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Blog Archive: June 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

posted 1/6/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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