZING as he kept playing around with the 3D. I am vaguely aware that this was around the time they worked out how to do perspective, and there sure was a lot of that going on, but he also messed around with painting objects to look like they were in FRONT of the main picture e.g. a PICKLE lounging around over the top of the bottom of a picture of HEAVEN or a bunch of APPLES strung across the top of another one, casting a shadow on the sky (hence the exhibition title). It was HEADY STUFF, although as tends to be the way the Gallery Descriptions made it LESS easy to work this out, with phrases like "paradoxically unthink" etc etc.

There was also a small MODERN ART bit which was supposedly "interacting" with the other stuff. This seems to be Quite The Thing for art galleries these days, and always comes off (to connoisseurs like what I am) as A Bit Of A Stretch and Probably Just How You Get Funding. In this case there were some OBJECTS lying around, including a discarded sheet, leaning broom and old boilersuit that initially looked like just a bit of a mess. It was VERY What The Daily Mail Thinks Modern Art Is, although once you got up close and deciphered the description you COULD see a point to it, it just didn't seem to have any relation to anything else. MUCH better was a side room with two paintings by Audrey Flack that were "After Crivelli". They sort of were, but were also DIFFERENT, and also Quite Good.

There were only about 12 exhibits all together, so we were full of ART THIRST and ready to go to the NEXT exhibition, which was "Under The Vast Sky" (I've only just noticed the SKY THEME here), a retrospective of embroidered pieces by Sámi (Swedish) artist Britta Marakatt-Labba. It was DEAD GOOD. The basic idea was lots of long tapestries showing the indigeounous Sámi people of Sweden with scenes of LIFE in general. I thought it was going to be a bit Stern but it was all done in an DELIGHTFUL way, like one of those big centrefolds you used to get in the middle of a Beano Summer Special with hundreds of people dashing about getting up to different things. It wasn't in the STYLE of Leo Baxendale, but it certainly felt like it was in the spirit, with STORIES everywhere. I liked it!

Again, it wasn't really helped by the gallery guide, which seemed to have been written before the placing of the ITEMS were finalised, but again it was ALL GOOD and also BRIEF, so we still had energy left for the FINAL item, which was an "immersive classical experience" called "Lusitano Remixed". Someone had done a new version of a CHORAL PIECE by Vicente Lusitano, got together a choir, and then recorded it with a seperate microphone for each singer. Each recording was then played out of a seperate speaker, so as you walked around the room you heard each individual singer, as if you were in the middle of the group. Whether you'd WANT to be in the middle of a Classical Choir BELLOWING it out is a question for another time, but it was an AMAZING experience to wander around in, and this time the gallery notes (on a big sign on the wall) were DEAD INTERESTING and helpful. More like that please!

It was, in fact, a pretty flipping GRATE gallery experience with THE ART being fab. If you happen to be in The West Midlands I would HIGHLY recommend popping in!

posted 25/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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City Sculpture Tour
On Easter Weekend myself and The Works In My Gallery went out to look at Sculpture In The City, a (usually) annual thing where the City Of London has loads of ARTWORKS scattered around it. We have done this several times and it's always lots of fun, and we were ESPECIALLY excited about it this time as there hadn't been one last year.

To be honest, my favourite aspect of it is following the MAPS and finding our way around The City, which is a MAD place where ginormous skyscrapers poke out from behind the remains of tiny ancient buildings, and hidden alleyways and miniature squares are never more than a couple of minutes away. It's a great excuse for EXPLORING round places you wouldn't normally go, although as we HAVE been there many times on previous sculpture trails it was ALSO like revisiting old HAUNTS, and many was the time we said "This is where (sculpture we remembered) was that other time!"

As ever, the sculptures themselves were a mixed bag. Some were FAB, some were INTERESTING, and some were HARD TO FIND. The one we both like most was near the start, Silent Agitator, a big CLOCK based on an Industrial Workers of the World union illustration (NB you can read about it on the link!). Others we liked included Cosmos (dark metal slats that were multi-coloured when you went inside them), Orphans (lots of abandoned paintings facing in on each other so you could only see the backs), Symbols (a recreation of historical LGBTQ+ flags) and loads of others. It was great - each artwork was like a REWARD for finding your way around!

Weirdly, The City was DEAD BUSY. We popped into Fenchurch Street Station (a WEIRD station at the best of times - it's LIKE a mainline station but has no links to any tube lines and it's HIDDEN down an alley) for some CRISPS and there were loads of people going back and forth, and also all around everywhere else. The City is meant to be DESERTED at the weekend - the shops certainly seemed to think so as they were nearly all shut (hence going into the station for crisps) so what was everyone doing?

Anyway, it was GRATE to be back, foraging about for ART. More of this sort of thing please!

posted 22/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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A couple of weeks ago I did something I have not done for YEARS - I bought a copy of a music magazine!

Decades ago, yea verily in the 1990s, I bought TONS of them - Select, Q, Vox and then the NME and Melody Maker and sometimes Record Collector if I'd read all of those - but I gave it all up when THE WORD closed down, as that was SO much fun to read that it made what was left of music magazines seem RUBBISH. I've occasionally flipped through one in Smiths while waiting for a train, and have very very occasionally bought a copy of Mojo when it's had so much Macca/Beatles that I couldn't resist, but otherwise they have fallen into the dark pit of Things I Used To Do In The 90s along with Setting The Video, Going To Nightclubs and of course Generalised Moping Around.

HOWEVER, I had good reason to change this policy recently as I'd seen on Facebook that Mr Bob Fischer (formerly of Radio Tees and various GIGS) had done an interview with all-round ROCK LEGEND Mr John Otway, so after a bit of hunting around I SOURCED a copy of
The rest of the magazine is a STRANGE experience though, as it feels very much like a PRETEND magazine featuring PRETEND bands, like set dressing on a movie or something. Even
the cover is like this - it's meant to be LINDISFARNE, who I know are REAL, but I am sure that the image they use includes Ade Edmonson and Jody Comer (with her Jesus beard on), so I have a distinct idea that the LOT of them are actors.

Inside there are features on HUNDREDS of bands that I have never ever heard of. I'm quite used to this being the case with The Young People's Modern Music, but even THEN I've got some idea of the most famous ones due to TELLY and listening to radio, but with Bands Of Yore I've always thought I've been fairly knowleadgeable. However, Shindig seems to be focused specifically on bands NOBODY has ever heard of. There are whole features on acts who basically recorded a couple of singles which were released only at 3 gigs and THAT'S THE LOT. It turns out there is a whole HOBBY of going looking for these incredibly obscure self-pressed records that were put out in the 60s and 70s (and later) by people nobody's ever heard of!

WELL. I'm sure you can picture my DELIGHT at discovering that this is A THING. Obscure releases by acts that hardly anybody's ever heard of? I wonder, how long is it until they get to the 1990s? I have a LOT of tapes, singles etc etc that are IMMENSELY obscure, and once the spotlight turns to the 2000s I have several metric TONNES of same! What I am basically saying here is that everybody should go and fill up in my online store RIGHT NOW before the "cratediggers" (technical term) turn up and everything starts to sell for A MILLION POUNDS on eBay. Treasure that copy of Say It With Words, it could pay off a MORTGAGE in a couple of years. In which case, I'll be buying a few HOUSING ESTATES!

posted 20/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Doctor Hubris
As you may have detected, I recently completed my PhD and am now Officially Doctor Hibbett. I am by nature a humble soul rarely in search of the spotlight so I haven't really made a big thing about this, and so when people say to me things like "Have you changed your passport details yet?" I smild kindly and say that I haven't. Not least because it costs about SEVENTY FIVE QUID and requires new forms to be filled in and takes AGES. But mostly because I am so humble.

However, I did notice that my bank debit card was going to run out soon, so thought I might as well update THAT as they were going to give me a new card ANYWAY and not because it also meant that if anyone happened to see it I could say in a very casual way e.g. "Oh yes it DOES say Doctor Hibbett doesn't it shall I tell you about my thesis?" It would, I thought, be a simple process with no downsides.

This was INCORRECT. First of all it took AGES to get them to actually DO it, as you can't simply change your title on the bank app and have to go into an Actual Branch, then when you DO find a branch that is actually OPEN you have to a) negotiate BANK BOUNCERS who don't seem to want to let anybody in b) wait for AGES c) discover that the only person who can actually DO it is "out to lunch" at 4pm so d) you then have to try again the next day. This I did, and the second time it all went all right, at least once I'd talked my way in and waited twenty minutes until they'd remembered I was there. I'd been told that I needed to bring PROOF, but when I finally sat down to sort it out all they asked was "What sort of Doctor are you?" I stumbled a bit and said "Er... a doctor of philosophy? Not a medical doctor!" which seemed to be the right answer.

All, I thought, was well, and a few days later my card arrived with DR HIBBETT written on it which was all very exciting and fun... until I went out to USE it and the flipping thing DIDN'T WORK! I then spent AN ENTIRE HOUR going round and round on the bank's APP and PHONE LINES trying to speak to someone about it. I recited my date of birth and mother's maiden name to various ROBOTS so many times it became like an INCANTATION to summon up a Surprise Birthday Jumper. EVENTUALLY I got through to an actual HUMAN and began by saying "Just to let you know, I have spent an HOUR trying to get through and I know this isn't your fault, so sorry in advance if I am TERSE" (or words to those effect) which made me feel a lot better. It was weird talking to AN HUMAN after an hour of ROBOTS, so i had to remember not to Pronounce. Every. Word. Clearly. No, CLEARLY. CLEARLY! Right, date of birth is ... (and so on).

She worked out that my card was BROKEN so I had to have ANOTHER one ordered. I was a bit perturbed by this, as I needed to use it for spending MONEY (I live in Fancy East London where loads of places don't even CONSIDER taking CA$H) but she pointed out I could add the card to the APP on my phone, and could then be one of those people who casually wave their phones around in shops and GET stuff. This I did, and it has been... all right? It's nice when it works, but it's a MASSIVE pain in the wotsits when it forces you to LOG IN and then wait five minutes for the flipping APP to start work. Also, it doesn't say "DR HIBBETT" in big letters on my phone! Still, these I suppose are the REWARDS OF HUBRIS, and if nothing else makes me relieved that I DIDN'T try and change my passport!

posted 18/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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MIDI Mayhem
I'm currently busily working on a SOLO ALBUM, gathering up a bunch of songs from the past few years that haven't been recorded due to a) THE WORLD b) me being busy with the PhD c) OTHER. I've so far got six in a Rough Mix state (which I'll probably go back to in a while and FIDDLE with), five others in various stages of DOING, one other that I need to sort some drums out for as a starting point, then a few others that I MIGHT have a go at if levels of Being Bothered rise slightly.

So far I'm having quite a lot of FUN, but it's taking quite a bit longer to DO than previous solo albums. There are various reasons for this, but the main one is that I am doing loads of it in MIDI. For instance, where previously I would get my bass guitar out and lay down some HOT LICKS on a track in about 10 minutes, this time around I'm doing it all on MIDI. This specific change is for several reasons, notably that my bass playing is a lot less EXACT than it used to be so doing it on the computer means I have a better chance of getting it in time! For other instruments, like KEYBOARDS or PIANO, I'm doing it this way because I don't actually OWN keyboards or pianos, and so I can THUS piddle about to my heart's content creating things without having to go into an Actual Studio.

Some stuff I'm still doing LIVE - guitars, ukelele and vocals mostly - but the upshot is that everything's taking a bit longer as I have to THINK about it a lot more. I used to be able to pick up an AXE and pretty much have a song worked out in a couple of goes, but with MIDI I'm spending HOURS staring at the piano keyboard graphic and trying to make imaginary chord shapes with my hands, thinking "What note is THAT meant to be?"

It is NOT EFFICIENT at all, but the nice thing is that not having a clue what I'm doing is leading to all SORT of new and (hopefully) INTERESTING sounds. Whenever I listen to some of my very early recordings, especially the VOON back catalogue, they're full of all sorts of SOUNDS and THINGS that I have no idea how they were made. OBVS this is partly because it wasn't just me doing them, but still, there are things there that have no right to be when they were made by two or three YOUTHS manhandling a four-track recorder and a drum machine. The NOISES I'm getting now from the MIDI thingy are not quite as RUM and UNUSUAL as those, sadly (very little is), but there's blips and bloops and all sorts that I wouldn't normally do.

Having said all that there is still a lot of SHOUTING and UKES and CLANGY GUITARS, so it is not an entirely New Direction or anything, and when it's mixed properly I imagine most of it will be noticeably different only to me. I've even found a way to make MIDI speed up as it goes along, so it will still have that aspect too!

As I say, I'm about half way through recording it now, so it'll be a while before we're looking at release dates or anything, but as soon as they're available I shall be letting you know!

posted 14/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Some Light Reading
Since finishing my PhD (did I mention that I'd... oh, I have?) I have treated myself to some READING. I do like a good old READ but for the past several years most of it has been EITHER academical works OR Other Research for the OTHER big project I've been doing for the past few years - a project what I hope to be able to REVEAL properly in a few months.

Anyway, that's all been a bit like homework, so since finishing up I have been going through and READING some of the books that I've added to my KINDLE over the years but never had time to read. This included "The Wheels Of Chance" which I got ages ago in the middle of my HG WELLS MANIA but never actually got round to reading - I'm glad i did, as it was Quite Jolly. To be honest it did feel like a tiny bit of a cash-in on "Three Men In A Boat", but I liked that also so didn't really mind.

The BIG book which has been sat on my Kindle for a while, however, was "The Silmarillion". I think I got it after I watched all the Hobbit films a couple of Christmases ago, and ever since it's been sat there LOOKING at me, DARING me to read it. I've never really had the time until recently, but once I'd handed in my OWN mighty tome (with it's own huge wodge of appendices) I thought I'd give JRR Tolkien's a go.

CRUMBS! To my utter amazement, I really really enjoyed it! It was a bit of a slog to start with, getting used to the Quasi-Biblical way everything is written, the huge list of NAMES all the time (which CHANGE too), and the first few chapters being all about a bunch of annoying GODS swanning around, but once you get into it it's surprisingly relaxing. I started to let the lists of names and places just wash over me after a while, and it turned into a very pleasant stroll through various woods, towns and dread domains, occasionally pausing for a BIG FITE. And I tell you what, JRR Tolkien doesn't half write an exciting FITE. I remember reading "The Hobbit" for the first time and being dead excited during the (SPOILERS) massive battle at the end when all the different armies pile on, and there are LOADS of these in "The Silmarillion". It's also quite good fun when places from THE FILMS get mentioned, and you get to feel Very Slightly More Clever for remembering them.

Best of all, it's one of those HUGE books where the last quarter of it is appendices and indexes that you don't actually need to read (I am not likely to start narrating an audiobook of it so don't really see the point in reading page after page of pronunciation guidance for a totally made up language) so when you get to 50% of the way through you know you're actually much further.

I finished it the other night and FLUSHED with success I thought "Right! Now I'm going to finally read the Lord Of The Rings Appendices too, and then - SOD IT - go back to the start of The Hobbit and do THE LOT!" I then DID read one of the appendices (the one about what a nice time the members of The Fellowship have with their lives when it's all over), and next morning rose with a clearer vision i.e. "No I won't be doing that just yet thanks. Maybe next time I go on holiday."

It was dead good thoigh and, after spending 6 years in the enormous complicated storyworld of the Marvel Universe it was quite fun to dip into the enormous complicated storyworld of Middle Earth. Something a bit lighter next though - I'm thinking MIDDLEMARCH!
posted 11/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Sorting Out My Corpus
So, last time I was on about how I chose Doctor Doom to be the focus for my PhD (what I have, by the way, now finished) and then worked out what "The Marvel Age" was in order to set some criteria for the CORPUS that I'd look at.

"Corpus" is an excellent word which basically means "a collection of books and stuff" where, in my case, the "stuff" bit was mostly comics, cartoons, radio shows and games. In order to put it together all I needed to do was find every single appearance by Doctor Doom in any of these texts between the dates I'd settled on. PEASY right?

IT WAS NOT PEASY. The first thing I had to do was search The Grand Comics Database for every comic Doom appeared in during this time. Well, actually, the FIRST thing was to look at the various different databases and realise that GCD (as the cool kids call it) was the best one, THEN download it onto my own server, THEN work out how all the table fit together, and THEN search it for the aforesaid appearances.

Doing that showed me that the GCD is not necessarily entirely reliable or consistent. It's a wonderful resource put together by hundreds of different people over many years, which is all very excellent but unfortunately means the quality of the data varies HUGELY, as does the decision making processes. For example, generally speaking the people entering the data DON'T add in information about every single advert or the contents of letters pages, but some DO, which meant that I had to go through checking every single result to make sure it actually WAS a story featuring Doctor Doom, rather than an advert of an image in a letters column. Such things ARE valid items about Doctor Doom (and the source of some FASCINATING ARTICLES hem hem) but weren't what I was after here.

Another problem was that not every appearance by Doctor Doom was recorded, at least not as Doctor Doom. One HUGE example of this was his appearances in Not Brand Echh, a "humour" series (i.e. ripping off "Mad Magazine") using Marvel characters published in the 1960s. Doom appeared in LOADS of issues of this, but was "hilariously" referred to as "Doctor Bloom" in most cases (I have no idea why) so did not come up in my searches, despite appearing on the COVER for some of these. I only realised this when I was reading through the corpus and noticed a single issue that HAD been logged as "Doctor Doom", so had to go back and check through THE LOT to find more. On the plus side, this led to a FASCINATING PRESENTATION about how it all worked!

None of this was PEASY as I say, but it was a flipping DODDLE compared to what came next. As far as I know there isn't a database of cartoons, books, radio shows etc etc which allows you to search by character names (iMDB does some of this but by NO MEANS all, and it's expensive!) so I had to just GO LOOKING for them. This involved a WHOLE HEAP of Googling and LOTS of going back and forth over the course of the PhD as new things kept on popping up. Some of these turned up too late to be included - most HEINOUSLY I missed an actual NOVEL starring Doctor Doom called (inevitably) DOOMSDAY - but in the end I got myself a PhD Corpus of 266 texts, of which three were newspaper strips, six were radio shows or similar audio-only recordings, six were games, 15 were cartoons and all the rest comics. You can see a big list of them - along with all the other items I collected which were didn't make it into the final corpus - over on the MARVEL AGE DOOM site.

This was a LOT of comics, games, books etc etc to get through, and I soon realised that it was WAY too much, so I used A Stratified Random Sampling methodology (which - FEAR NOT - I shall not go into here) to narrow this down to a representative of 69 (nice) texts. I then set out to EXAMINE them!

How I did THAT is a whole other story which I shall save for a whole other time, as I think that's probably about ENOUGH for now. Basically it was DEAD CLEVER but also QUITE HARD and took FLIPPING AGES. Further details can be supplied on application!

posted 8/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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