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A couple of nights ago myself and The Day, Week, Month and Even My Year completed an odyssey of cultural adventure. For LO! after EIGHT MONTHS of viewing we finally reached the last episode of "Friends" on Netflix!
We have been watching it EXTREMELY regularly ever since the earliest hours of the year, when Netflix announced that they had the streaming rights to it, and it seems we have NOT been ALONE. Apparently it is the MOST STREAMED show in the whole country, and thus there have recently been several Think Pieces about it in The Media, mostly consisting of pillocks saying things like "Oh it's nostalgia" and "How could they all afford such big apartments?"
These are both idiotic remarks, because a) a large proportion of the people watching the show were not BORN when it started and b) this is addressed IN CONTINUITY: Monica's NAN left her the apartment in her will! After all this time I was quite surprised to see the stupid kind of snobbery about "Friends" STILL going on, as if the fact that it had not only stayed popular after all this time, but was the MOST watched show on streaming, was all a coincidence and that it was actually tawdry rubbish and we should all be watching documentaries instead.
The reason "Friends" is still popular is because it has excellent writing, good acting, likeable characters, decent storylines and a LOT of jokes. It is, I think, the American answer to "Dad's Army", another show that idiots MOAN about because it's still more popular than NEW shows, but which people LOVE for exactly the same reasons as they love "Friends".
And yes ALL RIGHT I guess that analogy DOES suggest there's an element of nostalgia to it all for some of us. CURSES! One of the added DELIGHTS of watching it now, here in the futuristic world of the future, is spotting new things appearing for the first time and requiring New Jokes, like when Chandler suddenly gets a laptop, or EBAY of all things pops up towards the end. There's also the comfort of having watched most of them before too, and remembering how storylines end just before they actually do.
Mostly though it's because it's so well done that you don't even notice it. Maybe that's why DREARY sods think there's nothing to it, because they prefer to watch things that point out how CLEVER and IMPORTANT they are all the time, rather than having to work it out for themselves. It's so full of JOKES and nice character touches, especially as it gets past the first couple of series, that it's a joy to watch it develop. Watching it all again I especially appreciated the way that Rachel and Monica develop and get to have a whole range of stories about their own personalities, rather than just being the Attractive Women who are there when The Men are making jokes. I also, once again, came to feel sorry for Paul Rudd, who spends most of his time in the show Nodding At Other People's Remarks.
But now it is done and we are once more ADRIFT without a long-running sitcom to watch. Over the past few years we've done Cheers, Frasier, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Community, Parks & Recreation and How I Met Your Mother, so we are RACING through the Great, Long, American Sitcoms. If anybody has any other recommendations for long-running (i.e. at LEAST seven seasons) FUNNY half-hour sitcoms that are on Netflix OR Prime, I would be very pleased to receive them!
posted 17/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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One From The Archives
Today I bring you a slice of ROCK HISTORY! For LO! Mr S Hewitt was recently MUSING on the fact that it's ten years since he and I first went to the Edinburgh Fringe with the show My Exciting Life In ROCK and remembered that he had a RECORDING of the time that we broadcast part of the show LIVE on 6music. Always a champion of making such vital historical material widely available he uploaded it to Soundcloud, which means you can listen to it right NOW, right HERE!
I vaguely remembered it being quite good fun, but CRIKEY when I listened back a decade later I was ASTOUNDED to find what a lot of TOMFOOLERY was going on, with me EGGED ON by what sounds like a HUGE audience - my records show it was 25 people, but they were VERY enthusiastic! At the time it seemed like tremendous LARKS but, as you will hear, a re-listen reveals poor Mr Steve Lamacq remaining STOICALLY PROFESSIONAL while I talk at some length about him leaving Radio One and planning his REVENGE on his former employers. A lesser individual might have got annoyed, but he dealt with it with APLOMB - next time he gets a Lifetime Achievement award I expect this to be part of the Strength In Adversity Montage!
The next morning, according to the blog of the time, I had a VERY different experience with ANOTHER live call to 6Music - I was polite about it at the time but I think it's safe to say now that this second occasion was AWFUL, as I was invited to ring into the Breakfast Show expecting to chat lightly about what we were doing, only to find that I was on some DREADFUL 'wacky' zoo-style thing with a twit who couldn't remember anything he'd been told who wanted to ask about sex with badgers while playing 'ZANY' sound effects. It was that period when they kept trying to make 6Music more like, I don't know, E4 or something. Thankfully that all went away in the end, yet Mr Steve Lamacq still has the same show - long may he continue!
posted 13/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Return Of The Stock
Yesterday a long running saga finally came to a joyous end, when the lovely people at Proper Distribution returned the last of our unsold CDs to us.
This was first MOOTED over a YEAR ago, but nothing really happened until they sent me another email earlier this week - it's almost as if they have more important things to do than return unwanted CDs from about a decade ago?!? - saying that they wanted to arranged sending our stock back to us. I immediately replied in the affirmative, and when I got home last night there was a BOX waiting for me full of Old Stock. I was delighted, especially when I found that several CDs had been LAMINATED by whatever shops originally took them!
"But Mark," you might say, "surely your aim is to disseminate yr ART wide and far, and thus the return of old stock could be seen as a symbol of failure? Also, do you have enough room for EVEN MORE CDs in your cupboard?" The answer to the second question is, thankfully, "just about", as I had a sort out last year when they first got in touch. The answer to the first question is a bit more complicated. I mean, YES, I do like the IDEA of selling every copy of every album, but the REALITY of that happening is not quite as much fun as one might think.
For instance, This Is Not A Library sold out AGES ago (largely because we didn't make as many as we did others!) which is all well and good, but I don't have any spare copies left to THRUST on people, and sometimes I'd quite like to. Similarly, we ran out of copies of Dinosaur Planet last year too - I say "ran out" because a LOT of them were given away by me and Steve during the Edinburgh run of Total Hero Team, as I got a bit over-excited and didn't do my stock accounting properly!
There weren't any copies of This Is Not A Library in the returns box (they sold out even before we did our deal with Proper!) but there WERE several copies of Dinosaur Planet! HOORAH! There's not enough to make it worthwhile putting them back on sale in the SHOP but it does mean I have a few to INFLICT on passers by if I need to, there WERE copies of a couple of other items that I thought were long gone.
THUS I am happy to say that the EPs Better Things To Do and It Only Works Because You're Here/My Exciting Life In ROCK are now BACK ON SALE! They're also part of the Postman's Back Breaker Back Catalogue Gift Pack Attack package which gives you EVERYTHING we have in the shop in one massive package (NB I'll update the list later, but if you buy it now you'll get the recently returned CDs AND 20 Golden GRATES all for the same price!).
I mean, obviously I'm aware that if you're reading this there's a high chance that you probably already HAVE most of this stuff, but you never know! For now I am delighted to have them back in the FOLD!
posted 10/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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I feel I must proffer an apology to the Waiting World for the lack of information about my current Literary Endevours. I am fully aware of the eager multitudes BEGGING to know when the sequel to Storm House will be released, and I can only thank you all for doing so with such calmness and reserve that it might seem to an uninformed observer that nobody was asking at all.
To these and all interested parties I bring good news, for LO! on Monday I finally finished Draft TWO of what is now most likely to be called "Storm House: Minds Immeasurable"! It has taken AGES to do, partly because it is a bit longer than the first book, and partly because I now have an Actually Quite Interesting job so I've had to do the WRITING on my OWN time!
I think the final document is probably ALL RIGHT, but I have no way of telling at the moment. My PROCESS with this sort of thing is to PLOUGH THROUGH a draft and then leave it alone for several weeks, so that I can go back to it FRESH for the next go. That's what I've done so far with the various drafts of the plot and outline, and then with the first FULL draft that this second one was based on, and it seems to have worked OK. I did the same with the original book and then, the same as this time, the second draft seemed to take FOREVER. Doing the plot/outline is dead good fun because you're making up as much exciting stuff as possible, and then doing the first draft is ALSO fun because you get to put all the dialogue and JOKES in, but the SECOND draft is basically a near complete re-write as you try to make it all make some kind of SENSE and, in my case, make sure that you don't tell the same joke TWICE just because you forgot you'd already told it earlier.
The THIRD draft will, hopefully, be much quicker and involve me LARFING at the aforesaid JOKES because I'd forgotten them, as well as correcting spelling, grammar and so forth, before I try and find some willing chums to have a read of it to see what they think. After that it'll be drafts four (re-writing on the basis of their THORTS) and five (spelling and grammar again) before it gets near anyone else, so it's going to be a while yet before it's officially out. I'd hoped to UNLEASH it before Christmas this year, but that looks rather unlikely now!
In the meantime though I've got another job to do - a re-write of the FIRST "Storm House" book!! "But Mark," you might say, "Haven't you already published that one?" Well yes, I have, but the other week I got a rather brilliant READER REPORT from one of the competitions it got long-listed for, suggesting a couple of MAJOR but also VERY DO-ABLE changes to a) one of the characters b) some of the pacing. It made a LOT of sense, so going to have a go at DOING the suggested changes and then, if it works, re-entering said competition. There's nothing to lose by trying, and if it comes out rubbish I can forget about it!
Once THAT's done I'll be having a go at the second draft of the OTHER book I was working on earlier this year, which WAS called "Alpha Male" and then "Six Billion To One" but is now probably going to be called something else again. Doubtless that'll take a good long while too so it's going to be AGES before I have ACTUAL TEXT to show people - this does, I must admit, make it all a bit of a SLOG to keep going at, as my favourite part of this whole process (SHOWING OFF) is always AGES away!
Still, it's all moving forward, if very slowly, and hopefully it'll be worth the wait when they finally come out. In the meantime, thank you all for your STOICISM and patience!
posted 8/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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On Monday evening The Culture In My Society and I went to look at Frieze Sculpture 2018 in Regents Park. We went to it last year and thought it was GRATE, so when the aforesaid Notes In My Guide suggested a return trip I was WELL up for it.
It was a lovely evening and the park was PACKED with people sitting around having picnics, but the ART itself was, overall, not as good as last year. There were some good bits - a PAVILION which reminded me strongly of the bird houses in Central Park in Peterborough (this MAY not be what it was meant to be like) and a sculpture made of various iron TUBES you could look through - but a lot of it was just Sort Of All Right. The MAIN problem, however, was with the descriptions, which were AWFUL.
This is a common thing in THE ARTS, where people who are dead good at SCULPTURE or PAINTING or INSTALLATIONS or what have you try to sound DEAD CLEVER in an area that they are really really bad in i.e. Writing Comprehensible English. I've seen loads of ART over the years which, when explained in HUMAN TALKING by The Actual Artist suddenly makes huge amounts of sense and becomes ALL THE BETTER, but are described in the accompanying notes using INCOMPREHENSIBLE NONSENSE which, frankly, makes you want to burn down all galleries with lit copies of the Daily Mail.
Luckily for my composure I am not alone in this frustration - it even has an official (NB not actually official) name: "Art Bollocks", relating to the multiply adjectivised, but also unnecessarily complicated, sentences, yet paragraphs, which play with the ideas around the subject which generate buzzwords and at the same time, though differently, say nothing useful at all. There's even an Arty Bollocks Generator for people who don't have time to write their own!
One example was a GIANT PENGUIN, which I liked a lot until I read the description. "Drawing on classical Hollywood tropes, (the artist) exposes the limits of our preconceptions. Both funny and destablizing, this work depicts the artist as a penguin, six feet and seven inches tall." We had a good look around the sculpture but it was JUST A PENGUIN, with no hint of it being the artist, and anyway, WHAT Hollywood tropes? If it's just the fact that there have been penguins in films, then doesn't that apply to ALL HUMAN ENDEAVOUR?
Elsewhere everything was "playing" with something and simultaneously exposing something else, while a reconstruction of some machinery was "confronting the precarity of technological desire, the progress of industry and automation, is set against biological evolution." Spoilers: It wasn't and it didn't.
The worst of all this is that it makes ME feel like a PHILISTINE complaining about PRETENTIOUSNESS in ART when, actually, honestly, I just want a bit of CLARITY. These artists clearly have THORTS and IDEAS and spend AGES manifesting them, so why ruin it by annoying the HECK out of CONNOISSEURS like what we are eh?
In summary then: not as good as last year but we had a lovely time and some of it WAS dead good - definitely worth a visit, just don't read the descriptions!!
posted 7/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Looking For A Horse To Get Back On
As those who received the latest issue of the newsletter will know, there's not an awful lot of ROCK going on around here at the moment. For instance, we have precisely ONE gig booked, for Tim's birthday, with nothing much else on the horizon.
The reasons for this are manifold and CLEAR. It's a Universal Truth that most gig promoters, like most bands, have a well-defined life cycle, starting full of enthusiasm, getting into it for a few years, and then eventually getting fed up and jacking it in. In much the same way that The Validators have passed through several cycles of Which Bands Are The Cool Bands over our DOUBLE DECADE history, we have also seen Gig Circuits rise and fall in the same way. It's always sad when a Promoters pack it in, but as they have tended to become CHUMS over time it's always nice to know they'll be getting a lot of their TIME, also CA$H, back!
However, this does mean that you have to keep an eye out for new mugs... sorry, promoters, coming through who might be willing to BOOK you, and for the past few years I must admit that I have rather taken my eye off the ball there. This is partly due to the fact that the various SHOWS we've done have an almost entirely seperate list of venues and promoters to GIGS, and partly because doing Totally Acoustic has been such a DELIGHTFUL way of getting to show off that I haven't felt much need to look elsewhere.
This was all lovely for a good long while, but now that the shows AND Totally Acoustic are on hiatus while I do my PhD there are YAWNING GAPS in my diary where any kind of GIG should be. So far I have dealt with this mostly by MOPING AROUND and SIGHING a lot, occasionally clicking "Refresh" on my email to see if there's any chance somebody who hasn't put a gig on for five years has suddenly decided to a) get back into it and b) do so by booking an act that is almost guaranteed to bring in an audience of up to 3 people. Last week though I had A Bit Of A Word With Myself and agreed that if I really DID want to do some gigs (I checked: I DO) then I should do probably do something a bit more pro-active about it!
My first idea was to go and do some Open Mic nights, but as soon as I started looking into it I remembered one very crucial thing about Open Mic nights, and that is that I don't really like them. They always start really early, you never know when it's going to be your turn, you only get two songs (and mine are dead short!) and then, if you are like me, you feel duty bound to sit through the rest of it, which tends to feature a LOT of Serious Men doing very long, very twiddly, largely tune free dirges.
THUS I decided that maybe I should try ASKING for some ACTUAL gigs instead. I have very little idea what's going on in the world of INDIE at the moment, but I have a vague idea that maybe a bloke in his late late LATE Thirties (SHUT UP) playing an acoustic guitar may NOT be what they're crying out for. HOWEVER, I then realised that there ARE "Acoustic Gigs" which are set up specifically FOR people playing acoustic guitars and, living in London, I probably had access to several such nights every WEEK.
A quick Google showed that my suspicions were correct, so I have spent several jolly evenings looking for likely places and then EMAILING them my DETAILS, asking politely if I could come and play. I am very aware that none of them will care about my MIGHTY ROCK HISTORY, but that doesn't matter as it's a Whole New Area what I am trying to get into. I don't even really mind if most of them don't want me to play, it's just quite nice to feel like something is actually POSSIBLE again!
So far I have had one Definite No and one Possibly Yes, with about EIGHT unanswered and a similar amount still to contact. It's really rather good fun - hopefully the NEXT newsletter will have a bit more in it!
posted 6/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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During our time in Edinburgh we were constantly updating the BBC Weather Forecast online. It was LUDICROUSLY HOT back in London, but UTTERLY GORGEOUS in Edinburgh, like Holiday Weather, but we had long been forewarned that it was going to rain for the entire duration of the second stage of our holiday, in Berwick-Upon-Tweed. As it happened, it rained for about five minutes during daylight hours, TIPPED it down overnight, but otherwise was lovely. We felt BLESSED!
We were staying in the Youth Hostel in Berwick, which was perfectly all right but very much NOT The Premier Inn. Call me SPOILT by fine living, but within MINUTES I found myself HANKERING for 24 hour news channels. It's a funny old place Berwick, like a small North Eastern town but one with MASSIVE bridges and GINORMOUS Elizabethan battlements. There's huge WALLS most of the way around it which are astounding, and make YORK look like somewhere with a fence, but neither of us had any idea they were there until we went. There's also a chronic over-provision of hairdressers (there were a LOT) and under-provision of places to STAY and/or to EAT - the YHA was the only place left with vacancies when we tried to book (several months in advance), and in the evenings the few restaurants/cafes that were still open had big FULLY BOOKED signs in the windows. What they need is a Premier Inn with a Thyme Bar!
There was also a LOWRY trail, which was dead interesting - we had a right good old stomp around the town looking at places that Lowry had painted, discovering along the way that he was very happy to change something to make it look better, irrespective of reality. That was the best bit about Berwick, I think. The worst bit was the 300,000 SEAGULLS outside our window all night!
The main reason for being there was to go to Lindisfarne, which we'd wanted to visit for ages. In my research beforehand I'd struggled to find a way to GET there - there seemed to be ONE bus which went at different times according to the tide, detailed on a timetable you needed a PHYSICS DEGREE to understand but, as far as I could tell, meant getting up at DAWN to catch. We decided to get a taxi, so headed off to the rank only to find all the roads closed for a MARCH by The British Legion! When that finished we waited AGES without any luck, until The Cabs On My Rank spotted a BUS at some nearby traffic lights, with "Holy Island" as its destination.
We dashed round the corner to a handy bus stop just in time to hop on. The Change In My Pocket asked the driver what time she'd be coming back, and was toldnthat the bus was turning round and heading back as soon as we got there. We got our tickets and sat down, and then approx 30 seconds later another couple sat in front turned round and said they'd booked a taxi for 7.30pm, and would we like to share it? We said "YES PLEASE!"
THUS we got to do the whole trip for CONSIDERABLY less than we otherwise would, and also met some nice people, James and Imogen, who we would bump into repeatedly for the remainder of our trip, for LO! neither Berwick nor Lindisfarne are particularly big!
The whole experience of being on the island was MAGICAL, right from the bus ride across the CAUSEWAY, with SEA on either side. As we approached the village of Holy Island the bus driver pointed out SEALS nearby, and then when we got there it was full of BIRDS. Man alive, I have never SEEN so many BIRDS being so TAME. At one point we sat outside for a cup of tea and were SWAMPED by them, flying around people's tables, nicking crumbs straight off plates, and feeding from hands. It was ACE!
The causeway was shut from approx 2.30pm to 7.15pm, which meant that most of the ATTRACTIONS closed by 2pm so that staff could go back. We hadn't realised this before we set off, so didn't actually get to go INTO any of them, but that turned out to be fine as we got to LOOK at them for FREE! HA! We looked at the Priory then went for a stroll up to the (ENORMOUS! IMPRESSIVE! ASTOUNDING!) Castle, before wandering along the beach until we found ourselves, accidentally, on a Nature Trail. This was AMAZING, especially when we saw a SEAL, and then a Mysterious White Pyramid which turned out to be a Mysterious White Pyramid That Is Also A Shipping Beacon and bumped into ... James and Imogen again!
It was all pretty idyllic, especially with SWALLOWS everywhere you looked (NB these are my favourite) and GLORIOUS sunshine. When we got back to the village we had the aforementioned, and well earned, tea, also GRUB, and then went off for another wander, this time finding ourselves in a series of sand-dunes that surrounded various AMPHITHEATRES, like naturally forming golf courses.
We ended up in THE PUB, where we once again bumped into James and Imogen, and sat feeling UTTERY KNACKERED. We had walked for HOURS!
Next day we headed home, though not before bumping into our new acquaintances AGANE - tho this time we were already in the cafe when they came in, so it felt very slightly LESS like we were STALKING them. The journey home was, again, a DELIGHT, although as it was a Sunday we did not get the BOOZE PLYING we had previously received. BOO!
In summary then: we had a lovely time and, despite all the BOOZE and GRUB consumed, I think all that walking meant I even lost some weight! RESULT!!
posted 2/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Edinburgh During Not The Fringe
Last week myself and The Train On My Tracks embarked on a sophisticated two-centre holiday to Edinburgh and Lindisfarne. The Executive Summary is as follows:
- It was GRATE
- It was surprisingly WARM
We stayed in the Hub By Premier Inn, which is a slightly dinkier version of the regular Premier Inn, and also like a SPACESHIP as everything runs on ELECTRONIC PANEL DISPLAYS. We found this to be DELIGHTFUL! It was also SUPER HANDY - we are both used to being in Edinburgh during the Fringe, when you end up staying somewhere at least a good walk out of town, so I kept getting confused by the fact that we would leave the hotel and not only IMMEDIATELY be in town, but could also pop back for stuff whenever we needed. It was GRATE!
I'd thought Edinburgh would look really different outside of Fringe times, but it was already covered in posters, there were Venue Numbers going up everywhere, and it was full of people, so it all felt quite familiar. The only real difference was that the people were on average about 30 years older than I'm used to, and they didn't keep trying to give us flyers for shows.
We saw our nephew Felix on two evenings, enjoying some fine dining and some even finer WHISKEY drinking, and we spent a FAB day out with my sister, her husband and four MORE nephews (and a lot of ladybirds for some reason). It was a very NEPHEW HEAVY holiday really, and all the better for it!
When not engaged with nephews we managed to do a couple of things we'd never done before in Scotland's capital i.e. take the Open Top Bus Tour (HIGHLY recommended) and visit The National Museum Of Scotland, wherein The Exhibits In My Show went on a big explore of the galleries, and I went to look at Rip It Up: The Story Of Scottish Pop. This was Quite Weird, as there were loads of bands I LIKE and have seen, and think of as Modern And Groovy, but in a MUSEUM. There were also a LOT of Bass Guitars on display, almost as if the person most likely to have kept anything in a band is the bass player. Surely that can't be right, can it?
All in all it was a MEGA-BRILLO idea to go to Edinburgh during Not The Fringe, especially when the weather was so GLORIOUS. I would recommend it HIGHLY, as I would the NEXT bit of our holiday, which would take us to Berwick-Upon-Tweed and LINDISFARNE!
posted 1/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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After work on Thursday I went to the PUB - nothing so fascinating or unusual about that, you might think, except that THIS pub contained Mr F A Machine!
For LO! we were off on an ADVENTURE to Brighton! A while back I'd seen a Call For Papers for Graphic Brighton, an annual comics conference looking this year at the link between comics and music. It seemed rude NOT to submit something, so Frankie and I worked up a paper called "The Swingin' Sounds Of Sixties Marvel" about the theme songs for Marvel series in that decade. It got accepted, so off we went!
We arrived in Brighton and set off for our hotel, stopping briefly on the way for a refreshing beer in a pub containing a GIGANTIC cat called Bailey. Our plan was to go to the BEACH to have a practice (so as not to disturb other guests) so after a DELICIOUS curry we headed down to the shore, and found that a) it's not as easy as you'd think to get onto the actual beach in Brighton and b) when you do it is full of people, so instead we went to the PUB and had a gentle sing through together of the various songs instead. Frankie had already sent me mp3s of his versions of the songs, but it was still good to actually go through them TOGETHER, even if only in hushed tones.
After a night of disturbances (heat, seagulls, people outside etc etc) we regrouped and took the long walk back to the railway station. Brighton is a BIG place, and seems to be full of HILLS, also HOTELS, yet it always seems really hard to find anywhere to stay there. Are there just a lot of people who want to hang around temporarily, or are the hotels FRONTS for the many Artisanal Bagel Factories that are required to keep the town running?
We got the train to Falmer, and followed some EXCELLENT fully illustrated instructions to find The University of Sussex, where the conference was being held. Frankie later told me that this was his first time back in a lecture theatre for TWENTY SEVEN YEARS and that initially it had given him THE FEAR. However, this ebbed as the day went on, especially during the first talk by Holly Casio, who was speaking about her fanzine about Bruce Springsteen. It was EXTREMELY interesting, and she spoke about it brilliantly. "Not all comics conferences are this much fun" I warned Frankie.
The rest of the day was GRATE - lots of interesting talks, excellent people, and great organisation. If Frankie ends up undertaking a DOCTORATE next I am pretty sure that this is where it will all have started! We did our bit towards the end of the day, talking about the perceived HIPNESS of the songs and, indeed, BELLOWING them at people. It appeared to go down really well, and though there wasn't a HUGE volume for the singalong at the end, people did CLAP a lot!
Afterwards we took part in a PANEL. I'd thought our bits would be all down to me, but Frankie happily joined in - I was VERY proud, he is a NATURAL at this academic lark! Afterwards a chap came up to talk to us about The Who's cover of "Batman", and it was only when we went back in for the final session that I realised he was HUNT EMERSON! He and Julie Hollings did the final session, which was BRILLO. They talked about the history of their work (including the fact that Hunt designed The Beat's "Beat Girl" logo, which I never knew) and did the GRATE thing where Comics Professionals get perplexed by Academics asking questions. "Why on earth would you want to know that?" they reply. "I have no idea! It was years ago!"
It was a GRATE day, topped off by having JUST the right amount of time to get TRANE BEERS at Brighton Station before heading home. I think both of us thought that this would just be an excuse for a JOLLY to Brighton (it was!) but it turned out also to be DEAD INTERESTING and, actually, quite a good thing to talk about. I think I would like to do it AGANE - San Diego! Call us!
posted 23/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Saturday morning found me up bright and early to head to The Midlands for the annual extravaganza known as HIBBETTFEST!
When I had consulted with Mr R Kirkham about dates earlier in the year I had been well aware that this was the day of the World Cup third-place play-offs, but thought that a) there was no way England would still be in the tournament by then and b) who cares about the third place play-offs anyway? I had not banked on a) England doing really well and b) me loving the World Cup quite as much as I have, so I must admit there was a small part of me who would have quite liked to watch a bit more of it. However, all worked out well and my day turned out to be MUCH more fun than watching England getting beaten by (according to Match Of The Day later on iPlayer) a better team!
The fun commenced at Marylebone station, with my trouser pocket breaking and all my change falling on the floor. People FLOCKED to the area to help me, picking it all up and handing it over. A lady sitting nearby handed my the last pound coin and said. "Everybody helped - aren't people lovely?" and I had to agree that they were.
Talking of lovely people, I then bumped into Mr M Tiller, who was this year's special guest. Being sensible grown-ups we had both arrived SUPER EARLY and so had plenty of time for a cuppa before hopping onto the slow train to Birmingham Moor Street. The journey passed at high speed due to NATTERING all the way up, and we were soon changing and on our way to Cradley Heath where Venue Owner Mr K Kirkham (aka Ray's Dad) picked us up and took us, as is traditional, to the Offy to get some booze. This was the THIRTEENTH (!) Hibbettfest, and I think it's important to maintain some of these ancient traditions!
We rolled up at the venue not long after to find a whole bunch of lovely folk there, including the usual assortment of dogs and BABIES, although this time several of the babies appear to have become CHILDREN, and children who were more than happy to JOIN IN too. One of the aforesaid was Ray's nephew Luke who this year was wearing a high vis jacket, t-shirt labelled "security", dark glasses, a walky-talky and an earpiece. He even had a FLAG for guiding in traffic, I have never felt so well protected at a gig before!
After quite a lot of sitting around in the baking sunshine chatting, drinking beer, and eating the ENORMOUS Vegan buffet which Ray had supplied (featuring some particularly brilliant sausage rolls this year, also CURRY) Matt took to the stage - or, rather, awning of the SHED - to perform. He was joined not only by the security officer but also three DANCERS who FLOSSED and DABBED throughout his performance, which he coped with MANFULLY! It was GRATE!
After returning to the buffet area for DESSERT we then gathered outside once more for ME to take to the awning and do THIS:
I had a LOVELY time, especially with my dancers helping me, and I think it went OK. I had been a bit worried in the days leading up to the festival that I would FORGET how to do a gig, as I have done so few lately, but it all came back!
The Fair Play Trophy (again)
Cheer Up Love
Two Nights, One Pub
20 Things To Do Before You're 30
It Only Works Because You're here
We Did It Anyway
Boom Shake The Room
The Lesson Of The Smiths
There was then more time for sitting around and BEER before a select group of us got on the PARTY BUS back to town for an INTELLECTUAL round table discussion in the pub on diverse topics, after which Matt and I said our goodbyes and headed to Snow Hill Station, where we JUST got into Waitrose before it closed to get some TRAIN BEERS. HA! The journey home passed, if anything, even more quickly, partly due to the BEER and partly due to the extensive chats we had on MEN'S ISSUES and POLITICS... which were probably also partly due to the BEER!
It was a lovely lovely day all round - roll on number fourteen!
posted 16/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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On Wednesday Night myself and The Fireplace In My Guitar went to our favourite Big Music Venue, the O2, to see QUEEN. Short version: It was BRILL.
We'd been to see them late last year and had a GRATE time, so the aforesaid Chorus Of My Anthem was very keen to go again. I was not so keen - I'd really enjoyed it, but expected them to do exactly the same show again - but was persuaded to attend by having my ticket PAID FOR and the offer of DRINKS too. I never said I was a CHEAP date, but I can be bought!
It was lovely being back at the O2, especially after going to the Olympic Stadium a few weeks ago, which isn't half as nice for this sort of thing. The O2 always feels COSY, despite being GIGANTIC, and there is AMPLE supply of bars to get BEERZ from, which there was NOT at the stadium. This time we were much closer to ground level than previously, so could not only see the BAND properly but could also see our chum Mr M Sutton, who WAVED to us from his position near the sounddesk where APPARENTLY he could see Anita Dobson watching the show and ROCKING OUT!
I do not blame her for doing so, because it was a VERY ROCKING show. A lot of it was indeed the same as last time, but there was a LOAD of different songs, and anyway it was all HIGHLY enjoyable. We could not help but compare it to The Rolling Stones gig at the aforesaid stadium. MicK Jagger had been good but in comparison to Queen the rest of them looked like they could not be arsed to be there, the actual playing was distinctly ropey, and the SHOW element was designed to hide the fact that it was 3 old men standing very still and one old man jigging about. In contrast QUEEN looked like they were DELIGHTED to be there, the music was FANTASTIC, and the show was entirely integrated into what they were doing, and FUN. The highlight of the whole thing for me was near the end, when Brian May came on to do the solo in "Bohemian Rhapsody" wearing a SILVER JUMPSUIT which had LONG DANGLY BITS on the sleeves like ARM CLOAKS, JUST like he did in the video. It was a small touch, but endemic of the CARE and RESPECT for the audience that characterised the whole thing.
Other highlights were B May doing "Love Of My Life" illuminated ENTIRELY by people switching on the "torch" setting on their phones, Adam Lambert HUGGING the senior members of the group, and the mass adherence by the audience to THE RULES OF ROCK demonstrated by the QUEUE for the urinals when everybody went to the loo during the DRUM SOLO.
It was BLOODY FAB is what it was. On an unrelated note, where can I hire a smoke machine, giant robot and RISER STAGE for Tim's birthday gig?
posted 6/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Unusual Sporting Emotions
You find me today in a strange limbo of NO FOOTBALL. It is very weird indeed - it has been ALL FOOTBALL nearly every day for, as far as I recall, DECADES and now suddenly we are in a space of NONE. I can only hope it returns tomorrow or LORD knows what we will do.
The only thing weirder than the lack of football is the presence of a strange new emotion that I have never previously felt in regard to the England Football team, which feels almost like LOVE. I don't know what it is, but every time I hear Gareth Southgate being Entirely Reasonable on television, or see him consoling a Colombian, or nursing a small kitten back to health, something WELLS UP inside me that makes me want to shake him firmly by the hand and buy him a pint. It's similar with the team themselves - most of my life I have seen them as wallies, prats and, occasionally, outright gits, but this current lot appear to be Delightful Young Men. It is probably my GRATE AGE, but I have an URGE to hire a mini-bus and take them all on an outing to ALTON TOWERS or a CITY FARM, because by golly I think they deserve it.
These feelings were only increased watching the game against Colombia on Tuesday night when, in the words of a certain song they really DID behave like "a team of virtuous saints". I've seen England play nasty teams before, but seeing the Colombians screaming, fouling, head-butting and, most infuriating of all, DESECRATING THE PENALTY SPOT felt like watching the local sixth-formers who lurk around, giggling to each other, outside my local shop being suddenly SHOVED AROUND by some Older Boys who are SMOKING. I tell you what, it made me want to go over there and give them a STERN PIECE OF MY MIND!
Overall I have been FLIPPING LOVING this World Cup (Spain VS Portugal! Belgium VS Japan! Korea VS Germany!) but I did not enjoy this game AT ALL. As well as feeling outraged I felt TERRIFIED at every stage, so when that last minute equaliser went in it felt like a long awaited DOOM descending. I was getting STOMACH CRAMPS during the extra time, and I must confess to considering leaving the room all together when the penalties began.
However, as the shootout commenced myself and The Net Of My Goal (who had remained Remarkably Calm until this point) noticed something rather wonderful happening. Round the corner from our house a Big Screen had been set up, which had 900 people watching the same game as us but, apparently, approximately ONE SECOND ahead. THUS whenever an England player began his run up we would hear a MIGHTY ROAR just before he scored, or a MIGHTY GROAN if he didn't, coming from the future-viewers down the road. This made the entire experience SIGNIFICANTLY less stressful, especially when Jordan Wonderful Pickford SAVED one and ESPECIALLY especially when Eric Dier stepped up to take the final winning shot. There was a BEAUTIFUL moment when we heard a MIGHTY CHEER and KNEW that we were going to win, just it began to happen on our telly. It was one of those out of body experiences you hear about, when time itself slowed down to one elongated perfect moment.
I think I would like it very much if ALL big events could have a BIG SCREEN round the corner in future, preferably about a WEEK ahead of me, to reassure me that things will turn out all right.
All of the above has of course engendered ANOTHER unusual emotion related to the England Team: HOPE. I have been singing "Three Lions" to myself for the past couple of days, and am imagining England ACTUALLY WINNING THE WORLD CUP... well, all right, I am imagining England NARROWLY LOSING TO BRAZIL IN THE FINAL, but that's still a lot more than my usual expectation of them losing 7-0 to the Isle Of Wight and John Terry punching somebody, so I will take what I can get. For now at least, it is very much COMING HOME!
posted 5/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Like every living sentient creature in this country I have spent the past few years hearing about PPI flipping EVERYWHERE. It's so omnipresent in spam emails, spam phone calls, adverts and newspaper articles that GDPR came as something of a BLESSED RELIEF!
I had always been a bit sniffy about the whole business, taking the line that surely you would KNOW if you had taken out PPI and did not need all these people telling you about it. "It only applies to twits and wallies who can't manage their money," I thought, "I am sure it wouldn't be me!"
HOWEVER, a few weeks ago somebody on Facebook (I can't remember who and can't find it now!) mentioned that they'd gone onto their bank's own PPI checker page, spent about half an hour putting in their details, and had received enough CA$H to get, as they put it "some nice bottles of wine." "Hang on," I thought, "I like nice bottles of wine AND have half an hour spare. Maybe I should have a go!"
THUS I went onto Barclay's PPI Page and filled in a few details so that they could check whether I'd ever been mis-sold PPI. I was entirely sure that a) I wouldn't have ever been so daft to do so and anyway b) would remember if I had, so imagine my surprise when I received a letter a few weeks later saying I HAD had a PPI policy, for ELEVEN YEARS from 1998 to 2009!!
"Oh yeah, I guess I did take out a loan didn't I?" I thought. "Yes," said my BRANE. "You got it to put out your half of the Clubbing In The Week single!" AHA!
The letter said that I now needed to put in a proper CLAIM, to check whether I had been MIS-sold, rather than just sold, it, which did involve a bit of research - it turns out there IS a point to keeping piles of old payslips from twenty years ago! I typed it all in, pressed send, and then expected to wait AGES to be told that it had all been entirely above board. THUS when I got back from Bournemouth and found I'd had a letter from Barclays saying "We have received your complaint, it'll probably take ages to process" I was not surprised.
Imagine then my GLEE when I opened ANOTHER letter in the same pile of correspondence which said that my complaint had been UPHELD, and that they were going to give me a load of CA$H! All right, not a life-changing amount by any means, but CERTAINLY enough for some very nice wine and maybe a bottle of whisky too! It turns out that me not really paying attention to what I was signing back in the last century was the BEST INVESTMENT I have ever made!
I tell you this not to GLOAT over my good fortune - though as it is purely at the expense of THE MAN I think some gloating is fine in moderation - but to advise you, gentle reader, to have a go yourself. There is only about a YEAR to go to make these sort of enquiries, and as it only takes a few minutes to do the initial enquiry it is WELL worth a go. You don't need to go through an agency or talk to anybody on the phone or anything, apparently THE BANKS have to make it as easy as possible so they're all supposed to have dedicated sections on their websites where you can just do it yourself. All you need is GOOGLE basically. It's peasy - have a go!
posted 3/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Comics, Beer And Football
I spent most of last work in the absolute HECKHOLE that is an Academic Conference. Wot a TRIAL it was, spending every day talking about comics, only broken up by regular trips to the pub to watch football with supporters of many nations.
Yes all right, it was jolly good fun, but it did not begin that way, for LO! there were Troubles On The Line on Tuesday night which meant that every service to Bournemouth, where the conference was, was BUGGERED. This meant that the pleasant 100 minute sprint to the coast just in time to watch the football that I'd been hoping for turned into THREE AND A HALF HOURS on a PACKED train with me having to STAND for most of the way. When I finally arrived in Bournemouth, having entirely MISSED the football I trudged across town to what turned out to be the WRONG Premier Inn. "A lot of people get confused" said the lady at reception. The lady at reception in the RIGHT Premier Inn said EXACTLY the same thing when I got there!
The conference itself started on the Wednesday morning and it was GRATE. I did my talk (about defining 'The Marvel Age' as a distinct period) right in the first session of talks, which meant I could then RELAX for the rest of the week. It seemed to go all right, with some good questions and nice feedback afterwards, which added to my RELIEF.
I also went to some ACE talks on Dan Dare, The Marie Duvall Archive, a cunning use of DATABASES to demonstrate changes in storytelling methods over time, digital comics collecting, and quite a lot of Alan Moore. I also ended up going to several sessions about WOMEN in comics, especially in early GIRLS' comics, which was fascinating - it was a MASSIVE market that ran alongside the BOYS' comics that we all know so much more about, and it feels like there's a whole ALTERNATE UNIVERSE where, instead of banging on about Pat Mills and Judge Dredd, people are fascinated by Anne Digby and Tammy! (NB I say Anne Digby because she was there and did an INTERVIEW, and she was BRILL)
Another nice thing this year was that I actually KNEW a few people. It's always scary going to these things when you're NEW and don't have anyone to sit with at lunch. It is basically SKOOL for grown-ups, and like SKOOL it's much much easier when you have people you know from previous events who you can sidle up to for a chat. One of the people there was Mr J Senna, who I'd met when I was in Tuebingen in February, and who I ended up seeing several football games with. Watching Brazil with an Actual Brazilian was a lot of fun, only topped by spending one afternoon BUNKING OFF and going to the pub to watch South Korea beat Germany. That was PRETTY GOOD.
The whole thing FLEW by so that I now find myself back at work once more, looking forward to the NEXT conference I'm attending in a few weeks. This one's only a day long but it will have the added benefit of featuring me CO-PRESENTING with Mr FA Machine - more on this ANON!
posted 2/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Work's All Right
On Friday I was off to The National Archives at Kew to attend ANOTHER Research Day as part of my Exciting New Job, and also to do ANOTHER Presentation about the same.
Kew is a LONG way away from my house. It's so far away that I had to go THROUGH Baron's Court to get there - Baron's Court was where I used to go to when I workd at Imperial, which was a RUDDY long way away, so Kew was therefore even further!
It was a GORGEOUS day when I got there. The National Archive is a big Brutalist building surrounded by trees, lakes and SWANS and, unusually for Brutalist buildings it had aged really well and looked lovely in the sunshine.
I went into the conference room and found my traditional seat at the back... but then the organiser came over and asked me to sit at the FRONT with the other speakers. I wasn't very keen but did as I was told, though as the morning progressed I wished I hadn't. We were all sat on a table facing everybody else, with the screen and current speaker behind us, so we had to WRENCH round to look at whoever was talking, and not only couldn't SEE what they were talking about, but were also blocking the view for everyone else! It always seems daft when conferences do this, but luckily the woman who spoke first just went and sat in the audience when she'd finished, so we all followed her lead as it went on.
My bit was about the CHALLENGES of recording Arts Research Data when systems are generally set up to cope with STEM data. I was a bit worried before I started because other speakers were doing a lot more IN-DEPTH talks about Research Data Management, but people after me did Case Studies like what I was doing, and I DID get some LARFS. I am trying to gently persuade myself that there is MORE to doing an academic presentation than just getting LARFS, but then I see OTHER people do talks with GAGS in, and I always enjoy them a lot more!
At lunchtime I was all prepped to go for a wander round the grounds and not talk to anybody - this is a policy I developed over YEARS of going to Statistics conferences where, in the nicest possible way, it's all A BIT BORING. I am constantly surprised, however, by how INTERESTING Research Data Management is, and also how ACTUALLY NICE the people are. I had a right old chat to several people about Various Issues, all of whom had things to say AND to ask, and I ended up staying inside and YACKING the whole time, including to one chap who turned out to have OPINIONS about the "One More Day" storyline in "Amazing Spider-Man"! Who'd've thought that people who liked COMICS would also like ARCHIVING things eh?
It was, all-told, GRATE fun, and even being forced to do a WORKSHOP in the afternoon turned out to be quite jolly. It is a constant surprise to me to be enjoying my job so much - other people do it all the time, I'm told, but it's a whole new experience for me. INDEED I had my 3 Month Probation Meeting the other day and, when asked how I was finding it, I said "I'm having a WHALE of a time!"
"We've noticed!" said my boss. I'm pretty sure that's a good thing - someone should write a song about job's being all right, they really should!
posted 26/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Fair Play's Coming Home
Like many people in this great nation of ours I find myself today inflicted with an entirely unusual sensation: that of Actually Enjoying England's World Cup Progress.
It's most peculiar - I always enjoy the World Cup (and am enjoying it A LOT this time) but the England matches are usually a turgid period of grinding annoyance, boredeom and, ultimately, inevitably, disappointment. THIS time however it has been a DELIGHT. Mr G Southgate seems like a very pleasant chap who appears to have some kind of a PLAN. Not only that, he seems to know how to make it HAPPEN, and - astonishing as it seems - is able to get the players to actually DO it.
This, I feel, is the most astounding aspect of the whole business: the players ARE doing The Plan, and seem to be a) able b) HAPPY to do so. Also, after DECADES of general DISTATE for the England team I find myself actually QUITE LIKING them all. That Raheem Sterling article was GRATE, and every time I see Raheem Sterling on the telly I have an IRRESISTABLE URGE to shake him firmly by the hand, tell him he's done REALLY WELL, and slip him a tenner to spend on whatever he likes.
Yes yes I KNOW that they have not exactly played the best teams yet, but the way they HAVE played has been so POSITIVE that I have found myself rather MOVED by it all. Best of all, I was pleased to be told (repeatedly) by (many) telly commentators that if we DRAW against Belgium on Thursday then the final placings will be decided by FAIR PLAY!
England might win their group because of FAIR PLAY! Good golly, you'd think someone might write a SONG about something like that wouldn't you?
I am thus getting myself prepared for an ONSLAUGHT (i.e. a TWEET) of media activity on Thursday evening, to point out to the world's press that, actually, someone has. Finally, after 20 years of hurt, this could be our time!
posted 25/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Hello West Virginia
At the end of last week I received an INTRIGUING email from Ms C Gaffin of Charleston, West Virginia, formerly of Old London Town. She told me that her husband, Mr J Gaffin, was the DJ on The Afternoon Show on the radio station WTSQ, and that he'd recently been playing our version of Glory Days by Mr B Springsteen. The public reaction, she said, had been "incredible" and "almost a riot." In a good way!
I was, of course, RUDDY DELIGHTED to hear this. 'Glory Days' is a bit of an OUTLIER in our mighty canon - I've played it more often with The PopArt Allstars (twice) than with The Validators (once) and have very rarely done it solo, yet in some ways it's one of our most well-known songs, as it seems to do EXTREMELY well on Spotify. This is MOST LIKELY because it is SO GRATE, but there's a slim chance that it gets recommended to people who have a) listened to other people's versions of the song or b) listened to other tracks by much more well known bands who appeared on the compilation album that it was recorded for i.e. Play Some Pool, Skip Some School, Act Real Cool from Mr J Jervis's marvellous Where It's At Is Where You Are Label.
So it was that I agreed to call into the aforesaid radio show last night (Wednesday) for a CHAT. I had sat myself in front of my laptop at home GIRDING myself for a painful session of SKYPE SHOUTING so was amazed to find my PHONE ringing. Caitlin was using Facebook Messenger like a PHONE line, which meant I could sit and just YACK AWAY to Josh on the show like it was some kind of normal conversation or something. Isn't the future GRATE?
The conversation what we had was an ABSOLUTE DELIGHT. Josh seemed to have the uncanny ability to ask questions that led DIRECTLY to an Interesting Anecdote e.g. "So, have you ever done a gig in the USA?" led IMMEDIATELY to the story behind I Did A Gig In New York and over the course of about half an hour we RANGED across such diverse topics as Andy Bell's position in Peterborough (Josh had been there!), the 155th Birthday of the state of West Virginia, and the need for Dinosaur Planet to have a West End/Broadway run before being adapted for film. We also played a bunch of our other songs, and I told the tale of how I was FORCED* (*asked) to change the lyrics BACK to Bruce's original rather than the English Translation I had initially recorded.
I THOROUGHLY enjoyed myself, so was extremely pleased when, halfway through, Josh asked if I could come on the show on a monthly basis for a CHAT. I said "YES PLEASE!" The only downside of the entire experience was that, due to a prior engagement, I had to decline the offer of joining in with an on-air IMPROV SESSION with a local group and... TV's Greg Proops. I have had many unusual experiences in this crazy world of rock and roll, but declining an invitation to do Improv Comedy with Greg Proops in West Virginia was certainly one of the least foreseen outcomes I have experienced!
The whole thing was ACE - Happy Birthday West Virginia!!
posted 21/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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My CUNNING PLAN to re-re-re-re-release The Fair Play Trophy (Again) seems to be actually WORKING! It was played on Mr J Gelletaly's Amazing Radio show at the weekend and I'm told that it's going to be on Mr B Fischer's show on BBC Tees this afternoon as well!
It's GRATE to have pre-knowledge of these things as it means we can actually LISTEN IN - even after nigh on 700 years in ROCK it's still very exciting to hear your own record on the radio, so when Mr S Lamacq emailed to let us know he was planning to play us on his 6music show yesterday I ALERTED The Validators and those of us who COULD listen live DID.
Yesterday was a Thursday, which is the day that Steve has his regular Roundtable feature, where guests come in and, generally, slag off some new releases. It had been announced that this one was going to be a World Cup Special, and thus we were gripped with PANIC that Graeme Le Saux and others would listen to our song and, possibly, be UNKIND about it!
Happily that DIDN'T happen, as it was played in the first hour of the show while we were all sat at work still, and Steve was, as usually, entirely delightful about it. It's been a while since we've been on national radio, and so I'd almost forgotten that the NICEST thing about it is that loads of your pals get in touch and tell you that you're on! The GRATEST of the many notifications we received was from The Bates family in Burton, which was a video of them all DANCING to it in the kitchen!
Astoundingly, this airplay plus the couple of copies we've sold of the bandcamp version means that we have ALREADY pretty much RECOUPED all the costs of the EP! It only costs about 25 quid to put an online single out (we do ours via emuband) and the bunch of sales plus the PRS money from the three plays I know about should just about cover it!
I think this is the first thing we've EVER released that has actually made it's costs back - I think I'm beginning to see why Mr Big of Big Records INC puts out so many 'Best Of' compilations - you don't have to pay to record anything new, it's basically FREE CA$H!
(Not a lot of CA$H in our case, but still - I may splash out on a packet of polos to celebrate!)
posted 15/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Storm House Update
The other day after work I met with Ms E Morgan, chum from the MA Playwriting course and All Round Good Egg. We had a RIGHT old chat about various WRITING things, not least some TREMENDOUSLY exciting stuff she's got coming up with Actual Proper (i.e. PAID!) Writing Work, and it reminded me that I have not BANGED ON here very much lately about Storm House.
So let's put that right! The last time I mentioned it here was when it was on the longlists for BOTH The Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition AND The Bath Children's Novel Award. It didn't get any further in either competition but still it was all VERY exciting, and it gave me the boot up the bum required to dig out a copy of this year's "Artists And Writers Yearbook" (handily located in the library underneath my office), research some names and addresses, and send it out to some more agents. LAST time I tried this it did not end well, with me GETTING and then very shortly afterwards LOSING an agent. THIS time I thought I'd try sending it out to Agents who specialise in Children's Books, as that seems to be where it's had most success (I don't think it IS a Children's Book, but other people appear to), but as yet have had a few form rejections and not much else.
I must say I don't MIND this - I'm not really expecting any agents to BITE, it's more so that I know I've at least TRIED - as the plan is to publish the SECOND 'Storm House' book in the same was as I did the first. I'm working on the second draft of 'Storm House: The Utopians' at the moment, and though it's all going very well (I do like laughing at my own jokes!) it's not going quite as quickly as I'd have liked. My PLAN was to have this draft finished before my birthday next week, but I've only managed to get about halfway through. Turns out that having an Interesting Job and lots to do gives you MUCH less time to write stuff!
Having said that, I AM trying to do at least two pages of it a day, so it's coming along, even if not as quickly as I'd have liked. The ONGOING PLAN is to finish this draft, then go back and do the second draft of the OTHER book what I have got on the go, before returning to 'The Utopians' for (hopefully) much less drastic third and fourth drafts. Once THAT'S done the idea is to release the FIRST book for free again, this time with a first chapter of the NEW book at the end, and put the NEW one out for something like two quid, and then hammer all of the book promotion things I did before.
Typing it out makes it seem like it's going to be a little while yet before it's all finished, maybe not until after Christmas! It all seems a long way away, but hopefully it'll be worth it. The new book features a) Peterborough Cathedral b) Hereward The Wake c) A Giant Mushroom d) MEMES and e) all of the characters from before, so I think it will be!
posted 14/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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An Non-Secret Meeting
Last night I was back at The King & Queen for another meeting with A Little Orchestra about our No Longer Secret Project. Ooh, it does feel good to be able to talk/type about this out loud - we've had SEVERAL such meetings over the past couple of months and I have been unable to say what they were about LEST it spoil the secret surprise, but now I CAN!
For LO! we were meeting to do some PLANNING for our forthcoming ALBUM collaboration, where we'll be recording a whole heap of songs together and then performing them at a GIG. We're going to try and do it as a Kickstarter campaign, so we spent a bit of time trying to work out what we actually NEED to get, CA$Hwise, to do it. I think we're going to set our original targets quite low, to make sure we can DO it, and then STRETCH from there - hopefully we'll be able to do the actual recording in a STUDIO, and maybe the mixing too, and then from there there's options for the performance, physical product, videos and so on and so forth.
All that is for the future though - we're going to gather some COSTINGS for now, but the most urgent matter is what actual SONGS we're going to do. We've got arrangements for the seven songs that were performed at the recent gig, so we need a few more to make an actual album's worth. The plan is to get THAT sorted out ready for a joint rehearsal later in the year, and then to start planning out the campaign itself, which is all rather a) efficient but b) leisurely too. It's very nice working with a group of a similar VINTAGE as us, who do things at the same pace!
Meanwhile BRANES around the country are at work thinking of the sort of things we could offer to people who help us fund the album. We've got the usual variations of downloads, physical products, names in the booklet and tickets for the Proposed Performance, and then there's THORTS about other stuff, but I wonder is there anything else that you, gentle reader, can think of that you'd actually LIKE? Whenever I read Kickstarter campaigns they seem to be full of offers that nobody in their right MIND would actually want (like paying to appear in a video, or having to have a "party" in your own house with a drunk band there - madness!), so is there anything you'd actually WANT that we could put in there somewhere? Stick it in the comments if you've got any ideas!
(NB YES we are ALREADY going to put in a "BAND PROMISES NOT TO COME ROUND YOUR HOUSE" offer!)
posted 12/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Fairplay Out Today
Excitement is running HIGH chez moi as it is nearly time for the WORLD CUP - that glorious month of talking about FOOTBALL without the need to worry about having the slightest idea what you're on about, while simultaneously NOT looking at The News. I feel it will be very BLISS, and look forward to whatever THIS tournament's equivalent is to The Iceland Clapping or Brazil Getting Thrashed.
Additional excitement comes from the fact that today we're re-re-re-releasing The Fair Play Trophy (again) as a download single through All Online Retailers, and as a massive value expanded EP over on our bandcamp page. This latter is a VERY SPECIAL TREAT for anyone who wants to hear EIGHT different versions of the song!
It also comes with the original version of In The North Stand PLUS a very exciting REMIX by our very own Mr F A Machine, which I would HEARTILTY recommend a listen to via the aforesaid bandcamp page.
I have MILD HOPES about some airplay, not least because hardly anybody seems to have done any football songs this year. In order to facilitate media dominance I even sent out a PRESS RELEASE last week - here's what it said:
MJ Hibbett & The Validators Add Themselves To The TeamsheetThat's TODAY! As ever, if anyone has any means of DISSEMINATING this information to a wider audience it would be very much appreciated, and if anyone wants any FURTHER details about it do feel free to get in touch via the twitter.
There's no official England song for the World Cup this year, so MJ Hibbett & The Validators are stepping into the breach by re-re-re-re-releasing their own football anthem 'The Fair Play Trophy (Again)' as a single on iTunes and Spotify.
'The Fair Play Trophy (Again)' suggests that winning awards for being sporting is much more important than winning actual matches, and so, technically speaking, England are really good. It was first written for the 1998 World Cup (when England did, as predicted, win The Fair Play Trophy) then re-recorded for the 2002 competition. In 2004 it was recorded again for the European Championships, which led to MJ Hibbett becoming Steve Lamacq's official football correspondent for the duration of the tournament, writing a new version of the song each week.
The B-side to the online single will be a new version of the band's heartfelt tribute to going to the football with your Grandad, 'In The North Stand', remixed by the Validators' bass player Frankie Machine. There'll also be a special version on Bandcamp which will feature every version of the song ever recorded - eight in total - plus the original version of 'In The North Stand'.
'The Fair Play Trophy (Again)' will also appear as an additional bonus track on the band's recent greatest hits album '20 Golden GRATES' for as long as England remain in the tournament. The album is available on bandcamp or as a limited-edition cassette with free download code. "I have made a note to remove it from the tracklist on the morning of July 15," says Mark, "I am patriotically convinced that England will win, and have definitely have not also put a note in to check it on the day after the Round Of Sixteen finishes."
'The Fair Play Trophy (Again and Again and Again)' EP is available to buy on Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon and all online retailers from Monday 11 June.
As for me, I've got a FESTIVAL of TELLY... sorry, SPORT to get ready for! Where's me wallchart go to??
posted 11/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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While I was on my travels last week I took my TABLET and a LAPTOP with me, so that I could get on with some research for my PhD. For the past few months most of this research has been ACADEMIC, reading text books and theoretical analyses, which has meant that I've got a bit behind with the ACTUAL COMICS that I'm reading for Marvel Age Doom. This is my ongoing BLOG detailing EVERY appearance of Doctor Doom in ALL media between 1961 and 1987, which I'm using to record my THORTS and THEORIES as I go along. I'd been trying to get well ahead of myself with this, to the extent that, after Easter, I had TWO MONTHS of blogs drafted and ready to be unleashed. However, all the other work I've had to do meant that things had got PRECARIOUS, with only ONE blog in reserve. Something had to be done!
THUS I spent a lot of my train-time reading and writing about the amazing range of comics that came out around 1966-1968 that featured Doctor Doom. I discovered that, contrary to the opinion I had developed aged 10, I actually DO like the way that Gene Colan draws superheroes (and, especially, CARS). I also found that everybody who goes ON and ON about how FAR OUT and BRILLIANT Jim Steranko's on 'Nick Fury' is was ENTIRELY correct!
I also found out that there were a LOAD of comics published during this period that DID feature Doctor Doom but were NOT in my database. One of the comics I was looking at was 'Not Brand Echh' #7, halfway through a 13 issue series in which Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and various other Marvel creators of the time produced parodies of their own and other companies' stories. It's very VERY much in the Mad tradition, with panels PACKED with tiny extra gags and celebrity cameos. According to my database Doctor Doom only appears in that one issue, but the more I read through the issue the odder it seemed. If Marvel were throwing EVERYBODY into EVERY panel, surely Doom, their biggest VILLAIN character, must appear more than once in the series?
I went to Marvel Unlimited (the subscription system which features approx 90% of ALL Marvel Comics EVER) to check, and immediately saw that my suspicions were correct. He's right there on the cover of the first issue, for instance!
I thus had to download the entire series and read through THE LOT. I say "read" but it was more of a "flick through" at this stage, as those stories do not exactly age well. If you LIKE the 'Mad' style of humour they might be quite funny, but even in that case I think the enforced, relentless, Not That Funny GAGGAGE would start to grate after a while, and not in a good way!
I found about SEVEN extra issues that had Doom in them, which was BRILLO for my research, but also a bit annoying as I'd already written blogs WELL past the point when the first of them appeared. I'm trying to do it all in chronological order so I can assess the development of the character, but this meant I'd have to BACKTRACK a bit to cover the ones I'd missed. It also meant reorganising the timing of the other blogs that I'd written during the week of train travel AND add the basic information into the database. It took BLOODY AGES!
Still, it's all in there now and the blogs have already begun - this week over on Marvel Age Doom it is very much 'Not Brand Echh' week, as we cover these missing comics. Hopefully it'll be of some interest to those of you that are NOT writing an academic thesis of Doctor Doom, and it's all leading up to some DEAD GOOD comics next week where the aforesaid Gene Colan has a go at drawing him!
posted 6/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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On Sunday I went to my local cinema to see 'Solo', the new Star Wars movie. I hadn't been that bothered about seeing it to be honest, as the reviews hadn't been brilliant, and I would have been quite happy to wait until it popped up on Amazon and watched it then.
When I got to the cinema it was clear that I was not alone in this opinion. Last time I went there, for "Infinity War", it had been a NIGHTMARE of huge queues and fully-booked auditoria, but this time the building was pretty much EMPTY. Maybe it's because it was a nice day outside, or the poor reviews, but it was the quietest I've ever seen it on a weekend!
Another explanation could have been that I'd rolled up a bit late - I spent half an hour waiting for "Infinity War" to start so thought I was being clever turning up 15 minutes after the advertised time for "Solo", but was surprised to see it had already begun! The titles were just finishing as I shuffled to my seat, so when it DOES come onto Amazon at least there'll be something new for me to see!
The next two hours FLEW by - the past two Star Wars films (i.e. Rogue One and The Last Jedi) have, I must admit, dragged a little for me, but this one WHIPPED by for LO! it was BLOODY BRILLIANT! Halfway through I thought to myself "I LOVE this film!" because, truly, I totally did. I don't understand what's going on with the reviews for it - it's got GRATE new characters (especially Chewie, L7, Paul Bettany, the four-armed one, Enfys Nest etc etc), proper EXCITING bits, JOKES, and the Continuity Gags are ACE. SPOILERS coming up later in this sentence, but I completely LOVED stuff like the way Han and Chewie meet, or where the dice come from, or how the Millenium Falcon is first introduced or... well, you get the idea. ALSO Donald Glover and Emilia Clarke were ACE and the chap who played Han Solo was ENTIRELY convincing.
It was, basically, TREMENDOUS fun, and it stuck with me for the whole rest of the day, as I remembered different bits and CHUCKLED to myself, then went online to check for MORE bits to think about. It felt much more Star Wars-y than most of the new ones, and more out and out enjoyable too. Maybe that's why it's not been so well thought of, that it doesn't obviously do something Serious And Different with the Franchise, or maybe it's just the fact that it's come out so soon after 'The Last Jedi'.
Whatever it is, it's a crying shame that a 'Star Wars' movie THIS fab is getting (comparatively) ignored. If you like 'Star Wars' then I HEARTILY recommend going and seeing it - if nothing else, the more people that go the more likely it is to get a sequel, and I REALLY want to see what happens next!
posted 5/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Forty Years Of Space Invaders
On Saturday I was back at Kings Cross Station, ready to catch a train to Cambridge for the '40 Years of Space Invaders' event I was due to take part in. Over the course of my travels durning the preceding week my trains had all been pretty good, but that was probably because I hadn't had to use Thameslink, who are notoriously in the middle of a gigantic cock-up over their timetables (short version for posterity: they changed loads of routes, forgot that they'd need to train drivers in the new routes, so suddenly have not enough drivers to drive the trains). My train was logged as being ten minutes late... until ten minutes had passed and then they cancelled it. Did they think someone was going to magically turn up in those ten minutes? It's RIGHT annoying when they do that - just TELL us it's flipping cancelled then at least we know what's going on!
It all worked out OK in the end, as I just waited for the next Great Northern train which a) was faster anyway and b) had a driver, then got a TAXI (featuring a driver who claimed to be "a champion at Space Invaders" but, when questioned, turned out just to be "better than his friends at Space Invaders") to the Museum. Here I met Mr J Fitzpatrick, who would be chairing the panel, also several other of the DELIGHTFUL people who run the centre.
It really is a GRATE place - after speaking to Jason I DASHED into the main room to play on some of their machines, and was pleased to see 'Space Invaders' running on the first one I saw, also the second one, also the third, fourth, fifth... it took me a while but eventually I realised they had set up MOST of their machines - forty of them, in fact - to play Space Invaders especially for the event!
Back in the extremely early 1980s my Dad had owned a games console which had a version of Space Invaders on it. When I'd seen him the previous weekend the pair of us had got precisely NOWHERE in working out what machine he'd actually owned, so it was a delightful surprise to wander round and suddenly see a machine playing EXACTLY the version of Space Invaders I remembered. It was a Prinztronic, and though I'm not sure it's precisely the version Dad had, it was DEFINITELY the version of the game that we played. It had an amazing 16 versions of Space Invaders on it... although that was various combinations of 1 or 2 players, "guided missile" (it moved as you did), and of course NIGHT ASSAULT, when the screen turned BROWN.
Until this event was in the offing I hadn't thought of that machine at ALL for YEARS, and yet as soon as I saw it I knew it like an old friend, especially when i started to play the game and all the SOUNDS and idiosyncrasies of this particular verison came back to me. It really was a dead good version of the game - LOADS better than most of the others I'd had a go at!
Eventually it was time to tear myself away and go and speak to some actual humans again, including Aidy from The British IBM and Mr Magnus Anderson, fellow panellist and all round good guy. We all shuffled into the room where I've done all my previous GIGS in - it's officially labelled "80s Classroom" because it has a Domesday Machine and loads of BBC Micros in it - where we were joined on the panel by Mr Gary Antcliffe, Games Designer, and began to CHAT.
BLIMEY but it was INTERESTING! I didn't really realise how much of a GROUNDBREAKER 'Space Invaders' had been e.g. it was the first programmed arcade game, the first game with a non-human opponent, and in today's terms it was as big in popular culture as The Avengers films are now. There was some FASCINATING stuff about how the machines were made to LOOK good, with mirrors, cardboard backdrops, and COLOURED FILM to make the monochrome display look like it was colour, and lots about the cultural impact and various TRANSMEDIA items like annuals, cash-in singles and TINNED PASTA!
Jason, Magnus and Gary knew A LOT about their areas, and I'd been worried that I'd look a bit of a CHUMP sitting there occasionally saying "I wrote a song about something vaguely related, nearly 20 years ago", but I think I did all right. Jason had sent me a transcript of a Parliamentary Debate about Space Invaders, which I managed to edit down and read out in Mildly Humorous Accents, and I also took on the job of Examining It Artistically i.e. I banged on about the constant search for NARRATIVE in the other media adaptations and said "The Third Space" at one point. Magnus nodded and then replied by saying "Liminal" so I think I'd said it in the right place!
Afterwards we all retired to the temporary bar for a PINT and a CHAT, before it was time for me to HIKE back to the station, getting the traditional TRAIN BEER on the way. As ever with my visits to the Computing Centre I had had a LOVELY time, and it was the perfect way to end my week-long TOUR!
posted 4/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Back On The Road Again
This week I have been Back On The Road, travelling the country by train just like in heady days of a couple of years ago, although the "gigs" are bit different to how I remember.
It all kicked off last weekend when The Beach At My Shore and I went down to Cornwall to see some of The Parents. We had a LOVELY time, featuring lots of beer, grub, paddling and music - including a GRATE band called The Stowes who did some Cornish songs at a beer festival in the village and were ACE! The original plan had been for us all to go to the Open Mic night on Monday, which my Dad plays at every month, and we'd booked our train tickets accordingly, but a few weeks before we set off they changed the date. Apparently it was the organiser's daughter's wedding the day before - which I GUESS is a fair enough excuse.
Undeterred, my Dad set up his OWN Open Mic night in The Extension at his house. We thought this meant a family singalong/piss-up but he set it all up properly with lights, music stands and we did a full set each... which did include the aforesaid singalong, also piss-up. It was ACE!
Exclusive Pic by The Flash Bang In My Wallop
We travelled back on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday morning I was up at an UNGODLY hour to catch a train to LEEDS, where I was attending a meeting for WORK. When I arrived at Kings Cross they were doing a promotion for the new 'Jurassic Park' film, with a life-size T-Rex in the station and the theme music playing on a loop over the PA system. This meant that, when they announced our platform, the stampede of people heading for the train took on an ethereal, majestic beauty that I doubt it has ever had before.
The meeting was all fine and the day passed off without incident, until on the way home when a bunch of YOUTHS got on my carriage at Peterborough, shouting to each other about how they were going to get ARRESTED because they didn't have tickets. They didn't exactly strike me as MASTER CRIMINALS but by heck they were annoying, YELLING at each other and moving around all the time. I sat there for ten minutes not wanting to get up change compartment in case it hurt their feelings, eventually realising that it was unlikely they would notice or indeed CARE and so shifted to another, much quieter, carriage. I know from YEARS of experience that it is ALWAYS better to move when people get on and start being NOISY, and yet I always hesitate in case it hurts the delicate feelings of whatever gang of wallies has just got on and started BELLOWING.
Best of all the conference finished EARLY, so I was able to dash and catch an earlier train... which was then delayed for ages because of RAIN. Some things about touring by train never change!
Today is a rest day, but tomorrow I'm off again, this time to Cambridge to sit on a panel and talk about Space Invaders because, apparently, that is what I do these days. What a life!
posted 1/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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