Never Again ?

Muse excellent headlining performance only just about made up for an excruciating day on Friday 26th at Leeds 2011 Festival. It’s a while since I’ve been to a major festival and someone did warn me the big festivals (‘cept maybe Glasto has it’s own culture) were not worth it these days. It was only Muse that drew me there.

I did get to see Frank Turner at last, and I think I finally do get Elbow’s attraction, but almost everything else about Leeds was a descent into cliches. The audience participation routines, the look-at-me attention-seeking in front of the cameras turned on the audience, the throwing of food and drink and …. mud. Do me a favour.

OK, so I can’t blame the organizers for the rain, but rain it did – almost non-stop all day. It didn’t occur to me to take along a folding seat – more fool me – unable to take the weight off me pegs for 14 hours. No chance of sitting on the ground with all that mud – I did manage to stay close to the main stage action for most of the day without getting too covered in the stuff.

By the time of Elbow and Muse I was up against the secondary barrier with a good view (thanks to the slope in the Leeds arena). Muse’s set was notable for the full 10th anniversary rendition of Origin of Symmetry complete with physical set and backscreen of imagery from that album. That and for the fire / flame-throwing (at the climax of Hysteria IIRC, no Megalomania in fact) amongst the varied pyrotechnics … I could feel the heat on my face at the secondary barrier …. must have fried and startled the security posse between the stage and the primary barrier ! I hear it was toned down for the Reading Sunday set. (Incidentally, apart from the opening to New Born, played from behind a stage curtain, none of Matt’s piano pieces were included in the BBC showing of the Sunday gig at Reading – A very unrepresentative view of Muse, but apparently the band held most of the Origin of Symmetry back for public broadcast quality reasons, not having played most of it for years. But in the flesh it was excellent on Friday.)

Guy Garvey (of Elbow) did indulge in a fair bit of the audience participation cliches – … how you doin’ Leeds? I say, louder … show me you hands, clap, wave, conduct, call & response set-ups, etc …. even his “Bono moment” contrasting the positive crowd togetherness in a muddy field with the negative city rioting and looting earlier this month. And the audience duly obliged. Still you got the impression Guy felt is was the “festival thing to do” so he had to do it – written into the terms or something like that. Pity, since some of their choruses naturally generate spontaneous singalongs, without the need for detailed instructions. Notable that both Elbow and Muse both acknowledged each other from first touring together when Muse came to prominence 10 years ago with Origin of Symmetry. No doubt the “joint headline” billing had something to do with that mutual appreciation.

Oh, and the mud had the last laugh. After 2 hours of Muse, it took over an hour to trudge with the departing masses, back across the arena, across the festival site, across the campsites, across the fields to the car park, and another hour and a half to get out of the car park. (Nil signage,  negligible lighting and non-existent / uninterested stewarding …. didn’t help.) As well as being shin-deep in the quagmire the whole way, the hilly Leeds site meant I slithered over and fell twice between the arena and the car-park, and I wasn’t the only one. Good job my arrival at the car and changing out of the mud-caked clothes wasn’t captured on film – yeuch – not a pretty sight.

  1. New Born (What’s he building ? intro / Origin of Symmetry set projection / behind curtain.)
  2.  Bliss (synth intro, extended outro)
  3. Space Dementia (First performance since 2008)
  4. Hyper Music (First performance since 2003)
  5. Micro Cuts (First performance since 2007)
  6. Screenager (First performance since 2002)
  7. Darkshines (First performance since 2001)
  8. Megalomania (Siren/We Are The Universe intro)
  9. Uprising (riff version)
  10. Hysteria (Interlude intro, Back in Black outro)
  11. Time Is Running Out (House of the Rising Sun intro)
  12. Stockholm Syndrome (Township Rebellion & Endless nameless riffs)
  13. Knights of Cydonia (Chris with  harmonica intro)

Set List – courtesy of SetList. One of the great things about Muse sets, is the improvised intros and fillers, not to mention the thrown-in piano virtuosity of a little Chopin, Saint-Saëns or Rachmaninov – Matt’s not great at conversing with his audience, … except with his fingers. And eg Starlight and TIRO choruses provide genuine audience participation without the need for choreographed prompting.

Too Much Information – Again

This time, the “Backfire Effect”, like confirmation bias, but where more counter evidence deepens the conviction in the original belief. From Dave McRaney via David Gurteen.

The backfire effect push[es] those who [-] put more thought into the matter farther [away] from the gray areas.

As social media [-] progresses, confirmation bias and the backfire effect will become more and more difficult to overcome […].

As information technology progresses, the behaviors you are most likely to engage in when it comes to belief, dogma, politics and ideology seem to remain fixed. In a world blossoming with new knowledge, burgeoning with scientific insights into every element of the human experience, like most people, you still pick and choose what to accept even when it comes out of a lab and is based on 100 years of research.

In a world where everything comes to you on demand, your beliefs may never [actually] be challenged.

And flame wars can only intensify

Most online battles follow a similar pattern, each side launching attacks and pulling evidence from deep inside the web to back up their positions until, out of frustration, one party resorts to an all-out ad hominem nuclear strike. If you are lucky, the comment thread will get derailed in time for you to keep your dignity, or a neighboring commenter will help initiate a text-based dogpile on your opponent.

What should be evident from the studies on the backfire effect is you can never win an argument online. When you start to pull out facts and figures, hyperlinks and quotes, you are actually making the opponent feel as though they are even more sure of their position than before you started the debate.

Also put me in mind of this “false neutrality“.
Similar, but different.

Decisive Emotions

Nice piece from Antonio Damasio

Thanks to Marsha on MD for posting the link. Topical for me right now because of the Iain McGilchrist I am currently reading. The indecision of rationality. In the clip we don’t hear what the specific brain lesion / abnormality is, but this is very much about the left-brain being out of touch with the right-brain and the somatic self – its immediate, emotional, holistic, wiser, more-real gut-feelings, etc. Left-brained rational analysis is a very poor substitute for a decision – it’s autistic.

Not ready to blog a review of McGilchrist yet. A massive and deeply researched tome – hundreds of references per chapter. The first half is excellent – very comprehensive collection of sources illustrating left and right brain behaviours and their interdependencies – particularly the “right > left > right” loop pattern – real-world-experience before abstracted-analysis before value-judgement-and-action. His thesis is that “the western mind” is suffering from the left-brain gaining dominance (the Emissary over its Master to coin the Nietzschean phrase in his title) as a disease – a mental disorder. In the second half of the book, which I’m only part through – he applies this notion to the schools of thought from the pre-Socratics to the post-Modern. Less convincing arguments than the first half, but a clear agenda, consistent with so much other reading.

Like Haidt’s Happiness, the ultimate message appears to be wisdom in balance.

[Post Note : Should make it clear here, Damasio is talking about rational vs emotional impairment, not specifically about left-right brain differences – as I noted, the particular lesion is not explained in the short clip. Similarly although McGilchrist IS talking about left-right brain interactions, he does not characterise their difference as simply rational vs emotional, more narrow / closed vs broad / potential. Need to listen to and/or read the wholes.]

Blog Template Update ?

I can see I am going to have to find another theme / template for the blog. Still like the power and flexibility of WordPress so I think I’ll stick with it, but it is a bit geeky to maintain all the features of themes and widgets, despite the integrated UI’s in the Dashboard. A fair degree of lottery in finding a theme that 100% supports the actual features you use, and being 99% open source also a lottery in whether bugs get noticed / addressed, even if you offer to pay. Everything ends up lowest common denominator.

The update will be an excuse for a clear-out / clean-up, but the primary motivation is that the comment feature of the current Blaze New Media / Moonlight theme has a bug in forcing the subscribe and submit buttons right to the foot of the page, where the reader is unlikely to find them – as defined by the length of the side-bar, even if the post itself  is only a few lines long. I have experimented at various times with having a different side-bar or no side-bar for the single post & comment forms, but it just adds to the admin overload, whenever you need to add or change things.

Most themes work fine for simple blogs – but I have ten years worth of posts, pages categories and links, linked every which way. Some of the simplistic previous posts & comments widgets just don’t hack it.

Also disappointing that the Google search widget, which can do more than the in-built WordPress search function, even within the blog content, is now disabled by Google, disapproving of automated searches launched from third-party pages. Pity.

Grrrr. I suspect bog-standard Google Blogger has caught up on most available features these days ? Tempting to switch back, again.

Hover Flies

Coincidence seeing this news story today about pollinators in urban gardens vs rural farming and wild environments.

In our current rented town garden situation we have just a few pots of flowers, and after a minor infestation of aphids a couple of weeks ago, I noticed the flowers were teeming the last few days with hover flies. Many different varieties and sizes, some only about 4mm long, some almost pass for honey bees – but all hover flies – 20 or more on each pot. Never been aware of so many before.

I understood hover-flies were carnivores, eating aphids and the like, but most of them are dropping into the flower heads for nectar so far as I can tell, even onto the anthers of the lilies.

(PS got rid of the aphids and green-fly by physically picking off and washing with very dilute household detergent – effective as ever.)