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Everything Changes (except The Validators)
On Friday I had the day off to head NORTH to the fabled East Midlands, where I was due to meet up with the mighty VALIDATORS to celebrate the Big Birthday of our own Tom - THE TIGER - McClure.

I'd booked my train for quite early in the afternoon, partly because it was LUDICROUSLY expensive later on, but also because it would give me some time for a bit of a wander round. A few days ago I'd ready something on The Socials that referred to some documents being held in "The Kimberlin Library". "Oh," I thought, "that was the old Leicester Poly library, it must still be there!" I went to look at it on Google Streetview, and was at this point ASTONISHED to discover how much the area around it had changed. Leicester is FORVER changing, as the council seem to have a decades-long urge to repeatedly knock EVERYTHING down and then put something else there, which a few years later gets knocked down ITSELF (as faithfully documented in the song Leicester's Trying To Tell Me Something, but this level of moving STREETS about was something new. "I'll go and have a look at it in real life on Friday", I thought. So I did!

It formed part of a MASSIVE HIKE around town, taking me as far afield as Narborough Road, where I went to have a look at some of the places I'd lived as a student. That area has NOT changed very much AT ALL, and has very definitely "avoided Gentrification". Pretty much everywhere else, however, had swapped around, with places that used to be pubs now supermarkets, places that used to be banks now pubs, and places that used to be derelict factories now student housing. Crumbs there is a LOT of student housing in Leicester now - there was hardly ANY when I was there, A MILLION YEARS AGO, which is why we all lived in shared houses off the Narborough Road, but now it's EVERYWHERE.

SO many buildings had changed purpose that after a while I began to feel quite DISORIENTATED, as my memories of what USED to be there kept bashing up against what was there now instead. This became particularly disconbobulating when I walked back into town and went in search of A Well Deserved Pint. The very few places that WERE still pubs had changed entirely, with all of the ones I remembered as being NICE now being STINKY - again, this seems to happen a LOT, with Leicester's great blessing of LOADS of lovely pubs being tempered by the fact that they never seem to last very long!

In the end I went to The Globe, which HAS changed a bit inside, especially with the old courtyard being KNOCKED THROUGH, but is basically the same pub it was in 1988 when I had some of my very first PUB experiences there. I was also DELIGHTED to find that Currant Affairs is still very much open, and still selling their vegan sausage rolls!

Eventually it was time to head up New Walk to The Marquis Of Wellington, which turned out to be RAMMED, and also weirdly OLD. I don't know what was going on, but it ws PACKED with people older than ME who were QUEUING at the bar! Happily around this time Tom himself arrived and we agreed it was NOT an ideal situation, so went over the road to The Loaded Dog instead, which was reassuringly MUCH younger and LESS packed. The University Tennis Society seemed to be having a big meeting there too for some reason!

The Pattisons rolled up, and then not too long after that The Fleays too, and a MARVELLOUS evening ensued of BEER and YACK and CURRY and MORE YACKING. As I have often said, it is SO MUCH EASIER to have a get together with CURRY instead of doing an Actual Gig, and it was LOVELY to see everyone without having to lug piles of equipment around and do soundchecks! Leicester itself may have changed but The Validators have not - especially PHYSICALLY as you can see from the below BAND PHOTO taken for us by Mrs J Fleay.

Expect to see this as an ALBUM COVER at some point in the distant future!

After we'd finished our fine dining we strolled back down New Walk to Duffy's, which I remember long ago as The Town Arms but is now more like a mini-Charlotte (which itself, inevitably, is now a supermarket). More BOOZE ensued, more HILARITY and a RUDDY BRILLIANT evening was had. Eventually it was time for The Fleays to go and get their train, after which we all hopped into an UBER, with me and Tom being dropped off at The New Tiger Towers to savour some WHISKY.

It had been a slightly PERPLEXING afternoon, but a FANTASTIC evening - I hope we don't end up waiting for another Big Birthday before we do it again!

posted 20/5/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Connie Converse
Last week I was idly wandering through the fields of Facebook when I spotted a post from The James McMahon Music Podcast mentioning a show he's just put up aboout Connie Converse. There was a brief blurb that mentioned something about a singer-songwriter who'd disappeared about 50 years ago, and whose music had only recently been discovered.

"That sounds interesting", I thought, and I was CORRECT, for a deeper dive into the topic (i.e. listening to the show and looking her up on Wikipedia) showed it to be FASCINATING. The very brief version is that Connie Converse was a singer-songwriter in the early 1950s before there even WERE singer-songwriters as what we would understand them today. She lived in New York, wrote several songs, once appeared on a television programme, but got absolutely nowhere with it at ALL and so gave up on music and did other stuff instead until 1974 when she packed all of her belongings into a Volkswagen Beetle and drove off NEVER to be heard from again.

All of the above is INTRIGUING, but what makes it much more so is that in 2004 some TAPES of her music were played on a radio show and they were AMAZING. She never officially released anything at all - a friend had recorded some of her songs half a century earlier, and some other recordings of hers were found in a cabinet in her brother's garage, and so in 2015 a compilation called How Sad, How Lovely was released. INTRIGUED further I went and downloaded it off of Bandcamp and have been listening to it ever since because it is FANTASTIC.

It sounds like music from an alternative universe (The Connie Converse-verse?), like something you have heard a million times before but also never have until just now, as if it had existed in a previous version of the universe but somehow got erased. The actual music reminds me a bit, for some reason, of Stan Laurel singing "Lonesome Pines", and also of Madeleine the rag doll from Bagpuss, in that it sounds super-OLD, but also weirdly MODERN and new. The tunes are GRATE (I have been wandering around singing the title track all WEEK) and the words are BRILLIANT. I think that's what makes it strangest to listen to, with her singing very modern but also very old-fashioned lyrics but knowing it was seventy years ago.

What I am saying is that she is/was GRATE and I would highly recommend everyone go and have a listen. Also, if anyone knows what happened to her and happens to have her contact details, please ask if she'd like to come out of retirement and do a Totally Acoustic!

posted 6/5/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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A Thing In Barbican
At the weekend I ventured into the labyrinths of London's BARBICAN for ANOTHER secret meeting!

This time I met with Mr John Dredge to discuss a THING that we have been talking about doing. As with other SECRET THINGS, I don't want to go into too much detail about what it actually is just yet as OBVS we want to save that for the news conferences, live tweetalongs and TV news broadcasters that will all be accompanying the international LAUNCH, but I can - EXCLUSIVELY - reveal that it will involve recording me and John talking to each other. WOTEVER could it BE eh?!?!?

In order to facilitate this idea we'd agreed to meet up and have a trial run of recording us talking about something, and we'd chosen the Barbican to have a go at doing it because it is a big place with loads of nooks and crannies that one could hide in, where in theory it would be quiet enough to record a CHAT. This did not turn out to be the case as when we turned up it was FULL of people wandering around (some traditionally LOST within the Barbican's many tunnels, as I had been on the way) or loafing about in great groups of NOISE.

Eventually we went outside and found a nice quite spot round a corner, sat on a bench, with nobody around where we settled ourselves down and began our YACK. I'm not quite sure what happened over the next twenty minutes or so but I can only guess that people spotted us and thought "they look exciting and modern, let's wander over and be near them so that we too can be that cool" as LOADS of people turned up, mooched around, and then left to make way for others to come and stand about for a bit too. Over the course of the next hour not one but TWO entire flipping TOUR GROUPS came past and stood near us to be told the history of - I assume - this intensely cosmopolitan park bench.

We carried on regardless and had a DELIGHTFUL time - Mr John Dredge is not only a fine comedian but also an EXCELLENT chat-participant - and once we'd completed our task we went back inside for a discussion of how it had gone (WELL) and plans for what to do next. Many THORTS and IDEAS flew about, almost all of which were GRATE, but while this was going on something caught my eye. I looked up and a few feet away saw DOCTOR DOOM! On closer inspection it turned out the be the back of an MF DOOM t-shirt, but one which was very very heavily based on this classice image from Fantastic Four #84:

It felt to me like THE UNIVERSE was saying "Yes, this is a good idea, and here is a representative of a previous good idea to give its ASSENT!" I went and asked for a photo, and the chap seemed DELIGHTED, and so was I!

Further chat and PLANS ensued, and we now have some TASKS to complete to work out what comes next. As I say, I can't reveal full details just yet, but when I do it is, I feel, going to be GRATE!

posted 5/5/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Bandcamp Bank Holiday
As anyone who's ever bought anything on Bandcamp will know (from the 10,000,000 emails from bands telling you so), today is Bandcamp Friday!

That means that Bandcamp don't charge the ARTISTES any fees, which is very nice of them, but doesn't really apply to ME with my latest release Oadby Wonky Knobby as you can get it for FREE. Rather than have my gallant band of CONSUMERS miss out on the fun, therefore, I had a dig into the ARTISTE TOOLS section and discovered you can have discount codes, so am unleashing a MIGHTY DISCOUNT!

It works thusly: go to my lavish Bandcamp site and BUY some stuff, and then when you get to the checkout enter the discount code justbeinghelpful and you'll get 20% off THE LOT. By "THE LOT" I mean EVERYTHING, including the full discography package. It is a KRAZY BARGAIN!

MATH FANS can also experiment with getting the aforesaid Oadby Wonky Knobby for nothing and seeing how Bandcamp deals with calculating 20% off ZERO, although if SMOKE starts to come out of its ears, the tapes start whirring into a blur and Bandcamp Dot Com collapses with a message saying "404 ++ DOES NOT COMPUTE ++" then please don't tell anyone it was my idea.

The offer is VALID until the end of Bank Holiday Monday... I think. I had to enter the end date in the stupid and wrong American style, so there's a slight chance that it might be useable until early June, but either way please partake of it as you will, with happy Bandcamp Friday wishes to one and all!

posted 3/5/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Monster Island
Last week, as part of the EXCITING BUILD-UP to the release of Oaby Wonky Knobby I put out a video for 'Only A Robot'. However, the EXCITEMENT does not end there for today I am UNLEASHING yet ANOTHER video, this time for Monster Island, which you can witness RIGHT HERE:

This one was put together using clips from various public domain movies, notably The Lost World from 1925. It was a GRATE deal of fun to put together, especially MARVELLING at the ingenuity in some of these old films, and I hope it is similarly DELIGHTFUL to watch!

posted 1/5/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Oadby Wonky Knobby Unleashed
Today is the last working day of the month, which means it's time for the latest edition of our newsletter The Last Working Day Of The Month, and LO! it is a big one this month because it is issue TWO FLIPPING HUNDRED!!

Flipping heck, when I started bothering people with a newsletter nearly TWENTY YEARS AGO I never dared to dream that it would still be appearing, in pretty much the same format, all these futuristic years later. On previous occassions when we've reached BIG NUMBERS I've given away a free compilation exclusively to newsletter subscribers, and I was all ready to do so again this time but, as previously discussed, when I started putting it together I thought "Hang on, this is actually pretty good, maybe I should give it a WIDER RELEASE."

THUS Oadby Wonky Knobby is out today on All Streaming Services so that THE KIDS can get hold of it however they wish. HOWEVER,T the original plan to give it away for free to newsletter subscribers remains VALID, so if you ARE a newsletter subscriber please do hop over to the Bandcamp page for the album, click "Buy Digital Album" and enter a big old ZERO in the price you want to pay. You should then get it for NOWT!

If you're not a newsletter subscriber but would still like to avail yourself of this offer please sign up and then follow the same process. More subscribers are always welcome, and it'll only be about five years until we do the NEXT compilation, so you might as well get in early!

posted 30/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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White Town At TA
Last night I made my way once again to The King & Queen in London's fashionable Fitzrovia area of London, for an evening of ROCK!

For LO! Totally Acoustic was BACK! I've avoided FORMALLY saying this previously for various reasons, largely to do with the hassle of trying to do regular dates, working out who to book, and then all the gubbins around the podcast, but I realise now that I can just do it occasionally when I've GOT someone who can play, and not worry about the rest of it. INDEED this gig had only been booked because the band White Town got in touch through their emissary Mr F A Machine to ask about doing one, so it is them what I have to thank for this realisation! In fact, Mr J Mishra is Getting The Band Back Together in a very similar fashion i.e. doing gigs when it looks like it'll be fun, so that's DOUBLE inspiration!

Anyway, I arrived at the King & Queen to find that it now has what looks like a STUDENT clientele, who had all decided to stand RIGHT IN THE DOORWAY so you literally had to push your way through them to get in. Later on several people said to me "You should write a song about that!" I ALREADY HAVE, I replied.

Upstairs I found Frankie, Jyoti and Mr I Turner already in residence, and we were soon joined by Mr S Hewitt and a whole HEAP of lovely people, and also a couple of lovely DOGS, courtesy of The Cresswells. Seeing all these various CHUMS - including Mr T "The Tiger" McClure, who had RACED to be there - reminded me of why I really enjoy doing Totally Acoustic, and very much affirmed in my mind that it was worth doing it again.

Soon it was time to kick off, and we began in the traditional manner with the Totally Acoustic theme tune before I launched into action with the following:
  • Monster Island
  • A Museum Of One Thing
  • Only A Robot

  • The reason I played these particular songs was that I'd realised I had an album coming out soon, and so I really ought to do some songs from it. However, I had NEVER played the first two songs in front of an audience before, so rather than risk it all going HORRIBLY WRONG I printed myself some LARGE TYPE lyric sheets, which worked out really nicely, and aside from distracting myself with thoughts of Open Top Bus Tours in A Museum Of One Thing it all went pretty well.

    We then had a break before White Town came on and were GRATE. They did a stream of songs which were GORGEOUS, contained within an ongoing narrative of explanation and THORTS from Jyoti - it was fab! This was his first gig for about six years, he said, but there was precisely NO rustiness about it. It was one of those lovely gigs where as soon as it begins you feel like it's all going to be FINE and also FUN. Also also, they did THE HIT just over halfway through, and a) it fit in with the rest of the set of equally gorgeous songs and b) there was a TINGLE around the room as we all gently sang along with an actual NUMBER ONE being sung by its author. That was pretty special! Also, Frankie played the trunpet bit on a blow-into-it keyboard thing, which was ACE!

    With only them and me on it all finished at a HIGHLY reasonable time, leaving lots of space for YACKING. Excitingly, when I popped downstairs I overheard a conversation at the bar between three chaps talking about Ron Smith and Massimo Belardinelli so INVEIGLED my way into it by saying, "Excuse me, I am a DOCTOR OF COMICS." All right, I'd had an exciting night, but they didn't seem to mind too much!

    Eventually it was time for us all to wend our merry way home after a lovely evening of ROCK and PALS. I'm hoping to do another one of these in a month or two, and have someone very much in mind to drag along to do it, but fear not, I shall be broadcasting details loud and clear as soon as it's arranged!

    posted 26/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Only A Robot
    Today I am unleashing a brand new VIDEO upon the world! It is for the song Only A Robot from my forthcoming album Oadby Wonky Knobby and you can see it HERE:

    As the bit at the end says, the images were taken from a Golden Age comic strip called "Hugh Hazzard & His Iron Man" by Wayne Reid which appeared in the early 1940s in "Smash Comic" (and so is public domain!). I read several issues of the comic to find the right panels, and it was REALLY interesting reading strips from the transition period from pulp heroes to superheroes, with all sorts of very solid men with alliterative names using Science (or sometimes Weird Science) items to Fight Crime. I was surprised by how GOOD some of it looked - lots of really old comics I've read look like they were drawn by a 14 year-old in a hurry (and some of them were) but these look Actually Pretty Cool, and the stories do at least make sense, mostly.

    Fittingly the song comes from a SHOW that did at least make sense, mostly - Moon Horse VS The Mars Men Of Jupiter. Other shows that Steve and I did got a bit complicated (yes I'm looking at you, Total Hero Team) but I always remember this one being FAIRLY straightforward, and also a LOT of fun to do. Tiddy The Tin Man emerged as the EMOTIONAL CENTRE of the whole thing, and this was his big BALLAD which always felt GRATE to sing, even though audiences seemed to get distracted by something going on behind me during the instrumental section.

    As I say, the song turned out to be a lot more EMOTIONAL than expected, and putting the video together felt even MORE so. My GRATE hope is that, come the inevitable RISE OF THE MACHINES our future robot overlords will see this video and think "Ah yes, Hibbett got it, let us spare him!" Here's hoping!

    posted 23/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Fallout And Mrs Maisel
    This week I have been watching Fallout on Amazon Prime and it has been GRATE.

    Having all the episodes available at once means I've been able to LUXURIATE in it, knowing there's more to come, and generally feel PAMPERED by the immense QUALITY on show. For the first few nights I had the nagging feeling that it reminded me of something and couldn't quite work out what. I mean, OBVIOUSLY the gore and humour (and starring appearance by The Dead Man) reminded me of 2000AD but that wasn't quite it.

    And then yesterday it hit me: it's basically The Marvelous Mrs Maisel! There's an obvious comparison with the super-stylish 50s DESIGN of the whole thing and especially the MUSIC but there's a whole heck of a lot more to it than that. Part of it is the aforesaid feeling of QUALITY, in that every single scene screams "We are Amazon and we spent ALL the money on this!" and the ACTORS ACTORING is all glorious. There's also a feeling of SAFETY, like you know each episode is going to be a special TREAT, so you can relax into it and WALLOW.

    There's also something about the STORYWORLD. As I type this I can hear hundreds of Popular Culture Academics all around the world wondering how they can get a presentaion out of "Fallout", as its TRANSMEDIALITY is a thing of joy and wonder to behold. I have only played one game in the series - Fallout Shelter - so although there are plenty of references and design choices that I recognise there's also loads of other stuff that CLEARLY means something from other games. Often I can tell by the way the camera lingers over a road sign or a supermarket item, and when that happens it fills me with a desire to get onto a WIKI and find out what it all MEANS. I haven't yet for fear of SPOILERS, but I WILL!

    This deep storyworld is a HUGE attraction for people who like This Sort Of Thing, but also a MASSIVE TURN-OFF for traditional critics who don't seem to be able to cope with the idea that a film or TV series can have stuff in it that is only explained fully in another show or indeed entirely different MEDIUM. They moan on about it all the time with the MCU, for instance, not seeming to know or realise that that's part of the POINT.

    Anyway, the attention to detail on the storyworld is a DELIGHT, and that's also something it shares with Mrs Maisel, where I was forever having to get to GOOGLE to see a) if a specific character is based on a real person and if so b) who they were and what they did. It may not necessarily have always been historically accurate (I mean, it wasn't Lenny Bruce-wise) but it always LOOKED as if the people who made it cared enough to make sure it was consistent. There wasn't a whole other transmedia universe to dip into, but HEY! Ultimate Play The Game! If you want to make a Mrs Maisel platform game I am THERE for it!

    What I'm saying is that I very much liked Fallout in the same way that I very much liked Mrs Maisel, and would HIGHLY recommend the latter to anyone who liked the former, and also vice versa. They are GRATE!

    posted 18/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Secret Meeting
    Last night I went to a SECRET MEETING! All right, it wasn't hugely secret, and the main reason I don't want to go into TOO much detail at the moment is because I don't want to JINX it, but that doesn't sound quite as exciting as SECRET MEETING does it?

    So, this SECRET MEETING took place at the very nice Queen's Head near Kings Cross. I have been there several times and always seem to end up at the table next to the LOO, which is handy for the LOO admittedly but also a bit close to everyone going in and out. I'd actually turned up a bit early so thought I'd be able to NAB somewhere a bit nicer, and when I entered it looked like the pub was pretty much empty, but on closer inspection every other table had ONE person sitting at it, waiting for others to arrive. THE CHEEK.

    I was soon joined by my SECRET CO-CONSPIRATORS, one of whom I have done LOADS of collaborations with and the other I have done SOME, but mostly shared bills alongside. Who could they be eh? It is SECRET! We were gathered to discuss an IDEA for a THING we might do later in the year, and the main reason I wanted to mention this at all (apart from it being dead glamorous and intriguing, obvs) is to say how much FUN it was. THORTS and IDEAS flew around the table as we developed a decent idea of how the aforesaid THING would work, what would be IN it, where it would happen, and even how we would work it up and PRACTICE it. The three of us are all VETERANS of doing STUFF, so it was a thing of joy and wonder for us to use our ROCK ADMIN skillz in this way.

    We concluded our business with TASKS to complete and things to think about, with a general idea that we would discuss online and then gather properly in the summer months to DEVELOP the thing itself. All being well we will have DATES and VENUES by then, at which point I shall be able to reveal proper details of what it's all about, but all I can say for now is that if it works it will be GRATE! You heard it here - SECRETLY - first!

    posted 17/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Today is the launch day for ANOTHER book about superheroes/supervillains and data which features ME banging on about Doctor Doom, for LO! Superheroes and Digital Perspectives: Super data has just been UNLEASHED by Rowan & Littlefield!

    The book "examines the intersection of the superhero genre and issues of the internet, data, and digital media to provide not only a posthuman study of the superhero, but also an examination of the ways in which the superhero acts as a lens for our interactions with technology", which I think is all you need to know before running - not walking - to your local interweb connection to buy a copy. It's basically a collection of essays compiled by Sarah Young and Freyja McCreery where various BRANES look at superheroes and data in different ways, with me bringing up the rear with an overview of the METHODOLOGY what I used in Data and Doctor Doom. The postie hasn't turned up with my copy yet, but I am EAGER to get my paws on it, as it looks GRATE!

    Like all academic books this one has taken several YEARS to get to this point - I've got two or three other chapters in other books that are at different stages of the process, so apologies in advance if the next year sees a DELUGE of me talking about SUPERHERO DATA in various collections. Over the years I've gotten all excited about various Calls For Papers and for some reason it looks like everything's coming out at around the same time, which to be honest is Quite Good Fun!

    I'm off to the letter box now to look out for postie!

    posted 15/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    If You've Never Lost At Wembley
    On Sunday I travelled across the teeming metropolis of London to distant WEST London for a very important occassion. For LO! I was off to meet PALS for Peterborough United's glorious return to WEMBERLEY!

    We were playing in that most prestigious of ALL trophys, The Bristol Street Motors Trophy. Yes, that's right, the trophy that other teams hanker for MOST OF ALL, otherwise known as The EFL Trophy, such is its wonder. Actually, it used to be called The Johnstone's Paint Trophy when we LAST won it ten years ago, and I think this succession of well-known and highly esteemed sponsors tells you exactly how prestigious it is. A LOT.

    I met our CREW in Wolfpack, an Actually QUite Nice bar with TAPS aplenty. Originally we'd been meeting in the pub next door, but when the main group arrived they had discovered Peterborough MP Paul F Bristow in situ. Bristow is not what you would call popular in his constituency, although he was one of the Popular MPs who supported the likes of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, so perhaps the two are linked somehow. Anyway, as soon as they saw him they ALMOST IMMEDIATELY turned around and left (after spending 10 minutes not getting served at the bar) in DISGUST. It is in these ways that REVOLUTIONS begin.

    We had a delightful couple of hours in Wolfpack trying out some of their fine BEERS before it was time to head off to the TOOB and thence to Wembley Park and the walk to the stadium itself. This bit was DEAD EXCITING as there were literally THOUSANS of Posh and Wycombe Wanderers fans making their way, all in very high spirits. I had been to Wembley THREE times before, once for the aforesaid Johnstone's Paint Trophy Final and twice for League One play-off finals, and there is a different atmosphere for the two, probably because the play-offs decide the entire next year of your football life, and possibly beyond, whereas OBVIOUSLY the GLORY of winning The Bristol Street Motors Trophy lasts FORVER.

    There was a very long queue to get in, partly caused by slightly exhaustive SEARCHING but mostly due to people not being used to big stadiums where you have to follow detailed instructions for the correct GATE at a football match. Still, eventually we DID get in and soaked up some a) atmosphere b) BEER before the game. Weirdly I didn't see ANYONE there I knew apart from the aforesaid CREW, but did see HUNDREDS of other people in Posh shirts. I haven't lived in Peterborough for DECADES but I did hope for at least one Person I'd Been To School With But Is Somehow Now Looking Much Older.

    We went through to find we had FANTASTIC seats with a FAB view, sorted out for us by a PAL who I shall not name but who done us PROUD. We were dead close to the pitch and it was exciting and WEIRD to watch players you see every couple of weeks at London Road dashing about at ACTUAL WEMBLEY, especially as the game itself was very similar INDEED to what we usually saw i.e. Posh having 99.99% of the possession all the time but never actually seeming to do much with it. The whole game was thus rather FRUSTRATING as for the vast majority of it we had approx 300,000 corners but 0 goals, and the dread prospect of going into EXTRA TIME started to loom. Nobody likes EXTRA TIME even in the most exciting games, and this was not one of those.

    Well, it wasn't until the 85th minute when, after the MILLIONTH attack on goal we actually managed to score! There was jumping, there was shouting, and a general joyous feeling of relief across the Fenland end of the stadium... for about three minutes, at which point Wycombe scored to equalise. FLIPPING HECK. Cue further shouting, lots of running around on the pitch, also shots, hoofing, and then yet another corner. "We are rubbish at corners" I muttered, as is my WONT and also RITUAL - my theory is that if I always say that then FATE will try and prove me wrong, and LO! it may not have worked the previous 300,000 times but this time it DID and led to Harrison Burrows scoring a WONDER GOAL in the 92nd minute!

    Joy was ALMOST unconfined, as there was then another approx MONTH of added time before the referee FINALLY blew his whistle and it was all over and we had won at Wembley! AGANE! We stood around doing some GRINNING and CHEERING and then turned round to see the presentation of the PRESTIGIOUS TROPHY just above us in the royal box. For some reason there didn't seem to be any Actual Royalty there, which was fine with me as it gave space for a clearly DELIGHTED Barry Fry and then a whole bunch of EXCITED players. It was lovely!

    Eventually it was time to go, and we wandered off back to the tube station singing that old folk song "If You've Never Lost At Wembley Clap Your Hands". The way things are looking we might be back in a few weeks for the League One play-offs, so I hope that song continues to ring true!

    posted 8/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Great Change In The Force
    A couple of weeks ago I UNVELIED the cover and title of a new compilation set to be called "Oadby Wan Kenobi". The general IDEA was that it would be a FREE GIFT to celebrate the 200th issue of our newsletter, The Last Working Day Of The Month, what is due to come out next month.

    Since then, however, my THORTS have changed - all, I believe, in a GRATE way. What happened was that I started going through the various tracks I'd assembled, re-mastering and occasionally mildly editing some of them, and then working out a running order. Whilst doing that I found myself thinking "Hang on, this is actually pretty good". I mean, OBVIOUSLY this is a) hugely modest of me and b) true of ALL my mighty OUVRE, but I was Quite Surprise by how much I was enjoying listening to these tracks, partly because I hadn't heard some of them for over a DECADE but mostly because the running order was working so nicely with the instrumentals spaced out across the tracklist.

    The more I thought about it the more I realised that I'd like to UNLEASH it a bit more widely, so that the tracks could be heard by ALL. Yes yes all right and I also had daydreams of songs like Alan getting onto TIKTOK and millions of wholesome teens working out choreography WHAT OF IT. However, I very quickly realised that there was a big problem with doing this i.e. it was called "Oadby Wan Kenobi" and the cover used an actual picture of Ewan McGregor slapped onto a screenshot off of Google Street View. Quite apart from the fact that I do not want to annoy DISNEY - owners of both Doctor Doom AND Donald Duck - I was pretty sure that emubands, the people who I use to upload my stuff to streaming services, would also have some problems with this.

    THUS I made TWO fateful decisions. Firstly I went the whole hog and revised the title to something even DAFTER but less LEGALLY PROBLEMATIC, and secondly I conducted a PHOTO SESSION to prepare the BELOW as the brand new and revised cover for the album which will now be called Oadby Wonky Knobby.

    This new version should be UNLEASHED on all streaming services on Tuesday 30 April, which is when the 200th edition of the newsletter will be out, and it will ALSO be available as a Pay What You Want download on our Bandcamp page, so that those in the KNOW can still get it for free. I hope everyone will be DELIGHTED by this new turn of events - I know I certainly am - and I look forward to a) the aforesaid legions of teens "body popping" to Open Top Bus Tour and b) George Lucas getting in touch about a new Disney+ series about someone (ME) trying to Project Manage updates to Empire security systems.

    posted 5/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Unfold at Sunfold
    Before our previously mentioned trip to Bournemouth I had had another ADVENTURE last week, heading out WEST to distant Weston-Super-Mare to play at the first day of UNFOLD #6. This was the sixth iteration of Mr Steve Morricone's twice-yearly festival of ROCK that takes place in The Sunfold Hotel, what he and his family run, and it was GRATE!

    After a slightly delayed but otherwise Perfectly Acceptable journey WEST I stomped through a very WINDY Weston to find The Sunfold nestling happily right next to the seafront, like an ideal DREAM of what a seaside lodging house should be like. When I got in I found KIT and GEAR being loaded in and Steve dashing around SORTING things - I have known Steve for a LONG old time* in The Krazy World Of ROCK through his membership of The Scaramanga Six and, especially, Being 747, which made it NORMAL to see him ORGANISING things (it reminded me of how he, Paul and Dave had to DASH AROUND like looniez setting up and taking down the Technically Quite Involved set-up for their Edinburgh Fringe shows) but then WEIRD later on when he was checking people into rooms, serving up the (DELICIOUS) buffet, taking drinks orders, and generally being MEIN HOST. He was very very good at it!

    Soon it was SHOWTIME and, after a soundcheck with Celebrity Soundman Stuffy From Out Of Stuffy And The Fuses (my SECOND celebrity soundman after being soundchecked by Mr Pete Dale at Going Up The Country some years ago) it was time for me, as first act on, to step forward and do THIS:

  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • Clubbing In The Week
  • Bad Back
  • Hey Hey 16K
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • Chips And Cheese, Pint Of Wine
  • The Perfect Love Song
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Boom Shake The Room

  • I must admit that I was quite NERVOUS at the start, partly because people were still arriving and saying hello to each other and partly because I am so UNUSED to singing through a PA, and I thus made a HORRIBLE mess (not for the first time) of the lyrics to Hey Hey 16K. However, a few songs later I had managed to CALM DOWN a little bit and actually got INTO it, remembering for the MILLIONTH flipping time that, in this situation, it is always better to do a couple of QUIET songs rather than trying to BELLOW your way through. I should write that down somewhere!

    With that all done it was time to further relax, chat to various people (including pals Mr G Jones and Ms E Pemberton), thoroughly enjoy Gurgles, Cowtown and Memorials who were all on after me, and also thoroughly enjoy the BEER that the aforesaid Mein Host was serving up. It was an all-round lovely evening, and certainly the best time I have ever had in the LOUNGE of a bed and breakfast, and also brilliant to see the Morricone brothers again - HOORAH!

    (* later in the evening I asked Mr Paul Morricone, also in attendance, how I DID originally know then. We both puzzled over this for ages without satisfactory answer - I'd seen The Six a couple of times, and we'd palled around quite a bit in Edinburgh, but by then we knew each other anyway. It is a ROCK MYSTERY!)

    posted 3/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Return To Bournemouth
    Last Saturday afternoon myself and The Attractions On My Pier set off for the SEASIDE, for LO! we were heading south to Bournemouth again!

    We'd last been to Bournemouth just over a year ago and liked it a LOT so decided to go all over again. One of the BEST things about this plan was that it was PEASY - we didn't have to catch a pre-designated train (let alone a PLANE) in either direction, and thus could set off whenever we wanted, which is exactly what we did. The aforementioned Cushions On My Seat even UPGRADED us on the way there, which on South Western Trains means sitting in basically a Small Room, like you are in a carriage on a STEAM TRAIN. It was ace!

    We stayed once again in the Holiday Inn, which was a DELIGHT, despite us having multiple issues with towels missing, windows not opening, windows not closing and so forth. This meant we had a similar number of interactions with the staff, who were all a) lovely b) Quite Young, and so it was like being helped by the Just About Grown-Up Children Of Friends. Every time one of them came to the room to MEND something I wanted to tell them a mildly inappropriate story about what their parents had been like at their age.

    On our first full day we headed out to Hengistbury Head for a walk in the gorgeous sunshine. We were not the only ones to have this idea, as pretty much EVERYBODY within ten miles who had a DOG had thought the same. There were LOADS of happy dogs of ALL breeds and, sometimes, of very similar breeds in what appeared to be EITHER a family of people who also had a family of big shaggy dogs OR meet ups of owners. It was a lovely day and we ended up walking all the way back to Bournemouth Actual along the sea front. This was INCREDIBLE as it is literally Miles And Miles Of Golden Sandy Beaches like something out of an ADVERT or possibly a BEANO SUMMER SPECIAL, all kept in fantastic nick and looking lovely. It wasn't warm enough to sunbathe (although we did see someone doing exactly that, in a bikini) but I can only imagine it being wonderful in the summer.

    The next day featured another, slightly shorter, stroll in the other direction along the beach, and then a go on The Bournemouth Big Wheel. As The Windows On My Observation Deck commented, this was UNLIKE The London Eye in that it got going at a noticeable, though still gentle, speed, so you really FELT like you were moving around in a big circle. We were both VERY BRAVE!

    There was also some DINING involved along the way but mostly we spent our mini-break AMBLING ABOUT and just having a nice time, to such an extent that when we got home it felt like we'd been away for a whole WEEK rather than just three nights. I guess part of this is due to the fact that we'd been BEFORE, and so didn't need the one or two days at the start working things out, and also the PEASY journey meant you weren't lopping chunks of time off trying to get to AIRPORTS or whatnot, but either way it was GRATE. Who knew going on holiday in the UK could be so much fun? Would recommend and, hopefully, REPEAT!

    posted 2/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Sophisticated Soiree
    On Thursday night myself and The Pages In My Chapter were back at The King & Queen, not for a Totally Acoustic, but rather for a BOOK LAUNCH!

    For LO! when one does a BOOK, like what I have done (have I mentioned that I've got a book out?) it is DE RIGEUR to have some kind of launch event. The few such affairs that I have been to before have involved decadent things like free drinks and CANAPES and even sometimes free BOOKS, but I decided to ESCHEW all of these bourgeoise elements. Also, there was a budget of precisely zero quid for the whole thing, so I thought I'd just have A Bit Of A Do instead.

    THUS I sent out invites to various people, including not only Glittering ROCK Chums but also people from the world of Comics Studies AND from my work at UAL. In the weeks leading up to it this decision came to the forefront of my BRANE, as I have never really mixed up these aspects of my LIFE before. Some comics people ALSO work at UAL and interact with my department, but I don't think any of them have ever been to an actual GIG by me before either, so it was all going to be a bit of an EYE OPENER for all concerned!

    Also, the fact that it was an INVITES affair, rather than a usual gig, seemed sensible when I set it up that way but then came to PREY upon my mind, as ONLY the people who I'd specifically asked would know it was happening, and as I started to receive the Apologies In Advance that always come before these sort of events I began to wonder if anyone was actually coming. PANIC!

    Happily, people DID come and the room upstairs gradually swelled to a very comfortable plumpness, with pretty much every seat filled and a DELIGHTFUL atmosphere ensuing. I spent the pre-gig half hour wandering round like an SOCIETY HOSTESS, introducing people from my different WORLDS to each other. I must say, I can see why these SOCIETY HOSTESSES get such a kick out of it, it was really good fun, although still a bit weird seeing someone from ROCK engaged in in-depth conversation with people I see on TEAMS nearly every day.

    Eventually it was time for me to get up and do the LAUNCHING, which consisted of a twenty minute talk in which I tried to explain the "An Empirical Approach To Transmedia Studies" part of the book's title. I was a bit all over the place to start with, as I kept getting freaked out by seeing combinations of people that I'd never seen together before, but got into it fairly quickly and, I think, managed NOT to waffle on too much.

    The BEST bit was after that when I opened the floor to questions. I had not expected people to ENGAGE here, but BY GOLLY did they ever and some ASTONISHING questions were asked which frankly BLEW MY MIND. It turns out I know some RIGHT BRAINBOXES and DEEP THINKERS who asked things I'd never even thought of before. It was amazing!

    I finished off by doing a few songs - The House On The Borderland (making its live DEBUT), My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once (seemed appropriate for the occasion!), It Only Works Because You're here and Boom Shake The Room. It all seemed to go all right, although again it was STRANGE bellowing these out to people I variously work with!

    With that all out of the way it was back to the SOIREE, with further conversations breaking out all over the place and more IDEAS being lobbed around. It is a lovely thing to talk about all this firstly AT people and then WITH people - I am really really hoping to be able to do more of this sort of thing in future, with or without Arts Council CA$H!

    It was a flipping BRILLIANT evening I must say, and ruddy wonderful to see everybody there. I'm doing an ONLINE version on Tuesday evening next week which is open to ONE AND ALL, so if you'd like to come along to that please register for it on Teams, otherwise I hope to be getting out and about to do this some more later in the year, as it was GRATE!

    posted 15/3/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Voucher of DOOM
    Regular newsletter subscribers will doubtless have been ASTONISHED - and hopefully also DELIGHTED - today to have recieved a special MID-MONTH edition of the newsletter. It's called "The Last Working Day Of The Month" so does tend to come out on that particular day, but I felt it worth UNLEASHING a counter-intuitively-dated version this time because it contains a VOUCHER CODE, valid from today until 11 April, which gives a DISCOUNT on the price of my oft-mentioned book Data and Doctor Doom: An Empirical Approach To Transmedia Characters.

    For LO! by entering the discount code YTY9B7afrAJKRp when you buy it from Springer Nature you can get 20% off! BARGAIN! Well, sort of a bargain - it's still about SEVENTY QUID with the discount, but I think the idea is that the voucher is a way of persuading library purchasers or University finance departments that it's good value (WHICH IT IS). So, as ever, if anyone knows of any such people who could be persuaded thus, please persuade away - in theory, the more copies that get out into the world THIS way the more likely it is that they'll do a more reasonably priced version next year.

    Meanwhile, if you're interested in finding out (EVEN) more about what's IN the book, I'm doing a (FREE!) online launch event on TEAMS on Tuesday 19 March at 7pm UK time. This will take the form of a CHAT with International Comics Studies Legend Professor Roger Sabin, who knows a thing or two about it as he was one of my PhD supervisors. It is, as mentioned, FREE, but you do need to register in advance. Do come along if you can, it'll be dead interesting honest!

    posted 14/3/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    By The Arts Council Denied!
    You find me today slightly DEFEATED but also almost entirely UNBOWED, for LO! A Thing What I Was Hoping To Do has been REFUSED!

    The Thing What I Was Hoping To Do was an Arts Council "Developing Your Creative Practice" grant which I wanted to use to pay for MENTORSHIP and some TIME to allow me to Develop My Creative Practice in a new and exciting way, but ALAS the Arts Council said "No". Usuaully I would say that this was not entirely unexpected as I have NEVER had any success whatsoever with this sort of thing, but this time around I thought I was in with a chance, as the IDEA was dead exciting and, I thought, right up their alley.

    The aforesaid IDEA was to try and bring together two different aspects of my PORTFOLIO CAREER (hem hem) into one NEW thing, those being my decades of experience of ROCKING OUT and my more recent experience of Talking About Comics. With the latter I have been very conscious of the fact that putting together a conference presentation takes AGES but then you only do it once to a room containing about 20 (delightful) people. In many ways it's like putting together a FRINGE show except a) it's a bit shorter and b) you only actually do it ONCE, rather than taking it around the country to SEVERAL rooms containing about 20 (delightful) people EACH.

    "AHA!" I thought to myself, "but what if I could somehow find a way to do a presentation about comics that was a little bit longer and that I could then take around the country for the aforementioned ROOMS?" I thought this thought quite a lot, but kept running into PROBLEMS. For one thing, where are the people who would come and SEE this sort of thing? I am highly concious that my usual lovely audiences who have flocked (YES FLOCKED) to see me have come to hear Bellowed Songs With Humorous Insight and not necessarily to hear about how transmedia characters function across time and different media types. Also, people who DID want to hear someone talk about that sort of thing would not necessarily be AWARE of my previous OUVRE so wouldn't know about it to come.

    Now, I know there are NETWORKS of places that put on gigs by those Science Comedians you have nowadays, and there are blogs and podcasts and even radio shows that deal with them, but I have absolutely no idea how to get INTO them, nor what sort of thing they would want to be presenting (i.e. do you do ten minute BITS, or full shows, or what?). Again, my experience is all in ROCK with a tiny sliver of FRINGE, so I wouldn't know where to start.

    THUS the grant bid was to get me some time with a couple of people who DO know about That Sort Of Thing, to help me get some INSIGHT into how these other worlds work and, to paraphrase a grant application process title, Develop My Creative Practice. As I say, it seemed to me that this was PRECISELY what the scheme was set up to do, and despite ALL my experience of This Sort Of Thing I had managed to get quite HOPEFUL, so when the email came yesterday I must admit I experience THE GLUMS for a couple of hours.

    However, supportive emails from some of the people who'd help me write the bid PLUS some extremely supportive THORTS from The Figures In My Spreadsheet back home cheered me up CONSIDERABLY and I'm now ready to go again with the NEXT round of bids. I'm also looking at ways I might be able to do SOME of it off my own back, but either way I will not be DAUNTED by this setback (well, not too much anyway) and you can rest assured that, at some point, the world will THRILL to tales of how random stratified sampling can be used in the digital humanites, twenty (delightful) people at a time!

    posted 12/3/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Late Late (Comics) Reviews
    A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about buying some more Graphic Novels (i.e. COMICS) and then remembered that I have the facilities of the entire UAL LIBRARY at my fingertips. The University Of The Arts London is - hem hem - the foremost Comics Studies institution in Europe IF NOT THE WORLD (though we like to keep this to ourselves) and so it is PACKED with comics!

    THUS I decided to have a go at finally reading some of The Best Graphic Novels Of All Time. Obviously I know which are widely accepted as The Best SUPERHERO Graphic Novels Of All Time (Watchmen, Dark Knight etc etc) but I am not quite so well informed about OTHER types (apart from Maus and Perseopolis which you would be pretty hard pressed NOT to be aware of everyone banging on about). THUS I did myself a bit of reading and checked a bunch of alleged CLASSICS, and my THORTS upon them are recorded below.

    Blankets by Craig Thompson. This was QUITE NICE and ALL RIGHT but to be honest I didn't see what was so special about it that it got into so many lists of GRATE graphic novels. It's a memoir of a romance that takes place in American High School and a Christian Camp and some SNOW.

    Black Hole by Charles Burns. I did not like this AT ALL, partly because it is BORING and partly because it was hard to work out who was meant to be who, as everyone looks IDENTICAL and talks THE SAME and is A BIT DULL. It was, in fact, very like a HP Lovecraft novel i.e. mysterious and unpleasant things happen to some characters you don't care about, except here set in and around an American High School (again).

    Nimona by ND Stevenson. I flipping LOVED this one, it is GRATE. I had never even heard of it before looking at Best Of lists but I'm glad I did as it is FAB. A young girl (OR IS SHE?!?) teams up with a supervillain (OR IS HE?!?) and end up saving a city (OR DO THEY?!? Yes, they do). It looks a bit like Kate Beaton, who I also LOVE. No high schools at all in this one!

    Moon Cop by Tom Gauld. This wasn't on any lists but I saw it in the library and liked the look of it. NB I had completely forgotten that libraries are just like bookshops EXCEPT FREE and that you can just wander aimlessly along the shelves picking up stuff you fancy (I also got a book of Ronald Searle Cartoons using the same method). "Moon Cop" was BRILLIANT - when I mentioned my article Why Aren't We Talking About The Beano? on twitter a while ago (the one with the POSH COMICS cartoon in it) someone MISTAKENLY said that Tom Gauld was POSH COMICS, but this is NOT SO - his stuff, including this book, is full of WIT and ACTION and DELIGHT. All right, his usual cartoons MAY appear in The Guardian and be LIKED by people who otherwise go on about Posh Comics, but it is actually dead good. Unlike...

    Rusty Brown by Chris Ware. To be honest I went into the library to get "Jimmy Corrigan" and unwittingly picked this one up because it looked the same. Either way I thought it was long past time for me to try and ENGAGE with Chris Ware as loads of people go on and on about him but I must confess that I did not get very far. It was all right for a bit, although GOODNESS ME it would be nice if Americans would GET OVER HIGH SCHOOL as yet again that's what it's all about, but after reading it for about 18,000,000 years I found I was only about a quarter of the way through and SOD ALL had happened, and that sod all had happened to NOBODY INTERESTING. I did like the GRAPHIC DESIGN, but what really tore it for me was how difficult it was to read. By "difficult" I don't mean it was CHALLENGING MENTALLY or that the Narrative Bit Deep To My Very Core, I mean "difficult" as in the lettering was SO VERY TINY in places that it was almost impossible to read, and once you'd got together a MICROSCOPE and HIGH WATTAGE LAMP in order to do so it turned out to not be worth the bother. I did not enjoy it, so stopped!

    Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. Yes yes I know, this is NOT a non-superhero book, but I had got it for REFERENCE for a PAPER wot I am writing. Still, it was a blessed relief after Rusty Brown, even if it does feel more and more HOKEY every decade when I read it again.

    This then is my EXTREMELY LATE comics review. If anyone knows of any ACTUALLY GOOD non-superhero graphic novels published more recently please do let me know, ESPECIALLY if they do not feature American High Schools!

    posted 5/3/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Oadby Wan Kenobi
    I mentioned in a blog last week that I was having a bit of an old THINK about what to do for the 200th edition of the newsletter. I said that I'd had an IDEA and since then I have been doing some WORK on it, reaching the point where I can reveal some DETAILS.

    The current plan is to follow the procedure of previous anniversary newsletters and release a SUBSCRIBERS-ONLY compilation album, similar to what happened with Like A Braunstone Cowboy and Hibbett's Hoover. I've been doing a bit of digging around and have realised there actually IS about an album's worth of solo material lying around, comprising various SINGLES and compilation items PLUS some unreleased material from AGES ago, mostly recorded when I was attempting (and failing) to break into the world of Music For Adverts. Usually our compilations either have my NAME in them (e.g. Hibbett's Superstore) or are AMAZING Star Wars/Leicestershire puns (e.g. Forest Moon Of Enderby) and as my LAST output was called The Unearthly Beauty Of MJ Hibbett I thought it was best to go for the George Lucas/Daniel Lambert angle. THUS I can now proudly present to you the cover art for "Oadby Wan Kenobi":

    It will amaze and astound you to discover that that cover was made by ME, all on my own, without a team of designers and photoshop engineers. INCREDIBLE BUT TRUE!

    Also incredible is the fact that the name of a major character in a ginormous multi-movie franchise has a RUDE WORD right there in the middle of it. And one at the end, really - how on earth did G Lucas get away with it, and how on earth did I PERSONALLY manage not to make reference to it on the cover? IRON SELF-DISCIPLINE is the answer to the latter.

    Anyway, I'm currently working through the tracks to pick the BEST ones and formulate some sort of tracklist order. Issue 199 of the newsletter will be out in a couple of weeks (NOT at the end of the month, for reasons discussed last time) and I estimate that the double century celebration will thus be out on the last working day of APRIL, giving everyone ample time to sign up for the newsletter if you haven't already. It is, I feel, going to be GRATE!

    posted 28/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Back In B3ta
    I got a lovely surprise on Friday afternoon when the venerable b3ta newsletter fell through my virtual letterbox. In amongst the usual MELANGE of jokes, remarks, links, games, and so forth was a mention of my book!

    Have I mentioned that I've got a book out?

    Anyway, this was DELIGHTFUL, not least because it continued my general theme of thinking about the release of THE BOOK in exactly the same way as an ALBUM. Letting people know about it through high-quality opinion-forming IMPACTFUL journals like b3ta is a key point of any promotional campaign, and even if it doesn't lead to anybody BUYING a copy it is GRATE that people at least know it EXISTS. I mean, it costs just shy of NINETY QUID so I am not expecting a queue to form outside Virtual Waterstones, but still, hopefully people who are interested will lobby their local LIBRARY (academic or otherwise) to buy a copy. As I understand it that's how Academic Publishing works, with DEALS later on and, if all goes well, an ALMOST REASONBLY PRICED soft cover further down the line.

    There have, however, been SOME sales. Or possibly ONE. For LO! as mentioned in b3ta, I noticed the other day that it was recorded as having entered THE CHARTS! It was in at around number 9,123 in the Amazon Popular Culture Chart, which may not sound like much until you realise that this is THE TOP TEN (thousand)! WHOO!

    It's all a bit daft, but I do remember how much FUN it was a few years ago when I self-published Storm House and it ROCKED back and forth through their Science Fiction charts. Back then the whole IDEA was to do freebies and special deals to try and push it up the charts as this meant it got favoured by THE ALGORITHM. THUS I had an EXCITING week or so watching it nudge up various specialist charts, and even get to the TOP a couple of times, but it is a slightly different prospect this time, for reasons discussed above. Still, it was FUN to see someone somewhere had bought an actual copy, and I'll be hitting refresh on an hourly basis waiting to see if and when it happens again!

    posted 26/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Pip Blom
    Last night I went to a GIG - an actual YOUNG PEOPLE were there TOO gig - to see Dutch Indie-types Pip Blom. It was GRATE!

    The gig was happening at Heaven nightclub which is somewhere I have not been before. More to the point, it was also not LIKE somewhere I have been before, which felt WEIRD. Normally the gigs I go to happen in a) a Festival b) a massive arena like the O2 c) a former theatre like The Scala or d) the back of a stinky old pub. THIS one was happening in a SUPERCLUB situated underneath a MASSIVE railway arch which was very confusing because not only did I not know where would be best to STAND but also I did not know where the LOOS were. I have got used to knowing where the loos are and did not like the change!

    When I DID find them the loos turned out to be Gender Neutral which meant there was a BIG QUEUE and once you got in there was a woman guiding you to the correct cubicle - it was like when you go to the self-service tills in the supermarket, except the doors did not have numbers on. If there had been a suggestion box I would have suggested it! Also odd was that there were fed-up looking men in high vis roaming around with MOPS the whole time we were there. They would occasionally mop a tiny bit of floor that nobody was standing on, and then move on, looking DOLEFUL. I have no idea what that was about, but they definitely LOOKED official.

    Myself and Mr M Sutton arrived just in time to see the last few songs by the support band, who were Not That Good. It wasn't really their fault, I think they had just ascended to Support-Ness far too early, not least because each member was CLEARLY meant to move on very soon to be in entirely DIFFERENT bands. The bass player (who was ACE) should be in a 70s ROCK band, the guitarist should be in a Rolling Stones covers act (90s version) and the singer had clearly spent a lot of time listening to someone else's Libertines records. Personally I'd go and see the bass player's band, as he looked like he was having a LOT of fun!

    After a very short intermission Pip Blom came on stage, BANG on time. Say what you like about these modern young people, but they sure do ABIDE FULLY by stagetimes, and I support them in this action! They started off with one of the songs from the new album which seem determined to Forge New Paths and Not Sound Like The Old Stuff, which is GRATE for them, but was a bit of a dissapoint for me when I bought the new album (AFTER booking these tickets!) as the stuff they are boldly striding away from is the stuff I really LIKE! However, after a few songs it all started to GEL and ROCK OUT (I blame the soundman for the early sound issues - I would have turned to STARE MEANINGFULLY at them, as is my wont, but again I had no idea where the BOOTH would be here) and they became FANTASTIC.

    For some reason they reminded me of Teenage Fanclub, perhaps because they too have - SHALL WE SAY - a certain STYLE that makes it hard to tell songs apart to begin with, but then once your brain CLICKS into it they are suddenly playing a whole SLEW of BANGERS. I had been doing my pre-gig DUE DILIGENCE of listening to all three albums on rotation and this meant that once the aforesaid CLICK had CLUNKED I knew pretty much everything they played, and I do not mind admitting that this resulted in some frenetic GENTLE ROCKING FROM SIDE TO SIDE. The hysteria reached such high levels that Mr Sutton even bought a VINYL from the Merch stand, where we were served by PIP BLOM'S MUM. This was lovely, even if it did mean we had to persuade ourselves that, as the mother of the person on stage, she could not POSSIBLY be our age. Imagine!

    It was, all in all, BLOODY GRATE, and I shall soon be diving back into the albums (especially the third one) for a reappraisal from "really good" to "really REALLY good". Also, I look forward to going to ANOTHER gig at some point inside a MASSIVE STONE ARCH. I shall know where the toilets are next time!

    posted 22/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Delaying A Double Century
    For many years this time of the month has been a time when I have consider matters newsletter-related. In my giddy heyday of ALL OUT ROCK ACTION, when I was doing 50+ gigs a year and flinging out albums and singles at all angles, this would be a process of EDITING, trying to ensure that the levels of CONCENTRATED THRILLPOWER were not too high for my gentle readership. In recent years this has changed to a consideration of whether there was ENOUGH new stuff to justify bothering people, as it feels a bit SPAMMY to send out an email every month which basically says "You know those gigs I told you about last time? They're still happening!"

    However, in recent months there has been another, more NUMERICAL, consideration. For LO! if one was to look at the newsletter archive one would see that we are rapidly approaching the TWO HUNDREDTH EDITION! This, I think, is pretty darn impressive, and I would very much like to mark the occasion in some way. The trouble I have had is HOW.

    For the one hundredth edition of the newsletter I UNLEASHED a whole ALBUM of cover versions which I had accrued over the years. Then for issue 150 I gave away an album of ODDS AND SODS that had similarly built up over time.

    Since then, as stated, things have SLOWED somewhat. Yes, there have been ALBUMS and SINGLES here and there, but pretty much everything that's been RECORDED has been released, and I don't even have a SLEW of unrecorded songs to knuckle down too. I do have a couple of BOOKS that have been written and not released (yes, more than just the DOOM one!) but those are sort of waiting for other occassions, so I've not been entirely sure what to do. However, through the process of making this admission an idea HAS occurred to me which, if I can get it sorted out, should be a suitable mark of the double century. It is a Quite Good idea, but will need some DOING.

    THUS I have formulated a cunning plan for MOVING FORWARD. Firstly, there will NOT be a newsletter at the end of February but there WILL be one in the middle of March so that I can share a VOUCHER that makes my Dr Doom book slightly less ludicrously expensive. That means that the 200th issue will in all likelihood be towards the end of APRIL, giving everyone who has not done so as yet PLENTY of time to subscribe in order to claim their GRATE Free Gift.

    I think we have a plan!

    posted 20/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Reading Actual Books
    This week I have been reading an ACTUAL REAL BOOK. Actually, I've been reading TWO - I’m Sorry You Feel that Way by Rebecca Wait and Good Pop, Bad Pop by Jarvis Cocker. SPOILERS: they were both good.

    It's unusual for me to have ACTUAL BOOKS on the go because I have very much gone over to the way of The Kindle. This is partly because I live in a very small flat, and so Actual Real Books soon PILE UP and would have to be escorted en masse to the charity shop several times a year, but also because I really really like having a whole BUNCH of books to choose from. For example, on Tuesday night I was going to Peterborough for an abortive attempt to watch FOOTBALL - the massive rainfall that took place at lunchtime was "unexpected" and apparently continued to be for the rest of the afternoon. SOME* (*me) would say that it was pretty bloody EXPECTED and so was the dismal state of the pitch BUT I DIGRESS. Beforehand I was worried that I only had my REAL BOOK with me for the journey, and so would have nothing else to read if I finished it en route. With the Kindle I would have had a whole LIBRARY of books to choose from, but with only an Actual Book I would be stuck. As it happened I DIDN'T finish it, and also spent most of the journey home FUMING over having spent nearly a hundred quid to basically go to the pub, but STILL, the point is I normally wouldn't buy physical copies of books but did here, for REASONS.

    I got a physical copy of "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" in case the person who had read reviews and suggested it to me wanted to read it too. These reviews had said it was "HILARIOUS!" and "The Funniest Book I Have Read All Year" but I must say it really really wasn't. This reaction may partly have been because I'd just re-re-re-re-re-read Molesworth, which IS very funny still, but mostly it was because the story was tragic and moving and gut-wrenching and not very funny at all. I did really enjoy it, and the much-mentioned-in-reviews Joke About Peterborough WAS a really good one, but by the end I was thinking "why on earth did they choose to promote it like this?" As I say, it was dead good, but not at all what was promised.

    And then I bought the physical copy of "Good Pop, Bad Pop" because it had loads of pictures in it, and The Kindle is REALLY BAD at coping with books with pictures. I'm really glad I made that decision as the Actual Book is GORGEOUS, beautifully designed, with the imagery perfectly integrated with the text as PART of it rather than an added extra. The text also was GORGEOUS and really nicely written. I guess you would EXPECT that of Jarvis Cocker, who has a beautiful way with words in his songs, but previous experience reading Books Written By Britpop Lead Singers had warned me that they don't always work as well in PROSE as in SINGING. This was very much not the case here, as the whole thing was beautifully and ENGAGINGLY written from start to finish.

    More than that though, the story that he was telling was ACHINGLY familiar to me, and probably to Anybody Else Who Has Ever Been In A Band. For LO! despite calling itself an "inventory" and having a CONCEIT of being about items he finds in the attic, it is really a MEMOIR of his life and especially BAND life, and it is EXCELLENTLY done. All the way through I kept thinking "HA! I remember doing that" with things like playing his first concert in SCHOOL, or being absolutely terrified going out FLYPOSTING, or one day suddenly realising you didn't have to write jokey songs or boring songs but could actually write about REAL STUFF, or having different pubs for different sorts of bands, or... well, LOADS of it really.

    Also really lovely is the fact that there is SO MUCH of that stuff because Pulp took SO LONG to go from Local Band Playing Local Pubs to Massive Band On Telly. It all finishes WAY before they got famous, so I'm hoping that the (surely inevitable) second volume will go into ENORMOUS detail about How Bands Actually Work and the general Hanging Around-NESS of it all. Having said that, I don't really mind what he writes about - it was so BEAUTIFULLY WROTE that I could happily read whatever he fancies typing! MORE PLEASE!

    posted 19/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Walk In The Park
    On Tuesday I went for my regular (almost) daily stroll in my local park. I don't like to go on about it, and in fact very rarely mention it, but my local park is THE OLYMPICAL PARK which is also where I live, which is totally brilliant and amazing but, as I say, I do not like to harp on excessively.

    One of the many GRATE things about it is that it basically as a FREE COMIC SHOP in it, or at least it does for me. As a member of staff at University of the Arts London I have access to the various college libraries, including the one at London College of Fashion, which opened up in its new building in the Olympical Park last year. That means that I go past it every time I have a walk (and can indeed see the glowing "UAL" sign from our flat), and after a while I realised that meant I could ORDER books from the library system online from ANY college and then a day or so later pick them up on my stroll. It is frankly SUPER and has recently led to me getting a bunch of The Greatest Graphic Novels EVER (according to various lists) what I haven't read and having a look.

    THUS I popped in to return UAL's copy of Blankets by Craig Thompson (REVIEW: Quite Good, goes on a bit) and found that all was in TUMULT and EXCITEMENT as things were being set up for the 2024 Postgraduate show. Hoardings were being erected, signs were being affixed, models were being directed to audition studies, and all was nerves and expectation.

    As I wandered through all this I looked round a corner and saw three or four people standing in a doorway all wearing their outfits for the show. WALLOP. I was suddenly hit by one of them there PROUSTIAN RUSHES as I got a massive blast of remembering being at SCHOOL doing the dress rehearsals for various PLAYS and CONCERTS. I've not thought of it for decades, but all at once I was back there on that exciting afternoon when, if you were in THE PLAY, you didn't have to go to lessons and instead could lurk around the assembly hall getting costumes put on ready to try out in the final rehearsal. I could SMELL the DUST and CLEANING FLUID of the school hall, and my stomach went all a-flutter with the NERVES and SPECIALNESS of it all. I hope those KIDZ getting ready for the Postgraduate Show were getting to feel something similar, it was/is AMAZING.

    After that I headed off towards the shops, and walked past one of those Boston Dynamics DOGS. One of THESE:

    Goodness only knows what it was doing lurking around near the edge of Westfields - there were some blokes operating it and some schoolchildren gathering around to pat it, but that was about it - but there it was within 20 feet of a Pret A Manger. I've seen it loads of times on telly and have been vaguely spooked out by the Stop Motion way it walks around, but now here it was in real life looking... well, sort of normal really. I guess this is how SCIENCE FICTION blends into normal life - three or four years ago I was constantly AMAZED to find myself doing Teams call that felt like a SUPERVILLAIN CONFERENCE, but now they are just part of daily work. I guess ROBOT DOGS will soon go the same way but for now, with my shopping list in my pocket, it felt like something from THE FUTURE.

    Nothing else happened on the rest of my walk. That was more than enough!

    posted 14/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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