13 August 2019

Headline-Evading Link Sausage Platter

Disturbingly closely related link sausages that carefully avoid the issues dominating the headlines… because you don't need me to tell you that the headlines, and the stories behind them, are ridiculous.

  • One of the fundamental problems with performance arts is that nobody pays much attention to infrastructure — either its needs or its costs. At the moment, this is obvious with symphony orchestras. Forty miles from each other, the Baltimore Symphony and the National Philharmonic are going through a crisis of inability to pay their large staffs. Part of the problem is that the public (and, for that matter, the trust-fundies who attend all of those wine-and-cheese parties) has little, if any, conception of just how many highly trained people it takes to put on a musical performance. One of the problems with classical music is the meme that no multipurpose facility is adequate, so there must be dedicated (and expensive) buildings ranging from La Scala to the Sydney Opera House that can really only do one thing: Unamplified group-ensemble performances lasting between 90 and 150 minutes. That meme isn't entirely wrong; an unstated consequence, however, is that nothing else can contribute to the construction, the upkeep, the staffing, etc.

    More to the point (especially in Baltimore), though, is the disdain for the back-office staff, especially in contrast to the never-ending conflict between front-office staff pay and musician pay. Bluntly, with most orchestras there's no excuse whatsoever for front-office staff, especially at the management level, being paid comparably to the musicians — it's orthogonal. But show me a symphony, anywhere in the world, where the top beggars fundraisers/party MCs make less than the concertmaster (ordinarily a violinist with three-decades-plus of experience, and usually at least a dozen years at that orchestra); care to guess who is actually more important to any particular performance? I'm not saying "don't reward the nonperforming staff at all"; I'm saying that the contests for who "deserves" more have got to stop.

    And the less said about the median remuneration for artists versus gallery owners and museum management, the better.

  • Which leads to the fascinating dispute between the repeat-World-Cup-champion US women's football (soccer) team and the US soccer federation — the counterpart of the USOC and USA Gymnastics — over the pay rate offered to the women, especially compared to the men (who didn't even qualify for the last World Cup and have never made it beyond the quarterfinals in the modern (1958 and thereafter) competitions). The underlying numbers simply are not comparable (as the men's team players note, in support of the women's team players!), but are nonetheless all that we've been given. All of this rather ignores the self-fulfilling-prophecy and confirmation bias problems resulting when women's teams (or sports) are put into fourth-rate facilities with fourth-rate infrastructure against historically-not-competitive opposition with a backdrop of gender-based pay inequality. Let's put it this way: I wouldn't pay the same price for a ticket to a Reign FC match at Starfire as I would to a Sounders match at CenturyLink (or whatever its official name is these days, which is part of the point, too); my back can't handle bleacher-like seating!

    The comparison to the preceding item (especially given the overwhelming inherited-wealth nature of "management" in both areas) is a bit too much before coffee. For that matter, it's a bit too much before a couple of twelve-year-old single malts at the end of the day, in a dark-wood-appointed lounge with… damn, that's my point, isn't it?

  • Confirmation bias also works the opposite direction in the arts, too, especially for anyone who is not the beneficiary of an organizational copyright holder. This piece at BoingBoing epitomizes the problem, primarily because its dataset is so badly conceived and lumps disparate populations — not just samples — together for a statistically indefensible analysis. The conclusion that is implied — that outright piracy of material that failed of formalities disfavored by governing international treaties and standards, particularly since those formalities were imposed on people (authors and, especially, their heirs) with no expertise and at a future-discounted non-volume-related cost of several times the unfair-competition-dominated market value, is ok because "nobody" cared about it in the first place — improperly treats disparate works and holders/authors alike to draw that conclusion. The example of L. Frank Baum illustrates it rather well. Baum wrote a helluva lot more than just the Oz books; indeed, the Oz books represent well under 30% of his copyrightable output. Only the Oz books were ever renewed, though. Commercially, this made sense — after 28 years, nobody wanted old chicken-farming manuals. But the conclusion that renewal is therefore somehow "disfavored" or "irrelevant" for the Oz books on that basis — as implied by both the article and the dataset chosen for misanalysis — does not follow. Indeed, looking at the universe of the types of books (because the pecularities of periodicals and registrations make the datasets internally discontinuous) that were renewed, at least on the sample basis that I did in 2005, leads to almost the opposite conclusion for several types of books. And in turn, that is inconsistent with "one size fits all" copyright, something that is almost required by the Bleistein Problem.

    None of which does a very good job, at the next level of implication, of explaining why Cloudflare is willing to take its platform away from political speech (however reprehensible) but, as a policy matter, won't even consider taking it away from thieves and pirates — not even when given a site analysis demonstrating that 90% of a given site's content consists of less-than-20-year-old pirated copyrightable material. Oh, wait: Confirmation bias again. Not to mention money-in-the-pocket bias again.

  • And, unfortunately, medical "replication" issues fall prey to the same flaws, especially when applied to nonmedical circumstances. The irony that that article doesn't see its own confirmation bias as an issue is just a bonus: Bayesian statistical analysis has its own problems with boundary conditions.