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Blog Archive: February 2017

Primary Sources
Last night I FINALLY did some ACTUAL PROPER RESEARCH for my PhD and it was VERY exciting!

"But Mark", you probably cry, "Surely you have done several metric TONNES of research over the past few months?" and you would be right to cry out so, for LO! I have been reading approx a MILLION books, papers and articles about comics in order to firstly get ONTO the PhD course and then to persuade people that I should be allowed to STAY. I've filled in forms, been to meetings, done presentations and TALKED about it no end, but this has all been reading what other people have had to say about it, or have DISCOVERED, rather than me actually going to PRIMARY SOURCES (i.e. COMICS) to look for myself.

That changed last night. The current TASK is to create a definitive timeline of Doctor Doom's appearances in the Marvel Universe during "The Marvel Age". Just SAYING this throws up a whole HEAP of questions e.g. These are all EXCELLENT questions, which I have been a) asking b) trying to ANSWER, THUSLY:

First of all, in order to get a "definitive" list of Doctor Doom's appearances I have been using SEVERAL databases of comics. I'm using the Grand Comics Database as my starting point, largely because you can download it as an SQL file (which Mr T Eveleigh, ROCK star and also my SERVER PROVIDER for these very webpages, very kindly uploaded to my server for me). I'm then getting data from The Marvel Chronology Project, The Comic Book Database and The Marvel Database to check that what I HAVE got is correct and to see if there's anything I HAVEN'T. Finally I'm using Comic Vine for MANUAL checks as we go along.

Once I've got all that going on I need to look at the second question - what is "the Marvel Universe" then eh? For these purposes I'm saying it's anything published by Marvel comics that ISN'T a reprint OR some kind of FLASHBACK. The first bit's quite an easy one, but the second takes a little bit of digging. If Namor The Sub-Mariner THINKS about Doctor Doom (as he is WONT to do) then it gets logged in some databases BUT it's not actually Doctor Doom HIMSELF appearing and so isn't part of his timeline. I think that makes sense, but it takes a bit of checking!

FINALLY, "The Marvel Age" itself. I have been GRAPPLING with the whole TIME PERIOD business ever since I started all this and originally was going to base everything on "The Bronze Age Of Comics". However, I VERY QUICKLY discovered that this is almost impossible to pin down. The Golden Age and Silver Age are pretty SIMPLE to define (first appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1 and the new Flash in Showcase #4 in 1956 respectively), but the Bronze Age starts anywhere between Jack Kirby leaving Marvel in 1970 to The Green Goblin killing Gwen Stacy in 1973, and the ending is variously "Crisis On Infinite Earths", "Secret Wars", "Watchmen", "The Dark Knight Returns" or approx 500 OTHER options - and that's even if you think there IS such a thing as "The Bronze Age" which about half the people I've read so far DO NOT.

It was a FLIPPING NIGHTMARE so instead of that I decided to say I was researching "The Marvel Age" which, it turns out, is quite straightforward to define - it starts with the first issue of "The Fantastic Four" in 1961 and ends in 1987 when Jim Shooter gets fired as Editor-In-Chief. You can't say fairer than that can you? It includes everything Marvel did that was EXCITING and FUN before it all went down the plughole in - WHAT I LIKE TO CALL - "The Dark Age" of all comics being rubbish, or, as it is also known, "the decade that I didn't read comics in".

And so it was that I spent a VERY ENJOYABLE hour last night actually LOOKING at some comics to see when EXACTLY this "Marvel Age" finished. I've got a subscription to Marvel Unlimited, an APP which lets you read LITERALLY THOUSANDS of old Marvel comics, so I looked through a whole heap of them from late 1987 and discovered that all Marcel comics dated October 1987 have Jim Shooter listed as "Editor-In-Chief" but MOST have changed over to Tom DeFalco by November 1987. So far I've found ONE exception, as Captain America 335 still lists Jim Shooter in November then switches to Tom DeFalco the next month, but I can happily deal with that SIMPLY by looking through EVERYTHING they published in those months. It's RESEARCH baby!

I need to finish doing all this and get it written up in the next couple of weeks as the putative first bit of ACTUAL WRITING for the thesis itself - tho thinking about it, I have pretty much done that with this here blog haven't I? Throw in a couple of REFERENCES and it's ready to roll - doing a PhD is PEASY!

posted 28/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Like A Six Month Festival
While preparing the next issue of the newsletter I've been looking at my forthcoming gigs page and thinking "This is all looking a bit same-y isn't it?" Don't get me wrong, I am VERY HAPPY INDEED to spend LOTS of time in The King & Queen, but it does look a bit STRANGE having my next FOUR gigs (and 3 of my 5 so far this year) all in the same place! I do have plenty of other places to play during the summer - including some we've yet to announce and HOPEFULLY a few performances of Still Valid at FRINGE Festivals - but there WAS a time when my gig list would look like an Exciting Travelogue around our great NATION.

Of course there was ALSO a time when I was ten years younger and quite happy to spend half my life zooming around on TRANES, sleeping in IBII, and NOT sitting at home in The Olympic Village (have I mentioned I live there?) having a lovely time instead. I think the key is to look BEYOND the location and instead examine the - really pretty bloody AMAZING - line-up of ACTS what I have got booked for the rest of this SEASON of Totally Acoustic, THUS:

Thursday 2 March ME (doing new songs), Gavin Osborn and Matt Abbott
Thursday 6 April Helen McCookerybook, Robert George Saull and Jack Rosies.
Thursday 4 May Royston Vince, Matthew Stead & Rob Ash, and The Perfect English Weather.
Thursday 1 June Nathaniel Metcalfe and a full band set from PO!
Thursday 6 July Emma Kupa, The Indelicates and Deerful.
Saturday 12 August Pete Green, Chris T-T, Gavin Osborn, Frankie Machine, Matt Tiller, Keith Top Of The Pops and MORE (All-Dayer)!

I mean to say, look at THAT, if it was a festival line-up I ... well. I might even think of GOING, if there was a Premier Inn nearby! You may NOTE that it is now pretty much all booked up until the summer - I had PLANNED, this year, NOT book it all so far in advance, but to give myself SPACE in case I saw other bands I liked along the way. HOWEVER a) I hardly ever go to gigs anymore, so that wasn't hugely likely to happen b) I got a bit excited and asked loads of people anyway c) I had a Emergency Booking Flurry this week, which had CONSEQUENCES. I DID have the ever-amazing Ms Grace Petrie booked for our next show in March but she forgot to put it in her diary (we International Rock Stars do do that sometimes, it is a TRAIT!) and got booked on a whole TOUR instead! I'll get her in for a FUTURE show, but in the meantime I was down one act so emailed around several people who were on my LIST to see if they could fill in. Approx THREE of them couldn't do next week's show but COULD do others so, not wanting to pass up the chance of GETTING them, I booked them, HENCE the rather impressive list above.

Happily Mr Matt Abbott COULD do next week, which will make for RATHER a good evening and the continuation of a pretty flipping AMAZING run of shows. If you're out and about in That London on the first Thursday of the month (or the... er... second Saturday of August?) pop along, you are guaranteed to have a GRATE time!

posted 23/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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(Still) Defying The Man And All His Machinations
After the BUILDING BUSTING excitement of the night before, Saturday morning found me feeling headache-y, poorly in the stomach, and oddly fatigued - I guess I must have caught a BUG in the pub (etc etc). I decided the best way to sort myself out would be to have a nice big breakfast, so set off round Leicester city centre in search of such a thing.

"I'm not just going to go to Weatherspoons", I said to myself, and thus spent an unproductive twenty minutes failing to find ANYWHERE open for breakfast foods... except for the Weatherspoons. Resigned to my fate I went in and, actually, had some decent grub, though I WAS slightly OFFENDED when the young lady bringing my breakfast over said "Large vegetarian?" That's a bit personal isn't it?

Duly FED I headed over to the station where I met Mr M Whitaker, erstwhile AAS Board Member, who was coming with me to meet the THIRD corner of the AAS Board Triangle, Mr F A Machine, in Derby for the Winter Beer Festival. Mat had come to the gig the night before and I'd a) told him I was off the the Derby Beer Festival next day to meet Frankie then b) asked/INSISTED he come along. He did!

The Beer Festival was taking place at the Derby Roundhouse, just by the back door of the train station, which was VERY handy. As we rolled up I got a text from Frankie saying that the Beer Bus had been delayed. I thought he was JOKING, referring to a LIFT he was getting or something, but then the ACTUAL Beer Bus arrived! It was a shuttle service from town with BEER as the destination, FULL of middle-aged CAMRA-looking gentlemen. Frankie came running off to meet us, eager to get into the festival before everyone else disembarked, but was halted by the glorious, unexpected, sight of Mr WHitaker waiting for him. We shared a three-way HUG and headed in.

The Beer Festival was GRATE, and very similar to all the other Beer Festivals I've been to i.e. free for CAMRA members, you could hire or buy glasses (although quite a LOT of people seemed ot have brought their own with them) and there was LOADS of beer within. The big differences this time were that they ONLY had half pint glasses, and it was CIRCULAR, so that it was very easy to lose your bearings. That's my excuse anyway.

What followed were several hours of IMMENSE pleasure, as you can see here:

The three of us yacked away and tried OVER SEVERAL different kinds of beer. Mat had never been to a festival before, but he soon got the hang of it, and I must say the circular layout made it VERY easy to do the traditional Start At One End And Wander Round. We paid a trip to the Shiny Brewery Stand, featuring young Jimmy Machine proudly selling his wares, and tried some Lime And Chilli Chocolate. PRO-TIP: if offered some Lime And Chilli Chocolate, don't try it, it's disgusting!

Soon it was nearly 3pm and time for us to toddle over to catch our train. This was perfect timing, as we had had JUST enough to remain Lightly Squiddly but still MORE than sober enough to do trains properly. It had been a LOVELY afternoon, but if you heard a TITANIC GROAN echoing around the land on Saturday afternoon, you now know what it was - it was THE MAN, breathing a sigh of RELIEF that we had concluded our meeting. Rest easy for now, THE MAN, but one day The Board Of AAS will reunite again!

posted 22/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Bringing The House Down
Last Friday afternoon found myself and Mr S Hewitt on the train once again, heading for Leicester, where we were due to DEBUT Still Valid at the Leicester Comedy Festival. It's AGES since we last did anything like this but we fell into our ROUTINES easily, although it must be said that our usual habit of "doing lines" (i.e. talking through all the words and lyrics for a show while sitting next to each other EN ROUTE as opposed to any OTHER kind of "doing lines") is a bit different when there aren't, technically, any LINES as such, just a general idea of what we're meant to be doing. On the upside, this means it's a lot harder to get it wrong!

We arrived in Leicester and checked into The Ibis, tho NOT in our Usual Rooms this time, as they had been REFURBISHED. It SMELT like they had been refurbished very very recently - the whiff of carpet glue was so strong I had to leave the windows open the whole time I was in there! Despite this my Ibis Afternoon was as enjoyable as ever, especially after receiving a text from Steve almost as soon as I'd got in. "Yes Minister on Yesterday!" it said, and I LEAPT for the TV remote control.

It wasn't all TELLY tho - we are PROFESSIONALS, and bravely missed the end of "Pointless" in order to get to The Criterion on time for "soundcheck" (i.e. saying "we don't need a soundcheck"). It was GRATE to be back, and we were relieved to discover that, despite the change in management, they were still selling Pizza. PHEW! We met Sam, who was doing the door, and explained our needs (i.e. lights on and off), and then were soon joined by a whole HEAP of pals who'd come to see us. It was lovely!

The show itself was a bit of a worry to start with as this was the first time we'd EVER performed it in front of ANYBODY in ANY way. Previously we'd have had at least a script reading at home AND a "rehearsed reading" in front of An Invited Audience before even TRYING to do it for a Proper Audience, so would have some idea of it being OK, but this time there'd been none of that. My nerves were definitely NOT calmed during the first section either - I could dimly see people SMILING out in the room, but couldn't hear any LARFS. This reached it's most TERRIFYING point when we got to the "what a twat" line in 20 Things To Do Before YOu're 30. That nearly ALWAYS gets a big LARF, but was received in SILENCE on this occasion. Had we made a TERRIBLE MISTAKE?!?

Happily, as it turned out, we hadn't, and things warmed up A LOT as we went along, so by the end people were CHUCKLING away like nobody's business. It also ended up becoming a GREAT deal of fun to actually DO. Compared to previous shows it felt like we'd LEAPT from the first couple of rehearsals STRAIGHT to the bit where we know exactly what we're up to and can MESS AROUND, cutting out entirely the tedious six months or so of WORRYING and not knowing the lines. Clearly DEVISED PIECES are the future!

Afterwards we were hanging round chatting to our various PALS when someone - I believe it was Mr CM Lawson - said "Come and have a look at THIS!" I followed him out of the bar to the PORCH area, where I could see it was POURING with rain outside... and the rain was HOT. So hot, in fact that it was STEAMING. WOT on earth was going on?

Closer inspection showed that it was actually water pouring through a light fitting in the porch, coming down through the ceiling from upstairs. The management had been informed but didn't seem to be able to do much about it, and a small CROWD had gathered outside to watch it. I went and stood outside with them, and was just asking whether we expected anything else to happen when something DID - the CEILING in the porch FELL DOWN!

It was all very exciting - most of the pubs that I've ever played in in Leicester have been demolished, but it's never actually happened AROUND me before!

After that the rest of the evening dissolved into BEER and YACKING, so it was a Comfortably Merry Hibbett who staggered off back to the Ibis, via a now dry door, happy with how it had all gone and rather looking forward to doing some more!

posted 21/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Not Reading Comics
Tuesday evening found me back at Central St Martins, with THREE Action Points to Action. The first of these was a recurring minute: looking ASKANCE at The Students with their Funny Trousers and CAPES. It was actioned IMMEDIATELY!

The second was to pop into the library to snaffle some BOOKS. This is always EXCELLENT fun, although I do have to exercise a WILL OF STEEL whenever I'm there. There are HUGE long bookcases FULL of books ABOUT comics and books which are COLLECTIONS of comics, and it takes me straight back to being approx 11, standing in the Science Fiction section of Peterborough Library, thinking "But I want them ALL!"

What I do now, being a sensible ADULT, is to write a LIST of books BEFORE I go to the libary, and STICK to it. Sometimes this is not easy! One of the books I got this time was "Conversations: Stan Lee", which is a collection of, well, conversations with Stan Lee, taken from magazines, conferences, radio and TV shows over the years. I am roughly 35% of the way through now and it is BRILL - you can say what you like about Stan Lee (and people do) but BY GOLLY he has an engaging way of conversing, and he believes many things with which I entirely AGREE - possibly because I have spent my life READING Stan Lee and thus most of my OWN thoughts are based on HIS. There's one bit in particular where he talks about how comics can be LITERATURE just like someone playing KAZOO can be music - Stan, you are singing my song right there!

With books collected I headed upstairs for a Supervisory Meeting, where myself and Mr R Sabin and Mr I Horton, my two Supervisors, went through my Registration Document. This is a form you have to complete during the first year of a PhD (at UAL at least) to persuade them that what you are doing is VALID, and thus I have been working on it A LOT over the past couple of months - I thought doing a PhD on Marvel Comics would mean reading COMICS, but so far it has been mostly FORMS.

We went looking for an empty classroom and found a GIGANTIC room that spanned most of the width of the ATRIUM, with huge glass windows on either side so anybody entering the building could look up and see us. We then put my form up on a GIGANTIC screen approx the size of my LIVING ROOM. It may seem excessive, but this turned out to be a pretty good way to collaborate on TEXT, as the three of us gently scrolled through it, making corrections as we went.

When it was all done and, with a few more amendments yet to do, almost ready to submit, talk turned to what I should do next for the PhD. "How about writing something?" suggested Roger. "Maybe about the actual comics?"

He was suggesting I actually READ SOME COMICS! Yikes! To be honest this freaked me out a bit, and after discussion we agreed that I'd do a TIMELINE first - the PhD is partly about DOCTOR DOOM, so we I suggested that first of all I do some research into his publication history before I do something as RADICAL as Actually Reading Comics. The very idea!

When that was all settled we popped downstairs to the CSM bar for a PINT - after that shock I needed one!

posted 16/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Being Covered
It was the Pop!South Weekender in Glasgow this weekend just gone, apparently the last one EVER. I have played there TWICE before, once with Mr S Hewitt in 2014 and then last year with The Validators, and both times it has been BLOODY GRATE - lovely organisers, lovely audience, lovely venue, fantastic city. What more could you ask for eh?

I was a bit sad not to be there for this final one, especially on the Sunday when they had not one but TWO awesome chums - Mr P Green and Mr G Osborn - playing, along with A New International, who are one of those bands where everybody who sees them (including me) goes "Cor! They were good!" If it had been a bit less MILES away I would have gone (flipping Scotland with its insistence of taking HOURS for me to get there) but I assured myself that I would at least be able to enjoy PARTS of it, via twitter (with people going on about A New International, as predicted) and indeed The YouTube, where some kindly soul has uploaded the below video:

This is Gav doing his AMAZING version of It Only Works Before You're Here. I've heard the RECORDED version (on my TRIBUTE album hem hem) but I don't think I've ever seen him play it live, largely because USUALLY when I see him play I'm ALSO playing and will thus tend to be doing this song myself. I would very MUCH like to see it sometime though, as even over the interweb it made me feel all AGLOW. Many years ago, when I first started playing solo gigs, I wrote a LIST of things I would like to happen, and near the top (below "be on the radio" and above "produce someone else's record") was "hear someone cover one of my songs". This has happened a FEW times over the years (NB though not enough - KANYE! Get ON it!) and it always makes me VERY happy, especially when it's as GORGEOUS a version as this.

The only thing Gav gets WRONG is that he doesn't have some people doing the "La la la" bit in the middle section which would put him off so he gets the words wrong and has to do the whole section again. That's the best bit, surely!

posted 15/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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The Five Doctors
I had a THRILLING ENCOUNTER last Thursday lunchtime. I was just sitting down with my sandwich in the EAT next to my work when I heard a Scottish Voice that sounded familiar. I looked up and LO! chatting to someone as if it was perfectly normal was David Tennant off the telly!

This was QUITE EXCITING, but I managed to stay cool about it, as indeed did he (I'm sure I heard him nervously humming "Hey Hey 16K", but apart from that it was if he hadn't even spotted me). One of the more FUN things about working in the centre of That London is that you DO occasionally spot famous people wandering around, and it set my mind to thinking about the OTHER famous people I'd seen. "I saw Christopher Ecclestone over the road at the Optician once," I thought,"and Tom Baker looking worried in a Pret A Manger."

"Hang on," I thought some more, "That's THREE Doctors Who!" I'm sure it's technically "Doctor Whos" but that looks weird written down, and "Doctors Who" is also more fun to say. Anyway, just as I was thinking how COOL that was I suddenly remembered that I'd ALSO seen John Hurt just round the corner in The One Tun pub a few years ago (my friend Simon went to speak to him but he was not really in any fit state to chat. He did ask me where the toilet was though, so technically we have MET), and then that I had ALSO seen Sylvester McCoy in The Museum Tavern!

That's FIVE Doctors, all within a very small area - an area which can be plotted THUS:

As I mulled this visualisation over I wondered if there was a PATTERN and so decided to investigate further with the following ANNOTATIONS:

I can't really see a pattern of the individual Doctors - they don't seem to be arranged in terms of age or order or anything - so I am open to any suggestions anybody else may have. It MIGHT be that New Series Doctors are in one half of the circle (using Percy Street to Montague Place as the dividing line) but I'd need more data to know for sure. If I spot Peter Capaldi outside ULU on Malet Street, or Peter Davison looking lost outside Tottenham Court Road tube, then this theory will be PROVED!

What I can predict with some certainty, however, is the location of Paul McGann. As the JOIN between old and new he must surely be somewhere in the dead centre of the circle which is, I reckon, at the end of Gower Mews. I can't see him on streetview, but I'll pop and have a look next time I'm passing - if you don't hear back, you'll know I've gone off with him for some ADVENTURES in time and space!

posted 14/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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A Lovely Time, Guaranteed
Sunday afternoon found me back at Bally Studios for a SECOND practice of me and Steve's new show "Still Valid". Yes, that's right - we might not have written a script or new songs, but we HAVE had more than one practice! PROFESSIONALISM!

This time around it was a BREEZE as we knew which BITS went where and, without a FORMAL SCRIPT to adhere to, could muck about as much as we liked so long as we got to the next song eventually. It felt very strange, also FREEING. For previous shows rehearsals have been a right old pain in the wotsits, as we've struggled to get the WORDS right, especially for shows like Moon Horse or Total Hero Team which were PACKED with PLOT that had to be said out loud. This one doesn't really HAVE much of a plot - there's a THEME, a General Idea, and several ACTUAL JOKES, but they're loosely hung like TINSEL between songs rather than complex teetering mechano constructions that cannot be leaned on too hard (METAPHOR) so it's all quite GROOVY.

It was also a LOT of fun. Usually we only get to the LARKING AROUND phase of the show when we've already been DOING it for several months and are confident in how it works, but this time we were there right from the start, and it made me wonder if this might be a way forward for any FUTURE productions. I mean, OBVIOUSLY I am thinking this because it is DRAMATURGICALLY forward thinking, experimental and inherently theatrical, and not at ALL because it would save us a LOT of work and stress, but I must admit that that appeals too. If and when we do another show then perhaps the way to DO it is NOT for me to spend three months working out plot, character and GAGS (I hear a chorus of voices say "You worked all that rubbish OUT before?!?") but instead to work it up ORGANICALLY.

It's certainly a THORT, but before we get to any of that we've a SHOW to do in Leicester on Friday. As mentioned previously, the PLAN is to see how that goes and then, if how it goes is WELL, book some more shows. I've a feeling it WILL go well - as Steve said during practice, "I think everybody is going to have a LOVELY time", and I reckon he might just be right!

posted 13/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Exam Conditions
Wednesday night found me back at Bally Studios for the first time in AGES, there to meet Mr S Hewitt for a practice of our new show 'Still Valid', which we will be PREMIERING next week at The Leicester Comedy Festival (tickets still VERY much available). I haven't been there for AGES - for one thing, we haven't had a show to practice for AGES, but when we HAVE needed to do stuff we tended to go to Theatre Delicatessen instead, as it was in town. HOWEVER a) we DO have something to rehearse now and b) Theatre Delicatessen have moved out to Canary Wharf, and thus we returned to Bally to find Tottenham Hale SLIGHTLY CHANGED. Not only had the studios had a lick of paint and a swap round of pictures on the wall (we used to have MOTOWN in our room, now it had changed to Early 90's American Alt ROCK) but the AREA was gradually becoming an AREA. To get to Bally you have to walk through a housing development, which was pretty much EMPTY when we first went there but now, much like my own OLYMPIC VILLAGE (where I live but don't like to go on about), was becoming an Actual Place.

There is a theory that the best way to revise for an EXAM is to do it in EXAM CONDITIONS i.e. in a large quiet room full of lots of other people, such as a LIBRARY, so that your BRANE will associate such settings with remembering the information you shoved into it there. THUS I thought it would be good for our PRACTICE if we did the same for rehearsals, so we enjoyed a very nice bottle of GHOST SHIP as we set to work. This is one of many SACRIFICES we make for our ART.

We'd had a couple of DRAMATURGICAL sessions already, where we'd sat in the pub and worked out a rough idea for how the show would work, and I'd typed the results of all this up as a guideline with bits of SCRIPT in, but we had never actually DONE it OUT LOUD before. The general idea of the show (SPOILERS) is that it's an episode of Classic Albums from 2037 covering Still Valid, which is as good an excuse as any to talk about the songs and then sing them. It all went SURPRISINGLY well - it's a simple set-up with no complicated BITS to remember (or tap dance routines) so we could pretty much skip straight to the MUCKING ABOUT stage of rehearsal, which tends to be the best bit anyway. It's not the SLICK OPERATION that, for instance, Hey Hey 16K was, and if I was starting from scratch there are definitely a couple of songs that I'd take out, but all in all it seems to work as a COHESIVE WHOLE... which is a great relief, what with us being booked to DO it a week tomorrow!

The plan is to see how it goes in Leicester and, if it's all OK, book a few more shows at the NICER Fringe Festivals and also a couple of other places. I'm secretly (not that secretly) hoping that it gets the ALBUM out to a few more people and, hey, if it takes a few nights out on the BEER with Mr Hewitt to achieve that aim, then it is a price I am prepared to pay!

posted 13/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Mandatory Days
I've spent most of the past couple of days back at SCHOOL for Mandatory College Days for my PhD. The experience was something of a MIXED BAG.

Day one was (SPOILERS) RUBBISH. All of us first year PhD students sat in a big room while a selection of second years gave brief talks about their research areas. None of them were talking about anything relevant to MY topic, but hey, that's all fine - we were there to ENGAGE with RESEARCH and so forth, and who knows where you will find something interesting that will spark off yr BRANE? The problem was that it was all done in such a THUNDEROUSLY DULL way, with nearly ALL of them just reading off a piece of paper in a dreadful monotone, that the sole result was to make me FLIPPING FURIOUS! Surely the BLOOMING POINT of doing research is to share your findings with people, and if you want to do that then you have to be able to ACTUALLY PRESENT IT PROPERLY. I know not everybody likes doing it, and if I go to a talk at WORK or something when somebody has been FORCED into giving a presentation then it's understandable if it's not exactly a GLITZY SHOWBIZ EVENT, but these were people giving up 3 to 6 years of their LIVES to find something out, who can't apparently be bothered to spend a couple of hours planning out their talk properly so they can AT LEAST make EYE CONTACT with the audience who are forced to sit through it.

At one point I got SO VERY BORED and IRATE that I decided to write down some of the LUDICROUS words that were being bandied about. Here's what I got, all within half an hour:
Contemporaneous Utilisation Process Multiplicity Inherent Implicit Conceptualise Interrogate Retrospectively Challenging Practice Assertions Methodology Navigate The Space The Work Analogous Shorthand Performative Positional Response Representation Marginality Materiality

Obviously those words are all FINE in their proper context (i.e. written down in an academic paper) or used SPARINGLY but when you have to sit through a CONSTANT BARRAGE of them intoned like LATIN PRAYERS is it any wonder that people (ME) become ENRAGED? It made me so angry that I did not leave ENTIRELY POSITIVE FEEDBACK. THAT is how angry I was!

The next day was MUCH better, as it started off with two presentations by people who LOOKED at us while they were talking and used ACTUAL HUMAN LANGUAGE with the intention of EXPLAINING things to us so we would UNDERSTAND. They were both talking about Methods and also Methodology, which everyone goes on about ALL THE TIME when one is filling in one's FORMS at this stage, but which no-one ever tells you what they MEAN. For instance, the second speaker said "asking what your methods are is like asking how you are going to DO it all." Written down now that seems blindingly obvious, but when he said it you could feel the entire room breath a sigh of relief and say "Oh YEAH, of course! PHEW!"

Over lunch me and the other Comics Guys (yes, we are all men, surprising isn't it?) had a chat about STUFF then ended up in the same group for a session on LEXICONS. We had to read out words common to our RESEARCH, so while everybody else had stuff like "contextualise" and "autoethnography" we had "superhero" and "supervillain". The course leader read our list out and said "You've got 'comics' AND 'graphic novels' here, surely that's the same thing?" To my delight half the ROOM let out a GROAN OF TERROR, not just us. "You do NOT want to get into that," I said, for LO! you really don't.

It was actually all Quite Interesting and Worth Bothering With, especially as we managed to fit in a chat about a SYMPOSIUM (oh yes!) what we might be organising about Comics And That. By the end of the day my BRANE was KNACKERED, but in a GOOD way, so I went home and watched THE LEGO MOVIE in order to recover. It worked - in fact I'd go so far as to say that it's contemporaneous utilisiation of the hypothetical space was inherently challenging to the normative materiality of conventional representation/shorthand in this kind of performative response. I just wish the theme so wasn't so flipping catchy, I was singing it in my BRANE all night!

posted 8/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Shepherd And Game
When I got my new job one of my first thoughts was "Hoorah! Now I shall be just round the corner from The King & Queen, and - ARF - I bet I will be in there - ROFL - every day!!!"

Little did I realise that this prophesy would start to become EERILY TRUE as I was back there last night for the FIFTH time this year, for the latest edition of Totally Acoustic. On the way to the pub I got a message from our "Mystery Guest" telling me that they wouldn't be able to come after all. I was half expecting this, as they'd asked not to have their name mentioned on any Events Pages or Listings (hence "Mystery Guest") so had already decided that I'd get everybody's favourite headline act to fill in: the always marvellous Finishing Slightly Earlier!

Our other acts were there in good time, as was a delightfully sized and constituted audience, so we kicked off at the usual hour with a rendition of the theme tune, then I launched into In The North Stand (because we'd been talking about football earlier) and It Only Works Because You're here (because I like it).

The first PROPER act was Mr Matthew Shepherd, who had FACEBOOKED me way back in August to ask about playing. This happens every now and again and USUALLY I dutifully go and listen to some tunes online and think "That was a bit rubbish". THIS time however I really enjoyed his stuff and found myself singing several of his songs, so got him BOOKED. In person he was a DELIGHT, with lovely tunes, a lovely voice and a CHARMING manner which made much of the room say "What a nice young man". This is probably not the PUNK ROCK PERSONA that most people wish to project, I know, but that is what occurred. He was FAB.

We then had a break before the second, and now FINAL, act Mr Ivor Game. Ooh but he's good. When he played last time the room was ENTRANCED and this was the case again. He really is not like anyone else we've ever had on, a bit jazzy, a bit Beatle-y and all round hugely TUNEFUL and GENTLE and... well, you can listen to him on the podcast from last time for yourself and see what I mean. We sat, AGOG!

And that was that done, very successfully, for another month. Myself, The Dates In My Diary and Mr S Hewitt celebrated with a pint and a chat downstairs before heading off into the night. Astoundingly I am not predicted to be back in the King & Queen for FOUR WEEKS now - I may PINE!

posted 3/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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