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Try A Dosa
The Festive Season may be well and truly over, but there was still space for a little Christmas in the hearts of The Validators this weekend, for LO! we were meeting up in the fine city of Leicester to celebrate out traditional CHRISTMAS CURRY!

This is a MIGHTY tradition where we get together most years for a proper sensible band meeting without the distraction of a gig to get to... and also for a load of beer and curry. It is GRATE! We have recently had a restructure of out internal organisation, which broadly means that Tom's official position within the band has changed from The One Who Gets The Money After Gig to The One Who Gets The Money After Gigs AND Books The Curry. It is, as I'm sure you'll agree, a big change for all concerned, but one that worked out really well as he'd not only booked us into Kayal (which I'd heard loads of good things about, especially during the Leicester Comedy Festival) but also suggested The Ale Waggon as pre-curry BEER venue. It's not that it's a particularly wonderful pub (it had MORRIS MEN in it when we were there, dressed in "non-racist" "redface" and saying Morris Men things like "quaff" and "Yeoman") but it WAS dead handy and, apparently, the BEER was dead nice. I have to experience Real Ale vicariously these days, but it did smell good!

This section was ALL MALE as Emma was driving CHILDREN around, so instead of formal decision making we spent the time in intellectual conversation, including Tim telling a GOOD STORY that we hadn't heard before, the rest of The Vlads correctly guessing most of my Top 10 albums, and a lengthy session of "Do You Remember When..?" There were a LOT of LARFS.

Emma turned up just as it was time to wander round the corner for TEA, and it was here that we made many IMPORTANT decisions e.g. we're going to do our next two gigs (in Leicester and Cologne) ELECTRICALLY and we're going to try and have a practice during the afternoon before our spot at the Leicester Indiepop Alldayer. We also discussed our TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY (!) coming up in May and made some Important Decisions regarding the SECRET PROJECT that i was on about the other day. It was ACE!

There were also quite a lot more LARFS and some DELICIOUS food, which featured us all saying "It's South Indian Cuisine" quite a lot, and me having a Dosa THE SIZE OF A ROLL OF WALLPAPER!! It was ENORMOUS! Also, BRILL!

Tim and Emma headed home afterwards, so me, Frankie and Tom popped over to the traditional One Quick Pint Before The Train pub The Hind which, as it has been for the past THIRTY YEARS of my knowing it, was weirdly empty for 10pm on a Saturday night. It's ALWAYS been like that - I wonder if it just makes all its money when a train is late and people have nowhere else to go?

The evening ended with Frankie going for his train and me and Tom returning to Tiger Towers for some FINE WHISKY. It was LOVELY - I know bands are SUPPOSED to do gigs, but it's a LOT easier to get some drinking and chat done when you don't have to!

posted 15/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Meetings Meetings Meetings
The first week back to work is always a bit of a SLOG, as you're forced to leave the sofa and carry out tasks that are often, shall we say, not quite as viscerally thrilling as sitting in your pajamas watching a film and drinking a cup of tea. It's also a week when loads of people are still off work, and everybody's trying to get to grips with the grisly return to non-Christmas reality, so nothing much ever happens.

The SECOND week, however, is when everyone gives themselves a bit of an old talking to and decides to GET ON WITH IT. It is a time of EMAILS being sent, PLANS being set in action, and IDEAS for the new year being thrown around. ALSO, the FACT that this happens is always overshadowed by looking forward to Christmas and then DREAD of that dreary first week, so when it comes around every year it does so as a rather lovely surpris!

This has very much been my situation this week, as I have skipped between a succession of delightful MEETINGS to discuss New Stuff. The first of these came on Wednesday for me, when I met with Mr J Dredge for one of our usual CONFLABS, this time discussing the processes required to UNLEASH The Emergency EP (the debut EP from John Dredge & The Plinths) at the end of the month. When you've been in a band for (nearly) TWENTY YEARS you forget quite how much setting up needs doing for something NEW, but I think we've got just about everything covered. By the time release day comes around on January 29th we'll have the EP available online and on bandcamp, a FACEBOOK page set up, and a promotional campaign in full flow. The VIDOES are looking GRATE too!

Later that day I headed over to UAL to attend a Comics Reading Group, which was excellent fun, followed by a meeting with fellow RESEARCH STUDENT Mr T Yu-Kiener, who had an idea for him and me to collaborate on presenting a short course about COMICS. This was all rather thrilling, as TEACHING (about comics) is something I would like to get into a bit more in future. Tobias had a course all worked out already, so I suggested i do a session on SUPERHEROES and also British Humour Comics. I think I could QUITE EASILY talk about both those subjects at SOME LENGTH!

The next day featured two MORE meetings. The first was on the telephone with Mr M Tiller, who is in the midst of his own MEETING MANIA this week and has INDEED written a blog all about it. We were talking about a SCRIPT what I wrote AGES ago which he is going to do some gentle touting of, and I also persuaded him to have a look at 6 Billion To One, a screenplay I did AGES ago which did well in all sorts of competitions but which everybody said could never actually be filmed. Surely this is PRECISELY the kind of challenge that Hollywood Bigwigs YEARN for?

Then that evening there was YET MORE Meeting as I went to The King & Queen to meet representatives of a MUSICAL COLLECTIVE with whom I hope to be doing some COLLABORATING with in future. I can't say at this stage who they are or what we're thinking off, as we want it to be a surprise, but I CAN say that it was an EXCELLENT meeting which featured much note taking, BRANESTORMING, and a general agreement that being organised was a good way to go about things. I think it'll probably be MAY when I can talk about this freely, so will try not to go on about it too much in the meantime!

And there's even more meetings to come, for LO! tomorrow afternoon I head up to LEICESTER to meet The Validators for our CHRISTMAS CURRY (which we were too busy to have before Christmas due to it being Christmas) and the accompanying Validators AGM. We have MUCH to discuss, and also CURRY, it is going to be AMAZING! HOORAH for MEETINGS!

posted 12/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Video Shoot Efficiency
Sunday afternoon saw me heading into London's fashionable Holborn area of London to meet Mr John Dredge to film a POP VIDEO.

Last year The Plinths (me, John and Mr Andy Harland) recorded an EP, which is set for release at the end of this month. Here in the futuristic modern era you need to have VIDEOS to promote your TRACK on the MTV and the Youtube, so that is what we were planning to do.

After some minor confusion (turns out there are TWO Cafe Nero's opposite Holborn Station, one on High Holborn and one on Kingsway!) we headed into Lincoln's Inn Fields for some very enjoyable titting around. We had an idea of the SORT of thing we wanted to do and used this as the basis for wandering around the general area looking for likely looking SHOTS to ENGAGE with in a daft manner. This was all fine and dandy for me, as I was working the camera, while it was John who was doing the actual Looking Foolish!

The original plan was to go into Actual Lincoln's Inn itself, as it's full of ALLEYS and ARCHITECTURE that would have looked good, but it turned out to be SHUT. Luckily for us there was an ALLEY nearby that we could use instead - take that, LAWYERS!

The final part involved me chasing John down one of said alleys with the camera, which probably looked RIDICULOUS to the various black cabs that came past, but looked QUITE GOOD when I got all the footage home that evening. It was BLOODY FREEZING all afternoon while we were doing it, so I was very happy to discover that it had been worth it. INDEED, it seems we have got MORE than we bargained for - the alley stuff looked so good (and the song itself is SO SHORT) that I was able to make pretty much a whole VIDEO out of it, which means we can use all the other titting about for ANOTHER song. HA! I bet Godley and Creme don't manage this level of efficiency!

posted 9/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Bath Time At Last
On Friday I was hunched over the REFRESH button eagerly awaiting the announcement of the shortlist for the Bath Children's Novel Prize. I'd entered Storm House but just after noon the announcement came, and ... Storm House wasn't on it.

I didn't not feel TOO disappointed though, because this meant I could FINALLY show off about the fact that Storm House HAD made the LONGLIST back in December! The competition is judged blindly and the names of the AUTHORS are meant to be kept secret, so when the longlist came out I realised that I'd have to keep SCHTUM - it would be pretty easy to work out which book was mine as a) I have only written one book b) that was the title and c) I have been GOING ON about it for ages! The Longlist was announced at the start of December, so imagine if you can my private PAIN as I struggled NOT to SHOW OFF about something that I really really WANTED to for a WHOLE MONTH!!

The GRATE thing about this particular award is that a lot of the judging is done by ACTUAL CHILDREN. This is lovely as it means that nobody's second guessing what they want (e.g. claiming that children will ONLY read books about OTHER children of exactly their own age) and you ALSO get the BNAKids hashtag, which features excerpts from some of the reader reports, which are GRATE. It seems daft to me that MORE Literary Competitions don't do that - surely if you want to know what sort of thing The Young People want to read, then maybe asking The Young People would be a good idea?

Anyway, I'm MIGHTILY honoured to have made the Longlist, RELIEVED to be able to say so, and proffer HEARTFELT congratulation to those who have made it through to the shortlist. If the comments on the hashtag are anything to go by, there are some pretty excellent books on there!

posted 8/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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I Am Become Heritage
Over the past couple of years my ROCK activities have calmed somewhat - as I always say, for years I did LOADS of gigs because I thought if I ever stopped asking people then they'd stop asking me back... and it turns out I was right! The main outcome of this is that I have had a LOT more time to stay at home and watch TELLY, but it also means that I have commenced The Long Walk into life as a Heritage Artiste.

Clear evidence of this comes from my daily Self-Google. This is a practice I began AGES ago when lots was going on and I needed to keep ABREAST of my MEDIA PROFILE, but now it has become a habit which means I am constantly perplexed by weird Russian websites offering free mp3s of INTENSELY obscure songs. However, it also means that every now and then I spot a MENTION somewhere, and this week I have spotted two BLOGS which filled me with DELIGHT and THORTS in equal measure.

The first was a discussion on Europlop about Ed Sheeran, where Billy Jones Is Dead is mentioned as a song about teenage years which is a) somewhat obscure b) better than Ed Sheeran. The former I can certainly go along with, the latter I cannot possibly comment on hem hem.

The second blog was Football And Music talking about the Coupe de Monde EP, which featured the first version of The Fair Play Trophy (again). It's an excellent article, though I would like to make clear that I did NOT set up or edit my Wikipedia entry* - if I did it would be a LOT more up to date and have a DISCOGRAPHY on it!

Both of these articles are about songs I recorded almost TWO DECADES AGO which feels a bit disconcerting - surely 1998 was only a couple of years ago? It was also strange to realise that some of the information was apparently OBSCURE and had had to be RESEARCHED, like one of those articles on ANCIENT indie bands from the early 1990s that don't even have webpages and only appear on... well, indie music blogs. I know about these because every now and then I think "I wonder what happened to Blammo, or Mambo Taxi, or The Voodoo Queens" (etc etc etc) and the only information I can find is a) on a BLOG b) somewhat different to how I remember it myself. This is especially true when they talk about bands I KNEW - I have on numerous occasions been amused to read articles about Airport Girl or Prolapse, for instance, which refer to them making ARTISTIC DECISIONS and having MUSICAL INTENTIONS when, as I recall, they were just drunk like the rest of us.

THUS it's a bit weird to read similar articles about ME, when as far as I'm aware I am still an ONGOING PROJECT and very much an UP AND COMING NEW MUSIC ARTIST who just happens to watch a lot of Netflix and not like being out after 10pm. I guess it's better than being FORGOTTEN ENTIRELY though, and who knows? Maybe this means I'll have RICK RUBIN on the phone in a couple of years to talk about a comeback record!

* actually I DID edit it once - AAS was referred to as my "publishing company" which I kept getting on my nerves so I changed it to "record company" instead!

posted 5/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Back At The Workstation
You find me today back at work after what feels like approx 17 months off. For LO! it was a flipping lovely Christmas round our way, also an ORGANISED one.

We seemed to spend MONTHS working out what we were going to do, so when the festive season finally rolled around it rolled smoothly, easily, and in entirely the right direction at all points. Last year most of our planning came to NAUGHT because everyone was POORLY, but this year health and intentions were maintained at all times. We saw all available family and friends, travelled hither and thither without problem, and spent the whole of Christmas Day Actual at home doing EXACTLY what we wanted. It was bloody GRATE! Highlights included a trip to Stamford (and a meal which accidentally featured an entire VEGAN MENU), a full Christmas Dinner cooked by ME, and a night at Heathrow (NB not flying anywhere) staying in a Premier Inn that had a covered atrium full of cafes, bars, and children in their pyjamas.

Now it's back to work, but also hopefully back to ROCK. All is quiet and still this week, but after that things start to pick up. I've got a SECRET MEETING next week to discuss the Big Secret Band Project, then a trip to Leicester for the traditional Validators Christmas Curry (yes yes I know it's miserable when WORK have their Christmas Do in January, but this is The Validators so it will be DELIGHTFUL). I'm also doing some more filming with Mr J Dredge ahead of the release of The Plinths' EP at the end of the month, and have a whole new BLOG about Doctor Doom ready to roll later this month. Later in the year there'll hopefully be a sequel to Storm House, a trip to Cologne for the inaugral Cologne Popfest, and even a new JOB for me in the Spring!

It is, in fact, going to be ALL GO, so maybe it's not so bad to have a bit of a quiet week to kick the new year off with. Needless to say, I will be going on about all of the above right here at intermittent intervals, and hopefully a few more things beside. I hope, gentle reader, you will be able to join me!

posted 2/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Lights Of London
On Wednesday evening I met The Baubles Of My Tree in London's fashionable Covent Garden area of London for a new Christmas Tradition: A Walk Around The Christmas Lights!

This had been the aforesaid Presents In My Sock's idea, but it had been left to me to work out our ROUTE, which went RATHER well if I do say so myself as shouldn't. We first popped into a PUB for a reassuring DRINK, gazing in awe at the HUGE tree in Covent Garden itself. COR it was good, it was SO BIG that the wooden plant pot it sat in was about EIGHT FOOT TALL! They'd made a lovely job of decorating it too, we were IMPRESSED.

After our beers we wandered round to Trafalgar Square, feeling VERY Christmassy with all the twinkly lights and people merrying around. That bit of London feels dead Christmassy for about six months of the year anyway, but was even more so here in Christmas Actual!

When we got to Trafalgar Square there was a ginormous CHOIR singing Christmas Songs (they were singing along to a tape tho, which was a bit rum) next to The Big Tree From Norway which everyone learns about on Blue Peter. The tree itself was jolly good, but the decorations were a bit rubbish, especially compared to the Covent Garden one. It looked like someone had just attached eight strips of fairy lights to the top and dangled them down in straight lines down the sides. We agreed this must be due to Brexit.

Next we stomped around to Regent Street, which in contrast looked INCREDIBLE. When we went to see the Lumiere Lights a while ago there had been giant FLOATY FISH and ANGELS down the street, and it looked as if they had taken inspiration from that, as there were huge ANGELS all the way along with flapping wings. It was lovely, also approx 1,000,000 times nicer than last Christmas when they had Disney Adverts all the way along.

Being on Regent Street meant we had to go to Tibits for tea, which was GRATE, and then on the way home we stood at the corner of Oxford Street looking at the lights there too. These were done like giant advent calendars, which looked FAB. It was all dead good, in fact, with only the Big Tree in Trafalgar Square anything other than ACE. This WALK OF LIGHT was a new tradition, but I feel it will be a long lasting one!

posted 22/12/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Storm House Sequel
Yesterday found me celebrating a MOMENTOUS MOMENT in CONTEMPORARY LITERATURE, for LO! I finished the first draft of "The Utopians" AKA the sequel to Storm House!

It has taken me two months of an hour or two's writing a day to get to this point, which may not sound like a lot but certainly FELT like it! Those two months were just for the "writing up" of the book, as I'd spent approx 8 months before that working on the PLOT OUTLINE. This was something I learnt to do on my MA, working under the MENTORSHIP of Mr A Cartmel. He was intent on getting the actual story worked out, at some great length, before he'd agree to let me start the WRITING, which turned out to be absolutely brilliant advice. It made working out the overall plot MUCH easier, as it's PEASY to move whole chunks of story around at that point, and you can clearly see which bits aren't working. Best of all it meant that when I did the first proper draft I didn't need to worry about what was happening next, and could just enjoy WRITING it and putting loads of GAGS in!

It's been lovely spending fictional time with the Storm House team again, they are a LOVELY bunch of characters who always seem happy to YACK AWAY to each other. Also, for the last book I was adapting it all from a screenplay, but this time it was ALL NEW, so I could go all over the shop and do all KINDS of KRAZY STUFF, and I think I pretty much did!

The plan now is to leave it alone for at least a month, so that when I go back for the second draft it'll feel like a SURPRISE. Hopefully most of the surprises will be GOOD ones - I do enjoy a good laugh at my own jokes, and I'm pretty sure I'll have forgotten them by February - but there'll also be the long slog of getting my enormous paragraphs of waffle into something that makes sense. I'm quite nervous about whether it'll be any GOOD, but also quite excited in case it iS!

All being well "Storm House: The Utopians" will be out in the summer, around the same time of year as the first one was out, but you can rest assured that I will not keep quiet about it when it's ready!

posted 21/12/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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I Have Seen Star Wars And Have Opinions
I've spent the past few days nervously NOT looking at anything on the internet that had the word "Star Wars" anywhere near it, as I was determined to go in SPOILER FREE. I did see a couple of mentions of it being "surprising" and "not what you expected", but was doing quite well until Mr FA Machine emailed The Band to see who wanted to talk about it. I didn't want to miss out on BAND CHAT, and was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to hold out for much longer without gaining Unwanted Knowledge, so yesterday I booked the afternoon off and headed down to the Odeon on Tottenham Court Road to see it.

For those who have as yet remained unspoiled, there now follows a picture of The Validators to give you time to look away!

The Odeon Tottenham Court Road is not what you'd call a Good Cinema by any stretch of the imagination - it's tiny, it's cold, and it's not exactly PLUSH - but I do have a soft spot for it because it's where I've seen MOST of the Superhero and Sci-fi films that have come out since I've lived in That London. It's been handy for my WORK for most of the time, which means I've been able to go at non-peak times and enjoy it in aN uncrowded room in the company of my peers i.e. other middle-aged IT types. This was VERY MUCH the audience when I arrived early for the 2pm showing yesterday, and we all enjoyed the same BITS together with Light Chuckles. It was lovely!

The film itself was GRATE. My only slight disappointment was that it wasn't as Different and Groundbreaking as I'd been led to believe, although that did mean I spent the whole film CONVINCED that ANY of the characters could die AT ANY MOMENT. This made the bit with Finn and The Giant Space Cannon VERY TENSE INDEED for me!

My favourite bits were a) anything with Rose in it (she is THE BEST) and b) the whole story of Rey's parents. MAN ALIVE but I was pleased about that - I HATE it in fantasy/sci-fi when characters are FORETOLD DESTINIES and SECRET PARENTS and INHERITED POWERS. It is an entire narrative which says that the only worth these characters, and by extension ANY of us, have is nothing to do with our own actions, but instead comes SOLELY through our parentage. It is basically a TORY version of heroism and it WINDS ME UP NO END! Having a character find out that her parents were nobody famous, and that her destiny is HER OWN is a fantastic message to the 99.9999% of people in the Universe who do NOT have Space Warriors or BLOODY WIZARDS for parents. More of this sort of thing please!

Other things I loved were Luke Skywalker's last words, every time that Adrian Edmonson and ESPECIALLY Domhnall Gleeson were on screen (the "can you hear me?" bit was MEGA BRILL), all of the JOKES (so many jokes!), and the way the film goes "Yes, these PORGS are LUDICROUSLY cute. We know it, you know it, let's ENJOY it!" Oh, and also Finn getting to kill his Evil Line Manager. HOORAH!

In fact, I think I'm enjoying it now, the next day, even more than I did at the time. This is very handy because, as is the way of my people, I will almost definitely be watching it MANY MORE TIMES!

posted 19/12/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Very Festive
On Sunday afternoon The Lights On My Tree and I headed over to Leytonstone for our traditional attendance at the St John's Church Carol Service with our pal Ms H Arnold. It was a right grim and wet night out, but once inside it was warm, noisy, and EXTREMELY festive.

I love this Carol Service, it fits in exactly with my idea of what Christmas, and indeed our GRATE NATION, should really be i.e. a mish mash of hundreds of years of different ideas, full of all kinds of people, churned up with deranged selection box of odd traditions which no-one's quite sure how they started, and held together with goodwill and sticky tape. THUS, alongside the traditional prayers and readings there was a children's percussion EXPLOSION (it made The Music Of The Future sound like a FLUTE CONCERTO), a ROCK BAND, a BRASS SECTION, some extremely glorious choral singing, the Nativity as told by a children's TV presenter, the vicar getting the words wrong, and of course the lighting of the Christmas Tree followed by the traditional response by the congregation of "OOOooooOOOOOO!!!!"

It was bloody lovely and, as ever, suddenly MOVING at various expected and unexpected junctures. I always get a lump in my throat when we get to "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" as it reminds me of my Nan coming to see my school nativity play when I was in Junior School, but there were many other MOMENTS dotted around when LO! the spirit of Christmas did o'er shadow me. The big one this time was when the choir stood in the aisle on their way out and sang the last verse of the final carol with the organ, brass section AND the band all blasting out. It sounded SO ENORMOUS I had to stop singing to have a sniffle!

After all that our traditional trip to the Red Lion over the road was much needed, and on this occasion it was augmented by the presence of erstwhile VOON iconoclast Dr N Brown. I haven't seen him for AGES so we had a good old chat about Diverse Topics and it ended up turning into a little bit of a session, ending with the traditional acknowledgement of a good time well had: "Shall we have a whisky?" The cry went up "YEAH!"

We had so much fun, in fact, that when we got home we decided to have a CHIPPY TEA, rather than struggle through attempts to COOK. It was a delightful end to a delightful evening, and we went to bed feeling DECIDEDLY festive!

(I didn't feel particularly festive when I woke up this morning, mind you, but then again what could be MORE Christmassy than a Seasonal Hangover?)

posted 18/12/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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They Did, They Did Rock Us
Last night The Audience In My Arena and I went to see QUEEN! Executive Summary: It was GRATE!

The gig was at our FAVOURITE big venue (i.e. the only one we ever go to), the O2 arena. It's dead good there - not only is it SUPER PEASY to get to from our house, it's also actually dead nice. It is VAST but feels quite cosy, the seats are comfy, the sound is good, and the bar is easily accessible. This is pretty much all I require from The Big Gig Venue Experience, and the O2 fulfills all criteria ADMIRABLY.

It was the aforesaid Kick Drum Of My Kit's idea to go, and indeed she PAID for the both of us, which was pretty flipping amazing. We'd checked stage times before going and arrived with about 20 minutes leeway... and then stood in a MASSIVE shuffling queue for 20 minutes. They were doing individual bag checks and metal detector walk throughs into the main arena, which, thinking about it, I guess is understandable, but did mean it took AGES to get through. Once we WERE inside I spotted two seats on the AISLE and RIGHT near the doors. "I wish those were our seats," I thought, and they TOTALLY WERE! Even better, the person in the seat next to us never showed up, so we not only had EASY ACCESS to bars and toilets, but also LEG ROOM! We even had time to go and get BEER before the ACTUAL start time - we were GIG WINNERS!

This actual gig itself was BRILLO. You know these Stadium Rock Shows that you read about? It was one of THOSE, done by MASTERS of the GENRE. There were LAZERS and SMOKE and EXPLOSIONS and SCREENS and a GIANT ROBOT and everything you could wish for. There was also a great deal of BUSINESS over the course of the two hours, including Adam Lambert riding a pink tricycle for "I Want To Ride My Bicycle", Brian May doing a BIT in the middle of the Arena with a Stereographic Selfie Stick, and Roger Taylor doing a DRUM SOLO FACEOFF with the percussionist (surprisingly there were only six of them onstage throughout - Queen, Adam Lambert, a bass player, percussionist and keyboard player). A small, teenage, voice within me said "This is decadent and ludicrous!" while a much larger, WISER voice, replied "YES AND IT IS MAGIC!"

The SONGS were RUDDY FAB throughout - they started off with a couple of songs that I Did Not Know but then it was pretty much ALL THE HITS, ALL THE WAY, even including the DAFT ones like "Fat Bottomed Girls" and the ENORMO HITS like... well, do a list of all their many many many hits, they DID them! Adam Lambert was also GRATE - as The Members Of My Band pointed out, the fact that he was YOUNG and AMERICAN worked in his favour, as it meant he wasn't a direct replacement for F Mercury, and it was LOVELY seeing how pleased Roger Taylor and Brian May seemed to be to have him there. He's been with them for five years now, and I imagine it has given them a new lease of LIFE that they weren't expecting, it was all rather DELIGHTFUL.

They also handled the whole "Freddie Mercury Isn't Here" bit VERY nicely, with him popping up on video at the end of a Brian May solo version of "Love Of My Life" (which was PRETTY EMOTIONAL) and then during "Bohemian Rhapsody", but that was it. Adam Lambert did a speech near the start saying he wasn't replacing anybody, and after that it all felt RIGHT. The only thing that felt slightly odd to me was that at no point did anybody mention John Deacon. When he appeared in the video section for "Bohemian Rhapsody" it felt like everyone had forgotten he'd existed!

It was, as stated earlier, GRATE, and we emerged from the 120 minutes of ROCK feeling PRETTY JOLLY HAPPY in a crowd of people who had been ROUNDLY entertained. Well done, The Band Queen + Adam Lambert, well done!

posted 14/12/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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The Making Of
This year's Christmas song - Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met) - has been going down REALLY well with everyone so far, which is EXTREMELY gratifying. We knew that WE loved it, but it's great to know that other people do too!

Evidence of this enjoyment has come in various ways - views of the video, sales of the Christmas Selection Box album (i.e. in that there have BEEN some sales, most years there aren't!) etc - but most importantly in the form of EMAILS from people who've enjoyed it. This has been the best part of the whole process, to be honest, and again it's surprised me quite how many people have emailed, it's been lovely!

Amongst those emails there has been a recurring question, asking how we did the "music box" bit right at the very end. For those who have been following the SAGA of this recording, this was the secret item I was on about a couple of weeks ago which Frankie said would "increase the Christmassiness by 1100% GUARANTEED". I think we can all agree that it did EXACTLY THAT! It's actually a programmable music device that he got from Ikea (or Muji, or Habitat, or some other place that sells Christmas Novelty Items near the checkout tills, he can't remember) YEARS ago because it looked so COOL, and remembered when he was thinking about the session. When we were CHALLENGED by Cologne Popfest to learn the song they sent us a fanzine with the sheet music inside, so Frankie was able to use his MUSICAL BRANE to transpose the NOTES into DOTS which he punched out, individually, from the ribbon provided with the gizmo, and which he then sticky taped together to form the LOOP which you can see in the video.

It took him FLIPPING HOURS to do but, I reckon it was totally worth it! In the video it is played by Emma, but I think the one you can hear was played by Frankie - Emma played it on top of a box of mince pies, which I don't think had quite enough RESONANCE to provide the lovely noise you hear on the track!

This section was filmed during the recording session, and is the only part of the ORIGINAL video (which was deemed "too glum") to survive into the new improved SECOND video. In order to provide contrast, and to give an insight into the INTENSE SERIOUSNESS of our recording sessions, and also as a BIT OF FESTIVE FUN, I'll stick both versions below. I think you'll agree that we used the right one!

(original version)

(second, much better, version)

posted 12/12/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Have A Drink With Us
The grand plan was to release our Christmas song today, on a Monday as is traditional, but then when we got up yesterday morning it was SNOWING! We've lived in The Olympic Village (I don't like to mention it, but yes, we do live there) for four years now and this was the first time we had had ACTUAL SNOW that settled, so it all felt VERY CHRISTMASSY INDEED.

"You should put the single out today!" said The Snowflakes In My Flurry.

"I'll ask The Validators" I replied, pretty sure that none of them would be awake at 9am on a Sunday. I mean, we're in a band, surely everyone had been up until 2am clubbing? I can only assume that they had all stayed up all night long partying hard and were still up, as by approx 9:15am everyone had replied to say that they ALSO felt VERY CHRISTMASSY and agreed that it was the right day to do.

And so it was that Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met) was UNLEASHED upon a waiting world, with a video which you can see right HERE:

Originally we'd done an entirely different video, made up of all the footage we'd shot of each other when we were recording it, but after the aforementioned Frames Of My Reel remarked that it was "too dull", and The Validators CONCURRED, I set my BRANE to thinking of a replacement. Next morning I woke with a) a stinking cold and b) an idea to do something with Finger Puppets. Mr F A Machine suggested using cut-out figures instead "like Captain Pugwash" (and also suggested the ending to the story, which is THE BEST BIT), so I spent a delightful afternoon sat in bed doing CRAFT, creating the rather lovely Christmas Tale you see above.

It's now been just over 24 hours since we released it and I am DELIGHTED to find that people so far seem to be really enjoying it. We've even sold a few copies of the Christmas Selection Box album, which never usually happens! Wonderfully, most of these sales have come from Germany where, I assume, people are aware of the FANTASTIC original version by Bläck Fööss.

We're all very proud of this song, I think it's our FAVOURITE Christmas one for AGES, and as ever any mentions, tweets and so forth would be LOVELY! Let's spread some FESTIVE DELIGHT!

posted 11/12/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Christmas In Stratford Actual
On Monday night The Shops In My Centre and I walked through Westfield Stratford, over the Bridge into Stratford Actual, through the old shopping centre and over the road to attend a CAROL SERVICE at St John's Church. I have lived in old East London for nearly 15 years now and have been past this church about a MILLION times but have never been inside, so was quite excited to find it a) lovely b) HUGE and c) RAMMED with people.

The service was put on by Newham Music and it featured a wide variety of groups which they work with, including the E20 Community Choir which the aforementioned Notes On My Scale is a member of. Once inside she went off to find the rest of her lot and I sat down at the back, surrounded by the extremely Christmassy RACKET of excited kids, grumpy teenagers, tired parents, and school violins being dropped.

We'd missed the first half of the show, which I guessed had run LATE in the traditional manner, as the "ten minute break" we arrived in the middle of carried on for another half an hour! When the concert did get going again it was BRILLIANT and also rather MOVING. The second group on in our half was a school ROCK BAND, who were FLIPPING ACE, ESPECIALLY when they did an EXTENDED version of "The Ocean" by The Led Zeppelins. You could feel the HEAT of their music teacher being DELIGHTED that he/she had got them to perform this, especially when it went into EXTENDED IMPROV. Hilariously, a couple of Newham Officials decided that this would be a good time to try to get everybody to clap along, at PRECISELY the moment when time signatures got swapped about all over the place. ALSO at the end they did a sudden STOP, the singer said "We are Newham Music Collective!" and then they did a STADIUM ROCK FINISH. It could only have been improved if she had said "We Are! Newham! FLIPPING! Music Collective!" but I guess they might have got DONE if she had.

Next up was the E20 choir and I must admit I was a bit professionally worried about how they were going to follow THAT, but I need not have been as they were RUDDY WONDERFUL. I have, I think, only previously seen them either outside or in non-acoustically-advantageous rooms, so was not quite prepared for the SONIC AWESOMENESS of them singing Actual Christmas Carols in an Actual Christmas Church. COR! It was LOVELY!

It then got EVEN BETTER at the end when the BAND came back on and also ANOTHER choir, this time of children, so that they could all do "Merry Christmas (War Is Over)" together. It began with the kids singing verses and the band doing a gentle backing, but when the adult choir came in around the fourth verse it was WOW! I got one of them tingles up and down my spine that you read about, and the hairs on my arms LITERALLY stood on end. THEN when the music built up and the kids came back in singing the "War Is Over If You Want It" bit, I do not mind admitting that I had a genuine TEAR in my eye. When you hear it sung like this you realise what a POWERFUL song it is, and how clever John and Yoko were to stick in such an Actually Pretty Radical Anti-Establishment Message into a genuine CHRISTMAS HIT.

Needless to say, I felt SUPER CHRISTMASSY by the end of it! HOORAH!

posted 8/12/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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A Family History Adventure
I spent most of Saturday in SHEFFIELD, not for ROCK nor even for BOOKS this time, but rather for FAMILY HISTORY.

For LO! it was my mum's 70th birthday and so a select group of family had gathered to go and look at the place where my Grandad was born. The idea to do this had come about because for years my mother has "occasionally" mentioned that she'd like to know where he was actually born - we know he came from Sheffield, and that the family moved to Donington a few years later, but that was about it.

THUS I got my Detective's Raincoat on and set about some SECRET interweb research. Luckily for me my Grandad was born on Christmas Day, so it was PEASY to track him down in the records office and I was able to get a copy of his birth certificate, which showed where he was born and also where his father lived a couple of months later. These were two different addresses, so we assume either they moved, or my Great Grandmother went to stay somewhere else for the birth. I looked up BOTH places on Google Streetview and found that there was NOTHING there anymore! Both addresses were in the SLUMS which were knocked down long long ago, but it looks as if Sheffield has still not got around to putting anything else there yet. There's a couple of new flats going up nearby, but otherwise it is abandoned factories and car parks. My ROOTS are basically an indie band video from the 1980s!

The original plan was just for me and my little brother to take The Parents to have a look, but this developed to included several COUSINS. Mr CM Smith (PARENT) had said a few weeks ago "They can all enjoy your tour!" which was a little bit ALARMING to me because, as mentioned above, the "tour" was basically looking at two car parks. HOWEVER, The Markings Of My Bays came to my rescue by doing some of her own research, and discovering a chap called BIG RON who did historical walks, so she got him BOOKED for the afternoon and all was set.

Things started well with me and the aforesaid baby brother, The Artist Thomas Smith, travelling up on the train, but then quickly went wonky when we received urgent messages to call my Mum's phone - Chris does not have a mobile phone or email address since he retired because, he claims, he "doesn't need one". This has made it SOMEWHAT DIFFICULT to conduct SECRET DISCUSSIONS about our arrangements, and SUFFICE TO SAY there have been decisions made since the weekend about what he's getting for Christmas!

It turned out that there had been a mix-up with the hotel Chris had booked us all into, and that we were all staying in the OTHER Premier Inn at the other side of the city from the one we'd thought. There then followed half an hour of HECTIC calls and arrangements, notably involving my AUNTIE who hadn't been able to come but was in PRIME POSITION to be communications hub, contacting various travelling cousins. It was a BIT OF A PANIC!

After that though all was BLOODY GRATE. We strode out to meet Big Ron who took us on a short walk with a LOT of talk. Crikey o'Reilly but he could talk! We learnt MUCH about the history of Sheffield and also EVERYTHING else, and he provided a FAB pack of pictures, maps and newspaper cuttings for Mum to read later. I tell you what, if you ever need somebody to explain some Sheffield history to you I would DEFINITELY recommend Ron!

It was VERY chilly so after about an hour we retired to a nearby pub, which rather wonderfully happened to be The Grapes. where The Validators played SEVERAL shows some years ago. It is a LOVELY pub, and the evening gently moved into Generalised CHit Chat which would continue back at The Premier Inn (which did us a LOVELY tea) and afterwards. It was BRILL!

ALAS I fear there must have been something a bit dodgy in the Yorkshire air that night, as the next morning on the train back both myself AND my sibling felt DECIDEDLY unwell. I'm sure I felt AMAZING at approx 11:30pm when I refused another whisky and loudly announced I had to go to bed, so that must be the only explanation!

posted 5/12/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Christmas Time Is Here Again
Finally it is the first of December which means it is ENTIRELY ALLOWABLE to get EXTREMELY CHRISTMASSY - and flipping heck, after a year of NEWS like the one what we have just gone through, I think we all deserve to get VERY CHRISTMASSY INDEED.

Christmassiness began chez nous this morning with this year's first play of Christmas In The Heart AKA The Bob Dylan Christmas Album AKA The Most Christmassiest Album OF ALL. I bloody love this record, it is both the best Bob Dylan album EVER (and I say this as someone who likes a LOT of Bob) and also the best Christmas album EVER. Yes yes, I know about The Phil Spector one, but this is LOADS better - "Christmas In The Heart" sounds like everyone's having FUN recording it, "A Christmas Gift For You" has an air of OFFICE PARTY to it, one that is taking place during your lunch hour without any BOOZE allowed and then you have to go back to work.

Anyway, we have started listening to it which means Christmas is GO! To be honest I have been ready for Christmas ever since Sunday's recording session in Derby, and this feeling has only been increased over the days since due to the MIXES I have received from Mr F A Machine. I am happy to report that the recording of "Have A Drink With Us" sounds EVEN BETTER than I thought it would, with at least THREE portions of SUBLIME FESTIVE MELANCHOLY along the way. We all listened to the "final" mix last night (which usually is by no means final) and were astonished to discover that it was pretty much perfect and thus WAS final! HOORAH!

With this all done I now need to get to work putting the VIDEO together, and then next weekend I'll get it all sorted out for adding to Christmas Selection Box (which is getting pretty full now) and you'll be able to hear it for yourself on Monday 11 December. I can't WAIT for everyone to hear it - this one is PRETTY SPECIAL!

posted 1/12/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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The Flipping Football
Last night I was in London's fashionable Borough area of London, there to meet Mr P Myland and assorted related chums for a second attempt at seeing the "mighty" Peterborough United play Charlton.

Our first attempt had been back in October, but the game was postponed so Mileage and I ended up spending most of the day at the Indie Daze all-dayer instead. There were to be no such distractions this time, and after a couple of pints and Generalised Chit Chat we got the train to Charlton and rolled up at The Valley with mere minutes to spare. Perfect!

If only the actual game of football had been so meticulously planned and organised. A lot of it was, I must admit, SURPRSINGLY good fun - I had gone expecting RUBBISH and so was DELIGHTED to witness several moments of PROPER FOOTBALL being played, like the sort of thing you see on telly. I was not alone in my surprise and delight, as all around me people leapt up and down with GLEE to see PASSES being made correctly and indeed GOALS being scored. it was all rather exciting, with us WINNING (winning!) 2-0 at half-time. The second half carried on in much the same vein, to the extent that everybody got a bit COLD because every time we stood up for an exciting bit our seats got cold (it was RIGHT CHILLY). With just 13 minutes of play left Mr Myland turned and was ABOUT TO SAY (I learned later) "I bet you weren't expecting to see us win two nil!" but then STOPPED himself, not wishing to tempt fate.

ALAS his self-control was all for NAUGHT as in the 91st minute Charlton scored from A Hotly Disputed Penalty. Now, I am by no means a TECHNICAL EXPERT when it comes to The Football, and am in fact one of those people who gasps in AWE at the DIAGRAMS what they do during Match Of The Day, AMAZED that it goes beyond just Hoofing The Ball About, but even I know that what you do at this point is bring on substitutes one by one to ERODE the remaining time. Our manager DID do this, but for some reason decided to bring on TWO players at the same time when the clock had been stopped anyway. When I related this tale to The Players In My Team this morning she said "So he brought on two defensive players?" She is better at The Tactics than me, but again, even I knew that that's what you're meant to do. HOWEVER what he did was bring on Ricky Miller, a player who a) is a striker who we got from non-league Dover b) hasn't scored yet all season and c) is not exactly even-tempered e.g. he has recently been in court for HITTING A POLICEMAN.

Needless to say he proceeded to run down the pitch and instead of going to the corner (like everyone was shouting at him to do, it is almost as if players don't LISTEN to the sensible advice provided by the supporters) had a SHOT at goal, made a complete MESS of it, and thus allowed Charlton to run down the other end and score an equaliser IN THE LAST MINUTE OF EXTRA TIME!!!

The final whistle blew seconds later and it was a DISGRUNTLED bunch of travelling Fenlanders who made their way home. In the LOO on the way out it was like the After Show at The Grand National, as approx 30 middle-aged men made the same WHINNYING noises to each other to express their discontent. Flipping heck! Flipping ruddy HECK!

When we reached the station the Charlton fans gathered on the opposing platform attempted to TAUNT us by singing "You messed* it up at 2-0" (*they didn't sing "messed") but to be honest this was an ENTIRELY FAIR ASSESSMENT. Flipping heck, I say - FLIPPING HECK*!!

(*I didn't say "Flipping" or "Heck"!)

posted 29/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Christmas In November
I headed off to DERBY on a Sunday, on a journey that would lead to FESTIVITY via EXTREME PANIC!

The PANIC began in Marks and Spencers, as it does in all the best action movies. I was on the way to Derby to record this year's Christmas Song, so needed to get some STOLLEN (the Crust On My Pastry had already SOURCED me some mince pies the day before). However, I couldn't find any Stollen in the M&S in St Pancras so asked a member of staff, who looked at me like I was a LUNATIC. She had NO IDEA what I was on about, so went to find somebody more senior, who seemed to think I was speaking LATIN or something. A passing manager claimed to have NEVER HEARD of it and that M&S had NEVER stocked any such thing. It was very strange, especially as the latter two staff members were from abroad, so surely would know MORE about Continental Christmas Goods? Mr F A Machine later suggested that I may have been pronouncing it wrongly, which is the only logical explanation!

I emailed The Band, and a) Frankie said he's already got a stollen also b) Mr T McClure was heading to Aldi to get one too, so all was well. PHEW! At Christmas, The BAND are eating Stollen - it is THE LAW!

I thought the panic was over, but I was SO VERY WRONG. An hour later my train ground to a halt just outside Wellingborough, and a message came over the intercom to tell us that the fire alarms were going off, possibly because some oil was dripping on the engine. I looked up and saw PLUMES OF BLACK SMOKE coming from further up the train, it was ALARMING! The driver and various CREW went back and forth several times checking things, and it must be said that we were kept FULLY INFORMED at all points, I was IMPRESSED. We ended up setting off again and, thanks to the way they build in delays on a Sunday anyway, we arrived in Derby only 20 minutes late.

Frankie came to pick me up and we returned to Machine Mansions where the session was occurring. He has an OFFICE in his basement which is AMAZING, and he'd got it all set up for recording. Tom arrived a little after us, bringing MORE recording equipment, so by the time The Pattisons arrived we had a proper STUDIO set up. We also had a MASSIVE pile of CHRISTMAS FOODS, as everybody had brought something with them, it was GRATE!

In pre-studio email discussions last week Frankie had told us that he'd got something for the session that would increase the Christmassiness by 1100% GUARANTEED. I must confess I doubted him, expecting some kind of sleighbell or something, but when he demonstrated what he'd got I have to say that if anything he had UNDERESTIMATED the increase. I can't say what it WAS just yet, but GOLLY, each one of us was LITERALLY SPEECHLESS when we saw it! It makes The Bob Dylan Christmas Album look like it belongs at EASTER!!

The original plan was for us all to get set up and then record playing live, all in one go, but when we tried that it didn't sound particularly good, so we reverted to the more standard process of layering it up bit by bit, starting with me on guitar and Tim on drums. This was made tricky because a) we were in the same room, so I had to NOT SING and b) Tim had no HI-HATS, which he usually uses for DRUM SIGNALS, so we had to work our way through with NODS and FACIAL EXPRESSIONS, but it seemed to work. What ALSO seemed to work was us all sitting in the room together. Mr Pete Weiss of The Weisstronauts is, as I understand it, a proponent of this method of recording, where the engineer and the band are all together in the same room, and I must say it made it all feel VERY FRIENDLY. We were all filming each other for use in the VIDEO, so we were kept busy, and it was much less LONELY than usual having everybody with you while you did your bits.

THUS I did my vocals, then Tom did Violin, then Emma did HER vocals - Emma's vocals always seem to end up in a group discussion as to what extra bits she could put in, whereas mine seem to be got over with as quickly as possible. I guess this is because there is no way you could possibly improve my singing? Anyway, Emma did a whole bunch of ACE stuff, and then we had TAMBOURINE overdubs, a bit more violin, and then some BASS just for video purposes - Frankie's mixing it all at his house, so as he said, he could do that at any time (along with overdubbing all of our bits etc etc).

We had a VERY quick listen to what we'd done, and it sounded PRETTY FLIPPING GOOD, so we retired to Frankie's local, along with Mrs Machine, for some DELIGHTFUL beer before it was time for me to go and get my (entirely uneventful) train home. It had been, as ever with The Validators, a RUDDY LOVELY day which will hopefully generate something RATHER good. Frankie's hoping to get it mixed so it's ready for release on 11 December, but fear not, I shall let you know ALL about it when it's ready!

posted 27/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Cologne Popfest
There was much excitement in Validators Ranks yesterday as we were finally Officially Announced for Cologne Popfest!

We were invited to play MONTHS ago by Mr M Plaum, and arrangements were discussed in person at Indietracks way back in July, so we have had to keep this under our hats for a LONG old time. Our gigs in Germany have been some of our favourite EVER, so we're DELIGHTED to be heading back there. Such has been our excitement levels that we've spent the past couple of weeks PANICKING about getting our travel and accomodation booked but all Validators now have TRANES and PLANES booked, and we've got ourselves Ibissed Up for the weekend too. PHEW - it's only five months away!!

THRILLINGLY we now also know two of the bands we're playing with. Marcel outright REFUSED to tell us who else he was booking when we spoke to him, and we still don't know who else is planned, but we DO know that we're sharing the weekend with Chorusgirl and The Frank And Walters. I've been listening to Chorusgirl since the announcement and have found them to be GRATE (I don't think I've ever seen them, so doing so on the Friday night will be FAB), and getting to support The Frank And Walters is another step on our QUEST to FINALLY play with all the bands we variously wanted to support at The Princess Charlotte in the 1990s! Tim says that Prolapse already supported the Sultans Of Ping there, so this will signal CORK COMPLETION!

If you fancy coming, tickets are now available, but HURRY! As I say, it's only five months away, and people (us) are ALREADY getting the hotels booked!

posted 23/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Doom Studies
I was back at SKOOL last night for the latest Supervisory Meeting for my PhD. The main topic of conversation was the PAPER wot I am writing about the influence of The Cold War on the development of Doctor Doom's personality, based on the TALK I did in Dundee back in the summer. I tell you what, I now know a LOT more about The Cold War than I did before, even as someone who LIVED through huge great chunks of it. I find myself having new sympathy for RONALD REAGAN of all people, a great affection for KHRUSHCHEV and his shoe banging, but thankfully have read nothing to free me of my lifelong hatred of THATCHER. PHEW!

We had a lengthy and GRATE discussion about final amendments to make to the paper before I submit it in the hope of publication, and once again I find myself being sent off on RESEARCH AVENUES that I never thought I'd be strolling along. I thought it was going to be all about reading comics, but I seem to have spent a HUGE amount of time discussing the representations of Eastern Europe in American media in the 1960s instead. It's interesting, although maybe not QUITE as much fun!

Having said that, there HAS been some comics reading, all of which will lead to a SUPER EXCITING NEW THING coming your way in 2018. I'm doing a CLOSE READING of EVERY appearance of Doctor Doom in Marvel comics between 1961 and 1987, and in order to keep track of it all (there is a LOT) I'm going to be starting a BLOG called "Marvel Age Doom". I've started work on it already and there's been a TONNE of things to discuss, so I'm planning to get myself a good old backlog built up in order to maintain a goodly stream of FACTS when it officially launches. The current plan is to pubish one blog every week about each of Doom's in-person appearances in the Marvel Universe, with extra blogs on other days about other appearances (where he's just mentioned, for instance, or appears in a recap) OR my Fascinating Research Methods OR other relevant items. It will be an Informative Scholarly Work but will also feature LOADS of GRATE pictures, also some GAGS.

Everyone seemed jolly KEEN on this during the meeting, which also covered the NEXT thing I'm going to do - a look at "The Marvel Age Of Comics" as an Actual Thing. Comics fans will be familiar with the phrase (and possibly the Marvel magazine of the same name from the 1980s) but I'm hoping to NAIL IT DOWN as a PERiOD and also a DESCRIPTION of a type of superhero storytelling. I'm ALSO also hoping to use it as a way to JUSTIFY terms like "The Golden Age" and "The Bronze Age" which comics fans all use but which seem to WIND UP academics something chronic. LARKS AHOY!

I must say, some 15 months in, I am RIGHT enjoying this post-graduate RESEARCH business. All the PhD people I have worked with over the years have seemed dead STRESSED about it, but I'm finding it DELIGHTFUL. Maybe, just maybe, this is because they were all looking at topics such as Psychology or Statistics rather than SUPER COOL things like COMICS, in which case WELL DONE ME!!

posted 22/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Plinths Action
It was a weekend full of DREDGELAND for me, commencing slightly early on Thursday when I went to see the Live Dredgeland Podcast Spectacular at the Star Of Kings on Kings Cross. It was dead good - I especially liked the fact that BOTH of the jokes I'd written (I thought there was only one so was SURPRISED when the other appeared) got LARFS. It still counts if the person who's laughing is me - MORE so, in fact, because I'd already heard them and STILL thought they were funny! The rest of the show was GRATE too, and also VERY silly. The podcast should, I believe, be out presently!

I then had a SECOND dose of Mr John Dredge and Mr Andy Harland on Saturday, when the three of us headed to deepest SURREY to record some songs at The Brook Studio. John and I have been engaged in some SONGWRITING over the past few months, utilising a new methodology for me whereby I wrote some music on my GTR, recorded it onto an mp3, and then John made up words and tunes on top. I'd had a go at this a few years ago with Mr F A Machine (with me doing the words and he the music) and found it all a bit WEIRD, and this was none less so. I don't really see how you can predict in advance how long the verses are going to be, or where the choruses go, as I always think it should be lead by the LYRICS, but I know other people are FINE with it and John managed it very well INDEED. We ended up with four songs done, so decided to enlist Andy on drums, call ourselves The Plinths, and do some recording.

I suggested we go to the Brook because Mr A Brook, who runs it, is DELIGHTFUL. Many many years ago he had a studio on Denmark Street, and I'd pop in during my lunch hour to record demoes there. It was a GRATE way of working, and I always found him to be EXTREMELY patient, very very HELPFUL, and full of IDEAS. I'd been to The Brook a couple of years ago to do a GIG too, and have been KEEN for ages to go back and actually record there, so this seemed like a good idea all round.

As it turned out, I was COMPLETELY RIGHT, it was a GRATE idea! I arrived to find that Andy B had pretty much got everything set up, so it was only about half an hour later that we'd all begun RECORDING. We'd booked in for four hours, which I thought would be ample time to do the drums and vocals, leaving me to do MY bits at home later, but as it turned out we got the guitar done too. To be honest, I never understand why other people take so long to do stuff in the studio - what are they DOING all the time? You usually only need a couple of goes to get a track sorted out, so do other bands just play POOL or something? Or is everyone else whacked out on scooby snacks that they're not sharing?

ANYWAY it all went really well, and it was lovely to be back in the studio again, although AS EVER in these situations I did have to keep reminding myself that I was NOT with The Validators and thus certain Behaviours were not acceptable e.g. when other people are soundchecking the DRUMS it is NOT all right to YAWN in an exaggerated fashion, complain loudly and FLICK Vs at the drummer. I did NOT do any of the above on this occasion, but I was SORELY tempted!

I've now got THE LOT on a memory stick, so the next step is to add other instruments and get MIXING. Goodness knows how long that's going to take - at approx 7:20am today I was reading about KICK DRUM COMPRESSION so this may all get a bit STEVE LILYWHITE, but I am hopeful that the process is mostly going to involve BASS playing. BASS playing is my favourite!

The current plan is to get these all done and UNLEASHED on the world next year, either as an EP or as a series of individual tracks, possibly with videos. It has been MOST enjoyable so far, and I'm dead pleased with how they're coming out, so be in no doubt that I shall be ALERTING everyone when they're ready!

posted 20/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Academic Action
I took the day off from Actual Work yesterday for some full-on ACADEMIC ACTION.

During daylight hours I was on a course run by UAL called "Thinking Teaching". It was the second of two sessions that I'd done, learning about PEDAGOGY theories and general IDEAS about how you do The Teaching in Higher Education. Whenever I do ANY training I always DREAD it and end up sloping in like a teenagers with double Geography, even when I have purposefully BOOKED it myself, but I found this one to be VERY interesting. Partly because of the Interesting Theories, partly because it was very well taught (which you'd sort of hope a course ABOUT good teaching would be), but also because of my own reactions to it.

It was all about inclusiveness, diversity, engaging with students, and INTERSECTIONALITY, and I must confess that I tend to get A Bit Daily Mail when presented with these ISSUES in a WORK setting. I don't know why - I have a fully booked season ticket on the Political Correctness Train and read the Guardian online DAILY, but for some reason my BRANE tends to BRIDLE when I come across these THEMES in a Professional Environment. What then tends to happen is that the calmer, more reasonable parts of my BRANE actually LISTEN to what's being said, and see the SENSE of it all. It's a right rum old do though, I wish my MIND would sort itself out and just go straight to nodding thoughtfully!

It was, in the end, dead good, and I was disappointed to have to leave slightly early so I could head up to the Granary Square campus for even MORE of the aforementioned ACADEMIC ACTION. I was up that way to attend a new READING GROUP set up by the Comics Types at Central Saint Martins. There were about ten of us, comprising most of the BIGWIGS of London Comics Studies, sitting in a room for about 90 minutes discussing Ms Marvel Volume 1: No Normal. I was DEAD chuffed when I found out this was going to be our first book as I had a) already read it and b) flipping LOVED it. I was thus a bit worried beforehand about how I would behave myself, as I was pretty sure me saying "How DARE you not LOVE this book, it is THE BEST" would not be considered lofty enough criticism.

I managed to comport myself with sufficient dignity and even managed to restrain myself from going "OMG you should TOTES read Unbeatable Squirrel Girl also IT IS AMAZING!" , which was a first for me in ANY Comics Gathering!

After THAT I went to a short meeting about a PAPER wot I am co-writing (hem hem), and finally headed down to the BAR where I ended up having several beers with one of my supervisors while we discussed Jack Kirby and Long Gone Comic Shops We Have Known. Both of us admitted that it had felt WEIRD talking OUT LOUD about actual comics (rather than having learned discussions about BOOKS about actual comics), but also rather good fun.

It was a LONG old day on the BRANE, but it turns out that Academic Action can actually be quite interesting when it's ABOUT something interesting! Who knew?

posted 16/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Sounds Like Friday Night
A constant refrain round our way for many years has been "Why can't they properly bring back Top Of The Pops eh?" This has ESPECIALLY been the case around Christmas when we watch the Christmas and New Year specials and get ourselves caught up on what The Young People are listening to nowadays. It always feels GOOD to find out what's been happening, and it doesn't really matter whether we like it or not, we just want to KNOW without having to go through the hideous agony of having to listen to Radio One.

Imagine the DELIGHT in our house then when we discovered that "Sounds Like Friday Night" is a) on the telly and b) EXACTLY what we were after. For LO! it is PRETTY MUCH "Top Of The Pops" except without the charts, also WITHOUT the hapless attempts to be "cool" and very much WITHOUT Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates.

I have never understood why the BBC retained the services of these two for the TOTP specials. They presided over its FINAL DEATH, so why on EARTH would you want to keep having them back? It's like doing a new Star Wars film every year and having JAR JAR BINKS as the leader character in every single one. I MUCH prefer the two people they've got for SLFN (that's what the hip young things are calling it, right?) who seem like two CHARMING young people who are KEEN on what they're doing and not a pair of snide wazzocks who give every impression of being far too good for it.

In case it's unclear, I'm not keen on Ferne and Reggie. Dotty and Greg though, they are ALL RIGHT with me. I like the fact that they and the whole programme are JUST the right side of NAFF, not pretending that it is COOL, or indeed IMPORTANT (like the loathsomely pompous J Holland programme), but more like what it actually IS i.e. a Light Entertainment Show for The Kids to sneer at and for middle-aged people like me to get mildly yet happily perplexed by.

However, I have been AMAZED these past few Friday nights by the amount of people I know of my own age merrily slagging it off AS IF they are supposed to feel some OTHER way about it. OF COURSE you think it is a load of old rubbish, fellow middle-aged people! Isn't that EXACTLY how middle-aged people like THINE OWN PARENTS felt while you were going KRAZY about The Depeched Modes or whoever? Saying "Ooh it's so bland and commercial, not like in my day" on Facebook is but Twenty First Century version of peerng over the top of the newspaper and saying "Is it a boy or a girl? I can't hear the words!"

We have watched all three episodes so far and I must say that I have liked NONE of the music and could sing NONE of it back to you now, or indeed even when I was listening to it, which is right and proper. Most of the Young People dancing around and singing seem to enjoy it and most of the performers seem to be INTO what they're doing - the only people who were OBVIOUSLY FAKING IT were the dull and dreary old Stereophonics, who appeared OPENLY SCORNFUL of the whole process, and yet did not have the good grace to do so in an INTERESTING way. For shame!

I do agree with everyone who says there should be some more music on it, even though I quite like the cheesy Strictly-esque VT segments (mostly because they ARE so Strictly-esque), and I hope that at SOME point something ACTUALLY AMAZING manifests itself, but then I do remember watching the original TOTP back in the day and it being AWFUL for weeks on end, so am prepared to wait.

Most of all I hope it sticks around long enough for it NOT to be talked about at all, and just BE there so that we can ALL keep up to date with The Pop Music. If nothing else, I hope it lasts long enough to get its OWN Christmas Special and finally kick the SHOW MURDERING Ferne and Reggie off of our tellies!

posted 13/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Free Again
My NOVEL Storm House is FREE to download again this weekend, over on Amazon, so if you've not got a copy yet, now might be a good time!

I've read a metric TONNE of blogs about Self-Publishing, and they all say that giving your books away for FREE like this is the best way to get people to PAY for them in the future. The general idea is that readers get HOOKED by one book, so that when you release a new one then a) they're eager to PAY to read it abd also b) they tell OTHER people about it too. This all seems fairly sensible to me, and I AM hard at work on 'Storm House 2', but to be honest I mostly like doing it because it's FUN. My favourite activity at the moment is going and looking at the Kindle Sales Reports page every 30 seconds and clicking refresh to see if anyone else has 'bought' it! There is a GRAPH and everything!

Last time I did a free promotion I was mostly relying on the beautiful readers of the newsletter to get it all going, which they did wonderfully. As far as I can tell, the KEY is to get enough people to download your book so that it gets into the various categories of Top 100 free books on Amazon, and then OTHER people see it and decide to take a punt, which pumps it up even further and so on. Last time it was all VERY exciting as Storm House got to the TOP of various charts and even into the OVERALL Top 100 - of course that tailed off MIGHTILY once the free window was over, but it was fun while it lasted!

This time around I was very aware that many many nice people had helped me out, and didn't want to pester them again (not just yet anyway - there'll be a new book to hassle everyone about next year!) so I had a look at the MANY different service who'll include your book on their DAILY lists of free books via email or App. I got myself logged onto a load of them and even PAID for a couple, reasoning that this was the PROMOTIONAL BUDGET that I would usually spend on POSTAGE if I were releasing an ALBUM or something.

I wasn't sure if this would work or not - the world of ARTS is FULL of organisations out to take the money of VAIN people wanting to be LAUDED (and also people like me, OBVS) - but so far it seems to be going PRETTY well. Last night it got back to the NUMBER ONE spot on all the categories it's eligible for (which I think tells you more about how few copies you need to 'sell' than how popular Storm House is!) and this morning it's back in the Top 100 Free Books! HOORAH!

Hopefully this'll all lead to some more REVIEWS in the short term and some INTEREST for the next book in the longer term, but right now I'm just enjoying watching the GRAPHS move! As ever, thanks LOADS to anyone who's downloaded it and ESPECIALLY to those who've bought a paperback version (they are LOVELY), and if you've not done either yet... well, it's free until Sunday night, so get in quick!

posted 10/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Thor: Ragnorak
I went to the pictures on Sunday to (finally) see the latest THOR film. The short version of my review is this: "IT was GRATE!"

I usually like to go and see superhero films in the Odeon near my work as it is TINY and usually EMPTY so you don't have to hang around to get in, but as it was a Sunday I went instead to the GINORMOUS Vue cinema near my house. It's one of those cinemas where you buy popcorn and tickets at the same time, which seems daft to me as it means EVERYONE has to wait behind people getting TONNES of snacks, so I usually use the MACHINES. Annoyingly, however, the machine allocated a seat for me which it a) would not let me change because the touch screen wasn't working and b) would not let me book ANYWAY because it left a single empty seat next to mine. "BUT YOU ALLOCATED IT TO ME!" I said, to no sympathy from THE MACHINES. If THE MACHINES really want to take over the world then they are going to have to IMPROVE their customer service, otherwise they're going to find some of us forming an underground resistance.

THUS I had to go and join the huge queue, which took about a YEAR. By the time I got to the front I was so worked up that I decided to self-medicate i.e. get myself a BEER! Once in the SCREEN all was calm, the seats were comfy, and the wait for the film was surprisingly brief. The adverts just said "Turn your phones off" and "Look, this cinema has both sound and pictures!" (is that in case someone has come expecting RADIO or PAINTINGS by mistake?) and then we were OFF. There weren't even any trailers!

The film itself was FAB. The thing I liked most about it was how it LOOKED - for possibly the first time ever they had made it LOOK just like the comics, specifically the JACK KIRBY comics. Loads of the costumes (especially in the backgrounds) and technology looked like they were RIPPED straight out of the 1960s, and it looked BLOODY GRATE!

I liked all the GAGS and LARFS too, although I guess sometimes there was a tiny bit too much - having The Manager (I think) from Flight Of The Conchords in it was good, but I don't think you needed him to undercut every single dramatic bit EVERY SINGLE TIME, but that is a small complaint when there were so many BIG LAFFS to be had. I also liked the fact that it HAD a story that PROCEEDED at an orderly pace, unlike most of The Avengers films which LOOK good but are a bit confusing/confused. AND I liked the way that they used existing bits of The Marvel Cinematic Universe to tell bits of the story (e.g. Dr Strange turning up) like it was No Big Deal. Just like the comics!

It was basically a LOT of fun, with a LOT of BITS in it for superhero NERDS to enjoy... or so I am told hem hem I'm sure I wouldn't know. The only downside is that now it's MONTHS until "Black Panther" comes out - come on Marvel, three films a year is not enough!

posted 9/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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