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Hibbettfest 13
Saturday morning found me up bright and early to head to The Midlands for the annual extravaganza known as HIBBETTFEST!

When I had consulted with Mr R Kirkham about dates earlier in the year I had been well aware that this was the day of the World Cup third-place play-offs, but thought that a) there was no way England would still be in the tournament by then and b) who cares about the third place play-offs anyway? I had not banked on a) England doing really well and b) me loving the World Cup quite as much as I have, so I must admit there was a small part of me who would have quite liked to watch a bit more of it. However, all worked out well and my day turned out to be MUCH more fun than watching England getting beaten by (according to Match Of The Day later on iPlayer) a better team!

The fun commenced at Marylebone station, with my trouser pocket breaking and all my change falling on the floor. People FLOCKED to the area to help me, picking it all up and handing it over. A lady sitting nearby handed my the last pound coin and said. "Everybody helped - aren't people lovely?" and I had to agree that they were.

Talking of lovely people, I then bumped into Mr M Tiller, who was this year's special guest. Being sensible grown-ups we had both arrived SUPER EARLY and so had plenty of time for a cuppa before hopping onto the slow train to Birmingham Moor Street. The journey passed at high speed due to NATTERING all the way up, and we were soon changing and on our way to Cradley Heath where Venue Owner Mr K Kirkham (aka Ray's Dad) picked us up and took us, as is traditional, to the Offy to get some booze. This was the THIRTEENTH (!) Hibbettfest, and I think it's important to maintain some of these ancient traditions!

We rolled up at the venue not long after to find a whole bunch of lovely folk there, including the usual assortment of dogs and BABIES, although this time several of the babies appear to have become CHILDREN, and children who were more than happy to JOIN IN too. One of the aforesaid was Ray's nephew Luke who this year was wearing a high vis jacket, t-shirt labelled "security", dark glasses, a walky-talky and an earpiece. He even had a FLAG for guiding in traffic, I have never felt so well protected at a gig before!

After quite a lot of sitting around in the baking sunshine chatting, drinking beer, and eating the ENORMOUS Vegan buffet which Ray had supplied (featuring some particularly brilliant sausage rolls this year, also CURRY) Matt took to the stage - or, rather, awning of the SHED - to perform. He was joined not only by the security officer but also three DANCERS who FLOSSED and DABBED throughout his performance, which he coped with MANFULLY! It was GRATE!

After returning to the buffet area for DESSERT we then gathered outside once more for ME to take to the awning and do THIS:
  • The Fair Play Trophy (again)
  • Cheer Up Love
  • Two Nights, One Pub
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • We Did It Anyway
  • Boom Shake The Room

  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • I had a LOVELY time, especially with my dancers helping me, and I think it went OK. I had been a bit worried in the days leading up to the festival that I would FORGET how to do a gig, as I have done so few lately, but it all came back!

    There was then more time for sitting around and BEER before a select group of us got on the PARTY BUS back to town for an INTELLECTUAL round table discussion in the pub on diverse topics, after which Matt and I said our goodbyes and headed to Snow Hill Station, where we JUST got into Waitrose before it closed to get some TRAIN BEERS. HA! The journey home passed, if anything, even more quickly, partly due to the BEER and partly due to the extensive chats we had on MEN'S ISSUES and POLITICS... which were probably also partly due to the BEER!

    It was a lovely lovely day all round - roll on number fourteen!

    posted 16/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Queen Again
    On Wednesday Night myself and The Fireplace In My Guitar went to our favourite Big Music Venue, the O2, to see QUEEN. Short version: It was BRILL.

    We'd been to see them late last year and had a GRATE time, so the aforesaid Chorus Of My Anthem was very keen to go again. I was not so keen - I'd really enjoyed it, but expected them to do exactly the same show again - but was persuaded to attend by having my ticket PAID FOR and the offer of DRINKS too. I never said I was a CHEAP date, but I can be bought!

    It was lovely being back at the O2, especially after going to the Olympic Stadium a few weeks ago, which isn't half as nice for this sort of thing. The O2 always feels COSY, despite being GIGANTIC, and there is AMPLE supply of bars to get BEERZ from, which there was NOT at the stadium. This time we were much closer to ground level than previously, so could not only see the BAND properly but could also see our chum Mr M Sutton, who WAVED to us from his position near the sounddesk where APPARENTLY he could see Anita Dobson watching the show and ROCKING OUT!

    I do not blame her for doing so, because it was a VERY ROCKING show. A lot of it was indeed the same as last time, but there was a LOAD of different songs, and anyway it was all HIGHLY enjoyable. We could not help but compare it to The Rolling Stones gig at the aforesaid stadium. MicK Jagger had been good but in comparison to Queen the rest of them looked like they could not be arsed to be there, the actual playing was distinctly ropey, and the SHOW element was designed to hide the fact that it was 3 old men standing very still and one old man jigging about. In contrast QUEEN looked like they were DELIGHTED to be there, the music was FANTASTIC, and the show was entirely integrated into what they were doing, and FUN. The highlight of the whole thing for me was near the end, when Brian May came on to do the solo in "Bohemian Rhapsody" wearing a SILVER JUMPSUIT which had LONG DANGLY BITS on the sleeves like ARM CLOAKS, JUST like he did in the video. It was a small touch, but endemic of the CARE and RESPECT for the audience that characterised the whole thing.

    Other highlights were B May doing "Love Of My Life" illuminated ENTIRELY by people switching on the "torch" setting on their phones, Adam Lambert HUGGING the senior members of the group, and the mass adherence by the audience to THE RULES OF ROCK demonstrated by the QUEUE for the urinals when everybody went to the loo during the DRUM SOLO.

    It was BLOODY FAB is what it was. On an unrelated note, where can I hire a smoke machine, giant robot and RISER STAGE for Tim's birthday gig?

    posted 6/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Unusual Sporting Emotions
    You find me today in a strange limbo of NO FOOTBALL. It is very weird indeed - it has been ALL FOOTBALL nearly every day for, as far as I recall, DECADES and now suddenly we are in a space of NONE. I can only hope it returns tomorrow or LORD knows what we will do.

    The only thing weirder than the lack of football is the presence of a strange new emotion that I have never previously felt in regard to the England Football team, which feels almost like LOVE. I don't know what it is, but every time I hear Gareth Southgate being Entirely Reasonable on television, or see him consoling a Colombian, or nursing a small kitten back to health, something WELLS UP inside me that makes me want to shake him firmly by the hand and buy him a pint. It's similar with the team themselves - most of my life I have seen them as wallies, prats and, occasionally, outright gits, but this current lot appear to be Delightful Young Men. It is probably my GRATE AGE, but I have an URGE to hire a mini-bus and take them all on an outing to ALTON TOWERS or a CITY FARM, because by golly I think they deserve it.

    These feelings were only increased watching the game against Colombia on Tuesday night when, in the words of a certain song they really DID behave like "a team of virtuous saints". I've seen England play nasty teams before, but seeing the Colombians screaming, fouling, head-butting and, most infuriating of all, DESECRATING THE PENALTY SPOT felt like watching the local sixth-formers who lurk around, giggling to each other, outside my local shop being suddenly SHOVED AROUND by some Older Boys who are SMOKING. I tell you what, it made me want to go over there and give them a STERN PIECE OF MY MIND!

    Overall I have been FLIPPING LOVING this World Cup (Spain VS Portugal! Belgium VS Japan! Korea VS Germany!) but I did not enjoy this game AT ALL. As well as feeling outraged I felt TERRIFIED at every stage, so when that last minute equaliser went in it felt like a long awaited DOOM descending. I was getting STOMACH CRAMPS during the extra time, and I must confess to considering leaving the room all together when the penalties began.

    However, as the shootout commenced myself and The Net Of My Goal (who had remained Remarkably Calm until this point) noticed something rather wonderful happening. Round the corner from our house a Big Screen had been set up, which had 900 people watching the same game as us but, apparently, approximately ONE SECOND ahead. THUS whenever an England player began his run up we would hear a MIGHTY ROAR just before he scored, or a MIGHTY GROAN if he didn't, coming from the future-viewers down the road. This made the entire experience SIGNIFICANTLY less stressful, especially when Jordan Wonderful Pickford SAVED one and ESPECIALLY especially when Eric Dier stepped up to take the final winning shot. There was a BEAUTIFUL moment when we heard a MIGHTY CHEER and KNEW that we were going to win, just it began to happen on our telly. It was one of those out of body experiences you hear about, when time itself slowed down to one elongated perfect moment.

    I think I would like it very much if ALL big events could have a BIG SCREEN round the corner in future, preferably about a WEEK ahead of me, to reassure me that things will turn out all right.

    All of the above has of course engendered ANOTHER unusual emotion related to the England Team: HOPE. I have been singing "Three Lions" to myself for the past couple of days, and am imagining England ACTUALLY WINNING THE WORLD CUP... well, all right, I am imagining England NARROWLY LOSING TO BRAZIL IN THE FINAL, but that's still a lot more than my usual expectation of them losing 7-0 to the Isle Of Wight and John Terry punching somebody, so I will take what I can get. For now at least, it is very much COMING HOME!

    posted 5/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    PPI Pleasures
    Like every living sentient creature in this country I have spent the past few years hearing about PPI flipping EVERYWHERE. It's so omnipresent in spam emails, spam phone calls, adverts and newspaper articles that GDPR came as something of a BLESSED RELIEF!

    I had always been a bit sniffy about the whole business, taking the line that surely you would KNOW if you had taken out PPI and did not need all these people telling you about it. "It only applies to twits and wallies who can't manage their money," I thought, "I am sure it wouldn't be me!"

    HOWEVER, a few weeks ago somebody on Facebook (I can't remember who and can't find it now!) mentioned that they'd gone onto their bank's own PPI checker page, spent about half an hour putting in their details, and had received enough CA$H to get, as they put it "some nice bottles of wine." "Hang on," I thought, "I like nice bottles of wine AND have half an hour spare. Maybe I should have a go!"

    THUS I went onto Barclay's PPI Page and filled in a few details so that they could check whether I'd ever been mis-sold PPI. I was entirely sure that a) I wouldn't have ever been so daft to do so and anyway b) would remember if I had, so imagine my surprise when I received a letter a few weeks later saying I HAD had a PPI policy, for ELEVEN YEARS from 1998 to 2009!!

    "Oh yeah, I guess I did take out a loan didn't I?" I thought. "Yes," said my BRANE. "You got it to put out your half of the Clubbing In The Week single!" AHA!

    The letter said that I now needed to put in a proper CLAIM, to check whether I had been MIS-sold, rather than just sold, it, which did involve a bit of research - it turns out there IS a point to keeping piles of old payslips from twenty years ago! I typed it all in, pressed send, and then expected to wait AGES to be told that it had all been entirely above board. THUS when I got back from Bournemouth and found I'd had a letter from Barclays saying "We have received your complaint, it'll probably take ages to process" I was not surprised.

    Imagine then my GLEE when I opened ANOTHER letter in the same pile of correspondence which said that my complaint had been UPHELD, and that they were going to give me a load of CA$H! All right, not a life-changing amount by any means, but CERTAINLY enough for some very nice wine and maybe a bottle of whisky too! It turns out that me not really paying attention to what I was signing back in the last century was the BEST INVESTMENT I have ever made!

    I tell you this not to GLOAT over my good fortune - though as it is purely at the expense of THE MAN I think some gloating is fine in moderation - but to advise you, gentle reader, to have a go yourself. There is only about a YEAR to go to make these sort of enquiries, and as it only takes a few minutes to do the initial enquiry it is WELL worth a go. You don't need to go through an agency or talk to anybody on the phone or anything, apparently THE BANKS have to make it as easy as possible so they're all supposed to have dedicated sections on their websites where you can just do it yourself. All you need is GOOGLE basically. It's peasy - have a go!

    posted 3/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Comics, Beer And Football
    I spent most of last work in the absolute HECKHOLE that is an Academic Conference. Wot a TRIAL it was, spending every day talking about comics, only broken up by regular trips to the pub to watch football with supporters of many nations.

    Yes all right, it was jolly good fun, but it did not begin that way, for LO! there were Troubles On The Line on Tuesday night which meant that every service to Bournemouth, where the conference was, was BUGGERED. This meant that the pleasant 100 minute sprint to the coast just in time to watch the football that I'd been hoping for turned into THREE AND A HALF HOURS on a PACKED train with me having to STAND for most of the way. When I finally arrived in Bournemouth, having entirely MISSED the football I trudged across town to what turned out to be the WRONG Premier Inn. "A lot of people get confused" said the lady at reception. The lady at reception in the RIGHT Premier Inn said EXACTLY the same thing when I got there!

    The conference itself started on the Wednesday morning and it was GRATE. I did my talk (about defining 'The Marvel Age' as a distinct period) right in the first session of talks, which meant I could then RELAX for the rest of the week. It seemed to go all right, with some good questions and nice feedback afterwards, which added to my RELIEF.

    I also went to some ACE talks on Dan Dare, The Marie Duvall Archive, a cunning use of DATABASES to demonstrate changes in storytelling methods over time, digital comics collecting, and quite a lot of Alan Moore. I also ended up going to several sessions about WOMEN in comics, especially in early GIRLS' comics, which was fascinating - it was a MASSIVE market that ran alongside the BOYS' comics that we all know so much more about, and it feels like there's a whole ALTERNATE UNIVERSE where, instead of banging on about Pat Mills and Judge Dredd, people are fascinated by Anne Digby and Tammy! (NB I say Anne Digby because she was there and did an INTERVIEW, and she was BRILL)

    Another nice thing this year was that I actually KNEW a few people. It's always scary going to these things when you're NEW and don't have anyone to sit with at lunch. It is basically SKOOL for grown-ups, and like SKOOL it's much much easier when you have people you know from previous events who you can sidle up to for a chat. One of the people there was Mr J Senna, who I'd met when I was in Tuebingen in February, and who I ended up seeing several football games with. Watching Brazil with an Actual Brazilian was a lot of fun, only topped by spending one afternoon BUNKING OFF and going to the pub to watch South Korea beat Germany. That was PRETTY GOOD.

    The whole thing FLEW by so that I now find myself back at work once more, looking forward to the NEXT conference I'm attending in a few weeks. This one's only a day long but it will have the added benefit of featuring me CO-PRESENTING with Mr FA Machine - more on this ANON!

    posted 2/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Work's All Right
    On Friday I was off to The National Archives at Kew to attend ANOTHER Research Day as part of my Exciting New Job, and also to do ANOTHER Presentation about the same.

    Kew is a LONG way away from my house. It's so far away that I had to go THROUGH Baron's Court to get there - Baron's Court was where I used to go to when I workd at Imperial, which was a RUDDY long way away, so Kew was therefore even further!

    It was a GORGEOUS day when I got there. The National Archive is a big Brutalist building surrounded by trees, lakes and SWANS and, unusually for Brutalist buildings it had aged really well and looked lovely in the sunshine.

    I went into the conference room and found my traditional seat at the back... but then the organiser came over and asked me to sit at the FRONT with the other speakers. I wasn't very keen but did as I was told, though as the morning progressed I wished I hadn't. We were all sat on a table facing everybody else, with the screen and current speaker behind us, so we had to WRENCH round to look at whoever was talking, and not only couldn't SEE what they were talking about, but were also blocking the view for everyone else! It always seems daft when conferences do this, but luckily the woman who spoke first just went and sat in the audience when she'd finished, so we all followed her lead as it went on.

    My bit was about the CHALLENGES of recording Arts Research Data when systems are generally set up to cope with STEM data. I was a bit worried before I started because other speakers were doing a lot more IN-DEPTH talks about Research Data Management, but people after me did Case Studies like what I was doing, and I DID get some LARFS. I am trying to gently persuade myself that there is MORE to doing an academic presentation than just getting LARFS, but then I see OTHER people do talks with GAGS in, and I always enjoy them a lot more!

    At lunchtime I was all prepped to go for a wander round the grounds and not talk to anybody - this is a policy I developed over YEARS of going to Statistics conferences where, in the nicest possible way, it's all A BIT BORING. I am constantly surprised, however, by how INTERESTING Research Data Management is, and also how ACTUALLY NICE the people are. I had a right old chat to several people about Various Issues, all of whom had things to say AND to ask, and I ended up staying inside and YACKING the whole time, including to one chap who turned out to have OPINIONS about the "One More Day" storyline in "Amazing Spider-Man"! Who'd've thought that people who liked COMICS would also like ARCHIVING things eh?

    It was, all-told, GRATE fun, and even being forced to do a WORKSHOP in the afternoon turned out to be quite jolly. It is a constant surprise to me to be enjoying my job so much - other people do it all the time, I'm told, but it's a whole new experience for me. INDEED I had my 3 Month Probation Meeting the other day and, when asked how I was finding it, I said "I'm having a WHALE of a time!"

    "We've noticed!" said my boss. I'm pretty sure that's a good thing - someone should write a song about job's being all right, they really should!

    posted 26/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Fair Play's Coming Home
    Like many people in this great nation of ours I find myself today inflicted with an entirely unusual sensation: that of Actually Enjoying England's World Cup Progress.

    It's most peculiar - I always enjoy the World Cup (and am enjoying it A LOT this time) but the England matches are usually a turgid period of grinding annoyance, boredeom and, ultimately, inevitably, disappointment. THIS time however it has been a DELIGHT. Mr G Southgate seems like a very pleasant chap who appears to have some kind of a PLAN. Not only that, he seems to know how to make it HAPPEN, and - astonishing as it seems - is able to get the players to actually DO it.

    This, I feel, is the most astounding aspect of the whole business: the players ARE doing The Plan, and seem to be a) able b) HAPPY to do so. Also, after DECADES of general DISTATE for the England team I find myself actually QUITE LIKING them all. That Raheem Sterling article was GRATE, and every time I see Raheem Sterling on the telly I have an IRRESISTABLE URGE to shake him firmly by the hand, tell him he's done REALLY WELL, and slip him a tenner to spend on whatever he likes.

    Yes yes I KNOW that they have not exactly played the best teams yet, but the way they HAVE played has been so POSITIVE that I have found myself rather MOVED by it all. Best of all, I was pleased to be told (repeatedly) by (many) telly commentators that if we DRAW against Belgium on Thursday then the final placings will be decided by FAIR PLAY!

    England might win their group because of FAIR PLAY! Good golly, you'd think someone might write a SONG about something like that wouldn't you?

    I am thus getting myself prepared for an ONSLAUGHT (i.e. a TWEET) of media activity on Thursday evening, to point out to the world's press that, actually, someone has. Finally, after 20 years of hurt, this could be our time!

    posted 25/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Hello West Virginia
    At the end of last week I received an INTRIGUING email from Ms C Gaffin of Charleston, West Virginia, formerly of Old London Town. She told me that her husband, Mr J Gaffin, was the DJ on The Afternoon Show on the radio station WTSQ, and that he'd recently been playing our version of Glory Days by Mr B Springsteen. The public reaction, she said, had been "incredible" and "almost a riot." In a good way!

    I was, of course, RUDDY DELIGHTED to hear this. 'Glory Days' is a bit of an OUTLIER in our mighty canon - I've played it more often with The PopArt Allstars (twice) than with The Validators (once) and have very rarely done it solo, yet in some ways it's one of our most well-known songs, as it seems to do EXTREMELY well on Spotify. This is MOST LIKELY because it is SO GRATE, but there's a slim chance that it gets recommended to people who have a) listened to other people's versions of the song or b) listened to other tracks by much more well known bands who appeared on the compilation album that it was recorded for i.e. Play Some Pool, Skip Some School, Act Real Cool from Mr J Jervis's marvellous Where It's At Is Where You Are Label.

    So it was that I agreed to call into the aforesaid radio show last night (Wednesday) for a CHAT. I had sat myself in front of my laptop at home GIRDING myself for a painful session of SKYPE SHOUTING so was amazed to find my PHONE ringing. Caitlin was using Facebook Messenger like a PHONE line, which meant I could sit and just YACK AWAY to Josh on the show like it was some kind of normal conversation or something. Isn't the future GRATE?

    The conversation what we had was an ABSOLUTE DELIGHT. Josh seemed to have the uncanny ability to ask questions that led DIRECTLY to an Interesting Anecdote e.g. "So, have you ever done a gig in the USA?" led IMMEDIATELY to the story behind I Did A Gig In New York and over the course of about half an hour we RANGED across such diverse topics as Andy Bell's position in Peterborough (Josh had been there!), the 155th Birthday of the state of West Virginia, and the need for Dinosaur Planet to have a West End/Broadway run before being adapted for film. We also played a bunch of our other songs, and I told the tale of how I was FORCED* (*asked) to change the lyrics BACK to Bruce's original rather than the English Translation I had initially recorded.

    I THOROUGHLY enjoyed myself, so was extremely pleased when, halfway through, Josh asked if I could come on the show on a monthly basis for a CHAT. I said "YES PLEASE!" The only downside of the entire experience was that, due to a prior engagement, I had to decline the offer of joining in with an on-air IMPROV SESSION with a local group and... TV's Greg Proops. I have had many unusual experiences in this crazy world of rock and roll, but declining an invitation to do Improv Comedy with Greg Proops in West Virginia was certainly one of the least foreseen outcomes I have experienced!

    The whole thing was ACE - Happy Birthday West Virginia!!

    posted 21/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Fairplay Airplay
    My CUNNING PLAN to re-re-re-re-release The Fair Play Trophy (Again) seems to be actually WORKING! It was played on Mr J Gelletaly's Amazing Radio show at the weekend and I'm told that it's going to be on Mr B Fischer's show on BBC Tees this afternoon as well!

    It's GRATE to have pre-knowledge of these things as it means we can actually LISTEN IN - even after nigh on 700 years in ROCK it's still very exciting to hear your own record on the radio, so when Mr S Lamacq emailed to let us know he was planning to play us on his 6music show yesterday I ALERTED The Validators and those of us who COULD listen live DID.

    Yesterday was a Thursday, which is the day that Steve has his regular Roundtable feature, where guests come in and, generally, slag off some new releases. It had been announced that this one was going to be a World Cup Special, and thus we were gripped with PANIC that Graeme Le Saux and others would listen to our song and, possibly, be UNKIND about it!

    Happily that DIDN'T happen, as it was played in the first hour of the show while we were all sat at work still, and Steve was, as usually, entirely delightful about it. It's been a while since we've been on national radio, and so I'd almost forgotten that the NICEST thing about it is that loads of your pals get in touch and tell you that you're on! The GRATEST of the many notifications we received was from The Bates family in Burton, which was a video of them all DANCING to it in the kitchen!

    Astoundingly, this airplay plus the couple of copies we've sold of the bandcamp version means that we have ALREADY pretty much RECOUPED all the costs of the EP! It only costs about 25 quid to put an online single out (we do ours via emuband) and the bunch of sales plus the PRS money from the three plays I know about should just about cover it!

    I think this is the first thing we've EVER released that has actually made it's costs back - I think I'm beginning to see why Mr Big of Big Records INC puts out so many 'Best Of' compilations - you don't have to pay to record anything new, it's basically FREE CA$H!

    (Not a lot of CA$H in our case, but still - I may splash out on a packet of polos to celebrate!)

    posted 15/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Storm House Update
    The other day after work I met with Ms E Morgan, chum from the MA Playwriting course and All Round Good Egg. We had a RIGHT old chat about various WRITING things, not least some TREMENDOUSLY exciting stuff she's got coming up with Actual Proper (i.e. PAID!) Writing Work, and it reminded me that I have not BANGED ON here very much lately about Storm House.

    So let's put that right! The last time I mentioned it here was when it was on the longlists for BOTH The Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition AND The Bath Children's Novel Award. It didn't get any further in either competition but still it was all VERY exciting, and it gave me the boot up the bum required to dig out a copy of this year's "Artists And Writers Yearbook" (handily located in the library underneath my office), research some names and addresses, and send it out to some more agents. LAST time I tried this it did not end well, with me GETTING and then very shortly afterwards LOSING an agent. THIS time I thought I'd try sending it out to Agents who specialise in Children's Books, as that seems to be where it's had most success (I don't think it IS a Children's Book, but other people appear to), but as yet have had a few form rejections and not much else.

    I must say I don't MIND this - I'm not really expecting any agents to BITE, it's more so that I know I've at least TRIED - as the plan is to publish the SECOND 'Storm House' book in the same was as I did the first. I'm working on the second draft of 'Storm House: The Utopians' at the moment, and though it's all going very well (I do like laughing at my own jokes!) it's not going quite as quickly as I'd have liked. My PLAN was to have this draft finished before my birthday next week, but I've only managed to get about halfway through. Turns out that having an Interesting Job and lots to do gives you MUCH less time to write stuff!

    Having said that, I AM trying to do at least two pages of it a day, so it's coming along, even if not as quickly as I'd have liked. The ONGOING PLAN is to finish this draft, then go back and do the second draft of the OTHER book what I have got on the go, before returning to 'The Utopians' for (hopefully) much less drastic third and fourth drafts. Once THAT'S done the idea is to release the FIRST book for free again, this time with a first chapter of the NEW book at the end, and put the NEW one out for something like two quid, and then hammer all of the book promotion things I did before.

    Typing it out makes it seem like it's going to be a little while yet before it's all finished, maybe not until after Christmas! It all seems a long way away, but hopefully it'll be worth it. The new book features a) Peterborough Cathedral b) Hereward The Wake c) A Giant Mushroom d) MEMES and e) all of the characters from before, so I think it will be!

    posted 14/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    An Non-Secret Meeting
    Last night I was back at The King & Queen for another meeting with A Little Orchestra about our No Longer Secret Project. Ooh, it does feel good to be able to talk/type about this out loud - we've had SEVERAL such meetings over the past couple of months and I have been unable to say what they were about LEST it spoil the secret surprise, but now I CAN!

    For LO! we were meeting to do some PLANNING for our forthcoming ALBUM collaboration, where we'll be recording a whole heap of songs together and then performing them at a GIG. We're going to try and do it as a Kickstarter campaign, so we spent a bit of time trying to work out what we actually NEED to get, CA$Hwise, to do it. I think we're going to set our original targets quite low, to make sure we can DO it, and then STRETCH from there - hopefully we'll be able to do the actual recording in a STUDIO, and maybe the mixing too, and then from there there's options for the performance, physical product, videos and so on and so forth.

    All that is for the future though - we're going to gather some COSTINGS for now, but the most urgent matter is what actual SONGS we're going to do. We've got arrangements for the seven songs that were performed at the recent gig, so we need a few more to make an actual album's worth. The plan is to get THAT sorted out ready for a joint rehearsal later in the year, and then to start planning out the campaign itself, which is all rather a) efficient but b) leisurely too. It's very nice working with a group of a similar VINTAGE as us, who do things at the same pace!

    Meanwhile BRANES around the country are at work thinking of the sort of things we could offer to people who help us fund the album. We've got the usual variations of downloads, physical products, names in the booklet and tickets for the Proposed Performance, and then there's THORTS about other stuff, but I wonder is there anything else that you, gentle reader, can think of that you'd actually LIKE? Whenever I read Kickstarter campaigns they seem to be full of offers that nobody in their right MIND would actually want (like paying to appear in a video, or having to have a "party" in your own house with a drunk band there - madness!), so is there anything you'd actually WANT that we could put in there somewhere? Stick it in the comments if you've got any ideas!

    (NB YES we are ALREADY going to put in a "BAND PROMISES NOT TO COME ROUND YOUR HOUSE" offer!)

    posted 12/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Fairplay Out Today
    Excitement is running HIGH chez moi as it is nearly time for the WORLD CUP - that glorious month of talking about FOOTBALL without the need to worry about having the slightest idea what you're on about, while simultaneously NOT looking at The News. I feel it will be very BLISS, and look forward to whatever THIS tournament's equivalent is to The Iceland Clapping or Brazil Getting Thrashed.

    Additional excitement comes from the fact that today we're re-re-re-releasing The Fair Play Trophy (again) as a download single through All Online Retailers, and as a massive value expanded EP over on our bandcamp page. This latter is a VERY SPECIAL TREAT for anyone who wants to hear EIGHT different versions of the song!

    It also comes with the original version of In The North Stand PLUS a very exciting REMIX by our very own Mr F A Machine, which I would HEARTILTY recommend a listen to via the aforesaid bandcamp page.

    I have MILD HOPES about some airplay, not least because hardly anybody seems to have done any football songs this year. In order to facilitate media dominance I even sent out a PRESS RELEASE last week - here's what it said:
    MJ Hibbett & The Validators Add Themselves To The Teamsheet

    There's no official England song for the World Cup this year, so MJ Hibbett & The Validators are stepping into the breach by re-re-re-re-releasing their own football anthem 'The Fair Play Trophy (Again)' as a single on iTunes and Spotify.

    'The Fair Play Trophy (Again)' suggests that winning awards for being sporting is much more important than winning actual matches, and so, technically speaking, England are really good. It was first written for the 1998 World Cup (when England did, as predicted, win The Fair Play Trophy) then re-recorded for the 2002 competition. In 2004 it was recorded again for the European Championships, which led to MJ Hibbett becoming Steve Lamacq's official football correspondent for the duration of the tournament, writing a new version of the song each week.

    The B-side to the online single will be a new version of the band's heartfelt tribute to going to the football with your Grandad, 'In The North Stand', remixed by the Validators' bass player Frankie Machine. There'll also be a special version on Bandcamp which will feature every version of the song ever recorded - eight in total - plus the original version of 'In The North Stand'.

    'The Fair Play Trophy (Again)' will also appear as an additional bonus track on the band's recent greatest hits album '20 Golden GRATES' for as long as England remain in the tournament. The album is available on bandcamp or as a limited-edition cassette with free download code. "I have made a note to remove it from the tracklist on the morning of July 15," says Mark, "I am patriotically convinced that England will win, and have definitely have not also put a note in to check it on the day after the Round Of Sixteen finishes."

    'The Fair Play Trophy (Again and Again and Again)' EP is available to buy on Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon and all online retailers from Monday 11 June.
    That's TODAY! As ever, if anyone has any means of DISSEMINATING this information to a wider audience it would be very much appreciated, and if anyone wants any FURTHER details about it do feel free to get in touch via the twitter.

    As for me, I've got a FESTIVAL of TELLY... sorry, SPORT to get ready for! Where's me wallchart go to??

    posted 11/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Added Doom
    While I was on my travels last week I took my TABLET and a LAPTOP with me, so that I could get on with some research for my PhD. For the past few months most of this research has been ACADEMIC, reading text books and theoretical analyses, which has meant that I've got a bit behind with the ACTUAL COMICS that I'm reading for Marvel Age Doom. This is my ongoing BLOG detailing EVERY appearance of Doctor Doom in ALL media between 1961 and 1987, which I'm using to record my THORTS and THEORIES as I go along. I'd been trying to get well ahead of myself with this, to the extent that, after Easter, I had TWO MONTHS of blogs drafted and ready to be unleashed. However, all the other work I've had to do meant that things had got PRECARIOUS, with only ONE blog in reserve. Something had to be done!

    THUS I spent a lot of my train-time reading and writing about the amazing range of comics that came out around 1966-1968 that featured Doctor Doom. I discovered that, contrary to the opinion I had developed aged 10, I actually DO like the way that Gene Colan draws superheroes (and, especially, CARS). I also found that everybody who goes ON and ON about how FAR OUT and BRILLIANT Jim Steranko's on 'Nick Fury' is was ENTIRELY correct!

    I also found out that there were a LOAD of comics published during this period that DID feature Doctor Doom but were NOT in my database. One of the comics I was looking at was 'Not Brand Echh' #7, halfway through a 13 issue series in which Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and various other Marvel creators of the time produced parodies of their own and other companies' stories. It's very VERY much in the Mad tradition, with panels PACKED with tiny extra gags and celebrity cameos. According to my database Doctor Doom only appears in that one issue, but the more I read through the issue the odder it seemed. If Marvel were throwing EVERYBODY into EVERY panel, surely Doom, their biggest VILLAIN character, must appear more than once in the series?

    I went to Marvel Unlimited (the subscription system which features approx 90% of ALL Marvel Comics EVER) to check, and immediately saw that my suspicions were correct. He's right there on the cover of the first issue, for instance!



    I thus had to download the entire series and read through THE LOT. I say "read" but it was more of a "flick through" at this stage, as those stories do not exactly age well. If you LIKE the 'Mad' style of humour they might be quite funny, but even in that case I think the enforced, relentless, Not That Funny GAGGAGE would start to grate after a while, and not in a good way!

    I found about SEVEN extra issues that had Doom in them, which was BRILLO for my research, but also a bit annoying as I'd already written blogs WELL past the point when the first of them appeared. I'm trying to do it all in chronological order so I can assess the development of the character, but this meant I'd have to BACKTRACK a bit to cover the ones I'd missed. It also meant reorganising the timing of the other blogs that I'd written during the week of train travel AND add the basic information into the database. It took BLOODY AGES!

    Still, it's all in there now and the blogs have already begun - this week over on Marvel Age Doom it is very much 'Not Brand Echh' week, as we cover these missing comics. Hopefully it'll be of some interest to those of you that are NOT writing an academic thesis of Doctor Doom, and it's all leading up to some DEAD GOOD comics next week where the aforesaid Gene Colan has a go at drawing him!

    posted 6/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Solo
    On Sunday I went to my local cinema to see 'Solo', the new Star Wars movie. I hadn't been that bothered about seeing it to be honest, as the reviews hadn't been brilliant, and I would have been quite happy to wait until it popped up on Amazon and watched it then.

    When I got to the cinema it was clear that I was not alone in this opinion. Last time I went there, for "Infinity War", it had been a NIGHTMARE of huge queues and fully-booked auditoria, but this time the building was pretty much EMPTY. Maybe it's because it was a nice day outside, or the poor reviews, but it was the quietest I've ever seen it on a weekend!

    Another explanation could have been that I'd rolled up a bit late - I spent half an hour waiting for "Infinity War" to start so thought I was being clever turning up 15 minutes after the advertised time for "Solo", but was surprised to see it had already begun! The titles were just finishing as I shuffled to my seat, so when it DOES come onto Amazon at least there'll be something new for me to see!

    The next two hours FLEW by - the past two Star Wars films (i.e. Rogue One and The Last Jedi) have, I must admit, dragged a little for me, but this one WHIPPED by for LO! it was BLOODY BRILLIANT! Halfway through I thought to myself "I LOVE this film!" because, truly, I totally did. I don't understand what's going on with the reviews for it - it's got GRATE new characters (especially Chewie, L7, Paul Bettany, the four-armed one, Enfys Nest etc etc), proper EXCITING bits, JOKES, and the Continuity Gags are ACE. SPOILERS coming up later in this sentence, but I completely LOVED stuff like the way Han and Chewie meet, or where the dice come from, or how the Millenium Falcon is first introduced or... well, you get the idea. ALSO Donald Glover and Emilia Clarke were ACE and the chap who played Han Solo was ENTIRELY convincing.

    It was, basically, TREMENDOUS fun, and it stuck with me for the whole rest of the day, as I remembered different bits and CHUCKLED to myself, then went online to check for MORE bits to think about. It felt much more Star Wars-y than most of the new ones, and more out and out enjoyable too. Maybe that's why it's not been so well thought of, that it doesn't obviously do something Serious And Different with the Franchise, or maybe it's just the fact that it's come out so soon after 'The Last Jedi'.

    Whatever it is, it's a crying shame that a 'Star Wars' movie THIS fab is getting (comparatively) ignored. If you like 'Star Wars' then I HEARTILY recommend going and seeing it - if nothing else, the more people that go the more likely it is to get a sequel, and I REALLY want to see what happens next!

    posted 5/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Forty Years Of Space Invaders
    On Saturday I was back at Kings Cross Station, ready to catch a train to Cambridge for the '40 Years of Space Invaders' event I was due to take part in. Over the course of my travels durning the preceding week my trains had all been pretty good, but that was probably because I hadn't had to use Thameslink, who are notoriously in the middle of a gigantic cock-up over their timetables (short version for posterity: they changed loads of routes, forgot that they'd need to train drivers in the new routes, so suddenly have not enough drivers to drive the trains). My train was logged as being ten minutes late... until ten minutes had passed and then they cancelled it. Did they think someone was going to magically turn up in those ten minutes? It's RIGHT annoying when they do that - just TELL us it's flipping cancelled then at least we know what's going on!

    It all worked out OK in the end, as I just waited for the next Great Northern train which a) was faster anyway and b) had a driver, then got a TAXI (featuring a driver who claimed to be "a champion at Space Invaders" but, when questioned, turned out just to be "better than his friends at Space Invaders") to the Museum. Here I met Mr J Fitzpatrick, who would be chairing the panel, also several other of the DELIGHTFUL people who run the centre.

    It really is a GRATE place - after speaking to Jason I DASHED into the main room to play on some of their machines, and was pleased to see 'Space Invaders' running on the first one I saw, also the second one, also the third, fourth, fifth... it took me a while but eventually I realised they had set up MOST of their machines - forty of them, in fact - to play Space Invaders especially for the event!

    Back in the extremely early 1980s my Dad had owned a games console which had a version of Space Invaders on it. When I'd seen him the previous weekend the pair of us had got precisely NOWHERE in working out what machine he'd actually owned, so it was a delightful surprise to wander round and suddenly see a machine playing EXACTLY the version of Space Invaders I remembered. It was a Prinztronic, and though I'm not sure it's precisely the version Dad had, it was DEFINITELY the version of the game that we played. It had an amazing 16 versions of Space Invaders on it... although that was various combinations of 1 or 2 players, "guided missile" (it moved as you did), and of course NIGHT ASSAULT, when the screen turned BROWN.

    Until this event was in the offing I hadn't thought of that machine at ALL for YEARS, and yet as soon as I saw it I knew it like an old friend, especially when i started to play the game and all the SOUNDS and idiosyncrasies of this particular verison came back to me. It really was a dead good version of the game - LOADS better than most of the others I'd had a go at!

    Eventually it was time to tear myself away and go and speak to some actual humans again, including Aidy from The British IBM and Mr Magnus Anderson, fellow panellist and all round good guy. We all shuffled into the room where I've done all my previous GIGS in - it's officially labelled "80s Classroom" because it has a Domesday Machine and loads of BBC Micros in it - where we were joined on the panel by Mr Gary Antcliffe, Games Designer, and began to CHAT.

    BLIMEY but it was INTERESTING! I didn't really realise how much of a GROUNDBREAKER 'Space Invaders' had been e.g. it was the first programmed arcade game, the first game with a non-human opponent, and in today's terms it was as big in popular culture as The Avengers films are now. There was some FASCINATING stuff about how the machines were made to LOOK good, with mirrors, cardboard backdrops, and COLOURED FILM to make the monochrome display look like it was colour, and lots about the cultural impact and various TRANSMEDIA items like annuals, cash-in singles and TINNED PASTA!

    Jason, Magnus and Gary knew A LOT about their areas, and I'd been worried that I'd look a bit of a CHUMP sitting there occasionally saying "I wrote a song about something vaguely related, nearly 20 years ago", but I think I did all right. Jason had sent me a transcript of a Parliamentary Debate about Space Invaders, which I managed to edit down and read out in Mildly Humorous Accents, and I also took on the job of Examining It Artistically i.e. I banged on about the constant search for NARRATIVE in the other media adaptations and said "The Third Space" at one point. Magnus nodded and then replied by saying "Liminal" so I think I'd said it in the right place!

    Afterwards we all retired to the temporary bar for a PINT and a CHAT, before it was time for me to HIKE back to the station, getting the traditional TRAIN BEER on the way. As ever with my visits to the Computing Centre I had had a LOVELY time, and it was the perfect way to end my week-long TOUR!

    posted 4/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Back On The Road Again
    This week I have been Back On The Road, travelling the country by train just like in heady days of a couple of years ago, although the "gigs" are bit different to how I remember.

    It all kicked off last weekend when The Beach At My Shore and I went down to Cornwall to see some of The Parents. We had a LOVELY time, featuring lots of beer, grub, paddling and music - including a GRATE band called The Stowes who did some Cornish songs at a beer festival in the village and were ACE! The original plan had been for us all to go to the Open Mic night on Monday, which my Dad plays at every month, and we'd booked our train tickets accordingly, but a few weeks before we set off they changed the date. Apparently it was the organiser's daughter's wedding the day before - which I GUESS is a fair enough excuse.

    Undeterred, my Dad set up his OWN Open Mic night in The Extension at his house. We thought this meant a family singalong/piss-up but he set it all up properly with lights, music stands and we did a full set each... which did include the aforesaid singalong, also piss-up. It was ACE!


    Exclusive Pic by The Flash Bang In My Wallop


    We travelled back on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday morning I was up at an UNGODLY hour to catch a train to LEEDS, where I was attending a meeting for WORK. When I arrived at Kings Cross they were doing a promotion for the new 'Jurassic Park' film, with a life-size T-Rex in the station and the theme music playing on a loop over the PA system. This meant that, when they announced our platform, the stampede of people heading for the train took on an ethereal, majestic beauty that I doubt it has ever had before.

    The meeting was all fine and the day passed off without incident, until on the way home when a bunch of YOUTHS got on my carriage at Peterborough, shouting to each other about how they were going to get ARRESTED because they didn't have tickets. They didn't exactly strike me as MASTER CRIMINALS but by heck they were annoying, YELLING at each other and moving around all the time. I sat there for ten minutes not wanting to get up change compartment in case it hurt their feelings, eventually realising that it was unlikely they would notice or indeed CARE and so shifted to another, much quieter, carriage. I know from YEARS of experience that it is ALWAYS better to move when people get on and start being NOISY, and yet I always hesitate in case it hurts the delicate feelings of whatever gang of wallies has just got on and started BELLOWING.

    This next day I was out AGANE even EARLIER, this time to distant Bristol where I was presenting a short talk about the different issues raised by preserving Arts data. As with all things in my exciting new job it was all Quite Interesting, and allowed me to do things that would have been UNIMAGINABLE in previous roles e.g. using LEGO, The Domesday Project and a Javascript version of 'The Lords Of Midnight' as slides at a Proper Serious Conference and nobody batting an eyelid. I even chatted happily to people afterwards and gave the distinct impression that I knew what I was on about!

    Best of all the conference finished EARLY, so I was able to dash and catch an earlier train... which was then delayed for ages because of RAIN. Some things about touring by train never change!

    Today is a rest day, but tomorrow I'm off again, this time to Cambridge to sit on a panel and talk about Space Invaders because, apparently, that is what I do these days. What a life!

    posted 1/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    It's Only (Just) Rock And Roll (but I liked it)
    Last Friday The Wildness Of My Horses and I went to a nearby music venue to see a local blues band play a few numbers, for LO! The Rolling Stones were playing at The Olympic Stadium and we had tickets!

    We arrived just in time to miss Florence and The Machine and got ourselves settled into our seats. We'd picked a place similar to where we usually try to be at the O2 for gigs, so it felt a) quite like that and thus b) a bit weird to see daylight coming through the roof.

    Not long after we arrived the Stones came on and were...well, a bit ropey really. It was all Quite Odd. These days when you go to big gigs you expect it all to be super slick, but this was definitely NOT that. For the first few songs they were all over the place, out of time with each other and clearly struggling a bit. I did wonder if maybe something was up with the sound, as irrespective of performance it wasn't perfect, but the fact that they got it together as they went along, but then still went off the rails every now and then, made me think it was probably just them being ropey. It was sort of endearing in a way, in that they were more like the slightly hopeless under-rehearsed "real" bands that I see and play with/in rather than a West End show, but the fact that we were paying about TWENTY TIMES as much to see them than some act first on at The Buffalo Bar did make me think they might have practiced a bit more! It's all well and good when ONE song descends into chaotic noise for an ending, but when they ALL do it you start to think it might not be an Artistic Decision - I was particularly annoyed with Mr C Watts, who spent the whole show looking like he'd rather be elsewhere. Come on Charlie, you're in charge of the rhythm up there, get it together!

    The reason I could see Charlie's ennui was because of the GINORMOUS screens that were set up at the rear of the stage. These were AMAZING - there were four of them in a row, one for each Official Stone, each screen about five times taller than they were wide. At various points the Vision Mixers were able to dedicate a screen to each band member, in Portrait Format, so they looked MASSIVE. As The Tumbling Of My Dice said, it made it all look a lot more Dynamic than it would have been if we'd just been watching the band, as Mr Wood on Guitar and Sir Ian McKellen on Other Guitar did not exactly move around a lot. Ronnie looked like the guitar was a bit heavy at times, in fact.

    Sir Michael Jagger, however, certainly DID move around a lot - he was BLOODY BRILLIANT! Having the huge screens meant you got to watch him UP CLOSE working the crowd, which he did EXTREMELY well, also VIGOROUSLY. You'd never guess he was 103! He was also EXCELLENT at between song chat, treating the whole thing half like a stadium gig, half like the back room of a pub, chatting casually about how difficult his shirt was to put on and then saying "Great to be back in Newham - a beautiful part of the world," which is not a sentiment which I think has ever previously been expressed in such a way. He also said "We came here on the ... JUBILEE LINE!" (which evoked cheers - again, not something that usually happens when you mention the Jubilee Line) "Yeah! From Canary Wharf to... STRATFORD!"

    The songs might have been a bit ropey but it was GRATE to see the band, although I did have to keep reminding myself that I was there, Actually Watching The Actual Rolling Stones. I think I've seen those images of Mick strutting across the stage, or Keith GRINNING, or Charlie wondering if the shops'll still be open after, SO often that it was slightly ALIENATING to see them live. "This is not on telly," I had to keep reminding myself. "These are the same people who played Altamont, and Hyde Park, and went to the Day In The Life sessions!"

    They played a LOT of The Hits too, including a rather good version of "Wild Horses" with the aforesaid Florence, and basically everything you'd expect them to do, including "Satisfaction" at the end with FIREWORKS (which we'd seen from our flat at the end of Tuesday's show)! Hearing them all in a row like that did make them all sound a BIT all the same, but HEY! That is the BLUES!

    All in all we were glad we went - they are, after all, LEGENDS, and it does mean that I only have Paul Simon left on my Big List Of Greats To See Before They Die - but we were glad too to have paid for the tickets WELL in advance. If the memory of handing over a TONNE of CA$H for tickets had been fresher I don't think I'd have been quite so forgiving!

    posted 30/5/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    More Moor
    Last night I met with The Hewitts in fragant Islington, where we had tickets to see Mr Ben Moor's show "Pronoun Trouble". SPOILERS: it was GRATE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I think I'm beginning to miss her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "How do you get in?" I asked.

    "With my card!" he said.

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

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

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

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

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

    "You ask at Reception."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

    posted 7/5/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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