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Blog Archive: February 2010

Always Thinking Ahead
Today has seen us break new ground in EFFICIENCY and FORWARD PLANNING! For LO! We are having a ROW about a setlist.

"A row about a setlist?" you might say, "Surely that is the very cornerstone of The Validators' existence? Surely, when the Universe itself is at an end all that will remain is the faint whisper of you telling Tim you don't want to do 'The Symbol of Our Nation'?"

This is TRUE, but we don't usually start arguing about the setlist until a week or so before the gig (it's much safer than leaving it until the gig itself, when STRONG WORDS may become involved). THIS time however we are arguing about a gig which we won't be doing FOR FIVE MONTHS!!

To be fair to US, this is likely to be our ONLY gig this year, and it's hardly unexpected - in fact I have to say I was surprised that Certain Members Of The Band hadn't brought it up before - but still, that's a LOT of discussion time. I hope people realise, when (if!) they come to see us at this As Yet Unannounced Festival Appearance (MYSTERIOUS! Well, not very) that we have spent MONTHS carefully HONING our performance.

It'll still be written on the back of other people's setlists at the last minute, mind you, and Certain Other Members Of The Band (hem hem) may get tiddly and change things at the last minute without warning anyone, but it will be done with LOVE!

posted 26/2/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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Pop Quiz
I had an Important Meeting on Tuesday night with King Of Men and all round good guy Mr John Jervis. Our BRIEF was to discuss arrangements for the Pop Quiz section of London PopFest this weekend, and we were joined by The Hewitts for a section of the evening for these very purposes, but we ranged widely over a broad spectrum of topics, as is the way of such summits.

As well as drafting proposals for more efficient stock control at festival merchandise stands we also came up with a GRATE idea for PRIZES at the pop quiz, although to be honest it's actually a revival of a GRATE idea we had for the AAS Birthday Gigs a few years ago. We did gigs in Derby and London and gave EVERYONE who came a huge goodie bag full of CDs and singles - this was BRILLIANT for two reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, everybody who came went home with a bag full of free music. Secondly, and most excitingly for US, the board of AAS all cleared out loads of space that was being taken up by unsold records. Everyone's a winner!

So that's what we're planning to do on Sunday - every team (well, unless there's more than 10 teams, or THREE TIMES as many as last time) will get a bag (if the bags arrive in time) packed with FREE CDs that we've had lying around... sorry, that we've carefully selected from the treasure trove of rarities that take up so much space... I mean, which occupy hallowed ground in our homes. I've got BOXES of, frankly, AMAZING CDs which not enough people have heard which I'm very much looking forward to FOISTING on people - the Johnny Domino revival starts here!

So yes, if you're in London on Sunday do pop along. It's taking place at The Lexington from NOON, and we're starting at about 12.30pm. I'm especially looking forward to the "Britpop Ink Polaroids" and "Bobs In Pop" rounds!

posted 25/2/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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German Documentary
For the past few weeks I have been amusing myself GREATLY by fiddling around with the photographs and video we took of our trip to Germany last year, trying to make it into a DOCUMENTARY. It's finally FINISHED now - it's only 11 minutes long, but it took a lot of doing!

The biggest ISSUE I had was that there's huge chunks of time when we took a few photographs by no video, so it was all a bit STATIC, but I eventually got round that by making the pictures MOVE SLIGHTLY. It was a REVELATION! Now when I watch telly I can't help but notice that they ALWAYS do that - you hardly ever get a picture just sitting there, it's ALWAYS zooming in or wafting over to one side or something. I think it looks GOOD - The Type Of My Transition said "It looks like old Top Of The Pops!" which she meant as a compliment, and which I'm TAKING as one!

There's been some debate about what we'd actually DO with it - Certain Validators suggested making it a DVD, with all our other videos on there too (as well as some gigs, including the unedited footage of the final night's gig in Berlin, which forms the soundtrack), but that feels to me, at the moment at least, like a LOT of effort, so for now I've stuck it up on YouTube. It was a bit too long to fit all in one go, so I've made it a three-parter, as follows:

Part One: Getting there, Berlin, the Autobahn

Part Two: Ostpol, Dresden

Part Three: Sightseeing, back to Berlin, home

As you can probably tell, we had a HECK of a GOOD TIME!

posted 23/2/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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A Weekend In Devon
After work on Friday The Trains On My Track and I headed off for the long voyage SOUTH to Devon, where we were going to go and see our pals The Wilsons. The train was PACKED - RAMMED, even - and we had to change seats three times as people with reservations got on and off at various points. Still, we arrived in Good Humour and were met by the aforesaid Wilsons who took us off to their house in Picturesque Buckfastleigh, where we had CHIPS and went to the PUB, drank WHISKY and then RETIRED for the evening. DELIGHTFUL!

Saturday was a day of ACTION - Buckfastleigh is not a big place, but it is FULL of STUFF. We wandered down to the South Devon Railway, five minutes from their house, to see the TRANES. It was GRATE - a little diesel came in that could carry about 200 people, and I couldn't help by notice that a sizeable percentage of these were STAFF. Surely it doesn't take TEN people to drive a single carriage diesel 5 miles? It was almost as if they were having FUN.

We then walked down the river, waving at canoeists, to Buckfast Abbey, the place where they make the BUCKFAST WINE of ill repute. As we arrived a lady told us The Monks were about to sing, so we went in for the service. This also was GRATE - not just because of the singing (which was, well, just like on the telly really) but because it was so BRIEF. They did three songs (in ENGLISH, surprisingly, although because of the way they were SUNG it took a while to realise this), then a READING. My heart SANK at this point, with that feeling of DOOM i remember from SCOUTS, when you had to go to church and knew it was NEVER GOING TO END. HOWEVER, this reading too under a minute, there was one more song, and then they were off. NO ENCORES!

It all took ten minutes - i think The Church Of England could learn a LOT from this. If ALL Church Services were so a) short b) pleasant c) CALMING then attendance would ROCKET.

We had a bit of a stroll around, went to the cafe, then had a big old country walk featuring HILLS. I'm not very good at hills, it was KNACKERING. We eventually found ourselves at Holy Trinity Church, which was SPOOKY. It's WAY up the hill away from the Village and has MANY LEGENDS around it, not least the EVIL SQUIRE who sold his soul to THE DEVIL and is buried there. It's in RUINS now, as it was burnt down by satanists/arsonists (depending on where you read it) in 1992, and it's very strange to wonder round these old ruins, and then realise they were actually standing as a normal church less than 20 years ago.

We had a look at a LIME KILN nearby, walked along a thousand year old LANE (featuring wild CHIVES and wild GARLIC, which i ATE) and then down a path which gets filled with BATS in the summer and then down 196 steps to the village. With all that walking and LOCAL INTEREST i was DONE IN by the time we got back, so sat down and had a BEER.

During this extended seating I went down to Phil's home studio/GEEK LAIR to listen to his NEW ALBUM! I'd been hoping to get a listen to it, but was also a bit worried - what if it didn't sound very good? I need not have been afeared as it was BLOODY GRATE. I mean REALLY REALLY BRILLIANT - my favourite song was "I Own It" (a demo of which has been taken off his myspace, i've just seen - it was good too!) and i sang along with GUSTO, but ALL of it sounded FAB. I got quite excited about the whole thing - it's coming out on Slumberland Records too, which should mean it gets a bit of publicity, which would be GRATE. Mr Wilson is one of the Great British Songwriters, he deserves to be HEARD!

After all the excitement we had a BIG CURRY and then watched Wholphins, which is like a DVD magazine thingy from those McSweeney's types. It was GRATE! We watched an HILARIOUS one called "Heavy Metal Jr" about a 10-12 year old Scottish Heavy Metal Band (I will never forget the Dad saying "Your attitude defines your altitude") a touching and ALSO hilarious one about a class of Chinese kids having their first ever election (we BOOED CHILDREN) and then a slightly SAD and ANGER making one about a girl in Yemen getting THE HASSLE from pretty much everybody telling her to wear a veil and stay indoors.

And THEN we watched a film about The Undertones which a) was GRATE b) made both myself and The Talking Heads In My Documentary think "I never knew they had so many hits!" and c) featured an occasional Commentary Track from Phil and Pam, who KNOW most of them. This was ILLUMINATING, also FAB!

And then i went to BED - i was EXHAUSTED. Next day we breakfasted and got the train, UPGRADING as we did so, and relaxed after a long, tiring, but LOVELY weekend. When I got home i bought an Undertones Best Of!

posted 22/2/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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Leicester: The Final Night
When I got back to Leicester i did INDEED have a bit of an old NAP, and it was LOVELY. Maybe it is the gentle slide into middle age (i am at THE TOP OF THE SLIDE tho, all right?) but sometimes in this crazy hurly burly life of hesticity putting aside an hour for a SNOOZE is DELIGHTFUL.

Suitably refreshed I had a shower and headed for The Criterion, there to meet Mr S Hewitt who had been out SEEING SHOWS. I was VERY impressed - when I used to live in Leicester the Comedy Festival seemed to happen one evening in a pub somewhere and never really affected me, so I was not only impressed that he'd managed to get out and SEE something - in fact TWO things - but also AMAZED that there was enough things going on to interest such a COMEDY CONNIEUSEUR. The Comedy Festival tho seems to have come on in leaps and bounds in recent times, and there did seem to be LOADS of things going on. INDEED there even felt like a bit of a Festival Atmosphere in the city... although that might be caused, in my case, by the fact that I'd seen John Cooper Clarke at Leicester Station that morning. John Cooper Clarke! He looked EXACTLY like you'd hope he'd look too, and SOUNDED like it too. COR!

We sat and compared notes on our divergent days, enjoyed some BEER, got set up and then watched as the room gradually filled with PEOPLE. We'd already sold forty tickets and by the time we started we had apparently SOLD OUT! Only just, but still - PHEW! We can keep calling it a SELLOUT SHOW on Press Releases!

The show itself was GRATE, by which I mean i really REALLY enjoyed doing it. I think it was pretty much the BEST version of it i have ever done - there were LOADS of LARFS (which is always a help!) and it all felt dead easy and fun to do. In a way I was sorry at the end, because it also felt like this was the very LAST time I would be doing this version of the show. When I did My Exciting Life In ROCK it never felt like I'd finished with it, as I still think I'll be doing it all again some day, but I'm pretty sure that from hereonin it's going to be the new Full Cast (2) Musical Version.

It'll be a shame to lose some of the GAGS - especially the "Platoon made of Vegetable Balti" bit, which i love - but when we do the TWO HOUR WEST END VERSION I'm going to try and get them back in as extra songs.

Hmmm... once I would have thought twice about telling people that I was genuinely, seriously thinking about writing a song about soldiers made entirely out of curry to fit into a West End Musical about Space Dinosaurs. Now: IT IS THE NORM.

Talking of curry - once the show was over there was time to finish our beer, profusely thank the lovely people who'd come, fill in our evaluation forms (audience members were evaluating the venue, organisation, and ME, while I had one to say what I thought of the festival and the people who'd help us: i thought it was all BRILLIANT) and then head off to ANOTHER West End: LEICESTER'S West End, for a celebratory CURRY.

The venue chosen was The Tamarind - I used to go there most weekends to pick up TEA for The Sauce In My Balti and I during our COURTING DAYS and I also went fairly often with The Board of AAS, because it was DEAD nice, but haven't been for a couple of years now. I was thus EXTREMELY pleased when one of the chaps there stopped, surprised, and said "We haven't seen you for a long time!" It was lovely!

As was the curry, and it was with a warmed tum and a happy GLOW that my colleague and I said our farewells, full of food and the satisfaction of a job well done. Leicester is ALWAYS brilliant, but this time it had been ESPECIALLY so!

posted 18/2/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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Back In The Studio
Last year while I was in Leicester for the Comedy Festival I booked myself in for a SESSION in Snug on the Saturday, which is when we did a whole lot of finishing off of the album. THIS year I decided to go back to do some WORK on the NEXT album, the Dinosaur Planet Concept Album.

I was staying in The Ibis (IBIS JOKE: They Gave Me My Usual Room. Yes, I will say this EVERY time i stay there) which is MEGA HANDY for the railway station. Unfortunately this time I was staying in a room DIRECTLY in line with the tannoys, so got woken up at 6.30am by someone very eager to tell me which train was coming in to Platform 1 and that I couldn't smoke. I got up to wander out and get me a SAMOSA for breakfast, but the place I usually get one from is now CLOSED. It wasn't KNOCKED DOWN like most places I used to go to, but still: PARANOIA.

For some reason CrossCountry trains were going to Derby instead of Birmingham this weekend, so i had the dubious pleasure of one of their little shunty trains. They've got new ones now but they seem to be making every effort to make them as FILTHY and HORRID as i remember them being. NAUGHTY CrossCountry Trains!

Anyway, I got to Snug at 11.28 and at 11.29 Mr R Newman came a-strolling round the corner ready to get us started. I was a bit worried about my Delicate Instrument (MY VOICE. STOP IT) being DAMAGED by over-use (STILL MY VOICE) what with still being a bit coldy and having a gig later on, so I decided to make it GUITAR DAY. And OH! What a day of guitars it was, as we put guitars on EVERYTHING!

EVERYTHING i tell you! I did HOURS and HOURS of acoustic guitar playing, overdubbing it on nearly everything as well as doing the FINAL two songs that hadn't been started yet, The Theory Of A Dinosaur Planet and My Theory Of A Dinosaur Planet. These took AGES as they involve FINGER PICKING. I'm not, as anyone who's seen me can attest, any kind of expert of this ART but I can get by in the live environment by doing it quickly, SHOUTING over the top of it, and hoping people don't pay too close attention. Recording is a different matter altogether, however, as it sort of MATTERS if you play the wrong bit with your thumb and make it go CLUNK as it is a CLUNK that will last FOREVER. Especially i you then think it would be a good idea to DOUBLE TRACK.

Further trouble came on Dinosaurs Talk Like Pirates. "What IS that strange noise?" asked Robbie. "It's like there's an open string CLANGING away every so often." I was forced to confess that this was due to me trying to play the chord B FLAT. It doesn't appear in many of my songs because I have never got around to learning it properly and, as with FINGER PICKING, i try to DISTRACT people from this by SHOUTING over the top of it. This doesn't work in a studio, unfortunately, so we ended up OVERDUBBING EACH CHORD. Yes, we went through the song and EVERY time there was a B Flat i played it AGAIN, with my fingers PRE-SET into the correct shape. The indignity!

We finished off with MORE of the same, as I moved on to ELECTRICAL GUITAR for Here Come The Dinosaurs. Years ago I used to play my electrical guitar with The Validators, but got fed up with breaking strings ALL the time. There's other reasons why i use my acoustic for all gigs now - it feels nicer, and it's what I'm used to - but the inconvenience of every other song featuring a loud KER-TWANG and getting my fingers SPLANGGED was a big fact. I was reminded of this when, halfway through getting the guitar sound right, I went KER-TWANG on the (very nice) Gibson I was borrowing.

There were no spares for it, so Robbie got out his FENDER. I looked at this with FEAR - i have PREVIOUS with Fenders - but happily i got through to the VERY LAST CHORD before it went KER-TWANG and thus persuaded me a re-take would be unnecessary. During this we had a Studio Visit from Mr F A Machine, who was bringing me a copy of "Rabbit Themes" by Johnny Domino (my copy had gone missing, and he has a BOX full of them in his attic) in exchange for some photographs of our Germany Trip. A good swap!

There was a bit more tidying up and then it was time for me to leave - i was KNACKERED and wanted to have a NAP before the show, and also to get on the train before the football emptied out - so we said our farewells. There's STILL a couple of guitar parts to do, I didn't get round to doing the reggae section on (theme from) Dinosaur Planet, for instance, but I'm back in again in a few weeks to do that and some SINGING, so all should be well.

Which reminds me - while we were listening back to my efforts at guitar on the aforesaid (theme from) Dinosaur Planet and Robbie was diligently micro-editting my parts to make them be in TIME (i always feel GUILTY and UN-PUNK when he does this, but it does sound better!) he said "Ha! Like 'Live And Let Die' by Wings!"

"Yes, of course," i said, for, as anyone who's seen the shown will know, the inspiration for having a Cod-Reggae Middle Eight in that song comes DIRECTLY from the same in "Live And Let Die." Then I realised Robbie hadn't actually SEEN the show, and was making this link ENTIRELY out of his own BRAIN. I was SO pleased - we'd obviously done it JUSTICE!

With that GRATE joy in my heart I returned to Leicester, there to try and revive myself with a NAP, a SHOWER, and then HO! For the FINAL NIGHT!

posted 16/2/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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Restaurant Review
Before we get to the MAD THRILLZ of Saturday's recording session I thought i would give you an RESTAURANT REVIEW. For LO! The Food On My Plate took me out for a Special Valentine's Day +1 Romantical DINNER last night!

I know: SOPHISTICATED. We even met up at a Proper Tea Shop, Maison Bertaux in The Soho. I can't believe I've just typed something SO ELEGANT! But blimey, they do a LOVELY pot of tea in there, it's the tea-iest tea you can GET.

Then we went round the corner to Zilli Green - it's a brand new Vegetarian Restaurant that's run by Aldo Zilli Off The Telly, which had opened the day before, apparently with Mr Paul McCartney going. I was a bit worried that he would be there, as I might have found that a BIT DISTRACTING. He wasn't, but Aldo Zilli Off The Telly WAS there greeting people, which was quite exciting (not as exciting as MACCA, obviously, but still). He even came round later on to talk to all the customers - we'd just been talking about how it was quite a BIG THING, and The Wine In My Glass had said it could be the TIPPING POINT for lots MORE Vegetarian Restaurants opening up, if someone as famous as HIM could make it work. "It's quite a big thing", he sai, "It could be a tipping point, if someone as well known as me could make it work." Bless, he looked DEAD NERVOUS about it. "People told me I was crazy - Vegetarians don't drink or have a good time." We LARFED OPENLY, i hope this helped calm him down.

Anyway, REVIEW: It was BRILLIANT. It didn't LOOK like a Veggie Restaurant (i.e. there was no BEADED CURTAIN through to the kitchen and there was a total LACK of a Community Corkboard on the wall) which I sort of missed, but i DID get the traditional PANIC looking at the menu. Normally if i'm out for a meal i have EITHER Balti (hem hem) OR Whatever The Single Thing I CAN Eat On The Menu Is. In a Veggie place i get THE FEAR, worried in case i get THE WRONG THING.

I had a LASAGNE. It felt a bit naughty to have The Traditional Vegetarian Option, but HOLY CRAP it was GORGEOUS. I also had some Marinated Tofu for starters and it was AMAZING. You know how usually tofu is a bit weedy and clammy and disappointing? This wasn't. It was GORGEOUS.

It was ALL delicious - The Items On My Menu had a Green Curry which was BLOODY FANTASTIC and we had Cakes VArious for Afters which were ACE. It was all round BRILLIANT!

It was also GOOD VALUE. As I say, I was being TREATED but asked out of INTEREST and, goodness me, I think I will be returning the treat there MYSELF some time. As we went out everyone said BYE BYE and I had to RESTRAIN myself from HUGGING Mr Zilli himself (which would at least have finally disproved the Vegetarians Don't Drink THING). Imagine tho - if it DOES do well and other Celebrity Chefs FINALLY decide to get off their collective arses and LEARN to do Proper Veggie Food, how AMAAAAAAZING would that be?

VERY Amazing, is the answer. I wonder if I should nip in for Lunch?

posted 16/2/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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Leicester: The Opening Night
I headed off to Leicester after work on Friday for the opening night of our run of Dinosaur Planet at The Leicester Comedy Festival. I was due to meet Mr S Hewitt up on the platform so bought my ticket from the machine and set off, counting my tickets as I went.

"Strange", i thought "there doesn't seem to be a return ticket. And why does it say 'SINGLE'? ARGH!" I'd only done gone and bought a SINGLE by mistake! I queued up for 10 minutes and BEGGED the Nice Man to change it for me. How could i have been so STUPID? "Don't worry", he said. "I've done it myself on Fridays - a single is exactly the same price as a return." Ah. So that's how - it wasn't ME being stupid after all!

I thanked him PROFUSELY and ran up to HOP on the train, where there was no double seat available for us. This was a bit of a drag as we'd planned to have a read through of the DRAFT script for our TWO MAN version of Dinosaur Planet. Luckily there was a couple of Dicky Seats in The Lobby further up, so we were able to make our first step on the road to BROADWAY. It sounded pretty good - Steve suggested a couple of ways I could swap lines/remove characters to make it FLOW more easily, and also seemed to enjoy my Bold Decision to cast SEAN CONNERY as Grandad. I think it's all going to be all right!

We got to Leicester and popped over to the Ibis to get me checked in. I took Steve up to my hotel room where i IMMEDIATELY took off my clothes and started taking DRUGS. All right, I was just putting my gig shirt on and having another Vitamin C And Zinc Lozenge (apparently it's the best way to ward off a cold, and it did seem to work) but still - LIFE ON THE ROAD!

With all that done we headed to the Criterion for a couple of beers and a) MASSIVE b) DELICIOUS pizza, after which I realised I had probably best be careful and have an ORANGE JUICE. So i DID - in The CRITERION for heaven's sake, i am NOTHING if not The Complete Professional! We also met our door team, who were GRATE. Like last year we had a team of students working for us, as part of their Arts Management course, and like last year they did a GRATE job. Obviously I'm going to think well of ANYBODY who hands me an envelope stuffed with CA$H at the end of the gig, but they did EVERYTHING, leaving me and Steve to LOLL AROUND like ROCK STARS. Rock Stars drinking Ale and saying "Thank you" all the time, but still ROCK STARS.

Soon people arrived, including my pals The LAwsons and The Sutcliffes (NOT two little known C86 bands, however much they sound like it) and we NEARLY, tho not quite, Sold Out again. There was loads of people who i didn't know who they were, it was STRANGE to me, but also THRILLING, as I did the show comprising of all THESE songs:
  • (theme from) Dinosaur Planet
  • Don't, Darren, Don't
  • (theme from) Dinosaur Planet
  • A Little Bit
  • The Theory Of A Dinosaur Planet
  • Here Come The Dinosaurs
  • My Grandad Is Nuts
  • The Battle Of Peterborough
  • My Theory Of A Dinosaur Planet
  • We Are The Giant Robots
  • Dinosaurs Talk Like Pirates
  • We Are The Dinosaurs
  • Literature Search
  • Strangely Attractive
  • Please Don't Eat Us
  • For The Fate Of The Earth
  • A Little Bit More
  • (theme from) Dinosaur Planet

  • That's a LOT of songs - it's like The Dinosaur Planet Ultimate Edition! I did EVERYTHING from Edinburgh (except the It Isn't Nice To Eat Your Friends, which has been SUPERCEDED) PLUS the new songs PLUS some Brand New GAGS which I've thought up over the past couple of weeks, and it all seemed to go down pretty well. It definitely speeds up once The Giant Robots arrive, as it always HAS done, but it didn't feel like it took an HOUR.

    Well, except for one man - as with last year, I had a group of people down the front who'd been sat in the room already and didn't want to have to move, so paid to stay. Most of them seemed to really enjoy it, but he seemed very annoyed at the overrun, and cleared off early. He will never know how the earth was saved!

    Everyone else seemed to enjoy it though, including ME, and I settled in for a VERY VERY enjoyable post-gig hour of CHAT and BEER which featured rather a LOT of us going "aah, do you remember when..?" and saying "Of course, that pub's been knocked down now."

    Steve, being the PARTY ANIMAL that he is, went on to ANOTHER pub afterwards, and then ANOTHER after that. I went home to BED though - I had a busy day ahead of me!

    posted 15/2/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    This isn't the usual sort of thrilling, glamorous, SHOWBIZ thing I post about here, i know, but it's making me VERY EXCITED. It's PERL!

    Anyone who understands what that means will now be writhing on the floor with agreement/ECSTACY but for those who are unlucky enough not to: it's a programming language. Yes, i know: THRILLZ!

    The PARTICULAR reason it's made me so excited is that i think it might be The Answer To The Blogger Problem (NB for me). MANY MANY years ago (over a decade ago in fact - YIKES!) when I did my MSc in Computing (also known as "had a day off work for two years and got a qualification at the end") my final PROJECT was to construct an online database of our department's staff, which was then used to create conact lists online.

    What was FIENDISHLY clever about it was that i DIDN'T use MySQL or anything like that, no, i wrote MY OWN DATABASE SYSTEM in PERL! Yes! I then went on to use this in perhaps my most FANTASTICAL (work-based) ESCAPADE ever - THE GIANT THROBBING BRAIN!

    This was a system built for The Trent Institute, an organisation which sought to unify RESEARCH and Training Courses across Leicester, Sheffield and Nottingham Universities. I went to lots of meetings with The Board, during which I took GRATE delight in referring to the database by its codename.

    They had to call it that too. "So, how is progress with... The GIANT THROBBING BRAIN then Mark?" "The GIANT THROBBING BRAIN, you say?" "Er... yes."

    IT WAS FANTASTIC. I did have to tone down the pictures of GIANT THROBBING BRAINS in all my entity relationship diagrams, but otherwise everyone quite happily went along with calling it that. It was a way of managing the joint webpages, where each centre entered details on their courses, venues, and staff into a central system which then generated webpages. It was TREMENDOUSLY EXCITING.

    Anyway, I've just had a look at my service provider, and discovered TWO (2) interesting things. I already knew that I'd have to QUADRUPLE my monthly fees to be able to run PHP and MySQL but I see that I'm already paying enough to have CGI and PERL running! KER-ZANG! That could WORK - and in a FIT of giddy excitement i've ALREADY drawn an Entity Relationship Diagram (calm down at the back!) showing how i could use a database to manage NOT JUST the blog but also details of gigs, setlists, releases, songs etc etc. If i could get THAT working... blimey, it would make updating things a LOT easier.

    And secondly i noticed that, if i DIDN'T get that working, i do actually seem to OWN MYSELF after ALL... so I could just move the whole thing to a content provider who were a) cheaper b) more reliable c) nicer d) more full o'functionality! It's like a BRIGHT NEW DAWN or something!

    I ask you then to prepare your PITY for Mr S Hewitt, who is going to be spending much of the weekend with me in Leicester. He may be hearing about this quite a lot.

    posted 12/2/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    Totally Acoustic
    It's been two months but feels like MUCH longer since we last did a Totally Acoustic so it was GRATE to roll up once more at The Lamb and have to explain to one of the chaps behind the bar, as is traditional, what was going on. "But they've just told me there isn't any music!" he said, EXASPERATED, as if I was about to turn around and go home in that case. I wasn't, and I didn't.

    Towards the back of the room I found The Table Of Regulars, and the evening BEGAN. We had a chat then moved upstairs to start The Moving Of The Furniture, just as more people began to trickle in, including my GUESTS for the evening Mr Chris Taylor of The Platers and Mr Matthew Williams of The Grave Architects. They BOTH arrived WELL before 7pm, which is always a relief, and soon we had sufficient people attending to get GOING.

    So as usual I went to get a drink and have a wee, returning to find other people had done the same, and we eventually got started the usual fifteen minutes later than constantly advertised. Here's what I played:
  • Work's All Right (when it's a proper job)
  • It Isn't An Exam
  • Family Wedding 2021
  • Literature Search
  • Strangely Attractive
  • Please Don't Eat Us
  • It Only Works Because You're Here
  • We're Old And We're Tired (and we want to go home)
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • It seemed to go pretty well, despite me doing a trio of NERVE SHATTERING songs that I've either not done for AGES (The Words On My Lyrics Sheet suggested Work's All Right (when it's a proper job) about 60 seconds before the start, and it was only as I sang it that I realised I'd not sung it for AGES and was quite surprised by some of the words, and even though I've been practicing Family Wedding 2021, after Sven in Dresden requested it, it was A Bit Scary) or that were BRAND NEW. Have I mentioned It Isn't An Exam on here yet? If not, it's a BRAND NEW SONG that I wrote last week, my first new song in MILLENIA that is a) designed to be sung at gigs and b) does not feature Dinosaurs. I think it went OK, and it was a relief to have sung it AT people to check it was all right. The first song I write for The Next Album always ends up being one of my favourites (previous examples include The Lesson Of The Smiths and It Only Works Because You're Here) so hopefully this will join THAT exalted company.

    Also as usual there was a LOT of talking - the other gigs I've done this year have featured a lot of Talking On Purpose, it is something i LIKE.

    After me came Mr Chris Taylor from The Platers. As with Mr Simon Fox last time I always feel a bit guilty if the person on directly after me is, as Chris was, a bit more "serious" in his stage persona than I am. After I've LARKED ABOUT so much it can be difficult, for artist AND audience, to make a switch to more LISTENING, but he did it admirably. People were RAPT and several people came up to me afterwards saying "Ooh, he's got a way with a phrase hasn't he?" He HAD.

    Then it was the traditional Larger Break before Mr Williams - i saw The Grave Architects last year and a) LOVED them b) was dumfounded to realise I'd had MILLIONS of chances to see them before but hadn't. He was precisely as EXCELLENT as they'd been, perhaps even a little more so due to the way he channelled NERVES into CHARM. I was actually rather MOVED by some bits, especially when he talked about his Dad INSPIRING him, and his version of "Trapped In The Closet (part one)" was ASTONISHING. In a VERY GOOD way!

    After that we enjoyed the usual Sitting Around Having A Chat And A Beer - I know I always say this, but REALLY: Other gigs! If you start EARLIER that leaves time for CHATTING afterwards, rather than everyone having to dash off for trains/getting kicked out due to closing time. It's SO much more civilised!

    It was a BRILLIANT kick-off for an EXCITING SEASON of Totally Acoustic - I've got THREE more booked over the next few months, do come along if you can, it will be GRATE!

    posted 10/2/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Internet Is RUBBISH
    It may just possibly be because I am IMMENSELY ANNOYED with bloody blogger, but it does seem to me that the Quality Of Interweb has deteriorated MARKEDLY over the past decade.

    Back in OLDEN TYMES, if you had a problem with your computer, you could GOOGLE it and you'd get a couple of responses. One would always be from the notes to a computing class which a forward thinking, GROOVY YOUNG, lecturer had decided to post online, in case any of his class wanted to use this RESOURCE. I doubt any of the students ever DID use them, but a heck of a lot of other people would.

    The other response would be a worthy article or post on someone's website (rarely called a blog) where a Fusty Old Computing Guy would discuss a problem that his users had encountered, and describe in detail how to fix it. This would pretty much ALWAYS work, and also be lovely.

    NOW however - NOW! NYAAAAARGGHHHH!!! Now it's entirely SHITE. Google anything and you will get 200,000,000,000,000 responses. The top few responses will be Tech-Guys or something, where someone has had the problem YOU'VE had, but you have to PAY to see what the Tech-Guys think the answer is. I've always been dubious about going along with this, not least because I've seen most of the OTHER answers, which make up the rest of the results.

    These will EITHER be forums or tiny, unloved, rarely updated blogs where someone has hit a problem and copy and pasted it into a query, asking for help. There will be FOUR different kinds of RESPONSE:

    RESPONSE 1: Dude, you gotta get a new comprutor, its fuckd dude.

    RESPONSE 2: I don't know what the problem is.

    RESPONSE 3: A lengthy TELLING OFF to the original poster, telling them they shouldn't have done the thing that broke their computer, and that they, the respondent, was always telling people this, due to other people being idiots.

    RESPONSE 4: You should get LINUX.

    The response to all of these is, of course, THANKS FOR THAT! Or, in an emergency, AAAAAARRRRGGGGGHHH!!!!!

    Is it wrong of me to see pictures of Windows 95 and think "Aaah, those were the days"? Anyway, the upshot is that i STILL haven't managed to work out how to carry on using this webpage address, my archives, the RSS feeds etc etc even tho some lovely people have commented (on my FREQUENTLY updated blog!) with a few ideas. I can't use Wordpress because Tripod, who I run the page through, would QUADRUPLE my monthly charges if I did. RSS feed reading looks like it'd screw up the archives (and people's subscriptions), and trying to get Blogger's blogspot templates to look anything LIKE my webpage is turning into a NIGHTMARE BEYOND IMAGINING.

    Surely somebody, somewhere, has worked out an easy solution? If only Clippy The Paper Clip was around to help me!

    posted 9/2/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    There's one more aspect of the weekend I thought I should share, for the betterment of mankind: POWER TICKETS!

    We live in East London, near an Overground Station. These are run by Transport For London but are technically part of the rail network, and I recently discovered that this means you can buy a ticket from Leytonstone High Road (our station) to ANYWHERE in the country. I looked up the prices online and it turned out, to my surprise, that the price of a ticket from Leytonstone to Peterborough was EXACTLY THE SAME as buying one from Kings Cross! EXACTLY!

    That meant we'd not only save the tube fare across town, but also that we wouldn't have to cue for tickets when we got to the station. This turned out to be INCREDIBLY handy because, when we arrived at Kings Cross, we saw there was an earlier train than the one we'd intended leaving in TWO MINUTES. Two minutes! If we'd had to queue for tickets we'd NEVER have got it, but as we'd already got them a quick HOP and SKIP and we were there! BRILLIANT!

    We told my parents about this saving of MONEY and TIME but as car owners they didn't seem quite as THRILLED as we were. "But it only took an hour and twenty minutes to get to Peterborough from the end of our road!" I said. "And we saved a TENNER!!" but still they were unimpressed. Ten pounds though! It was AMAAAZING!

    posted 8/2/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Surprise Party
    We had a LOVELY night out in Peterborough this weekend - not something I say very often!

    The occasion was VERY special tho, as it was a Surprise 40th Birthday Party for Mr Steven Carter, pretty much my longest serving friend in THE UNIVERSE. We met aged SIX at Queen's Drive Infants and were BEST PALS all through Junior School and into Seniors. I can't quite work out why, but we gently lost touch when we got into our late teens and twenties (it's something which I regret HUGELY know and can't work out how it happened, it just sort of did) but we got back in touch at a School Reunion a while ago, which was FANTASTIC.

    ANYWAY, his lovely wife Sam had organised the party for him so myself and The Cakes Beneath My Candle rolled up with my parents, who THOROUGHLY enjoyed themselves going up to various COUSINS of Steve (who they'd known when THEY were little) and SCARING them by suddenly looming out of the PAST at them. Cousin Tony, apparently, nearly fell over!

    Steve arrived and reacted EXACTLY how you'd hoped - he was AGO, SCREAMED, and then did some HUGGING and some CRYING. BRILLIANT! We also loaded him with PRESENTS - beforehand I'd worried slightly that both ours and my parents presents were distinctly 2000AD themed (Mum had spent a WEEK making a Judge Dredd Badge Gift Tag!!) but he didn't seem to mind. In fact he seemed RATHER pleased!

    It was a LOVELY evening, but it does feel a bit strange to suddenly know so many people who are turning 40 this year. It seems like too much to be just a coincidence - LOADS of my friends, especially the ones I've known since school or Poly ALL seem to be turning 40 this year. I just don't understand how that can be?

    posted 8/2/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    Today you find me sat like a Poor Lonely Old Pensioner in an area that's about to go completely over to digital, wondering how on EARTH I'm going to be able to watch Coronation Street in future, for LO! I write this blog on Blogger and then FTP it onto my server, and now Blogger have CHARMINGLY decided to stop letting me do this altogether.

    It's not just me, by the way, it's everybody who does it this way. BUT IT FEELS PERSONAL.

    For those who don't know/don't want to know but have got this far and are having a sandwich or something so are going to keep reading anyway, what happens with this type of blogging is that i WRITE these DEATHLESS EPITHETS in Blogger, which then publishes them onto MY website using FTP. They then appear at which you may be seeing instead as /blog/ or, INDEED, through the RSS feed at Whichever way you choose, you're coming to my webpages to look at them.

    But I'm not going to be able to do that for much longer, as blogger insists I move over to THEIR subdomains, and use something like or somesuch. This might not sound like a problem, but it means that EVERYONE who comes to read this regularly will have to update their bookmarks (yes, TENS of people will be inconvenienced!) as will anybody who reads it via RSS. I'll ALSO have to change the way it interacts with facebook, lose the links to the archives, have to completely re-do EVERY link back here on the website, and go through the hassle of re-doing the templates so that it LOOKS the same as the actual website.

    I'm probably making a BIG FUSS about it that it needn't be, I know - but still, bloody hell! I've been using bloody blogger since FOREVER and have had the blog on this exact page for nearly TWELVE BLOODY YEARS, it does feel like a bit of an imposition to have to go changing it all now.

    So, has anybody got any ideas about how I could EASILY sort this out? I need a solution that'll, basically, let me carry on as normal, like hopefully just with another online blogging company, without needing to do anything FANCY with the servers (which are run by Tripod, who are their OWN huge pile of worries!). Does anyone have any ideas?

    And yes, the nice young person who helps me out CAN have a biscuit from the biscuit tin if it works!

    posted 5/2/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    Darlings darlings, it's all been about THE THEATRE these past couple of nights. It has been sort of FABULOUS.

    On Tuesday night The Food On My Plate went out for a MEAL in London's Glittering West End before meeting up with Mr S Hewitt and some pals in a PUB. It had been reviewed online as being "Off the beaten track", which I guess is technically true if you consider 10 foot from Leicester Square as OFF the aforesaid track, but it WAS Surprisingly Nice For Where It Was.

    We were gathered there prior to going to see Richard Herring doing his current show, "Hitler Moustache", round the corner. Like a lot of people I've been following Mr Herring's blog for YEARS, and have DELIGHTED in watching him gradually forging a new CAREER for himself by trying out NEW ways of doing things - his many podcasts, ways of touring, constant blogging and FEATURE-RICH DVDs. It's been inspiring to read about him going from DESPONDENCY at not being able to fight his way back into the Traditional Media to, nowadays, doing without them and forging new way to get in touch with an audience. Knowing it's POSSIBLE to be an Indie Comedian like this always makes me think it's possible for Gentleman Amateurs like ME to be able to do it.

    So yes, we went to watch hoping it'd be GOOD and feeling oddly PROUD of him. I've only met him very briefly a couple of years at Edinburgh when I said "IloveyourblogitisaninspirationOKthanksbye" and then RUN AWAY so it's not like I know him, but I sort of feel i do a bit from reading the blog and thereafter WILLING him to VICTORY. Anyway, that's how I felt going in and was RELIEVED and then VERY HAPPY to find that the show was GRATE. He seemed confident, relaxed, and completely in charge of THE SHOW.

    THE SHOW itself was brilliant - actually properly really funny from start to finish, cunningly constructed and EXTREMELY thought provoking. I particularly liked the way he'd lead us into a Good Point, accept the APPLAUSE of people saying "Yes yes, i concur" but THEN turning that back around and making us question what we'd just agreed with. It sounds a bit DRY saying it like that, but it was HUGELY enjoyable, exciting and, like I say, DEAD FUNNY.

    And then LAST night I was out again with Mr Hewitt, this time at a SECRET MEETING to discuss plans for this year's Edinburgh Festival with TWO GENTLEMEN AS YET TO BE NAMED. We've been talking to them, and another CURRENTLY UNSAYABLE group about going up to the Fringe TOGETHER, sharing publicity and maybe doing a GROUP SHOW. There'll be LOTS more about this when we get a bit more sorted out, but this meeting was just to explain the whole thing to each other and iron out any Possible Issues.

    I was a bit nervous about it beforehand - one of the people is someone i a) know b) ESTEEM highly and c) have gigged with several times, but the other is A Proper Chart Topping Popstar! My nerves were not helped by getting LOST on the way to the pub, but when they turned up all was FINE. The first person is ALWAYS a delight, but the second turned out to be a really nice bloke as well. PHEW!

    Thus the evening also turned into an opportunity for LARFS and REMARKS and general GOOD TIMES, which bodes EXTREMELY well for us knocking around together-ish for 10 days in August. We had a GRATE discussion about many ISSUES and came up with some REALLY good ideas for ways to move forwards, and even had a LUCKY OMEN - we'd been talking about The Free Fringe and then Steve went downstairs... where he saw that Peter Buckley Hill, MR FREE FRINGE, was sat in the pub! SPOOKY!

    It was all rather jolly and I got on the tube home with a big grin on my face and a BRANE full of IDEAS and ANTICIPATION. Life in SHOWBUSINESS, it's TERRIBLY exciting!

    posted 4/2/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    Today We're Gonna Party Like It's 1995
    We had a bit of a SHOCK at home the other day - the INTERWEB stopped working!

    At first I thought it was The Usual Thing i.e. SOMEONE (hem hem) had blundered about and fallen over a WIRE, pulling it out of the socket, but it soon became clear that that WASN'T the problem and in fact the whole phone line was DOWN!

    A Nice Young Man came round to look at it but couldn't mend it, so we've got to wait for ANOTHER Nice Young Man with a LADDER to come on Tuesday to... er... look at something else. This meant that we had NO INTERWEB AT HOME over the entire weekend! NONE! It was like going back to the heady days of BRITPOP or something, so much so that I was Quite Excited about coming into WORK today, just so that I could see if anything had HAPPENED!

    So, instead of STARING VACANTLY at a SCREEN, myself and The Air In My Atmosphere went and PLAYED OUTSIDE! We went for a Brisk Walk in Richmond Park, which turned into a LENGTHY MARCH due to SOMEBODY (it would be UNFAIR [to me] to say who) misread the map, but that DID mean we got to see DEER and also PARROTS. Parrots! We also went to what we THOUGHT was going to be a super posh Vegetarian Shoe Boutique - Bourgeois Boheme on Garden Road in Richmond. It SOUNDED like it was going to be MEGA CHI-CHI but was ACTUALLY a quarter of a showroom on an industrial estate. Still, inside it was a bit OVERPOWERING - a whole ROOM full of LOADS of Vegetarian Shoes! It was like going to a Veggie Restaurant, as the fact of CHOICE made my HEAD spin a little, but i ended up getting TWO pairs of shoes. Shoes that FIT! Because I tried them ON!! I haven't had those for YEARS!

    Next day there was MORE action as things in our house got FILED or IRONED or PUT AWAY or SORTED OUT like never before - it was incredible! I kept thinking "I don't remember being THIS organised in the 1990s, but what was I doing instead?" and then realising "Oh yes, THE PUB."

    It was nice to VISIT the 1990s but I must say it's nice to be back in THE FUTURE. It's amazing how many things I wanted to LOOK UP over the weekend, but couldn't. Did we all have massive sets of encyclopedia during The John Major years, or did we just not worry about FACTS so much? Thinking about it, with all the time I seemed to spend in the PUB back then, it was probably the LATTER!

    posted 1/2/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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