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Blog Archive: October 2018

The clocks went back by an hour at the weekend, but if felt to me as if they had gone back THIRTY YEARS, for LO! I spent most of my free time doing HOMEWORK!

Admittedly this homework was mostly about DOCTOR DOOM and MARVEL COMICS, but still, I felt Mildly Oppressed to be sat at my desk typing up an ESSAY about The Production Of Culture Approach as it might be used to Periodise The Marvel Age when, surely, all my pals were out on their BIKES and/or hanging around outside Our Price. It turns out that doing a PhD involves a LOT of homework, but I'm having to do a bit more than usual at the moment because of some extra tasks that have come in, notably a BOOK CHAPTER!

For LO! I got a VERY exciting email last week telling me that my proposal to write a chapter entitled "Doctor Doom: The Transmedia Supervillain" for a new book about Marvel had been ACCEPTED! It's only accepted to the stage of first draft at the moment, so if they don't like it they can still say no, but it's all RATHER thrilling. This first draft is due in mid-January, which would be plenty of time if it wasn't for the fact that I have a) a conference presentation about 'Not Brand Echh' to do in a couple of weeks and b) a whole different chapter about Periodisation to hand in for the actual Phd not long after that and c) a massive Confirmation Document to complete so that I can carry on doing it too.

THUS I was chained - CHAINED - to the laptop for a large part of the weekend, but OBVS it could have been a lot worse. When I worked at The University Of Leicester I was offered the chance to do a PhD in STATISTICS, and almost did it until somebody said "You'll be spending 5 years doing this, so it has to be something you're really interested in and care about," which I wasn't and didn't, so luckily I SWERVED that particular NIGHTMARE. I AM interested in Doctor Doom and DO care about Transmedia Archeology though, which is lucky because that person was RIGHT!

I've now completed a Production Of Culture analysis of Marvel Comics from 1961-1987 (it is QUITE INTERESTING and also features lots of PICTURES) and on Sunday evening I presented a first go at my presentation to The Slides In My Powerpoint (she is one lucky lady!) so now I can spend some time planning out the Confirmation stuff and MUSING upon the Book Chapter. A little while ago I was having a mini-MOPE because there wasn't much going on. Now there's almost TOO MUCH!

posted 30/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Coal Drops Yard
I work in London's Fashionable Kings Cross area of London, where there are always new things popping up, or being rebuilt. For instance, my proper office is in the Granary Building, which used to be... well, a granary building, but is now the main site for Central St Martins.

It's all very funky and exciting, especially when something new opens that you can go and have a nosey around, and so it was last Friday when the Coal Drops Yard area opened up. It's right next door to the Granary Building and all the time I've been coming here - first for PhD stuff and latterly for Actual Job - it's been boarded up, so it was a bit of a shock to wander out at lunchtime and see a whole new ZONE ready for looking at.

Originally this was the coal yard for the industrial site that sat here next to the canal and near Kings Cross and St Pancras stations, but the whole thing has now been cleaned up and re-tooled as a SUPER CHI-CHI shopping destination. It looks GORGEOUS, especially the two roofs which scoop around and up at one end like two waves crashing into each other. Apart from that though it's weirdly pointless. I, and everyone I know who went to have a look, came back and said "It's all very nice, but I can't see why I'd ever go there again." The shops are SO chi-chi that it's hard to work out what they actually are - you walk past some and think, is it a cafe? is it a shop? or is it maybe an art gallery of some kind? There appear to be NICK NACKS available, but does anybody need quite that much tat? One of the shops seems to concentrate on chocolate, but my boss claims that he saw a bar of chocolate that cost FIFTY QUID, which surely can't be right can it?

Usually in places like this you can find a PUB at one end, but at Coal Drops Yard everywhere looked like it was a RESTAURANT, with staff congregating at the doors to show you to a table or - more likely for ROCK AND ROLL REBELS like me - keep you out. I walked around the whole area and honestly could not work out what the point of any of it was!

CONVERSELY they've just opened a new PUB in St Pancras station, right at the back where the HS1 trains go from. It's ALWAYS full, even after only being open for a week, and when myself and The Maths In My Retail Plan popped in last Tuesday it was clear that EVERYBODY knew EXACTLY what it was for, and were thoroughly enjoying it. I predict that the PUB will last a lot longer than most of the chi-chi nick nack shops down the way!

posted 29/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Bandcamp Rationalisation
Last week I received a TXT from Mr R Kirkham, asking for THORTS about It Only Works Because You're Hibbett. This is the tribute album to ME that Ray organised a few years ago, and my thoughts on it can mostly be summarised as "HOORAH!" but he was after something a bit more practical than that.

He'd originally put the album on his own Bandcamp site and made some CDs, with all proceeds going to a NATURE charity that we agreed on, but now that the physical copies have sold out he was wondering what would be best for the long-term future of this EPIC and MARVELLOUS creation. It seemed sensible for me to download it and then stick it up on my OWN Bandcamp Page, partly so that Ray didn't have to worry about ADMINISTERING it, but also so that it would be HIGHLIGHTED to anybody who came visiting to look at our OUTPUT.

So that's what we did, and you can now find it on the above mentioned Bandcamp Page. I hope this means that more people get to hear about it, because I think it is GRATE. There's a whole host of ALLIES and CHUMS on it - listing any of them would mean having to miss some out, so I would suggest you go and have a look for yourself. If you read the tracklist and think "COR! That sounds FAB!" then you can find out whether you are right - HINT: you will be!

posted 26/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Quiz Machine
Last night I took a trip back in time, and also down the road, to see 'Henry Cage: Quiz Machine' at 2 Northdown, just round the corner from my work. This was the new show from Mr Harry Carr AKA Harry from the MA, and there was a whole bunch of fellow ALUMNI in attendance. It was dead good!

The pre-show featured Ms E Morgan for our traditional periodical chat about How It's All Going - for Emma it appears to be going QUITE EXCITINGLY with things in ACTUAL DEVELOPMENT - and towards the end Ms M Malm, before we went round the corner to meet up with Ms M Velevitch and Ms L Hayford for the show itself. It was LOVELY seeing everybody again, and seems VERY hard to believe that we finished the MA four years ago. That can't be right can it? I'm prepared to believe we might have STARTED it four years ago, but that seems like AGES since it was all over. I always think that one of (if not THE) best things about that course was the other people who were on it - hanging around in the pub with them on Wednesday nights was certainly my favourite part of the teaching anyway - and it was fab to lurk around with them in a Theatrical Space again.

The show itself was dead good too. I've seen a couple of Harry's shows before and he has always been a WHIZ at doing Audience Participation without making anyone feel BAD about it. He got people up on stage and, while staying in character and being funny, made them feel part of the show without forcing them to do things they didn't like. It was also deceptively CUNNING - it was set up like a pub quiz, which allowed for JOKES all the way through (PROPER jokes too) but then a SUB-PLOT to develop which built even more jokes into it. The best bits, according to me, were a) the way he immediately got audience members to pretend to be team leaders and shout out their scores at the end of each round b) the catchphrase "I'll allow it" and c) ending with getting everyone to stand up and sing a Christmas Carol. This latter felt bizarre at the time, but it was a lovely way to get the whole audience united, and also standing up ready to applaud when he left the stage!

It was, all in all, a fab night - a reminder of fun times in the past and a sign that those kind of times can carry on!

posted 17/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Gigs And The Got Them
A couple of weeks ago I had an upsetting 24 hours when I had NO GIGS BOOKED AT ALL!

It happened just after we'd finished the show at The Gladstone Arms. Suddenly, for the first time in over a decade, I had ABSOLUTELY NO GIGS booked in the diary. It was awful!

I was, however, terribly brave about the whole thing, not least because I knew that there were gigs AHOY, and indeed by Sunday we had got one BOOKED, with Totally Acoustic returning for a Christmas Special on December 6th. I'm not bringing these shows back on a particularly regular basis just yet, but I HAVE missed them, so I'm hoping to do a couple more next year too.

With that under our belts MORE gigs flowed in, with one in January in DERBYSHIRE tentatively arranged for The Vlads (more details of that one when it's properly sorted out). Then there was a GIG AVALANCHE as no less than FIVE gigs were slotted in over the rest of the week - as previously mentioned Mr Matt Tiller and I had been plotting some gig-getting, which all went extremely smoothly, though the first one was a bit of a MAD DASH.

We'd looked at a list of possible places to play around February/March time, and one of the nominated locations was Leicester. I realised on the Friday that, actually, that was when The Leicester Comedy Festival was on, so had a quick look to see what the deadline for show submissions was.

I checked this at about 11am on Friday 5 October. The deadline turned out to be 5.30pm on Friday 5 October!

There thus followed a FLURRY of activity. I decided NOT to contact the promoter at The Criterion to ask for a slot because a) that is where Steve and I usually did OUR shows, so it would have felt like CHEATING and also b) they're not THE quickest people to answer emails, so instead I emailed the Cookie Club, who we went to last time to do Hey Hey 16K at The Globe. Amazingly they got back to me RIGHT away and, with a phone call and a LOT of emails between Matt and I, the whole thing was BOOKED and PAID for with over an hour to spare before the deadline. It was, I think, the easiest fringe show I have EVER booked!

After that Mr T Eveleigh got in touch and offered us gigs in Sheffield and Croydon, then Matt sorted us out shows in Manchester and Bristol too! We were both slightly FLABBERGASTED by how straightforward it had been. Tour booking is usually A GRIND, but this had been easy. Almost... too easy?

We're hoping to get in a few more shows, possibly Plymouth and then one in Camberwell and finally back at The King & Queen (probably for the next Totally Acoustic) and then we'll have a RIGHT proper tour all booked. It looks like next Spring is going to FLIPPING ROCK!

posted 16/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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A Trip To Edinburgh
I left work at lunchtime on Thursday to catch a TRAIN. It's the sort of thing I used to do all the time when I was in Regularly Touring Mode but haven't for AGES, and in this instance it wasn't for ROCK anyway. For LO! I was heading to Edinburgh for a CONFERENCE!

The whole thing had been booked through work, which meant that - STEEL YRSELVES - I had to travel all the way there in STANDARD class! As I always say, booking first class just means you got ORGANISED a bit earlier, and the LUXURY of getting a single seat all the way is not one that we should allow THE WEALTHY to have all to themselves, THUS my use of that particular carriage is an act of CLASS WAR which, it just so happens, also entitles me to free biscuits. It ALSO makes the trip much more relaxing, as if you've got a single seat it means you never have to worry about LOONIES coming and sitting next to you. And yet you try telling that to the Finance team at your work and they don't believe you!

There were no loonies to report on either leg of my journey, but it was still MUCHO BUSY, especially on the way there, and it wasn't quite the luxurious afternoon of reading comics, gazing out of the window, and eating free biscuits that I usually look forward to. Still, I got to Edinburgh in the end and strolled through that GORGEOUS city to the Premier Inn in New Town. COR but it is a lovely place, Edinburgh, I like it a LOT!

I popped out to get some TEA after I'd checked in, and did a bit of CUNNING SHOPPING which I must remember to do again in future. I really fancied a cup of TEA - I drink Peppermint Tea when I'm out and about because a) tea-style tea NEVER tastes any good outside of your own home and b) Peppermint is, so far, almost impossible to mess up - and I'd noted that it would cost 1.75 for a cup in the hotel. HOWEVER, a whole PACK in Tesco round the corner only cost 80p! I believe this is what the young people call WINZ - i had THREE CUPS before bed time! Take THAT, so-called Costa Coffee!

The next morning it was still DAMP so I got the bus across town to the conference hotel. The driver seemed DISGUSTED that I didn't know that all single tickets in Edinburgh cost the same, but I managed not to HULK OUT and instead enjoyed the trip down Princes Street, VERY glad not to be walking along it in the rain. I hopped off next to The Waldorf Hotel which is where the conference was. It was DEAD POSH inside and rather nice, though my dears I am sorry to report that when they brought the food out for lunch most of the plates were MUCKY! Clearly they have diverted New Dishwasher Money into the Fancy Napkins Fund instead.

The conference itself was about Research Data Management and was Quite Interesting. Whenever I go to a conference I always think it is going to be about STATISTICS, despite the fact that I've not been to one of those in YEARS, so tend to be pleasantly surprised that I'm still awake after ten minutes, but this one was actually RELEVANT to my Professional Interests, and gave me some IDEAS. It was good!

It all finished just before 4pm, leaving me with 90 minutes before my train left, so I decided to do the honourable thing and go to THE PUB. I was trying to work out a route that would avoid both Princes Street (BORING) and too many HILLS, then remembered that I'd walked past this hotel every day when we did Hey Hey 16K so followed that route down to the Grassmarket and round past Sneaky Pete's. It felt weird to be doing it without a Hula Hoop over my shoulder!

Like a FOOL I waited until I'd gone a long way down Cowgate before turning left up to the Royal Mile, which meant I had to MOUNTAIN CLIMB up the SHEER FACE of an extremely inclined street, and was out of breath by the time I got to the top and stumbled into the whisky shop. Once I'd made my purchase and recovered myself I went round to The Halfway House for a quick drink before getting my train home. It's a LOVELY pub which I will always remember as the place where a) Mr S Hewitt and I watched the closing ceremony of the 2008 Olympics and a) we agreed to do 'Dinosuar Planet' the next year and most importantly b) he declared his avowed intent to take part somehow in the 2012 Olympics. We did both!

It did feel weird to be saying goodbye to Edinburgh after such a flying visit, but I have high hopes of going again soon. I'll book my own ticket this time though!

posted 15/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Mad Day
Things have been a little quiet in ROCK lately, but they haven't half been busy at WORK. Yesterday, for instance, was a bit of a MAD DAY.

It started off with a trip to the London College of Communication in Elephant & Castle, where I went to talk to an Artist/Lecturer about ways to capture Practice Research on our computer system. It was DEAD INTERESTING and also entirely compliant with my professional interests. Talking about this sort of thing is always fun, but I am especially enjoying it at the moment because I am getting close to Actually Knowing What I'm On About. I've been in this job just over six months now and I've reached the blissful point where not all questions result in my SWEATING WITH DREAD. It's quite nice!

I then hopped on a tube and went to High Holborn, to explain our system to some people involved in the Teaching Pathway. At UAL academic staff are either on a Research, Teaching or Knowledge Exchange Pathway, depending on what they mainly DO, and so far our system's been mostly set up to work for Research. THUS I'm now going round talking to people on the other pathways to see what they could actually USE it for. This also is great fun, and also SENSIBLE as I haven't a flipping clue what they might like it to do!

With that done I zoomed off to Oxford Circus for a quick nip into GOSH before returning to Elephant & Castle to attend a Committee where I was giving a PRESENTATION. I have also now reached the point where I can not only TALK about the systems but also ANSWER QUESTIONS without wanting to run away and hide under an easel somewhere. The meeting was GRATE as everyone seemed DEAD KEEN, as they were at my NEXT meeting which took me back into town and to The London College Of Fashion for ANOTHER presentation. I'm always AFEARED when I go there that EITHER everyone will sneer terribly at my outfit OR worse still STEAL my Unique Look for next year's collections. In actual fact they tend to be lovely, and this time were even MORE keen on the system. It's all a bit weird really, I keep expecting people to REJECT any idea of new computer stuff, but instead they say "But this is amazing and will solve all of our problems!" It's like appearing in an advert for washing powder!

After that i got back on the tube AGANE and headed back to Elephant and Castle one last time, for the launch of The Comics Research Hub at LCC. This is the rather brilliant plan for bringing together ALL the various Comics Studies research that goes on across the six colleges of UAL - we are basically a WORLD LEADER in this field, but nobody seems to notice because everybody's spread out across different sites and departments. Seeing everybody gathered together in the room was RATHER exciting, like when THE AVENGERS have a meeting of ALL the members and even George Perez struggles to fit them all in!

It was also a bit weird for me because there were people there from BOTH my aspects of UAL - the PhD AND the actual job - so I found myself in the odd position of SWANNING AROUND a little bit introducing people to each other. Luckily there was also time for some FREE BEER, so it wasn't all out of the ordinary, but CRUMBS it was a busy end to a busy day!

And then this afternoon I'm off to a Conference in SCOTLAND. What has happened to me? I thought jobs were supposed to be boring?!?

posted 11/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Two Johns, Jilted and Otway
Last night myself and The Synapses In My BRANE met at Great Portland Street to go and see John Otway and Jilted John. The gig had originally been at Koko, but then the venue was closed down for some reason and the show was moved to 229, which was MUCH better for us. Koko is one of those old Victorian theatre venues that always feel too dark, MUCH too cramped and, for some reason, too expensive, and is also in stinky CAMDEN. 229 was much handier (and right next door to a Pizza Express doing their ACE vegan pizzas too) and actually dead nice. We'd been there a couple of times before, and remembered it as a long thin basement, but I think it must have moved next door, as we went through a different entrance and the room we found ourselves in felt like a Hotel Ballroom. It was under a hotel, so it might well have been!

You can always tell if you haven't seen Otway for a while by the presence of NEW JOKES. We guessed we hadn't seen him for at least a couple of years, which meant there were about THREE new gags! I've been going to see him for thirty years now, and the set/act has not changed that much in all that time - it develops much like a GLACIER - so it was a bit of a shock to be laughing at gags I hadn't heard before, especially when some of them were actually Quite Good!

He was, as ever, GRATE, and it's lovely now to hear him tell his stories and realise that we were a (tiny, but still) part of some of them. I'm always amazed, when I see him playing non-headlining gigs, to realise that there are still people going to gigs who somehow have never SEEN Otway before! Especially at a show like this, where everyone else was at LEAST our age and had clearly been to at least SOME gigs before, yet many of them were laughing in SURPRISE (rather than everyone else's comfortable DELIGHT and RECOGNITION) at some of the jokes. I can only surmise that they must have been doing it on purpose, saving their first Otway gig for a special occasion.

He was supporting Jilted John, who was dead good, but it did make for a bit of a strange combination. Here was John Otway - an ACTUAL Punk Legend with TWO hits - doing the support for a PRETEND Punk Legend with ONE hit, which was a PRETEND Punk song even at the time! I guess maybe the fact that Jilted John hasn't done around 2,000 actual gigs since the 70s means it's a bit more special to see him!

As the second half of the gig went on it slowly dawned on me that this was a SHOW - the songs were linked together, and told chronological stories. Was the set based on a MUSICAL maybe? I don't know, he didn't make a big thing of it or anything, but it felt as if there was more to it than met the EAR. I was, I must admit, a bit disappointed that John Shuttleworth didn't come on for the encore, but John Otway DID, and it was hilarious watching everybody realise that he only knew the "Gordon Is A Moron" bit for the main song (which, wonderfully traditionally, they did a second time at the end).

It was dead good but, as I say, a bit confusing. Did I see a Punk Rock show? A pastiche, tribute, or recreation of same? Or something ELSE?!?!?

posted 9/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Gladstone Arms
Saturday was that most delightful of days: one full of THE VALIDATORS!

For LO! not only did we have a GIG booked in the evening, but we also had a RECORDING SESSION in the afternoon, to do some DRUMS for this year's Christmas song. When the song was written a couple of weeks ago we all got A Little Bit Excited about it, and decided that we needed to make an effort to record it properly (or at least not improperly). Tim had thus suggested that he, Emma and Tom set off for London a bit early (Frankie had already booked his train, so his timings were IMMOVABLE) and then we meet in a rehearsal studio in Holloway to do some recording.

So that's what we did! We were in a place called Storm, which was actually very nice. I'm continually surprised by how PLEASANT most rehearsal studios are these days. I spent a LOT of time in them during the 1990s when they were uniformly cold, damp, smelly and AWFUL, but these days they tend to be CLEAN and even have GEAR in them that works. Kids today with their habitable rehearsal space and functioning equipment, they don't know how lucky they are!

Tim had brought his CAJON and various other bits of kit with him, although it turned out he hadn't brought the RIGHT bits of kit, so had to manhandle it all together somehow from furniture. Meanwhile Tom and I set up our respective recording devices in separate parts of the room, to try and get a decent spread of sound, and prepared to record, with me standing next to Tim, singing and playing guitar as a GUIDE.

After the first take Tim very gently suggested that I sing NOT QUITE SO LOUDLY - partly so that we would get as clean a take of the drums as possible, and partly because the end of the song has a KEY CHANGE so the less of my inability to a) play the chords b) hit the notes which made it onto the recording, the better! I thus found myself basically stood behind him, WHISPERING the words as we went along, which actualy seemed to work quite well. We then did the same for ANOTHER song (details of which are UNDER WRAPS at present) before settling into a brief PRACTICE and then heading off to South London, where we were due to play a gig at The Gladstone Arms.

As previously discussed it is a LOVELY pub, made all the lovelier than the arrival, just a few minutes after us, by Mr FA Machine. The Validators were COMPLETE at last!

The sound was done by a very nice, very enthusiastic, very DILIGENT Romanian chap, and sounded GRATE. We had a good old NATTER and were joined by various CHUMS and lovely people, and then at about 8pm we went on stage (or "corner of the room") and did THIS:
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met)
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • Two Nights, One Pub
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • We Did It Anyway

  • It sounded, by all accounts, DEAD GOOD - as I say, the soundman was GRATE, and playing in that formation, with all acoustical instruments modestly amplified through the same PA, alongside Tim's Cajon set-up, means that we can actually HEAR each other and react accordingly. There was one GRATE bit where a song started too slowly, and I remembered that if I just sped up a bit then everyone else would too! BAND SYNERGY!

    I must admit that I did get a bit distracted by a table sat right in front of us who insisted on HAVING A VERY LOUD DRUNKEN CONVERSATION throughout, but that is more me than them. I am out of practice at Not Taking It Personally! Otherwise everybody seemed to be well into it, even those who did not know us, and I was once more especially pleased with the end bit to Two Nights, One Pub, which is dead good.

    After our set there was more chat before it was time to say farewell to The Validators as they set off back to The Midlands. It really is DEAD NICE when we have a couple of gigs in close proximity like this, as you get to carry on conversations from last time and, indeed, discuss how GRATE it had been the last time too! Talk of our Christmas Curry hung in the air as we went our separate ways, but hopefully there will be time for a get together again before that!

    posted 2/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Alison Alien
    Today sees the debut of another video from John Dredge and The Plinths - 'Alison Alien', what you can see right HERE:

    It has been created by Popaisy Productions using the simple ingredients of Mr J Dredge, a green screen, The Breakfast Club and COMPUTER WIZARDRY, and looks, I think, GRATE!

    Keen eyed colleagues will note that the song itself came out earlier this year when we released The Emergency EP. The idea then was to release a video for every song, one a month, and we did pretty well until it came to the last song as someone else had embarked upon the project, but never finished it. Luckily for us (and all POP FANS) the delightful people of Popaisy took on the task and created the masterpiece you see above.

    Further Plinths output is forecast in the future, INDEED I spent a healthy chunk of Sunday afternoon recording extra GUITARS for the next EP, which is sounding rather SUPER. There's a little way to go before its all done, not least because I'm probably going to have to re-do my BASS playing, but it's sounding good so far!

    posted 1/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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