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The Review Show: The Boys, I Am Mother, Get Out and Blinded By The Light
I love the IDEA of watching films, especially now that I have Netflix and Amazon a.k.a. ALL THE TELLY, but I always think that I don't have the time, especially now that they are regularly about two hours long. HOWEVER I am also conscious of the fact that I tend to watch at LEAST two episodes of Whatever Show I'm Bingeing At The Moment and, in the case of "The Boys", three and a bit until I am unable to stay awake any longer.

"The Boys", by the way, is BLOODY BRILLIANT - what a world we live in, where TELLY has caught up with COMICS so much that it can not only do the Dark Commentary On The Genre that comics did in the 1990s, but do it WELL to such an extent that you just take for granted all the special effects that, only a few years ago, would have been beyond them. ALSO I am very pleased that I simply didn't bother reading any of The Cool Comics of the past 20 years or so, as it means that I get to watch "The Boys", "Umbrella Academy", "Preacher" and "The Walking Dead" without a CLUE what's going to happen!

ANYWAY, the point of this was to say that I basically DO watch nearly a film's worth of telly most days, so thought I'd have a go at watching some. ALSO The Clips In My Trailer was away on Friday night, so I had to do SOMETHING to take my mind off the existential loneliness. HENCE I sat down and watched "I Am Mother" on the Netflix. Here is my review: It was Quite Good. I'm pretty sure it could have been half an hour shorter, and there were several times when I thought "Hang on, why are you doing THAT?" but it passed very pleasantly, also Quite Excitingly.

The second film I watched, the next day, was "Get Out" and that was BLOODY BRILLIANT. I spent the first half thinking "EEK this is TOO TENSE, I can't watch any more!" and then the next quarter going "You WHAT? ARGH!" and then the final bit basically applauding how EXCELLENT it was. It reminded my of "Back To The Future" in a lot of ways (NB I may be the only person to think this) because of the SCRIPT which was, not to mince words, EXQUISITE. Every single AMAZING TWIST was very carefully, very cleverly set up in such a way that you never saw it coming but, when you did, your brain went "Hang one, how did that... OH YEAH!" There's a reveal towards the very very end about why some characters act the way they did that made me want to IMMEDIATELY watch the whole thing all over again. It was AMAAAAAZING!

And then on Sunday I went to the Actual Pictures to watch "Blinded By The Light" as we'd seen it on The Film Review on the news channel and it looked good. Review: IT WAS! It was very obviously directed by the same person who did "Bend It Like Beckham" and there were LOADS of places where they were clearly doing something Just Because It Was Cool rather than for narrative purposes, and lots of the supporting characters were JUST supporting characters, but the main plot was EXTREMELY MOVING - almost as if the story of a boy growing up in a nowhere town in the 80s who wanted to be a writer had some sort of RESONANCE to me, who can say? ALSO for the first time in my life it made me understand why so many people I know LOVE Bruce Springsteen so much. He's sort of like an American Billy Bragg isn't he? I have bought the soundtrack album anyway, so will give it a go - I hear he does a version of our song "Glory Days", so he can't be all bad.

In summary then: FILMS! they range from quite good to AMAZING, and therefore are worth a go every own and again!

posted 12/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Today I am very happy to say that The Plinthsmania EP by John Dredge & The Plinths (feat. ME!) is available to stream, listen to and, partially at least, WATCH!

This is the set of songs that we recorded AGES ago with Mr A Brook in Surry (who I saw last week) and features a whole bunch of songs what I wrote with Mr J Dredge. The lead track is called Idiots Run The World and there is a rather MARVELOUS video to go with it, THUS:

If ever a song was released at precisely the correct time, socio-politically, I believe it is THIS one!

posted 6/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Annual Art Day
On Sunday The Picture In My Frame and I embarked on our Big Annual ART DAY, where we go into London Town and look at a load of ART. We don't JUST do this once a year of course - we are dead sophisticated - but this is the day when we always go to two or more SPECIFIC Art Events in the same day.

The first of these was The Serpentine Pavilion at The Serpentine Gallery, what we go to every year. This time we took a rather circuitous four-stage route of trains and tubes to get there which took a while but allowed us to almost entirely miss out the stinky Central Line, and then walked through the park to the gallery via a LOT of parrots. It's always good to go and see the pavilion because it is not only a Unique and Interesting Installation, but it is also one guaranteed to have BEER on sale within it, and so we sat on a bench with a drink admiring this year's presentation, which is basically as SLATE ROOF without a building beneath it. It was DEAD GOOD.

We then went into the gallery to look at the Faith Ringgold exhibition, which was quite good but didn't move me as much as I wanted to. It was quite similar to the Victoria Crowe exhibition in this and one other way - I think I preferred the earlier stuff. You can put the indie kid in an art gallery, but you can't stop him being indie!

We then HIKED across London for about 50 minutes until we reached Trafalgar Square, where we we nipped into The National Portrait Gallery for a well deserved sandwich and another BEER. We were also there to make our usual visit to see the BP Portrait Awards, which has varied a LOT over time, with some years (like last year) being DEAD GOOD and others being a bit bland/disappointing/GLOOMY. This year's fell quite neatly into the bland category, with an awful lot of those pictures where you have to look in REALLY close to see it's a painting rather than a photograph. It's all very clever, but I don't see the point, especially when it's a perfect replica of a not very good photograph. Why not just put a frame around the photo? Having said that, The Eye Of My Beholder did like Eden (Protection) which looked AMAZING. I think I may also have been put off by the caption to Ninety Years which said that the subject's "facial expression and hands serve as a metaphor for her life." NO THEY DON'T. Faces and hands can be reflections, or expressions, or even the RESULT of a life, but they are not flipping metaphors!

There was to be MUCH more of this sort of stuff - "Art Bollocks" as we in the trade call it, don't you know - when we got to our final stop, but happily it was more than made up for by some BRILLIANT exhibits. For LO! we got on the tube again and headed to Regents Park for the Frieze Sculpture park, which was BLOODY GRATE. Our favourites included a replica of a toy car scaled up to actual car-size, some GIGANTIC numbers and, my favourite, "Superhero Cog Woman #1" by LR Vandy.

There were LOADS of GRATE sculptures which were being enjoyed by some very happy people out for a stroll around them. There was also some NONSENSE, including a sculpture that was described as circular "like the sun, the moon, the earth, the eye, the mother's breast, or the galaxy." I am PRETTY SURE that those last two are not actual circles, chaps.

Despite that it was a BRILLIANT way to end a THOROUGHLY enjoyable day wandering around drinking beer and looking at THE ART. I would highly recommend it, and can't wait for next year!

posted 5/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Rocking All Over The World (Surrey branch)
I had a lovely day yesterday, as I was in distant SURREY, doing some recording with Mr A Brook at The Brook Recording Studio. Andy used to have a studio on Denmark Street where, many years ago, I used to pop in at lunchtimes to record DEMOES, and since then I have taken every opportunity to visit his new place, notably recently with The Plinths. On this occasion however I was there to record my vocal and guitar bits for the HITS that The Validators recorded in Derby last month, and I was RIGHT looking forward to it!

I'd taken the day off work for the SESSION and spent a large part of my morning on TRANES. It took nearly two HOURS to get down to Wallington where Andy has his studio, including DELAYS, but when I got there I found he had already loaded up the STEMS what I had sent him the night before and he was SO READY TO ROCK that I barely had time to put my bag and guitar down before I was shepherded into the Vocal Booth. This is one of the SEVERAL reasons I like recording with Andy - he is SUPER KEEN to GET ON WITH IT, so we always get LOADS done!

Once in the vocal booth (i.e. cupboard) I was surprised to see a TELLY on the wall which acted as a VIDEO RELAY so I could see Andy at his desk and he, terrifyingly, could see ME! This is obviously useful when you're doing this sort of thing, but I must admit I have become used to the comforting SECRECY of doing vocals inside a cupboard where nobody can see you. When I'm doing The Vocals I have a tendency to wrap my arms and hands up in knots, pull faces, and DANCE AROUND, but I quickly realised that I am surely not the only person to do this, and that if you're a studio engineer you probably see a lot worse, so relaxed into my usual Ian Curtis/Strictly Come Dancing/Drunken Octupus CAVORTING.

Doing the LOT took about 90 minutes, with me generally doing one complete take straight through and then doing a second take with stops whenever I went wrong followed by PATCHING UP to get it sounding decent. It's another great thing about going and doing this in a studio with someone who is Very Patient - if I'd been on my own I would have done one take of each song and then RAN AWAY!

With that all done we moved onto THE GUITAR, which was HORRIBLE. I am not the world's greatest singer but at least I can BELLOW and call it some kind of STYLISTIC CHOICE, but my guitar playing is entirely irredeemable, and it sounds even WORSE when it is EXPOSED as the sole FOCUS of an activity. We did get everything done in the end but it was PAINFUL, especially when my inability to play the chord B minor reared its ugly head (as it so often does) and we ended up recording those bits as their own special overdubs. The only bright spots in the whole terrifying experience were when Andy assured me that the reason my guitar kept going out of time with the rest of the band was that THEY - not me, THEY - were going wonky. I must remember to get this down in writing next time I'm there.

The SCARIEST bit though came when I attempted to begin two entirely NEW recordings, of Cheer Up Love and It's Hard To Be Hopeful. My initial idea was just to DO them, with a click track to HELP THE OTHERS LATER, but instead I ended up trying to JUST do the guitar parts, which didn't work at all as I kept getting lost. Instead I recorded a GUIDE vocal and guitar first, which went ALL OVER THE PLACE on both occasions as I was thinking about approx 17 different things at the same time. We then did GUITAR for each, by which time my fingertips were in AGONY from all the playing, so by the time I FINALLY went back into the vocal both I was in A Bit Of A State, with heart RACING. Happily the singing was a nice way to CALM DOWN and feel better, and it sounded PRETTY DARN GOOD in the end.

With that done there was time to sit and have a bit of a natter while Andy sorted out the STEMS what we'd recorded ready for export. It turns out that he has been recording STATUS QUO, and that Francis Rossi, unsurprisingly, has a LOT of stories to tell!

With that done we shook hands and I set off for my train, full of JOY at how it had all gone, and it was only when I got to Norwood Junction that I realised I had left my flipping guitar behind in the studio! Even this hassle, which will probably involved EITHER meeting Andy in town sometime or heading back down to Wallington, did nothing to take the shine of things, as it had been a BRILLIANT day adding extra HIT-MATERIAL to a whole set of HITS!

posted 2/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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All The World's A Comic
On Friday after work I went back to my old stomping ground of BLOOMSBURY to attend an event at The British Museum - or, as all the cool kids call it, "The BM". It was BRILLIANT being round that way again - I worked in Bloomsbury at Birkbeck College from 2003 to 2014, and then adjacent to it a couple of years later at UCL, and I flipping LOVED it. The whole area is full of MUSEUMS and INTERESTING PLACES and SHOPS both Chain and Non-Chain and mostly PUBS. Much as I love my current job the area around Kings Cross is nowhere NEAR as much fun!

One of my favourite things to do when I was at Birkbeck was to pop into the British Museum on my lunchbreak, just to go and see one Interesting Exhibit at a time. I would usually pop in via the back door, and did the same on Friday night, passing the Easter Island statue (i.e. Arthur in "Storm House") on the way. It was very WARM in the main building, but thankfully the talk I was going to was in the air-conditioned basement, where various staff members somehow knew EXACTLY what I was there for.

For LO! the talk was called "All The World's A Comic: Storytelling Through Pictures" and the audience contained a large proportion of The Usual Suspects. It was chaired by all-round legend Mr Paul Gravett and featured a talk by HIM and then from five EXPERTS from the museum, discussing items they looked after which related to narrative storytelling. I knew Paul Gravett's talk would be fun, but I was expecting the others to be a bit DRY and BORING, and possibly not much related to comics. In this expectation I was ENTIRELY WRONG however, as each of the experts were INCREDIBLY ENTHUSIASTIC and REALLY REALLY wanted to tell us about their items. They all had different styles too - some bombastic, some a bit cheeky, some just desperate to tell us why they found it all SO VERY EXCITING!

It didn't teach me a lot about comics, but it DID teach me a lot about ROCK PAINTING, the ancient Assyrians, Buddhism, and LOTS more. One of the amazing things about living in That London is that talks like this happen EVERY DAY, all over the city. If I wasn't worried that my BRANE would explode I would go to them all the time!

posted 29/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Financial Management Of ROCK
As well as being peerless pioners of ROCK ACTION, The Validators also have an enviable track record in revolutionising ROCK ADMIN. Our development of The Spreadsheet Of ROCK, for instance, has helped literally MILLIONS* of young bands successfully manage their time in recording studios, and our use of Good Practice in Procedureal Issues has been a major part of our dominance in the field of Being Good At Having Band Meetings (*I expect).

This trend is set to continue in the future, notably in the GRATE new idea for Physical Product which we shall be using for our forthcoming series of EPs, but also in terms of FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT. For LO! after years of having "the record company" (hem hem) paying for the recording and release of our Physical Products, we are now moving to a CO-OPERATIVE model whereby funds ACCRUED by said band are used to fund things. This change has come about entirely because of our ongoing desire to experiment and innovate, and definitely not because "the record company" works in the public sector and has basically had pay cuts for the past ten years!

This decision came at quite a good time for us, as we have recently done TWO gigs that actually PAID US MONEY, which we were able to put into a notional FUND to pay for other stuff. This was all very jolly when money was just coming IN, but gets a bit more complex when it starts to go OUT for things like rehearsals and recording sessions, so over the past few days I have been in correspondence with our Financial Director Mr T "The Tiger" MacClure, to find ways to formalise our processes.

(if you're wondering wht Tom is our Financial Director, it's because he is REALLY GOOD at Going And Asking For The Money after gigs, and has even on occasion come back with MORE money than expected. Various previous Financial Directors have often come back looking SHEEPISH having got too embarrassed to bring the subject up)

All this led to us setting up our own BAND PayPal account (Tim's idea!) where money can both be deposited and sent out from, enabling individual band members to PAY for stuff and then claim the money back, and also for us ALL to see what we've got left. EXCITINGLY we also now have one of them Google Spreadsheets which shows what we've spent AND ALSO what we still need to spend.

This last bit of PLANNING has been, genuinely, QUITE EXCITING, as it shows HOW we can do our next batch of releases and, by extension, affirms that we WILL! As mentioned previously, we're hoping to put out at least three EPs of new material, with the first coming later this year, and seeing it all written down like this is rather LOVELY as it makes it all look highly do-able. The next ACTION POINT, once the financial plan has been discussed, amended, and agreed by the entire BOARD... sorry, BAND, will be to get on with some more recording. I'm booked in to do my bits next week, and I can't WAIT - nothing says ROCK AND FLIPPING ROLL like a properly budgeted recording session!

posted 24/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Edinburgh Again
Myself and The Lava In My Volcano had a BRILLIANT time this weekend, as we went on a MINI BREAK to Edinburgh. AGANE!

As previously, we booked our train WELL in advance, which meant we got to go FIRST. This is always good, but especially so when travelling on a weekday as they give you tonnes of FREE BOOZE and also GRUB. Going up on Friday we got veggie WRAPS, but coming back on Monday we got ACTUAL CURRY on PLATES. It was well swanky!

Also as last time we stayed in the Premier Inn Hub, which The Guests In My Rooms described, correctly, as "like a posh youth hostel", notably because instead of a BAR or RESTAURANT it has a sort of mini-REFECTORY where you could go any time day or night to get free tea and coffee, with a FRIDGE to get beer from and a counter to pay for it at, also to get stuff like TOAST. It made the whole place feel very SOCIABLE, and we even CHATTED to some other guests!

One of the (many) lovely things about going to Edinburgh is that we have both been there A LOT so didn't feel the need to dash around doing things, which meant that on Friday we just went for a bit of a WANDER round, then had some tea. Saturday was a bit more ACTIVE, kicking off with us going to see Victoria Crowe: Fifty Years Of Painting on the recommendation of a work chum. It was Really Quite Good - I especially liked the paintings of the SHEPHERDESS she used to live next to, though we both wondered how it would feel to have a Posh Artist move in next door and then keep bothering you with her easel. The exhibition was THORT PROVOKING in many ways, notably about PRIVILEGE in ART i.e. it always seems to be Posh People painting pictures of and for OTHER Posh People which are then BOUGHT by Posh People in a huge network of Awards and Honours also for and by Posh People. I know this one was about an artist who started half a century ago, so you could say it is as a result of being from A Different Time, but I'm not so sure things have changed that much.

After THAT we zoomed round to The National Museum Of Scotland to go on one of their themed TOURS. The one we rocked up for was called "Strokes Of Luck", which involved an EXCELLENT Retired Psychologist taking us around a hugely varied bunch of ARTEFACTS which had been found through, or discovered involving, or were very very vaguely linked to the idea of, LUCK. To be honest the theme didn't really hold up, but it was a BRILLIANT way to zoom around the MASSIVE collection, and we got to see some brilliant things, notably the BERSERKER from the Lewis Chess Pieces who did NOT look like Slaine but DID very much look like a LOON. We also got to see the TAPESTRY version of one of our favourite paintings from the Victoria Crowe exhibition, Large Tree Group.

We spent the rest of the day doing further Wandering About, notably round Greyfriar's Kirk which, after a MILLION visits to Edinburgh, neither of us had been to before. It turned out to be full of Harry Potter fans, and also the sound of The Proclaimers soundchecking at the castle! Further wandering took us down Calton Road where, after YEARS of thinking about it, I finally located the site of Calton Studios where I did my very first EVER Edinburgh Fringe show in - YIKES! - 1990!

On our last full day we went for a MASSIVE HIKE up Arthur's Seat, which involved a LENGTHY return journey round the base after someone (it doesn't matter who) got a bit confused about the best way down. It was a GRATE walk, but crikey, it didn't half hurt the next day - my Fenland legs are not meant for such things!

In the evening we met my SISTER for the PUB and then a GIG, as we'd booked tickets to see Hamish Stuart from The Average White Band. It's not the sort of thing ANY of us would usually do, but it seemed rude to go to Edinburgh during a festival (the Blues & Jazz one in this case) and NOT see a show. The support band were RUBBISH - they were very Proficient and Competent, but they had no TUNES or indeed POINT and (most HEINOUS of ALL band crimes) they not only did Introducing The Band TWICE, but when they did it none (NONE!) of the band did the traditional BIT. When you say "On BASS, Kenny Rhythm!" (for example) Kenny is SUPPOSED to e.g. play that bit off of Gracelands, but all they did was NOD and smile. DISGRACEFUL!

Hamish Stuart and co, however, were BLOODY BRILLIANT. It was sort of like the first time I saw Belle & Sebastian and thought "Oh THAT'S what this sort of music is MEANT to sound like!" in that it was all the usual FUNKY THINGS you see bands like that do, but GRATE. They were a DELIGHT to watch, ENGAGING between songs, clearly having fun and, astoundingly for me who always wants a song to finish after two minutes, it was ACTUALLY ENJOYABLE when they started mucking around and RIFFING. I could hardly believe what I was hearing - there were GUITAR SOLOES and they were A GOOD THING!!

It was, all in all, a pretty bloody brilliant holiday and one I would recommend to ALL. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, I'm going up again NEXT month!

posted 23/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Rocking Woolwich
On Sunday I headed over to distant WOOLWICH (Abbey Wood, to be specific) where I was due to meet The Validators to play at the "Abbey Acoustics" day at Lesnes Abbey. I had never been to that particular bit of London, so was astonished when I came out of the station to find that I appeared to be on the VERY EDGE of the entire city, looking out of a SPACESHIP BALCONY onto The Actual Countryside. In one direction: LONDON. In the other: HILLS!

I stomped round to the Abbey grounds to find Mr T Eveleigh, promoter, waiting. Tim - or Big Tim as he is known round our way for avoidance of confusion - had booked us in his capacity as The Only Promoter Left Who Still Books Us, on a bill with the ever mighty Grace Petrie. The whole event was being run by the local council, which meant we got paid and there was a LOT of nice gear to use, but there was also the small matter of the council not remembering to actually promote it very much, so it was Not Exactly Rammed!

The Validators arrived (with Tom and Frankie having come via The Woolwich Ferry, which made all concerned VERY JEALOUS INDEEED), as did various pals including The Hull Of My Boat, Mr W Pilkington, Mr M Tiller, The Hewitts, Mr D Greene, and various members of Clan Pattison. It felt like what I believe the young people refer to as MY SQUAD i.e. a TONNE of lovely people what I have ROCKED variously with the years. Ms E and Ms L Pattison managed to secure us the use of one of the PAGODAS that had been set up as shelter, so we even had our own AREA to spend the afternoon in.

And WHAT a lovely afternoon it was - the sun shone, BEER was had (via a couple of supermarket runs) and there was much YACKING, only slightly interrupted by the fact that we had to go and do a GIG in the middle of it all. The stage was one of those with an INFLATABLE ROOF, which made it feel very WARM, much like distant memories of being inside a bouncy castle and we thus duly all took our SHOES off when we performed.

The gig went pretty well for the most part - the sound was GRATE, and the audience, though a bit far off (there was a whole row of pagodas about thirty feet away from the stage, and most people were comfortably sat around them), seemed to like it - but there were some ISSUES in the middle. Somebody - and there's no point saying who, it could have been anybody - forgot the WORDS quite a lot and, when it came time to do Have A Drink With Us was unable to remember what the chords were. We then launched into Payday instead and discovered EXACTLY the same problem. SOME members of the band found this HILARIOUS, but it should be noted that whoever it was was distracted by the fact that the soundmen had had to MIC UP his guitar because the pickup wasn't working, so he was unable to JIG ABOUT as much as usual, or to turn round during songs to see what everyone was up to.

Despite all that, it all went off jolly well (even if when we eventually DID do Have A Drink With Us the chords were soemwhat more VARIED than usual), with THIS as our eventual setlist:
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • I Don't Have To Worry About That
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met)
  • People Are All Right
  • Easily Impressed
  • We Did It Anyway

  • It was a LIVE (band) DEBUT for I Don't Have To Worry About That, and the highpoint I think was the determination of a section of the audience to BELLOW the "OI! HIBBETT!" bit of Easily Impressed from a distance. It was all bloody delightful, and continued to be so as we all sat around for a couple more hours, including a BRILLIANT performance by Ms G Patrie at the end. Flippin'eck, that is someone who knows how to work an audience, she was FAB!

    When it was all over we said our farewells, before a sub-group of us headed to the pub for a quick pint. It wasn't even seven o'clock when I got home, which was a VERY sophisticated way of doing a gig. More of this sort of thing please!

    posted 10/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Making Some Hits
    After the bizarre altercation on St Pancras platform earlier, my journey to Derby did not get much smoother. A train ahead of us had a "braking problem" which meant it got stuck at Market Harborough and we got stuck behind it. There had also been a line-side fire overnight, near Wellingborough, which not only LOOKED like the apocalypse but also SMELT like it when we went past. The staff on the train were GRATE, with regular announcements keeping us up to date, even if it was just to say "We don't know when we'll be moving, but we're trying to find out." It's EXACTLY the right thing to do - if you TELL people what's going on they don't PANIC, and everything is MUCH less stressful.

    What with one thing and another we ended up getting into Derby precisely 60 minutes late, which at least was good news for my Delay Repay Claim, but did mean I missed my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE bit of any band-based activity i.e. setting up the drums. Ask anybody in a band, they will tell you that that is the BEST BIT, especially when it goes on for HOURS. I hopped in a taxi, but by the time I reached Snug Studio Tim had nearly finished hitting things repeatedly. EPIC SADFACE!

    For LO! I was up there for a recording session with The Validators, or in this case 80% of The Validators as Emma was not in attendance - there was unlikely to be time for ANY vocals we thought (correctly), but still I was surprised that she didn't come just to hear the rest of us doing puns about bands we saw thirty years ago and, occasionally, making a racket.

    The PLAN was to record drums and bass for a bunch of new tracks, which we're planning to release as EPs later in the year. Tom had brought his LAPTOP and logged the PLAN, which we discussed with Mr R Newman, studio WHIZZ and all-round CHUM. With that done, and instruments sorted out, we set to WORK!

    On previous occasions I have stood in the control room with Robbie and sometimes Tom, while Tim and Frankie occupy the studio, so that my vocals and AXEWORK don't leak into their tracks, but this time I was offered the chance to go in the VOCAL BOOTH instead. This worked REALLY well because it enabled me to LOOK at The Rhythm Section and give them CUES. The only downside was that it was Quite Warm in there, especially once we got going. Tom, meanwhile, remained in the room with the air conditioner and no drums.

    We had prioritised three songs - "People Are All Right", "You're A Tory Now" and "I Don't Have To Worry About That" - which we had learned up at our recent practice, and we got through them all in EXCELLENT time, having a few bashes at each and then returning to the control room where Robbie spent some time FIXING them. I'm not sure what he was doing - we are METRONOMIC in our timekeeping and FLAWLESS in our professional competence - but he seemed to spend quite a while doing it!

    With those in the bag, bass and drum-wise, we had a go at "I'm Doing The Ironing", which we'd rehearsed with the others, but had never gotten quite right. We spent about half an hour going through it, TIGHTENING UP various aspects so that, when we finally got round to a proper take, it sounded DEAD GOOD. We then did three MORE takes, until it sounded BLOODY GRATE - in previous years the final issued version of a track has often been the only time we ever managed to play it right to the end, but this time we had a go at making them a bit better too!

    While Robbie did some more inexplicable "fixes" to our clearly perfect musicianship we went back into the main room to have a go at something else. When last we'd met Tim had pointed out that, in our early days, we had OFTEN just learnt a song in the studio, without worrying about ever having to play it live, and that if we wanted to have some B-SIDES for the aforementioned EPs it surely wouldn't hurt to try it that way again. Thus we had a very brief go at "Facebook Manifesto", discovered it wasn't actually very good, and then did an ACE version of "An Office Ballad". It was FAB - VERY different to how I've been doing it live, and even MORE GRATE!

    By now we only had half an hour left, and two songs remaining on the "possibles" list. Tim revealed he didn't really like "Cheer Up Love" much, so we didn't do that one, and I wanted to save "It's Hard To Be Hopeful" for when I/we had a bit more time. Thus, without any other options, we went back in and DONE A JAM! I'm not sure whether it was any good or not, but we did at least have a go!

    All that remained was to get packed up, thank Robbie, and then head off. Frankie walked back with me towards the station, which gave us a chance to have a delicious PINT on the way before I got my train- this one went FINE, and also featured TV's Liz Kendall in my carriage!

    It was a DELIGHTFUL way to spend the day, and hopefully laid the foundations for some MASSIVE BANGERS in future. The only slight sadness to these occasions usually is me going away wishing I got to see The Validators more often, but there was no need in this case, as I would be seeing them the very next day!

    posted 9/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Platform Altercation
    I had a very strange experience at St Pancras station on Saturday morning. I'd booked on the 09:02 train to Derby, where I was due to do some recording with The Validators (more on which another time), and when the platform was announced at about 08:45 I, along with several hundred other people, went to get on board.

    When we got to the train the doors were still locked, which isn't that unusual, but then they stayed locked. It got to 09:02 with them still that way, and no announcements whatsoever about what was going on, so I thought I'd go and ask. It's always annoying when train companies leave you like that - even if they made an announcement to say "We'll find out what's going on" it would reassure people that their train isn't going to just leave without them.

    Keeping an eye on the train to make sure it didn't do just that, I walked back down the platform to the area near the ticket gates, where two members of staff were having a chat. I asked what was happening with the train, and one of them, a big bloke dressed in a management suit rather than uniform, started suddenly laying into me. "Be patient!" he yelled. "We're waiting for a driver!" I was shocked at how suddenly, very aggresively, angry he was (I'd asked very politely!) so said "Could you tell us all that? There's all these people waiting - " "We didnt' know did we? We've only just found out ourselves, which is why we're making an announcement now," he shouted, pointing at his colleague, who then took out a walkie-talkie and made an announcement. It was all a bit weird, not just because he was SO AGGRESSIVE about it, but because they had clearly not only just been informed - before they'd spoken to me I'd seen them chatting to each other without doing anything, and anyway the train had been locked for 15 minutes and should already have left!

    "Now go back and wait for your train," he said, jabbing his finger at me. Look at all those other people - everybody else is waiting, you're the only one who's complained."

    "You're the first to complain" is one of those things that arseholes always say, as if that invalidates what you're doing - in this case I was the first because I was at the near end of the train. The whole experience was ASTONISHING - he seemed to be FURIOUS, as if I'd accused him of something, instead of just asking when the train was going. I've had all sorts of bother from East Midlands trains and their predecessors over nearly 30 years, but never anything like this.

    "Is this how you do customer service at East Midlands Trains?" I asked (yes, that is an INCREDIBLY ENGLISH way to protest!). "Yes it is!" he said. "Now go back to your train and wait."

    It was UTTERLY WEIRD, but then it got worse! I went back to the train, shaking, and then thought "Hang on a minute, he can't get away with that." Like most people i have met bullies like this at various points of my life, and have realised that they behave this way because they CAN. Here in The Future, however, we have tools to help us STAND UP to them, so I turned back round and got my phone out to take a picture of him, so I could report exactly who had been so horrible.

    He was stood in the middle of the platform watching me - triumphant at his victory I guess - but when he saw my phone come out he turned around and started walking away. This bloody infuriated me, so I marched back down to try and get round him. He moved around, hiding his face, and said "Yeah yeah, get your phone out." He then got HIS phone out and held it up in my face, so I couldn't get a picture of him. "I'll take a picture of you shall I?" he said.

    I took my picture and started to move away, and he said "It's illegal to take pictures of staff on the platform!" This infuriated me even more - this is ANOTHER thing that bullies ALWAYS say, it's the equivalent of some git on a messageboard in olden times saying "That's LIBEL that is, I'm going to SUE you."

    "No it's not," I said, "And anyway, you've just taken a picture of me!"

    "Oh yeah, do you want to see my pictures?" he said. Goodness knows what that meant, but at this point another member of staff came over, presumably to calm him down, which was handy as I had a witness when he shouted "I'm going to smack that phone out of your hand!" "Did you hear that?" I said. "He's threatening me with violence!" "I said I was going to SNATCH it out of your hand," he shouted, as if that was entirely different (it's not what he said).

    It was all WEIRD, especially as it had begun with me asking what was going on with a train! I turned and went back to the train because, to be honest, my brain had realised that this was all a bit scary. He was a big bloke, clearly not used to being challenged and, I guess, in a position of power, and he really did look like he was going to thump me! A few minutes later the doors finally opened and I got on the train, shaking with adrenelain, and TWEETED East Midlands Trains about it. I gave them most of the details above and they said they were sorry that I felt I was "not addressed in the correct manner" (!) and that they'd investigate, but that "Usually in these types of situations it's one persons perception of events against another and emotions can run high in stressful situations", which I felt was pretty much a guarantee that they'd do sod all!

    It was an EXTREMELY weird, and frightening, experience. Thank goodness the rest of the weekend was a bit more fun!

    posted 8/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    More Conferring, More Showing Off
    I've spent the past two days at ANOTHER conference, this time in the city of LIVERPOOL. It was not QUITE as interesting as the previous conference, as this one was about WORK rather than COMICS, but still it had its moments.

    HONESTY forces me to say that the most fun bit (for ME) was on the second morning, when I'd agreed to do a "lightning talk" in a session where people talked about their experience using ELEMENTS, the computer system that we were there to talk about. There were meant to be six slots in the session, but just before I got up to do my bit I was informed that, out of the TWO people who had agreed to do it, I was the only one who'd shown up! Luckily for all concerned I don't mind a bit of showing off, and was this very happy to a) get some actual LARFS at 09.50am when talking about a computer system and b) share some of my INISGHT and KNOWLEDGE i.e. I always check our SYSTEM LOGS in the morning to see who's had trouble logging in, then EMAIL them with one of two standard emails to tell them what they need to do to make it work - I always think this helps stop people either PANICKING or going and telling all their friends that the system is rubbish and broken, and assumed it was Standard Practice, but a couple of people afterwards said they were going to start doing it themselves. Does this make me a THORT LEADER?

    The rest of the conference was the usual mix of Interesting Things, Not Very Interesting Things, and Lots Of Biscuits. I'd gone up early on Tuesday morning and headed back straight after it had all finished on Wednesday, so didn't get much time to look at Actual Liverpool - I could have done some sightseeing on Tuesday night, but I had some FOOTBALL to watch. There has been a LOT of drama, controversy, borderline cheating, bad behaviour, dodgy decisions, ludicrous skills and general PALAVER about The Women's World Cup, and as this is EXACTLY the sort of thing I like most about International Football, I have THOROUGHLY enjoyed it. I must admit though, a little of the PAIN of England going out was taken off by the fact that it won't now interfere with our GIG on Sunday at Lesnes Abbey - I don't think the festival is quite big enough for a BIG SCREEEN TV to watch it on!

    posted 4/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Comics Conferring
    I spent most of last week in the city of Manchester for the International Graphic Novels And Comics Conference. It was a whole WEEK of people talking about comics in a scholarly way, which was a) fun but also b) a LOT!

    Manchester, it turns out, is quite an expensive place to stay in, so to save money on my accomodation I ended up having to set off on Monday morning rather than staying the night before. It was VERY early - registration was at 9am so I had to get up at 5AM IN THE MORNING to catch the 6.36am train - but it all went fine and I made it to venuew good time. It carried on being fine until lunchtime when I realised I was KNACKERED and so went off to my hotel to a) check in b) have a NAP.

    I stayed in the Premier Inn in Media City, which was very pleasant, just about affordable, but a LONG way away. It took me about an hour to get between my room and the conference each day, but the good part about that was that I got to go on the TRAMS every time - I do like trams and these were dead good ones. It was also Quite Exciting being in Media City, especially in the mornings when I'd put BBC Breakfast telly on and think "That's just round the corner from here!"

    The conference was about Comics and Transmedia which should have been RIGHT up my alley (NB my PhD is all about Doctor Doom and Transmedia) but, as ever with this sort of thing, in many cases people had thought "How on earth can I make MY research sound relevant?" and just said "storyworld" a couple of times while doing the traditional Here Is A Comic What I Have Read presentation. I was a bit disappointed also that TWO of the FOUR main people I wanted to see had dropped out since I registered, but the TWO I DID want to see were GRATE - I didn't learn a whole lot of NEW stuff from their talks, but it was EXTREMELY reassuring to UNDERSTAND about 90% of what they were on about and know that I was thus on the right tracks!

    Away from my Subject Area there were LOTS of very interesting talks, notably one that told me Alfred E Neumann existed before MAD Magazine, and another that PROVED that me and Steve's shows were ENTIRELY in the vein of RADICAL FRINGE THEATRE. Infuriatingly though, one of the best and most interesting talks was by one of my own supervisors, who talked about using Art Historical Techniques to show the similarities between Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland's work on "The Cursed Earth". It was dead good, but I could have got that sort of thing back in London!

    I also got to do a talk myself, in a slot at 9am on the very last day, which actually worked out well as a) only people REALLY interested in Marvel Comics And Transmedia could come b) the person before me in the session gave a REALLY interesting talk about Marvel Legacy and Marvel Now! and then c) the final person didn't show up so d) we had plenty of time for a LENGTHY discussion with the aforesaid ENGAGED audience members. It was brillo!

    An interesting thing I discovered was a shop called BOOTHS which is apparently known as "The Waitrose Of The North" because it TOTALLY IS. Next time someone from The North claims that Southern people are too posh I shall highlight my knowledge of this fact. They're all eating focaccia up there!

    I did manage to CARVE OUT some spare time for myself over the week, especially on Wednesday when I did a LOT of work on The Book (which is now onto - hopefully - final re-writes) and then ended up going back to the hotel to watch THE FOOTBALL. Here is my excellent joke about The Lionesses: "They are so GRATE at The Football, you might almost forget that they are ... (pause for effect) ... ENGLISH". Thank you very much! My other joke is an HILARIOUS RIFF around the idea of having "Comics Studies Bingo" where (HOLD ONTO YOUR SIDES) once you have ticked off all the buzzword you shout... "MAUS!"


    It was a very good, very interesting week, but I tell you what, I was glad to get back on the train when it was all over. It made my BRANE hurt!

    posted 1/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    8 Bit Symphony and Hull Itself
    On Saturday morning myself and The Seats In My Carriage headed north to distant HULL where we were due to attend a CONCERT called 8 Bit Symphony at the invitation of the organiser, Mr C Abbott. It's AGES since I was last in Hull, so I was looking forward to going back. As it turned out, I was RIGHT to do so.

    We had our first inkling that it was going to a fun weekend when we were on the way to our hotel. We stomped through Old Town heading for what we thought was a standard issue, possibly Millenium-related, pedestrian bridge, only to find it not only gently CHIMING, but also MOVING! As we approached it looked like some weird structure was moving down the river, but when we got there it turned out to be The Scale Lane Swing Bridge, a moveable bridge that sort of ROTATES round to allow boats down the river, and is the only one in the whole world that lets people SIT ON IT while it does so, while chiming a little tune. This only happens once a day on Saturdays so we felt entirely BLESSED to happen to be there just as it was in motion!

    The Premier Inn we were staying in was perched right on top of a multi-storey car park, which meant that the lifts and staircases were all a bit, well, car park-y, but also that we had an AMAZING view out over the Humber. Once we were ENFRESHENED we headed back into Hull for TEA and then to the Hull City Hall for the concert.

    The idea behind "8 Bit Symphony" had been brewing for YEARS, and you could see the amount of THOUGHT and PLANNING that had gone into it right from the start. There were stalls inside the (hugely impressive) building, merchandise, illustrated title cards for each piece of music and also specially commisioned VIDEOS which played along with the different tunes. The actual music was supplied by The Hull Philharmonic Orchestra, performing adaptations of classic 8-bit computer game theme songs. When I say "8-bit" I actually mean Commordore 64 theme songs, so I didn't really recognise any of them, but it sounded FABULOUS, and there was an ENORMOUS amount of love in the room, both for the nostalgia and for the HUGE team effort that had gone into it all. It was GRATE!

    We had bumped into various chums, including Mr A Fisher and Mr W Pilkington, and in the morning at breakfast we also saw Mr C Abbott again, which gave us the chance to tell him what an outstanding achievement he had achieved. I do hope he gets to put it on again somewhere else, it was amazing!

    Once we had reached the point in a Premier Inn Breakfast where NO MORE FOOD is possible we checked out and went to do some SIGHTSEEING. We started off at Hull Minster, where we were lucky enough to catch the last ten minutes of the current Vicar's last service, in which he very tactfully acknowledged that people in Hull are a lot more "self-effacing" than where he's going next i.e. Liverpool. This was very true - everywhere we went the people of Hull were friendly and welcoming and mostly self-effacing, although the spokesperson from Hull College, who sponsored the event the night before, did say that Hull is forever being put down by people who have never been there, and that it deserves a lot more praise as a Unique Place than it gets. I agree!

    We had a look round the Minster, which is GORGEOUS, and then headed to the Ferens Art Gallery. This turned out to be an excellent example of the way Hull doesn't seem to promote itself very well - it was BRILLIANT, yet I'd never heard of it, and it didn't appear anywhere when we tried to google Things Of Interest In Hull before we set out. We only thought to pop in because we'd passed it on the way to the hotel, but we were VERY glad we did.

    There were two highlights for us, the first being a chalk sketch of Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein the Younger which was a) oddly MOVING as it was so REAL and b) dead interesting because you could see lots of little DOTS around the outlines, which apparently was for an MEDIEVAL version of TRACING. The second was an exhibition of contemporary art called Is This Planet Earth ESPECIALLY the stuff by an artist called Dan Hays who did big canvas made up of painted DOTS, like pixels, which transformed into pictures as you moved away from them. Saying it like that makes it sound BORING and OBVIOUS, but being in the room with them they were AMAZING things. I recommend having a look if you get a chance!

    In fact I recommend Hull in general, if and when it is available to you. We had a bloody brilliant time there, I hope it's not so long before I get to go back again!

    posted 18/6/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Down The Road From My House Fringe
    There was a miniature THEATRE FESTIVAL in The Olympic Village Where We Live last week - they'd hired a "Pop Up Theatre" from Paines Plough and booked a bunch of SHOWS to put in them and, being less than five minutes from our front door, it seemed RUDE not to go to at least one or two shows, so that is what we did!

    Once we got inside the theatre for our first show on Sunday we found it to be LOVELY, surprisingly so in fact. From the outside it looked like it was going to be a HOT TENT, but inside it was Actually Comfortable teired seating in the round with proper facilities and not BOILING HOT. The only downside was that it didn't have a bar in it!

    The show we saw that night was Not Very Good. From the blurb it looked SUSPICIOUSLY like a two-man musical featuring general titting about, which FOR SOME REASON appealed to me. Unfortunately for all concerned, however, it was just a bit rubbish - I had had cause to listen to a little bit of Moon Horse earlier in the week, and I can tell you this: It was NO MOON HORSE.

    It started off OK, but it soon became clear that this was very much a Work In Progress. This would be FINE if it had been advertised (and charged for!) as such, but if definitely wasn't. Actually, saying it was "in progress" would have been charitable anyway, as they gave the distinc impression that they'd not done it ANYWHERE before. The "Work" bit was questionable too, as we both thought it needed A LOT OF WORK doing to it. There was no proper story, the songs were a bit boring, and there just weren't enough GAGS in it.

    We DID enjoy slagging it off on the way home though, which is always a big part of the fun of going to the Edinburgh Fringe anyway! When we got back I did my usual thing when I see Rubbish Comedians In Fancy Venues: I googled them to see if they went to Oxford or Cambridge. INVARIABLY they will turn out to be one or the other, and I was not disappointed this time, especially when I got the BONUS RESULT of discovering that one of them is also the POSH SON of a POSH HUMOURIST!

    The next day's show was MUCH MUCH MUCH BETTER, when we went to see a double-bill of Rob Auton and Rhys James. Again, this was a Work In Progress and again it wasn't advertised as such, but a) it was a double bill so basically HALF PRICED and b) it was GRATE. I've never seen Rhys James before, but he was very good indeed - I mean, he's very much a young white male stand-up comedian doing stand-up comedy, but he was EXTREMELY good at it and had A LOT of Actual Jokes, although it was a bit unsettling hearing him talk about the 1990s as a long time ago and MEAN it.

    Rob Auton was something else altogether, he is ACE. We've seen him before and thought similar thoughts e.g. that what he does is very close to being POETRY (especially this time as he was reading most of it out!) and also THOUGHTFUL with INTERESTING IDEAS and NEW OBSERVATIONS. On top of that though he is SUPER-ENGAGING and has, again, LOADS of Actual Jokes. It was, in short, a FAB night out which more than made up for the night before!

    It also kind of made me want to pop up to the Fringe again sometime. A Day Return's doable, right?

    posted 30/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Staying Up For The Results
    On Sunday evening The Numbers In My Poll and I did our usual exercise of Staying Up For The Election Results, for LO! it was the night that the results were announced for the European Elections, and we had WHISKY in the cupboard!

    As is traditional on such events I was also in communication with my long-term ELECTION NIGHT BUDDY Mr T Pattison, who commented that it was very nice to have an election where the results came in EARLY. Not long after midnight most of the UK Results were in, which was EFFICIENT even if not particularly encouraging for the wellbeing of our NATION.

    Having said that, there was a surprising amount of happiness for me in the results, especially when the people on telly FINALLY LISTENED to me shouting at them through the screen, and pointed out that a) the Br*x*t Party had actually NOT gained 31% from NOTHING as they were basically UK*P and had just taken all their votes and b) if you added up the Definite Remain votes then we had MORE than the Definite Brexit ones. Also, as a lifetime Lib Dem, it is always nice to see them doing well again, and ESPECIALLY so when that happens alongside The Greens. It was at least SOMETHING to maintain good cheer in the face of the UTTER LOONIES who were BRAYING all over the television otherwise.

    Having it all get mostly announced before 1am meant that we had some WHISKY left to put back in the cupboard, but I am not resting on my BOOZE LAURELS as yet - we've got the Peterborough by-election to get through soon, and then I suspect we may have at least one more WHISKY NIGHT before the year is out!

    posted 29/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Festival Band
    On Saturday afternoon I headed back to Derby, where only a few short months ago The Validators and I had played at A Beer Festival. This time we were going to play at... a beer festival!

    For LO! The Furnace Inn (AKA Frankie's local) was having its Annual Beer Festival, and we had been invited to play! Well, I say "invited", it had actually come about due to the aforesaid Frankie fancying doing a gig at the end of his road, and so negotiating with a member of the Brewery Staff there to get us on the bill i.e. his own FIRSTBORN SON. What on earth they think they're doing employing a SIX YEAR OLD to brew their beer I am sure I do not know, but it certainly worked out for us!

    So it was that I met my fellow Validators in the beer garden, where the main band (we were on at 6.30pm - they had got in a proper local covers band to do the headline set!) were setting up their MASSIVE PA system beneath the GAZEBO. We had a DELIGHTFUL ninety minutes of CHAT, during which Tim was presented with The AAS Football Trophy for his success in The AAS Football Competition, and we hammered through some THORTS on our forthcoming recording session(s). The upshot of the latter was that The Validators are going to have a practice WITHOUT ME, as this is "easier to organise", apparently. I am sure it is not a COUP.

    The beer garden filled up with a wide range of lovely people, even including some who were not directly related to Frankie, and we took to the stage and did THIS:
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • Two Blokes, One Pub
  • Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met)
  • Hibbett's Golden Rules Of Beer
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Do The Indie Kid
  • Easily Impressed
  • We Did It Anyway

  • To be honest, I do not think I was at my GLORIOUS BEST for this set, as I couldn't really hear myself so SHOUTED to start with and thus lost VOICE towards the end, but everyone else was GRATE and people seemed to like it, which is very much The Main Thing!

    With the all done with we settled into a DELIGHTFUL rest of the evening which featured much discussion and MANY and various types of BEER, which was flipping delicious. As I always say, the GIG bit of Validators gigs are all well and good, but I mostly turn up for the hanging around before and afterwards!

    It was a lovely evening, although when Tim suggested going for a curry I had to excuse myself as being "too pissed for curry". I was actually too pissed to a) stay awake and b) communicate with other humans, but I made up for the lack of curry by joining The Pattisons and Chums next morning for a GINORMOUS Premier Inn breakfast! HOORAH! More of this sort of thing please!

    posted 28/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    It's been a long long time coming, but I'm happy to say that there will be another Plinths EP out in a few weeks time. It's called "Plintshmania" and you can see a thrilling trailer for the lead track HERE:

    It's good isn't it? Originally I was going to have a go at making something vaguely similar, but after approx 900 hours of trying I realised I had absolutely no idea what to do. Luckily Mr J Dredge had been talking to Jeff from Popaisy Productions who had a a) similar b) much better way to do it that invovled c) actual ability and competence. PHEW!

    "Idiots Run The World" is the first track, but there'll be three more available on Bandcamp, iTunes and all that. We recorded them WAY back in September last year alongside Pancake Day, so it will be a DELIGHT to finally get them out in the world!

    posted 23/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Game Of Thrones
    I got up at 6am in the Actual Morning on Monday, not for Work Reasons but to watch the final episode of Game Of Thrones. I did something similar a couple of weeks ago when I went to see Avengers: Endgame for exactly the same reason i.e. to avoid Annoying Sods Doing Spoilers, and this was the only way to do it!

    It's not the IDEAL way to watch the conclusion to ANY long-running franchise, but it did mean I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen, and I enjoyed it a LOT more because of it. In fact I enjoyed it quite a LOT - it wasn't packed with ACTION but then the best bits of the series have always tended to be People Saying Things In Rooms, and there was a LOT of that about. Also, there were several JOKES which I particularly enjoyed!

    Having got to the end I'd really quite like to go back to the start and watch the whole thing again. I haven't read the books and I've never re-watched an episode - I watched the first three seasons at HIGH SPEED on DVD boxsets, so there's LOTS I'll have missed along the way. Whenever I read a review it's always full of references to PROPHECIES or STATEMENTS from past issues that I have absolutely no memory of, so I'm sure I'll get something out of it. The only problem is that I've been watching it on the Now TV box, which DOES have all of the episodes on it at the moment, but only for another four weeks or so. I guess I COULD watch the lot between now and then, but I don't think I can face getting up early EVERY day to fit it all in!

    posted 22/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    The London Mithraeum
    This weekend The Provenance Of My Artifacts and I went to The London Mithraeum. It was DEAD GOOD!

    A mithraeum is a Temple Of Mithras i.e. a Roman church, and this one was discovered during an archeological excavation of a former bomb site in 1954. It's a bit like what you get at Vindolanda i.e. the layout of the walls up to about 3 feet high, and it's contained in a specially built museum underneath the new Bloomsberg Building. When it was first uncovered it was moved down the road to a new site for display, but when Bloomsberg bought the original site they decided to put it back (almost) in its original place, and build a museum around it.

    The Squares On My QR Code had heard about it when she'd been to a Thing at the building a little while ago, so we booked our (Free!) tickets and rolled up. I am on record as saying that my favourite sort of museum is a Museum Of One Thing, and this was NEARLY that - they had an art exhibition on the ground floor, but otherwise it was ALL Roman Stuff, including a really clever display of artefacts found on the site, shown in a vertical glass cabinet.

    Downstairs from that was a darkened room, which the aforesaid Text In My Caption suggested was to prepare our EYES for a darker room to come. She was correct, and we remained there for a while as we waited for our turn to go in, reading some VERY good computer display screens that told us all about the MYSTERIOUS cult of Mithras. Actually, it didn't seem all that mysterious to us - it was an all-male sect made up of ex-soldiers, civil servants and building contractors who met regularly for secret rituals and then a lot of booze. Surely that's The Masons isn't it?

    When it was our turn we headed down another level to the mithraeum itself, seven metres below current street level. This is something that always bothers me - why is Old Stuff always so far underground? I know about rubbish and rubble and dust and all that, but surely that stuff must COME from somewhere? Did the world used to be populated with gigantic mounds of Loose Earth that gradually blew over everything? Or did there used to be Old Stuff that would now be hanging in mid-air?

    When we all got into the room it was indeed a bit dark. A member of staff said "The EXPERIENCE will begin in a couple of minutes," and then clsoed the door. Sure enough we could soon hear VOICES engaged in some sort of ritual which was a) very cleverly done, especially as they used the Quadrophonic Sound to make it seem as if the voices were moving around the room, but b) a bit daft, as they'd just told us upstairs that nobody knew what went on in these rituals! The BEST/CLEVEREST bits though were the way that they made it seem like much more building than it actually was - there was MIST all around the room which was lit from above, so it looked like a BOX, but there were seven little dangling SHELVES along the sides which created shadows that looked like PILLARS all around it. It's hard to explain, but it looked REALLY good!

    The whole thing lasted, as we'd been promised, about 20 minutes, after which we went back upstairs, looked briefly at the ART, and then went to the new (ish) branch of TIBITS round the corner, which was FAB. The entire endevour was, in fact, GRATE - I do like a Museum Of One Thing!
    posted 21/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Going ON In A Meeting
    Being in a job that I Actually Find Interesting is still a bit of a novelty to me, even after being IN it for over a year, so when I went to a meeting on Friday that was Quite Good I was a bit surprised. When it turned out to involve a certain type of academic behaving like a certain type of academic, however, I was less so!

    The meeting was all about research data, and gathered together a bunch of people from the London area who deal with it in academic environments. Rather than have presentations we were put into groups on tables and given a series of QUESTIONS to discuss. For each question we got about 15 minutes, and then at the end each table fed back to the group. I always DREAD this sort of thing, largely due to my long history of working in subject areas that I neither know much about nor am hugely interested in (sorry, all my previous jobs) but this time around I was delighted to find I was not only interested in what other people had to say, but had some remarks of my OWN to make! Even better, I was able to access the BRANES of people who were significantly more experienced than me in such matters who were VERY happy to share their knowledge. What made this especially handy was that the FORMAT of informal chats meant that they were able to share the SECRET knowledge as well about e.g. How To Get People To Archive Their Data and How Not To Fall Out With The Library Forever. It was DEAD good!

    Most other people were from the Library, Scholarly Communications or Research Department at their relevant institution, but one person there was an Actual Researcher, a fact which he seemed to think we would all find FASCINATING. "This is your chance to talk to one of us!" he joked, apparently unaware that Talking To Researchers is approx 40-60% of most of our JOBS. I could hear this chap talking in his Loud, Confident, Posh voice behind me throughout the first half of the meeting, and ended up sitting on the same table as him when we came back after a break - we had all been told to move around, and it was VERY NOTICEABLE that every single person who'd been on the same table as him before had gone to one of the other two instead!

    I soon found out why as he entirely DOMINATED the conversation for the entire rest of the session. MAN ALIVE but it was frustrating, but everyone was TOO POLITE to call him out on it, so what had been an Interesting Conversation turned into an unasked-for monologue, with two people gently trying to move things along when they could get a word in and the rest of us fairly quickly giving up. He had that way of talking where a sentence never ever ends, just pauses very briefly before the next bit starts, and a voice that seemed to have an UNDERLYING DRONE like a SITAR or something so there was always SOUND going on even in the gaps, so there was no space for anyone to jump in. At one point, after a series of ANECDOTES about Times He Had Been Proven Right someone LEAPT in and quickly asked "But how is this different in the Arts?" Others amongst took up the conversation and we then got about 60 seconds of discussion before The Researcher smiled and said "I'll give you another example..." and then smilingly carried on from exactly where he'd been before, completely ignoring what the rest of us had just said!

    The thing is, I know many people will think "AHA! Welcome to my world! This is THE PATRIARCHY in action!" which, of course, it surely is, but this sort of behaviour is surprisingly Not That Common in my line of work - not to this INSANE DEGREE anyway. Most academics I meet are, if anything, PAINFULLY AWARE of the fact that they COULD be like that, and do at least TRY to remember that other people sometimes need to be heard too. That also gets a bit frustrating after a while, but after Friday's meeting I will hopefully appreciate their efforts a bit more - there are some people who have a propensity to GO ON A BIT and think themselves FASCINATING, but it's a lot easier to forgive if they at least recognise this fact about themselves and try to temper such behaviour.

    Er... what do you think?

    posted 20/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Practice In The Wasteland
    On Saturday morning my alarm went off at 7.20am, just as it does on most other mornings when I have to go to work. On this occasion, however, I was heading not to a desk but to ROCK, for LO! I was bound for Leicester to meet The Validators!

    As recorded previously on this blog, I tried out a whole HEAP of new songs whilst I was on tour with Mr M Tiller, and now The Validators were getting together to see if we could turn them into BAND songs. We'd originally booked 1pm-4pm in Quad in Leicester, but then the unexpected elevation of Derby County to the play-off finals necessitated moving it to 12-3pm so that our resident Derby season ticket holder could get back in time!

    Annoyingly for me there were WORKS occuring on the trains, so instead of zooming straight to Leicester from St Pancras I had to go round to Euston, get a train to Nuneaton, hang around Nuneaton Station (REVIEW: "Not worth hanging around in") and then get another train to Leicester, where I met the aforesaid season ticket holder on the concourse. We got a taxi and ZOOMED over to the studio, which is based in Frog Island. It's a WEIRD bit of Leicester almost entirely comprised of abandoned, disintegrating factories. It basically looks like about half of the UK did in 1979 - an as yet un-redeveloped wasteland of bombsites and industrial decay, so that you expect to trip over an early indie band having moody promo shots taken.

    Talking of which, once we got inside we discovered the rest of our own indie band already there getting everything set up. Or, in Emma's case, CROCHETING. It was, as ever, BLOODY LOVELY to see everybody again, and we had a LOVELY few hours of conversation, occasionally interupted by ROCK. After revisiting Two Blokes One Pub we delved into I'm Doing The Ironing, which took a LOT of working out. Over the years we have all assumed specific roles in the band, with Mr FA Machine taking on the mantle of "Musical Director", which basically means that whenever we try a new song everyone looks at HIM to tell us EITHER what we should do OR what we were doing wrong. He is very good at it, not least in his willingness to politely listen to people going "Can we do the bit that goes EEEE for a bit longer, and maybe sort of stringier?" or similar without murdering them (me). We tried several different ways of doing it, and ended up with a PRETTY GOOD version that involved some STRUMMING in the chorus that was a bit complicated for me i.e. different to the way I always do it otherwise, but ACE.

    We then moved on to I Don't Have To Worry About That which was MUCH eaiser, before tackling You're A Tory Now which sounded GRATE, although sadly REALLY SHORT, so we had to do it again. Here our Musical Director had made a couple of suggestions for adjustments which I had put in (an extra "you're a tory now" to a slightly different tune at the end of the second and last choruses) and which WORKED!

    The PLAN is to record SOME songs and then release them as SINGLES, hopefully backed with b-sides. The idea here is that it means we get to release something during THIS century, rather than having to wait to put an album out, and I proposed an IDEA to The Validators about how we might market these as PHYSICAL ITEMS. I will not reveal details of the idea here, lest THE MAN steals it before we can enact it, but suffice to say that we all had a good think about reasons why it might NOT be an ASTOUNDING IDEA THAT WILL CHANGE MUSIC FOREVER, and could not think of any.

    It was soon 3pm so we sent Frankie off to catch his train while the rest of us ventured out into the RAIN to find a PUB. We ended up in The Salmon which, weirdly, is a pub in Leicester I have NEVER been in. That, I suppose, explains why it has not yet been knocked down. After a pint the Pattisons had to go, leaving myself and Mr T 'Tiger' McClure to have a RIGHT old chat about Diverse Subjects, which was FAB. Why do they all insist on not moving to London so that we can do this sort of thing more often?

    It was a LOVELY day only slightly marred by my return journey. On the way to the station I checked the times on my phone and saw an ALERT saying one of the connections on the journey back had been cancelled. I went into the Customer Services office to check and MY WORD but the staff there were HORRIBLE. They GLARED at me with completely undisguised CONTEMPT, almost SPAT at me in their DISGUST that I was asking them for information, tutted at my question, gave me WRONG info, and then claimed that THEY had said exactly what I had said all along. It was most DISCOMFITTING, but then was very much made up for by the staff at CORBY, where we had to get off the train and change to a BUS. They were BLOODY LOVELY, with lots of information and clear guidance off the train, a bus driver who walked down the bus saying hello and explaining the toilets in a JOVIAL fashion and another member of staff who came aboard to apologise for us being there and explaining what would happen next. They were a DELIGHT!

    The Validators gather again in a couple of weeks, for the Furnace Beer Festival in Derby (with us onstage at 6.30pm). I've checked and it's all proper trains that weekend - I can't wait!

    posted 13/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Meditation and ASMR
    You find me in a rather unusual state for me: that of Not Having Too Much On The Go. There is ROCK stuff ongoing (we have a Validators practice this weekend and a gig in a couple of weeks), I'm working away on the PhD, and waiting to hear about The Book, but otherwise a gentle quiet has fallen.

    Rather than sit around and be BORED I have investigated some of that MINDFULLNESS what the young people talk about. Part of this has been via MEDITATION, what has turned out to be BLOODY GRATE. There's a weekly session at work and, it turns out, loads of Guided Meditations on YouTube, so most days I sit down and do 10-20 minutes of THAT, and CRIKEY but it is good stuff. For most of my life my BRANE has chuntered on pretty much NON-STOP with worrying about things, but doing meditation seems to lead to a CALMNESS that is like being on HOLIDAY, without having to spend a whole day getting even more stressed in airports to get to it!

    I've also had a little look at all this ASMR (Autonous Sensory Meridian Response0 stuff. For most of my childhood I thought that a) everybody felt super relaxed and vaguely tingly while getting their haircut or at the optician's and b) I possibly had a MAGNET in my forehead like a HOMING PIGEON, as I got a weird buzzing up there if I put everything close to the spot between my eyebrows. It's a bit hard to explain if it's not something you've experienced, and as I got older I started to think maybe it was just me. Imagine then my DELIGHT when John Allison mentioned EXACTLY these sensations in Giant Days #1 and I finally had a NAME for it!

    So it was that last night I ended up watching the first ten minutes of an HOUR LONG YouTube video that was a Pretend Optician's Appointment from the patient's point of view. It was all a bit odd. It certainly WORKED - I felt INTENSELY relaxed and fizzy round the back of the neck - but I also felt like maybe I should feel a bit GUILTY about it, like it was some sort of weird PORN or something. There was no RUDENSS of any kind, just a woman doing a pretend eye examination, but still, I stopped it before she got to the "is it better with this lens? Or this lens?" bit which, at the best of times, turns me into the DALAI LAMA of prescription glasses. Maybe another time!

    posted 8/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    I Have Seen Avengers:Endgame
    I have two vital and important things to say right from the start about "Avengers: Endgame". Firstly, I shall be disclosing no spoilers of any kind WOTSOEVER in this blog, and secondly, and most importantly of all, I HAVE SEEN "AVENGERS:ENDGAME"!

    The thing about spoilers always really winds me up, ESPECIALLY when ARTICLES think they're being really clever and say "No spoilers, but CHARACTER X does not appear in this film", as that IS a bloody spoiler. Or "No spoilers, but watch out for the bit with ITEM Y" because, OBVS, that tells you ITEM Y will flipping be in it. I really REALLY wanted to see this film without a clue what was going to be in it, and THUS the only way TO do that, I reasoned, was to go and see it as SOON as I possibly could.

    So it was that I got up at 5.50 AM in the morning on Thursday to go to the 6.30 AM in the morning show at my local VUE cinema. When I booked the tickets several days before I thought this would be a) a bit KRAZY but also b) BLOODY GRATE and I have to say I stand by both opinions. Walking through Westfield Shopping Centre with most of the lights off felt a BIT like going on holiday on an early flight, and also a bit like going to a temp job when I was in my 20s, except instead of going to e.g. sweep up on a building site I was going to THE PICTURES!

    As I walked through Westfield I saw various other people heading the same way, and when I got to the Vue it felt like a communal activity, as we presented our tickets to the one member of staff who appeared to be on duty. I'd booked my seat in the very first row as I was aware that the film was THREE HOURS long and so I would require an easily accessible LOO BREAK, but as the (many, many) adverts rolled I thought "I really don't want to spend all that time craning my neck like this," so when we FINALLY got to the trailers (honestly, it was 6.30 AM in the MORNING, couldn't they have just got ON with it?) I went and sat a few seats back, which was MUCH better. The screen was about half full, which is pretty much perfect I always reckon, as there's SPACE but enough people to make the LARFS and the GASPS audible.

    And MY WORD but there were LARFS and ESPECIALLY gasps - the latter ESPECIALLY with the bit involving CHARACTER X and ITEM Y! There were also a LOT of TEARS. Good LORD I practically SOBBED my way through half of it, and LARFED some more and then, towards the end, sat clutching my VERY BRANE for fear of it EXPLODING through the things I was watching. As I said the other day, when I saw the first "Avengers" film I could not BELIEVE I was actually watching a film with Iron Man AND Captain America AND Thor in it, but this made THAT look like WAITING FOR GODOT.

    Basically, it was completely and utterly BRILLIANT and quite possibly the best film I have EVER seen at the cinema. Yes yes I'm sure there are much more cleverer/funnier/insightful or whatever films that work as a standalone, but as the culmination of over TWENTY FILMS over the course of a DECADE this was bloody astonishing. I still keep THINKING about bits of it and LARFING/GASPING/SNIFFLING over 24 hours later.

    The only downside of the whole thing really was that seeing it SO early means that nobdoy else I know has been yet. So please, can everyone go this weekend so I can talk about it? You will not regret it!

    posted 26/4/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Wednesday was a big day for me, as I had my CONFIRMATION for my PhD. This is a sort of mini-VIVA, where you hand over a sample of what you've been up to and talk to somebody about it, so that they can assess whether what you're doing actually IS a PhD project, or an MPhil, or something you need to have a bit of a THINK about before asking again. It's one of the main STAGING POSTS along the way, and though different Universities call it different things, it generally happens about halfway through the research.

    It's a big deal, basically, but I must say that I was remarkably SANGUINE about it beforehand. This may in part be because I had been to see a DERMOTOLOGIST earlier in the day about my PSORIASIS, and discovered that I only rank as 4/10 on The Scabby Scale (NB not actual terminology) after lying FULLY NUDE (apart from my socks) on a table and chatting about SUNBEDS. After that a fully clothed discussion of French Philosophers And Why I Don't Think They Apply seemed quite straightforward!

    Another reason I was quite calm was that I was actually rather looking forward to it - this was a chance for me to TALK UNFETTERED about Doctor Doom and Transmedia to a room containing people who HAVE to listen and, indeed, ask questions, which seemed quite appealing. The aforementioned people were my two supervisors, Professor R Sabin and Dr I Horton, and the EXAMINER Dr D Byrne-Smith. Before Dan turned up Roger and Ian both asked, a couple of times, if I was stressed about it. I replied, quite truthfully, that I wasn't, and it was only later that I realised that maybe THEY were!

    The interview was, for me at least, GRATE fun. Dan asked some Excellent and Pertinent questions, most of which I could answer (at some length, and with INSIGHTS emerging as we discussed them), and when some arose that I couldn't answer I said "I don't know." This is SUCH a better way of doing things than panicking and trying to make stuff up that I wish I could ALWAYS remember to do it! Dan also gave me some THORTS, IDEAS and also CRITICISM about what I was doing, which was ACE - apparently some people BRIDLE at this sort of thing, but if there is one thing that doing my MA a few years ago taught me, it is... well, it is "Go To The Pub Afterwards", but if there is ANOTHER thing that it taught me it was How To Receive Notes. Doing CREATIVE WRITING stuff involves a LOT of listening to other people's opinions of what you have written, and the best way to deal with it is to just sit there and TAKE it, whether it is BRILLIANT, DAFT, or somewhere in between. What I got yesterday was heavily skewed towards the brilliant end of the spectrum, which does make it easier!

    When we'd finished that bit Roger and Ian had to leave the room so that I could discuss how it was going privately - this didn't take very long as I have been having a WHALE of a time, so then it was my turn to go out while the three of them discussed how I was doing, and then a few minutes later we ALL sat in the room again, and they told me it had all gone FINE and that I am now (nearly) officially CONFIRMED as doing a PhD. PHEW! Obviously, this being a University, there are approx 700 committees this has to go through before it is OFFICIALLY official, but those are meetings that I do not have to go to!

    When it was done we all popped downstairs for a celebratory PINT and a surprisingly in-depth and THORTFUL discussion on The Nature Of Practice Research. Working at a University Of Interesting Things and simultaneously STUDYING Interesting Things at the same University is ACE!

    posted 25/4/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Tourist Trip To That London
    Over the weekend The Sights On My Tour and I went round That London looking at SIGHTS and having GOOD TIMES. It began on the evening of Good Friday, when we went to the new Mother Kelly's craft beer place near us, to meet The Hewitts and drink Kolsch-style (not Kolsch-actual) BEER and then go a couple of doors down to DINE IN at our local chippy. I tried some of this here "Banana Blossom" stuff that is meant to taste like fish - it DID a bit, which was weird as I've not eaten it in about 25 years, and I'm not sure i liked it! What I DID like, however, was walking into the shop and most of the staff saying "HELLO!" to me. I felt like NORM!

    On Saturday we went into London town for a wander around. We started off in Westminster, where we saw the Extinction Rebellion protests. They had closed off the whole of Parliament Square, which was LOVELY as it meant there was no traffic but lots of happy people wandering around, including several Tour Guides who seemed to be REVELLING in their sudden freedom from traffic watching. We then went to The Tate Britain to see the Van Gogh And Britain exhibition, which was dead good but CRIKEY it was a bit LONG. The actual famous Van Gogh paintings that were in it were GRATE, and some of the Early Stuff was interesting too, but the curators seemed to have decided to pack it out with other stuff as much as they possibly could, which I guess is OK from a Value For Money point of view, but did make it a bit hard going. The daftest example of this was the room where they had one of the Sunflower paintings, surrounded by some other paintings of sunflowers "in dialogue" with it. The ACTUAL Van Gogh Sunflowers was AMAZING - crumbs, you get a real sense of What All The Fuss Is About when you see it "in person", it is LUMINOUS and ASTONISHING - but the other paintings just looked a bit rubbish in comparison. Similarly, towards the end, there were some other paintings by other artists using "strong colours" that just looked wishy washy in comparison. Having said that, there WAS a Constable which was ACE, and as I say, the Van Gogh Actuals were ACE.

    We then had a stomp via some sunny PARKS across town for LUNCH in Tibits, popping for a look at the old Apple Building on Saville Row on the way, then went round to The Royal Academy to see the Renaissance Nudes exhibition, as the aforesaid Tickets In My Raffle had won us a couple of free entrance to see it. This one was MUCH more sensibly sized, filling five small rooms which I could happily WHIP round in half an hour, which to be honest is about my level of concentration for this sort of thing. The best bit was the room of SKETCHES by Leonardo, Michaelangelo (and all the other turtles etc etc) which were GORGEOUS. As the NOTES gently hinted, there were a LOT of pictures of Pretty Young Men Without Many Clothes On, notably a LOT of pictures of Saint Sebastian, who seems to be the saint of being penetrated (by arrows) and not seeming to mind. WOT can it all mean eh readers?

    Then on SUNDAY we headed out to our old stomping grounds in Wanstead Park, where we went to look at the BLUEBELLS. We weren't sure if they'd be in full bloom yet but MY GOODNESS they were. The "Bluebell Wood" area has had WALKWAYS set out on the ground for the past couple of years, which has had the result of making everywhere else a stomping-free-zone, so that the flowers have MULTIPLIED so that it is an Ecstatic SHOCK of purpley blue as soon as you are among them. If you are in the area I would HIGHLY recommend a visit, if possible taking in a trip to the tea hut along the way - it is ACE!

    posted 24/4/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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