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All posts for the month October, 2007

Found ourselves in Nashville for a long weekend again, both Friday and Saturday this time. Last time we were impressed by Heath Haynes on the Saturday night and they were pretty good again, if a little different atmosphere due to fewer fans packed into Layla’s Bluegrass Inn, and the distraction of Hallowe’en fancy dress. (Had to step out of the previous set, Brandon Giles was just toooo loud on keyboard and vocals for the small venue.)

Anyway, back to Heath Haynes Four-Ballers. Rich Gilbert excellent on guitar again, Aaron Oliva on the bass and the superb [fiddle] seen also with Dave Racine [skins] in Jesse Taylor’s band at the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee International BBQ Contest in Lynchburg, TN on the Saturday afternoon. Surreal – truly international with everything-but-the-beer-tent in the dry county that hosts Jack’s distillery.

Heath Haynes supplied Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues and an excellent version of Neil Young’s Helpless but no U2 or Blitzkrieg Bop this time. That same powerful version of G.L.O.R.I.A. segued onto The Stones Last Time and closed with Lust for Life.

Anyway on the Friday night we took in the late set in Robert’s Western World and were thoroughly entertained by Brazilbilly led eponymously by current club owner Jesse Lee Jones – more trad country mix, including some real vintage numbers, but quality musicians and entertainers to a man.

Working down from Legends Corner, 5th & Broadway, the whole block backs onto the Ryman Theatre erstwhile home of Grand Ole Opry and “mother church of country music” – worth a visit in itself, saw Joe Satriani there earlier in the year, and took the tour on this visit, where “Widespread Panic” were set up.

No.428 Legends Corner
No.422 Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge
No.420 Second Fiddle
No.418 Layla’s Bluegrass Inn
No.416 Robert’s Western World
No.412 The Stage

Just spent an emotional 2 hours solid watching and listening to You-Tube recordings of Rory Gallagher from 1968 right up until his last recorded appearances in 1994. Some rock stars achieve legendary status through their “lifestyle” death, but Rory was a legendary no-nonesense talent that sadly died on 14 June 1995.

Only saw him twice, Newcastle in ’73 and Hammersmith around ’78, but also have (had) five of his (vinyl) albums too, Blueprint, Tattoo, Against the Grain, Calling Card and Live in Europe. Mentioned seeing a tribute concert with Gary Cox on the anniversary of his death back in Perth, WA the year before last.

Funny after picking up on “Blister in the Sun” recently, to hear Rory playing “Blister on the Moon” back in his ’68/’69 Taste days – a title I’d forgotten. Anyway, thanks to hours of recordings available, lots from The Marquee, from Montreux Jazz and from RockPalast, not to mention Dublin, Belfast and Cork and the original Isle of Wight festival and several excellent renditions of “Shadow Play“, the old rocker will never die (1979 Montreux version – how much can one guitar make out of a 3 chord riff ?).

Apart from a Tele (or Super Tele ?) used for some slide work, the acoustic and a steel resonator for the trad acoustic blues numbers, the battered Strat seems to have accompanied him right from 1968 to the end, looking as battered in ’68 as it still did in ’94. Gerry McAvoy there on bass for 90% of it too. Good to see people like Slash, Johnny Marr, Bono and The Edge paying tribute on the documercial for this “Big Guns” greatest hits collection. If Rory is not someone you know, start there and check out the official web-site too.

The man who got me back into the blues.
Eric Clapton

Excellent example of In Our Time yesterday. A discussion on “The Arabian Nights“; not an earth shatteringly significant subject you might think, and you might be right about the subject, though (like the programme makers it seems) I had expected some material I could link to “Anecdote” and the power of story telling – is there a more archetypical example ? But, the process of analyzing it academically and culturally was the real subject – the meta-subject of the show – and shows how little we really know. Melvyn Bragg’s own post-programme notes summarise that beautifully.

The programme this morning ought, on the surface, to have been a swish ride to the new worlds which percolated into Europe in the Middle Ages – Chaucer, Boccaccio – and then came in full flood with the translation of the 1001 Arabian Nights.

Instead what we ran into, I thought, was a most interesting example of scholarship. The fact seems to be (fact is a tough word in this context) that the origins of The Arabian Nights are genuinely obscure. Did they start in India?  What influence did Persia have  on them?  Did the Mamelukes take over?  What about other tales, nothing to do with The Arabian Nights, that were added?  Was the Scheherazade an authoring or a holding operation?

Gerard van Gelder was impish and wonderfully scholarly about this. -He seems to be a man who, apart from his great authority in the area, adores to surf among the footnotes.  This is indisputably charming, but when you are trying to push through a structure which seems to make sense on the page, it is a little tense.  His darting hither and yon meant that at one stage I thought we’d reached the end of the programme before we were halfway through!  On the other hand, his contribution was delightful.  He seems to me to be an academic totally untarnished by the media.  He doesn’t listen to anything that talks on the radio, he told me.  Music on Radio 3 is about the limit.

We had with us Robert Irwin, who is acknowledged as a world authority on The Arabian Nights which he demonstrated with an opening that was so masterly that I thought we were in for a fistful of gold medals.  We nearly were but the bug was the origin.  Ideas that I had garnered from the notes seemed too blunt an instrument from time to time.  We were in an area of nuance, speculation, counter-intuitiveness, all the delights of high scholarship.  Marina Warner sailed majestically to the rescue with her clarity and concluded for us, with perfect timing, on the story she liked best. It did feel a bit like a magic carpet trip.

Listening to vanGelder’s thought processes “surfing through the footnotes” as Melvyn put it, put me in mind of a previous quote about digression and the power of the discursive mind …. which I can’t quite place at the moment.

Two current items here.

The dawning realisation that less is more –  less e-mail equals more / better communication. Management by walking around, water-cooler conferences, walk-over or pick-up the phone and talk …. those were topical learning points even back when I did my MBA 20 years ago.

Unrelated except for the word “less”, is the furore about James Watson (as in Crick & Watson of DNA fame) recent “racist” remarks about genetic difference in the intelligence of African races. Less intelligent was clearly an ill-advised use of the word “less”, relative to who’s yardstick of intelligence, but is this a taboo about even suggesting genetic differences in races.

I have no doubt there are genetic differences between races, and no doubt there are also genetic bases of innate mental and well as physical faculties. Pinker’s Blank Slate says a lot about genetically inheritable components of mental aspects – to generalise depending which mental aspects we are really talking about; 40% inherited, 10% taught (authoritatively), 50% learned (circumstantially). These differences should be source of interest for all to learn from. The furore should be judged in terms of Watson’s actions and motives I’d say, of which I have no inside knowledge. Chris at Mystic Bourgeoisie will not doubt let me know if he’s a facist / nazi.

The taboo reaction gets more ridiculous with Craig Venter’s comments about race in terms of skin colour not affecting intelligence, and that from a scientist. Potential correlation with a common third variable, cannot be denied surely.

Continuing the re/evolution thread.

Interesting to note that today 19th October is the anniversary of the third crash of the DeHavilland Comet in 1954 – the one where subsequent investigations positively identified metal-fatigue as a result of detail design flaws as a limiting factor in aerospace and other metal structure designs.

Equally interesting to note is how far we’ve evolved since the first flight of the Comet in 1952. Boeing (and the whole aviation transport industry) benefit from the failures at the bleeding edge.

And that’s not just the design and structural integrity of the aircraft. Just look at those figures for what was considered pushing the envelope of jet-powered intercontinental travel. London to Jo’burg in 23 hours with 5 stops and a change of crew. 

Strange pattern of page hits today. My overall hit-rate is about half (1200/month) what it was a year ago, but today in two separate hours around 4pm and 7pm this evening I had page hits at a rate almost 20 times the average hourly rate.

More than 120 hits an hour all via “StumbleUpon” all on the same (four year old) page, and most of them real hits with dwell times and multi-page visits. I won’t advertise which page, but no obvious topical interest. Weird.

(Post Note : whatever the pattern was, it was a temporary affair – no sign since.)

And of course it occurred to me that the reason I was thinking about evolution in that inclusive sense was probably that Alan Rayner’s “Inclusional Research” web-site and forum had just gone live and I was browsing around it last night.

Alan’s take on evolution from his inclusional perspective he calls “natural inclusion” rather as an antidote to “natural selection”, terminology which implies progress of one always at the expense of another – an either or choice, a selection; whereas there are many co-evolutionary mechanisms that involve cooperation and mutual benefit of replicators.

[Post Note 2008 - Don't Miss
Alan Rayner's
Natural Communion Anthology
(PDF Book Download).]

Today’s Thinking Allowed included a debate about whether revolutions were inevitable and necessary to really progressive change. Plenty of discussion as to whether the downside of revolution was forever tainted by the totalitarian aftermath of the Russian communist revolution and whether the other revolutions had really created lasting change that was any different than would have evolved anyway.

In terms of “making progress” my natural style of “activism” is one of evolution with and away from existing reality, excluded middles, win-wins etc, and it got me thinking why revolution was unattractive in itself.

It occurred to me that revolution necessarily involves the power of will conflicting with an established order, whether applied with violence or not, and that there should be no reason to suspect an outcome significantly different from evolution, unless the revolutionaries maintain that enforced will to sustain their aims thereafter. Natural evolution itself involves major crises and catastrophes as well as the accumulation of minor mutations. So revolutions, and violent conflicts of other kinds, no doubt trigger releases of action, lifting the lid on repressed potentials, but no reason why the “aims” of any revolution should, have any bearing on the steady state outcome.

Are we not men ? Devo.

Just an excuse to post this economics news story link.

Here in Huntsville, Alabam, the cultivated area outside the ‘burbs is nearly all cotton fields, and even in the year or two we’ve been here, we’ve seen them gradually being ploughed over for housing development. Those who’ve been here ten years or more tell us most of the business areas and  malls around us are built on old cotton fields.

Just this last week the cotton pickin’ machines have been at work in the nearby fields. I meant to take some before-and-after pic’s but it looks like I’ve missed the chance for this year.

With all the national housing gloom and doom, the local area is an anomaly, with, military (Redstone Arsenal), space (Marshall Space Flight Centre) and associated high-tech industrial expansion going on.

This film came out in June this year, and Alice sent me a link recently.

I normally run a mile at conspiracy theories, preferring coincidence, cock-up and “passive self -interest”, but I have to say this three-part story is very interesting, going through several cycles of contradiction and paradox – which is no bad thing.

The overarching theme of world-government domination by a handful of power-mad bankers for whom fear and war is big business contrasts with the more benign, organic one-world gaia. ie the problem is not the idea of one-world and borderless government, but how it is achieved and who holds the power.

There is a large middle section on the 9/11 conspiracy theories, much detail of which I still don’t buy, even though the “false flag” terror incident was clearly a convenient trigger for those seeking a pretext for war. Again passive self-interest can engineer plenty of useful coincidences – for my own agenda, this is the hypocrisy of accepted decision-making norms.

The first section is about the ubiqity of mythology behind Christianity – quite straight-forward and entirely credible. The final section is about central banking and taxation. The common theme is the one big conspiracy. Some real issues even if it is too glib to point a finger at “them”.

The real message of the film is to promote critical thinking. No bad thing.

(Joe Campbell and Bill Hicks both figure; unfortunately so does the nutcase known as David Icke. Prejudice should not put you off watching the film right through.)

Greg Proops presents a BBC review of Kerouac’s influential 1957 book, with interviews with the survivors. (The 127 foot continuous roll manuscript was real, auctioned recently, but being the product of the single benzedrine trip is apocryphal, apparently – several edits too before publication, already ten years old when first pubished. Interesting that Jack was a misunderstood US patriot despite close association with Ginsberg and Burroughs before the book, and King of the Beats afterwards during the peace, love and revolution of the 60′s. Drove him to drink and death. What’s so funny ’bout …)

Plenty more TEDTalks here.

Including the delicious Erin McKean. Next time someone quotes a dictionary definition at me as part of an argument, I will be pointing them at this one.

And given that I’ve recently reported on reading “Breaking The Spell”, here is a link to Dan Dennett speaking on dangerous memes – ideas to die for. Just a fluke ;-)  and on religions as natural phenomena.

And lots more; E.O.Wilson, Steven Pinker – and Eddi Reader sings too.