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!
A Wander Round Walthamstow
On Sunday afternoon I got the bus to WALTHAMSTOW, a place I used to go to fairly often back when we lived in nearby Leytonstone. On most occasions this would not be out of choice - if I was out late then sometimes the only option for getting home would be the Victoria Line to Walthamstowe Central and then a night bus home - but this time I was definitely there on purpose.
For LO! it was the day of the Walthamstow Village Jumble Trail, an event which Mr D Green had alerted me to, and which sounded like a) fun b) an excuse to go to the pub after. When I arrived in Walthamstow I experienced the usual cultural JARRING off crossing the road from Walthamstow Actual into "the village", where suddenly everything was BUNTING and BEARDS and BABIES. It's a bit like Leigh-On-Sea, or how Brighton THINKS it is, a GROOVY little patch with DELIs and Nice Pubs - of which more ANON.
It was a lovely sunny day, excellent weather for a wander round, so that is what I did. It soon became clear that the Walthamstow Village Jumble Trail was exactly what it sounded like - a big old Jumble Sale around the streets of Walthamstow Village. There was a map to show you where all the stalls were, but I found it easier just to stroll around, as pretty much every street had at least a couple of houses taking part. Some people had put stuff on the walls of their front gardens, some had tables out in the street, and some had even done their front yard out like a mini-shop, with items on display. There was nothing I actually wanted to buy - I don't need children's clothes, DVD boxsets or multiple copies of Ben Elton novels - but there was a thoroughly lovely atmosphere as people dawdled about chatting to their neighbours.
At 4pm I headed over towards what turned out to be an industrial estate full of craft ale bars, which seems to me to be an excellent use of such space, especially in The Current Situation as they were all using the car park as a massive Food Court Of BEER. I bought some delicious CAKE from a lady who was very keen that I was aware it was VEGAN cake (it was ACE) and then met Dave and Mr R Wells for a couple of beers and a whole world of CHAT. They are two EXTREMELY interesting people, and filled my BRANE up with multiple fascinating facts that I was eager to re-share when I got home! It feels like AGES since I last just lurked about in a pub (or equivalent) having a natter with more than one other person, and I had forgotten how lovely it is. We also saw a FOX, which was an added bonus!
After a couple of beers and NUMEROUS THORTS and REMARKS it was time to wend our way back to the Transport Hub that us Walthamstow Actual, where I got my bus home. It was, as predicted, an EXCELLENT way to spend a sunny afternoon!
Sewing On A Button
Last week I had one of those experiences that only come around a few times in a lifetime, when your entire WORLD is turned upside down and you suddenly realise that everything you thought you knew was WRONG. On this occasion it came about due to me sewing on a button.
Now, back in the dark distant days of my BATCHELORHOOD I would have occasion to sew buttons on myself, and it would always be DISASTROUS. To start with it would take me approx 3 hours to thread the flipping needle, then the thread would keep falling out halfway through and I'd have to start again, then I'd do it really messily, and after about 17 seconds of use the button would fall off again anyway. It was AWFUL.
In latter days The Eye In My Needle has very kindly done this for me, which has been MUCH better (for me anyway), but last week she suggested I have a go at it myself, suggesting I watch a YouTube video to work it out. My days of desperate solitude are SO long ago now that we didn't even HAVE YouTube videos then, so this seemed like a good idea and, armed with needle and thread, I sat down to have a go.
OH MY GOOD GOLLY! It was ASTOUNDING! I started watching one video which STRAIGHT AWAY blew my tiny mind by saying that a) you basically doubled the thread and b) tied a KNOT in the end before you started, so that it wouldn't fall out when you were sewing it in. WHAT THE ACTUAL?!? But of COURSE that's what you do! I instantly flashed back to my years of wondering how on earth this was supposed to work, and trying to tie knots INTO shirts and so on, but in a blinding flash I had received this rapturous information. ENCROYABLE!
The video then said "Once you've threaded the needle..." so then I had to go and look at ANOTHER video to see if there was an easier way than spending an entire evening SQUINTING MALEVOLENTLY at a piece of thread with my tongue stuck out. Of COURSE there was - firstly you SNIP it at 45 degrees so the end is POINTY, you do NOT lick it, and then you hold the THREAD in your right hand and guide it towards the needle, not the other way around. It was a good job I was sitting down at this point ELSE I would surely have fainted due to BRANE overload.
After that we got into the whole business of the sewing itself which GOOD LORD was packed full of information about how you actually DO it, and the running the string around the thread under the button three times, and THEN the whole business of tying it off at the end and... well, as you can imagine, it was a whole WORLD of new information, and I am happy to say that now, almost a week post-sewing, the button is still in place. I feel like I want to go out and find THE INCREDIBLE HULK or JOHN OTWAY now and offer to sew THEIR buttons back on for them!
Isolation And Rejection
After MONTHS of there being not much Rock And Roll to report, suddenly it's all coming in at once, for LO! I have ANOTHER new track out, on Volume 4 of Isolation And Rejection.
This is the fourth in a rather briliant series of compilation albums based on the idea of scooping up all the tracks that people recorded for various projects, predominantly other compilation albums, that never happened. As anyone involved the in The Krazy World Of ROCK will know, this happens A LOT, so I think it's rather beautiful that all these tracks have ended up on a whole SERIES of high concept compilations. There's going to be FIVE of these in all, because (as noted earlier) this happens OFTEN!
My track is Rocking Out (But Quietly) which I recorded for a THING during Lockdown. The people running the original THING were very pally, excited and keen with my idea for it RIGHT up until the point when they got some more famous people involved, and then completely stopped responding to any communications whatsoever. It's by no means an UNUSUAL occurrence, but it's never very nice when it does, so I'm EXTREMELY glad that the track's getting out on this wonderful album.
Even more delightfully, the proceeds from these albums are going to The Brick, a charity helping people in need in Wigan. So far they've raised Â£1,800, which is an incredible feat for a project based on stuff that other people rejected. It is a GRATE idea, and I endorese it THOROUGHLY!
As I may have occasionally mentioned, I'm now FOUR YEARS into my PhD about Doctor Doom as a Transmedia character, and it has been a LOT of fun. It's involved a lot of researching, learning, and even the occasional bit of comics reading (although nowhere near as much as I thought there would be) as well as a whole HEAP of blogging about comics that Doom appears in.
However, in all that time there has been very little in the way of RESULTS. To put it another way, I've learnt a lot about what other people think, had some ideas about how transmedia characters work, and done a TONNE of flipping analysis, but none of it has produced any actual concrete NEW ANSWERS... until this week. For LO! on Wednesday I finally got to the point where I could do some analysis of my OWN data, and find something out that nobody else had found out before!
What I found out was this: Doctor Doom almost always wears a metal mask!!!!
Yes, I know that this is not exactly earth-shattering news, even to people who are only vaguely aware of Doctor Doom, but the point here is that I can actually PROVE that this is true through DATA. My thesis is all about Doctor Doom as an early transmedia character i.e. one who appears in different media but the same storyworld, like you have now with (for instance) Doctor Who appearing in stories in books, comics and games that are meant to be part of the same universe as the telly episodes. Part of this is looking at his "character coherence" - how much he stays the same as he moves around. There are loads of theories about this, but I've never seen anyone categorically say "This is how you measure character coherence", so I set out to do that with an ELEVEN DIMENSIONAL INVENTORY OF TRAITS! This means looking at things like what the character says, what locations they appear in, who they interact with, and first of all what they LOOK like.
To do this I'm very gradually going through a SAMPLE of TEXTS from 1961-1987, looking at which aspects of these eleven traits are shown in each one. So, for example, for each comic, radio show, cartoon, newspaper strip or game I find, I go through and tick off a list off which names he's called by, like "Doom", "Doctor Doom", "You Excellency", "Master Of Menace" and so on. It's a long old job, but this week I finally finished off the "Appearance" part of this, and was thus able to DEFINITELY say that he wears a mask all the time!
It was VERY exciting, partly because it was AN ACTUAL RESULT, but also because it shows that what I'm trying to do can actually, probably, be done! IT WORKS!!
I was SO excited about it that I mentioned it on The Social Medias, saying I'd finally got A RESULT. Unfortunately it turns out that this could very easily be misconstrued as me saying I'd got THE result from my PhD, and that I had therefore PASSED. Sadly, this is very much not the case, as I've got a whole other year of this to go yet, but the good news is that means twelve more months of FASCINATING INSIGHTS like this. Everyone's a winner!
Have A Hand In Our Next Video
The Validators are a modern, forward-thinking, early-adopter sort of band, and that is why we have embraced the futuristic possibilities of MUSIC VIDEOS so readily. With that in mind we are planning to unleash a new one for the next single, I Don't Have To Worry About That, which you may recall I mentioned yesterday, and we'd like your help making it please!
The plan is to make a HANDWRITTEN LYRICS VIDEO, with different lyrics from the song written out like in the video below:
If you'd like to take part, drop me an email at mjhibbett (AT) hotmail (DOT) com and I'll send you a line to write out, plus some details about what format we'd like it in. Actually, if there's a specific line you fancy doing let me know and if I can I shall allocate accordingly!
The closing date for getting videos back to me will be Wednesday 30 September, so if you'd like to be part of this thrilling new media venture get in quick. Who knows, we might end up on The Chart Show!
UPDATE: I've had an ASTONISHING response to this, and I'm afraid all slots are now very much taken - thanks everyone!
Our Next Single
Today I am absolutely ruddy DELIGHTED to announced that we'll have a brand new single out next month. It's called "I Don't Have To Worry About That" and, once again, it will come in two thrilling formats - a digital single and a BADGE-based EP!
The digital version will be out on Monday 12 October pretty much everywhere you can buy that sort of thing. The lead track is (obviously) I Don't Have To Worry About That, which is a HEARTFELT song about what a relief it is when you realise there are plenty of life-opportunities that are now out of the question e.g. I am unlikely to start a parliamentary career now, so can stop planning my strategy for when I'm Prime Minister. It is a weight off my mind!
The b-side is Cheer Up Love, which is one of those songs we used to call "a live favourite" back when there were live gigs. I would say it's one of MY favourites, but they are ALL my favourites!
Those two tracks will be what you get on iTunes, Spotify and all that sort of thing, but there'll be an EXTENDED version on our bandcamp site with two MORE songs - our cover versions of House Of Fun by Madness and Songs About You by The Language Of Flowers. Both have these have been released before, but in MICROSCOPIC numbers and I don't think either have been available for YEARS, so it'll be ACE to have them out in the world again, as they are Quite Good.
The extended version will also be what you get if you buy it as a BADGE - as with our previous GROUND-BREAKING BADGE PRODUCT People Are All Right you'll be able to buy this direct from us. As well as being a UNIQUE FASHION STATEMENT it'll also have a download code on the back so you can get the actual TRACKS.
It'll be GRATE to finally get this out - the main songs were recorded AGES ago and sound ACE, so I can't wait for people to hear them. We're also going to be attempting another CROWD-SOURCED video, but there'll be more on that ... next time!
An Actual Gig
On Saturday myself and The Waves In My Sea headed SOUTH to distant Brighton, there to attend a gig by Mr G Osborn And The Comment Section. It was the first gig either of us had been to in over six months and (SPOILERS) it was dead good!
We went on the Thameslink from St Pancras, an EXCELLENT service that completely avoids any need for catching the tube and is Actually Quite Nice, especially as we went and sat in First Class, breaking ALL the rules like the crazy rock and roll rebels what we are. When we got to Brighton we found that it was very much Still Brighton, with all that that entails, and indeed quite BUSY. As we walked down towards the beach we found that some of the lanes in The Lanes were RAMMED with people, so we ended up going quite a wiggly way to get there.
For LO! the gig was happening on the beach itself, as part of The Warren Outdoors festival. This was a HIGHLY impressive operation, where they'd set out Socially Distanced picnic tables on a fenced-off area of the beach, with a one-way system all around, loads of hand sanitisers, and a booking form for getting drinks that ACTUALLY WORKED. The staff were LOVELY, the sound was GRATE (we had individual speakers on the ends of our tables!!) and the whole thing was AMAZING. I, of course, was fully accepting of the prospect of New Ways Of Working before we'd arrived, but if I HAD been saying things like "why can't we just go to the bar? why do I need to go the long way round to the loo?" beforehand I would definitely NOT have done so once I experienced the place itself. It was excellent!
The gig, meanwhile, was BLOODY WONDERFUL. We have seen Gav play approx 100,000 times and part of the reason for that is because he is BRILLIANT every time, especially when, as here, he is accompanied by Mr J Hare on All The Instruments. I was most impressed to see that he has managed to inveigle John into doing some of the INTRODUCTIONS too, which allowed Gav to have the occasional DRINK break as necessary. The Validators have never got on board with this idea, although thinking about it this may be a deliberate ploy to reduce the aforementioned drinks breaks.
As the gig progressed Gav mentioned that his voice was starting to go - earlier on we'd heard them soundchecking their version of It Only Works Because You're Here, and I did half think to myself that in an EMERGENCY I could always HELP OUT (in a helpful way) by singing the words for them, but I was still a bit surprised when Gav invited me on stage to do EXACTLY THAT. So I did!
(picture courtesy of The Lens In My Camera)
Let us be clear here: he did ask me, I didn't just elbow my way onstage, honest! It was an HONOUR to do it, and I think it went OK, but it was also a bit TERRIFYING as I had had no idea it was going to occur and had not SUNG the song for MONTHS. When it was done I FLED the stage and tripped over Gav's banjo too, but thankfully the rest of the gig went off without further hazard or interruption!
When it was all over we joined fellow audience members Mr T Eveleigh, Ms H Zaltzman and Dr M Zaltz Austwick for CHIPS AND MUSHY PEAS BY THE SEASIDE (AMAZING) and then also by the performers for a REAL LIFE NATTER which was thoroughly lovely, not least because it was the first time we'd been involved with a Sit Around Chat in a larger groups for MONTHS. There was further RULE BREAKING when John went to get a round of drinks and I went to help him. We were told that we couldn't take our drinks out through the exit, so I walked THE LONG WAY round the venue so as not to get DONE. I thought this was VERY clever and brave of me, until I realised that this involved walking quite a long way along a pebble beach on a SLOPE. My hands smelt of CIDER for some time after!
We said our farewells and then headed off along the beach for a STROLL. We were aiming to do The Undercliff Walk, but we only got as far as the start of it, at Brighton Marina, before turning back. Brighton Marina is a WEIRD thing - it looks like a Gerry Anderson supervillain base reconstructed on Blue Peter and then reconstructed from THAT in real life. I'm sure it's built on concrete loo rolls.
The rest of the walk was FAB though, and seeing the sea was LOVELY. It was, in fact, a bloody brilliant day out, and a lovely reintroduction to the world of GIGS! Well done, everybody!!
Bandcamp Bargain Bonanza!
It's Bandcamp Friday today, which as ever means that Bandcamp are waiving fees for anything you buy from artists on their site. It's a great deal from a company that, as far as I can make out, generally do want to be Actually Nice, so it always makes me feel a bit bad that we don't do more to get involved. I did take part by putting out A Museum Of One Thing, but that was AGES ago.
So, in order to DO something, today we're unleashing our entire Digital Discography for the KNOCKDOWN PRICE of just Â£21! If you go over to our Bandcamp site and click on any item you'll see a link that says "Buy Digital Discography". Click that and you'll be able to type in the PRICE (it's set as minimum Â£21, my advice would be to type that in!). Go through the payment motions and VOILA you will get a download of THE LOT. That's ALL of the studio albums and compilations, loads of singles, various solo outings, and even the recordings of the SHOWS with me and Steve.
It is a LOT of stuff, so I would understand if it is All A Bit Much. If it's any help, you don't have to listen to it all in one go!
The offer's only valid for today, Friday 4 September 2020, so if it appeals do get in quick!
Back To School
Crumbs, it's been over SIX WEEKS since I last done a blog here. Apologies to the (I estimate) HUNDREDS of people who have been waiting silently for me to return - in my defence, not an awful lot of ROCK has been occurring!
That is all set to change now though, as the seasons turn, the new term starts, and a general feeling of Back To School pervades the land both metaphorically and actually. There is a whole HEAP of ROCK planned for the coming months, and I shall do my best to detail it a bit more regularly here in future.
In preparation for this I have spent the past couple of months working with our server provider Evinsol (i.e. Tim of Freedom Of Expression in his day job) to get these here webpages updated. This was necessitated by Tim needing to move everything to a new server and, when he did, us finding that most of the site had stopped working! It turns out that, in the years since I first HAND-BUILT the HIBBFACT 2000 system, computing in general has moved on somewhat, necessitating me doing a laborious trawl through every single flipping page of the site to bring it all up to date again. This has now been DONE, so we can expect the current version to keep running until at least the 2030s!
Another symptom of the Internet being around for a long time is that FLASH is, sadly, being dropped by browsers. As someone bang up to date with modern computing (er... apart from everything mentioned in the last paragraph) I was of course well aware of this, but I hadn't realised that BANDCAMP used to use Flash for its embedded players, and so I'd need to go through and UPDATE some of the older songs. I'm making progress on this, with all the songs on Say It With Words and This Is Not A Library working properly again, but there's still a few left to do. Until then, if you do need to listen to a song URGENTLY and can't find it on these pages, you can always access it via our Bandcamp site.
I trust this technical information was worth waiting six weeks for - next time, let's talk about OUR NEW SINGLE!
On Monday of this week I ventured into Actual London Town for the first time in nearly FOUR MONTHS, for a VITAL and entirely ESSENTIAL task: I was going to get my hair cut AT LAST!
I tell you what, in The Before Times when I read all of those FICTIONAL post-apocalypse stories there was a lot of talk about getting fresh water, weaponry, food etc etc but none of them ever mentioned you that the thing I was going to miss most of all was a HAIRCUT. I needed it cutting before everything kicked off, so four months in I looked like a MANIAC.
So it was that as SOON as the Government gave the go-ahead for hairdressers to re-open I booked on the first day available, and on Monday I set off into town on my usual commuting route. I must say, I was a bit disappointed to find that it wasn't really weird at all. Yes, there were signs in the station, and even POLICE on the platform, but otherwise it was like going in on a Sunday. It didn't even feel unusual, my BRANE just went "Oh yes, getting this train, that's something we know how to do." The only time it got genuinely SPOOKY was when I walked through Bloomsbury, and it was QUIET. I don't mean on the pavements - there were people about, and it felt pretty much like a Sunday again - I mean the traffic noise, of which there was Considerably Less. I worked in Bloomsbury for years so I guess I had got so used to the constant RACKET that its sudden absence was louder than anything else.
Anyway, I got to my HAIRDRESSER who cut my hair and did a right good job of it. Here is the Before and After so you can see for yourself!
(photography by Teeth In My Comb, hair-gel by My Hairdresser, daft expressions model's own)
As you can probably tell, I was RUDDY DELIGHTED by the whole experience - looking like a MAD PROFESSOR is all well and good for a Fun Party or if you ARE a Mad Professor, but it doesn't half get annoying over the course of several months!
On the way home I popped over to look in at The King & Queen, who I was DELIGHTED to see had a notice in their window announcing they were re-opening next week. I don't think I'll be back in town again by then, but it was nice to know it'll be there when I eventually DO!
Crumbs, has it really been almost a month since last we gathered for blogging? Doesn't time fly when you're not really doing much to do with ROCK?
What I HAVE been doing, however, is helping to organise a CONFERENCE, which has been Quite Exciting. It's the International Graphic Novels And Comics Conference which I've previously mentioned attending in other years in Manchester, Bournemouth and Dundee. This year it was meant to be UAL's turn to host it in That London, and as that is a) where I am doing my PhD b) where I WORK I was involved in the DOING of it.
So, when The Current Situation kicked off I was a bit disappointed when it looked like it was all going to be cancelled... until I BEMOANED the situation to The Delegates On My Registration List who suggested that we do the whole thing online instead. This was a GRATE idea, and so that is what we DID! We asked all of the presenters to PRE-RECORD their presentations and then upload them to our Figshare site, and then the conference itself was a mix of Workshops, and Q&A sessions done on Blackboard Collaborate. The idea was that people could thus look at the presentations any time they wanted, and then have plenty of time to talk about them afterwards.
It was a HECKLOAD of work, not least for me as I was looking after the Figshare side of things, which involved three items which SHOULD NEVER BE MIXED: Academics, Technology, and Deadlines! Eventually though we got it all sorted out between the four of us who were running the event, all ready to kick off on Wednesday last week. It had been a LOT of effort, so it came as a bit of a surprise to us when we started to realise it WASN'T just a load of hassle for nothing, and that theere was actually loads of good stuff there. Furthermore, it all BLOODY WORKED!
This latter aspect continued to delight us through the next three days - IT WORKED! Loads of people got involved, all of the Q&A sessions were full of questions, and people seemed happy... very happy, in fact. The only major issue was that there waasn't anywhere to GOSSIP between sessions or in the pub afterwards, but other than that it worked as well - or BETTER - than a normal conference would.
And best of all, all of the presentations are online FOREVER for anyone to have a look at. Go on, have a look at The Conference HUB site, where you can find out everything that was going on and then link directly to the papers.
Typing THE END!
Yesterday I typed the following phrase into a word document:
As discerning readers may have already worked out for themselves, I typed this into the END of the document with the intent of properly notifying the reader that there was no more. A simple full stop would not be enough, capitalisation seemed REQUIRED, and I must say that even THAT was not sufficient on this occasion, hence the addtion of an exclamation mark. For LO! this was the ending of my latest NOVEL what I have written!
Regular visitors will recall that this is by no means the first such novel what have flowed from my princely pen. A couple of years ago I even SELF-PUBLISHED a book and then, through a very long process of re-writes and de-writes, I managed to sign up with a LITERAY AGENT. We then spent another WHOLE YEAR re-writing THAT book into a very different one which was sent off to Publishing Houses not long before The Current Situation commenced, since which the whole thing has Gone A Bit Quiet.
I also wrote TWO (2) other books around that time. One was a SEQUEL to the self-published book, and the other was a DYSTOPIAN SCI-FI affair. This Spring/Summer I had been planning to start re-writing the aforesaid SEQUEL, ready for the inevitable BIG SALE of the original book, but as things slowed down I realised that this might be a bit daft. What is the point of writing a SEQUEL to a book that nodody might ever read?
I thus turned my LITERARY EYE onto a whole OTHER writing project, and it is THAT what I have just finished writing. I do not, at this stage, want to go into too much details about what it is about for fear of JINXING it, but I will reveal that it is in fact a heavily re-written LITERARY ADAPTATION of something ELSE what I did a few years ago. It's been re-done to clearly be a kids book, with kids as the heroes throughout, and also to make a bit more sense AND to have some more gags in it, but I hope that when it is finally UNVEILED upon the word then people who liked the original will be pleased.
To be honest, this whole blog entry is just me being dead excitied to have finished it and trying not to say out loud what it actually IS. Sorry for only being about to tell you A Little Bit about it, hopefully before too long I can tell you A Little Bit More!
The Childrens' Film Foundation in E20
How long have we been in The Current Situation now? Is it something like 10 weeks? Or were THE BEFORETIMES just an illusion? However long it's been, one thing I'm REALLY grateful for is that fact that we live right next to The Olympic Park, which has been a GRATE place to go most days for Mandatory Government Exercise. It is BIG and full of all sorts of different BITS, also WILDLIFE and, nowadays, KIDS.
There have always been KIDS in the park, but they've usually been young children taken there by their parents. Over the last couple of weeks though, since the weather's been nice and people have ventured out into the post-apocalyptic landscape a bit more, there have been noticeably more TEENAGERS. It seems that they have come over from nearby Stratford, LURED by the open space and especially by the HIRE BIKES, which they now pelt around in in large excitable groups, LARKING AROUND.
Apart from the generalised Are They Doing Social Distancing worry, there is somethig rather wonderful about it. Ever since we've lived here The Legacy Authorities have worried about how they can connect the park to Actual Stratford, but it's now clear that all they needed was a Global Pandemic, as LOADS of local people seem to have discovered it recently. It all feels like A Return To The 1970s as you wander around seeing Family Picnics taking place and, as i say, LOADS of Kids On Bikes. It feels being in a (very mildly) updated version of The Childrens' Film Foundation, as you see platoons of THE KIDS pedalling alongside the canal or down the Greenway, taking the piss out of each other and generally having GOOD CLEAN OUTDOOR FUN. It's as if they got completely sick of being stuck inside with their BORING families and discovered that this was a way to get out - and there's surely nothing more 1970s than that?
I hope that this all continues when/if things for Back To Normal, and that they have many summers of ADVENTURES and BOTTLES OF POP and SCABBY KNEES. The only downside of course, is for all those PROPERTY DEVELOPERS and CORRUPT COUNCILLORS whose evil schemes are about to get FOILED!
New Song For Bandcamp Fees-Free Friday
After I DEBUTED A Museum Of One Thing on Museums Showoff a couple of weeks ago a few people said that they'd like to be able to download the song somehow. This, of course, was an excellent point and one which I really ought to have thought of in advance!
I was a bit miffed with myself about this, so when I saw that there was another Bandcamp Fees-Free Friday coming up (when, much as the title suggests, Bandcamp waive all their usual fees so all the CA$H goes to the artiste instead) I thought that this might be a good excuse to actually record the song properly. Well, to be honest, I MOSTLY thought "This is a good excuse to do that cover idea I thought of", and I did spend several happy hours using Conext-Aware Fill on Photoshop (which is LIKE MAGIC!) to create a design, but I ALSO spent NEARLY as long recording the actual song, which you can hear below:
I've made it Pay What You Want, so you can even download it for free if you like, and it'll be staying that way when Fees-Free Friday is over. It was a really nice, easy way to release a song, so I might do another one sometime too - all I need is an idea for a cover, and then I can work the rest out later!
Going Up To Eleven
Today sees the UNLEASHMENT of the Eleventh and (for now at least) LAST edition of the Totally Acoustic vodcast series, this time featuring Sunny Intervals and Out Of This City. It's a bloody lovely one to go out on, as you can see for yourself BELOW:
It's been a DELIGHTFUL thing to do, but it feels right to be ending it here for now. Doing ten shows might have been a rounder number, but as The Shows In My Series pointed out, this way we get to "go up to eleven"! As previously stated, the original intent was to do a couple of shows to make up for the fact that we'd had to cancel a couple of LIVE Totally Acoustics, but it was so much fun to put together that it got a bit out of control. I enjoyed having a reason to a) pester some of my favourite poeple in ROCK and also b) do a song of my own every week so much that I just kept doing it!
In theory we're now in the process of moving out of lockdown, but with the shower of utterly useless spivs currently running the country we may well end up back in it pretty soon, and either way it's unlikely that Actual Gigs will be coming back in the near future, so we might end up doing another series later in the year. For now, however, you can enjoy the whole run in a PLAYLIST what I have made, right here:
I highly recommend watching THE LOT - not just because it is An Historical Document Of Music In Lockdon (and also of my HAIR GROWTH), but also because there's some GRATE performances in there, and I LOVE the fact that it brings together an awful lot of acts that would not normally be on the same bill. It's been a fab thing to do all round really, so thanks very much for everyone who's taken part and ESPECIALLY to everyone who's been watching - lets hope we get to do it again in real life before too long!
As discussed elsewhere, one of the odd things about Lockdown for me is that it's made me WEIRDLY freer to do GIGS than I have been in a long old while. Doing them online LIVE is pretty much impossible (as long as I want to remain in my thin-walled flat anyway!) but pre-recording stuff and sending it out into THE WORLD has suddenly become Quite The Thing.
For instance, on Tuesday night I was able to take part in Museums Showoff for the first time. Museums Showoff is (usually) a regular night where Museum and Museum-adjacent professionals talk about their work in a gig-like setting, sort of similar to all the Science Showoff gigs you get, but more, well, MUSEUM-y. For AGES I've been wanting to go along to one, and ALSO for AGES I have been wanting to write a song about Museums Of One Thing, as it is something that myself and The Artefacts In My Exhibit talk about whenever we go on holiday and LOOK for them. THUS when I saw that they were doing a VIRTUAL show I emailed the organisers and said I'd LOVE the chance to finally make BOTH of these things happen, and they said YES!
So it was that I wrote A Museum Of One Thing, learnt it up, and then recorded it chez moi a couple of weeks ago. I then sent it off to the show's organisers, who added it as the final item in the show you can see BELOW:
I did consider pretending that it was all done live, but you can see from my HAIR that things have moved on since then! It was a great show to be part of, and actually really nice to let Me Of A Few Weeks Ago do the gig, so that Me Of Right Now could watch and enjoy everybody else's (excellent) sets while sitting on twitter and talking to people about it - it was liking having/being my own Social Media Team - more of this sort of thing please!
Playing To An Empty Room
Once a term (NB I work for an ART COLLEGE so that's how we think about these things) I usually do a series of training sessions, to show staff how to use the computer system that I run. It always feels to me like a TOUR but sadly THIS term it feels even MORE like a tour in that it looked like it would all have to be cancelled.
HOWEVER, and ALSO like other sorts of gigs, TECHNOLOGY has intervened so that I can now do the courses ONLINE instead, and so it was that on Monday afternoon I sat down before my laptop ready to give my first ever WEBINAR. To mark the occasion I even combed my hair and put a shirt on - it was the first time I have had to deal with BUTTONS for over two months, but I think I remembered how to do it.
It's so professional I think I'm going to use it as my new LinkedIn profile picture!
I did another one of these this afternoon, and both sessions felt a bit ODD. As you can probably imagine, I like to throw in some GAGS as I go along, but the fact that everyone was respecting Teams Meeting Etiquette meant that everybody else was muted, so I couldn't hear the GALES of LARFS like what I usually do hem hem. Also I had to go and keep checking the CHAT section to see if there were any questions, which got a bit distracting, although I DID remember the classic advice for Responding To Heckles i.e. you read out what people have heckled/asked in chat, which tells everybody else what you're on about AND gives you time to think of an answer.
These sessions usually last about 40 minutes, and I thought that these would be much shorter, as there's less chance for veering off topic or wandering around checking everybody's screens to see where they're up to, but they actually lasted LONGER. Perhaps people feel more able to ASK questions when they're not constantly drowned out by the aforesaid GALES of LARFS? Either way, it seemed to work - I quite fancy doing some more now!
A Virtual Field Of Play
Today is the day we UNLEASH the PENULTIMATE episode of this series of the Totally Acoustic Vodcast series, featuring Motorcade One, Non Canon and Fightmilk. It's dead good, as you can see from yourself below:
This morning as I was preparing for the UNLEASHMENT of the above The Code In My URL pointed out that I'd had to cancel two live Totally Acoustic shows and, in order to make up for it, had ended up doing ELEVEN virtual ones. She makes a fair point! Weirdly, LOCKDOWN has made me busier in the world of ROCK than I have been for YEARS - I stopped doing LOADS of gigs because a) travelling around so much was becoming less fun and so b) I stopped asking for gigs and thus c) people stopped asking me to do them, but now the travelling around has been removed entirely I find I CAN put myself forward for stuff again, and as a result people have started asking ME to do stuff as well. I do remember for YEARS thinking "I must never stop asking for gigs, or people will stop inviting me to do them" and being surprised by how quickly I was proved correct, but the turnaround in the other direction has been even more sudden!
It's like the Playing Field Of ROCK has been evened up in some ways, so that, for instance, you now DON'T have to live in That London to do certain gigs. It's evened DOWN (if that's the right terminology - let's say that it is) in other ways though of course. People who aren't me have KIDS and RESPONSIBILITIES and JOB WORRIES, while people who ARE me are INSANELY JEALOUS of people they see online doing gigs in their spare rooms, or even late at night in their living room. I live in a small flat with THIN walls, surrounded by many neighbours who are (like most of us) in ALL the time now, so my ROCK schedule is very much dictated by those sort of considerations, so I've had to say "NO" to a lot of exciting sounding things because there's no way I can do live broadcasts without annoying loads of people. On the plus side, it does mean that the world has been spared my much mooted "Hibbett plays loads of covers, drunk, after watching three episodes of Blakes 7" set. I fear that idea is just too beautiful to live!
In the meantime though there's plenty to be getting on with, including a (pre-recorded) slot this very evening in the first ever Museums Showoff gig. I wrote a whole new song especially for it!
More Experts On Telly Please
There has been a LOT of talk during The Current Situation about how Things won't go back to how they were before when it's finally all over. For my kind of work, for instance, I sincerely doubt whether I'll ever work a five day week in a big office ever again, as working from home has been so weirdly straightforward, and it's been brilliant not having to travel across London on a regular basis to attend meetings where SHALL WE SAY my contributions are not quite as important as one might think.
Another thing that I REALLY hope we stick with on the other side is the massive use of EXPERTS on the telly news. It used to be that the TV news shows would get in the same bloody columnists and commentators that they always used, a bunch of journalists who would basically make things up that sounded good and give half backed opinions on stuff they knew nothing about. NOW, however, when everybody is talking via ZOOM and so forth it seems they've realised that it's just as easy to get WORLD EXPERTS in to talk as it is to get The Usual Posh Twits. This means that our telly has been FULL of PROFESSORS just lately who, as anyone who mingles with this rare breed of academic will know, are often EXTREMELY good value for opinions and general entertainment. They are also VERY POLITE when people are COMPLETELY WRONG about things - for instance, we particularly enjoyed it on the Coronavirus Newscast thing when one of the journalists proudly showed off about a calculation he'd made that said it would take four years for 80% of the population to get the disease. A PROFESSOR then came on who was DOING RESEARCH about it and KNEW WHAT HE WAS ON ABOUT and without making a big deal about it completed refuted the whole idea very kindly, as if he was correcting an enthusiastic but inept undergraduate.
It's happening all over the place - instead of posh drips spouting rubbish, you get the SUPERLOONS of Academia, who have had decades of experience UNDERSTANDING HARD THINGS and also EXPLAINING them to people who don't necessarily want to know, appearing in various states of bookish disarray and giving GENUINE THORTS to slightly stunned interviewers. It's fab - I really really hope that we get MORE Professors on telly FOREVER.
If nothing else, it'll keep them busy and give them less time to ask me why their computer isn't working!
We Were On Radio 4!
A few weeks ago I was doing my usual SELF-GOOGLING - for professional reasons, you understand, in preparation for the release of People Are All Right - when I was surprised to discover one of our very oldest songs was mentioned on the listings for a Radio 4 show.
I think that this might have come about because of somebody on the show searching through Music Libraries. Some years ago John The Publisher made me spend WEEKS entering data on all of our songs into the PPL website, which was a RUDDY PAIN IN THE WOTSITS because it was SUCH a bad site (it's a bit better now), so that he could in turn log them on the aforesaid Music Libraries. As I understand it these give radio, TV and film people an easily searchable list of songs that they know are properly registered with PPL and PRS and are pre-cleared to be USED in stuff. The radio show was called "The Pebble In Your Pocket" so a search for "Pebble" will have naturally turned up The Pebble And The Boulder.
The show itself was VERY Radio 4 i.e. it genuinely was all about Pebbles, with people talking about how much they like them, a bit of Barbara Hepworth, some poetry and also MUSIC, including a blast of us about 20 minutes in, with Mr Whitaker doing his VOCAL RANTING and then it coming back a few minutes later for a little bit of the end of the song. You can listen to it online yourself if you like, you may need to turn it up a bit for our bit! I don't suppose it'll be a big breakthrough into the Radio 4 audience, but I am fully ready to be wrong if they want us to appear in The Archers.
Even more excitingly, this is another BBC Network to tick off - we've done 1,2 and 6 on a number of occasions, we were on one of those odd "other kinds of music" shows on Radio 3 donkey's years ago, and I think we've been on 5 Live with something about one of the many versions of The Fair Play Trophy too. Actually, now I think about it, we've been on the World Service and I've had some sketches on 4Extra too, so that just leaves 1Extra and BBC Asian Network to go! CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!