Monday assorted links

1. Drones as NZ sheep dogs.

2. Why is classical music paired with villainy?

3. “For centuries, senders used folds, slits, and wax seals to guard correspondence from prying eyes.”  Early blockchain.

4. The evolution of baseball scouting.

5. Is Matthew Barney a genius?

6. Against the output gap.


I don't know about Matthew Barney but I'm a genius. Output gap is fiction, agreed. Drones are cheaper than sheep dogs but less fun. Weak links but otherwise good.

Sheep dogs also have a much higher reproductive rate than drones.

So far.

5 +1 creepy
+1 scary

you mean the 3rd? cremaster series?

Look up "Mail Isolation Control and Tracking" using your privacy-respecting search engine.

A guess based solely on etymology:

The word villain literally means something like "farm worker", an employee on a villa. At one point we associated villains with the lower class. I'm sure that at some point after that, somebody was like "oh ho, what if I made the villain wealthy and upper class? that would be different!" and it caught on and now, as the article notes, villains are not only into classical music, they are into fencing, chess, etc.

3. The analog solution is the postal service, which has worked fairly well.

Did you read the article? I suspect you may have missed the point a little bit.

The point is confidentiality, which has worked fairly well with the postal service; a letter sent USPS is unlikely to be tampered with (hacked). Can law enforcement open people's mail? Not without a warrant. Now blockchain, I'm not sure if it can be hacked or not. Of course, the advantage to criminals who use cryptocurrency (or blockchain generally) is avoidance of detection by law enforcement. Could law enforcement get a warrant to "search" the blockchain?

Rayward, historically national postal services were used specifically to intercept and break the confidentiality of mail. Now, USPS specifically, perhaps not. Historically though, and the point of that article, was that letterlocking was invented to prevent the Black Rooms/Cabinets Noirs operations.

You bring up interesting thoughts though, as often blockchains don't have anything to do with confidentiality, only integrity and availability.

Didn't postal service exist during the Middle Ages and before? The "neither sleet nor snow nor gloom of night" motto dates from the postal service of the Persian (Achaemenid) Empire.

Not only can postal service be hacked (movies used to frequently have scenes where someone steamed open a letter), the key points of vulnerability are at the sender's palace and the receiver's palace, i.e. before and after the postal service or messenger has performed their duties. How many hands does that letter pass through before it reaches the queen -- and how many times was it read by prying eyes?

A lot of other music is used for villains besides classical. See, e.g., New Jack City, Training Day, or Goodfellas. On the other hand, a lot of classical music is elevating and heroic, e.g. Star Wars or Indiana Jones.

I use Wagner. My boys love it!

3. “For centuries, senders used folds, slits, and wax seals to guard correspondence from prying eyes.” Early blockchain.

A cootie catcher is full of carefully-folded dichotomies. It’s centuries-old origami performed by kids (usually), many of whom live far away from the device’s country of origin. Delicate in its construction, but usually (in my experience) scrawled over with crayons or colored pencils with clunky renderings. Full of secrets, mysteries, and fates, all of which your friend just wrote right in front of you.


Tell me you never did this.

Or Brazil's O Guarani.

6. Against the output gap.

Output gap is ex post and unpredictable. We make decisions that alter the past via revisions.

Today, now, firms are looking back to change a previous profit and loss statement based upon better settlement of prices they paid back then, crawl backs happening all the time, essentially. I have delayed tax bills from 2001, in fact, and you don't know implicit deflator until me and the IRS agent settle on June 5. After the meeting, I will post the result, you can all update your output gap.

#5: "But if you were interested in contemporary art, you saw it, and the obligation to form a response suggested that something important had come into the world."

Seems like this translates to "everybody is talking about it, so I have to talk about it too". I think "genius" is a slippery word when there's not even a reliable measure of technical mastery. Maybe Erdos's style of math is not your thing, but everybody agrees he achieved technical mastery (at least of combinatorics). Mozart achieved technical mastery in composing and performance. Picasso achieved technical mastery of painting. Even matching these individuals for performance --- forget creativity --- would be quite challenging. I don't know what technical mastery looks like for video art. Couldn't an amateur with time and the right equipment and funding passably remake the Cremaster cycle, with far less dedication than that required to match Erdos/Mozart/Picasso?

#2: because a lot of the most know Classical music compositions were specifically created to convey villainy =)

Just listen to the Act 1 when Don Giovanni tries to rape Donna Anna , she's is defended by her father and Don Giovanni kills him. I always joke that I want to see a ballet where the young woman protagonist is alive and happy by the end. Paquita and the Nutcracker are the exceptions.

Once you consider the depiction of treason, murder, rape, hate, revenge, and tuberculosis in opera and ballet......why be surprised when classical music is related to bad things?

If it were clear that the Don was trying to "rape" Donna Anna, Don Giovanni would be much the lesser opera.

4. If all teams rely on data rather than scouts, will all the teams be the same? If all hedge and other investment funds rely on data rather than analysts, will all the funds be the same? Will this result in risk aversion, as each team and fund seeks the most likely winning strategy/choices based solely on the data? Indeed, will people become so afraid of failure they won't take a risk by defying convention (i.e., the data)? Consider Facebook: it's business model, which is based on data mining to sell advertising, is so controversial that governments are threatening to regulate Facebook, but Facebook can't deviate from that model because Facebook has no other option that would generate any where near the revenues. For Facebook, data is an addiction.

Good to see Tyler reading Stumbling and Mumbling. Get Mr Dillow on your podcast

#2...It's The Phantom of the Opera, not The Phantom of the Beer Hall.

...yet the Beer Hall Putsch was perpetrated by a guy who was a huge Wagner fan.

"How did classical music in movies and television become synonymous with villainy?" Highly speculative explanations:
Economics: Royalty-free. Also contemporary artists don't want their works associated with serial killers or Armageddon-bringers.
Hollywood progressivism: demolish a pillar of Western civilization!
Familiar without being distracting: Instrumental music, i.e., no words to divert audience's attention.

Good points. But it also seems like a cultured, refined (and often wealthy) criminal is so much more evil than a poor grunting thug, because he has no excuse for being evil and could be using his talents for good instead. He's just so twisted.

Classic TV is awash with cultured, literate, eloquent vilains -- Khigh Dhiegh as Wo Fat, Michael Dunn as Dr. Loveless, and the great Victor Buono as the Wild Wild West's Count Manzeppi, to name a few. Vincent Price was always smugly tailored to perfection, expensive cognac in hand.

For some reason, a love of fine art, fine wine and classical music is part of this cultured villain trope.

One more practical point: Poor dumb thugs will kill you immediately. Cultured, literate villains like to spout some twisted philosophy before killing the good guy, giving the resourceful MacGyver or Napoleon and Illya some extra time to wriggle off the hook and pull off an escape.

#3: My first thought was Karl Stromberg from "The Spy who Loved Me". Didn't remember the movie title or the villain name, only the beautiful visuals set to classical music.

And Stromberg was indeed mentioned in Cowen's linked article!

4: And plain old primitive player evaluation, which coupled a poor appreciation of the predictiveness of certain stats with the myopic perspective of an era when batting average still drove decisions and catchers were valued more for their arms than their receiving skills.

That's wonderful that scouting has come such a long way, but when they come up with these weighted player evaluations, do they factor in the decreased entertainment value that comes from watching a lineup full of guys who strike out 250 times a season?

Has anyone ever struck out 250 times in a season?


Hulking clods Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds came close, with more than 220. Aaron Judge, hardly a clod, whiffed 208 times in 2017. Someone named Yoan Moncada fanned 217 times for the Pale Hose last year. I thought the Moncada was a dance usually performed at weddings and bar mitzvahs.

It's crucial for baseball fans to limber up in March by using verbs such as whiffed, fanned, blanked, trounced etc.

Chris Davis hit the 220 mark in 2016. He'd have hit it again last year and probably the year before, too, if the Orioles hadn't limited his plate appearances in August/September.

There must have been some incentive clause the O's didn't want Davis to cash in on -- Most Strikeouts in a Season!

When warming up for the season it's also important to glibly dust off alternate-team-name cliches: O's, Halos, Redbirds, Buccos, Bombers, Carmine Hose, Motor City Bengals, etc.

Wrong: Indians beat Milwaukee
Correct: Tribe thumps Brew Crew

After I washed up, Tom and I smoked a cigar in the front lawn while Tara watered an area with dark mulch, tomato plants and a persimmon tree. Even the lawn had been cured with different strands. On the other side, transparent blue vases up to the thighs were stood around stones Tom had brought back from the mine.

Probably a good idea for you and Tom to wash up again after those cigars. I'll see that Tara gets home OK

too loyal to Bjork to consider Barney anything but a villainous traitor

#3: If you have read Debt: The First 5000 years by Graeber or papers by Randy Wray, you will be familiar with the Tally stick (, which is a better example of a cryptographic scheme to ensure the proper recording of debts. In fact, ancient Mesopotamian stamps ( were often used to seal a clay envelope that held recordings of debts, only to be broken upon repayment.

A blockchain is a stack (in the computer science sense) of transactions, much more akin to ancient Chinese coins that were often threaded on a string. Another analog may be the Quipu ( likely the earliest predecessor to the blockchain.

2. Didn't read – already explained in the film *Unbreakable.*

2. The author of the classical music piece suggest that young people have been put off classical music by the negative associations generated by its use in motion pictures.

But if our local symphony is any indicator, this is not true. Orff's "Carmina Burana" sells out every performance, largely to young people. Since the rest of the piece is so tedious, I can only assume this is on the strength of the "O Furtuna" section, which has become a horror-movie cliche.

For that matter, "Night on Bald Mountain" is always a popular programmer, as are "Hall of the Mountain King" and other pieces associated with negative doings in the movies.

(In a related aside, it has recently occurred to me that in recent years, we have raised the first generation of classical music listeners in 60-some years, who are able to hear Rossini's "William Tell Overture" without thinking about the Lone Ranger. It's a thrilling piece, and it must be even more thrilling to hear and not have the words "Hi Ho Silver!" echoing behind one's consciousness.)

2. Aside from the obvious associations with wealth and aristocracy, I think it suggests the person is eccentric and somewhat anti-social. Not many people enjoy classical music today, so listening to it probably means you're doing so alone. You probably don't have a lot of friends that you get together with to take in a symphony. At the same time, it also suggests a hidden passion, you're not an emotionless robot, you enjoy passionate music, but you do it alone. If you put those together, you get an impression that the character involve is kind of a loner, but also has a strong emotional life - a person who doesn't like people that much but is nevertheless passionate. Which is easy to imagine is someone that could be a murder, or otherwise capable of evil acts.

Also, to add to the impression, it might be someone who is very intelligent, but for some reason excluded from elite circles - and thus feels aggrieved at being an outsider. I.e. "I'm super smart, I listen to classical music, I belong in the upper class, and yet I am excluded from that upper crust social class I feel I should be a part of. Ergo, now I shall take my revenge on humanity." Or something to that effect.

Translation: the guy who kept trying to shuck Hazel off liked classical music.

That's some solid projecting there. She's married, flirt somewhere else.

#2. I'm not sure classical music is meant to convey villainy in these movies so much as intelligence and sophistication. Movie sociopath's who are urbane, witty and intelligent are worth watching. I'm not sure one could make an interesting film about a low-IQ villain.

That too, though intelligence and sophistication are also associated with increasing levels of eccentricity and solitude. The smarter you are, the fewer friends you have who can meet your level of intelligence. Being a classical music fan also sort of suggests a deliberate choice to separate oneself from popular tastes. I'm not sure that liking classical music actually is a sign of high intelligence either, so much as an indication of a desire to signal high intelligence.

Plus for whatever reason, TV and movie villains are likely to be dripping with white privilege and patriarchy. And what's whiter and manlier than classical music? (Apologies to Amy Beach and William Grant Still).

It's actually too bad for distinguished black actors, who aside from an occasional Othello don't get many of these juicy cultured villain roles. (James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader is a complicated exception)

Does being smarter than others really lead you to isolate yourself from them? I suspect not, as most people tend to enjoy being First Among Equals. Intelligence also gives people richer and more powerful options to self select friends, so any effect where people would shun their peers is more than balanced out by ability to select new peers (not that I really believe such effects happen much in well adjusted persons who aren't snobs).

There probably is a sort of solitude in intelligence though - "problems" in solitary art forms, philosophy, etc. take on more interest. But not because of any sort of people choosing not to socialize with their "lessers" (people love being surrounded by lessers).

Does being smarter than others really lead you to isolate yourself from them?

Apparently it does for Hazel.

Does being smarter than others really lead you to isolate yourself from them?

Not necessarily, it's just more likely that a person much smart than his peers may become isolated due to not knowing enough people who are at the same level of intelligence. I guess if you grow up in a big city or are connected to circles of very smart people like a university, this might not happen. But what happens if you grow up in a small rural town?

#2. Alternative explanation - This is just part of a larger trend to downplay the great achievements of Western civilization. Beethoven and Bach used to connote universal genius, now they connote evil we don't want in our society.

Again, it seems that it's (generally) meant to connote not evil per se, but evil genius, with emphasis on the genius. Haven't seen it's use in the Fargo episode mentioned. Sounds like something different is going on there, although it again seems intended to communicate intelligence; that is, you'd need to be pretty widely read to have any idea what Lenin might have said about the Appassionata.

Everything in the entertainment industry is part of a plot to destroy Western Civilization. Isn't this obvious? Connect the dots, people!

#2 Simple reason - It's left over from the days when there was no sound, and a small ensemble played to add emphasis.

2. Why is classical music paired with villainy?

In people's minds, classical music and villainy are both associated with Germans.

Good observation. High-class British accents are also over-represented among villains, especially for some odd reason in Biblical epics. The evil Romans always sound like George Sanders or Alan Rickman

#2...It probably does, as has been said, mean the bad guy is cultured, hence smart. On the other hand, a lot of bad guys have ethnic music, or country music, or metal, or reggae ( There was a time that Rastas were turning up as the bad guys ) accompanying their on screen presence or immanent appearance to convey the chosen MacGuffin of evil. It's an aid to using stereotypes to quickly convey evil ( Lab coats are good props, tattoos, etc. ). You don't want a bad guy to need explanation oftentimes. You want to scare the audience quickly and effectively. In the 60s, I do remember bad guys dressed in suits, but they had to move robotically or have some behavior that made them seem inhuman, hence harmful. In any case, it's simply the use of stereotypes. Bikers are always good.

I like your point about evil bikers, as it contradicts Olegs contention that an unintelligent villian would not be very interesting. Although stupid villians tend to work in gangs. You can have a stupid villian if he's got a lot of lackeys.

2: Meh, he lists the confirmatory evidence but excludes the Type I and Type II errors. E.g. he cites "A Clockwork Orange" as the fountainhead of classical music villainy, but conveniently ignores that fact that the most violently horrific scene was set to "Singing in the Rain", not to classical music. Similarly he leaves out all of the cases where classical music has positive associations in a movie scene (one of the commenters mentioned Merchant-Ivory films).

He needs to have much better evidence; this essay is an exercise in confirmation bias.

I think using classical music in the score should be differentiated from cases where the character's favorite music is classic. Just playing classic music in the score does not in itself convey villiany.

Fine, but the point still stands. Alex (Malcolm McDowell) was singing "Singing in the Rain" during that scene, so it was not just the score; indeed IIRC he was singing a capella.

Characters who liked classical music and were not villains: the Jack Nicholson and Susan Anspach characters in "Five Easy Pieces"; Richard Gere taking Julia Roberts to the opera in "Pretty Woman"; just about everybody, good guy and bad guy alike, in "Amadeus"; half the characters in "A Night at the Opera"; etc.

None of the "characters" in Amadeus liked classical music. They all enjoyed contemporary music by living composers. I don't even recall Bach being mentioned.

Also the character's appreciation of classical music was part of the original Burgess novel, not something that Kubrick came up with.

3: This is a great link. I'd always thought the story started and ended with sealing wax, cylinder seals, and signet rings. I had no idea about paper folding as a security device, and evidently no modern people did either until Jana Dambrogio coined the term in 2009. Throw in the bobby-trap letterlocks, John Donne inventing his own letterlock designs, Mary Queen of Scots' last letter, and the new array of epistolary evidence to explore, and this paper-folding phenomenon could be Europe's answer to origami (once considered by westerners to be a children's past-time but it turns out to have considerable mathematical depth and utility in high-tech applications especially in space probes that unfold).

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