Every time I write a blog these days I feel I have to start it off by saying how LONG it's been since I last did one! As ever, the reason for that is not that nothing's been happening, but rather nothing's happened that would necessarily be of interest to you, dear reader. As you may be aware, I have a FABULOUSLY low threshold for what people might finf interesting about ME, so you may judge this as you wish!
However, I DO have something to tell you today, and that is that there is a NEW ALBUM out with some material by ME in it. It's called Blank Canvas, and it's been released as a fund-raised for The Retro Computing Museum, which has been struggling due to having to stay closed for all this time. My contribution is two brand new ACOUSTCIAL versions of relevant songs i.e. Hey Hey 16K and Programming Is A Poetry For Our Time what I recorded especially for this, and there's a whole heap of other people, including our pals The British IBM and Chris Abbott. There's three whole CDs of stuff, i fact, and if you're into the Retro Computing scene it is a right Glittering Array of big names!
That's the news for today, but there is - honest! - other stuff on the way. Myself and Frankie Machine have been working on a project that should be seeing the light of day soon, Jane And John have things in the pipeline, and you never know, I might one day have something to tell you about my endevours in the world of LITERATURE!
Write The Theme Tune
Last month I got a lovely message from Mr N Hutchings of Velvet Sheep, asking about Jane and John and informing me that he was starting a new radio show on The Neon Hospice. Velvet Sheep started off as a fanzine but I first knew of it as a GIG NIGHT what I played at, at the Whitechapel Gallery many moons ago, but since then I've done a few articles for his "Song For Ewe" feature, recommending tracks by other artistes that I thought were GRATE.
He wasn't offering gigs this time, obviously, nor asking for recommendations, but he WAS asking for a JINGLE for his radio show. I put this proposal to The Brief For My Campaign and she very rapidly came up with a TUNE and WORDS which we then crafted into the RATHER EXCELLENT theme tune that you can hear right at the start of the first episode, HERE:
It sounds DEAD GOOD if I do say so meself as shouldn't, and there's a whole HEAP of good stuff in the rest of the show, including but not limited to Our Year. Have a listen!
Family Wedding 2021
I would like to begin today with a formal apology to all of those who turned on "The Jools Holland New Year Hootenanny Programme" (or whatever it's called) at the end of 2020 expecting to see me performing on it. If you then turned over to BBC1 on the understanding that I must have been commissioned to do one of those concerts from Broadcasting house and were further disappointed, or indeed looked on any of the other channels to see whatever it is they do on New Year's Eve and been dismayed at the complete lack of Hibbett or Hibbet-adjacent music, I can only say that the situation was as bemusing to me as it surely was to you.
For LO! like Prince with "1999" and Pulp with "Disco 2000" I have a song from many years ago which has THIS year in the title, and so I was under the impression that it is THE LAW that such things should be played all over radio and telly as soon as it BECOMES that year? Admittedly, Family Wedding 2021 is not as much of a DISCO BANGER as those two songs, but then one might argue that this particular year requires a bit more INTROSPECTION instead. Have a listen for yourself and see what you think.
The song was originally written in 1997 (nearly TWENTY FOUR years ago!!) for my cassette A Church Hall Of Sound, re-recorded in the Space-Year 2000 for the EP A Church Hall Of Sound (revisited), and finally plonked onto the compilation Warriors Of Nanpantan in 2005. According to The Database Of ROCK I haven't ever played it at a gig, at least not since the database itself was inaugrated (although I know I DID when the EP came out), but there have been various PLANS to over the years. The first time we played in DRESDEN someone requested it, so we resolved to LEARN it for when we returned but... um... forgot, and it's always on my Big List when I think "what old songs should I have another go at?" If we ever get to do gigs again this year I solemnly pledge to do it!
The LYRICS are about me imagining what life would be like in the futuristic era of 2021, and now that we're actually IN that space-time zone I thought I'd have a look and see how my predictive skills worked out. There's nothing about current affairs or world politics - which was a wise choice as I doubt ANYBODY would have been able to predict The Current Situation in all its myriad forms of nonsense back then - instead it focuses on the NIGHTMARE SCENARIO of things remaining pretty much the same for me. I'm glad to say that pretty much NOTHING of it worked out!
Sadly this means that, though I AM, I would suggest, a CUDDLY FUN-PACKED UNCLE (please check with any nephews or nieces of mine you have to hand) there do not appear to be any family weddings booked this year at which I can dance to late eighties hits. That is not really mine or my family's fault though, there are not currently many family weddings at ALL going on!
In the song's APOCALYPTIC VISION the future version of me buys me of 1997 a drink (which I would happily do - also some more clothes, a functioning washing machine, and instructions on how to use it) and tells him to stop messing around with time travel and generally BE NICER so he doesn't end up a lonely old git. 1997-me then has a bit of an old dance before returning to his own time to... well, have a bit of an old dance again. UNUSUALLY for my songs it's not clear what THE MORAL of the story is, but looking back now I think I kind of DID try to be a bit nicer after the song was written. I certainly extended my RANGE of SOCIABILITY anyway, getting out and about meeting DELIGHTFUL people rather than sitting in the same pubs moaning about it with the small group of LOVELY PALS I did have back then. Getting out and about led to me having all SORTS of adventures with all manner of GRATE people, and within a few years it led to the glamorous lifestyle in That London what I have now. So maybe, in a SPOOKY kind of way, there really was a bit of FUTURE ME in the song, advising that drunken twit in his 20s to get out and about and MEET people a bit more. It is THE POWER OF ROCK!
The only problem now is, do I write a song about 2045? I think maybe I'll wait a bit to see how the present day pans out before launching into that one!
Words To Lose In 2021
Sometime around the end of the year we usually find out that The Dictionary People have added some special new words for their next editions to reflect the way the language has developed. I'm not quite sure why this is always such big news - adding new words is pretty much the entire point of a dictionary, and it's not like there's a big news story every year saying that a MAP has added some new streets - so I thought I'd instead suggest some words we can start getting RID of next year.
The first of these words is "TRUMP" as in "DONALD". GOOD LORD how I long for January 20th when he STOPS being President and we can finally all know the blessed relief of NOT waking up every morning wondering what world-endangering idiocy he's dreamt up to get our attention that day. I mean, I know there doubtless still WILL be idiocy every day from him, for LO! such is the way of idiots, but at least it won't be gently nudging us towards the APOCALYPSE quite so much.
Similary I very much look forward to the word "BREXIT" not being in the vocabulary so much. I found myself surprisingly RELIEVED on Christmas Eve when the "deal" finally got agreed - not because it is a GOOD deal, as it manifestly is NOT, especially compared to the ACTUAL deal we had as part of the EU and not even compared to the lies that our own idiocracy are trying to put around, but it did at least mean I could stop worrying about the entire country grinding to a miserable lettuce-free halt quite so quickly. In the couple of weeks or so since then I have found myself MUSING upon STOCKPILING and thinking "Oh hang on, we don't need to do that now", which has been LOVELY.
"Stockpiling" is another one - not that I have ever stockpiled of course, I have MADE PREPARATIONS. Other people have stockpiled, and we've all done it because of those idiots PANIC BUYING. These are three ENTIRELY different things, and hopefully we won't need to worry about them QUITE so much in 2021.
We don't seem to be losing the words "LOCKDOWN" or "COVID" just yet, but OH MY LORD I hope we do by the end of the year - sorry, I mean by mid-February, or Easter, or whenever it's supposed to be now (I haven't checked the news in half an hour so it's probably changed). With any luck we'll all be saying "VACCINE" a lot more, but if that works (and the aforementioned idiots don't mess up the rollout process - possibly a forlorn hope) then we can start getting back to... well, not "normal", I sincerely hope we get some CHANGE out of all of this, so let's instead say we can get back to THE PUB.
And finally, I hope we lose the words "BORIS" and "JOHNSON" this year, and that The Tories do the one and only thing they're actually good for i.e. getting rid of Tory Prime Ministers. I'm sure the next idiot to come along will be just as bad, but it will at least mean we'll have less torturously stupid bloody METAPPHORS to wade through. I flipping LOVE metaphors, but the way he manhandles them makes me want to stick to plain English.
In summary then, I'm sure that the coming year will be full of wobbles, weirdness and problems so far unforseen, but I do hope that most of the ABOVE will come to be a thing of the past by this time next year. If it turns out that Donald Trump is STILL President in 2022, and we're all stockpiling because Covid meant we had to DE-and then RE-Brexit under Prime Minister for Life Johnson, then I will take it all back!
From A European Viewpoint
A few months ago Mr Marcel Plaum contacted me on behalf of the Cologne PopFest to ask if I'd be able to contribute some sort of PRIZE for their fundraising raffle, to cover costs incurred by it not being able to go ahead this year. I had a bit of a THORT and considered the usual options (i.e. any number of CDs from the Unsold CD Mountain in my cupboard) and realised that anybody who would LIKE one of our CDs probably already HAS them by now. Thus I came up with a plan to offer something UNIQUE: me writing a new song!
I realise that a) me writing a new song isn't really UNIQUE and, more importantly, b) that this is possibly even LESS likely to be something that most people would actually WANT to happen to them, but if nothing else it would at least save everyone the trouble of navigating the postal system. With all that in mind I was DELIGHTED when, a few weeks ago, I got an email from the WINNER, Mr S Dietrich, who was actually PLEASED to have won it. PHEW! What are the chances?
We had an email discussion around what the song could be about, and he suggested that I could write a song about the UK leaving the EU which he could use for an upcoming edition of his radio show Emma's Housemates on Indie Lounge Radio. This sounded like a VERY good idea, with the only difficulty for me being that he wanted a "non-bitter" tune from the European point of view. I'm happy to write from the European point of view because as far as I'm concerned I AM European, but being non-bitter about Brexit is a bit harder!
It was a challenge but I think what we eventally came up - Goodbye To Great Britain - turned out pretty well, and I recorded a version of it featuring my new found MAD MIDI SKILLZ. Stephan suggested that I put it on BANDCAMP ready for when his show went out, and so I DID!
The cover image is (I think) Charles Fox departing somewhere or other, from an eighteenth century political cartoon what I found on the (EXCELLENT) Open Access At The Met site. These Open Access sites are GRATE!.
Stephan played it on last night's show (which should be available on his Mixcloud soon) so I think that means I'm now free to show off about it. I'm really happy with how this all worked out - it was a GRATE bonus bit of songwriting to finish off the year of ROCK with, so I hope you like it!
Let the bells peal and the children sing, for LO! today is that most joyous day in the ROCK and/or POP calendar: RELEASE DAY!
The release in question is the debut single by Jane and John i.e. the band what The Keys On My Keyboard and I formed during LOCKDOWN. It's called 'Our Year' and it's available on our bandcamp page, on Spotify, and indeed ALL major streaming services. There's also a rather natty VIDEO too which you can see below:
We wrote the song during the first lockdown, so it's VERY exciting for it to be actually out in the world at last. I personally am ESPECIALLY keen on people FINALY getting to see the video, as it took me flipping AGES to make and I think it is Quite Good. I hope you agree!
Is It Too Soon For Christmas?
I am absolutely flipping DELIGHTED to say that A Very Cherry Christmas EP 2020 is out RIGHT NOW on bandcamp for you to stream and, hopefully, PURCHASE. Look, here is is!
As hinted a couple of weeks ago, this features a song by Jane and John, the new band that I joined during lockdown. It's called Is It Too Soon For Christmas? and, as you will hear above, the overall sound is SOMEWHAT DIFFERENT to things I've previously been involved in, but I do believe that it has one common element: it is GRATE!
All proceeds are going go to the Music Venue Trust to help struggling grass roots live music venues, and today is BANDCAMP FRIDAT which means that if you buy it today then ALL the money will go directly to MVT without the usual fees. I have just been listening to the full EP and can confirm it is RIGHT CHRISTMASSY and also ACE, so I would recommend you do so IMMEDIATELY!
The Advent Of Advent
In previous years it's seemed mildly controversial to say that Christmas Actual begins on the first of December. You always get someone who'll claim (incorrectly) that this is somehow WRONG and the "right" way to celebrate Christmas is to spend as little time doing it as you can, and that it is also ALL RIGHT to criticise people who would like to get as much Christmas in as possible.
THIS year, however, these voices appear to have been QUELLED as an exhausted nation says, almost as one, "SOD IT. IT IS CHRISTMAS" and I for one join in the chorus of Christmas, for LO! IT IS CHRISTMAS AT LAST! HOORAH!
With this in mind there are certain traditions that need to be observed, such as putting on The Bob Dylan Christmas Album and, most pertinently today, following the progress of The Joyzine Advent Calendar. This is a MARVELLOUS institution which we have been a part of in one way or another MANY times over the years, and this year is no exception - INDEED you can download a brand new song by ME on it TODAY!
The song is called At Least It's Christmas and it was written WAY back in July (which is why a couple of the references are out of date!) with the idea that The Validators would be able to get together at some point to record it. ALAS, for obvious reasons, that didn't happen, so I ended up doing it all by myself. As you'll hear, a by-product of this was that there is now a definitive answer to the question "What did you do during Lockdown Mark?" It is this: "I finally learned how to use MIDI!"
It's also the start of a last minute RUSH of 2020 music coming from round here, with TWO songs from Jane and John and another solo song heading your way before the year is out. Stand by for more details as they become available, but in the meantime please allow me to say, from the very depths of my heart, MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Yesterday we DROPPED (it means "released for public consumption" - get with it, Grandad) the cover for the Jane and John single "Our Year" which, as I previously mentioned, will be out on Monday 14 December. It looks like THIS:
I flipping LOVE this image, which was found on Smithsonian Open Access, a rather wonderful repository of royalty free art which the museum recently DROPPED (see above). It is FULL of images from their collection that they've made available for any purpose, which is rather nice of them. I do like The Smithsonian, especially their magazine, as pretty much every day they tweet a story about something FASCINATING. It's sort of like National Geographic, but not boring.
We had a couple of goes at the artwork for the single before we settled on this image. The Canvas In My Frame had lots of ideas about how it could look, and we tried various ways to CAPTURE these THORTS without getting it quite right - it's always difficult putting ARTWORK together when a) you're not just using a photograph of yourselves and b) you can't really draw something from scratch, so I was DELIGHTED to discover that Smithsonian were running this service, and when I found the original painting that our image was taken from I was ENAMOURED straight away.
I copied the painting, cropped it, stuck it underneath the text which The Paint In My Pot had already suggested, and showed it to aforesaid who was similarly ENAMOURED. There's something about the pair of them that makes you think they look like fun. They appear to actually like each other, and I can imagine sitting opposite them at a boring WORK DO or something, and ending up nipping out to another pub with them for the rest of the night.
According to The Smithsonian's information nobody knows who painted the picture, or who the couple are. They know they're American and it's from between 1865 and 1885, but that's about it. In some ways this is a relief - without any other info to go on, I'm free to just imagine them being a lovely couple to go out for a curry with.
In fact, the only problem is that I've no way of finding out if there were ever any other pictures of them - if there were they'd be prime candidates for the next single!
Jane and John
It's been awfully quiet here on the blog just lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy with ROCK - it just means I have been busy with ROCK that I have not been able to reveal.
For LO! at last the truth can be told - over the past few months I have been involved with a brand new band called Jane and John which consists of myself and The Words In My Lyrics. It all came about when the aforesaid suggested that I have a go at writing "a proper pop song". This seemed like a good idea to me, not least because LOCKDOWN meant I had TIME to do something like this again, and as we discussed what it could actually be ABOUT The Headline Of My Story said that our experiences of and feelings about this Most Odd year might be a topical topic. THUS we decided to co-write it and before we knew it we'd formed a band!
I spent AGES trying to work out what the band should be called, mostly using ANAGRAMS of our names, until one day my fellow band member came up with "Jane and John" as that's our middle names. It's SUCH a GRATE idea that I found I was powerless to object, and so "Jane and John" it was!
We wrote the song called "Our Year" together and then, over the next few weeks, recorded it on my laptop. It took AGES because it was something VERY different to what I have known with The Validators - for Jane and John we were trying to create a modern sounding POP SONG with loops and samples and - excitingly for me - MIDI instruments, something which I've been meaning to work out for about a DECADE. In the circumstances it was nice to have something that wasn't WORK or the PhD to DO, and the whole process was helped ENORMOUSLY by the previously un-utilised arranging and production talents of "Jane". On several occasions I was sat at the laptop with my BRANE pounding, unable to work out what to do, only for her to come by, have a listen, and say "put a triangle on it" or "there's a note missing there" or similar.
It has, to be honest, been something of a REVELATION, both in the working process and what we've come up with. We've actually written and recorded TWO songs now - "Our Year" is coming out as a single on 14 December, and we've got a Proper Christmas BANGER also coming out via another route before then which I'll tell you about nearer the time.
This is not a replacement for The Validators by the way - The Vlads are very much ONGOING and INDEED had a BAND MEETING on ZOOM last week during which we discussed ... er... well, I'm nor sure exactly what we discussed, but I do recall LARFING an awful lot!
Further Jane and John FACTS will start heading your way in the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime I would be EXTREMELY grateful if you could go and follow us on The Social Medias - we have a twitter and a facebook which will be full of FACTS as we get nearer to release day.
It's VERY exciting to FINALLY be unleashing Jane and John on the world, and I cannot WAIT for everybody to actually HEAR what we have wrought!
A Trip To The Pub
It was a BUSY old day for me on Wednesday. It started with a TEAM MEETING at work, and then I had to go over to Homerton Hospital for a CT scan to have a look at my SINUSES. I was expecting this to be a bit of a palaver but instead it was alarmingly pedestrian, as I went in, waited ten minutes, went into another room, lay down for five minutes on a BIG MACHINE, and then left. Hardly anybody spoke to me and I didn't even have to take any clothes off!
In the afternoon I went to a presentation about a system (I say "went to", I mean of course "sat on a Zoom meeting for") and then to a VERY interesting Keynote Speech by Professor Mick Grierson who is in charge of UAL's Creative Computing Institute. The talk was DEAD good, but at the end the questions were all a bit Arts Lecturers Who Don't Understand Computers - it was like going to a Fine Art talk and all the questions being "Do you have to make the paintbrushes yourself" - so I asked him whether the original b3ta board people were PUNK ROCK OUTSIDERS or a legitimate part of ART HISTORY and he seemed DELIGHTED to say "BOTH". Excellent!
After a day like that I could have done with a trip to the pub, and luckily that is EXACTLY what I had lined up for LO! The Pattisons were not only in town, but also in a pub just round the corner from my house. They were staying in a hotel for a couple of nights as part of their usual Family Half-Term Trip and were over in Leyton at a pub ably selected by Ms K Kennedy. It was The Leyton Star, and I was MOST impressed by their Covid Precautions, including an ORDERING App that actually worked - although many of us present had to call upon the help of Miss L Pattison, Designated Teenager, to show us how to use it.
We were sat out the back in the outside "terrace" area, which felt very FRESH and SAFE, also not too cold due to the HEATERS they had put up. It all felt surprisingly normal, and very quickly we were all SWEARING AWAY and slagging off the government just as we had been the last time we met, just before all this started. It was a LOVELY evening, with only TWO (2) minor stains. The first was that I got confused about which route The Pattisons were taking back to their hotel near Hampstead Heath, and loudly corrected everyone, saying that "The GOBLIN" was another line when of course it WAS the route they were taking (I still feel bad about this, it is the CARDINAL SIN for someone who lives in London to make this sort of error). The second low note was that BEER has clearly been changed since all this began. I imagine it is similar to the way that IPA used to FERMENT on the way back from India, because I only had a few pints but felt QUITE TIDDLY at the end, and can only assume that draught beer has been made MUCH STRONGER over the past seven months. There should have been a warning!
Afternoon In The Museum
On Saturday I made a foray into London Town which, once again, did not look quite as much like "28 Days Later" as one might expect. It was quiet, but then Bloomsbury on a Saturday afternoon (for that is where I were) is ALWAYS quiet, and there was a marked lack of windswept rubbish or zombies.
I had booked myself a slot for a visit to The British Museum, as The Items In My Exhibition had been a few weeks previously and HIGHLY recoemmended it. I got there 3 minutes early for my slot, and was told very politely to wait outside the gates, but when I did get in I found that the whole place had been set up in a one way system, so everybody walked around the same exhibits rather being able to dash about willy nilly. This made it a bit like going for a Big Shop in Tesco, as you saw the same people all the time while you strolled through, so it felt like there were only about 10 of you there all going round together.
I know my Museum Visiting Priorities, and so my FIRST stop was the loo, my SECOND was the bookshop (where I bought a book which is basically "Philosphy For Dummies" which is something I've been after for AGES) and my THIRD was the cafe for a cup of coffee and a sandwich. With all that done I was ready to start the strollalong, which began with The Egyptians. COR! The Egyptians is a HECK of a place to start, and as ever I could feel my MIND BOGGLING at the idea that there were statues here that had been put up FOUR AND A HALF THOUSAND BLOODY YEARS AGO!! ZOINKS!
I worked next door to the British Museum for YEARS and popped in MANY time so thought I'd been everywhere, but it turns out, thanks to the one-way system, that I had not! There were loads of new-to-me sections, and whilst wandering through I was struck by the sight of exhibits in gloomy corners which were ANCIENT and probably PRICELESS but were likely not looked at by many people at all. I made sure to go and give them a good LOOK to make up for it!
After the Egyptians it was some VASES, which were a bit underwhelming at first after all that but then I got to a sign about the people who'd made them. It turns out that some of the names of Ancient Greek Potters are well known because they'd signed them. This ALSO always blows my mind - it's like Vindolanda, the Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall where we know HUGE amounts about the people who lived there thanks to discarded notes that got chucked down the toilet. These soldiers, and the Greek potters, were ordinary people who happened to get immortalised, whilst all the bosses and officials' names were lost. Who knows what of us will be left two to four thousand years from now eh?
(APOLOGIES IF I AM BLOWING YOUR MIND)
Next on the route was The Parthenon Sculptures, which I always find is a bit of an UNEASY visit as a) it's all amazing but b) it's TOTALLY NICKED. The British Museum is doing stuff about decolonisation and where the collection comes from, with information boards every so often which tells you how they got hold of things. It's all done very politely but never actually says out loud "THIS IS ALL NICKED". This was especially notable when I got round to the Easter Island Head, who is one of my favourite exhibits. He's now got some offerings in front of him from the people of Rapa Nui (which is the proper name for Easter Island, GET WITH IT) who want to take him home. "Discussions are ongoing" says the official text, although the case to keep him in the UK is not helped AT ALL by the preceding description of how he came to be here in the first place i.e. a bunch of sailors rolled up with ropes AND NICKED IT.
The statue appears in my BOOK what I wrote, and I was reminded about this towards the end of the route as I walked through the "Enlightenment" section, which is a huge LIBRARY along the East side of the building. It would have been the perfect place for one of the BIG CHASES in that story, but I'd forgotten it was there. Next time I do a re-write I'll have to shoehorn it in!
I must admit I did miss quite a LOT of stuff in the second half of the walk because my BRANE was DONE IN by it all, but I did also see some ART. There's a Grayson Perry installation called The Tomb Of The Unknwon Craftsman which was a Lovely Idea, as it's dedicated to the people who actually MADE all the stuff in the musuem whose names we DON'T know, and Edmund De Waal's Library of Exile, which is a small room with some books in it. You were invited to sign a book that meant something to you, which I did, but it wasn't quite as moving as the G Perry one.
After all THAT I staggered out blinking into the fresh air and headed to the WHISKY shop for some retail therapy. It had been a GRATE trip but crumbs, I think I'm going to need to go again to try and fit the rest of it into my poor old BRANE!
A Conference In Germany (in my flat)
I had a couple of days off work at the end of last week to go to a conference in Germany. Now, obviously, in The Current Situation, when I say I went to a conference in Germany what I mean is that the CONFERENCE was in Germany, but I myself was sat with a laptop in my flat. It was a shame not to go to Actual Germany, especially as it was in Tuebingen where I had such a great time back in 2018, but at least I avoided the enormous travel delays I had then - no amount of wind or snow was going to stop me moving between my desk and the kettle!
The main theme of the conference was AGENCY which, as everyone (who has spent three days listening to other people talk about it and has looked it up 17 times before they actually remember) knows, is the ability to effect CHANGE. For instance, talks on Fan Agency were about the power that comics fans have to make comics publishers change things like storylines or the series they produce. There was a LOT of interesting stuff in there, and I especially enjoyed a KEYNOTE by Henry Jenkins about... well, STUFF. He was talking about STUFF being the objects we choose to have around us, and how this works with comics, both in terms of collecting and the comics we hold onto or display, and WITHIN comics themselves, where objects are placed in the panel to illustrate something about the characters.
My own presentation was on the Saturday morning, and was about neither STUFF nor Agency. It was, as ever, about DOCTOR DOOM, and came as part of an "Open Forum" where people talked about their research in general. I did a SOMEWHAT DENSE twenty minutes about my PhD research so far, including SAMPLING and the SURVEY what I did, and even some of the early results. I was a bit nervous beforehand as the meeting was full of MEGA-BRAINS who really KNOW about this sort of thing, but it all went really well - there were LOADS of comments in the chat, lots of questions at the end, and I even managed to ANSWER most of them. I was particularly proud of myself because when I DIDN'T know the answer I managed to say sensible things like "I don't know" or "That is a good point" rather than floundering around making stuff up. As we know from The Current Situation and Our Useless Government, it is very easy to do this the wrong way round!
I came out of the whole experience full of RELIEF, and though I did miss the bit afterwards where you wander round the coffee area hoping somebody will say "That was really interesting", I was extremely glad that I didn't have to have a bus ride, a two hour wait in an airport, a plane journey, another wait by a conveyor belt and then a lengthy tube journey before I could get to our fridge at home and open a beer afterwards!
Away from the promotional whirligig of the new single promotion I have managed to actually get out and about a bit over the past week or so, including a recent trip to BLOOMSBURY.
Bloomsbury is one of my favourite bits of That London - I worked round there for YEARS and love how HANDY it is for everything, and how friendly the whole area feels. I work around Kings Cross now which is super handy for my commute but not really for anything else, and also does not have a lot of STUFF in it. THUS it was lovely to stroll through my old HOOD and wander past the PUBS and SHOPS and NATIONAL MUSEUMS and so forth that make it such a fun place to lurk around in.
This time I was there for none of the above. Instead I was there to GIVE of myself, in a quite literal sense, at a BLOOD DONATION session. I haven't done this for AGES - before Lockdown I was going for weekly ACUPUNCTURE appointments which a) were v interesting and useful but b) meant I couldn't give blood for at least six months after it'd finished. This latter was disappointing as I LIKE giving blood - I have been doing it for ACTUAL DECADES and you always come out feeling as if you have done A Good Thing, and also there are FREE BISCUITS.
The only DRAG about it is that the nearest donor centre to me is a RIGHT old hike away, so I was DELIGHTED to discover that they had a new "pop-up" clinic in the Bloomsbury Hotel, right in the middle of the aforementioned Bloomsbury. I thus rolled up after work last week to find I'd arrived on only their second day of opening. It was very different from the permanent centre I usually go to, but also made me nostalgic for the sort of place I used to go to approx 1,000,000 years ago back in Leicester when I first started. The pop-up was in the basement of the hotel, in I guess their HALL venue as it looked very much like a school or church hall, except with MIRRORS on one of the walls. There were plastic chairs (spaced apart appropriately) and medical screens to create consultancy areas, and a general air of people MAKING DO and getting used to things.
There were also not many DONORS about, which meant that I'd only got halfway through my FREE ORANGE SQUASH when I got called and taken through to have my THUMB PRICKED to test (I think) my iron levels. Usually this is all fine, but this time the chap doing it wasn't sure, so did a SECOND test just to be certain. As we went through the processes there were quite a few points where he re-checked, and I soon learnt that this was because he was NEW to the job. It turned out that he was a former member of AIR CREW (what crusty old grandads would call an "Air Hostess/Host" but I definitely don't) who had RETRAINED to help the NHS. I found this VERY EXCITING as I'd seen it on the NEWS and he was very happy to tell me all about it, which was lovely. He pointed at all of his former colleagues around the room - "Virgin, BA, Virgin..." - and looking round I thought "OH YEAH!" for LO! once you knew they totally LOOKED like Air Crew, in that they had a POISE and PATIENCE that was different yet COMPLIMENTARY to the BUSINESSLIKE GOOD HUMOUR that the NHS staff tend to have. The different groups seemed to have mixed together in a DELIGHTFUL way, and I didn't even mind that he kept saying things like "I've only been training for three weeks" and "I hope I do this right" whilst wielding a ruddy great needle in my general direction.
It all went FINE, and I was very happy to be back at it, although I did note that a recent tendency of mine had become more striking since I last mixed with other people i.e. the whole experience made me become TERRIFYINGLY AVUNCULAR. I am by nature a very SHY person in my non-International Rock Star life - in my teens and twenties I had no idea whatsoever how to interact with other people, but as I've settled into my late, later, and EVEN LATER thirties (hem hem) I have gradually turned into one of those OLD BOYS you get who will make CHEEKY REMARKS and generally be a delight to all and sundry. For instance, when another member of former air crew said "It's very strange to be here doing this - usually I'd be serving you a Gin'n'Tonic" I could not STOP myself from syaing "Well don't let me stop you!!!" EXACTLY like one of those dreadful grown-ups I remember from childhood who were never more than five seconds from asking you if you'd got a girlfriend. I never understood why they kept making JOKES all the time or GRINNING at me, but now I know it is because it is FUN!
It was all SO delightful that when I finally left the building I had to have a good old chuckle to myself and calm down by going to The Posh Whisky Shop around the corner, where GIGGLING is not allowed and the closest you get to social interaction is a barely perceptible NOD when you get something they approve of. It was lovely to be back there too!
It also means that today is the day that we UNLEASH our Promotional Video Clip, which is the rather delightful epic you see before you HERE:
This was made by asking people on our mailing list to send us clips of themselves writing out lines of lyrics from the song, and then me sticking it all together to create the rather JOYOUS item you see above. As ever with these things, any help anybody can give by retweetng, sharing, or mentioning to people at the bus stop (from a safe distance) would be hugely appreciated, but mostly I just hope you enjoy the video. I think it is GRATE!
After our previous looks at charts for digital sales and spotify plays, today we're bringing the CAPITALISM CATCH-UP to an end with a look at good old-fashioned PHYSICAL sales. This information comes from my own DATABASE OF ROCK where I record (or at least do my best to record) all the sales that we're involved in ourselves. That basically means sales at gigs or via our online shop, but that comes with SEVERAL important caveats. Firstly, I only began doing this in 2003, so any sales earlier than that aren't included. Secondly, I've been a bit variable about including digital sales, and finally the fact that lots of sales were done at gigs and then added to the database some time later means that my memories of what was sold may sometimes have been even more variable. These last two items only change the overall SALES of each item, rather than the actual order they appear in, so for that reason AND THAT REASON ONLY I have not included the actual sales figures. Just assume they are all #various degrees of PLATINUM HITS and you won't go far wrong.
The winner, WE VALIDATE!
, is FAR ahead of everything else for various reasons. Obviously it was our big HIT, with radio play and all that, and we also TOURED it a lot more. This was done when people were still very much listening to music on CD too, so all that combined (plus the fact that I got LOADS made so still have some to sell years later!) is why it did so well. Regardez, Ecoutez et Repetez is also up there for similar reasons, but having said all that Say It With Words might well have beaten both of them if I'd started recording the DATA earlier. In fact, it almost definitely would!
Moving down the list, I'm DELIGHTED to see Dinosaur Planet at number 5 - we didn't do as much touring for this one, and I think we've thought of it as a bit of a sales flop after our previous GOLD DISCS, so it's lovely to realise that actually we DID shift quite a lot of SCI FI UNITS. We also sold quite a few Dinosaur Planet T-Shirts, it seems, which pleases me no end.
That brings us on to another issue here - we are SO INDIE that a lot of our stuff is LIMITED EDITION. I mean, technically speaking, it's ALL limited edition because we've never gone to re-press on ANYTHING. This is because we are DEAD COOL and HIP, and not at all because we've never needed to - actually, that's sort of true, as we sold out of This Is Not A Library YEARS ago and so could theoretically have sold more, but my DELIGHT in finally clearing some storage space at the time was so great that I REALLY did not want to re-stock. Similarly I was so pleased to finally get rid of the last Hey Hey 16K T-Shirt that I resolved not to do anymore - these days you can do Print On Demand, which is ACE, but back then you had to pre-order ALL the shirts you wanted, and predicting which SIZES you'd need was a LIVING NIGHTMARE. Also, it was a right pain having to lug five different sizes around with you to gigs! Other stuff was INTENTIONALLY limited - A Million Ukeleles and Wonderful Wednesday here were only ever meant to be limited releases, phsyically at least, although they're VERY MUCH still available to buy digitally.
And that's pretty much all I've got to say about SALES for this week. I hope it's been of interest - I find it all ENDLESSLY FASCINATING how this all works, and I wish more people in our MILLIEU would discuss it. Decades ago it would have been impossible to do so as sales had to be done through THE MAN, but now that we, The Artistes, do most of this work ourselves we are free to MINE the data. We're also free to SHARE it, yet people rarely do. I guess part of it is not wanting to seem CRASSLY MATERIALISTIC (but I think I've shown pretty conclusively that it's possible to do this without appearing that way, right punters?), but from conversations I've had over the years there's also a nervous competitiveness. Nobody wants to reveal that they've only sold 3 copies of their album, say, nor to appear triumphalist if they've sold something crazy like 11. I think this is a shame - TALKING SHOP like this can inform and educate us ALL and prevent THE MAN from taking over again!
The Spotify Rundown
After yesterday's Digital Sales THRILLFEST today we're having a look at Spotify plays. This includes the vast majority of our OUVRE, with only limited edition things like All Around My House or the various multimedia extras not appearing because I never got round to uploading them to this site. With that in mind, let's see what THE KIDZ have been listening to shall we?
Interestingly (no, it IS interesting) some of the same surprise entries as yesterday pop up, with Last Christmas (in the EU) way up near the top, and We're Old And We're Tired (And We Want to Go Home) performing well again. It's also abundantly clear which are THE HITS, with most of the Top 10 being songs we tend to perform live anyway, although it's also worth NOTING that the main reason The Fight For History is so high up is because it's on several Thatcher-related playlists. Everyone always goes on about Spotify Playlists as being the modern equivalent to radio plays, and that seems to be the case here.
The REALLY weird aspect of this chart though is that the most listened-to track from Dinosaur Planet is Norwich Central Police Station! What the?!? If it was the first track I could understand it, but it isn't, and it's a talking section between songs too - is Spotify packed full of J Lockyer, S Hewitt and P Wilson fans who wish to re-enjoy their dramatic output? I mean, that's an entirely sensible thing to do, but otherwise I have no explanation!
I must say I'm rather glad I've done this VITAL RESEARCH - I didn't realise that EPs could be such a THING on Spotify, and it's suddenly given me some things to think about before we launch the EPIC CAMPAIGN for the new single next week. Before then though we're going to look at some good old fashioned Physical Sales Charts - get ready to say "Oh! So the early stuff really IS more popular than the new" again!
The Chart Show
With our new single I Don't Have To Worry About That out on streaming services a week today (and available RIGHT NOW as a badge) the thoughts of myself and The Validators naturally turn to THE CHARTS. How high will get in the midweeks? Will we break the Top Ten on our first week of release or will it be A Climber? Do we wait for the call from Top Of The Pops, or accept a slot on The Tube or possibly Razzamatazz?
Whilst we all ponder these vital questions, I thought it might be nice this week to have a look back at some other charts, and see what our most popular OUTPUTS have been up until now. This thought arises mostly because I realised that both Emubands and Bandcamp CAN do this, but also because I thought it might be Quite Interesting. Let's see shall we?
We'll start off with DIGITAL sales today, which we currently do through Emubands
The data from Emubands covers NEARLY all of our downloads through streaming and digital services, including iTunes, Spotify, and all of that sort of thing. A big qualifier here is that I only started using Emubands around the time of A Million Ukeleles so some of our earlier (who said "more popular"??) stuff isn't represented here. That was all done through the lovely people at CDBaby, but there site has been having errors for the past couple of days so I'll have to leave that for another time.
Anyway, with that in mind, here's our Top Ten in sales of recent-ish tracks via digital services :
There's quite a few surprises in here - who would guess that Do The Indie Kid would be the chart-topper, for instance? It's at both number one AND number two because there's an album and a single version, proving once and for all that digital sales and physical product sales don't really have much to do with each other!
I'm always happy to see It Only Works Because You're Here up near the top as it is officially My Favourite, and I'm also EXTREMELTY pleased to see Last Christmas (in the EU) doing so well, especially as it only came out comparitively recently. My only sadness is that it was not quite so successful in keeping us IN!
The rest of the chart seems fairly comprehensible - as I say, THE HITS like Hey Hey 16K and The Lesson Of The Smiths are absent because they were done by CDBaby - but I can't help wondering what on EARTH We're Old And We're Tired (And We Want to Go Home) is doing in the Top Ten?!? I mean, I like it as a song, but it's never exactly been a Live Favourite or much requested. Perhaps, unbeknownst to me, it has generated its own DANCE CRAZE on The Tick Tock or whatever? I will choose to believe this until proven otherwise!
I hope that's been of some interest - if I can HACK INTO the CDBaby systems tomorrow I'll have a look at what's in there, otherwise we're off to look at what's what on Spotify!
I Don't Have To Worry About Bandcamp
As promised earlier this week, today we're releasing our new single I Don't Have To Worry About That exclusively on Bandcamp for Fees Free Friday. That means that ALL the money people pay for it goes directly to US to spend on... um... probably some more recording sessions.
It's a great deal from the lovely Bandcamp people, who have always been EXCELLENT through the many years we've been releasing stuff through them. INDEED, it is through their generosity that we're also able to release the single as a BADGE (which you can order directly from us now too). Each badge has a download sticker on the back, and those very downloads are provided by Bandcamp, free of charge to us. That's pretty great of them, isn't it?
The single isn't out on the other streaming services until Monday 12 October, but that version will only have TWO songs on it - I Don't Have To Worry About That and Cheer Up Love. The bandcamp and badge versions also feature two COVER VERSIONS - House Of Fun by Madness and Songs About You by Language Of Flowers (who I discovered this week are JUST "Language Of Flowers" and not "THE Language Of Flowers" as I've called them for years).
The Madness track was recorded for a French compilation album who, it seems, wanted EXACT copies of all the tracks by Proper Ska Bands. We thus ended up putting it on the b-side of the CD single for My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once many years ago, which was not SHALL WE SAY one of our biggest sellers, so we thought it deserved a bigger audience. Similarly the Language Of Flowers song was done for a compilation called Covered At Christmas where various bands who'd played the old POP ART shows covered songs by OTHER bands who'd played them. It doesn't seem to be available any more so, again, we thought it deserved to be heard by a few more people. I LOVE the original song, and I've always been chuffed with our version - one of our best covers I reckon!
As I say, the version of the single that's coming out on the other streaming services on Monday 12 October won't have the cover versions, so if you're thinking of getting a copy of this single (and why wouldn't you be?!?) I would HEARTILY recommend either the Bandcamp or the BADGE versions - especially the badge, I mean, it's a flipping BADGE!
Poised And Ready
You find me today POISED like a COILED TIGER (although why you'd want to coil a tiger I do not know - it's bad enough trying to get a domestic moggy into a cat box, I'd assume a tiger would be if anything even less likely to cooperate) for LO! we are on the brink of ROCK!
This is all to do with our NEW SINGLE I Don't Have To Worry About That, which is released yesterday, today, Friday, or a week on Monday depending on how you look at it. It was very quietly unleashed for people who follow our bandcamp page yesterday, partly to thank them for doing so but mostly, I must admit, because you have to "publish" things before you can generate download codes, and I needed to generate download codes in order to prepare the BADGES. I wanted this to be ready today, when they were made available to people who subscribe to our newsletter. On FRIDAY, meanwhile, I'll be doing the big Bandcamp push as they're having another of their Fees-Free days then.
Finally, the last in the list of release days is Monday 12 October, which is when it comes out on STREAMING SERVICES - your iTunes, your Spotify, all of that lot. That's the "official" release day as far as The Mainstream Media is concerned, so I have all fingers crossed that there might be some airplay between now and then on the wireless radio. I'll also be UNLEASHING the VIDEO that I spoke about a little while ago on that day. I now have nearly all of the promised clips in, and have started doing a bit of editing. I will not lie to you, dear reader, it looks BLOODY BRILLIANT so far!
It is, not to put too fine a point on it, all go at the moment, and I am right looking forward to it. I love this bit of ROCK, when the music you've spent AGES on is FINALLY making its first steps out into the world and there are all the possibilities to play for. I have, as ever, put The Validators on ALERT and they have dutifully prepared their resignation letters from work in case we get called up to be on The Tube, Top Of The Pops and/or Pebble Mill. What I am saying here, basically, is that we are ready - can the Krazy World Of ROCK say the same?
Fruit Pies And Milkduds
I don't know if I've ever mentioned it, but I'm currently doing a PhD about Doctor Doom as an early transmedia character - if that doesn't sound familiar let me know and I will happily explain AT EXTREME LENGTH.
Part of the process of doing a PhD is that you're meant to try and do some publications, but an issue I have discovered with this is that it can take AGES. There is, for instance, a chapter in a book what I got signed up to do nearly three years ago, "finished" two years ago, and last heard anything about six months, but this is apparently "Normal For Academia".
Happily, another thing what I wrote has had a MUCH easier transition from getting accepted to getting published, and it came out this very week. It's an article called "How do readers understand character identities when they appear in both the text and paratext of a comic?" that forms part of a roundtable discussion for Reading Comics At The Threshold. "Peritexts" is basically the stuff inside a comic that isn't the story itself, like adverts, editorial pages and letter columns, so my article is looking at what happens when a character appears in the main story AND in an advert.
When you have a situation like this in a TV show it's peasy - we know that the characters are all played by actors who can play more than one part, so we don't assume that the advert is part of the story - but in comics there ARE no actors, it's just the character. In the examples I look at we see Captain America apparently breaking off from a mission with SHIELD to solve crime using fruit pies, and Doctor Doom pausing a battle to the death with Mr Fantastic to implore readers to enter a competition for a sweets company. Clearly we're not supposed to think that it's all one story, but readers are expected just to KNOW this, and not think it's the same character... while also accepting that in a way it IS.
It's one of those things that crop up a LOT in comics, where we just accept certain things about them because we're used to them - stuff like the way a single panel shows a single snapshot of time (except when it doesn't) during which characters are also able to have lengthy conversations while apparently standing still. For my article tried to use Transmedia Terminology to work out what was going on and, to my surprise, it seems to make sense. This is very much thanks to Osvaldo Oyola, the editor, who took me through SEVERAL different versions and offered huge heaps of advice. It was a DELIGHTFUL process which even allowed me to keep a few GAGS in!
Meanwhile, for those who are NOT fans of my delvings into baddy-based PHILOSOPHY, gird your ROCK loins for next week, when there will be ROCK OUTPUTS AHOY!
Toes Like A Princess
Earlier this week I went to see a PODIATRIST. "What is a podiatrist?" you may ask, to which I respond "It is the same as a Chiropodist i.e. a foot doctor except they are called Podiatrists now - GET WITH IT, GRANDAD."
I was there to have them look at my TOENAILS, which are Not Very Nice. I looked up Podiatrists online and was delighted to discover that there was one not ten minutes from my front door, so decided to book an appointment. I'd not had much joy sorting my toenails out myself, and if someone was going to the trouble of running a practice so close to my house it seemed rude not to give the professionals a go.
When I arrived it all felt very much like going to The Dentist, with a reception area and the usual form to fill in. This expectation was not altered when I went in to see the Podiatrist himself, as his BOOTH had a big adjustable dentist's chair in it and a table full of IMPLEMENTS. My recent dental appointments have not been very pleasant as they have all involved THE SCRAPY TEETH HORROR DEVICE, so I tensed up as soon as I sat down, but there was no PAIN at all and in fact the rest of the experience turned out to be RATHER WONDERFUL.
I was a bit self-conscious about my toenails to start with, but then realised that a large part of the Podiatrist's JOB is looking at deeply unpleasant toenails, and he didn't immediately reach for holy water so I guessed mine were not the worse he'd seen. He was in fact really nice throughout, especially when we discussed Possible Treatments and he recommended Tea Tree Oil - a treatment ALSO recommended by none other than The Sole Of My Shoes HERSELF. I mentioned VICKS, which I've also used and he said yes, that could work too. I was MOST impressed, as I'd been expecting STEROIDS or LAZER BEAMS or something.
He also TRIMMED and FILED my nails, and ooh golly gosh crumbs and crikey I FELT LIKE A RUDDY PRINCESS. He even CLEANED the finished toes, so when I left the building and walked down the road it was like having NEW FEET. Now I understand the appeal of all these NAIL BARS and BEAUTY treatments! I had been quite impressed that he didn't say I needed another check in or anything (like opticians and dentists always seem to), but now I think I WANT to, it was so nice!
Once More Unto The Inbox
I've spent the past couple of days sending out emails to radio people about our next single, I Don't Have To Worry About That, which is out on Monday 12 October. I always rather enjoy doing this, as it feels like catching up with old friends. When we first started doing our own publicity, back in the 1870s, we used a big old list of DJs, fans and journalists at radio stations, fanzines and magazines, and they were just names on a piece of paper. It was literally on paper too, as I'd spend hours sticking labels on jiffy bags and hand-writing notes on photocopied press releases to go with the Actual CDs we were sending out.
Nowadays the list has dwindled considerably as so many people dropped out of This Sort Of Thing along the way, which means some 7,000 years later what we're left with is a hardy bunch of survivors - the people who have stuck around just like we have, many of whom I now actually KNOW a little bit. It's a lovely group, and though sending an email isn't QUITE as personal as writing a note on a press release, it does feel like these are "our" people.
Of course, the list COULD have maintained its size if I'd been a bit more energetic over the years about keeping it up to date, but as time went by I realised that there wasn't a massive amount of point in doing so. The Krazy World Of ROCK is very much based on NEW THRILLS and YOUNG PEOPLE, so a band who have been cracking on now for over two decades is never likely to be of much interest to HEP YOUNG GUNSLINGERS looking to make their mark by Discovering Exciting New Talent. This is all ENTIRELY fair enough - when I was a young PUNK ROCK TYKE I wanted nothing more than to overthrow the oppressive rule of whatever the OLD SODS were listening to at the time (Pub Rock? Opera? Banging two stones together?) so one cannot complain - and it also means that when we DO get a rare new addition to the hallowed mailing list it is a source of great joy and festivities.
I'm going to be emailing a few BLOG and JOURNALISM people in a couple of weeks when we've got the VIDEO sorted out, but in the meantime if anybody reading this has links with radio , or indeed playlisting or music blogging or any of that sort of thing, do let me know via the comments or email at mjhibbett (AT) hotmail (DOT) com - another benefit of The Modern Era is that I never have to worry about running out of Jiffy Bags or Promo CDs to send out!
Content Aware Content
Regular readers of this here blog will recall that a couple of days ago I was singing the praises of sewing on a button. "Surely this is Hibbett's limit for taking joy in the quotidian?" they may have thought. "After this it is bound to be High Minded THORTS all the way?"
Well, yes and no. For LO! Today I wish to remark upon an AMAZING facet of THE SCIENCE FICTION FUTURE that I have only recently become aware of but which others may regard as Old Hat: CONTENT AWARE FILL.
This is a facility in Photoshop where you select an area of an image and let Photoshop fill it in for you, using the surrounding area as a guide. It's like if you want to remove an item from a photograph, but there's a complicated backrgound behind that would need replacing. Now, I have seen VIDEOS over the past few years of this being done on, for instance, HOLIDAY SNAPS where you click a button and the programme replaces An Annoying Ex with Realistic Sand And Waves, but I always thought that that was just exaggerated for demo purposes, and that actually it would just copy and pasted whatever was next door to it.
How wrong I was! It turns out that it WORKS, like SPACE MAGIC!
I first realised this a few months when I was told that we couldn't use the usual cover image for the People Are All Right EP on Spotify, because they don't allow web addresses in the visual. I sighed, the began the laborious process of covering up the offending URL by moving slices of colour from nearby, but it looked crappy and was taking ages, so I thought I'd look up this content aware thing. "Maybe it has got a bit better in recent years?" I thought, without much hope. Thus, I selected the area I wanted to change, clicked the "Content Aware Fill" option and... CRIKEY! It only bloody WORKED!!
Before And After Computer Trickery
It's not perfect, but JIMINY CRICKET it's pretty good isn't it? I've also been using it for some work on my PhD, altering an image of Doctor Doom (OBVS) to show what he might look like without some aspects of his appearance. This is what I came up with!
My version and Mr J Kirby's original
Again, it's not perfect, and there was quite a bit of messing around by me to remove the castle and so on in the background, but CRUMBS look at the way THE ROBOT BRANE removed the nose from his face, and especially how it added its own creases and even a SHADOW on the tunic section! It's AMAZING!
Of course, the DOWNSIDE of all this is that PERNICIOUS ACTORS can also use this kind of technology to do these DEEP FAKES that we hear about, so that you can't really trust ANY image that you see EVER anymore, but still, it's bloody clever isn't it? HOORAH for our imminent Robot Overlords!
I'd read about this in the paper, where it was big news for about half a day and then sort of... disappeared from view? Whenever I've read a book or watched a film about FINDING LIFE ON OTHER PLANETS it has generally tended to be a bit of a bigger deal than this. Admittedly the life they usually find tends to have RAY GUNS and/or NEFARIOUS INTENTIONS, but still, I have never seen a film where the discovery of life elsewhere in the universe is shunted off the news by the fact that The Prime Minister Is A Turd. I mean, I know it's a big deal how awful the government is, but is it really a bigger deal than one of the greatest questions in human history finally being (potentially) answered?
The programme itself was BRILLIANT, and full of Scientists desperately trying, and failing, to contain their ENORMOUS EXCITEMENT about what they might have discovered. They had found evidence of PHOSPHINE in the atmosphere of Venus, and the only way they could explain so MUCH of it being there was that it was being produced, consistently, by living organisms. ZOINKS! SPACE ALIENS!
It's lovely when you see actual proper Academics on the telly being actual proper Academics, and the lead Professor was a GRATE example of the genre, bursting with pride, being slightly eccentric, and also trying to slightly downplay the magnitude of what she and her team had discovered. There was also a biochemist who had written A SONG about the whole thing, which the Production team must have LOVED as they kept cutting back to him playing it. It was, in part and in whole, A DELIGHT.
What was most exciting for me though was the fact that they were merrily chatting about some HUGE SCIENCE FICTION IDEAS as if they were perfectly normal things to talk about. For instance, the theory seems to be that there is some kind of bacterial life floating about in the atmosphere 50km above the surface of Venus. However, the clouds there are made of SULPHURIC ACID, which would make it impossible for anything we know of as life to exist. BUT, instead of just going "OK then, that means there's no life there" like Space Scientists always seem to, they went "Aha, then maybe it is a form of life completely different to what we have got here on The Planet Earth."
I let out an audible "YES!" at this point, as it always seems DAFT when scientists talk about the search for life on different worlds but assume it must be the same as it is here. The MUCH MORE FUN Scientists here went on to suggest that this meant they could now look at ANY old planet in SPACE as a potential place where life could exist, even if it wasn't the sort of life we could point at and/or adopt as a pet/next door neighbour. They then went on to talk about how it might be ARMOURED BACTERIA or something that lived in/on ACID, and then developed entire possible LIFE CYCLES for these creatures.
It was basically a really really good show, and I HEARTILY recommend watching it as soon as possible to enjoy the EXCITEMENT, just in case a bunch of significantly less interesting scientists come along and say it was all a mistake or produced by something BORING like volcanoes. SHUT UP, OTHER SCIENTISTS!