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All posts for the month July, 2007

I was reading the Christie Hefner interview with Robert Pirsig from summer 1975, published in “Oui” magazine in November that year, and noticed that he makes what must the first published reference to his “Metaphysics of Quality”. I’ve added a link in the 1975 entry in my Pirsig Timeline (July 2007 updates) [Note the link is a 1.6Meg PDF scanned file.]

Post Note : In response to David’s question in the comments below … the reference to “metaphysics of quality” is in the middle column of page 124, where he is describing the agenda of his next book, and says …

“If you can find the causes of the differences [between the value systems of different ethnic groups] you can also find the sources of cohesiveness. I’m applying the metaphysics of quality and trying to figure out what it is causes cultures to hate one another year after year.”

Not capitalized (by the interviewer), but in 1975 the first time the expression is recorded. The nearest thing in ZMM (1974) where Quality itself is mentioned ad infinitum, was in Chapter 28 …

“He had become so caught up in his own world of Quality metaphysics he couldn’t see outside it anymore, and since no one else understood this world, he was already done for.”

I interpret this here as the general subject of metaphysics wherever he can find relevance to quality, rather than the concept of “The” Metaphysics of Quality.

Not mine you understand, Psybertron is approaching six, but ten years since the whole concept was invented by Jorn who, it seems, is still writing the rules.

I appreciate, but don’t quite have the discipline needed for the pared-down and pre-emptive lnking style, but fully accept the timeline / quality arrangements rather than illusory ontologies. In the semantic web, the semantics are the result, not the framework.

I just blogged about Colin Talbot‘s “Paradoxical Primate” which despite the unlikely sounding TLA (Three Letter Acronym) “PST” (Paradoxical Systems Theory) jargon, and the negative review I initially stumbled upon, I found the subject and title headings sufficiently attractive to order a copy.

I’d just renewed contact with Bruce Charlton only a couple of days ago, someone I’d come across previously as a writer who cited the applicability of Pirsig’s work in the health-care business (as does James Willis) though the Pirsig connection is incidental to the subject matter.

Well, browsing Colin’s book at Amazon I browsed the citations list. Lo and behold “Paradoxical Primate” cites Bruce Charlton’s “Modernization Imperative“, and it turns out Bruce was unaware of this.

Post Note : In fact there is no citation. Amazon’s link collects up references to other books by the same publisher inside the back cover. Anyway, having read Colin Talbot’s Paradoxical Primate – I find little to add – it’s a book I could have written myself – excellent; all my own agenda points very well made. Spooky. Must post a more detailed review.)

Anyway, “Modernization Imperative” looks very interesting too, on the subject of systems of governance. I’ll blog a more detailed review later.

Interestingly Bruce Charlton also edits “Medical Hypotheses” whose editorial policy includes this:

Medical Hypotheses takes a deliberately different approach to peer review. Most contemporary practice tends to discriminate against radical ideas that conflict with current theory and practice. Medical Hypotheses will publish radical ideas, so long as they are coherent and clearly expressed. Furthermore, traditional peer review can oblige authors to distort their true views to satisfy referees, and so diminish authorial responsibility and accountability.

Worth linking to Nick Maxwell’s stuff on the neurosis of science, in presuming the only way to proceed is direct to critical review and empirical test, do not pass go. Brian Josephson would approve of the suspension of the over-skeptical response (pathological disbelief) to the radical too.

In the same day that the foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt visit Israel, and the same day that a survey reports that fewer muslims support suicide bombing as a valid political tactic, terrorists bomb Iraqi football crowds, celebrating their Asia-Cup victory.

Who was it said “No, football’s not a matter of life and death, it’s much more important than that.” Bill Shankly wasn’t it ? Well forget the rationale of western governments, forget religious differences, perhaps the extremists have made their biggest mistake to attack the world’s only unifying culture.

The BBC’s Nicholas Witchell, in Baghdad, says the football team’s win was a genuine moment of national pride and pleasure which had crossed the sectarian divisions between Iraq’s different communities.

Just as the Iraqi team has Sunni and Shia Muslims and Kurds playing alongside each other, the celebrations brought members of all those communities out onto the streets, he adds.

They cheered and waved Iraqi flags, sharing, perhaps, the first such moment of national pride in recent years, our correspondents says.

How about a show of solidarity with the Iraqis at the opening games of the next football season – I mean, if Princess Margaret gets a minute’s silence … where’s our sense of proportion ? Whaddya think Sam, worth a campaign ?

Updated Iraqi team news.
And finally more cause to celebrate.

Sylvia and I found ourselves in Nashville on the day of Beckham’s friendly run out for LA Galaxy against Chelski, and had the pre-match build up on ESPN in the hotel whilst getting ready to go out for the evening.

Who should we spot in the briefest glimpse warming up on the pitch for Chelsea, but recent Reading old boy Sid (Steve Sidwell) – I say glimpse, because football was very much third-fiddle to the Beckhams new found LA glitterati and papparazi as far as the US sports coverage was concerned – what a circus.

We chuckled at the “Sid breaks Becks leg” headline potential – keen to impress in his first appearance for his new mega-club – as we switched the drivel off and went out to cruise the honky-tonks on Broadway. (Talking of Cruises, the nightmare currently appearing before me, as I see the Beckhams alongside them, is next year’s headline as Scientology takes the world by storm – tell me I’m dreaming – hoping never to report you heard it here first, with hopes pinned on that nice Essex boy.)

Anyway imagine our suprise at finding the music bars already too full to get to eat, so we dropped into a sports-bar for an early evening bite – ironically only one screen (of dozens) was actually showing the “soccer” and that was barely in view from where we were sitting – situation normal, in this land where more kids play organised youth football than anywhere on the planet. But someone must have asked to see the game, because suddenly there were several screens showing the HD spectacle.

What a circus, I think I said, barely 3 minutes at a stretch between zooming in, (even interviewing during the game) opportunities with the assembled celebs and pundits. Can US football survive the attention span deficit ? I seriously doubt it.

But with Beckham-Cam showing most of the screen time from the moment the boy came on, and with Sid joining the game only minutes before in a position directly opposite the superstar, Sid was truly in the US media spotlight. Surreal for us Royals. Oh oh, was that Sid, smack on that $250-million right ankle ? Yep, sure was. Phew, be thankful Sid that Becks is (still) the professional – no quarter sought apparently, even though he was clearly hobbled. A friendly pat accepted in apology as play resumed, and more handshakes and jokey words at the final whistle.

You could write this stuff.

“I saw him coming and I jumped just in time so my foot wasn’t planted when he hit me,” Beckham explained. “You expect that in games and, even though it was a friendly, he’s a competitive player. It’s his first start this season, he’s going to be a good player and he’s done well in the Premiership so far. Now he’s playing for Chelsea and he’s going to smash some people along the way, even in friendlies. Unfortunately, it was me tonight but that’s part and parcel of being a footballer and it’s fine.”

Clearly, the ankle is not. Beckham hobbled around for the remainder of the game and managed to take a corner kick at the end but he is unlikely to be able to demonstrate his true worth to his new team, on the pitch at least, for another couple of weeks.

The above from Times Online.

Sadly Chelsea really should have hammered Galaxy on the form on display.

 Better news though, good though Sid was for Reading I was never quite sure he was that good, but if he gets that positional freedom in the premiership, to run into the box onto square passes or intercept loose balls as he did here, he should make an impression.

Even better news the band whose name I didn’t catch  playing the late night session in a honky-tonk whose name I forget were tremendous, really tight rhythm section even on requests they didn’t seem sure they knew when they started … an immense version of G.L.O.R.I.A amongst a collection of country and blue-grass (complete with electric 5-string fiddle) evolving through the night from Hank Williams & Willie Nelson through Chuck Berry (Nadine & others), Who (My Generation), The Stones (Jumpin Jack, Brown Sugar, Sympathy), Cheap Trick, U2 (I Will Follow) and ending totally unexpectedly with a manic version of the Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop”. Not at all what we imagined in a Broadway Honky Tonk called Layla’s Bluegrass Inn.

The band it turns out was Heath Haynes and the Four Ballers. Actually more about Heath Haynes on bassist Aaron Oliva’s website than his own. Guitarist Rich Gilbert has his own myspace too. Apparently when not entertaining the punters with covers, they perform originals as Heath Haynes and the Cryin’ Shames. Must look out for them.

And, that annoyingly catchy riff and chorus that everybody – inlcuding Heath Haynes – seems to cover in these parts was Violent Femmes “Blister in the Sun”.

I kid you not. Apparently it exists, according to the “Paradoxical Primate” by Colin Talbot, reviewed by Rick O’Gorman at Human Nature Review (NIBBS). (BTW, despite the current date on the NIBBS page there seem to have been no updates since Feb 07 ?)

The review is pretty negative, on scientific grounds (lack of objective evidence) but there is something attractive in the idea that paradoxical contrariness in human nature is an evolved strategy for dealing with conflict and complexity. Seems to fit other paradox / hypocrisy / neurosis arguments in management and organisational behaviour. Seems to fit a “free-won’t” view of free-will whereby to conflicting dynamic potentials may be in static balance, both inhibited from action, but drop the barrier and the chosen action is off and running.

The suprising point is that something called “paradoxical systems theory” appears to exist in the first place …. a Google search fails to find the term anywhere other than in reference to Colin Talbot’s work. Ho hum.

Anyway his work itself, his book anyway, looks worthy of attention … headings right up my street include “The Tyranny of Boston Boxes” and “White Lies and Social Hypocrisy” and plenty of references to Quinn, Cameron, Huczynski, and E.O.Wilson.

Interestingly (paradoxically) Gorman’s basis of criticism is a great example of the problem Talbot is addressing. As if objective evidence were the sole value of a good idea. This links well to my recent Nick Maxwell piece.

The four cities of Florence, Sheffield, Tuscumbia and Muscle Shoals are grouped together a few miles downstream from where we are here on the Tennessee River in Alabama. In their “Sweet Home Alabama” Lynyrd Skynyrd pointed out that in “Muscle Shoals they have The Swampers” and here’s what they were on about …

[Note also the 2013 Update below.]

1959 Rick Hall forms FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enteprises) a music publishing business in Florence, Alabama. Some early recordings are done in makeshift studios in an abandoned tobacco & candy warehouse on Wilson Dam Road, across the Tennessee River in Muscle Shoals.

1961 Success of Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On” funded setting up of FAME Recording Studios at 603 East Avalon Avenue, also in Muscle Shoals.

1961-1969 FAME as a studio, and as a label associated with Atlantic, Capitol and United Artists, became known for the “Muscle Shoals Sound” of the house session band rhythm section – various combinations of personnel known generically as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. (See FAME site for fuller details of personnel changes.) These included Duane Allman as a session guitarist and specifically, in its second incarnation, the most famous foursome of  Barry Beckett, David Hood, Roger Hawkins and Jimmy Johnson, later dubbed “The Swampers”. These session musicians were in demand and recorded with artists not just at FAME, but at Stax, Sun and other studios. Hawkins and Johnson were originally the “Del Rays”.

1969 The Swampers left FAME to set up their own “Muscle Shoals Sound Studios” at 3614 Jackson Highway, Muscle Shoals. (It seems a FAME dispute with Atlantic records over Aretha Franklin may have preciptated the move ?) For almost ten years from 1969 until 1978 the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios continued the success story of the most significant foursome of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section at their own 3614 Jackson Highway studio. See www.muscleschoalssound.org

3614JacksonHighway

(Losing the swampers in 1969 FAME studio and label carried on with decreasing success until folding in 1974, though Hall continued to work as a producer, and organised at least two further successful versions of his session band – aka The Fame Gang 1 and 2.  The FAME studio name was resurrected in 2007, in association with EMI, and FAME have the www.muscleshoalssound.com “dot com” URL – which is misleading because MSSS actually has the dot org address above and the physical 3614 Jackson Highway studio. See 2013 Post Note – Studio since acquired by MSM Foundation.)

1978 The Swampers moved to a larger riverside studio in Sheffield, but their success dwindled until they sold-up to Malaco Records in 1985, and from then until 1999 it seemed most of the industry had forgotten the original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, where some 400 albums had been recorded.

1999 Noel Webster buys the derelict building and, after restoration to the orginal (1969) state, they are a working studio again on April 1st 2001.

2006 Noel succeeds in getting the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios at 3614 Jackson Highway listed by the Alabama Register of Historic Places and the US National Trust for Historic Preservation, and is open for visits. See the studios, and buy the tee-shirts where ….

Aretha Franklin, Rolling Stones, Boz Scaggs, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Cat Stevens, Jimmy Cliff, Willie Nelson, Jim Capaldi, Canned Heat, Staple Singers / Sisters, Traffic, Bob Seger, JJ Cale, Blackfoot, Joan Baez, Dr Hook, Bobby Womack, Paul Anka, Cher (album named after the studio address, with the above image as its cover), Lynyrd Skynyrd, Art Garfunkel, Millie Jackson, Rod Stewart, Paul Simon … not to mention The Swampers themselves,

…. and many more, all recorded songs and/or albums.

2009/10 – Black Keys million-selling, grammy-award-winning album recorded at MSSS.

A time of posting in 2007 – both current FAME and MSSS web-sites and their Wikipedia entries [FAME] and [MSSS] (from which the above is compiled) are sparse on specific dates for particular artists, and which songs and/or albums were actually recorded there, and given the even longer list of artists with whom The Swampers recorded here and with FAME and elsewhere, and other opportunities for name-dropping-by-association, detail is hard to pin down. Some detailed research needed methinks, and a timeline. [Good NPR link here too.]

[Post Note 2011/12 - The wikipedia page still suffers confusion from the rival FAME studios these (2011) days. Still a dot.com Muscle Shoals Sound site that is in fact the FAME operation, not the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, even though the latter name is a registered trademark. MSSS most active on their FaceBook Page these days - note link to the T-Shirts page is wrong - click here instead http://www.muscleshoalssound.org/muscleshoalssound.org/T-Shirts.html ]

[Post Note 2013 - See latest update post here and latest links to Muscle Shoals Sound / Music operations since MSM Foundation chaired by (son of Rick) Rodney Hall of FAME acquired MSS Studio from Noel. Great news that the current generations are cooperating on the heritage - just need to get the public front pages of the relevant recording, publishing and heritage operations a bit clearer than navigating the mix of Facebook and Wikipedia pages I guess, but looking good. Even better news the whole story appears to be captured in "Muscle Shoals - The Movie" due for release September 2013.]

We know Bacon coined the idea that knowledge is power around 1600, so not surprisingly, Mark Pesce’s talk on Hyperpeople “The Inconvenience of Truth” concludes that so long as their are parties with different interests, knowledge is in fact war. A warning that a collaborative on-line encyclopedia like Wikipedia can never be the whole truth, just a concensus truth where interests are uncontentious.

Reinforces a pragmatists process view of ontology, that knowledge is really about what it does – to know is to do, and truth is about knowing motivations.

Via Jeremy Hunsinger at “Too Many Topics, Too Little Time” – a blog that I had links to way back when, but have just re-discovered.

Linked from David’s own Fragments of Consciousness blog is this Interview on Bloggingheads he did with John Horgan.

A full hour and wide-ranging … from David’s roots in the Woodstock of Consciousness, via the “hard problem”, free will, pure (non-objective) concsiousness, blurring the science / philosophy boundary, to rational mysticism and peyote and LSD induced states of mind, and modern research into psychedelics.

Interesting to see David downplay “the hard problem” as just his statement of the obvious that, when it comes to consciousness, any theory which ignores explanation of the subjective experience of it would seem to miss the point. He sees many physionomic approaches as doomed to making progress on the behavioural aspects (the easy problem) only. It seems he too sees a lot of mileage in the “fundamental information” angle providing not just the basis for the physical aspects, but also the phenomenal aspects. Excellent.

John loses his way a little bit on the nihilistic downside of the “illusory reality” worldview, but David reminds us illusion or not, reality is reality – like life and consciousness too. A point I’ve made before. Illusion means it may not be what we believe it is, it doesn’t mean it’s not real.

Interesting that John found David’s work refreshing and intelligible compared to others in the field – I have to say hearing him talk I would agree – but I also have to say I found his book “The Conscious Mind” deeply technical and jargon-laden on many issues – like “supervenience”.

New Yorker article on the confusion of “technical innovation” with “technology” – technology being the useful stuff, the stuff we use, independent of how old it is. [via Rivets again]

Reminds me of an essay I wrote some time ago about the myth of technology de-skilling the workplace, where I used the example of a cave-dweller shaping a flint with which to hunt. (Need to check if I have an electronic copy ?)

I’ve never been a smoker, but I have to agree with Ray Girvan and say I too miss smoking in pubs. Some of the essential character seems lost. As Ray says, they’re going to have to work at their atmosphere. (Ray’s piece is principally about the importance of the sense of smell in cultural memory … baking bread and brewing coffee to make the house you’re trying to sell appear homely, etc.)

Oddly at my sister’s house last week, she had an electric “fire” room heater that involved small pieces of real coal laid on the heating element, to evoke that “real fire” smell in the room, as the volatile tarry hydrocarbons are released when the coal is warmed.

A smell I can instantly recall from the very thought itself … takes me back to a time making coal-gas over the kitchen stove in my youth …. don’t ask. Another meta-meme.

Nick Maxwell’s most recent work “Is Science Neurotic ?”, was published last year, coinciding with his formation of the “Friends of Wisdom“, a campaign to promote the values of wisdom – the wisdom of value – in science generally, from basic education to the highest academic research.

Nick’s message coincides very closely with my own, that “basic empiricism” – the accepted logic that “scientific” knowledge is and should be based entirely on the apparent objectivism of refutation by empirical testing – is a fallacy, and that the preservation of that “faith” in the face of reality is fundamentally a psychological problem, a neurosis. Furthermore that neurosis is such a serious problem “of our time” that the very existence of what we value in the cosmos is threatened unless we wake up and face the facts.

Unusually, rather than my normal one-liners, I was moved to write a fairly lengthy review of Nick’s latest work – here.

I’ve been sitting on some overdue additions to my Pirsig timeline since the Guardian interview in November 2006 had Pirsig freely discussing much new information in public. However I was alerted by Mark Richardson to a significant error – the subject of an inconsistency I had originally queried with Pirsig – concerning the dates of the moves to teaching in Bozeman (1959) and then to the University of Chicago (1961), where his breakdown became total. Perhaps not surprising that the man’s own recollections of this period were inexact. Anyway, timeline now corrected.

More interesting and important news for Pirsig fans, is that Mark Richardson has a book of his own in the pipeline, worked around his own experience of the ZMM route by motorcycle, in which he has also gathered much more new journalistically-researched biographical detail well beyond the scope of my simple timeline.

Good luck with the publication Mark.