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Blog Archive: June 2018

Work's All Right
On Friday I was off to The National Archives at Kew to attend ANOTHER Research Day as part of my Exciting New Job, and also to do ANOTHER Presentation about the same.

Kew is a LONG way away from my house. It's so far away that I had to go THROUGH Baron's Court to get there - Baron's Court was where I used to go to when I workd at Imperial, which was a RUDDY long way away, so Kew was therefore even further!

It was a GORGEOUS day when I got there. The National Archive is a big Brutalist building surrounded by trees, lakes and SWANS and, unusually for Brutalist buildings it had aged really well and looked lovely in the sunshine.

I went into the conference room and found my traditional seat at the back... but then the organiser came over and asked me to sit at the FRONT with the other speakers. I wasn't very keen but did as I was told, though as the morning progressed I wished I hadn't. We were all sat on a table facing everybody else, with the screen and current speaker behind us, so we had to WRENCH round to look at whoever was talking, and not only couldn't SEE what they were talking about, but were also blocking the view for everyone else! It always seems daft when conferences do this, but luckily the woman who spoke first just went and sat in the audience when she'd finished, so we all followed her lead as it went on.

My bit was about the CHALLENGES of recording Arts Research Data when systems are generally set up to cope with STEM data. I was a bit worried before I started because other speakers were doing a lot more IN-DEPTH talks about Research Data Management, but people after me did Case Studies like what I was doing, and I DID get some LARFS. I am trying to gently persuade myself that there is MORE to doing an academic presentation than just getting LARFS, but then I see OTHER people do talks with GAGS in, and I always enjoy them a lot more!

At lunchtime I was all prepped to go for a wander round the grounds and not talk to anybody - this is a policy I developed over YEARS of going to Statistics conferences where, in the nicest possible way, it's all A BIT BORING. I am constantly surprised, however, by how INTERESTING Research Data Management is, and also how ACTUALLY NICE the people are. I had a right old chat to several people about Various Issues, all of whom had things to say AND to ask, and I ended up staying inside and YACKING the whole time, including to one chap who turned out to have OPINIONS about the "One More Day" storyline in "Amazing Spider-Man"! Who'd've thought that people who liked COMICS would also like ARCHIVING things eh?

It was, all-told, GRATE fun, and even being forced to do a WORKSHOP in the afternoon turned out to be quite jolly. It is a constant surprise to me to be enjoying my job so much - other people do it all the time, I'm told, but it's a whole new experience for me. INDEED I had my 3 Month Probation Meeting the other day and, when asked how I was finding it, I said "I'm having a WHALE of a time!"

"We've noticed!" said my boss. I'm pretty sure that's a good thing - someone should write a song about job's being all right, they really should!

posted 26/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Fair Play's Coming Home
Like many people in this great nation of ours I find myself today inflicted with an entirely unusual sensation: that of Actually Enjoying England's World Cup Progress.

It's most peculiar - I always enjoy the World Cup (and am enjoying it A LOT this time) but the England matches are usually a turgid period of grinding annoyance, boredeom and, ultimately, inevitably, disappointment. THIS time however it has been a DELIGHT. Mr G Southgate seems like a very pleasant chap who appears to have some kind of a PLAN. Not only that, he seems to know how to make it HAPPEN, and - astonishing as it seems - is able to get the players to actually DO it.

This, I feel, is the most astounding aspect of the whole business: the players ARE doing The Plan, and seem to be a) able b) HAPPY to do so. Also, after DECADES of general DISTATE for the England team I find myself actually QUITE LIKING them all. That Raheem Sterling article was GRATE, and every time I see Raheem Sterling on the telly I have an IRRESISTABLE URGE to shake him firmly by the hand, tell him he's done REALLY WELL, and slip him a tenner to spend on whatever he likes.

Yes yes I KNOW that they have not exactly played the best teams yet, but the way they HAVE played has been so POSITIVE that I have found myself rather MOVED by it all. Best of all, I was pleased to be told (repeatedly) by (many) telly commentators that if we DRAW against Belgium on Thursday then the final placings will be decided by FAIR PLAY!

England might win their group because of FAIR PLAY! Good golly, you'd think someone might write a SONG about something like that wouldn't you?

I am thus getting myself prepared for an ONSLAUGHT (i.e. a TWEET) of media activity on Thursday evening, to point out to the world's press that, actually, someone has. Finally, after 20 years of hurt, this could be our time!

posted 25/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Hello West Virginia
At the end of last week I received an INTRIGUING email from Ms C Gaffin of Charleston, West Virginia, formerly of Old London Town. She told me that her husband, Mr J Gaffin, was the DJ on The Afternoon Show on the radio station WTSQ, and that he'd recently been playing our version of Glory Days by Mr B Springsteen. The public reaction, she said, had been "incredible" and "almost a riot." In a good way!

I was, of course, RUDDY DELIGHTED to hear this. 'Glory Days' is a bit of an OUTLIER in our mighty canon - I've played it more often with The PopArt Allstars (twice) than with The Validators (once) and have very rarely done it solo, yet in some ways it's one of our most well-known songs, as it seems to do EXTREMELY well on Spotify. This is MOST LIKELY because it is SO GRATE, but there's a slim chance that it gets recommended to people who have a) listened to other people's versions of the song or b) listened to other tracks by much more well known bands who appeared on the compilation album that it was recorded for i.e. Play Some Pool, Skip Some School, Act Real Cool from Mr J Jervis's marvellous Where It's At Is Where You Are Label.

So it was that I agreed to call into the aforesaid radio show last night (Wednesday) for a CHAT. I had sat myself in front of my laptop at home GIRDING myself for a painful session of SKYPE SHOUTING so was amazed to find my PHONE ringing. Caitlin was using Facebook Messenger like a PHONE line, which meant I could sit and just YACK AWAY to Josh on the show like it was some kind of normal conversation or something. Isn't the future GRATE?

The conversation what we had was an ABSOLUTE DELIGHT. Josh seemed to have the uncanny ability to ask questions that led DIRECTLY to an Interesting Anecdote e.g. "So, have you ever done a gig in the USA?" led IMMEDIATELY to the story behind I Did A Gig In New York and over the course of about half an hour we RANGED across such diverse topics as Andy Bell's position in Peterborough (Josh had been there!), the 155th Birthday of the state of West Virginia, and the need for Dinosaur Planet to have a West End/Broadway run before being adapted for film. We also played a bunch of our other songs, and I told the tale of how I was FORCED* (*asked) to change the lyrics BACK to Bruce's original rather than the English Translation I had initially recorded.

I THOROUGHLY enjoyed myself, so was extremely pleased when, halfway through, Josh asked if I could come on the show on a monthly basis for a CHAT. I said "YES PLEASE!" The only downside of the entire experience was that, due to a prior engagement, I had to decline the offer of joining in with an on-air IMPROV SESSION with a local group and... TV's Greg Proops. I have had many unusual experiences in this crazy world of rock and roll, but declining an invitation to do Improv Comedy with Greg Proops in West Virginia was certainly one of the least foreseen outcomes I have experienced!

The whole thing was ACE - Happy Birthday West Virginia!!

posted 21/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Fairplay Airplay
My CUNNING PLAN to re-re-re-re-release The Fair Play Trophy (Again) seems to be actually WORKING! It was played on Mr J Gelletaly's Amazing Radio show at the weekend and I'm told that it's going to be on Mr B Fischer's show on BBC Tees this afternoon as well!

It's GRATE to have pre-knowledge of these things as it means we can actually LISTEN IN - even after nigh on 700 years in ROCK it's still very exciting to hear your own record on the radio, so when Mr S Lamacq emailed to let us know he was planning to play us on his 6music show yesterday I ALERTED The Validators and those of us who COULD listen live DID.

Yesterday was a Thursday, which is the day that Steve has his regular Roundtable feature, where guests come in and, generally, slag off some new releases. It had been announced that this one was going to be a World Cup Special, and thus we were gripped with PANIC that Graeme Le Saux and others would listen to our song and, possibly, be UNKIND about it!

Happily that DIDN'T happen, as it was played in the first hour of the show while we were all sat at work still, and Steve was, as usually, entirely delightful about it. It's been a while since we've been on national radio, and so I'd almost forgotten that the NICEST thing about it is that loads of your pals get in touch and tell you that you're on! The GRATEST of the many notifications we received was from The Bates family in Burton, which was a video of them all DANCING to it in the kitchen!

Astoundingly, this airplay plus the couple of copies we've sold of the bandcamp version means that we have ALREADY pretty much RECOUPED all the costs of the EP! It only costs about 25 quid to put an online single out (we do ours via emuband) and the bunch of sales plus the PRS money from the three plays I know about should just about cover it!

I think this is the first thing we've EVER released that has actually made it's costs back - I think I'm beginning to see why Mr Big of Big Records INC puts out so many 'Best Of' compilations - you don't have to pay to record anything new, it's basically FREE CA$H!

(Not a lot of CA$H in our case, but still - I may splash out on a packet of polos to celebrate!)

posted 15/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Storm House Update
The other day after work I met with Ms E Morgan, chum from the MA Playwriting course and All Round Good Egg. We had a RIGHT old chat about various WRITING things, not least some TREMENDOUSLY exciting stuff she's got coming up with Actual Proper (i.e. PAID!) Writing Work, and it reminded me that I have not BANGED ON here very much lately about Storm House.

So let's put that right! The last time I mentioned it here was when it was on the longlists for BOTH The Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition AND The Bath Children's Novel Award. It didn't get any further in either competition but still it was all VERY exciting, and it gave me the boot up the bum required to dig out a copy of this year's "Artists And Writers Yearbook" (handily located in the library underneath my office), research some names and addresses, and send it out to some more agents. LAST time I tried this it did not end well, with me GETTING and then very shortly afterwards LOSING an agent. THIS time I thought I'd try sending it out to Agents who specialise in Children's Books, as that seems to be where it's had most success (I don't think it IS a Children's Book, but other people appear to), but as yet have had a few form rejections and not much else.

I must say I don't MIND this - I'm not really expecting any agents to BITE, it's more so that I know I've at least TRIED - as the plan is to publish the SECOND 'Storm House' book in the same was as I did the first. I'm working on the second draft of 'Storm House: The Utopians' at the moment, and though it's all going very well (I do like laughing at my own jokes!) it's not going quite as quickly as I'd have liked. My PLAN was to have this draft finished before my birthday next week, but I've only managed to get about halfway through. Turns out that having an Interesting Job and lots to do gives you MUCH less time to write stuff!

Having said that, I AM trying to do at least two pages of it a day, so it's coming along, even if not as quickly as I'd have liked. The ONGOING PLAN is to finish this draft, then go back and do the second draft of the OTHER book what I have got on the go, before returning to 'The Utopians' for (hopefully) much less drastic third and fourth drafts. Once THAT'S done the idea is to release the FIRST book for free again, this time with a first chapter of the NEW book at the end, and put the NEW one out for something like two quid, and then hammer all of the book promotion things I did before.

Typing it out makes it seem like it's going to be a little while yet before it's all finished, maybe not until after Christmas! It all seems a long way away, but hopefully it'll be worth it. The new book features a) Peterborough Cathedral b) Hereward The Wake c) A Giant Mushroom d) MEMES and e) all of the characters from before, so I think it will be!

posted 14/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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An Non-Secret Meeting
Last night I was back at The King & Queen for another meeting with A Little Orchestra about our No Longer Secret Project. Ooh, it does feel good to be able to talk/type about this out loud - we've had SEVERAL such meetings over the past couple of months and I have been unable to say what they were about LEST it spoil the secret surprise, but now I CAN!

For LO! we were meeting to do some PLANNING for our forthcoming ALBUM collaboration, where we'll be recording a whole heap of songs together and then performing them at a GIG. We're going to try and do it as a Kickstarter campaign, so we spent a bit of time trying to work out what we actually NEED to get, CA$Hwise, to do it. I think we're going to set our original targets quite low, to make sure we can DO it, and then STRETCH from there - hopefully we'll be able to do the actual recording in a STUDIO, and maybe the mixing too, and then from there there's options for the performance, physical product, videos and so on and so forth.

All that is for the future though - we're going to gather some COSTINGS for now, but the most urgent matter is what actual SONGS we're going to do. We've got arrangements for the seven songs that were performed at the recent gig, so we need a few more to make an actual album's worth. The plan is to get THAT sorted out ready for a joint rehearsal later in the year, and then to start planning out the campaign itself, which is all rather a) efficient but b) leisurely too. It's very nice working with a group of a similar VINTAGE as us, who do things at the same pace!

Meanwhile BRANES around the country are at work thinking of the sort of things we could offer to people who help us fund the album. We've got the usual variations of downloads, physical products, names in the booklet and tickets for the Proposed Performance, and then there's THORTS about other stuff, but I wonder is there anything else that you, gentle reader, can think of that you'd actually LIKE? Whenever I read Kickstarter campaigns they seem to be full of offers that nobody in their right MIND would actually want (like paying to appear in a video, or having to have a "party" in your own house with a drunk band there - madness!), so is there anything you'd actually WANT that we could put in there somewhere? Stick it in the comments if you've got any ideas!

(NB YES we are ALREADY going to put in a "BAND PROMISES NOT TO COME ROUND YOUR HOUSE" offer!)

posted 12/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Fairplay Out Today
Excitement is running HIGH chez moi as it is nearly time for the WORLD CUP - that glorious month of talking about FOOTBALL without the need to worry about having the slightest idea what you're on about, while simultaneously NOT looking at The News. I feel it will be very BLISS, and look forward to whatever THIS tournament's equivalent is to The Iceland Clapping or Brazil Getting Thrashed.

Additional excitement comes from the fact that today we're re-re-re-releasing The Fair Play Trophy (again) as a download single through All Online Retailers, and as a massive value expanded EP over on our bandcamp page. This latter is a VERY SPECIAL TREAT for anyone who wants to hear EIGHT different versions of the song!

It also comes with the original version of In The North Stand PLUS a very exciting REMIX by our very own Mr F A Machine, which I would HEARTILTY recommend a listen to via the aforesaid bandcamp page.

I have MILD HOPES about some airplay, not least because hardly anybody seems to have done any football songs this year. In order to facilitate media dominance I even sent out a PRESS RELEASE last week - here's what it said:
MJ Hibbett & The Validators Add Themselves To The Teamsheet

There's no official England song for the World Cup this year, so MJ Hibbett & The Validators are stepping into the breach by re-re-re-re-releasing their own football anthem 'The Fair Play Trophy (Again)' as a single on iTunes and Spotify.

'The Fair Play Trophy (Again)' suggests that winning awards for being sporting is much more important than winning actual matches, and so, technically speaking, England are really good. It was first written for the 1998 World Cup (when England did, as predicted, win The Fair Play Trophy) then re-recorded for the 2002 competition. In 2004 it was recorded again for the European Championships, which led to MJ Hibbett becoming Steve Lamacq's official football correspondent for the duration of the tournament, writing a new version of the song each week.

The B-side to the online single will be a new version of the band's heartfelt tribute to going to the football with your Grandad, 'In The North Stand', remixed by the Validators' bass player Frankie Machine. There'll also be a special version on Bandcamp which will feature every version of the song ever recorded - eight in total - plus the original version of 'In The North Stand'.

'The Fair Play Trophy (Again)' will also appear as an additional bonus track on the band's recent greatest hits album '20 Golden GRATES' for as long as England remain in the tournament. The album is available on bandcamp or as a limited-edition cassette with free download code. "I have made a note to remove it from the tracklist on the morning of July 15," says Mark, "I am patriotically convinced that England will win, and have definitely have not also put a note in to check it on the day after the Round Of Sixteen finishes."

'The Fair Play Trophy (Again and Again and Again)' EP is available to buy on Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon and all online retailers from Monday 11 June.
That's TODAY! As ever, if anyone has any means of DISSEMINATING this information to a wider audience it would be very much appreciated, and if anyone wants any FURTHER details about it do feel free to get in touch via the twitter.

As for me, I've got a FESTIVAL of TELLY... sorry, SPORT to get ready for! Where's me wallchart go to??

posted 11/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Added Doom
While I was on my travels last week I took my TABLET and a LAPTOP with me, so that I could get on with some research for my PhD. For the past few months most of this research has been ACADEMIC, reading text books and theoretical analyses, which has meant that I've got a bit behind with the ACTUAL COMICS that I'm reading for Marvel Age Doom. This is my ongoing BLOG detailing EVERY appearance of Doctor Doom in ALL media between 1961 and 1987, which I'm using to record my THORTS and THEORIES as I go along. I'd been trying to get well ahead of myself with this, to the extent that, after Easter, I had TWO MONTHS of blogs drafted and ready to be unleashed. However, all the other work I've had to do meant that things had got PRECARIOUS, with only ONE blog in reserve. Something had to be done!

THUS I spent a lot of my train-time reading and writing about the amazing range of comics that came out around 1966-1968 that featured Doctor Doom. I discovered that, contrary to the opinion I had developed aged 10, I actually DO like the way that Gene Colan draws superheroes (and, especially, CARS). I also found that everybody who goes ON and ON about how FAR OUT and BRILLIANT Jim Steranko's on 'Nick Fury' is was ENTIRELY correct!

I also found out that there were a LOAD of comics published during this period that DID feature Doctor Doom but were NOT in my database. One of the comics I was looking at was 'Not Brand Echh' #7, halfway through a 13 issue series in which Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and various other Marvel creators of the time produced parodies of their own and other companies' stories. It's very VERY much in the Mad tradition, with panels PACKED with tiny extra gags and celebrity cameos. According to my database Doctor Doom only appears in that one issue, but the more I read through the issue the odder it seemed. If Marvel were throwing EVERYBODY into EVERY panel, surely Doom, their biggest VILLAIN character, must appear more than once in the series?

I went to Marvel Unlimited (the subscription system which features approx 90% of ALL Marvel Comics EVER) to check, and immediately saw that my suspicions were correct. He's right there on the cover of the first issue, for instance!



I thus had to download the entire series and read through THE LOT. I say "read" but it was more of a "flick through" at this stage, as those stories do not exactly age well. If you LIKE the 'Mad' style of humour they might be quite funny, but even in that case I think the enforced, relentless, Not That Funny GAGGAGE would start to grate after a while, and not in a good way!

I found about SEVEN extra issues that had Doom in them, which was BRILLO for my research, but also a bit annoying as I'd already written blogs WELL past the point when the first of them appeared. I'm trying to do it all in chronological order so I can assess the development of the character, but this meant I'd have to BACKTRACK a bit to cover the ones I'd missed. It also meant reorganising the timing of the other blogs that I'd written during the week of train travel AND add the basic information into the database. It took BLOODY AGES!

Still, it's all in there now and the blogs have already begun - this week over on Marvel Age Doom it is very much 'Not Brand Echh' week, as we cover these missing comics. Hopefully it'll be of some interest to those of you that are NOT writing an academic thesis of Doctor Doom, and it's all leading up to some DEAD GOOD comics next week where the aforesaid Gene Colan has a go at drawing him!

posted 6/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Solo
On Sunday I went to my local cinema to see 'Solo', the new Star Wars movie. I hadn't been that bothered about seeing it to be honest, as the reviews hadn't been brilliant, and I would have been quite happy to wait until it popped up on Amazon and watched it then.

When I got to the cinema it was clear that I was not alone in this opinion. Last time I went there, for "Infinity War", it had been a NIGHTMARE of huge queues and fully-booked auditoria, but this time the building was pretty much EMPTY. Maybe it's because it was a nice day outside, or the poor reviews, but it was the quietest I've ever seen it on a weekend!

Another explanation could have been that I'd rolled up a bit late - I spent half an hour waiting for "Infinity War" to start so thought I was being clever turning up 15 minutes after the advertised time for "Solo", but was surprised to see it had already begun! The titles were just finishing as I shuffled to my seat, so when it DOES come onto Amazon at least there'll be something new for me to see!

The next two hours FLEW by - the past two Star Wars films (i.e. Rogue One and The Last Jedi) have, I must admit, dragged a little for me, but this one WHIPPED by for LO! it was BLOODY BRILLIANT! Halfway through I thought to myself "I LOVE this film!" because, truly, I totally did. I don't understand what's going on with the reviews for it - it's got GRATE new characters (especially Chewie, L7, Paul Bettany, the four-armed one, Enfys Nest etc etc), proper EXCITING bits, JOKES, and the Continuity Gags are ACE. SPOILERS coming up later in this sentence, but I completely LOVED stuff like the way Han and Chewie meet, or where the dice come from, or how the Millenium Falcon is first introduced or... well, you get the idea. ALSO Donald Glover and Emilia Clarke were ACE and the chap who played Han Solo was ENTIRELY convincing.

It was, basically, TREMENDOUS fun, and it stuck with me for the whole rest of the day, as I remembered different bits and CHUCKLED to myself, then went online to check for MORE bits to think about. It felt much more Star Wars-y than most of the new ones, and more out and out enjoyable too. Maybe that's why it's not been so well thought of, that it doesn't obviously do something Serious And Different with the Franchise, or maybe it's just the fact that it's come out so soon after 'The Last Jedi'.

Whatever it is, it's a crying shame that a 'Star Wars' movie THIS fab is getting (comparatively) ignored. If you like 'Star Wars' then I HEARTILY recommend going and seeing it - if nothing else, the more people that go the more likely it is to get a sequel, and I REALLY want to see what happens next!

posted 5/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Forty Years Of Space Invaders
On Saturday I was back at Kings Cross Station, ready to catch a train to Cambridge for the '40 Years of Space Invaders' event I was due to take part in. Over the course of my travels durning the preceding week my trains had all been pretty good, but that was probably because I hadn't had to use Thameslink, who are notoriously in the middle of a gigantic cock-up over their timetables (short version for posterity: they changed loads of routes, forgot that they'd need to train drivers in the new routes, so suddenly have not enough drivers to drive the trains). My train was logged as being ten minutes late... until ten minutes had passed and then they cancelled it. Did they think someone was going to magically turn up in those ten minutes? It's RIGHT annoying when they do that - just TELL us it's flipping cancelled then at least we know what's going on!

It all worked out OK in the end, as I just waited for the next Great Northern train which a) was faster anyway and b) had a driver, then got a TAXI (featuring a driver who claimed to be "a champion at Space Invaders" but, when questioned, turned out just to be "better than his friends at Space Invaders") to the Museum. Here I met Mr J Fitzpatrick, who would be chairing the panel, also several other of the DELIGHTFUL people who run the centre.

It really is a GRATE place - after speaking to Jason I DASHED into the main room to play on some of their machines, and was pleased to see 'Space Invaders' running on the first one I saw, also the second one, also the third, fourth, fifth... it took me a while but eventually I realised they had set up MOST of their machines - forty of them, in fact - to play Space Invaders especially for the event!

Back in the extremely early 1980s my Dad had owned a games console which had a version of Space Invaders on it. When I'd seen him the previous weekend the pair of us had got precisely NOWHERE in working out what machine he'd actually owned, so it was a delightful surprise to wander round and suddenly see a machine playing EXACTLY the version of Space Invaders I remembered. It was a Prinztronic, and though I'm not sure it's precisely the version Dad had, it was DEFINITELY the version of the game that we played. It had an amazing 16 versions of Space Invaders on it... although that was various combinations of 1 or 2 players, "guided missile" (it moved as you did), and of course NIGHT ASSAULT, when the screen turned BROWN.

Until this event was in the offing I hadn't thought of that machine at ALL for YEARS, and yet as soon as I saw it I knew it like an old friend, especially when i started to play the game and all the SOUNDS and idiosyncrasies of this particular verison came back to me. It really was a dead good version of the game - LOADS better than most of the others I'd had a go at!

Eventually it was time to tear myself away and go and speak to some actual humans again, including Aidy from The British IBM and Mr Magnus Anderson, fellow panellist and all round good guy. We all shuffled into the room where I've done all my previous GIGS in - it's officially labelled "80s Classroom" because it has a Domesday Machine and loads of BBC Micros in it - where we were joined on the panel by Mr Gary Antcliffe, Games Designer, and began to CHAT.

BLIMEY but it was INTERESTING! I didn't really realise how much of a GROUNDBREAKER 'Space Invaders' had been e.g. it was the first programmed arcade game, the first game with a non-human opponent, and in today's terms it was as big in popular culture as The Avengers films are now. There was some FASCINATING stuff about how the machines were made to LOOK good, with mirrors, cardboard backdrops, and COLOURED FILM to make the monochrome display look like it was colour, and lots about the cultural impact and various TRANSMEDIA items like annuals, cash-in singles and TINNED PASTA!

Jason, Magnus and Gary knew A LOT about their areas, and I'd been worried that I'd look a bit of a CHUMP sitting there occasionally saying "I wrote a song about something vaguely related, nearly 20 years ago", but I think I did all right. Jason had sent me a transcript of a Parliamentary Debate about Space Invaders, which I managed to edit down and read out in Mildly Humorous Accents, and I also took on the job of Examining It Artistically i.e. I banged on about the constant search for NARRATIVE in the other media adaptations and said "The Third Space" at one point. Magnus nodded and then replied by saying "Liminal" so I think I'd said it in the right place!

Afterwards we all retired to the temporary bar for a PINT and a CHAT, before it was time for me to HIKE back to the station, getting the traditional TRAIN BEER on the way. As ever with my visits to the Computing Centre I had had a LOVELY time, and it was the perfect way to end my week-long TOUR!

posted 4/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Back On The Road Again
This week I have been Back On The Road, travelling the country by train just like in heady days of a couple of years ago, although the "gigs" are bit different to how I remember.

It all kicked off last weekend when The Beach At My Shore and I went down to Cornwall to see some of The Parents. We had a LOVELY time, featuring lots of beer, grub, paddling and music - including a GRATE band called The Stowes who did some Cornish songs at a beer festival in the village and were ACE! The original plan had been for us all to go to the Open Mic night on Monday, which my Dad plays at every month, and we'd booked our train tickets accordingly, but a few weeks before we set off they changed the date. Apparently it was the organiser's daughter's wedding the day before - which I GUESS is a fair enough excuse.

Undeterred, my Dad set up his OWN Open Mic night in The Extension at his house. We thought this meant a family singalong/piss-up but he set it all up properly with lights, music stands and we did a full set each... which did include the aforesaid singalong, also piss-up. It was ACE!


Exclusive Pic by The Flash Bang In My Wallop


We travelled back on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday morning I was up at an UNGODLY hour to catch a train to LEEDS, where I was attending a meeting for WORK. When I arrived at Kings Cross they were doing a promotion for the new 'Jurassic Park' film, with a life-size T-Rex in the station and the theme music playing on a loop over the PA system. This meant that, when they announced our platform, the stampede of people heading for the train took on an ethereal, majestic beauty that I doubt it has ever had before.

The meeting was all fine and the day passed off without incident, until on the way home when a bunch of YOUTHS got on my carriage at Peterborough, shouting to each other about how they were going to get ARRESTED because they didn't have tickets. They didn't exactly strike me as MASTER CRIMINALS but by heck they were annoying, YELLING at each other and moving around all the time. I sat there for ten minutes not wanting to get up change compartment in case it hurt their feelings, eventually realising that it was unlikely they would notice or indeed CARE and so shifted to another, much quieter, carriage. I know from YEARS of experience that it is ALWAYS better to move when people get on and start being NOISY, and yet I always hesitate in case it hurts the delicate feelings of whatever gang of wallies has just got on and started BELLOWING.

This next day I was out AGANE even EARLIER, this time to distant Bristol where I was presenting a short talk about the different issues raised by preserving Arts data. As with all things in my exciting new job it was all Quite Interesting, and allowed me to do things that would have been UNIMAGINABLE in previous roles e.g. using LEGO, The Domesday Project and a Javascript version of 'The Lords Of Midnight' as slides at a Proper Serious Conference and nobody batting an eyelid. I even chatted happily to people afterwards and gave the distinct impression that I knew what I was on about!

Best of all the conference finished EARLY, so I was able to dash and catch an earlier train... which was then delayed for ages because of RAIN. Some things about touring by train never change!

Today is a rest day, but tomorrow I'm off again, this time to Cambridge to sit on a panel and talk about Space Invaders because, apparently, that is what I do these days. What a life!

posted 1/6/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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