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Blog Archive: March 2018

A Big Reveal
Today is Maundy Thursday and, for the first time in my ENTIRE LIFE, I am at work! Up until now every University that I have ever been employed by has been CLOSED on the Thursday before and Tuesday after Easter (and sometimes on one of the Wednesdays too) but here at UAL we are very much open for business. It's actually rather good for me, as it means I'm HERE getting to grips with things rather than off for another week after only being in the job for 5 or 6 days, AND we get the extra days to take whenever we like, but it does feel a little bit un-Easter-y not to be lolling around at home!

This seasonal working does not, however, affect the timetable of ROCK, and thus this month's newsletter is out RIGHT NOW. Amongst the thrilling FACTS contained within is the announcement that we are going to celebrate 20 years of MJ Hibbett & The Validators by releasing a GRATEST HITS ALBUM... on CASSETTE!

The album is going to be called "20 Golden GRATES" (of course it is) and will be available in a very very limited edition this time next month via the newsletter and then the website. If there's any left we'll be selling them at our birthday gig on 5 May at The King & Queen, but we won't be making many so if you'd like to get one I'd advise you to get in quick! It'll come with a free download link too, so if, like me, your tape player is long gone you can still get the tracks and put them on your modern interweb walkman (or equivalent).

The photograph for the cover was taken a few weeks ago by Mr James Indiehorse (as discussed here) and I am DELIGHTED to be able to share it with you here today:
What a delightful bunch we are! This is of course an image for a non-existent vinyl version of the album - the actual TAPE will feature this image in a slightly different, and frankly GORGEOUS, fashion which I will reveal nearer the time.

We're all RATHER excited about unleashing this on the world. The tape will, I feel, be a beautiful artefact and a fitting way to begin the celebrations of our two decades of ROCK!

posted 29/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Tertiary Plinth
It's the end of another month, which means it must be time for another John Dredge & The Plinths video!

As previously stated, in an ongoing bid to make ourselves even MORE like Duran Duran than what we already are we're planning to make a video for every single song on our debut EP. This is the THIRD such video, though if you've seen the others you'll know it's similar in FILMIC QUALITY to our first one, for Going Down. When we set out to film it the original idea was that all the material would be for 'Going Down', but when I sat down to edit it I realised that we'd shot SUCH a lot of stuff, and the songs were SO short, we'd actually got enough for two!

It's meant to be a sort of homage to those videos you'd see once a month when The Chart Show did The Indie Chart, when someone would basically prod an indie band with a stick to try and get them to do things then give up and take pictures of statues instead. I hope we have captured the spirit!

posted 28/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Terrified By Instruments
I'm in the midst of starting a NEW JOB at the moment, so life is a whirligig of Not Remembering Names and Trying To Understand New Things, but last time I found time for some distinctly sophisticated ROCK ACTION.

For LO! I was in distant TOTTENHAM for a practice with A Little Orchestra in preperation for our forthcoming gig at The King & Queen on Saturday 5 May. The gig is to celebrate twenty years of The Validators, and thus will feature a set of us playing some of our mighty discography, followed by a performance with the aforesaid A Little Orchestra. There may also be an ANNOUNCEMENT of one or more Secret Projects!

I'd been over that way a few years ago for a similar practice, but in the meantime Spurs had built (or started to build) a GINORMOUS HYPERDROME which LOOMS over the entire neighbourgood like a spaceship from the planet DOUGHNUT which has crash landed into North London. It's very impressive, but also UTTERLY MAD!

I got round to the house to find Nicola and Alex from ALO already there, and the front room set out with chairs and music stands. It is a very different proposition, playing with these lot, to my usual Validators action. Not only was there CHEESE and BISCUITS and WINE laid on, but the discussion seemed to be of a much more elevated nature. Where we would say things like "Do it again, but less rubbish, and not as fast" they said "Is this perhaps a litte legatto? Should we be using minims, or crotchets?" For all I know that may be LATIN for "slower and less rubbish" but it sounded WELL CLEVER!

More ALO-ers arrived and we went through four songs that we'd not played together before, and I struggled not to a) burst into tears and run away or b) laugh my head off. The first reaction was because this was Serious Music, where you have to concentrate because everyone is listening to you and you have to do it RIGHT because everyone else has it written down, and that is NOT what I am used to. The second reaction was because it sounded SO lovely that it was ludicrous. I tried to explain later that it sounded like playing music in a garden, as it was so fresh and clear and it felt like there were all sorts of other things going on around me. I guess this is why Music Types have special words for things, so they don't have to spend ages trying to explain what they're on about.

It sounded LOVELY but, as I say, it was also a bit terrifying. USUALLY, when I'm in a social situation that makes me nervous, I have to constantly stop myself from mentioning The Strings On My Instrument - I guess mentioning her is a way of INVOKING a reassuring presence - but last night I had to force myself NOT to keep mentioning The Validators! I am reliably informed that it's good to get out of your comfort zone, but it will be nice to have The Vlads around when we actually DO the show!

The gig is, as I say, on 5 May, and will be in the Totally Acoustic format with doors at 7pm and the show commencing shortly after that. Do come along if you can, if nothing else you will get a chance to see my GRAPPLING with my fears to an delightful accompaniment!

posted 27/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Times/Chicken House
You find me today slightly sunburnt, as I spent last week on holiday in Madeira. There are two main things you need to know about Madeira, firstly that it is very BEAUTIFUL and secondly that it is FULL of PENSIONERS. I have never known the like, it made one feel Quite The Youngster.

While I was away the longlist for the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition was announced... and Storm House was on it! This is RATHER exciting (if you are me, which I am), especially after it ALSO getting onto the longlist for the Bath Children's Novel Award a while back too. It's almost as if it's... a children's book, maybe? I didn't write it that way, but something tells me that's what it's come out as!

The shortlist gets announced in a month or so, and I am already planning to send the manuscript out to Actual Children's Fiction Agents (rather than the Serious Science Fiction Agents I sent it to last time) when 'Storm House' doesn't get any further. I'm so excited about sending it out to some more people that I think I might actually be disappointed if it DOES make the Shortlist!

With all this going on it'll soon be time for me to have a crack at the second draft of the SEQUEL, 'The Utopians', which I finished a few months ago. I am sligthly DREADING doing this, in case what I wrote was rubbish, but am also looking forward to it as I must admit that I DO rather enjoy laughing at my jokes, especially when I've forgotten what they were!

posted 20/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Admin Experts
As mentioned last week, we recently did a PHOTOSHOOT with Mr J Indiehorse for the COVER (or part of the cover) of one of the SECRET PROJECTS what we will be unleashing soon to celebrate 20 Years Of Validation. A few days ago James sent us the pictures and The Validatiors all had a look through to see which ones we could use. After some discussion I proposed one particular picture and then GIRDED myself ready for weeks - possibly MONTHS - of fevered debate.

I thought we were just getting going when Mr FA Machine proposed photoshopping my choice together with ANOTHER picture, in order to get the best versions of everybody. "That'll take me a while", I thought but was DELIGHTED, a few minutes later, to receive a new image what he had photoshopped HIMSELF, which did it perfectly. I was then frankly STUNNED a few more minutes later to get emails from ALL Validators to say they liked it!

I must admit that I hardly knew what to do with myself. I mean, I know we are EXCELLENT at Band Logistics And General Admin, but this was RAPID even for us. 60% of the band can be counted on to pitch into a debate during the daytime, but Tom and Emma a) have jobs where that isn't always possible b) are not quite as interested in Dad Jokes as the rest of us, and also this was EVENING time so I had expected everybody to be out drinking harley davidsons and riding drugs until 3am, much like I was. And yet, after a mere half hour of discussion, we had reached a decision!

The upshot of all this is that the cover is nearly done - there's still some aspects to discuss, but we have taken an HUGE leap forward, which means that I should be able to get the MANUFACTURING (for LO! this particular secret project is a physical item) instigated when I get back from HOLIDAYS the week after next. Once that's all underway I should actually be able to tell you what it is we're up to!

In the meantime, please standby for some RADIO SILENCE for a little while. I'm finishing my current job TODAY, then at the weekend myself and The Dates On My Calendar are off for the aforementioned HOLS, so I'll be away for a week and a bit. Once I return though we shall be full steam ahead for the commencement of celebrations around our TWO DECADES OF ROCK!

posted 8/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Road To Tuebingen
I spent last week in Tuebingen in Germany at a WINTER SCHOOL called "De/Recontextualizing Characters: Media Convergence and Pre-/Meta-Narrative Character Circulation". I am happy to report that I now understand ALL of the words in that title, which is something of a TRIUMPH for me, personally and mentally!

Getting there was a thrill-ride of TERROR. The night before I set off all the signs were that my travel hopes were DOOMED to failure. Everyone expected a DELUGE of snow overnight, so when I got out of bed at 4:40am I was almost disappointed to find there wasn't any. The news had said that loads of trains would be cancelled, which they very much WERE, so I ended up having to go to Liverpool Street on the (still working) Central Line and then hang around the station while, as per usual, nobody told us anything and nobody seemed particularly fussed. In the end I got on the first Stansted Express outta town and the driver was FANTASTIC, keeping everyone informed and also Being Light-Hearted about it all whilst also recognising that people were a bit stressed. He was GRATE!

My flight set off about 20 minutes late, which would have been fine except that I had a connecting flight at Hanover airport with very little time to spare. Two blokes just ahead of me leaving the plane asked where they should go to get a flight to Stuttgart, so I ended up following them, with the three of us LEGGING IT for MILES across to the other side of the airport. I arrived at the security barriers (there wasn't an easy interchange) flustered and out of breath, and ended up ripping the skin of my hand on the conveyor belt, but DID get onto the plane... which then sat still on the tarmac for half an hour!

Once I eventually got to Stuttgart I was amazed to find that I could walk straight off the plane and into baggage reclaim, where my suitcase arrived after approx 3 mins, then out and straight on the bus to Tuebingen, it was AMAZING! It was also BLOODY FREEZING - all week that I was away people back home were complaining about the weather, while I was somewhere EVEN COLDER . I guess this is what it must be like to live in Scotland!

The University had put me up in a hotel, which was jolly nice but seemed to have been decorated in the 1980s, so I had an EXTREMELY brightly coloured duvet. The Winter School itself was happening on the other side of town, up a HILL and inside an ACTUAL CASTLE. I knew it was in the Tower Room of a SCHLOSS, but I was not quite prepared for the Actual Castliness of it all!

The actual school itself was MIND BLOWING. As I've said before, I'm used to going to conferences that are mostly/entirely BORING, but this one was PACKED with INFORMATION that was not only INTERESTING but also HIGHLY RELEVANT to my PhD. There were talks about Manga, Transmedia Archeology (hem hem), Comics Continuity, and LOADS about Transmedia Characters, which will be EXTREMELY useful to me. I am currently writing it all up to give as a presentation for my supervisors later in the week, so if you require a full DOWNLOAD of all the info ask me after that. I WILL TELL YOU!

The only vaguely difficult moment of the week came at the end of the first day, when we went to another part of the Actual Castle for drinks and food. I was KNACKERED so left early, and was let out of a back door... which turned out to lead NOWHERE, TRAPPING me on the top of the Castle Wall! I had to BANG on the windows of the dark, closed part of the Gallery that I'd been led through to try and get someone to come back and let me in again. I had terrible visions of FREEZING to death out there - it was a frightening... er... three minutes and no mistake!

Other than that it was BRILLO. Winter Schools and Summer Schools are fantastic Continental Things that we don't seem to have much over here. This one had about 20 people involved, half of the attendees were leading BRAINS in their fields, while the other half of us were Junior Researchers, mostly doing PhDs. This meant that it was a fantastic mix of EXPERTS and NEW IDEAS, interacting with each other. Thankfully it was all conducted in ENGLISH - I was the only active native English speaker there, with about half of the total attendees from Germany, but luckily for me English is The International Language Of Academia, so I could understand everything. Well, I could understand the WORDS, I didn't necessarily always understand what they MEANT!

Everyone there did a talk, so I did mine about my current work so far on Doctor Doom. To my surprise people got MOST excited about my DATABASE METHODOLOGY, which heretofore has mostly been considered "a bit boring". There were also some Interested/Interesting questions about an idea I have to do Observer Ratings on some characters (an idea suggested by, and hopefully involving when I get round to it, Dr M Larkin Out Of Lazarus Clamp). I am still not used to talking OUT LOUD about this sort of thing, so enjoyed it immensely, and also got to plug the twitter handle for the Marvel Age Doom blog!

It was SO interesting that the whole week FLEW by, but I still felt VERY homesick, not least due to the fact that it was SO cold that I spent most of the time either in a hotel room, in the conference, or SPEED WALKING between the two! Come Friday I was VERY happy to be heading home, though also a bit AFEARED as all week I'd been reading reports about The Weather causing even more cancellations. As it happened my plane was delayed by about an hour on the way back, but I was FULLY appraised of the situation at all points, and the only time my travel arrangements got frustrating was, predictably, when I tried to change at Tottenham Hale for Stratford and found no staff there and none of the computer displays working either. It was at this point that I knew I was back in Blighty!

It was, all in all, a FANTASTIC experience that is going to have a BIG and BRILLIANT effect on my future thinking. Now all I need to do is get it all written down before I forget it!

posted 6/3/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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