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More Moor
Last night I met with The Hewitts in fragant Islington, where we had tickets to see Mr Ben Moor's show "Pronoun Trouble". SPOILERS: it was GRATE!

I've seen a few of Ben's shows over the years, and they are always LUXURIOUS experiences, featuring a flow of ideas, wordplay, mental images and EXQUISITELY delivered, elaborately constructed, happily silly, GAGS. It always feels like thought and care has gone into every single word - if stand-up comedians are cowboy builders, Ben is a MASTER CRAFTSMAN.

This show was similarly MARVELLOUS, although in a slightly different format from previous ones I've seen, which have tended to be STORIES. This was structured as a lecture about "The Hunters Trilogy" of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoons, with a seperate narrative alongside it and various interludes of Other Topics (notably the spelling of launderette/laundrette) along the way. The odd thing about THIS was that the lecture section was eerily familiar to the actual real-life genuine lecture I went to in Tuebingen about the contemporaneous "Duck Amuck" cartoon. THUS when people were LARFING at the very IDEA of taking cartoons like this seriously, I was pondering the Genuine Issues And Points Raised. This meant that I probably LARFED less than other people there as I was instead nodding my head and COGITATING!

It was a beautiful thing and came, as all shows surely should, with a reading list and/or bibliography at the end. We went downstairs to the pub full of JOY and had a jolly discussion with Ms J Gilroy (who had also come along) and Mr D Greene (who was doing the TECH that night). As part of his usual practice of being A Society Host, Dave introduced me to the comics writer Mr Keiron Gillen, who was also there and who turned out to be a DELIGHT. I found myself, as I often do when talking about comics, saying things OUT LOUD that have only ever previously lived in my head, and may have got quite animated about the nature of Victor Von Doom's facial scarring.

It was, all in all, a pretty GRATE night out. Ben's doing a few more shows around the country and I would HEARTILY recommend going - there's details of dates and so forth on his web page, as well as the reading list!

posted 25/5/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Fair Play Trophy (Again) (Again)
One of the things I'm working on at the moment in my NEW and ACTUALLY QUITE INTERESTING job is a presentation comparing two examples of Research Data in the ARTS, one from now and one from the PAST.

The item from NOW is VR, and I got a TONNE of information about it from our Head of Museum & Study Collection the other day. It really is DEAD GOOD working in an Arts University, as every time you go for a meeting with somebody a) it is about something Quite Interesting and b) they tend to show you their ARCHIVES afterwards. In this case I didn't see an archive as such, but DID have a quick look round the MA Art show what is being set up AND get to talk about the ISSUES to do with archiving a technology that is developing SO VERY QUICKLY that something which is cutting edge in July is obsolete by Christmas. It is, as I say, Quite Interesting.

The project from the PAST I've been looking at is something called "ROCOCO", which ran in the 1990s, looking at ways in which, in some KRAZY FUTURE WORLD, designers might be able to work together in remote locations by using some kind of "video chat" and perhaps a "shared tablet". What were they thinking eh? The actual DATA from it was a pile of boxes containing approximately 200 VHS TAPES, unindexed and unevenly labelled, which featured footage taken simultaneously from two different cameras at each site of the designers working together. See above re: QUITE INTERESTING.

Anyway, the reason I mention it here is that the above project COLLIDED HEADLONG with my current life in ROCK the other day, in the form of The Validators doing some pretty flipping amazing Online Collaboration ourselves. We had been talking the day before about maybe re-re-re-re-releasing The Fair Play Trophy (Again) as a single on iTunes and Spotify, as it doesn't seem to be available there in any form (it got left off of Forest Moon Of Enderby, the collection which included the rest of Shed Anthems because I was heartily sick of hearing it at that point!). I'd gone home and listened to the MANY versions of it, and was surprised to find that I actually quite liked the THIRD properly recorded one, from 2004. Further investigation revealed that these days you can do an online single for only 25 quid at only 72 hours notice, so I thought "Why not eh?"

THUS the next morning at work we embarked upon one of our periodic ONLINE POWER DISCUSSIONS via email. I tell you what, if The Validator ever turned our minds to EVIL the world would do well to QUAKE, as we are Quite Good at this sort of thing - over the course of the morning we had considered ALL of the pros and cons of the plan, agreed upon a b-side, and bashed through SEVERAL versions of the cover artwork. Tim suggested a FONT and Frankie (who was working from home) went into his garden to take a PHOTOGRAPH for the cover, which we critiqued, he re-did, and then I assembled for various drafts of the image until the final one was done.

It was all RATHER efficient, and satisfyingly similar to the DREAMS of the Rococo project all those years ago! THUS I can reveal that on Monday 11 June we will be re-releasing The Fair Play Trophy as an online single, backed with In The North Stand (maybe in a new mix, if we can get round to it). It will look like THIS:
There'll ALSO be a version on our bandcamp page which will include EVERY SINGLE VERSION of the song EVER - that's the studio versions from 1998 and 2002, me live on Steve Lamacq's show at the end of (I think) 2003, AND all of the various re-writes I did for him during the 2004 Euros. It is a LOT of versions which, when heard all together, do perhaps go some way to explain my thinking when I didn't put it on Forest Moon Of Enderby!

On top of all THAT it'll also be included on the DOWNLOAD version of 20 Golden GRATES (and thus also free to anybody who buys the cassette too) for the entire duration of England's World Cup Campaign which I, of course, confidently predict will last well into July.

If only the devisers of the Rococo Project had known, back then, what would be possible now, surely they would have jumped (remotely) for joy!

posted 24/5/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Daisy From Dubai
It's all fairly quiet here at the moment - we're off to CORNWALL at the weekend and then when I get back I've got two days of WORK TRIPS, so I'm beavering away here trying to get a) WORK and b) PhD stuff done before I go, which doesn't leave much room for ROCK THRILLZ.

In all of this gainful employment though there have been a couple of moments of UNUSUAL ACTIVITY, mostly due to a young woman known to me as Daisy From Dubai. She first rang me a couple of days ago - or, rather, she rang one of the people who used to have my phone number. There seem to have been at least three such people over the past few years, and whenever someone rings for them I say that they're not here anymore and suggest that perhaps they could try emailing them.

Normally this is fine, but not for Daisy, who insisted that I try to contact them myself. I explained, again, that I just had their old phone number and didn't actually know them. At this point she OPENLY LAUGHED at me. "You don't know your own (Person's Job Title)?!?" she scoffed, as if this was the single most ludicrous thing she had ever heard. I did not think this was very polite, but I laboured on, explaining that it is a Quite Big University with six sites, so I didn't actually know everybody who works here, but from that point on she treated me like a poor ignorant fool, asking very slowly if I could find out where the other person was and put her through to them.

I looked said person up on our internal directory and gave Daisy that number. It took several more minutes to persuade her that I couldn't take a message, what with not knowing said person or working in the same office, but eventually I got her off the phone. That, I thought, was that.

Five minutes later she rang back - it turns out that I'd given her MY number again, as it's still listed as that person's number on our systems. I felt a bit daft for giving it out, but I don't actually USE my own number and, hang on a minute, shouldn't Daisy have realised she was ringing the same number again? Either way, it took AGES to persuade Daisy that I *was* the same person, and I'd given her the same number again by mistake. To be honest, I don't think she believed me - I guess she thought I was a PA who didn't want her to speak to my boss? I suggested again that she could email, but Daisy had already done that and wasn't happy that she hadn't had a reply yet, so demanded that I do so instead. I thus took her number (which is how I know she was in Dubai) and email address and promised to forward it to the person in question. That, I thought, was that.

An hour or so later Daisy rang back AGANE, this time irate that the person had not contacted her yet, and wanting me go round and talk to her. It was here that she told me she'd spoken to somebody ELSE the day before who claimed that they HAD known the person in question and promised to pass on the details to her. This meant two things: firstly, that somebody had answered my phone for me and Daisy the situation before I'd even got involved and secondly that this was thus the THIRD time she had re-rung a number that she had been told was not the right one!

At this point I was getting a bit annoyed, but I maintained my professional COOL and explained, AGANE, that there really wasn't much I could do. However, ten minutes into this conversation (Daisy really didn't like taking 'no' for an answer), a LIGHT shone through the clouds - an email arrived from the very person we were discussing, with her mobile phone number in it! I passed this on to Daisy - who did not seem very grateful, and seemed to want ME to ring it for her - but it did at least bring the conversation to an end. That, I thought, was that.

The next day the phone rang. 'Will it be Daisy?' I thought, and LO! it WAS!! She'd left a message on the person's answering machine but had not yet had a reply, so for some INSANE reason had decided to ring ME to try and get ME to do something about it! I couldn't believe it! I explained YET AGAIN - VERY politely - that I did not know the person, did not work with or for them, and could not be expected to be in personal touch with all of the several thousand people who work here, and Daisy DID NOT LIKE IT. "I must say this is very unprofessional," she said.

THAT was it. "What I think is unprofessional is ringing somebody who has told you several times that they do not know this person," I said. I could hear the GASTING of FLABBER all the way over in the UAE. There were ACTUAL GASPS of DISBELIEF, which felt SOMEWHAT unfair as she had been rude to me FOUR TIMES already. It was actually quite comical, like an elderly Dame in a black and white film being confronted with a used condom in her cream tea. I began to feel a bit sorry for her, so suggested, firmly but fairly, that she wait AT LEAST A COUPLE OF HOURS to see if the person DID get back to her, and then maybe ring again ON THE CORRECT NUMBER.

I put the phone down. That, I thought, was that, and so far, it has been. The person she was trying to get hold of has since been round to say sorry for all the hassle, but I said it was fine as it had actually been quite jolly, especially towards the end. I don't know if Daisy ever DID get in touch with her, but I do know that she hasn't rung me again since.

I think I'm beginning to miss her.

posted 23/5/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Practicing Wot You Preach
After spending the past few weeks up to my ears in GDPR, LEARNING about it and Assisting Others To Meet Their Legal Obligations, I thought that it was probably a good idea if I did the same for my OWN dataset i.e. The Database of ROCK which powers the newsletter.

I thus went through EVERYONE who recieves it to check that I had Legitimate Reason for doing so. Happily most people on it DID, mostly because they'd Positively ASKED to be signed up for it in the first place. The lovely thing about checking through THAT data especially was that there is a bit on the sign-up page that asks people how they first heard of us, and reading through it reminded me of all the different ways we have been INFLICTED on others. There were certain things that cropped up a LOT - b3ta, 6music, indietracks and so forth - but also a surprising amount of people who said one of their friends had forced our music upon them. To all of those people, whether enforcer or victim, I say THANK YOU!

This still left quite a few who I did NOT have proof of consent or legitimate reason for, and THUS I sent out an email (which I'm allowed to do for the next week and a bit!) to all of them asking for the aforesaid consent. This in turn led to a delightful trickle of emails from people asking to stay, which was lovely!

There's still quite a lot of people who have NOT replied, but then I imagine loads of those will be from ancient email addresses that don't work anyway, and others will be people who weren't interested in the first place. I think it's going to lop off about 10% of the total list in the end, which is fine with me. If nothing else it cuts off 10% of the time I have to spend hand emailing it all out every month! Thanks The EU! We love you!

posted 14/5/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Through The Barricades
Yesterday I went for a meeting (which I seem to be doing a LOT of in my lovely new job) in London's fashionable SHOREDITCH area of London. The meeting itself was a DELIGHT but CRIKEY it wasn't half a palaver getting into it.

For LO! being in Shoreditch meant it was in one of these modern WORKSPACE spaces, which aren't boring old traditional offices like what the likes of me work in, but EXCITING new fangled ZONES with Breakout Areas and Free Coffee and thrillingly different ways of doing things. One of their new ways of doing things was NOT to say the name of the building anywhere on the front of it, for instance, or to say what companies were based there. I guess not knowing if you have come to the right place is a brilliant way of encouraging original thought.

I would have ASKED if I was in the right place, but I could not actually GET IN. I mean, I got through the door OK but then there were GATES to stop intruders entering the THORT CULTURE. Here in the boring old-fashioned world of DULLNESS we have things like RECEPTION DESKS and/or STAFF at such gates to welcome/help visitors, but here there was nothing so fuddy duddy. I could see a desk about twenty feet away, on the other side of the gates, but there was no way to GET to it, and the person sitting there was studiously NOT looking in my direction, so eventually I had to flag down one of the thrusting young types who were zooming through the gates with their staff passes.

"How do you get in?" I asked.

"With my card!" he said.

"How does ONE get in?" I clarified, and he went over to the desk beyond the gates and pointed me out. Someone opened a gate for me to come through, and then QUICKLY LOOKED DOWN again as I approached. I had no idea where in the building to go next so was forced to impose my OLDE WORLDE ideas of communication upon him. I said I had come to see somebody and he presented me with a TABLET, which asked me to enter my details and the name of the person I'd come to see. This was all fine, except it would only accept certain people's names, who were registered as full time workers there, whereas the person I wanted was part-time. His company rented most of a FLOOR there, but that was not good enough, as it had to be a specific name.

I asked for help, several times, until he deigned to respond, and then called over - amazingly - THE RECEPTIONIST. She was an actual person who was standing even further away from the gates, chatting to somebody, and was not happy to be disturbed by a request to actually RECEIVE somebody. When she eventually came over to speak to me I felt OBLIGATED to try and find out how this was all MEANT to work. Surely, with my old-fashioned ideas and practices, I was missing something?

"How are you supposed to get in?" I asked.

"Through the gates," she said, looking at me like I was an UTTER FOOL.

"But what if you haven't got a card to get through?"

"You ask at Reception."

"But that's on the other side of the gates."

This appeared to be the most obvious, stupid, thing an individual has ever uttered. "Yes," she said, as if talking to a baby who had just seen a sheep and said "MOO."

"So how do you get through the gates to ask reception to let you through the gates?"

APPARENTLY either nobody had EVER visited before OR they were all Olympic High Jumpers, as she visibly BOGGLED at this question. Eventually she said "Well, then you just wave and we'll come and see you?"

"But I was stood there for ten minutes trying to get through, and nobody saw me," I said, NOT adding "Because you were round the corner chatting to someone and your colleague was staring anywhere but at the door" because I am POLITE.

She then said that most wonderful of phrases which never fails to quell discontent and spread a mood of lighthearted JOY to all concerned: "Well it's always worked before."

Honestly, it was all I could do not to burst into SONG and SCATTER PETALS around the general area at such a helpful remark. In no way did I have to contain myself from going on a DESTRUCTIVE RAMPAGE, casting thousands of pounds worth of edgy, ergonomic furniture around in the CHAOS. If I had, I might have hurt some of the PROBABLY THOUSANDS of other visitors who had failed to get in and had instead formed their own communities of the lost and unmet outside.

What happened instead was that the person I HAD come to see arrived, said "Hello, I think you've come to meet me," and led me upstairs to be confused by funky coffee machines instead.

Several hours later, when I left, the gates opened automatically to let me out. I was almost disappointed.

posted 10/5/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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A Night With The Orchestra
On Saturday mighty forces gathered at The King & Queen in London's fashionable Fitzrovia area of London, for an event that will go down in history as BLOODY LOVELY.

For LO! The Validators AND A Little Orchestra were joining me there to play the 20th Anniversary gig of the aforesaid Validators, and we had picked a GORGEOUS day for it, the sort of day when you think "Sod it, let's just sit around and drink beer and have a natter in the sunshine."

There was work to be done though, so after a SMALL beer interlude we all headed upstairs to get set up for the evening ahead. As it was NOT an official Totally Acoustic gig I had BORROWED a PA system from Mr Shaun Hendry (who runs the Scaledown nights up there), as I am aware that an orchestra, even a little one, in full swing is FLIPPING LOUD!

It took a while to get the whole lot of us set up, but once done - in one big long line, basically, we had a practice of the whole SET that we'd be performing together. This was EXTREMELY useful, not least for me as I always find it dead confusing knowing when to come in, and unlike with The Validators, the other people involved couldn't just change things to fit in with ME!

Once done we all went in different directions, for lunch and, in my case, to GREET the many many lovely people who rolled up. I must admit I got a bit GIDDY with the excitement of it all, like I was the HOST of a fancy party full of people I really really liked!

Soon it was time to head back upstairs where, for a PACKED room, myself and The Validators performed a set of HITS (taken from our GRATEST HITS album which is out now!) thusly:

  • Hey Hey 16K
  • Payday Is The Best Day
  • Easily Impressed
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • We Did It Anyway

  • It sounded FAB, especially as a) we had the PA so I could SING rather than BELLOW and b) Tim had augmented his CAJON with CYMBALS, so he could SIGNAL to us during the songs. It was strange doing Easily Impressed and The Lesson Of The Smiths mid-set, as usually they're at the end, but other than that it was GRATE. I was astonished to find that I made NO mistakes until the very very end, when we had to do an extra chorus of We Did It Anyway because I'd got the words wrong. Pretty impressive!

    After a break we came back on, this time with A Little Orchestra, to do THIS:

  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • Cheer Up Love
  • I Want The World To Stop
  • Girlfriend Alarmed
  • We Can Start Having Fun
  • Two Nights, One Pub
  • One Last Party

  • It is an old adage that It Will Sound Different When People Are In, but goodness ME it was true in this case, as the musical extravaganza sounded EVEN LOVELIER with the audience there. Having the practice earlier meant that it wasn't quite such a SURPRISE to me how fab it sounded, though it seemed to be to the audience who were in AWE of the CLASSICAL MIGHT in front of them.

    Halfway through we also announced the SECRET PROJECT which we have been working on together i.e. that we're going to do a WHOLE ALBUM together, and will be setting up a Kickstarter campaign to do so. I have been in discussion with Ms A King of the Orchestra for some time about this, and we have MANY PLANS about stretch goals and incentives and all that sort of thing. It is going to be GRATE, I feel, and I will surely be talking about it MUCH more in future!

    With the gig successfully completed we packed things away and then returned downstairs to the pub, where a THOROUGHLY delightful evening drew to an equally delightful end. I would like to express heartfelt thanks to the orchestra, to The Validators, and indeed to the AUDIENCE for making it so - if the ACTUAL ALBUM we make is even half as GRATE as the evening was, it is going to be INCREDIBLE!!

    posted 9/5/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Like several of the regular visitors to this blog, I have spent a lot of time recently learning all about GDPR. When I say "several" I mean, of course, the tiny minority of you who have Grown-Up Jobs. Most people coming here are, I assume, groovy young hepsters who spend all their time listening to "Pod Casts" on their interweb walkmans while roller-skating to the local "Pop Up Shop" to buy wax for their gender neutral moustaches, but I suppose some of you must be as OLD as me. You know, in your mid-thirties ish.

    ANYWAY, like those people I have recently been thrown into a series of webinars, blogs, instruction pamphlets and COURSES all about GDPR which comes in in a few weeks and has, apparently, only just been announced so that nobody knew about it, say, two years ago nor had any other time to prepare. As far as I can see it can be summed up in one of three ways, thus:
    1. Like The Data Protection Act, but more so.
    2. You've got to tell people what you're up to.
    3. Don't be a dick with other people's information.
    (I am available for in-depth web-learning sessions).

    In order to learn all of this AGANE I went to an ALL DAY event at one of the UK's leading Data Archives last week. I actually quite like repeatedly being told the same thing in this way, as it means I eventually REMEMBER some of it, but I was somewhat surprised to find, as the day progressed, that I appeared to be a GDPR EXPERT compared to some of the other people there. The course was for Research Data Managers, like what I am now, so you might have expected everybody to have at least a certain level of knowledge, but GOODNESS ME no.

    Not only were some people not up to date with current thinking, they were not up to date with approx the last TWENTY YEARS of legislation, and were very keen to point it out. At one point, when talking about VERY VERY BASIC levels of Good Practice someone raised their hand and SCOFFED, as if highlighting a particularly ludicrous example of PC Gone Mad, "Surely you don't expect us to lock our computers every time we leave the room to go to the bathroom!!!"

    The course leader looked AGHAST, but MANY other people nodded earnestly, as if that was precisely the kind of silly nonsense that professionals like them were having to deal with all the time. Another person - who, judging by his Loud Confident Tone Of Voice had trained as either a MEDIC or a Conservative MP - stoutly defended the practice of bunging all and any data on any Cloud system he saw fit to. "It's like using a bank," he said. "I put my money IN the bank, they use it how they see fit, loaning it to other people, and then when I need it I take it back. Why shouldn't I do that with my research data*?"

    (*i.e. sensitive information about other people which he had collected).

    The whole day was an extreme exercise in self-control, both for the course leaders who managed not to STRANGLE anybody, and also for ME, although I did at one point VERY NEARLY SHOUT at the aforesaid over-confident data spreader. I returned home EXHAUSTED from it all but, I must admit, with a new found sympathy for the many many courses and Explanatory Documents that I've been wading through lately. It turns out some people DO need telling!

    posted 8/5/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    20 Golden GRATES is out TODAY!
    Shout it to the very rooftops: today is the day when our GRATEST hits album 20 Golden GRATES is officially released to the world! On CASSETTE!

    Speaking to people this past week TWO (2) things have become abundantly clear to me. Firstly, many seem to be put off from purchasing it due to the simple fact that they do not own a cassette player. This is entirely understandable, and I think demonstrates that I should be saying "It comes with a download code!" much more loudly. It comes with a download code!. This means that you can slot the whole lot into your music player of choice (in your file format of choice too), while also having the BEAUTIFUL ARTEFACT that is the actual cassette to love and keep.

    This leads me on to the second thing, which is that the tape looks RUDDY GORGEOUS. I mean, look at it!

    You can click on the pics for bigger versions. It really is a lovely item, inside and out - every time I hand one over I LOOK upon it in wonder, and it's made me think that maybe I should also be telling people that it's a beautiful item in its own right a bit more loudly. It's a beautiful item in its own right!

    As stated, it's available to buy directly from us over in our online shop for just 8.99, with postage and packing FREE wherever you are in the world. If you get yourself one I hope it DELIGHTS you, and if it does please tell other people!

    posted 7/5/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Avengers... Or Did I Dream It?
    Last night I went to see "Avengers: Infinity War". Or at least I think I did.

    It's a film I've been looking forward to for ages, in that weird way what one does for these sort of films, wanting to know as much as possible about it whilst also simultaneously NOT wanting to know. This led to me being desperate to go and see it as soon as possible purely so that I could get it out of the way - usually with the big superhero films I enjoy them LOADS more on the telly, but I feel I HAVE to go and see them at The Pictures just so that I can look at the internet again without panicking about SPOILERS.

    I had big plans to go and see it at the slightly grotty little Odeon on Tottenham Court Road, as that is where I have been to see the majority of superhero films over the years. It's a GRATE place to go because it's (usually) near my work, so I've been able to go to earlier screenings when it's not so busy, but ALAS my plans fell to DUST yesterday when I ended up having to sit and do WORK a bit later than usual. This was all a bit upsetting, as my next chance to go would have been next week, but then I remembered that there is a GIGANTO cinema 10 minutes from my front door, in Westfield Stratford, so booked a ticket for that (with QR code ticket on my phone! So futuristic!) and off I went.

    It was, as everybody else has said, dead good, although I had to keep reminding myself that I was actually WATCHING it. Always, with these films, I find myself thinking "Wow, imagine if this was a REAL THING and there really WAS a film about The Avengers" because it is SUCH an incredible thing. It was difficult enough when the first film came out and had Iron Man AND Thor AND Captain America AND The Hulk all together, but now it is getting ridiculous. If you had told ten-year-old me - or twenty- or thirty-year-old me, for that matter - that there would one day be a film where the BIG STARS would be The Guardians Of The Galaxy I would have LARFED in your face. The idea that it would also star Black Panther and Doctor Strange, and that the absence of Ant Man (and the Scott Lang version of Ant Man too!) would be REMARKED upon would be utterly ludicrous, never mind that FACT that it's one of the biggest selling films of all time.

    The daftest part of it all is that there are now SUPERHERO PROGRAMMES on telly that I don't even bother to watch. Fair enough when it's the DC shows, but there are whole SERIES of perfectly good television programmes about Daredevil, Luke Cage, The Punisher etc that I have not even got around to looking at yet, such is the DELUGE of such programmes! I guess if they had more MASSIVE TWISTS to avoid then I would!

    This film had its fair share of surprises, but mainly I enjoyed it for the way it mixed up all the characters. It reminded me - A LOT - of The Wedding Of Sue And Reed in Fantastic Four Annual #3 what I wrote about a while ago for my Marvel Age Doom blog. This was the moment when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby got to REVEL in the gigantic storyworld they had created by throwing EVERYBODY into the mix (even Millie The Model!), and even, much like in "Infinitiy War", giving reasons for the lack of presence of the few missing characters. Both comic and film are JOYFUL explorations for all the different ways these characters could work together, and it's especially COOL in the film to see them simultaneously mixing together the different TONES of the different stories too, like the COMEDY of "Guardians Of The Galaxy" rubbing up against the psychedelic effects of Doctor Strange, or the politics of "Captain America".

    It was, to be clear, GRATE. I can't wait for it to pop up on Amazon Prime so I can watch it all over again!

    posted 2/5/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Postage And Packing
    After experiencing the heady thrills of TOURING the weekend before, THIS weekend found me exploring the little-discussed DARK SIDE of the Rock Experience: ADMIN.

    For LO! every tour has to be organised, every new release requires manufacture, and every setlist has to be negotiated, and so it was that I spent some highly enjoyable quality time on topics such as: sorting out the finances from the Germany gig; dealing with the utter cock-up that the PRS made of our recent payments (they have us about TEN TIMES too much... and then, just when we'd got all excited, asked for it back!); preparing for Saturday's 20th Anniversary Celebration Gig and, most excitingly of all, making final preparations for the launch of 20 Golden GRATES!

    This latter exercise featured the development of two mailings lists one for Media Types and another for Associated Individuals. The Media Types list was quite easy really, as these days most people prefer DOWNLOADS to Actual Physical Product, so it was just a case of generating some bandcamp codes and sending them out, alongside a Press Release which had previously been thoroughly vetted by Internal Comms AKA The Quote Marks Around My Quote. My promo list gets shorter and shorter each time I do it, as every time I send stuff out at least one person on my ANCIENT list of Media Types leaves for pastures more sensible. I guess one day I should look at some NEW people to send things to?

    The Associated Individuals task seemed more difficult at first, as I had to find postal addresses for everyone involved one way or another with the production of the cassette. As it is a GRATEST HITS this means pretty much EVERYONE who's been involved with our recorded history, notably in this case The Durham Ox Singers, who appeared on much of our early material. When The DO's (as their FANS called them, no, honest) were gigging this would have involved a lot of telephone calls to try and find everybody, but luckily for me we now live in THE FUTURE where everyone is on Facebook pretty much all of the time, so it just took a couple of Instant Messages to get it all sorted out.

    All relevant envelopes were thus packed, and then posted first thing this morning. The next step was to UNLEASH this month's newsletter, which contains instructions for SUBSCRIBERS on how to order 20 Golden GRATES. This went out earlier today, so now I'm sitting waiting to see if anybody actually wants to BUY it. I do hope so - there'll be a LOT of cassettes for me to shove under the bed if not!

    posted 30/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Croydon From A New Angle
    I have been to Croydon many MANY times over the years, always via either London Bridge or Victoria, so you can imagine how EXCITED I was last night when I went a DIFFERENT way! VERY excited, that's how much!

    I went from the Thameslink station at St Pancras, which always feels like a TOP SECRET station because it's hidden away beneath all of the others and is MYSTERIOUSLY rarely mentioned by TfL JourneyPlanner. Getting this train was GRATE as it was Not Horrifically Busy like the others normally are, and also QUICK.

    I thus arrived at The Spreadeagle in Croydon full of joy, and was soon forced close to BURSTING by seeing not only Mr T Eveleigh, host and promoter, but also my co-performers Mr G Osborn and Ms J Lockyer. We had a chat, a soundcheck, and before you know it the doors were open. An Actual Audience came in, including a rather HUGE number of Totally Acoustic regulars, which was LOVELY, especially as The Strings On My Guitar had come along too and was thus DELIGHTED to see everyone!

    Gav kicked off and as usual was GRATE, doing a huge HEAP of brand new songs. He does not fall back on his hits, Mr Osborn, creating NEW ones instead, which is something that I always feel a) should be applauded but also b) SHAMED by. However, this time I had come prepared, and when it was my turn to go on I unleashed the following BARRAGE of new songs, HITS, and dusty old items from the back of the cupboard:
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • Someone Else's Turn
  • Cheer Up Love
  • Chips And Cheese, Pint Of Wine
  • Girlfriend Alarmed
  • Two Nights, One Pub
  • Leave My Brother Alone
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • We Did It Anyway
  • I was a bit afeared beforehand of doing all of these NOT GUARANTEED BANGERS, but I'm proud to say I stuck to my guns and it seemed to go OK. It's always a bit odd playing non-funny songs after supposed-to-be-funny songs, especially when the crowd have come expecting something at least vaguely comedic. Some audience members get PERPLEXED, worry that they must have missed something, and laugh at entirely random sentences, but I think it went all right. I was VERY pleased to debut Someone Else's Turn and DELIGHTED to find that Two Nights, One Pub has the makings of a HIT.

    After me Jenny came on and did THREE ACTS, including two CHARACTERS. The first bit was especially GRATE as she did a bit with an American Actress character (KIND OF) who reminded me of Elaine Stritch (NB have looked her up just now and that is a Very Apt Comparison). The best thing about this particular bit was that it allowed Jenny to be Quite Rude, but also to clearly LARF at the fact she was getting away with it!

    It was rather a marvellous evening, and LOVELY to see the above mentioned CHUMS, in audience and on stage, again. Even the stroll back to East Croydon station was full of pleasure - we'd been tipped off that Black Mirror were filming round the corner, and had built a realistic 1980s Wimpy Bar, Chelsea Girl, and best of all WH SMITHS in the shopping centre. We went and had a look, much to the bemusement of a teenager who was, I think, meant to be guarding it but had no idea why all these Grown-Ups were staring through the windows with such glee!

    posted 27/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Cologne Popfest
    Over the weekend The Validators travelled to Cologne to play at The Cologne Popfest. It was BLOODY GRATE.

    Most of us - myself, Tom and Frankie, along with Ian and Paul from Frankie's old band The Almanacs - rolled up on Friday lunchtime. They'd all come on the Eurostar while I'd FLOWN, which meant that we'd all had to get up quite early to be there, so once we'd met up outside Cologne Cathedral (which is GINORMOUS) we decided to head to the hotel, where we all had SHOWERS before meeting up and heading back into the centre of town.

    Frankie had been before so knew how things WORKED. He took us to a bar in a square where we sat ourselves down in the GLORIOUS sunshine. A waiter saw us and said "FUNF?" to which we replied "FUNF!" and then a couple of minutes later he returned with five very small (200ml) beers for us. Whenever we'd finished, or were near finishing, he'd just bring us more! It was GRATE - it meant that ordering was peasy, you could drink almost PRECISELY as much as you wanted, and the beer was always cold and fresh! ALSO it felt like we were drinking LOADS of beer and thus being DEAD COOL, but were actually being almost sensible. WINZ!

    We went to another bar after a while, then another for something to eat, then another really nice Indoors Place where we got a BOOTH to ourselves. It was a lovely sunny day which we filled with VERY intellectual discussions. Normally when The Validators gather we do OF COURSE have Political Discussions and that, and definitely don't sitting around taking the piss out of each other, remembering Gigs We Have Done, or just catching up. Paul and Ian being there though seemed to take us to a whole other LEVEL, and there was LENGTHY discussion of politics and especially MEN'S ISSUES. It was really good!

    The evening ended with us going to The Blue Shell, venue for the next day's GIG. I had high hopes of getting there in time to see some bands (as there had been three on that evening) but all the HIGHBROW CHAT meant it was gone 11pm when we arrived. We were reunited with a whole HEAP of pals, including Marcel and the various organisers (who seemed happy with how it was going) and Katharina and Martin (AKA our legendary promoter and all round good guy for gigs in Dresden and Berlin). It was flipping DELIGHTFUL!

    The Validators have a WHATSAPP group now, because we are SO MODERN, which meant that we were all fully in touch on our travels. On Friday The Pattisons had kept us up to date with their lunch and gardening while the rest of us were crossing the continent, and on Saturday I awoke to find a whole HEAP of news from them as they struggled to make it via RY*N*IR. Astoundingly, RY*N*IR were difficult and unreliable - who'd've guessed?!?

    Just before 2pm all of The Validators were fully ASSEMBLED, and we set off to the venue for soundcheck. We'd been a bit worried about INSTRUMENTS as we hadn't taken any with us, but, just as promised, the organisers had sourced us a whole load of GEAR to use. Over the day they proved themselves to have done absolutely EVERYTHING they said they would, paid us PRECISELY what was agreed, did ALL the Merch Sales for us, and OVERWHELMED us with food and drink. There were drinks and food backstage, our wrist bands gave us access to FREE BEER all day, and on top of that we got given VOUCHERS "for when you start want to doing shots" (NB "when", they said, not "if"!). It was brilliant - it is a cliche for British bands to play abroad and then HARP ON about how well they have been treated, but the difference between the general standard HERE and over there is astounding. I often wonder how European bands feel when they come and play in the UK!

    We did our soundcheck, which sounded FAB, and then waited to see if anyone would come. It was a lovely warm day again (Friday had apparently been the hottest April day in Cologne EVER!) so I expected people to stay outside and enjoy the weather, and we were on FIRST, so at about 3:50pm I was not surprised to find the room sparesely populated. However, by the time we took to the stage, bang on 4:00pm, it was RAMMED!

    What followed was a FABULOUS gig, containing the following:

  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • We Did It Anyway
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Easily Impressed
  • Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met)

  • Do The Indie Kid
  • It was, by general Validator consent, one of the best gigs EVER. Highlights included the audience waving EU flags (which the Pattisons had made especially) during Can We Be Friends?, SPARKLERS being held aloft in We Did It Anyway, and Marcel and chum coming onstage to sing a German verse of Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met), THUS:

    It was all quite emotional really, and also Surprisingy Well Received. The audience seemed to clap for AGES after every song, and I had to just start talking over them so that we'd have time to do the whole set! When we came off I was pleased to see we'd only gone over our time by a couple of minutes, but then PERPLEXED by the fact that they were STILL clapping. We couldn't go on and do an encore, I thought - surely everyone knew that, it was an all-dayer - but they KEPT ON CLAPPING! Eventually we DID go on and do an encore, although as we didn't have much time we cut a verse of Do The Indie Kid out on purpose, and certainly not accidentally. It was FAB!

    The rest of the day was also pretty wonderful. We especially enjoyed The Popinjays, and especially especially when they came outside afterwards and we all had a LENGTHY chat in the sunshine together. It does seem weird to me sometimes when we standing around chatting to bands we used to read about in the NME as if it was Totally Normal, but it does very much seem like the ones who are still out and about these days are all dead nice!

    Another thing I have noticed over the past couple of years is that Indie events now tend to include a BREAK in the middle so that everybody can go and eat and get their second wind. It's almost as if Indie events that I go to are predominantly attended by middle-aged people who know their own and others' limits! We went to get a curry, but when we found that our chosen restaurant was full we went to a PERSIAN restaurant instead. It turned out to be a) quite MEATY but also b) very nice for what Veggie stuff it DID have. We all particularly enjoyed the raw onions and MINT - it simultaneously freshened and de-freshened your breath!

    Back at the gig there was more yacking, more bands, and more GOOD TIMES. Someone told me that he'd been DJing our version of 'Drink Doch Eine Met' locally and people were going KRAZY for it (in a good way - I checked). Other people had other lovely things to say, and everyone lived up to the Cologne reputation for being friendly, including the people who didn't COME from Cologne!

    Emma and Tom went back to the hotel first, with Emma taking someone's jacket by mistake, so when Tim and I headed back later we took one of the organisers with us to collect it, which was EXTREMELY handy of them. I went to bed full of the joys of ROCK, amazed that we get to play fantastic events like this, and hopeful that our subtle hints* that we'd like to be asked back again sometime (*telling all of the organisers repeatedly) would pay off. Cologne Popfest was GRATE!

    posted 24/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Gang Who Broke The Bank At Stratford Westfield
    On Saturday night the Dealer Of My Cards and I went for a SOPHISTICATED early evening out at THE CASINO. We had got a voucher through the door, you see, offering us a free drink and a free SNACK, so not being ones to turn our noses up at such things we thought we'd give it a go.

    The Casino is located in the big shopping centre which we can see from our house, but we have never been in before because, well, why would we? A pal had said it was really nice, so the vouchers were the small PROD required to make us go. I must admit to being a little trepidatious - would they even let us IN to a swanky place like that? Would someone say "Hang on, you don't even know how to play POKER, GET OUT!"? Or would we get sucked into a spiral of iniquity and end up selling our shoes to pay for one more go on the Penny Falls?

    We need not have worried. The doorman smiled upon us and we were whisked up the escalators to a HUGE room which was a mixture of all the wild guesses I had made as to what it might be like. There were LOADS of fruit machines, so it looked a bit like a seaside amusement arcade (though there were no HANDLES to pull), and there were grumpy-looking people slumped in front of them still wearing their coats, so it looked a bit like the corner of a massive BOOKIE'S. But then there were also Blackjack tables and a whole ROOM full of people playing Poker, so it was also like somewhere JAMES BOND might go.

    We wandered around and had a JOLLY nice time. We got our free drink and snack, plus more drinks, and sat down for a go at the fruit machines. Being devil may care types we decided to allocate ourselves an entire FIVER each, to spend how'ere we wished, but to my astonishment some people were spending that on a single go! A bloke sat next to us SLUMPED down looking fed up and put a TWENTY POUND NOTE into the fruit machine! Why would you do that? The Pictures On My Dial was playing for 10p then 20p then 33p a time, which seemed like the very HEIGHT of lavish living, but this guy was paying ACTUAL POUNDS at a time! MADNESS!

    We were just there to enjoy ourselves but amazingly The Coins In My Slot got on a WINNING STREAK and reached the point where her initial 5.00 stake had given her back 9.37! We GOGGLED at this fortune, but like the cool cat she is she decided to pause why she was ahead and CA$H OUT with her MASSIVE WINNINGS. We then went to look for another machine for me to lose my fiver on. I don't understand Poker or any of that sort of thing, but when we were little we DID have a toy roulette wheel (why did we have a toy roulette wheel?!? Surely that must have come from an errant aunt/uncle somewhere? Or a jumble sale?) so I had a VAGUE idea of the mechanics, and decided to give it a go.

    I am a SENSIBLE person and I KNOW that games like this are entirely skill-free, but still as soon as I started I was CONVINCED I was doing TACTICS, especially when I was winning. I had The Numbers On My Table beside me and I have to admit I DID feel like J.Bond with Glamorous Femme Fatale beside me - if it had been a REAL Roulette table rather than a screen I would DEFINITELY have asked her to place some chips for me, it would have been DEAD SAUVE!

    After some ups and downs I got down to 4.50 and decided to have one last go, scattering 25p bets across the different numbers. "It's just a bit of fun," I thought, "then we can go home." But then BLOW ME one of my numbers WON and suddenly my pot was worth NINE POUNDS!

    I cashed out at this point too and we SWANNED over the the CA$H desk to collect our ENORMOUS winnings. We both agreed that the cashier looked VERY impressed with us - we'd changed a tenner into two fives with him earlier, which he remembered (I assume because he doesn't usually meet such big spenders?) and initially he was complimenting us on coming back for 9.37, little realising that we also had MY payout still to come, and thus were in ACTUAL PROFIT!

    I almost expected SECURITY to stop us as we left, like they do in the films when HUSTLERS use a SYSTEM to bankrupt the Casino, but I imagine they must have been busy elsewhere, so instead we strode out with our WINNINGS, utterly flipping DELIGHTED with ourselves. I probably WON'T be giving it all up to become a professional gambler JUST yet, but COR it was fun for an afternoon!

    posted 17/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Monet Go-Round
    On Friday evening after work I met with The Canvas In My Frame outside the National Gallery, where we had tickets to see the Monet and Architecture exhibition. Here is my review: it was dead good, but REALLY busy!

    Getting in was quite good fun, as we had to stride through various other galleries studiously NOT looking from side to side (you get distracted that way) and then we met a member of staff who seemed to be being played by Julie Walters as Mrs Overall. We'd printed out tickets out so they could be scanned by one of those cool machines, but she wanted to TEAR the corners of each of them (despite being printed on a single sheet together), and then she checked her watch to make sure we were in the right window of entry (they do it by time) despite the fact that she wasn't actually WEARING one!

    Once in we picked up tiny BOOKLETS which had all of the descriptions of the paintings on then. This was a BRILLIANT innovation as it meant that they didn't have to put the descriptions next to the actual paintings, and thus you didn't get the usual thing of everybody queuing up to READ them and blocking the pictures. Instead you could read the notes beforehand and then SWOOP in when there was a gap in the ever-moving crowds to get right close up. The only disadvantage was that, these being Monets, they often looked better from a little way away. The TRIALS of the ART LOVER eh?

    The books were FAB except for TWO (2) things. Firstly they didn't have the actual PICTURES in (I guess so that you still had to buy postcards at the end if you wanted to have a KEEPSAKE) and secondly the numbering was wonky. We reckoned they must have printed all the books and then the CURATOR decided to move pictures around, which was a bit confusing but not SO bad because, as stated previously, you were diving in wherever you got the chance anyway. Other than that it was ACE - more of these exhibitions should have them, ESPECIALLY when they're charging over twenty quid for a ticket!

    The actual PAINTINGS were GRATE, OBVS, and there were LOADS of them. It got a bit overwhelming after a while - usually when one HAPPENS across a Monet in an Art Gallery (as one occasionally do) one thinks "OOH a MONET, I've heard of him!" but here there was about EIGHTY of them, one after the other. They'd done it by PLACE, mostly, so you got to see several different paintings of the same area, which meant that sometimes it felt like you were looking at a painted version of Google Street View. The BEST, according to ME, was the room that had his some of his paintings of Rouen Cathedral and the Houses Of Parliament all together. I'd not realised before that he did loads of canvases at the same time, but it did make sense - apparently he'd do a BIT of one painting at a certain time of day, then switch to the next one when the light changed, and so on, so they'd all be basically the same composition but showing the change in light. The most DRAMATIC was the three versions of Parliament they had next to each other, with STRIKINGLY different lighting. The guidebook said that Contemporary Reviewers talked of them being MUSICAL, and you could certainly feel a RHYTHM to them, also, for some reason, BRASS.

    With the mobile crowds and the booklets we all seemed to RACE round at high speed, which to be honest is how I LIKE to do my galleries, and we were out the other side in less than 90 minutes, which meant we had plenty of time to nip round to TIBITS for tea. It was a GRATE bit of THE ART, and a DELIGHTFUL way to kick off a weekend!

    posted 16/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Made To Be Tape
    When I got home on Tuesday there was a THRILLING ITEM waiting for me in our letterbox - a PROOF copy of 20 Golden GRATES on CASSETTE!

    When I opened the packaging it looked RUDDY BRILLIANT, although it wasn't QUITE as exciting as I was expecting largely because it looked EXACTLY like I thought it would after spending HOURS designing it. I suppose that that's a good thing, and I'm pretty sure that it will remain THRILLING when other people look at it, for truly, it is an item of GRATE beauty.

    I mentioned that I'd received the proof copy on the twitter and a couple of people seemed surprised that it was real, as they'd thought I was only JOKING about releasing an album on cassette. In order to put everybody's mind at rest, therefore, I provide below photographic evidence that it is definitely a REAL THING, and that it is GORGEOUS!

    Once I'd finished GAZING in DELIGHT I then had the ARDUOUS task of checking that the actual audio was OK. To do this I dug out my USB Cassette player (the same one I used to digitise The Council) and discovered that I could put batteries in it and, to all intents and purposes, transform it into a WALKMAN!! Going through all the motions of using a tape player again felt deeply comforting, especially with all the firm CLUNKS and WHIRS of putting the tape in and pressing "PLAY", but the best bit was the sound itself. It was ACE - I've loved the way that music sounds on cassette, it sounds SMUSHED like all the best bits have been turned up and made more EXCITING. Apparently this is because of compression or something, but personally I prefer "smushed".

    And goodness me, SMUSHING didn't half work for our stuff, it sounded AMAZING! As I listened I thought "We have been doing it wrong for two whole decades - we should ALWAYS release our music on cassette!" Perhaps it is because so much of my FORMATIVE musical years were conducted on TAPE (with all those other bands and for my early solo stuff) but it felt as if I had come home at last to the format that I was MEANT to use.

    I had some slight trepidation at first, as the music did sound a bit rough/wonky/loud, but then as the tape moved on it all got SMOOTHER and I realised that that was just what we sounded like! The more recent, (very slightly) more POLISHED material actually sounded BETTER, as the SMUSHING made, for instance, It Only Works Because You're Here sound SUPER LUSH. It made me wonder whether I could maybe one day re-release Dinosaur Planet this way. Surely being played in a CAR on a CASSETTE is what it was MADE for!

    (NB NO I must NOT release Dinosaur Planet on cassette - hardly anybody wanted it on a format that you could actually USE, I am NOT going to put it out on one you can't!)

    It was a highly enjoyable experience which reminded me, as if I needed reminding, that COR! we don't half have some good songs! Reassured by the quality of the PROOF I have now PAID for the main run, which will hopefully be arriving in a couple of weeks. It'll be released at the end of the month, first for newsletter subscribers and then for everyone else - there won't be many though, so if you want one, you'll need to get in quick!

    posted 12/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Inducted Again
    There was a time, long ago, when I didn't change employers very often. I worked for Leicester University for about 11 years then made a massive leap to London and worked for Birkbeck for 13, but then after that I worked (not very successfully!) for myself for about 18 months, then had a year at Imperial, then another 18ish months at UCL, and NOW I'm at UAL!

    The downside of all this chopping and changing means that I have to keep on LEARNING how things work, but the UPSIDE of it is that at least I'm USED to it now! When I started here I knew that I'd be meeting lots of new people, would have to do various online training for fire safety and so forth, and that I would, at some point, be officially WELCOMED to the University.

    That welcoming happened this very week - astoundingly quickly, as I've only been here a couple of weeks and it usually takes MONTHS to get round to - with me spending a Surprisingly Enjoyable morning in High Holborn alongside about 30 other new and new-ish starters. I say "Surprisingly Enjoyable" because usually these things are DEADLY DULL but, as I am finding out a LOT at the moment, being at an Arts Institution means they do things a bit differently. For instance, we had a talk from a Vice Chancellor who merrily ran off script to make Political Remarks in an Actually Entertaining Way, and then one from a Former Student who talked about his BAND more than anything else. We also got to use VOTING PADS like off Who Wants To Be A Millionaire to work out which colleges everyone came from, and then we did ... A GROUP EXERCISE!

    I can sense many of you RECOILING at the idea of Group Exercises, and rightly so as they are so often merely exercises in GROUP PAIN, but UAL seems to have a habit of making them quite good fun. When I began my PhD, also at UAL, I had to do a whole WEEK of induction, and though some of it was a bit pointless the exercises were often dead good. For the exercise THIS time they got us to create SOMETHING to express one of the University's OBJECTIVES. We got "Transformative Education" which made someone say "ROBOTS!" (it wasn't even me!) so I spent a happy hour making THIS:

    I am fairly sure that it had not much at ALL to do with UAL policy,but it was a lot of fun and I SUSPECT that the point of the exercise was to get everybody working together and - hey! - ENGAGING. If that's the case then it definitely worked, especially at the end when we all went round the room looking at what the other groups had made. I am pretty sure that SOME of the creations will be getting Arts Council Funding!

    In case it's not obvious, this new job feels like it's going PRETTY WELL so far. I may have to give up on INDUCTIONS for a while!

    posted 11/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Slice Of Edinburgh In Angel
    One of the GRATE things about my Exciting New Job is the amazing SUPER COMMUTE what I do every day on the High Speed Javelin Train. One day last week I timed the journey from my actual desk to my actual flat at actually TWENTY ONE MINUTES, which is the shortest commute I have ever had in my LIFE. When I lived in Leicester my shortest walk to work was 23 minutes (I timed it MANY times) so this is something of a personal triumph!

    This was especially handy last night as it meant I could go home after work and have a legitimately useful amount of time to do stuff before heading BACK into town with The Punchline Of My Joke to go and see Mr Nat Metcalfe do a preview of his new Edinburgh show. He was on at 9:15pm at The Bill Murray, sandwiched between two big sellout shows, which we ESCHEWED because they were too commercial and also, obviously, because they'd sold out. Instead we got to enjoy the pub itself. I've been in before but usually when it's rammed, so being there when it felt like a normal, very nice, pub was DELIGHTFUL. They had St Mungo's lager on too, which is RUDDY DELICIOUS. My favourite aspect of this section of the evening, however, was hearing a particularly LOUD burst of laughter from the other room, thinking "That'll be the end of the set!" and getting to the bar before the final applause and mass evacuation of the venue. HA! It's a LIFE SKILL!

    We then went in for Nat's show, which was ACE. Some of it was familiar from other times we've seen him over the past couple of years andthere was also a TONNE of new stuff, including a story that bordered on the SAUCY. The thing I like most about his shows, I think, is that as soon as he starts you know you're in safe hands - he has what I believe is known as An Engaging Stage Presence which makes you sure that whatever comes next, you're going to ENJOY it. We did!

    After the show we bumped into Mr Dec Munro, one of the people who runs the pub and an all-round good guy who me and Steve got to know approximately 1,000,000 years ago when we did Moon Horse at the Edinburgh Fringe, and who notably stepped in to sort us out on the day that Total Hero Team lost its venue. We agreed how GRATE Nat's show had been, also that the pub was really nice, and then shared recommendations for TELLY.

    Drinking Scottish lager, seeing a good show, and then bumping into someone lovely - it was all the best bits of Edinburgh really, all it needed adding was The Hewitts and a curry and it would have been perfect!

    posted 10/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Trip To Milton Keynes
    Friday night found me and The Petals On My Rose headed off for a Romantic Mini-Away Break in that most storied of romantic towns, Milton Keynes. Who says we don't know how to live it up?

    Milton Keynes is an ODD place. I know people always say this, but I was not prepared for quite how accurate the description was. For starters, when we got to the railway station there was an approximately 35 minute walk to the town itself... and when we got to the town centre we found that it wasn't actually there. The whole place felt like an out of town industrial estate, except that it was IN town!

    Aspects of it felt EXTREMELY familiar to me. Peterborough was designated as a New Town just after Milton Keynes, and so the way that the roads, pavements and cycleways were laid out was EERILY FAMILIAR. The next day when we took a BUS I found it hard to shake the feeling that we were on the way to EITHER Sainsburys in Bretton (where my Mum did her shopping) OR Peterborough Crematorium, as we zoomed along empty looking roads punctuated by roundabouts that had to have NAMES so that you knew where you were. At least Peterborough has an actual centre in it, Milton Keynes didn't seem to have anything. It was STRANGE!

    The natives seemed friendly though, especially on the aforesaid BUS as everyone who got on seemed to know somebody who was already there. It was like an ongoing social club!

    The bus was taking us to Bletchley Park, which is somewhere that has been on our LIST for YEARS, and was GRATE. Right from the start I found myself deeply MOVED by it all - the fact that all the work that went on there was a) so important but b) kept utterly secret for nearly thirty years meant that lots of the people who work there died without anyone knowing what they'd done. It also seemed to be something of a Pilgrimage Site for... well, for my lot really. Everywhere you went there were people who very obviously worked in computers, explaining things to each other. It was PACKED with us!

    I have read SEVERAL of Ben MacIntrye's history books, specifically the ones about SPIES in World War Two (NB these are AMAZING books) so I knew a bit about some of the work done at Bletchely, and had a hazy idea that Alan Turing began inventing computers there, but learnt A LOT about it all during the four or five hours we spent wandering from hut to hut, LOOKING at things. As I say, it was very busy, but we quickly got into the rhythm of the place, so that we ended up seeing the same fifteen or so people everywhere we went.

    My only criticism of the site is that the texts had a) repetitions b) gaps all over the place. I am now very aware INDEED of the fact that Eisenhower wrote a letter to Bletchley Park to tell them how much he appreciated them, as it was mentioned in nearly every hut, but I'm not exactly sure WHAT Colossus was as it was vaguely alluded to a couple of times but never actually explained. As The Text Of My Message said, they could do with a COMMS person to go round and sort it out for them!

    Other than that it was FAB and definitely worth a visit, especially if you are a Compute Type - it's where it all began!

    posted 9/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Revisiting The Council
    Sorry for the lack of blog posts lately - it's partly because of me starting a new job, but also because most of the ROCK stuff I'm doing is ADMIN, and it's the sort of admin that I have to keep quiet about for the moment.

    However, one thing I CAN talk about is some DIGITISING what I did over the weekend. Our esteemed drummer Mr T Pattison is reaching a Significant Birthday later this year, and to celebrate he is having a DO (christened "Pattisonisphere" by Mr FA Machine) where he's getting loads of his old bands to get up and do a couple of songs. The Validators are HEADLINING and the ONLY reason for that is that we are the BEST and not because Tim has the best chance of playing a full set with us when DRUNK than any of the other, significantly FASTER, bands he has played with. That's definitely the reason.

    One of the bands playing is The Council, a short-lived grouping of me, Tim and Dr Kneel of Voon fame. A few days ago we were discussing what songs we should do for the gig, and I remembered that Tim had asked a while ago if I had mp3 copies of any of it. I didn't, but DID have a USB tape player that I could plug into my computer so, over Easter, I settled in for some digitising.

    BLIMEY. What I heard was a bit of a shock. "It'll basically be like Voon," I thought to myself, "but slightly faster and with drums." Friends, it was NOT like Voon at ALL - Voon had DELIGHTFUL songs that were fun to play and listen to, whereas The Council were VERY ANGRY INDEED. About EVERYTHING!

    Reading the brief history of the group I was reminded that there were plenty of fun gigs, but you would not guess it from the recorded output which seems to be very concerned with how WRONG everybody else is about EVERYTHING. As ever, Dr Kneel's songs are much better, whereas most of mine are just SHOUTING about things, in a weird voice that sounds like I've got a cold and/or have been hit on the head with a brick.

    We have selected our "hit" Dirty Old Man (it got put on a compilation CD!) and Dr Kneel's excellent "Malignant Work" for the gig, and now we face the terrifying prospect of learning to play them. I played BASS back in those days and I played it RUDDY FAST - I am considering joining a gym again, just to get my BICEPS ready!

    posted 4/4/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Big Reveal
    Today is Maundy Thursday and, for the first time in my ENTIRE LIFE, I am at work! Up until now every University that I have ever been employed by has been CLOSED on the Thursday before and Tuesday after Easter (and sometimes on one of the Wednesdays too) but here at UAL we are very much open for business. It's actually rather good for me, as it means I'm HERE getting to grips with things rather than off for another week after only being in the job for 5 or 6 days, AND we get the extra days to take whenever we like, but it does feel a little bit un-Easter-y not to be lolling around at home!

    This seasonal working does not, however, affect the timetable of ROCK, and thus this month's newsletter is out RIGHT NOW. Amongst the thrilling FACTS contained within is the announcement that we are going to celebrate 20 years of MJ Hibbett & The Validators by releasing a GRATEST HITS ALBUM... on CASSETTE!

    The album is going to be called "20 Golden GRATES" (of course it is) and will be available in a very very limited edition this time next month via the newsletter and then the website. If there's any left we'll be selling them at our birthday gig on 5 May at The King & Queen, but we won't be making many so if you'd like to get one I'd advise you to get in quick! It'll come with a free download link too, so if, like me, your tape player is long gone you can still get the tracks and put them on your modern interweb walkman (or equivalent).

    The photograph for the cover was taken a few weeks ago by Mr James Indiehorse (as discussed here) and I am DELIGHTED to be able to share it with you here today:
    What a delightful bunch we are! This is of course an image for a non-existent vinyl version of the album - the actual TAPE will feature this image in a slightly different, and frankly GORGEOUS, fashion which I will reveal nearer the time.

    We're all RATHER excited about unleashing this on the world. The tape will, I feel, be a beautiful artefact and a fitting way to begin the celebrations of our two decades of ROCK!

    posted 29/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Tertiary Plinth
    It's the end of another month, which means it must be time for another John Dredge & The Plinths video!

    As previously stated, in an ongoing bid to make ourselves even MORE like Duran Duran than what we already are we're planning to make a video for every single song on our debut EP. This is the THIRD such video, though if you've seen the others you'll know it's similar in FILMIC QUALITY to our first one, for Going Down. When we set out to film it the original idea was that all the material would be for 'Going Down', but when I sat down to edit it I realised that we'd shot SUCH a lot of stuff, and the songs were SO short, we'd actually got enough for two!

    It's meant to be a sort of homage to those videos you'd see once a month when The Chart Show did The Indie Chart, when someone would basically prod an indie band with a stick to try and get them to do things then give up and take pictures of statues instead. I hope we have captured the spirit!

    posted 28/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Terrified By Instruments
    I'm in the midst of starting a NEW JOB at the moment, so life is a whirligig of Not Remembering Names and Trying To Understand New Things, but last time I found time for some distinctly sophisticated ROCK ACTION.

    For LO! I was in distant TOTTENHAM for a practice with A Little Orchestra in preperation for our forthcoming gig at The King & Queen on Saturday 5 May. The gig is to celebrate twenty years of The Validators, and thus will feature a set of us playing some of our mighty discography, followed by a performance with the aforesaid A Little Orchestra. There may also be an ANNOUNCEMENT of one or more Secret Projects!

    I'd been over that way a few years ago for a similar practice, but in the meantime Spurs had built (or started to build) a GINORMOUS HYPERDROME which LOOMS over the entire neighbourgood like a spaceship from the planet DOUGHNUT which has crash landed into North London. It's very impressive, but also UTTERLY MAD!

    I got round to the house to find Nicola and Alex from ALO already there, and the front room set out with chairs and music stands. It is a very different proposition, playing with these lot, to my usual Validators action. Not only was there CHEESE and BISCUITS and WINE laid on, but the discussion seemed to be of a much more elevated nature. Where we would say things like "Do it again, but less rubbish, and not as fast" they said "Is this perhaps a litte legatto? Should we be using minims, or crotchets?" For all I know that may be LATIN for "slower and less rubbish" but it sounded WELL CLEVER!

    More ALO-ers arrived and we went through four songs that we'd not played together before, and I struggled not to a) burst into tears and run away or b) laugh my head off. The first reaction was because this was Serious Music, where you have to concentrate because everyone is listening to you and you have to do it RIGHT because everyone else has it written down, and that is NOT what I am used to. The second reaction was because it sounded SO lovely that it was ludicrous. I tried to explain later that it sounded like playing music in a garden, as it was so fresh and clear and it felt like there were all sorts of other things going on around me. I guess this is why Music Types have special words for things, so they don't have to spend ages trying to explain what they're on about.

    It sounded LOVELY but, as I say, it was also a bit terrifying. USUALLY, when I'm in a social situation that makes me nervous, I have to constantly stop myself from mentioning The Strings On My Instrument - I guess mentioning her is a way of INVOKING a reassuring presence - but last night I had to force myself NOT to keep mentioning The Validators! I am reliably informed that it's good to get out of your comfort zone, but it will be nice to have The Vlads around when we actually DO the show!

    The gig is, as I say, on 5 May, and will be in the Totally Acoustic format with doors at 7pm and the show commencing shortly after that. Do come along if you can, if nothing else you will get a chance to see my GRAPPLING with my fears to an delightful accompaniment!

    posted 27/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Times/Chicken House
    You find me today slightly sunburnt, as I spent last week on holiday in Madeira. There are two main things you need to know about Madeira, firstly that it is very BEAUTIFUL and secondly that it is FULL of PENSIONERS. I have never known the like, it made one feel Quite The Youngster.

    While I was away the longlist for the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition was announced... and Storm House was on it! This is RATHER exciting (if you are me, which I am), especially after it ALSO getting onto the longlist for the Bath Children's Novel Award a while back too. It's almost as if it's... a children's book, maybe? I didn't write it that way, but something tells me that's what it's come out as!

    The shortlist gets announced in a month or so, and I am already planning to send the manuscript out to Actual Children's Fiction Agents (rather than the Serious Science Fiction Agents I sent it to last time) when 'Storm House' doesn't get any further. I'm so excited about sending it out to some more people that I think I might actually be disappointed if it DOES make the Shortlist!

    With all this going on it'll soon be time for me to have a crack at the second draft of the SEQUEL, 'The Utopians', which I finished a few months ago. I am sligthly DREADING doing this, in case what I wrote was rubbish, but am also looking forward to it as I must admit that I DO rather enjoy laughing at my jokes, especially when I've forgotten what they were!

    posted 20/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Admin Experts
    As mentioned last week, we recently did a PHOTOSHOOT with Mr J Indiehorse for the COVER (or part of the cover) of one of the SECRET PROJECTS what we will be unleashing soon to celebrate 20 Years Of Validation. A few days ago James sent us the pictures and The Validatiors all had a look through to see which ones we could use. After some discussion I proposed one particular picture and then GIRDED myself ready for weeks - possibly MONTHS - of fevered debate.

    I thought we were just getting going when Mr FA Machine proposed photoshopping my choice together with ANOTHER picture, in order to get the best versions of everybody. "That'll take me a while", I thought but was DELIGHTED, a few minutes later, to receive a new image what he had photoshopped HIMSELF, which did it perfectly. I was then frankly STUNNED a few more minutes later to get emails from ALL Validators to say they liked it!

    I must admit that I hardly knew what to do with myself. I mean, I know we are EXCELLENT at Band Logistics And General Admin, but this was RAPID even for us. 60% of the band can be counted on to pitch into a debate during the daytime, but Tom and Emma a) have jobs where that isn't always possible b) are not quite as interested in Dad Jokes as the rest of us, and also this was EVENING time so I had expected everybody to be out drinking harley davidsons and riding drugs until 3am, much like I was. And yet, after a mere half hour of discussion, we had reached a decision!

    The upshot of all this is that the cover is nearly done - there's still some aspects to discuss, but we have taken an HUGE leap forward, which means that I should be able to get the MANUFACTURING (for LO! this particular secret project is a physical item) instigated when I get back from HOLIDAYS the week after next. Once that's all underway I should actually be able to tell you what it is we're up to!

    In the meantime, please standby for some RADIO SILENCE for a little while. I'm finishing my current job TODAY, then at the weekend myself and The Dates On My Calendar are off for the aforementioned HOLS, so I'll be away for a week and a bit. Once I return though we shall be full steam ahead for the commencement of celebrations around our TWO DECADES OF ROCK!

    posted 8/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Road To Tuebingen
    I spent last week in Tuebingen in Germany at a WINTER SCHOOL called "De/Recontextualizing Characters: Media Convergence and Pre-/Meta-Narrative Character Circulation". I am happy to report that I now understand ALL of the words in that title, which is something of a TRIUMPH for me, personally and mentally!

    Getting there was a thrill-ride of TERROR. The night before I set off all the signs were that my travel hopes were DOOMED to failure. Everyone expected a DELUGE of snow overnight, so when I got out of bed at 4:40am I was almost disappointed to find there wasn't any. The news had said that loads of trains would be cancelled, which they very much WERE, so I ended up having to go to Liverpool Street on the (still working) Central Line and then hang around the station while, as per usual, nobody told us anything and nobody seemed particularly fussed. In the end I got on the first Stansted Express outta town and the driver was FANTASTIC, keeping everyone informed and also Being Light-Hearted about it all whilst also recognising that people were a bit stressed. He was GRATE!

    My flight set off about 20 minutes late, which would have been fine except that I had a connecting flight at Hanover airport with very little time to spare. Two blokes just ahead of me leaving the plane asked where they should go to get a flight to Stuttgart, so I ended up following them, with the three of us LEGGING IT for MILES across to the other side of the airport. I arrived at the security barriers (there wasn't an easy interchange) flustered and out of breath, and ended up ripping the skin of my hand on the conveyor belt, but DID get onto the plane... which then sat still on the tarmac for half an hour!

    Once I eventually got to Stuttgart I was amazed to find that I could walk straight off the plane and into baggage reclaim, where my suitcase arrived after approx 3 mins, then out and straight on the bus to Tuebingen, it was AMAZING! It was also BLOODY FREEZING - all week that I was away people back home were complaining about the weather, while I was somewhere EVEN COLDER . I guess this is what it must be like to live in Scotland!

    The University had put me up in a hotel, which was jolly nice but seemed to have been decorated in the 1980s, so I had an EXTREMELY brightly coloured duvet. The Winter School itself was happening on the other side of town, up a HILL and inside an ACTUAL CASTLE. I knew it was in the Tower Room of a SCHLOSS, but I was not quite prepared for the Actual Castliness of it all!

    The actual school itself was MIND BLOWING. As I've said before, I'm used to going to conferences that are mostly/entirely BORING, but this one was PACKED with INFORMATION that was not only INTERESTING but also HIGHLY RELEVANT to my PhD. There were talks about Manga, Transmedia Archeology (hem hem), Comics Continuity, and LOADS about Transmedia Characters, which will be EXTREMELY useful to me. I am currently writing it all up to give as a presentation for my supervisors later in the week, so if you require a full DOWNLOAD of all the info ask me after that. I WILL TELL YOU!

    The only vaguely difficult moment of the week came at the end of the first day, when we went to another part of the Actual Castle for drinks and food. I was KNACKERED so left early, and was let out of a back door... which turned out to lead NOWHERE, TRAPPING me on the top of the Castle Wall! I had to BANG on the windows of the dark, closed part of the Gallery that I'd been led through to try and get someone to come back and let me in again. I had terrible visions of FREEZING to death out there - it was a frightening... er... three minutes and no mistake!

    Other than that it was BRILLO. Winter Schools and Summer Schools are fantastic Continental Things that we don't seem to have much over here. This one had about 20 people involved, half of the attendees were leading BRAINS in their fields, while the other half of us were Junior Researchers, mostly doing PhDs. This meant that it was a fantastic mix of EXPERTS and NEW IDEAS, interacting with each other. Thankfully it was all conducted in ENGLISH - I was the only active native English speaker there, with about half of the total attendees from Germany, but luckily for me English is The International Language Of Academia, so I could understand everything. Well, I could understand the WORDS, I didn't necessarily always understand what they MEANT!

    Everyone there did a talk, so I did mine about my current work so far on Doctor Doom. To my surprise people got MOST excited about my DATABASE METHODOLOGY, which heretofore has mostly been considered "a bit boring". There were also some Interested/Interesting questions about an idea I have to do Observer Ratings on some characters (an idea suggested by, and hopefully involving when I get round to it, Dr M Larkin Out Of Lazarus Clamp). I am still not used to talking OUT LOUD about this sort of thing, so enjoyed it immensely, and also got to plug the twitter handle for the Marvel Age Doom blog!

    It was SO interesting that the whole week FLEW by, but I still felt VERY homesick, not least due to the fact that it was SO cold that I spent most of the time either in a hotel room, in the conference, or SPEED WALKING between the two! Come Friday I was VERY happy to be heading home, though also a bit AFEARED as all week I'd been reading reports about The Weather causing even more cancellations. As it happened my plane was delayed by about an hour on the way back, but I was FULLY appraised of the situation at all points, and the only time my travel arrangements got frustrating was, predictably, when I tried to change at Tottenham Hale for Stratford and found no staff there and none of the computer displays working either. It was at this point that I knew I was back in Blighty!

    It was, all in all, a FANTASTIC experience that is going to have a BIG and BRILLIANT effect on my future thinking. Now all I need to do is get it all written down before I forget it!

    posted 6/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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