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Blog Archive: November 2017

The Flipping Football
Last night I was in London's fashionable Borough area of London, there to meet Mr P Myland and assorted related chums for a second attempt at seeing the "mighty" Peterborough United play Charlton.

Our first attempt had been back in October, but the game was postponed so Mileage and I ended up spending most of the day at the Indie Daze all-dayer instead. There were to be no such distractions this time, and after a couple of pints and Generalised Chit Chat we got the train to Charlton and rolled up at The Valley with mere minutes to spare. Perfect!

If only the actual game of football had been so meticulously planned and organised. A lot of it was, I must admit, SURPRSINGLY good fun - I had gone expecting RUBBISH and so was DELIGHTED to witness several moments of PROPER FOOTBALL being played, like the sort of thing you see on telly. I was not alone in my surprise and delight, as all around me people leapt up and down with GLEE to see PASSES being made correctly and indeed GOALS being scored. it was all rather exciting, with us WINNING (winning!) 2-0 at half-time. The second half carried on in much the same vein, to the extent that everybody got a bit COLD because every time we stood up for an exciting bit our seats got cold (it was RIGHT CHILLY). With just 13 minutes of play left Mr Myland turned and was ABOUT TO SAY (I learned later) "I bet you weren't expecting to see us win two nil!" but then STOPPED himself, not wishing to tempt fate.

ALAS his self-control was all for NAUGHT as in the 91st minute Charlton scored from A Hotly Disputed Penalty. Now, I am by no means a TECHNICAL EXPERT when it comes to The Football, and am in fact one of those people who gasps in AWE at the DIAGRAMS what they do during Match Of The Day, AMAZED that it goes beyond just Hoofing The Ball About, but even I know that what you do at this point is bring on substitutes one by one to ERODE the remaining time. Our manager DID do this, but for some reason decided to bring on TWO players at the same time when the clock had been stopped anyway. When I related this tale to The Players In My Team this morning she said "So he brought on two defensive players?" She is better at The Tactics than me, but again, even I knew that that's what you're meant to do. HOWEVER what he did was bring on Ricky Miller, a player who a) is a striker who we got from non-league Dover b) hasn't scored yet all season and c) is not exactly even-tempered e.g. he has recently been in court for HITTING A POLICEMAN.

Needless to say he proceeded to run down the pitch and instead of going to the corner (like everyone was shouting at him to do, it is almost as if players don't LISTEN to the sensible advice provided by the supporters) had a SHOT at goal, made a complete MESS of it, and thus allowed Charlton to run down the other end and score an equaliser IN THE LAST MINUTE OF EXTRA TIME!!!

The final whistle blew seconds later and it was a DISGRUNTLED bunch of travelling Fenlanders who made their way home. In the LOO on the way out it was like the After Show at The Grand National, as approx 30 middle-aged men made the same WHINNYING noises to each other to express their discontent. Flipping heck! Flipping ruddy HECK!

When we reached the station the Charlton fans gathered on the opposing platform attempted to TAUNT us by singing "You messed* it up at 2-0" (*they didn't sing "messed") but to be honest this was an ENTIRELY FAIR ASSESSMENT. Flipping heck, I say - FLIPPING HECK*!!

(*I didn't say "Flipping" or "Heck"!)

posted 29/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Christmas In November
I headed off to DERBY on a Sunday, on a journey that would lead to FESTIVITY via EXTREME PANIC!

The PANIC began in Marks and Spencers, as it does in all the best action movies. I was on the way to Derby to record this year's Christmas Song, so needed to get some STOLLEN (the Crust On My Pastry had already SOURCED me some mince pies the day before). However, I couldn't find any Stollen in the M&S in St Pancras so asked a member of staff, who looked at me like I was a LUNATIC. She had NO IDEA what I was on about, so went to find somebody more senior, who seemed to think I was speaking LATIN or something. A passing manager claimed to have NEVER HEARD of it and that M&S had NEVER stocked any such thing. It was very strange, especially as the latter two staff members were from abroad, so surely would know MORE about Continental Christmas Goods? Mr F A Machine later suggested that I may have been pronouncing it wrongly, which is the only logical explanation!

I emailed The Band, and a) Frankie said he's already got a stollen also b) Mr T McClure was heading to Aldi to get one too, so all was well. PHEW! At Christmas, The BAND are eating Stollen - it is THE LAW!

I thought the panic was over, but I was SO VERY WRONG. An hour later my train ground to a halt just outside Wellingborough, and a message came over the intercom to tell us that the fire alarms were going off, possibly because some oil was dripping on the engine. I looked up and saw PLUMES OF BLACK SMOKE coming from further up the train, it was ALARMING! The driver and various CREW went back and forth several times checking things, and it must be said that we were kept FULLY INFORMED at all points, I was IMPRESSED. We ended up setting off again and, thanks to the way they build in delays on a Sunday anyway, we arrived in Derby only 20 minutes late.

Frankie came to pick me up and we returned to Machine Mansions where the session was occurring. He has an OFFICE in his basement which is AMAZING, and he'd got it all set up for recording. Tom arrived a little after us, bringing MORE recording equipment, so by the time The Pattisons arrived we had a proper STUDIO set up. We also had a MASSIVE pile of CHRISTMAS FOODS, as everybody had brought something with them, it was GRATE!

In pre-studio email discussions last week Frankie had told us that he'd got something for the session that would increase the Christmassiness by 1100% GUARANTEED. I must confess I doubted him, expecting some kind of sleighbell or something, but when he demonstrated what he'd got I have to say that if anything he had UNDERESTIMATED the increase. I can't say what it WAS just yet, but GOLLY, each one of us was LITERALLY SPEECHLESS when we saw it! It makes The Bob Dylan Christmas Album look like it belongs at EASTER!!

The original plan was for us all to get set up and then record playing live, all in one go, but when we tried that it didn't sound particularly good, so we reverted to the more standard process of layering it up bit by bit, starting with me on guitar and Tim on drums. This was made tricky because a) we were in the same room, so I had to NOT SING and b) Tim had no HI-HATS, which he usually uses for DRUM SIGNALS, so we had to work our way through with NODS and FACIAL EXPRESSIONS, but it seemed to work. What ALSO seemed to work was us all sitting in the room together. Mr Pete Weiss of The Weisstronauts is, as I understand it, a proponent of this method of recording, where the engineer and the band are all together in the same room, and I must say it made it all feel VERY FRIENDLY. We were all filming each other for use in the VIDEO, so we were kept busy, and it was much less LONELY than usual having everybody with you while you did your bits.

THUS I did my vocals, then Tom did Violin, then Emma did HER vocals - Emma's vocals always seem to end up in a group discussion as to what extra bits she could put in, whereas mine seem to be got over with as quickly as possible. I guess this is because there is no way you could possibly improve my singing? Anyway, Emma did a whole bunch of ACE stuff, and then we had TAMBOURINE overdubs, a bit more violin, and then some BASS just for video purposes - Frankie's mixing it all at his house, so as he said, he could do that at any time (along with overdubbing all of our bits etc etc).

We had a VERY quick listen to what we'd done, and it sounded PRETTY FLIPPING GOOD, so we retired to Frankie's local, along with Mrs Machine, for some DELIGHTFUL beer before it was time for me to go and get my (entirely uneventful) train home. It had been, as ever with The Validators, a RUDDY LOVELY day which will hopefully generate something RATHER good. Frankie's hoping to get it mixed so it's ready for release on 11 December, but fear not, I shall let you know ALL about it when it's ready!

posted 27/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Cologne Popfest
There was much excitement in Validators Ranks yesterday as we were finally Officially Announced for Cologne Popfest!

We were invited to play MONTHS ago by Mr M Plaum, and arrangements were discussed in person at Indietracks way back in July, so we have had to keep this under our hats for a LONG old time. Our gigs in Germany have been some of our favourite EVER, so we're DELIGHTED to be heading back there. Such has been our excitement levels that we've spent the past couple of weeks PANICKING about getting our travel and accomodation booked but all Validators now have TRANES and PLANES booked, and we've got ourselves Ibissed Up for the weekend too. PHEW - it's only five months away!!

THRILLINGLY we now also know two of the bands we're playing with. Marcel outright REFUSED to tell us who else he was booking when we spoke to him, and we still don't know who else is planned, but we DO know that we're sharing the weekend with Chorusgirl and The Frank And Walters. I've been listening to Chorusgirl since the announcement and have found them to be GRATE (I don't think I've ever seen them, so doing so on the Friday night will be FAB), and getting to support The Frank And Walters is another step on our QUEST to FINALLY play with all the bands we variously wanted to support at The Princess Charlotte in the 1990s! Tim says that Prolapse already supported the Sultans Of Ping there, so this will signal CORK COMPLETION!

If you fancy coming, tickets are now available, but HURRY! As I say, it's only five months away, and people (us) are ALREADY getting the hotels booked!

posted 23/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Doom Studies
I was back at SKOOL last night for the latest Supervisory Meeting for my PhD. The main topic of conversation was the PAPER wot I am writing about the influence of The Cold War on the development of Doctor Doom's personality, based on the TALK I did in Dundee back in the summer. I tell you what, I now know a LOT more about The Cold War than I did before, even as someone who LIVED through huge great chunks of it. I find myself having new sympathy for RONALD REAGAN of all people, a great affection for KHRUSHCHEV and his shoe banging, but thankfully have read nothing to free me of my lifelong hatred of THATCHER. PHEW!

We had a lengthy and GRATE discussion about final amendments to make to the paper before I submit it in the hope of publication, and once again I find myself being sent off on RESEARCH AVENUES that I never thought I'd be strolling along. I thought it was going to be all about reading comics, but I seem to have spent a HUGE amount of time discussing the representations of Eastern Europe in American media in the 1960s instead. It's interesting, although maybe not QUITE as much fun!

Having said that, there HAS been some comics reading, all of which will lead to a SUPER EXCITING NEW THING coming your way in 2018. I'm doing a CLOSE READING of EVERY appearance of Doctor Doom in Marvel comics between 1961 and 1987, and in order to keep track of it all (there is a LOT) I'm going to be starting a BLOG called "Marvel Age Doom". I've started work on it already and there's been a TONNE of things to discuss, so I'm planning to get myself a good old backlog built up in order to maintain a goodly stream of FACTS when it officially launches. The current plan is to pubish one blog every week about each of Doom's in-person appearances in the Marvel Universe, with extra blogs on other days about other appearances (where he's just mentioned, for instance, or appears in a recap) OR my Fascinating Research Methods OR other relevant items. It will be an Informative Scholarly Work but will also feature LOADS of GRATE pictures, also some GAGS.

Everyone seemed jolly KEEN on this during the meeting, which also covered the NEXT thing I'm going to do - a look at "The Marvel Age Of Comics" as an Actual Thing. Comics fans will be familiar with the phrase (and possibly the Marvel magazine of the same name from the 1980s) but I'm hoping to NAIL IT DOWN as a PERiOD and also a DESCRIPTION of a type of superhero storytelling. I'm ALSO also hoping to use it as a way to JUSTIFY terms like "The Golden Age" and "The Bronze Age" which comics fans all use but which seem to WIND UP academics something chronic. LARKS AHOY!

I must say, some 15 months in, I am RIGHT enjoying this post-graduate RESEARCH business. All the PhD people I have worked with over the years have seemed dead STRESSED about it, but I'm finding it DELIGHTFUL. Maybe, just maybe, this is because they were all looking at topics such as Psychology or Statistics rather than SUPER COOL things like COMICS, in which case WELL DONE ME!!

posted 22/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Plinths Action
It was a weekend full of DREDGELAND for me, commencing slightly early on Thursday when I went to see the Live Dredgeland Podcast Spectacular at the Star Of Kings on Kings Cross. It was dead good - I especially liked the fact that BOTH of the jokes I'd written (I thought there was only one so was SURPRISED when the other appeared) got LARFS. It still counts if the person who's laughing is me - MORE so, in fact, because I'd already heard them and STILL thought they were funny! The rest of the show was GRATE too, and also VERY silly. The podcast should, I believe, be out presently!

I then had a SECOND dose of Mr John Dredge and Mr Andy Harland on Saturday, when the three of us headed to deepest SURREY to record some songs at The Brook Studio. John and I have been engaged in some SONGWRITING over the past few months, utilising a new methodology for me whereby I wrote some music on my GTR, recorded it onto an mp3, and then John made up words and tunes on top. I'd had a go at this a few years ago with Mr F A Machine (with me doing the words and he the music) and found it all a bit WEIRD, and this was none less so. I don't really see how you can predict in advance how long the verses are going to be, or where the choruses go, as I always think it should be lead by the LYRICS, but I know other people are FINE with it and John managed it very well INDEED. We ended up with four songs done, so decided to enlist Andy on drums, call ourselves The Plinths, and do some recording.

I suggested we go to the Brook because Mr A Brook, who runs it, is DELIGHTFUL. Many many years ago he had a studio on Denmark Street, and I'd pop in during my lunch hour to record demoes there. It was a GRATE way of working, and I always found him to be EXTREMELY patient, very very HELPFUL, and full of IDEAS. I'd been to The Brook a couple of years ago to do a GIG too, and have been KEEN for ages to go back and actually record there, so this seemed like a good idea all round.

As it turned out, I was COMPLETELY RIGHT, it was a GRATE idea! I arrived to find that Andy B had pretty much got everything set up, so it was only about half an hour later that we'd all begun RECORDING. We'd booked in for four hours, which I thought would be ample time to do the drums and vocals, leaving me to do MY bits at home later, but as it turned out we got the guitar done too. To be honest, I never understand why other people take so long to do stuff in the studio - what are they DOING all the time? You usually only need a couple of goes to get a track sorted out, so do other bands just play POOL or something? Or is everyone else whacked out on scooby snacks that they're not sharing?

ANYWAY it all went really well, and it was lovely to be back in the studio again, although AS EVER in these situations I did have to keep reminding myself that I was NOT with The Validators and thus certain Behaviours were not acceptable e.g. when other people are soundchecking the DRUMS it is NOT all right to YAWN in an exaggerated fashion, complain loudly and FLICK Vs at the drummer. I did NOT do any of the above on this occasion, but I was SORELY tempted!

I've now got THE LOT on a memory stick, so the next step is to add other instruments and get MIXING. Goodness knows how long that's going to take - at approx 7:20am today I was reading about KICK DRUM COMPRESSION so this may all get a bit STEVE LILYWHITE, but I am hopeful that the process is mostly going to involve BASS playing. BASS playing is my favourite!

The current plan is to get these all done and UNLEASHED on the world next year, either as an EP or as a series of individual tracks, possibly with videos. It has been MOST enjoyable so far, and I'm dead pleased with how they're coming out, so be in no doubt that I shall be ALERTING everyone when they're ready!

posted 20/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Academic Action
I took the day off from Actual Work yesterday for some full-on ACADEMIC ACTION.

During daylight hours I was on a course run by UAL called "Thinking Teaching". It was the second of two sessions that I'd done, learning about PEDAGOGY theories and general IDEAS about how you do The Teaching in Higher Education. Whenever I do ANY training I always DREAD it and end up sloping in like a teenagers with double Geography, even when I have purposefully BOOKED it myself, but I found this one to be VERY interesting. Partly because of the Interesting Theories, partly because it was very well taught (which you'd sort of hope a course ABOUT good teaching would be), but also because of my own reactions to it.

It was all about inclusiveness, diversity, engaging with students, and INTERSECTIONALITY, and I must confess that I tend to get A Bit Daily Mail when presented with these ISSUES in a WORK setting. I don't know why - I have a fully booked season ticket on the Political Correctness Train and read the Guardian online DAILY, but for some reason my BRANE tends to BRIDLE when I come across these THEMES in a Professional Environment. What then tends to happen is that the calmer, more reasonable parts of my BRANE actually LISTEN to what's being said, and see the SENSE of it all. It's a right rum old do though, I wish my MIND would sort itself out and just go straight to nodding thoughtfully!

It was, in the end, dead good, and I was disappointed to have to leave slightly early so I could head up to the Granary Square campus for even MORE of the aforementioned ACADEMIC ACTION. I was up that way to attend a new READING GROUP set up by the Comics Types at Central Saint Martins. There were about ten of us, comprising most of the BIGWIGS of London Comics Studies, sitting in a room for about 90 minutes discussing Ms Marvel Volume 1: No Normal. I was DEAD chuffed when I found out this was going to be our first book as I had a) already read it and b) flipping LOVED it. I was thus a bit worried beforehand about how I would behave myself, as I was pretty sure me saying "How DARE you not LOVE this book, it is THE BEST" would not be considered lofty enough criticism.

I managed to comport myself with sufficient dignity and even managed to restrain myself from going "OMG you should TOTES read Unbeatable Squirrel Girl also IT IS AMAZING!" , which was a first for me in ANY Comics Gathering!

After THAT I went to a short meeting about a PAPER wot I am co-writing (hem hem), and finally headed down to the BAR where I ended up having several beers with one of my supervisors while we discussed Jack Kirby and Long Gone Comic Shops We Have Known. Both of us admitted that it had felt WEIRD talking OUT LOUD about actual comics (rather than having learned discussions about BOOKS about actual comics), but also rather good fun.

It was a LONG old day on the BRANE, but it turns out that Academic Action can actually be quite interesting when it's ABOUT something interesting! Who knew?

posted 16/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Sounds Like Friday Night
A constant refrain round our way for many years has been "Why can't they properly bring back Top Of The Pops eh?" This has ESPECIALLY been the case around Christmas when we watch the Christmas and New Year specials and get ourselves caught up on what The Young People are listening to nowadays. It always feels GOOD to find out what's been happening, and it doesn't really matter whether we like it or not, we just want to KNOW without having to go through the hideous agony of having to listen to Radio One.

Imagine the DELIGHT in our house then when we discovered that "Sounds Like Friday Night" is a) on the telly and b) EXACTLY what we were after. For LO! it is PRETTY MUCH "Top Of The Pops" except without the charts, also WITHOUT the hapless attempts to be "cool" and very much WITHOUT Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates.

I have never understood why the BBC retained the services of these two for the TOTP specials. They presided over its FINAL DEATH, so why on EARTH would you want to keep having them back? It's like doing a new Star Wars film every year and having JAR JAR BINKS as the leader character in every single one. I MUCH prefer the two people they've got for SLFN (that's what the hip young things are calling it, right?) who seem like two CHARMING young people who are KEEN on what they're doing and not a pair of snide wazzocks who give every impression of being far too good for it.

In case it's unclear, I'm not keen on Ferne and Reggie. Dotty and Greg though, they are ALL RIGHT with me. I like the fact that they and the whole programme are JUST the right side of NAFF, not pretending that it is COOL, or indeed IMPORTANT (like the loathsomely pompous J Holland programme), but more like what it actually IS i.e. a Light Entertainment Show for The Kids to sneer at and for middle-aged people like me to get mildly yet happily perplexed by.

However, I have been AMAZED these past few Friday nights by the amount of people I know of my own age merrily slagging it off AS IF they are supposed to feel some OTHER way about it. OF COURSE you think it is a load of old rubbish, fellow middle-aged people! Isn't that EXACTLY how middle-aged people like THINE OWN PARENTS felt while you were going KRAZY about The Depeched Modes or whoever? Saying "Ooh it's so bland and commercial, not like in my day" on Facebook is but Twenty First Century version of peerng over the top of the newspaper and saying "Is it a boy or a girl? I can't hear the words!"

We have watched all three episodes so far and I must say that I have liked NONE of the music and could sing NONE of it back to you now, or indeed even when I was listening to it, which is right and proper. Most of the Young People dancing around and singing seem to enjoy it and most of the performers seem to be INTO what they're doing - the only people who were OBVIOUSLY FAKING IT were the dull and dreary old Stereophonics, who appeared OPENLY SCORNFUL of the whole process, and yet did not have the good grace to do so in an INTERESTING way. For shame!

I do agree with everyone who says there should be some more music on it, even though I quite like the cheesy Strictly-esque VT segments (mostly because they ARE so Strictly-esque), and I hope that at SOME point something ACTUALLY AMAZING manifests itself, but then I do remember watching the original TOTP back in the day and it being AWFUL for weeks on end, so am prepared to wait.

Most of all I hope it sticks around long enough for it NOT to be talked about at all, and just BE there so that we can ALL keep up to date with The Pop Music. If nothing else, I hope it lasts long enough to get its OWN Christmas Special and finally kick the SHOW MURDERING Ferne and Reggie off of our tellies!

posted 13/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Free Again
My NOVEL Storm House is FREE to download again this weekend, over on Amazon, so if you've not got a copy yet, now might be a good time!

I've read a metric TONNE of blogs about Self-Publishing, and they all say that giving your books away for FREE like this is the best way to get people to PAY for them in the future. The general idea is that readers get HOOKED by one book, so that when you release a new one then a) they're eager to PAY to read it abd also b) they tell OTHER people about it too. This all seems fairly sensible to me, and I AM hard at work on 'Storm House 2', but to be honest I mostly like doing it because it's FUN. My favourite activity at the moment is going and looking at the Kindle Sales Reports page every 30 seconds and clicking refresh to see if anyone else has 'bought' it! There is a GRAPH and everything!

Last time I did a free promotion I was mostly relying on the beautiful readers of the newsletter to get it all going, which they did wonderfully. As far as I can tell, the KEY is to get enough people to download your book so that it gets into the various categories of Top 100 free books on Amazon, and then OTHER people see it and decide to take a punt, which pumps it up even further and so on. Last time it was all VERY exciting as Storm House got to the TOP of various charts and even into the OVERALL Top 100 - of course that tailed off MIGHTILY once the free window was over, but it was fun while it lasted!

This time around I was very aware that many many nice people had helped me out, and didn't want to pester them again (not just yet anyway - there'll be a new book to hassle everyone about next year!) so I had a look at the MANY different service who'll include your book on their DAILY lists of free books via email or App. I got myself logged onto a load of them and even PAID for a couple, reasoning that this was the PROMOTIONAL BUDGET that I would usually spend on POSTAGE if I were releasing an ALBUM or something.

I wasn't sure if this would work or not - the world of ARTS is FULL of organisations out to take the money of VAIN people wanting to be LAUDED (and also people like me, OBVS) - but so far it seems to be going PRETTY well. Last night it got back to the NUMBER ONE spot on all the categories it's eligible for (which I think tells you more about how few copies you need to 'sell' than how popular Storm House is!) and this morning it's back in the Top 100 Free Books! HOORAH!

Hopefully this'll all lead to some more REVIEWS in the short term and some INTEREST for the next book in the longer term, but right now I'm just enjoying watching the GRAPHS move! As ever, thanks LOADS to anyone who's downloaded it and ESPECIALLY to those who've bought a paperback version (they are LOVELY), and if you've not done either yet... well, it's free until Sunday night, so get in quick!

posted 10/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Thor: Ragnorak
I went to the pictures on Sunday to (finally) see the latest THOR film. The short version of my review is this: "IT was GRATE!"

I usually like to go and see superhero films in the Odeon near my work as it is TINY and usually EMPTY so you don't have to hang around to get in, but as it was a Sunday I went instead to the GINORMOUS Vue cinema near my house. It's one of those cinemas where you buy popcorn and tickets at the same time, which seems daft to me as it means EVERYONE has to wait behind people getting TONNES of snacks, so I usually use the MACHINES. Annoyingly, however, the machine allocated a seat for me which it a) would not let me change because the touch screen wasn't working and b) would not let me book ANYWAY because it left a single empty seat next to mine. "BUT YOU ALLOCATED IT TO ME!" I said, to no sympathy from THE MACHINES. If THE MACHINES really want to take over the world then they are going to have to IMPROVE their customer service, otherwise they're going to find some of us forming an underground resistance.

THUS I had to go and join the huge queue, which took about a YEAR. By the time I got to the front I was so worked up that I decided to self-medicate i.e. get myself a BEER! Once in the SCREEN all was calm, the seats were comfy, and the wait for the film was surprisingly brief. The adverts just said "Turn your phones off" and "Look, this cinema has both sound and pictures!" (is that in case someone has come expecting RADIO or PAINTINGS by mistake?) and then we were OFF. There weren't even any trailers!

The film itself was FAB. The thing I liked most about it was how it LOOKED - for possibly the first time ever they had made it LOOK just like the comics, specifically the JACK KIRBY comics. Loads of the costumes (especially in the backgrounds) and technology looked like they were RIPPED straight out of the 1960s, and it looked BLOODY GRATE!

I liked all the GAGS and LARFS too, although I guess sometimes there was a tiny bit too much - having The Manager (I think) from Flight Of The Conchords in it was good, but I don't think you needed him to undercut every single dramatic bit EVERY SINGLE TIME, but that is a small complaint when there were so many BIG LAFFS to be had. I also liked the fact that it HAD a story that PROCEEDED at an orderly pace, unlike most of The Avengers films which LOOK good but are a bit confusing/confused. AND I liked the way that they used existing bits of The Marvel Cinematic Universe to tell bits of the story (e.g. Dr Strange turning up) like it was No Big Deal. Just like the comics!

It was basically a LOT of fun, with a LOT of BITS in it for superhero NERDS to enjoy... or so I am told hem hem I'm sure I wouldn't know. The only downside is that now it's MONTHS until "Black Panther" comes out - come on Marvel, three films a year is not enough!

posted 9/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Theatre Of Lights
After all the excitement of our trip to the RAF Museum on Saturday I was ready to put my BRANE in the bath to recover when we got home, but instead we were out again to an event called "Theatre Of Lights". This was put on for residents of The Olympic Village Where I Live (But I Don't Like To Go On About It). In previous years we've had FIREWORKS displays, but there is so much construction going on at the moment that I think they must have decided to do something a bit SAFER, also less FLAMMABLE.

SO it was that we walked round to Victory Park, a large green space in the middle of The Village, where there were HUNDREDS of people milling around happily, waving paper lanterns and/or GLOW STICKS. I got myself a bit ANXIOUS about it all for some reason - I think it was the crowds, all the lights and noises, the familiar setting looking so unfamiliar, but according to The People In My Crowd I was just "a bit grumpy" so she applied the tried and tested cure: A PINT. It worked!

We joined a PROCESSION around the center of The Village, which involved several hundred of us going for a bit of a wander about, led by illuminated stilt walkers and interspersed with ILLUMINATED JUGGLERS and DRUMMERS covered in lights.

Typing it out, it all sounds a bit rubbish, but it was actually LOVELY. There was a really nice atmosphere, and with the cold and the twinkly lights in the trees it all felt a bit CHRISTMASSY and cosy. Also, we had another PINT!

The procession strolled back to Victory Park, where there was a stage with some LIGHTS on it and some performers that we couldn't quite see because of the crowds. There were LAZERS and SMOKE and MUSIC going off, which was Quite Good, though my favourite bit was looking up at the residential blocks which mostly surrounded us and seeing the silhouettes of all the people stood at their windows, watching the show.

Usually these sort of things go on for AGES, leading certain GRUMPY people to require further medication, but this one finished almost TOO QUICKLY. It had only been going fifteen minutes and then the announcer said "Thanks for coming", it was BRILLIANT! All other public displays please take note: it's cold at this time of year and there is TELLY on that we want to get home for, where it is warm!

posted 7/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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We Saw A Lancaster Bomber
On Saturday The Wings Of My Plane and I headed out on a DAY TRIP to the RAF Museum in Hendon. The sequel to Storm House (what I'm currently writing) has a whole chapter that takes place there, so we thought it was probably a good idea to go and RESEARCH it!

Getting there was PEASY, via the Northern Line to Colindale, though the subsequent 10 minute walk to the museum was a bit odd, as it seemed that nearly EVERYTHING around there was NEW. There were a couple of old terraced houses, but otherwise it was all fancy flats, showrooms and construction sites. It was quite a bit like being back in East Village! I wonder what was there before - an airfield maybe?

There were more signs of construction when we got to the museum itself, though the main building itself looked more like a local shopping center from approx. 1981. There was a LOT of refurbishment going on, with temporary fences all around, one of the hangars closed, and there was STUFF left lying around a lot of the displays - some of this stuff appeared to be BOMBS!

Once actually inside though it was FLIPPING AMAZING. We'd expected to see maybe TEN aeroplanes but there were FLIPPING HUNDREDS of them in a VAST hangar space that had somehow been hidden behind the aforementioned small-town shopping centre. There were so many that you couldn't take it all in, although I will never forget the sense of SHEER AWE I had when I turned a corner and saw a BLOODY LANCASTER BOMBER!

CRIKEY! It was GINORMOUS! I couldn't believe I was looking at an ACTUAL LANCASTER BOMBER. I mean, I know Spitfires are the famous World War II planes, but I've SEEN those (there were about 300 of them in the museum too) but THIS was the plane that I most remember making from a KIT, and seeing in FILMS, and also the plane that my Grandad nearly flew on - thankfully he didn't because (according to FAMILY LORE) my Nan told him NOT to, which is handy for the EXISTENCE of my Dad, me, and all my siblings, as ALL of his friends who DID were killed.

It's not that I'm a huge PLANE fan or anything, but I DID grow up in the 1970s when pretty much all there was to do on a Saturday afternoon was to build model aeroplanes, and I was VERY impressed with my BRANE for remembering so much about them. "That looks like a HURRICANE!" I thought to myself at one point, and LO! it totally was!

As I say, it was all so overwhelming that it was hard to take in so we didn't read the info boards very much, but the general presentation was fairly casual. The knowledge that most of these amazing machines were designed to be vehicles of MASSIVE DEATH was never far away (there were several pictures of ATOMIC EXPLOSIONS next to the ACTUAL VULCAN BOMBER for instance) but it was never a) emphasized or b) celebrated.

It wasn't ALL death though, there were reconnaissance planes and an alarmingly WEIRD bunch of SEA PLANES, including the Stranrear which was HUGE, made of a QUILT of STEAL, four storeys high and, basically, LUDICROUS. How did it FLOAT, let alone FLY?!?

We staggered out of the main hangar, BRANES FULL, and had a wander round the RAF Photographer Of The Year Competition then to a smaller hanger to see a load of bi-planes in the First World War In The Air exhibition. It was all dead good but it felt like somebody had taken my MIND out of its box and given it a right good PUMMELING, as there was SO MUCH to take in.

What I'm saying is that it was AMAZING - and all free too! And did I mention they had a LANCASTER BOMBER?

posted 6/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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You find me in a very unusual position at the moment - I am GIGLESS!

Well, very nearly anyway - if you browse my forthcoming gigs page you will see that The Validators DO have a booking, but it's not until APRIL. That's nearly SIX MONTHS away!! Between then I not only have no gigs BOOKED, I have no gigs even VAGUELY happening. Nowt! ZILCH! Nothing!

This is a BIG change from the past decade, when I was averaging 50-70 gigs a YEAR. This year so far - and if it stays like this, in TOTAL - I have only done twenty five, which is the smallest number since I first moved to That London!

Part of the reason for this giglessness is my own CHOICE - doing the PhD means I don't have as much time for ROCK as I used to, so I haven't been asking around for gigs and I've put Totally Acoustic on a temporary hiatus. ALSO Steve and I don't have a SHOW on the go, so that's not happening either. Still, I'm sure that there USED to be other gigs around that I'd do!

It all feels a bit STRANGE - I know that lots of the people who used to book me years ago have now jacked it in, and I know that if you STOP going to gigs all the time to see OTHER people then you tend not to get asked so much yourself, but coming to a DEAD STOP like this feels WEIRD. Is this the end for me and ROCK? Will it be something I just do a couple of times a year now? Or what?

I hope not - I really LIKE doing gigs! Part of me thinks I should maybe have a go at Open Mic nights, but another, much larger, part of me hopes it doesn't come to that!

posted 1/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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