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Survey Completed
Thanks very much indeed to everyone who filled in my Judge Dredd survey, which has just closed to submissions. I was hoping for about 50 responses but, what with one thing and another and some very helpful Internet Publicising by various delightful people, it ended up having just over 200! This is GRATE for Engagement and Information Gathering, though it does mean it's going to take me a while to do the DATA CLEANING, although this is not a bad problem to have!

When I first tried this out, gathering data about Doctor Doom a couple of years ago, one issue that cropped up at this stage was that people REALLY wanted to demonstrate how much they knew. On the one hand this is EXCELLENT because it means they're willing to fill in a form, but on the other it made life much more difficult for me because it meant I had loads of very long NARRATIVE answers to code e.g. instead of saying that Doom's appearance was "hood, mask, belt" or similar it would be more like "as far as I'm aware he has a sort of cloak or cowl, which is usually green, but that's not always the case. The first time I ever saw himn was..." and so on.

It's lovely that people want to share this sort of thing, but I was very conscious that it wasn't hugely useful to the data, and so they were spending time on it they didn't need to. Also, I didn't have time to read and/or ENGAGE with all of this on a personal level, so it felt slightly RUDE that I was just ignoring it. THUS this time around I moved the order around a bit, so people had a chance to demonstrate their awareness of Judge Dredd right at the start, and then gave examples of how they could answer the main questions that, I hoped, were clearer about the sort of thing I was after.

It didn't work at all! Looking through the answers there's a LOT of stuff there about what Judge Dredd means to them, people's opinions about various versions, and personal reminiscences - all good stuff, but again it makes me feel like the guy from Wendy's in the "Sir This Is A Wendy's" MEME. Actually, I've just looked this up to see if I've used the MEME correctly, and the SECOND example out of thousands is pretty much exactly what's going on!

All of which is to say THANKS again to everyone who took the time to fill in all of these responses, and APOLOGIES to all of those who wrote lengthy, well-considered, very interesting answers that I don't really have the time or ability to fully ENGAGE with. It's all going to be EXTREMELY helpful for the final work - I've just got to get on with it now and start CLEAING!!

posted 19/7/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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The UK Science Comedy Festival
On Sunday, while the rest of the nation was building up to The Nice Young Men Doing Jolly Well Actually in The Football, I was gearing up for a day of SCIENCE COMEDY, for LO! I was booked to appear at The UK Science Comedy Festival!

This was an all-day event which was booked long enough ago for there to be little in the way of thoughts of England getting to the finals of the Euros... including by me! Unlike other, lesser, more cowardly, events, this one was very much still going ahead, so in the afternoon I set off for distant EUSTON and The Camden People's Theatre to IMBIDE some of the other performers before doing my own set later.

The festival was run by Dr Steve Cross of Science Showoff. The GRATE thing about Steve (well, one of them) is that he is not like my usual view of a comedy promoter or comedian i.e. he is a bit more in the ROCK AND ROLL vein of doing daft things (like putting on an all day festival of science comedy in direct competition with the England football team) for the FUN of it. Crucially, he's also someone who HELPS other people (he was helping me by booking me, for example, even though I have not really DONE this stuff much before) and, even more crucially, is not a COLOSSAL WALLY. The world of comedy, in my experience, is filled with Colossal Wallies so finding a NON-WALLY is something to be thankful for.

Also also he was having a BEER when I arrived which only increased my respect - I well remember doing a Very Big Comedy Explaining Show some years ago and receiving looks of HORROR when I was spotted backstage having a beer before I'd even been on stage. People who say "Comedy is the new rock and roll" have never met comedians!

ANYWAY, I had arrived in good time to see a whole BUNCH of other people, intending to take copious MENTAL NOTES on what they were up to- as previously discussed, I am very much thinking of DOING some of This Sort Of Thing in future, so it seemed wise to spend some time looking at what people who are ALREADY at it are doing. It was a mixture of people all along the Science Comedy spectrum from Basically An Academic Presentation With A Couple Of Jokes (I was probably the furthest along on this axis!) to Basically A Normal Stand-Up By Someone With A PhD. My particular favourites were Emily Howling doing a song about SLUGS - it was a proper SONG with IDEAS and excellent words and a POINT - and Iszi Lawrence, who told me a LOT about historical animals while also being very funny indeed. It was also noticeable that most of the people there were quite young - young enough to have their PARENTS their to pick them up afterwards in several cases - although old enough to be doing or HAVE done a PhD, rather than Seasoned Academics. Maybe all the Professors were at home with the football!

My bit was in the very final section, which coincided with half-time, so the audience was very much down to a HARD CORE by this point. I've been working on my set for MONTHS and PRACTICING it for nearly as long so it all went pretty well - there was one joke I forgot to do, but then sticking it in at the end went better, but otherwise I think I did it all correctly. As you can see from Dr Cross's photographs, below, I had a nice time!

I was HUGELY aware of time constraints though, so didn't really get a chance to properly relax into it, and had to SPRINT through the big at the end where I explained The Unified Catalogue Of Transmedia Characters via the (excellent) audience suggestion of Doc Brown From Out Of Back To The Future. As is clear from the pictures it was a LOT of fun, but I did miss the freedom of my usual sets where I can have a proper bit of a chat with the audience - Steve, compereing this section, did an EXCELLENT job of exactly that sort of thing, and I must admit I was a bit jealous. That's the fun bit!

Despite DASHING through I did really really REALLY enjoy it, and it felt especially GRATE to be inflicting my RESEARCH on a brand new audience, even one who wouldn't NECESSARILY want to hear about it. Afterwards there were plenty of thoughts buzzing round my head about whether I'd want to do more of this (Executive Summary: yes I would) and where (Executive Summary: no idea as yet) but they all had to be pushed aside to place all my energy into SPEED WALKING through Quiet Streets of Even Quieter Curry Houses back to Saint Pancras to make sure I got home in time for at least a BIT of The Football. In this, I was successful!

It was, all in all, and apart from the END of said football, a GRATE day out, which more to think about it Moving Forward! Also: if we all promise to be well-behaved, could we have KLOPP next please?

posted 16/7/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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IGNCC 2024
I spent most of last week in distant NORWICH, there to attend the fifteenth annual International Graphic Novel and Comics Conference.

Well, I SAY I spent it in Norwich, actually I spent it on a weird concrete campus on the very outskirts of that fair city, as it was taking place at The University of East Anglia, or UEA as The Cool Kids call it. UEA is WEIRD (see above) as it is an entirely self-contained campus of JUST UNIVERSITY, and it was mostly built in the sixties in a brutalist style so is like an entire VILLAGE made up of lots of CAR PARKS. Also, it was EXTRA weird because it was out of term so there was hardly anyone around. ALSO also all the delegates were staying in the same student halls (which looked EXACTLY the same as the halls I stayed in in Edinburgh a couple of years ago) THUS you basically only saw the same fifty or so people everywhere you went - when I got home afterwards I felt like a medieval villager suddenly THRUST into the metropolis, surrounded by STRANGERS for the first time!

One consequence of our isolation was that almost all of our dietary needs were met at all points, as there wasn't really anywhere else to go. We had vouchers for breakfast in the cafe (which sat in a pretend street of other shops and cafes close closed for the summer), lunch brought out to us in the conference reception, and then our TEA was supplied at pre-arranged events. It was all very pleasant, but a bit STRANGE, like one long WEDDING RECEPTION.

The actual conference was dead good, and I saw several VAIR INTERESTING presentations, with my favourite - for purely intellectual reasons of course - being a WHISKY WORKSHOP that involved ACTUAL WHISKY. The downside of THIS was that on that day I was semi-sozzled by mid-afternoon and then went on to drink WINE at a conference dinner (in AVENGERS HQ!!) and then BEER in the pub afterwards which was ENTIRELY the wrong order. Luckily, my entire body was on hand to point this out to me the following morning.

To be honest the nicest thing was seeing everyone again. When I first started going to these conferences many moons ago it was TERRIFYING because, like all conferences that have been going for a while, it felt a bit like you were intruding on a reunion and that everybody else knew each other. Thankfully a) comics people are an extremely jolly bunch who make the effort to invite new people in and b) I have been there long enough now to BECOME one of the people being gleefully reunited, but I did have to keep reminding myself that other people were in the same situation I used to be, and invited THEM in too.

Sadly this had some downsides, such as when I ended up bringing forward Early Career Researchers to be BEATEN at POOL by some of our Senior Academics, but my heart was in the right place. Also, I paid for it by being drawn in - AGAINST MY WILL - to a succession of late night drinking escapades by certain of the above which lead to some VERY bleary mornings. Honestly, do they not even THINK of their duty of pastoral care??

Another GRATE highlight was walking into the reception area on the first day to find that Dr D Huxley had brough a MASSIVE pile of old British comics with him to give away for FREE, as part of his Clearing Out His Collection operation. For reasons which will soon become clear I have spent the past couple of weeks searching eBay for Old British Comics and paying sums of CA$H for one or two, and then suddenly I was presented with LITERALLY HUNDREDS of them, all for FREE! This was all very exciting, not just for me but for everybody else there too, and so at every break you would see people gathered around, saying "Oh, just a couple more then" and snaffling piles of comics. It was amazing!

On the last day myself and professional pool shark Dr I Horton gave our presentation about our planned Donald Duck project which seemed to go down all right, including some PERTINENT questions about the issue of STYLE, and also the aforesaid Dr Horton being traumatised by me saying "A lot of arts research is just people saying things". I didn't mean it like that Ian!

It was a lovely, though SLIGHTLY WEIRD, week amongst a whole bunch of lovely, and SLIGHTLY WEIRD, people, as it always is. The next one's going to be in BRUSSELS and I for one cannot wait, although my liver is already getting nervous!

posted 16/7/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Insufficient Tap Dancing
A week and a bit ago, back in the days when The Tories ran the country (remember them?) myself and The Seat Number On My Ticket went to the THEATRE!

We went to The Barbican to see Kiss Me Kate and it was JOLLY GOOD. I am a BIG FAN of the original movie version, having watched it about 17,000 times on BBC2 during school holidays and then many more since, so was EXCITED to hear the songs live but also mildly cautious because I knew it would not be exactly the same. This was WISE because it was NOT the same, although I must admit I did continue to struggle with this throughout.

Part of this was due to a complete lack of HOWARD KEEL who is UTTERLY GRATE in the original, but I eventually managed to get past this. As many will know I have TROD THE BOARDS myself on various occasions in the past and know full well that a different actor will bring a different INTERPRETATION to a piece darling, and Adrian Dunbar very much did that. NOBODY could do a Howard Keel (apart from Actual Howard Keel obvs) and he went nowhere near it, so all was well.

The problem, however, was one that is common to many aspects of life, both cultural and otherwise, and that was a lack of TAP DANCING. There are huge great LUMPS of "Kiss Me Kate" that call for tap dancing and weirdly that hardly happened. I could have BORNE this manfully if the production had not kept VEERING towards tap dancing and then giving up at the last moment. For instance, there were multiple occasions where SOME people started doing a bit of tap dancing but then the main characters DID NOT, instead just jiggling about a bit. The weirdest version of this was during "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" when the gangsters (who were BRILLIANT) gradually got more and more into doing a proper routine, with hats and canes and everything, building up and up to what was clearly going to be a big tap dance routine... and then didn't do it. It was WEIRD!

Lots of the rest was dead good though, and we had a LOVELY time. This was helped by the theatre itself, which had big comfy seats with plenty of legroom and a wide selection of bars. It DID have a ludicrously long walk to the TOILETS because a) there was some refurbs going on and b) someone had booked a private party in the middle of the building so you had to GO OUTSIDE to walk round it to get to the toilets, but in a funny way this gave everyone in the audience something in common to grumble mildly about. Also, we saw someone who LOOKED and DRESSED exactly like Larry David, which was a constant source of JOY!

It was, in summary, DEAD GOOD, although clearly I need to do some more work on Not Expecting Howard Keel if I ever go and see CALAMITY JANE!

posted 11/7/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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The End Of Eggpod
On Saturday lunchtime I headed off to distant WEST LONDON to Holland Park, there to attend the recording of the last ever edition of I Am The Eggpod. For those who don't know this is a GRATE podcast series in which Mr C Shaw talks to people about their favourite Beatles album or sometimes just The Beatles generally. It is not a COMPLEX idea for a podcast but it has been a LOVELY one as Chris himself is a BRILLIANT interviewer and the whole thing gets carried along on an immense wave of ENTHUSIASM. When it comes to The Beatles, that is precisely the sort of attitude I prefer!

On my travels I got as far as Actual Holland Park park itself but then got a bit lost, and so was DELIGHTED to see, hoving out of the distance, a coterie of INDIE TYPES led by Mr S Love heading my way. I followed them round and through a GARDEN to the Holland Park Opera place, which turned out to be a vast TENT with luxurious seating. It really was very nice in there, you could actually stretch your legs out a bit and get by easily when you needed to go to the loo. I guess Opera Types demand this sort of thing!

The spacing turned out to be extremely handy because the audience was - HOW SHALL I PUT THIS - the sort of audience who would get a bit excited, have a beer beforehand, and then desperately need a WEE halfway through. FOR LO! as expected the vast majority of Podcasts About The Beatles enthusiasists turned out to be middle-aged men of a slightly INDIE bent. It has struck me before, and it struck me again here, that The Beatles is very much my generation's answer to what The Second World War was for the baby boomers - something that happened JUST before they were born that is endlessly fascinating and spawns hundreds of documentaries and especially BOOKS to be read on holiday.

I like this idea a LOT and was all ready to give of it if asked - when Mr R Manuel (for it was he) got the event started he asked everyone to prepare a BEATLES THEORY as he was going to come round and ASK people for them during the break, but alas I spent much of that time in the queue for the aforesaid LOO, looking around and thinking "Oh look, that's ..." as all sorts of people drifted by who I recognised from various aspects of TV, ROCK and comedy. It was a bit like Indietracks, but not as drunk!

The event itself was GRATE. In the first half Chris talked to Stuart Maconie, David Quantick and Laurence Rickard Out Of Ghosts, and it very quickly turned into a live action version of what I always imagined meetings of SELECT magazine would be like. At first I thought "I bet I'm the only person who'd think that" and then looked around and thought "No, no I'm not". The second half started with Samira Ahmed and Mark Lewisohn (who everybody had kept looking at throughout and saying "Have I got that right?") and then David Janson, who'd played the small boy in "Hard Day's Night". He was there because, in theory, everyone was meant to be talking about THAT, but as usual with Eggpod that was just the starting point for everyone to go "Aren't The Beatles GRATE eh?" which, as previously noted, is something I fully support.

At the end Chris thanked everyone and pointed out that the nicest thing about Eggpod was that it had made all of us Beatle-types realise that we weren't alone and that there was a whole WORLD of fans like us out there, and then it all got a bit EMOTIONAL as we all stood for a standing ovation and EYES became DEWY all around. It was all rather wonderful, and a fitting end (if it MUST have an end) to my favourite ever podcast! Thanks Chris!

posted 10/7/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Thank You Santa Democracy
When Election Day dawned last Thursday I was VERY excited. I love an election at any time, but this one had the very special possibility that the CORRECT people might win, and so I had spent the six weeks leading up to it getting myself in a bit of a tizzy listening to every podcast and reading every analysis that I could get my hands on. I'd especially been reading the Electoral Calculus poll which kept saying AMAZING things like the Liberal Democrats becoming the official opposition. This had to led to me doing some enforced CALMING DOWN, and I had to keep reminding myself that as long as the Tories LOST then it was good. "Yes, but what if they only get 30 seats?" said the excited Election Toddler inside me.

ACTUAL VOTING at the actual polling station was, as ever, a great THRILL, even though the impostion of ID felt a bit rude. For the first time ever in my life I voted LABOUR in a general election (I generally vote Lib Dem or sometimes Green, though usually Labour for Mayor etc) because I really like the idea of SENSIBLE NON-MANIACS being in charge of things, and when a political party presents me with someone who likes The Wedding Present as a potential prime-minister it seems CHURLISH not to give them a go.

With that done we went home and settled in for the Exit Poll and I became GRIPPED with an unearthly TERROR. What if this had all been a RUSE and, as in 1992, the bloody Tories ended up winning? I must have got myself QUITE wound up because when the Exit Poll apppeared and it was clear that it was All Going To Be Fine I actually CRIED with relief. My NEURODIVERSITY JOURNEY of the past couple of years has led me to realise that sometimes I feel BIG EMOTIONS without really being aware, and it turns out that I'd been a lot more TENSE and AFEARED of the outcome than I'd consciously realised!

The next bit of the evening was a bit ANNOYING for the first hour or two as everyone kept banging on about how well Reform had done, almost as if they were trying to make out that there hadn't been a MASSIVE LANDSLIDE for somebody else. Still, once the results started coming in I took GRATE delight in watching arsehole after arsehole getting kicked out. I was in contact with various PALS throughout the night, including Mr T Pattison with whom I had shared The Portillo Moment back in 1997, and I gradually became aware that I wasn't feeling QUITE the same sense of EXCITED AMAZEMENT this time around. I guess that's partly because this result had been heralded by all of those podcasts etc, and possibly also because I am now almost exactly TWICE AS OLD as I was then and so less prone to leaping around!

I valiantly stayed up until about 6.15am, seeing THE NEW DAWN while I waited to see what would happen with Liz Truss, but that took so long that I gave up and went to bed. The lovely thing was that this meant I had a SPECIAL EXTRA PRESENT to unwrap the next day as The Worst Prime-minister EVER was as graceless in her exit as she had been incompetent in her premiership i.e. ENTIRELY.

Since then there has been a LIGHTNESS to the universe as WEIRD and WONDERFUL things occur. Not least amongst these has been the appointment of NON-MANIACS to the cabinet. I've got so used to THE WORST POSSIBLE PERSON being appointed to every job, with the clear intent to do THE WORST POSSIBLE THINGS, that seeing Vaguely Sensible People skipping into Downing Street feels like a new age of joy and wonder. I know Certain People will already be saying "Bah! They are all the same" or "Hmm! They are just Tories in different clothing" or something equally dreary and dull, but for now this feels like a change for the BETTER, and it has been an AWFULLY long time since we've had that!

posted 8/7/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Stratford Express
For the past few weeks round our way there has been a new FAD amongst The Young People. It isn't LOOKING AT PHONES or BEING GRUMPY or TAKING DRUGS but rather something rather delightful and wholesome: ROLLER SKATING!

Everywhere you go round The Olympic Park (which is where I live, have I mentioned that before?) you see TEENAGERS zooming around with various levels of skill on ROLLER SKATES. It first started happening a few months ago when the area around the new UCL East campus opened. The buildings themselves are all well and good, but the main thing is that they are in the middle of a vast expanse of EXTREMELY SMOOTH pedestrian surface, which is PERFECT for zooming around on roller skates. Every time you go for a walk in the park there are YOUTHS everywhere, all WHIZZING past in the general direction of UCL so they can mill around on wheels.

It is LOVELY, especially when you see a couple of kids who have CLEARLY just got new skates and are a) REALLY EXCITED and b) clinging onto each other for dear life to stop falling over. However, I do have to keep reminding myself that it IS lovely as it is VERY EASY to slip into Miserable Old Git mode and think "HARUMPH! They're going to bump into somebody, they should show more consideration" etc etc etc. I mean, sometimes it IS a bit scary when there's loads of them, especially when they do the Skating Backwards thing which SURELY is dangerouns and ... and as you can see, Grumpiness is a constant battle! THUS I try to look at it and think "This is something that could have happened 50 or more years ago and is filled with the same joy of JOINING IN and GOING OUTSIDE". Indeed, when I was growing up there was a pair of old roller skates in THE SHED that had belonged to my MUM when her school had had the exact same FAD.

Actually, previous East London FADS that I have been aware of have ALSO been pretty WHOLESOME. For the past couple of years you haven't been able to MOVE for smmall groups of teeangers doing synchronised Tik Tok dances, and before that we had the sudden wave of kids on HIRE BIKES whizzing around looking for ADVENTURE during COVID, so maybe The Kids really ARE All Right. Come on everybody, let's get some wheels of our own and go join them, I am sure they will be DELIGHTED!

posted 1/7/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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By The Arts Council Denied! Again!
Back in March I discussed my REJECTION by The Arts Council, where I'd asked for some CASH to Develop My Creative Practice in order to do some shows about DATA and all that. At the end of that particular blog I said I would not be COWED by this rejection and would try again.

True to my word I DID try again and, with the help of even MORE lovely pals, put together what I thought was a pretty good application. However, The Arts Council clearly disagreed and earlier this week sent me ANOTHER rejection letter. BOO!

I was pretty upset about it last time, mostly because I had half persuaded myself that I would GET it, but this time I was less optimistic, having seen evidence that they pretty much NEVER fund comics stuff, and so less saddened. I was a BIT saddened because, to be honest, the small amount of CA$H involved would have really helped me actually DO some stuff quite soon, but I was also a little bit RELIEVED as it meant that a) I had had a good old GO at it and b) could now carry on under my own steam. AS IS ALWAYS THE WAY.

Having spent several decades in The Krazy World Of Rock And Roll it has ever been the case that doing things YOURSELF is much much MUCH easier in the long run than trying to persuade a GATEKEEPER to do it for you. For example, putting a record out YOURSELF is a massive pile of work but it is as nothing compared to the SOUL CRUNCHING AGONY of trying to get somebody else to agree to do it and then, when they eventually DO agree, constantly trying to find out if they're STILL going to do so, and WHEN. I have had similar experiences with putting SHOWS on, publishing books, gig promotion etc etc etc ET FLIPPING CETERA. There are rare occasions when it works - for instance Wipeout Music have been BRILLIANT as my Music Publishers since FOREVER - but usually just getting on and Doing It Yourself is the best way.

And with that in mind I very much AM going to get on and do it myself. I'm doing a ten minute spot at The UK Science Comedy Festival on Sunday 14 July, where I'll be talking (at speed) about some of my RESEARCH and then I'm going to try and go out and do MORE of That Sort Of Thing. I'm not exactly sure WHAT or WHERE or HOW - that was what the GRANT BID was meant to help me with - but I'm going to try and find out! And obviously, if anyone out there knows of places where an Early Career Researcher (hem hem) could come and PLY THEIR TRADE talking semi-humorously about DATA and SUPERHEROES and SO FORTH, do please let me know!

posted 28/6/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Who Is Judge Dredd?
Today I am DELIGHTED to UNLEASH upon the world the NEXT PHASE of my mighty research into the world of comics. For LO! After banging on endlessly about Doctor Doom for years and, to a lesser extent, extolling the virtues of The Beano, I am now turning my terrifying gaze upon JUDGE DREDD!

The plan is to use my METHODOLOGY to look at how Judge Dredd has changed and developed over the years since he first appeared in 1977, looking at an example story from 2000AD from every year since then. I'm sticking with 2000AD and not The Megazine or any other places for the sake of SIMPLICITY, and also not doing newspaper strips or games or films or whatnot for similar reasons (and also so I don't have to watch the Sylvestor Stallone movie again). The idea is to look at this one version of the character to see how he WORKS as a character who actually AGES in real-time, how social attitudes change around him, and how he works as an instrument of SATIRE across several decades. I would very much like to do this as an Actual Book at some point - if possible one that costs a NORMAL PRICE rather than mad Academic Publishing prices - but for now this is being done as Something Interesting that I will hope to bang on about at conferences and stuff.

Before I can do any of that, however, I need some DATA and, as anyone who has read my Doctor Doom book will know, the first stage in doing THAT is to ask OTHER PEOPLE who THEY think Judge Dredd is. THUSLY I have set up an online survey to do just that!

SO, if you have a) any awareness of Judge Dredd as a character and b) about twenty minutes spare to spend thinking about him, I would be EXTREMELY GRATEFUL if you could go and have a go at the survey please. It's ANONYMOUS (although you do have the option to give your email address if you'd like to be given updates) and shouldn't take too long, but will be HUGELY helpful for me and my Important Research. Also, if you know anybody else who might like to take it, I would be similar grateful if you could pass it on to them too!

The survey is open until Friday 19 July so you've got a while to do it, and I will be going on about it for the next few weeks on The Socials too. Once that's done it'll be DATA CLEANING time for me, and then hopefully some proper analysis. In the meantime, thanks for listening to this PLEA, and prepare yourself for a couple of years of me saying DROKK and STOMM at any opportunity!

posted 27/6/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Wot I Have Been Reading
Sometimes when I'm at a loose end with no Urgent Tasks I think to myself "what would I most like to do right now?" and the answer is always "Sit and read a book or comic for a bit". It's a really basic thing that I always realise I WANT to do, but for some reason rarely actually DO do. When I used to ROCK around the country a lot one of the nicest things about it was all the time it gave me to sit and READ without worrying that I should be doing something else, despite the fact that I COULD do it a lot more instead of, for instance, glumly scrolling through social media and/or newspaper websites.

THUS of late I have tried to actually DO some reading when I have a spare moment and it has been GRATE. The process had been greatly helped by a) the huge pile of COMICS collections what I have bought recently and b) the release of the Arthur C Clarke Award Shortlist. This latter is something I have got well into over the past few years, as it is a GRATE way to find out about some Exciting New Science Fiction (and also some Rather Dull New Science Fiction) and so I have endeavoured to READ the whole shortlist each year.

This has always brought up some BRILLO new stuff, and this year the ESPECIALLY BRILLO book it has so far given me has been Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tish. This is a PROPER old-fashioned sci-fi story about SPACE MARINES but is also DEAD MOVING and EXCITING and full of ACTUAL CHARACTERS doing INTERESTING THINGS and I flipping loved it. Sadly the fact that is was so full of EXCITEMENT meant that the next book I read, In Ascension, was a huge disappointment as it spent about A MONTH plodding along while some quite dull people had unhappy lives that led to them finding A Big Hole In The Sea. I got about 25% of the way through and gave up - the nice thing about reading on Kindle is that a) it tells you how much you've read quite precisely and b) doesn't feel like such a big deal to just pack a book in when you're fed up with it. Usually the book I find most boring is the one that wins, so if any Prospective Tory Candidates are reading this I suggest you pop down to the bookies now!

After that I read The Ten Per Cent Thief by Lavanya Lakshminarayan, which was somewhere in between. It was RAMMED with a LOT of IDEAS and SATIRE and MORE IDEAS so that it felt very 2000AD-ish, but sadly without much of the actual HUMOUR or Interesting Characters you get in The Galaxy's Greatest Comic. It was like one of those hyper-detailed splash pages that some artists (I'm thinking Chris Burnham, although I know he's not really DONE much 2000AD) do, where there's lots to see but it doesn't really tell a story in itself. It was all right though! I'm now onto The Mountain In The Sea by Ray Nayler, which is ALSO about the sea but in this case moves along at quite a clip and features ROBOTS and also MONSTERS, and so I have high hopes.

MEANWHILE I have also been reading through the big pile of COMICS what I either bought in Brighton OR got with BIRTHDAY VOUCHERS. I've just read the latest collection of Ryan North's "Fantastic Four", which was ACE, and the similarly ACE second volume of "Black Hammer". Sadly I have ALSO finally read "Doomsday Clock", which is probably the worst comic EVER. I say this not because it's incompetently done - it isn't, with perfectly pleasant art and annoyingly Quite Exciting plotting sometimes - but because it is such a horrendous and vile misunderstanding and misappropriation of the original "Watchmen" which it claims to be based on.

There is not NECESSARILY anything wrong with continuations of existing works - I must confess that I have read more than one Jane Austen "continuation" where otherwise perfectly respectable authors have gone "Oh WOW what if the cast of Pride And Prejudice met all of her other characters like an Austen-VERSE but with MURDER" or "Same, but with ZOMBIES" and have very much enjoyed them all. However, these were all done with extremely out of copyright books, and NOT on a series by a living author who has been MASSIVELY RIPPED OFF for decades by the very people who are publishing this new version.

Also, at least PD James et al appear to have READ Jane Austen and GET it (I still contest that Matt Smith in "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies" is the BEST Mr Collins EVER), whereas the people who made "Doomsday Clock" seem to have read it once and gone "Oh yeah, superheroes. How cool would it be if it had SUPERMAN in it too eh?" NOT COOL AT ALL is the answer. There's also loads of annoying crap where they start off TRYING to do the nine-panel grid and self-referential images but then get bored a few issues in and start doing massive splash pages instead. Also none of the previous characters act anything like they did in "Watchmen", there's a complete misunderstanding of how Dr Manhattan's understanding of time ACTUALLY WORKS, and... well, it's a load of old bollocks done by Seasoned Professionals who should know better.

Unfortunately it was also BOUGHT by a long-time comics reader who should ALSO have known better, but hey, I bought it in my post-ARMA AWARD HAZE so will try to be forgiving of myself. I've got the second volume of Al Ewings "Immortal Thor" to go next, I think that'll clear the old Comics Palate a bit!

posted 26/6/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Conferencing At The Seaside
I've spent most of this week so far in sunny (and also occasionally rainy) BRIGHTON at the Association of Research Managers and Administrators Conference. This was a big gathering of people who work on... well, managing and administrating research, mostly in Universities and charities, and THUS I was there in my capacity as someone what does that for a living. It was a whole lot of ACTUAL FUN!

ARMA is a BIG conference, with over 700 people in attendance, spread over several large rooms in a massive seafront hotel. The UAL contingent descended EN MASSE with a DOZEN of us there, including a load of people from my department. We all stayed in the same hotel and hung around together a LOT, and it turned out to be GRATE because they are an EXCELLENT bunch. One of the many things I like about my current job is because I like the people i work with, and whereas in some of my past jobs (NOT ALL!) the idea of hanging around with people from work in NOT work time would fill me with dread, this time it was DELIGHTFUL. The only downside was that over time I became increasingly GARRULOUS and started MENTIONING aspects of my BACKSTORY and unleashing Humorous Remarks to a previously unseen level, so my colleagues may not feel quite the same way about me!

As with all conferences the talks themselves were VARIABLE. I've not been to this conference before and noticed that there was a definite trend towards EXTENDED "A Little Bit About Me" introductions. I am NOT a fan of this sort of thing - as I always say, if I wanted to know more about the lives of people I have never met before I would ASK - and my views were very much re-affirmed here. At one session there were four speakers and the spent ten minutes each - EACH - giving LENGTHY descriptions of their work history - "so I applied for that job but didn't get it which was disappointing but what can you do and then the job came up again and somebody mentioned it but I didn't think I would get it but they said to apply and so I did and what do you know but I got an interview and..." AD INFINITUM. I honestly felt like I was never going to get out!

Others were much better, notably a Keynote from Harriet Beveridge. It was advertised as using "stand up comedy and humour" to help people through research administration work, which filled me with UTTER DREAD but it turned out to not only be DEAD GOOD but also FUNNY, which is a very very difficult thing to do just before lunch in a massive auditorium to several hundred tired-eyed administrators. I LARFED!

The conference also had ACADEMIC POSTERS, which is something I have not been involved with for about a DECADE. Back when I worked at Birkbeck my boss was forever getting me to knock up posters for him and I got quite adept at making them with POWERPOINT. For those not in the know, Academic Posters are MASSIVE great things (A0 in this case) which usually act like a short paper with a big font so people can read it from a distance. However, when the call came round for proposals I thought "Hang on, they don't HAVE to be like that do they? If I did a poster about the benefits of being an administrator who also actually DOES research, I could do it as a COMIC!"

And so that is what I did - titled "The Adventures Of Administrator-who-is-also-a-Researcher" - and it took FLIPPING FOREVER. It turns out that making comics is HARD, especially when you want to make an ACTUAL COMIC that properly follows comics grammar, and not one of those boring ones which are EITHER an illustrated essay OR just a character talking to the audience. It turns out that the REASON academic comics are usually one of the two above is that those are an awful lot easier to do!

Eventually I got it finished, did some PEER REVIEW (i.e. asking my colleagues "does this make me look like a dickhead?") and got it printed off, lugged down to the seaside, and put up with velcro THUS:

As you can see, I was quite pleased with it! If you'd like a closer look it's available to download from UAL's outputs repository along with a VIDEO of me (briefly) explaining it. I spent both lunchtimes standing NEAR it, as you're meant to do that in case people want to ask questions, but to be honest mostly I talked to people about 2000AD! It was all very jolly and was even MORE jolly on the final day when they announced the results of the competition where delegaes could vote for their favourite poster. THIS happened:

I won! I was FLIPPING DELIGHTED I can tell you - I was very very tempted to copy Ronaldo's goal celebration from the night before and run along pointing in the face of other delegates but I just about managed to resist as I feel it would not have come across as PROFESSIONAL. Instead I wandered round the corner to Forbidden Planet and spent too much money on COMICS instead.

It was a BRILL ending to what had turned out to be a FUN few days. Conferences are GRATE!

posted 20/6/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Watching Lady Parts
I've just started watched We Are Lady Parts on the Channel 4 All-4-Player and am really enjoying it, despite having to battle through quite a bit of "They're Getting It Wrong" FURY. For LO! just like pretty much every television show or film about Being In A Band EVER it appears that the people involved have not really BEEN in a band and have almost - but not quite - no clue how it works.

I think it's the Not Quite-ness that annoyed me most, because there are some bits that DO completely get it, like when they're actually playing a song and LOOKING at each other. People in bands LOOK at each other all the time, in my case usually to see whose fault it is that something sounds wrong and then realising it was ME, but also to say "HA! This is GRATE!" That bit feels TRUE and is lovely, but goodness me the actual MECHANICS of most band stuff fall into exactly the same ERRORS that ALL such fictional band stories do, most notably in the way that they write songs together. In one of the episodes I've watched so far the band write a new song by JUST STARTING TO PLAY IT. Nobody says "hang on, what are the chords here?", nobody stops after three bars because they've started at the wrong speed, nobody tries to interrupt by playing a FALL bassline, and worst of all they just write the words there and then taking it in TURNS so to do.

The only time it EVER happens like that is when Paul McCartney does it in "Get Back" which a) is AMAZING b) is a rare and wonderful thing done by an all-time genius and c) will, I greatly fear, only encourage every other music programmes for the next three thousand years to do it the same way.

This has been going on FOREVER - a key historical example is in the film "The Doors" when one of them says "Hey, how about this for an idea for a song?" and just REELS OFF the intro to "Light My Fire" and then we CUT TO THAT EVENING where they've written and learnt the whole thing perfectly. THAT IS INCORRECT. Why oh why oh why can't they ever show the TRUTH, which would involve weeks of Thinking Of A Clever Rhyme In The Shower, writing down lots of different versions, spending HOURS trying to work out what the chords are, and then taking it to a band practice and spending 98% of the time taking the piss out of each other before trying the song, doing it wrong, worrying about it for a MONTH, and then just about getting to the end of it after several goes the next time. I mean, I am not a Hollywood Producer but that sounds like BOX OFFICE GOLD to me!

However, once I managed to CALM DOWN about all that vital and important stuff it was actually really good. I have watched quite a few of The Young Person Sitcoms over the past couple of years, usually on Channel 4, and they ALL seem to have two things in common. Firstly they are all ABOUT something and have SERIOUS ISSUES and UNREPRESENTED COMMUNITIES - I guess you need to have these to get anywhere with the posh people from extremely over-represented communities who commision everything in The Arts. Secondly, they are then all SURPRISINGLY LOVELY. SO many of these shows go "Prepare for THORTS being PROVOKED!" and then give you a lovely soppy twenty minutes about fundamentally delightful young people who really like and support each other, and I am VERY MUCH here for that sort of thing.

Having said THAT though, I did almost stop watching altogether when they went to an "audition" for a Battle Of The Bands that was PRECISELY UNLIKE ANY Battle Of The Bands that has ever existed, but I bravely ploughed through and am back to enjoying it again. I just hope there's an episode soon where they have an lengthy discussion about the difference between MCPS and PRS. This is the good stuff!

posted 6/6/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Up To Date With Modern Telephonic Technology
You find me today at the very CUSP of TECHNOLOGY, as I have been getting my Mobile Telephone fixed! And it has WORKED!

I've had my current phone for about six years now, which feels pretty recent to me but apparently is like lugging around a ZX80 when all the cool kids have got a QL. I use it for Whatsapping my HOMIES, checking my email, and reading the Guardian Live Blog to see if the election's happened yet (SIDEBAR: it is underway now, in case you don't have a Mobile Telephone to tell you), and so the fact that it's a bit old has not generally been a problem. HOWEVER, in recent months that has changed as the memory has started to get completely full up with BLOAT, so I haven't even been able even to take a PICTURE without it bursting into tears.

I have dealt with this in the traditional manner i.e. ignoring it and hoping it mends by itself, which is how I have dealt with another telephone-related issue for DECADES. For LO! when I got my very first phone, over TWO DECADES ago, I signed a contract with a shop in Leicester (I was still living in Leicester, THAT is how long ago it was!) and have been on the exact same contract ever since. For several years WISE COUNSEL has asked "Why are you paying three times as much a month for your phone as you need to?" as many many other DEALS have arisen that were much better, and so FINALLY last month I decided to sort it out.

THUS I spent several happy days going back and forth to our local VODAFONE SHOP, where a succession of Nice Young Men patiently EXPLAINED things to me. They didn't always get it RIGHT but they were so NICE about it all that I didn't really mind, and at the end of it they had SLASHED my monthly phone bill to a THIRD of what it had been, so I was much pleased.

ENERGISED by this success I realised I could probably sort out some other issues too, and so went and bought myself a second SD card. This tiny tiny little piece of TECH boosted the memory of my current phone to more than our ENTIRE ACADEMIC DEPARTMENT had had on ALL of its servers when I got my first one, and so I used it to set about downloading APPS. This was GRATE fun as I've spent the past year or so gradually deleting APPLICATIONS to save memory, but now I was spending it liberally. Why bother GOOGLING how late my train is going to be (because it inevitably IS) when I can have an APP to tell me? Similarly, why look at Twitter Dot Com to find out which "celebrities" my football club has booked for Personal Appearances over summer when THE POSH APP can do it?

The APP that I really wanted to have back was for PODCASTS, but this involved a FURTHER problem. About six months ago the JACK socket on my phone broke, so I had to manually download MP3s of podcasts onto my computer and then physically transfer them onto an MP3 player like some kind of MEDIEVAL SERF. "I can just get that mended," I thought. "How hard can it be?"

QUITE HARD turned out to be the answer, as the local Phone Repair SHops in the shopping centre were all LIGHTWEIGHT operators catering only to FANCY DANS with phones made since the days of lockdown. "Try a local phone shop" one of them said. "But you ARE local", I thought. Anyway, some more GOOGLING brought the realisation that a) London's Fashionable Tottenham Court Road is FULL of local phone shops (that aren't local to me but still) and b) I was going to get my HAIR CUT nearby on Saturday so could pop in.

THUS on Saturday afternoon I handed my phone over to an Earnest Middle-Aged Man in a BOOTH on Tottenham Court Road and wandered off for a haircut. Almost immediately I thought "hang on, I didn't get a receipt for that or anything" and this wasn't helped by the FACE on my hairdresser when I mentioned what I'd done. "I'm sure it'll be fine," he said. SEVERAL TIMES.

It was not perhaps the most relaxing attendance at a SALON ever, but happily once he'd finished and we'd done the traditional Looking At The Back Of My Head In A Mirror, I skipped back down the road to find that all was well and the jack socket was WORKING again! HOORAH! Well done, solid urban craftsman! THUS I am now loading up on about a million different podcasts again and planning LONG WALKS to listen to them. Obviously at the moment it is going to be pretty much ALL ELECTION STUFF, but if anyone has any recommendations for AFTER all that, I would be very pleased to receieve them!

posted 3/6/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Exciting Lights At The Social
Last week we went to see a gig - an actual gig - at The Social. It was J Bernardt, and we were there with our pal and Recommender Of The Gig Mr J Tomlinson. I had been doing my REVISION over the past few weeks, as J Bernardt wasn't someone I was familiar with at all beforehand, and so the gig itself was dead good. That is my review of the gig!

There were all sorts of interesting things AROUND the gig which I would like to expand upon though, notably the fact that although J Bernadrt is not a big name in THIS country he IS in his native Belgium, where he's in the band Balthazar. THUS the fact that he was playing in a venue as small as The Social (a venue so small that even *I* have played there a couple of times!) was Quite Exciting to London's entire BELGIAN community who had turned up to see him. It was a bit like when I went to see The Beths a year ago and the room was PACKED with New Zealanders who had all apparently come to see "The Biths"!

It was SO very packed that we couldn't actually get into the gig room and ended up watching from the BAR at the far end, looking over the soundman's shoulder. THAT reminded me of when The Charlotte used to sell out gigs and there wouldn't be room for everybody to get in because they'd based their official capacity on the gig room AND the pub attached. However, it was all FINE this time because, it turned out, we could see AND hear where we were AND we were really handy for the bar. Also it gave us the chance to appreciate an exciting innovation in LIGHTING, as The Social has special coloured lights ON THE WALLS which spread all the way back to us. I have only ever seen this sort of thing in ADVERTS so it was dead exciting to be part of a gig where the walls THEMSELVES flashed and changed colour with the music. It was ACE!

As I say, the music was dead good too and it was - AS EVER - really good to have done the revision and know the tunes, which are now happily bouncing round my BRANE. It was a fab evening all round, especially with all the technical wizardry, and was topped off by the realisation that we were only five minutes away from The King & Queen, so headed their for some in-depth post-gig analysis. HOORAH!

posted 28/5/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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All Them Trimmings
Being a modern young hepster about town I listen to these interesting new things called "podcasts". You might not have heard of them, they are basically like radio programmes but you get them from off of the internet and they're done by people you either know, or possibly people who other people you know do. They are quite the thing and I for one predict that they will get quite popular.

One of my VERY FAVOURITE podcasts is This Are Johnny Domino, in which Steve and Giles from AAS stalwarts Johnny Domino listen to some of their old recordings and BICKER about them. It is dead good, especially if you are someone who was in a band in the 90s who did lots of titting around on a four-track, as it is VERY MUCH concerned with the daftness of it all. It's also quite good if you grew up with AN ANNOYING BROTHER who is only a few years different in age and INSISTS on being wrong about things in an unending yet AMUSING way.

They have also been developing ENGAGEMENT OPPORTUNITIES for their listeners, including inviting people to send in their OWN four-track masterpieces for inclusion in "The Eternal Halls of The Four Track Gods" and, more recently, inviting us to record our own songs based on a set of lyrics that they found many years ago in a "How To Be In A Band" book. I was INTRIGUED by this idea and so did one of my own and sent it in, and in THIS week's episode - called All The Trimmings - Part 2 because that is the title of the song and it's the second episode featuring people's contributions - they PLAYED it.

I was Quite Excited to hear what they thought because, as I say, it is one of my VERY FAVOURITE podcasts (matched only by I Am The Eggpod really), but also Slightly Afeared. In the past, when that nice Mr S Lamacq was going to play one of our records, he would sometimes email to let me know in advance, and I would ALWAYS think a) "HOORAY" b) "Oh no, what if he plays it on ROUNDTABLE and lots of ROCK STARS say it's not very good?"

It was the same feeling HERE, and this was only increased when the bit with my song in began with a DISAGREEMENT about whether they should even have been playing it at all. "Oh no," I thought, "clearly one of them HATES it, or they BOTH hate it and one thinks it should have been left out!" However, on further listening it turns out that the disagreement was whether my song should have been allowed to JUMP THE QUEUE and be played before some others that had come in earlier. The central argument for doing this, it appeared, was that Steve thought it would be good because I have, and I quote, "lots of followers" who would be commanded to listen to it, and Giles thought this was SELLING OUT.

This news pleased me NO END. I mean, obviously I had sent it to them because I thought THEY had loads of followers who would listen, feel compelled to seek out my other stuff, and I would finally be able to sell the last 100 unsold copies of Say It With Words, but still, it was nice that they THOUGHT such things! It was also lovely when they went into a discussion about the Venn diagram of people who like THEIR stuff and MINE, coming to the conclusion that this contained ONE person i.e. Mr Frankie Machine. I would disagree, not least because I would put MYSELF in that category, but then I got distracted from such thoughts because Steve started talking about going to Indietracks and seeing people asking to have their photograph taken with me (THIS HAPPENED!) (MORE THAN ONCE!) and I remembered how much FUN that all was.

Anyway, apart from all that there is PLENTY more DELIGHT to be had from the show, which is an unofficial ARTISTS AGAINST SUCCESS special with tracks by them and also Frankie Machine too, and I would HIGHLY recommend - NAY, COMMAND - that you go and have a listen, whether or not you are one of my "loads of followers" or not! Like and subscribe!

posted 24/5/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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It's finally here!
Yesterday morning I was sat at my desk, DILGENTLY WORKING but also finding the time to occasionally look at the NEWS and SOCIALS. Early on I saw a tiny mention in a news blog that somebody had heard the KRAZY rumour that a general election was going to be called that day. This was treated as a source of HUMOUR, because of COURSE there wasn't going to be an election called today, that would be NUTS, but then as the morning went on more and more people started repeating it, everyone somewhat SURPRISED because the expectation has been that Sunak would wait as long as he possibly could in the hope that Something Would Turn Up to help him out. What we had all been doing wrong, of course, was thinking that he would behave in the way that someone with any sense would do, when the evidence of the past couple of years is that he is VERY BAD INDEED at Actual Politics, and so would be more likely to do something this DAFT. At least THIS time he's made a stupid decision that's likely to harm HIM rather than US tho - Thanks Rishi!

I got more and more excited about the prospect all day because I FLIPPING LOVE ELECTIONS. I like all the polls and the predictions and the general air of POSSIBLE MISHAP, and so I REALLY enjoyed Rishi Sunak's opening speech where he stood up and said "PLAN PLAN PLAN" while obviously having failed to plan for the fact that it was raining, and ALSO that someone might think "I'll turn up with a massive speaker and play 'Things Can Only Get Better' all the way through, that'll be funny." IT WAS.

I'm sure things will go wrong and my daydreams of seat calculations will turn out to be wildly incorrect, but for now I am just ENJOYING those daydreams. I've also booked the day off on July 5th so that I can STAY UP ALL NIGHT and hopefully catch a few Portillo Moments. The last time this happened (or at least something happened that I hope will be echoed this time) was obviously 1997, when myself and Mr S Wilkinson went round to Mr T Pattison's FLAT to watch the results. Tim lived above a KEBAB SHOP then, and when the Portillo Moment happened we were all jumping around and shouting so much that the men from the shop came running upstairs because they thought there was a FITE.

Sadly there will be no Kebab Shop Men for any of us this time, but I'm very much looking forward to communing with both of the above, and others, via modern technology. I've even started looking at flipping TWITTER again, so keen is my interest in All Of This. Best of all, when it starts to get BORING in a few weeks it'll be time for the EUROS to start, so we can enjoy entirely different DAYDREAMING and PLANNING. I am confidently looking forward to everything going precisely as I hope in both contests, and look forward to a glorious new dawn approaching where we don't have the Tories in charge and DO have Lovely Gareth Southgate looking on proudly as his team of Nice Young Men with the Euros.


posted 23/5/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Five Hundred Voices Say 'Cheese'
On my way into work yesterday morning I experience a HAPPENING that gladdened my heart for the rest of the day, so I thought I'd share it in order to spread some DELIGHT around.

I work just behind Kings Cross station, in Granary Square, which is very cool and fashionable, possibly even more so when I'm there. To get to Granary Square you cross over a canal, and the oppsite side as you cross has a row of big steps running down from the square to the water, all covered in plastic grass, which loads of people go and sit on in the summertime. There's usually a few people sat there in the morning as I walk towards it, but today there were HUNDREDS of people, who were SMALL. At first I thought it was just a school trip who had occupied the entire thing but as I got closer I noticed that each row had children of roughly the same size on it, with a TEACHER at either end, and that nearly everyone was looking across to the other side where there was a cameraman.

AHA! It was a SCHOOL PHOTOGRAPH being taken, most likely for an entire Primary School. We used to do these every three or four years at my Senior School, and it would involve the erection of a MASSIVE structure for people to stand on, and then one of those cameras that moved VERY SLOWLY along the line, enabling TYKES to run round the back and get in it twice (except at our school the STERNEST teachers were positioned at the end to stop this rebellious practice). It used to take FOREVER to set it all up, so it was clearly a GRATE idea for whatever school this was to take advantage of the pre-provided big steps, and I'm sure worth the hassle it must have taken to get FIVE HUNDRED TINIES along to the right place.

It was all very CHARMING and LOVELY, but then it got better because it was time to take the actual picture, which involved lots of adults saying "SHH!" and then small children saying "SHH!" and then everybody all saying "SHH!" to each other because they were all saying "SHH!" so loudly. Once that was done the cameraman shouted. "ALL RIGHT! NOW! EVERYONE SAY - CHEESE!" and then 500 tiny voices whispered "cheese" as one. It was LOVELY. Shortly after that I entered our building and heard a distant "LOUDER!" and the same 500 voices shouting "CHEESE!" and it was BRILLIANT.

I work in an ART COLLEGE and there are often HAPPENINGS and ART and CONCEPTS slathered about, but I don't think I've ever heard ot seen anything quite as moving as half a thousand human beings forming a moment they'll always remeber by shouting about dairy products. More of this sort of thing please!

posted 21/5/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Everything Changes (except The Validators)
On Friday I had the day off to head NORTH to the fabled East Midlands, where I was due to meet up with the mighty VALIDATORS to celebrate the Big Birthday of our own Tom - THE TIGER - McClure.

I'd booked my train for quite early in the afternoon, partly because it was LUDICROUSLY expensive later on, but also because it would give me some time for a bit of a wander round. A few days ago I'd ready something on The Socials that referred to some documents being held in "The Kimberlin Library". "Oh," I thought, "that was the old Leicester Poly library, it must still be there!" I went to look at it on Google Streetview, and was at this point ASTONISHED to discover how much the area around it had changed. Leicester is FORVER changing, as the council seem to have a decades-long urge to repeatedly knock EVERYTHING down and then put something else there, which a few years later gets knocked down ITSELF (as faithfully documented in the song Leicester's Trying To Tell Me Something, but this level of moving STREETS about was something new. "I'll go and have a look at it in real life on Friday", I thought. So I did!

It formed part of a MASSIVE HIKE around town, taking me as far afield as Narborough Road, where I went to have a look at some of the places I'd lived as a student. That area has NOT changed very much AT ALL, and has very definitely "avoided Gentrification". Pretty much everywhere else, however, had swapped around, with places that used to be pubs now supermarkets, places that used to be banks now pubs, and places that used to be derelict factories now student housing. Crumbs there is a LOT of student housing in Leicester now - there was hardly ANY when I was there, A MILLION YEARS AGO, which is why we all lived in shared houses off the Narborough Road, but now it's EVERYWHERE.

SO many buildings had changed purpose that after a while I began to feel quite DISORIENTATED, as my memories of what USED to be there kept bashing up against what was there now instead. This became particularly disconbobulating when I walked back into town and went in search of A Well Deserved Pint. The very few places that WERE still pubs had changed entirely, with all of the ones I remembered as being NICE now being STINKY - again, this seems to happen a LOT, with Leicester's great blessing of LOADS of lovely pubs being tempered by the fact that they never seem to last very long!

In the end I went to The Globe, which HAS changed a bit inside, especially with the old courtyard being KNOCKED THROUGH, but is basically the same pub it was in 1988 when I had some of my very first PUB experiences there. I was also DELIGHTED to find that Currant Affairs is still very much open, and still selling their vegan sausage rolls!

Eventually it was time to head up New Walk to The Marquis Of Wellington, which turned out to be RAMMED, and also weirdly OLD. I don't know what was going on, but it ws PACKED with people older than ME who were QUEUING at the bar! Happily around this time Tom himself arrived and we agreed it was NOT an ideal situation, so went over the road to The Loaded Dog instead, which was reassuringly MUCH younger and LESS packed. The University Tennis Society seemed to be having a big meeting there too for some reason!

The Pattisons rolled up, and then not too long after that The Fleays too, and a MARVELLOUS evening ensued of BEER and YACK and CURRY and MORE YACKING. As I have often said, it is SO MUCH EASIER to have a get together with CURRY instead of doing an Actual Gig, and it was LOVELY to see everyone without having to lug piles of equipment around and do soundchecks! Leicester itself may have changed but The Validators have not - especially PHYSICALLY as you can see from the below BAND PHOTO taken for us by Mrs J Fleay.

Expect to see this as an ALBUM COVER at some point in the distant future!

After we'd finished our fine dining we strolled back down New Walk to Duffy's, which I remember long ago as The Town Arms but is now more like a mini-Charlotte (which itself, inevitably, is now a supermarket). More BOOZE ensued, more HILARITY and a RUDDY BRILLIANT evening was had. Eventually it was time for The Fleays to go and get their train, after which we all hopped into an UBER, with me and Tom being dropped off at The New Tiger Towers to savour some WHISKY.

It had been a slightly PERPLEXING afternoon, but a FANTASTIC evening - I hope we don't end up waiting for another Big Birthday before we do it again!

posted 20/5/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Connie Converse
Last week I was idly wandering through the fields of Facebook when I spotted a post from The James McMahon Music Podcast mentioning a show he's just put up aboout Connie Converse. There was a brief blurb that mentioned something about a singer-songwriter who'd disappeared about 50 years ago, and whose music had only recently been discovered.

"That sounds interesting", I thought, and I was CORRECT, for a deeper dive into the topic (i.e. listening to the show and looking her up on Wikipedia) showed it to be FASCINATING. The very brief version is that Connie Converse was a singer-songwriter in the early 1950s before there even WERE singer-songwriters as what we would understand them today. She lived in New York, wrote several songs, once appeared on a television programme, but got absolutely nowhere with it at ALL and so gave up on music and did other stuff instead until 1974 when she packed all of her belongings into a Volkswagen Beetle and drove off NEVER to be heard from again.

All of the above is INTRIGUING, but what makes it much more so is that in 2004 some TAPES of her music were played on a radio show and they were AMAZING. She never officially released anything at all - a friend had recorded some of her songs half a century earlier, and some other recordings of hers were found in a cabinet in her brother's garage, and so in 2015 a compilation called How Sad, How Lovely was released. INTRIGUED further I went and downloaded it off of Bandcamp and have been listening to it ever since because it is FANTASTIC.

It sounds like music from an alternative universe (The Connie Converse-verse?), like something you have heard a million times before but also never have until just now, as if it had existed in a previous version of the universe but somehow got erased. The actual music reminds me a bit, for some reason, of Stan Laurel singing "Lonesome Pines", and also of Madeleine the rag doll from Bagpuss, in that it sounds super-OLD, but also weirdly MODERN and new. The tunes are GRATE (I have been wandering around singing the title track all WEEK) and the words are BRILLIANT. I think that's what makes it strangest to listen to, with her singing very modern but also very old-fashioned lyrics but knowing it was seventy years ago.

What I am saying is that she is/was GRATE and I would highly recommend everyone go and have a listen. Also, if anyone knows what happened to her and happens to have her contact details, please ask if she'd like to come out of retirement and do a Totally Acoustic!

posted 6/5/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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A Thing In Barbican
At the weekend I ventured into the labyrinths of London's BARBICAN for ANOTHER secret meeting!

This time I met with Mr John Dredge to discuss a THING that we have been talking about doing. As with other SECRET THINGS, I don't want to go into too much detail about what it actually is just yet as OBVS we want to save that for the news conferences, live tweetalongs and TV news broadcasters that will all be accompanying the international LAUNCH, but I can - EXCLUSIVELY - reveal that it will involve recording me and John talking to each other. WOTEVER could it BE eh?!?!?

In order to facilitate this idea we'd agreed to meet up and have a trial run of recording us talking about something, and we'd chosen the Barbican to have a go at doing it because it is a big place with loads of nooks and crannies that one could hide in, where in theory it would be quiet enough to record a CHAT. This did not turn out to be the case as when we turned up it was FULL of people wandering around (some traditionally LOST within the Barbican's many tunnels, as I had been on the way) or loafing about in great groups of NOISE.

Eventually we went outside and found a nice quite spot round a corner, sat on a bench, with nobody around where we settled ourselves down and began our YACK. I'm not quite sure what happened over the next twenty minutes or so but I can only guess that people spotted us and thought "they look exciting and modern, let's wander over and be near them so that we too can be that cool" as LOADS of people turned up, mooched around, and then left to make way for others to come and stand about for a bit too. Over the course of the next hour not one but TWO entire flipping TOUR GROUPS came past and stood near us to be told the history of - I assume - this intensely cosmopolitan park bench.

We carried on regardless and had a DELIGHTFUL time - Mr John Dredge is not only a fine comedian but also an EXCELLENT chat-participant - and once we'd completed our task we went back inside for a discussion of how it had gone (WELL) and plans for what to do next. Many THORTS and IDEAS flew about, almost all of which were GRATE, but while this was going on something caught my eye. I looked up and a few feet away saw DOCTOR DOOM! On closer inspection it turned out the be the back of an MF DOOM t-shirt, but one which was very very heavily based on this classice image from Fantastic Four #84:

It felt to me like THE UNIVERSE was saying "Yes, this is a good idea, and here is a representative of a previous good idea to give its ASSENT!" I went and asked for a photo, and the chap seemed DELIGHTED, and so was I!

Further chat and PLANS ensued, and we now have some TASKS to complete to work out what comes next. As I say, I can't reveal full details just yet, but when I do it is, I feel, going to be GRATE!

posted 5/5/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Bandcamp Bank Holiday
As anyone who's ever bought anything on Bandcamp will know (from the 10,000,000 emails from bands telling you so), today is Bandcamp Friday!

That means that Bandcamp don't charge the ARTISTES any fees, which is very nice of them, but doesn't really apply to ME with my latest release Oadby Wonky Knobby as you can get it for FREE. Rather than have my gallant band of CONSUMERS miss out on the fun, therefore, I had a dig into the ARTISTE TOOLS section and discovered you can have discount codes, so am unleashing a MIGHTY DISCOUNT!

It works thusly: go to my lavish Bandcamp site and BUY some stuff, and then when you get to the checkout enter the discount code justbeinghelpful and you'll get 20% off THE LOT. By "THE LOT" I mean EVERYTHING, including the full discography package. It is a KRAZY BARGAIN!

MATH FANS can also experiment with getting the aforesaid Oadby Wonky Knobby for nothing and seeing how Bandcamp deals with calculating 20% off ZERO, although if SMOKE starts to come out of its ears, the tapes start whirring into a blur and Bandcamp Dot Com collapses with a message saying "404 ++ DOES NOT COMPUTE ++" then please don't tell anyone it was my idea.

The offer is VALID until the end of Bank Holiday Monday... I think. I had to enter the end date in the stupid and wrong American style, so there's a slight chance that it might be useable until early June, but either way please partake of it as you will, with happy Bandcamp Friday wishes to one and all!

posted 3/5/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Monster Island
Last week, as part of the EXCITING BUILD-UP to the release of Oaby Wonky Knobby I put out a video for 'Only A Robot'. However, the EXCITEMENT does not end there for today I am UNLEASHING yet ANOTHER video, this time for Monster Island, which you can witness RIGHT HERE:

This one was put together using clips from various public domain movies, notably The Lost World from 1925. It was a GRATE deal of fun to put together, especially MARVELLING at the ingenuity in some of these old films, and I hope it is similarly DELIGHTFUL to watch!

posted 1/5/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Oadby Wonky Knobby Unleashed
Today is the last working day of the month, which means it's time for the latest edition of our newsletter The Last Working Day Of The Month, and LO! it is a big one this month because it is issue TWO FLIPPING HUNDRED!!

Flipping heck, when I started bothering people with a newsletter nearly TWENTY YEARS AGO I never dared to dream that it would still be appearing, in pretty much the same format, all these futuristic years later. On previous occassions when we've reached BIG NUMBERS I've given away a free compilation exclusively to newsletter subscribers, and I was all ready to do so again this time but, as previously discussed, when I started putting it together I thought "Hang on, this is actually pretty good, maybe I should give it a WIDER RELEASE."

THUS Oadby Wonky Knobby is out today on All Streaming Services so that THE KIDS can get hold of it however they wish. HOWEVER,T the original plan to give it away for free to newsletter subscribers remains VALID, so if you ARE a newsletter subscriber please do hop over to the Bandcamp page for the album, click "Buy Digital Album" and enter a big old ZERO in the price you want to pay. You should then get it for NOWT!

If you're not a newsletter subscriber but would still like to avail yourself of this offer please sign up and then follow the same process. More subscribers are always welcome, and it'll only be about five years until we do the NEXT compilation, so you might as well get in early!

posted 30/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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White Town At TA
Last night I made my way once again to The King & Queen in London's fashionable Fitzrovia area of London, for an evening of ROCK!

For LO! Totally Acoustic was BACK! I've avoided FORMALLY saying this previously for various reasons, largely to do with the hassle of trying to do regular dates, working out who to book, and then all the gubbins around the podcast, but I realise now that I can just do it occasionally when I've GOT someone who can play, and not worry about the rest of it. INDEED this gig had only been booked because the band White Town got in touch through their emissary Mr F A Machine to ask about doing one, so it is them what I have to thank for this realisation! In fact, Mr J Mishra is Getting The Band Back Together in a very similar fashion i.e. doing gigs when it looks like it'll be fun, so that's DOUBLE inspiration!

Anyway, I arrived at the King & Queen to find that it now has what looks like a STUDENT clientele, who had all decided to stand RIGHT IN THE DOORWAY so you literally had to push your way through them to get in. Later on several people said to me "You should write a song about that!" I ALREADY HAVE, I replied.

Upstairs I found Frankie, Jyoti and Mr I Turner already in residence, and we were soon joined by Mr S Hewitt and a whole HEAP of lovely people, and also a couple of lovely DOGS, courtesy of The Cresswells. Seeing all these various CHUMS - including Mr T "The Tiger" McClure, who had RACED to be there - reminded me of why I really enjoy doing Totally Acoustic, and very much affirmed in my mind that it was worth doing it again.

Soon it was time to kick off, and we began in the traditional manner with the Totally Acoustic theme tune before I launched into action with the following:
  • Monster Island
  • A Museum Of One Thing
  • Only A Robot

  • The reason I played these particular songs was that I'd realised I had an album coming out soon, and so I really ought to do some songs from it. However, I had NEVER played the first two songs in front of an audience before, so rather than risk it all going HORRIBLY WRONG I printed myself some LARGE TYPE lyric sheets, which worked out really nicely, and aside from distracting myself with thoughts of Open Top Bus Tours in A Museum Of One Thing it all went pretty well.

    We then had a break before White Town came on and were GRATE. They did a stream of songs which were GORGEOUS, contained within an ongoing narrative of explanation and THORTS from Jyoti - it was fab! This was his first gig for about six years, he said, but there was precisely NO rustiness about it. It was one of those lovely gigs where as soon as it begins you feel like it's all going to be FINE and also FUN. Also also, they did THE HIT just over halfway through, and a) it fit in with the rest of the set of equally gorgeous songs and b) there was a TINGLE around the room as we all gently sang along with an actual NUMBER ONE being sung by its author. That was pretty special! Also, Frankie played the trunpet bit on a blow-into-it keyboard thing, which was ACE!

    With only them and me on it all finished at a HIGHLY reasonable time, leaving lots of space for YACKING. Excitingly, when I popped downstairs I overheard a conversation at the bar between three chaps talking about Ron Smith and Massimo Belardinelli so INVEIGLED my way into it by saying, "Excuse me, I am a DOCTOR OF COMICS." All right, I'd had an exciting night, but they didn't seem to mind too much!

    Eventually it was time for us all to wend our merry way home after a lovely evening of ROCK and PALS. I'm hoping to do another one of these in a month or two, and have someone very much in mind to drag along to do it, but fear not, I shall be broadcasting details loud and clear as soon as it's arranged!

    posted 26/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Only A Robot
    Today I am unleashing a brand new VIDEO upon the world! It is for the song Only A Robot from my forthcoming album Oadby Wonky Knobby and you can see it HERE:

    As the bit at the end says, the images were taken from a Golden Age comic strip called "Hugh Hazzard & His Iron Man" by Wayne Reid which appeared in the early 1940s in "Smash Comic" (and so is public domain!). I read several issues of the comic to find the right panels, and it was REALLY interesting reading strips from the transition period from pulp heroes to superheroes, with all sorts of very solid men with alliterative names using Science (or sometimes Weird Science) items to Fight Crime. I was surprised by how GOOD some of it looked - lots of really old comics I've read look like they were drawn by a 14 year-old in a hurry (and some of them were) but these look Actually Pretty Cool, and the stories do at least make sense, mostly.

    Fittingly the song comes from a SHOW that did at least make sense, mostly - Moon Horse VS The Mars Men Of Jupiter. Other shows that Steve and I did got a bit complicated (yes I'm looking at you, Total Hero Team) but I always remember this one being FAIRLY straightforward, and also a LOT of fun to do. Tiddy The Tin Man emerged as the EMOTIONAL CENTRE of the whole thing, and this was his big BALLAD which always felt GRATE to sing, even though audiences seemed to get distracted by something going on behind me during the instrumental section.

    As I say, the song turned out to be a lot more EMOTIONAL than expected, and putting the video together felt even MORE so. My GRATE hope is that, come the inevitable RISE OF THE MACHINES our future robot overlords will see this video and think "Ah yes, Hibbett got it, let us spare him!" Here's hoping!

    posted 23/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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