All posts for the month September, 2008

Twice in as many days … another footbal story, two actually.

Great to see Blades get the decision on the Tevez fiasco at West Ham two seasons ago and love or hate him, great to see Warnock happy. No amount of compensation fixes it of course, but justice is done. (I love the Warnock quote thanking the “independent” witnesses, explaining that whilst he gave his own evidence, he’d “got carried away”. No, really ?)

And the Reading “goal that wasn’t” story. Good news that the league didn’t recommend a replay – what a precedent that would have set ! Coppell said he would be OK if a replay was awarded, but Boothroyd didn’t actually ask for one, so fair play all round, almost ….

  • (1) I don’t agree with the general ine of blaming the Lino, just because he admitted the error. The Ref is in charge, and when he conferred with the Lino (which he rightly did), about the ball crossing the line (the Lino was right to raise his flag, the ball did cross the line) the Ref should have asked the Lino to confirm and re-confirm when he thought the ball had crossed the line, not just his opinion that it was a goal … no one in play had claimed a goal … the ref had good reason to doubt his Lino. (But I am in favour of TV / Electronic tools for “ball in play” decisions, though ony when the ball is dead, if that makes any sense.)
  • (2) The Reading players and management should have either persuaded the Ref he was wrong on Watford’s behalf at the time or, if they couldn’t convince him, gifted Watford a goal immediately afterwards. There are precedents for such sporting conduct on the pitch. Here’s hoping the fortuitous draw doesn’t prove decisive for either team in the end of season placings.

[Post Note - guess that would make more sense if I pointed out that we were long-term Reading FC season ticket holders (home and away), are life-time members of the supporters trust and still consider Reading as "home". Like, we're positively interested in Reading's results.]

Just a quickie update.

I’ve pruned the overloaded side-bar – by using a simpler collapsible “previous posts” javascript, and removing a couple of dozen old, redundant or little-used blog-roll links. I’ve also moved the Pirsig / MoQ links to the newer [Pirsig] page, and added additional internal navigation links to that page. The original Psybertron Pirsig Pages are still there, but increasingly being absorbed into the re-organized page, where there is still more work planned. (There is a redirect on one of the old pages which should be invisible to the user … any problems let me know.)

The ongoing re-organization will next affect the [Manifesto] page, where I intend to add an editorial policy and an introduction to the newer projects. Time to move on.

PS – anyone detecting performance issues with the Psybertron site, please let me know. It seems to me that the active PHP & MySQL pages are rendering very slowly ? Still investigating.


Headless chickens.

Privatisation of profits, socialisation of losses.

Staunching the flow of blood, but not fixing the wound.

A real downer from Robert Peston commenting on the (proposed) US bail-out of the banking industry, and a whole spectrum of comments from his readers. I’m no expert of international banking, but the scale of the numbers, means we need to understand where this might be leading. Since the markets already appear to have taken the bail-out into account, what if Congress rejects the proposal ?

Despite it being an important part of our lives, I suspect this is only the second post in the 7 year history of Psyberton on the subject of football (real football that is, played with the feet). I’m making this posting because this is a wonderful illustration of why objective logic is a useless decision making tool, which is of course a large part of my agenda here.

Circular (strange-loopy) arguments are so much better.

Notwithstanding Sir Alex’s paranoid reasoning, referee Halsey was indeed right to give “serious foul play” as his reason for Terry’s red-card / sending-off last weekend, and wrong to be persuaded to rescind it. It was an absolutely blatant so-called “professional foul” …. no-one at all seems to be arguing with that. It was so blatantly professional that clearly Terry’s and everyone else’s calculations (except Halsey’s) was banking on a yellow-card warning only, based on the “not the last man” defence.

Rules evolve, like everything else. As soon as the last man defence (post-rationlization) becomes part of the reasoning in the decision (a-priori) to actually make the “professional foul”, it moves on from simply being part of the rationale; onto a meta-level, another cycle of a strange-loop, to become part of the foul itself. It excludes itself from application of the new/old rule. The reasoning for applying the more lenient view arose in the days before the offenders had that objective rule available to them in making their cynical calculating rule-breaking decision, before that strange-loop had happened. Once it has happened, game over … and remember evolving psychology really is a game, just like football is a game … effectively the new (now old) rule has a new(er) interpretation / manifestation in real life, beyond the sterile realm of pure objective logic.

Rules are for the guidance of wise men, and the enslavement of fools. (Douglas Bader ?)

Wisdom comes from going round a few loops. Well done Mr Halsey; stand by your own gut feel, and help evolve the human species out of this mess.

Turbulent times for global finances, but interesting take here from the BBC’s Robert Peston.

Talking of accidental shocks to the system. OK, so the wind and water of a hurricane like Ike can cause danger, damage and disruption anywhere it strikes, but why does modern Texas and Houston, have such poor infrastructure that recovery requires a week of city curfews and a month to restore power supplies ?

As I near the end of a period of living & working in the US, in the Tennessee Valley in northern Alabama, I notice a few of my blog posts recently closing circles, mainly in musical connections. One obvious circle for Sylvia and I is that, purely coincidentally, the move from the US, is not a return to the UK but to Oslo, Norway where we were married 27 years ago.

Three years ago we were “the parents who left home”, that UK home, when our two boys reached maturity, to go on an adventure of our own. A parallel I find myself drawing in recent days with Bob and Nancy Pirsig, who are described exactly that way in Mark Richardson’s “Zen and Now”, by their younger son Ted, then still at high-school in 1975 with brother Chris just recently off to college. That was when Bob and Nancy had set off on their Great Lakes and trans-Atlantic sailing adventure, part of which provides the narrative backbone to Bob’s second book Lila.

Mark used the word “resolution” several times in launching his book last Tuesday night in Minneapolis-St.Paul. Resolution in Pirsig closing his own circle in the original Zen motorcycle road-trip, a journey designed to loop his philosophical “chautauqua” writing project in time and place around his own troubled biography. And resolution for Mark too, not only in ostensibly closing the chapter in his life he freely refers to as his “mid-life crisis”, but in joining the dots between his own teenage motorcycle travels across the US mid-west and north-west, and those of Pirsig and elder son Chris, retraced in Zen and Now.

Without getting deeply philosophical in any academic sense, Mark also succeeds in summing up the Pirsigian message that whatever “quality” is, evolving a net increase in quality in the world has something to do with the idea that “if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well”, and that doing something well is about total involvement; individual participation in the world of here and now, and engagement with both fellow humans and technolgy. Listen to Mark’s recent public radio interview, also involving Ron DiSanto (author of the “Guide to ZMM”) and Jim Landis (original editor of ZMM) to get a good sense of this.

So why did I make a 2000-plus miles round-trip flying-visit to a friends-of-a-Minnesotan public library branch meeting, to witness the launch of a book by a hitherto unknown author ? That closes a loop or two for me too. Mark kindly acknowledges that his biographical research into the Pirsigs, included in Zen and Now, had originally spun out of research I had collected in a biographical timeline I published as part of the Psybertron blogging project. That timeline had been gathered from public sources and from clarifying correspondence with Bob. Mark took up the baton, to ensure that the Pirsig story was not just the one told “for rhetorical purposes” by Bob in ZMM and Lila, but a more complete view corroborated, and indeed extensively filled-out, by close family and friends.

That baton passing is paralleled in Bob’s story too, when on his second writing project that ultimately created Lila, he had to concede that whilst he had his own creative ideas; and very creative his genius proved to be, one thing he didn’t have was “the knack of eliciting stories from other people”. That, he recgnized, was the skill his friend Verne Dusenberry had in spades. There was a very clear point when my biographical research became Mark’s own. It was when we both realized that I had tracked down points of contact to further information, including for example younger son Ted, and that the biography had changed from analyzing, corroborating and synthesizing from the public record, to one of personal stories from private individuals. Originally I had intended simply to get my own readings of ZMM and Lila on a footing of “where was Pirsig coming from” when he wrote this stuff ? I had to decide where I wanted to take this; Poking into private lives was never my objective, and I was already uncomfortable.

It was a no-brainer. Mark’s journalism skills were essential to finish the job, and if a job’s worth doing …. Well, Mark’s done a great job.

As Mark says, there was, still is, an interesting Pirsig story to be told beyond the pages of Bob’s books, and Mark tells that story with the compassion of a fellow traveler; There but for grace go we all. The circles of lives of the Pirsig family and friends, were fiery hoops, and meeting some of them … ex-wife Nancy and friends, John Sutherland and daughter(s) as well as other friends of the Pirsig sons Chris and Ted … one can feel nothing but respect for those who come through strong, happy and well-adjusted. Chris Pirsig, the boy in the original book, of course did not make it. As Eddie Dean says in his review of Zen and Now in The Wall Street Journal, (and Mark quotes in the recent interview) …

“[The Pirsig story] is a reminder
of how much pain it can take
to make so many people feel better.”

So for me the launch of Mark’s book, closed the loop on a chapter in my own life, a little biographical research project of my own. But like any new human experience, so many new avenues open. Speaking to people at the book launch, as well as at the after-launch party at “the Pirsig house” hosted by current occupants Susan Nemitz and John Curry, so many new conversations, new subjects and letters to write … The White Album, Ivan Denisovich, Dostoevsky, the US-Pragmatists and so much more.

Mark Richardson’s Zen And Now web-site is now live in time for his book launch this Tuesday (9th Sept). On the news page you’ll find a list of stops on his promotional tour, where you can drop in and say hello.

As someone particularly interested in the biographical side of the Pirsigs, I can safely say there is plenty of newly researched material building on the original timeline, newer even than the two earlier drafts I saw. As a read, it’s easy and witty and well constructed, and neatly encloses several circles of Marks own life and journeys with those of Robert Pirsig. Those with an academic interest in Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality may find the book lightweight, but Mark does capture the essential message and mood of the original Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and makes a good case that new audiences should seek out the timeless value of ZMM – active human participation in real life embracing, but never limited by the social or intellectual constructs of, technology.

And by way of a random example of ZMM continuing to inspire educators.

Post Note (Friday 12th): Great review by Mel over on MoQ-Discuss.

Richardson has written a book that  walks/rides a deliberately winding line between homage, biography, invitation to revisit both Pirsig’s thoughts, and the same type of ‘real world’ opportunity to look at things through the lens of quality.  It is (deliberately, I think) light on the MOQ but clear on pointing the reader to a shared consensus of Quality.

It is a personal journey and a journalist’s second-pair-of-eyes on the world mythologized in Pirsig’s ZMM book.  We get to see some of the “chorus” members of his book cast in a second light.  (As those who’ve played at photography know a secondary light source can add depth and complexity and
at time clarity to an image.  It can hint and imply more)

His work has a hint of melancholy and a touch of his personal worries.  Both add the flavor of the struggle of any seeker after what is “more.”  It is smartly written and should serve to open the door to ZMM for those who are daunted by the work itself and yet it is a pleasant literary meditation on the familiar feel of the original journey for readers who’ve come to give a place in their heart to ZMM.

There are technical points that may be arguable by folks who’ve spent years considering the whole-of-it, but just as good Jazz can evoke another piece of music in it’s own terms, this book brings a fresh echo to recall the enduring original.

Post Note (Friday 12th); Look out also for Mark’s blogged reports on his ongoing book tour following the launch on Tuesday 9th. See also my own Hoops of Fire review.]

We weren’t really up for a late night this last Friday after an early evening Mexican meal featuring The Deltones at Madison (Al) Bandito Burrito – ’nuff said – we went into town (Huntsville) ‘cos I had a vague recollection I’d noticed an interesting gig at Crossroads, and I’m glad I hung onto that thought.

Both bands interesting – both different – like, different from much else I’ve seen or heard in a while. The opening band, were a two-guitar four-piece, playing very jazzy million-notes-a-minute arpeggio-picking style, trading licks and complex mixed pace structures, including reggae and calypso grooves – but endlessly changing - too complex to be entertaining without concentrating hard – but accomplished and different. Can’t for the life of me remember their name (Why do bands and venues not leave up recent events ? Damn MySpace – Post Note – sho’nuff – turns out they were local Huntsville band “Sandia”  … yeah, “fusion” sounds about right.)

Main act were Spoonfed Tribe. Wow. Different again, from Texas, and what a mixture. Hawkwind meets Beefheart meets Stomp meets Northern-Soul and eventually morphs into some seriously heavy guitar rock. 5 piece with at least 2 on percussion at all times. Dreadlocked flautist on vocals and PA loop effects, reminding me of Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall, stonking bassist with a huge range of effects, which allowed the masked guitarist to play around with vocals, cow-bells and loops before remembering his guitar. Varied, yes, but never missed a beat, and never lost your attention. A pity so few were there to experience them. Ones to watch.