Scruffie Contours and Blurred Focus

Complex events or objects should have their resistant difficulties emphasized and highlighted. Sharp definitions will always be blurred by time, frequent use, a minuscule shift in perspective. Things and concepts have a a kind of internal vibration that makes them somewhat shaky, blurry, or scruffy.

From Wikipedia

"Neat and scruffy are labels for two different types of artificial intelligence research. Neats consider that solutions should be elegant, clear and provably correct. Scruffies believe that intelligence is too complicated (or computationally intractable) to be solved with the sorts of homogeneous system such neat requirements usually mandate...

As might be guessed from the terms, neats use formal methods – such as logic or pure applied statistics – exclusively. Scruffies are hackers, who will cobble together a system built of anything – even logic. Neats care whether their reasoning is both provably sound and complete and that their machine learning systems can be shown to converge in a known length of time. Scruffies would like their learning to converge too, but they are happier if empirical experience shows their systems working than to have mere equations and proofs showing that they ought to."

The cover image for Bob Dylan's 1966 Blonde on Blonde conveys something about the logic well. Roger Ford, in "Electric Dylan":

Was there ever a record like Blonde On Blonde?

...It is still Dylan's longest studio album, and despite this it maintains the internal unity and consistency of all his finest works...

But there's another, stranger reason why I've found this particular record so compelling, and that is the practically endless range of subtly different forms in which it has appeared. Certainly other Dylan albums have displayed some variety - Highway 61 Revisited with two different back sleeves and the "Buick 6" out-take, the quadraphonic albums, even Biograph with its erroneous reissue - but none that can come near Blonde On Blonde for diversity. Look at what we've been given over the years:

    • three differently mixed mono versions;
    • two stereo vinyl versions, with the majority of the tracks differently mixed;
    • four different digital versions, each mixed differently from any previous vinyl release, plus two abridged versions of one of these with most of the tracks cut short.
    • three different sets of sleeve photographs;
    • a song whose title nobody seems to agree on;

And on top of that, different permutations of these mixes, titles and photographs have been released in different countries at different times; I don't suppose anyone will ever document them all.

But which one is the real Blonde On Blonde? Maybe the blurred definition is part of the nature of the album, like the blurred cover photograph. It's as though it was all done in such a chaotic rush that it never got fixed, never got made permanent in the way that Dylan's other albums have.

The iconic quality of the cover image seems to have been intentional on Dylan's part. Photographer Jerry Schatzberg on the album cover photograph:

"I wanted to find an interesting location out of the studio. We went to the west side, where the Chelsea Art galleries are now. At the time it was the meat-packing district of New York and I liked the look of it. It was freezing and I was very cold. The frame he chose for the cover is blurred and out of focus. Of course everyone was trying to interpret the meaning, saying it must represent getting high or an LSD trip. It was none of the above; we were just cold and the two of us were shivering. There were other images that were sharp and in focus, but to his credit, Dylan liked that photograph."

Schatzberg, Jerry (2006). Thin Wild Mercury—Touching Dylan's Edge: The Photography. Genesis Publications. ISBN0-904351-99-8, p. 46;