Friday, December 2, 2016

More on graphical representations of music

Liszt, Franz: Mephisto Waltz

Here's a different approach.

Aesthetically, I much prefer the first, but I think the second might do a better job conveying information. I have a feeling that I ought to be able to draw a connection between these and graphical representations of more traditional data. Maybe something will come to me over the weekend.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tom Hanks, creepy CGI Santa Clauses, and the theological canary in the coal mine

I've been making the point for a while now that the evangelical movement that I grew up with in the Bible Belt is radically different from the evangelical movement of today. I was aware that something was changing for a while, but the nature and the extent of the change crystallized for me when I readd this 2004 article from Slate:

Next Stop, Bethlehem?
By David Sarno

The Polar Express is the tale of a boy's dreamlike train ride to the North Pole to meet Santa Claus. Like all stories worth knowing, it's rich enough in image and feeling to accommodate many interpretations. Chris Van Allsburg, the author of the book, calls his story a celebration of childhood wonder and imagination. William Broyles Jr., one of the screenwriters of this year's film version, calls it a kind of Odyssey in which a hero undertakes a mythic, perilous journey of self-discovery. And Paul Lauer, who is a key player in the film's marketing apparatus, sees The Polar Express as a parable for the importance of faith in Jesus Christ.

Lauer's firm, Motive Entertainment, is best known for coordinating the faith-based marketing of The Passion of the Christ. Motive helped spread early word of mouth about the filmby holding screenings for church groups and talking the movie up to religious leaders. When The Passion took in a stunning $370 million at the box office, making it the highest-grossing R-rated film in history, Lauer and his cohorts got a lot of the credit. Earlier this year, Motive was hired by Warner Bros. to promote The Polar Express to Christians. But wait, is The Polar Express an evangelical film?

You'd certainly think so, considering the expansive campaign of preview screenings, radio promotion, DVDs, and online resources that Lauer unfurled in the Christian media this fall. This Polar Express downloads page includes endorsements from pastors and links to church and parenting resources hosted by the Christian media outlet HomeWord. There are suggestions for faith-building activities and a family Bible-study guide that notes, for example, the Boy's Christ-like struggle to get the Girl a train ticket. "The Boy risked it all to recover the ticket," the guide observes. "Jesus gave His all to save us from the penalty of our sins."

HomeWord Radio, which claims to reach more than a million Christian parents daily, broadcast three shows promoting the film. At one point, the show's host wondered excitedly if the movie "might turn out to be one of the more effective witnessing tools in modern times." Motive also produced a promotional package that was syndicated to over 100 radio stations in which Christian recording artists like Amy Grant, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Avalon talked about the movie as they exited preview screenings.

Some audience members—and a few Christian film critics—would argue that Santa Claus isn't necessarily a stand-in for Jesus Christ. Last month, Lauer told the Mobile Register that he sees The Polar Express as a parable, "not a movie about belief in God." But when Lauer speaks to a Christian audience, he tells a different story. Lauer told HomeWord Radio that when he asked Robert Zemeckis about all the biblical parallels he was seeing in the film, the director "winked and said, 'Nothing in a movie this big ends up in the script by accident.' " (Zemeckis was traveling and wasn't available for comment.)

This is a spectacular example of getting the pertinent details of the story right and yet completely missing the point. In another piece, the understatement of “Santa Claus isn't necessarily a stand-in for Jesus Christ” would be sharply comic but Sarno seems to be completely oblivious to the joke.

I know we overuse the clip of the minister gunning down Santa in the middle of a children's sermon, but it illustrates an important point.

Over the past few years the evangelical movement has abandoned the majority of its most deeply held theological beliefs (think of how doctrinal differences with Catholics and, even more notably, Mormons have been put aside). It is not at all coincidental the beliefs that were abandoned were uniformly inconvenient from a political standpoint. The conservative movement has both weaponized and secularized the evangelical movement with remarkable success.

Traditionally, evangelicals were more concerned with the potential corruption of their own religion (frequently to the point of paranoia) than with what others were practicing. Christmas was a particularly hot-button issue. In the eyes of several good Southern Baptist ministers, the holiday had become unacceptably commercial, cultural rather than religious, and, in many ways, pagan. Most of the music, imagery, and traditions had nothing to do with the nativity, the "reason for the season." Often, this general hostility toward secular Christmas celebrations focused on Santa Claus.

Like many religious practices, the no-Santa rule could look a bit silly when viewed from the outside, but there's nothing unreasonable about adherents of a particular faith wanting to maintain what they see as the original meaning of a religious holiday. Growing up, I found these attitudes and the little lectures that often accompanied them painfully annoying, but, even though I disagreed, I could see where they were coming from from a theological standpoint.

Now, evangelicalism is a religious movement stripped of its religious elements. There is no scriptural foundation for tax cuts for the rich, deregulating greenhouse gases, or Donald Trump, but those are the defining issue of the movement of today.

Of course, evangelicals are not monolithic. There are many within the movement, some in positions of authority, who object to these obvious deviations from their original core principles. There are indications that the resistance is gaining momentum, and it is entirely possible that in a few years we will have to rethink our assumptions about evangelical Christians and politics. For now, though, this is a cultural (social reactionary) and political (far right) movement, not a religious one, and trying to think of it in any terms that these is misguided.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Forget about faithless electors for a moment; it's the faithful we might need to watch.

I have extremely mixed emotions about "faithless elector" push. I see it as a distraction, it is very probably doomed to fail, and there is a "two wrongs make a right" feeling about the whole thing (just imagine how we would react if the situation were reversed).

My take on this (which has, if anything, been sharpened by recent events) is that we have been negligent about both maintaining the democratic process and protecting it from its opponents. I am more interested in fixing that process for the long-term than in changing the immediate outcome. As of next year, two of our last three presidents will have come into office losing the popular vote. Thanks to gerrymandering, the House has not represented the democratic will of the people for years. The Republicans decision to trash Constitutional norms and long-standing traditions has had a analogous affect on the judiciary. And none of this takes into account the blatant voter suppression efforts of the past few years.

At best, the faithless elector talk might serve as an effective protest against these anti-democratic efforts; at worst, it will simply drain the oxygen from the debate.

On a more personal note there are damned few people out there who are looking to me for normative statements. I've been doing a lot of reflecting as the election, thinking about the role of a statistics blogger in this whole mess. How do we make sure that we are adding value and not simply increasing the noise? One way is for each of us to ask him or herself what unique contributions we bring to the table. If we are all just trying to get our opinions on the record, we might as well all go over to Twitter.

Particularly for a statistics blogger, I believe personal experience and special knowledge can be extraordinarily useful. The combination of an analytic background and an informed perspective can go a long way toward bringing fresh insights and spotting potential problems in conventional arguments. There are few things more valuable for a statistician than having a good sense of what groups should or should not be aggregated and what relationships should or should not be treated as stable.

In my case, that experience includes growing up in the Bible Belt and spending pretty much all of my formative years arguing with fundamentalists. That has given me a strong feel for how evangelicals think. It has also made me more alert to the tremendous, in some cases cataclysmic, changes that have taken place in the movement over the past few years.

The current configuration of the evangelical movement is unstable. Just to be clear, I am not saying that we are about to see a radical shift toward either liberalism or toward the distrust of politics historically associated with groups like the Southern Baptists. When I am saying is that there are great tensions in the movement, that Trump has heightened those tensions, and that while we may not see huge changes in the way we think about religion and politics over the next few years, it would be foolish to rule out the possibility.

Steven Porter writing for the Christian Science Monitor:

A Texas Republican announced over the weekend that he plans to resign his post as a member of the Electoral College rather than cast a ballot for US President-elect Donald Trump, a man he deems "not biblically qualified for office."

Citing his Christian religion and his understanding of representative democracy, Art Sisneros wrote in a blog post that he could neither vote for Mr. Trump nor break his promise to do so by voting for anyone else. Texas does not require its 38 electors to vote in accordance with the state's presidential election results, but Mr. Sisneros says he made a pledge to the Texas GOP that his vote next month in Austin would follow the will of the general public.

"The reality is Trump will be our President, no matter what my decision is," Sisneros wrote. "Since I can’t in good conscience vote for Donald Trump, and yet have sinfully made a pledge that I would, the best option I see at this time is to resign my position as an Elector."

Sisneros spells out his position in more detail here and here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Terrestrial superstation blogging – – Luken

There are a lot of over the air television stations available in Los Angeles. The last time I helped someone set up an antenna, we were able to pull in 170. Now, most of these are probably channels that you would never watch. English is the language of the plurality but not the majority. Quite a few (though possibly less than you might expect) are shopping channels and their are a few duplicates, stations that appear to or three times on multiple points of the dial.

As the familiar disclaimer reads, individual user experiences may vary. The number and reliability of the channels you will receive is primarily dependent on your location, quality of your antenna, and whether or not you are in the position to put it up on the roof. In some places, you can pull in well over 100 channels with a $.99 pair of rabbit ears. For most parts of town, you'll probably need to spring for a $30 amplified indoor antenna (or hook your TV up to and unamplified outdoor antenna if it still up there after all these years). If you happen to be deep in a canyon or on the wrong side of a mountain (which happens quite a bit around here) you might want to spend the $50-$100 for a good external amplified model.

Personally, I have found you hit a point of diminishing returns somewhere in the middle, and I have never spent more than 35 bucks for a set up.

Even with the best of setups, however, there are still likely to be a few low-powered channels that you never seem to pick up. These LPT the stations tend to collect the more low-budget entries. As compared with the top end of the spectrum exemplified by Weigel Broadcasting and the major studio affiliated channels that prominently feature older but still A-list material like M*A*S*H or Columbo or films from notable directors such as John Ford, Billy Wilder, or Mel Brooks, the poverty row stations generally rely on public domain material, justly forgotten bottom-of-the-catalog shows (such as the Barkleys), and a great deal of Canadian television.

Weigel is the undisputed King of the top end of the spectrum; Luken Broadcasting is arguably the king of poverty row (sort of like a modern day Monogram Studios). With Weigel you get something like NYPD Blue. With Luken, it's more likely to be Police Surgeon (if you were a serious television buff, you'd have heard of this one, but not in a good way).

Luken's networks are filled with absolutely the cheapest programming possible, but they do deserve credit for some real innovation, particularly when it comes to new themes for terrestrial superstations. In addition to Retro TV (a poor man's MeTV), Luken offers a family channel, and outdoors channel, a country music channel, and a gearhead channel. I don't believe I can pick up any of these channels and, even if I could, I probably wouldn't spend much time watching them (though I will admit to a morbid curiosity about whether police surgeon is as bad as everyone says), but it is good that they are out there somewhere.

As we have mentioned many times before, 21st century media has serious monopoly and monopsony issues. Putting aside YouTube for the moment (though that to brings up monopoly and monopsony issues), both content providers and consumers have to rely on a tiny group of major media and telecommunication companies, companies that are both ethically challenged and badly run. Over-the-air television offers an invaluable alternative, a way for independent companies to get stations direct to consumers, and it gives consumers a low or no cost media option.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The myth of orthogonality

One of the factors that contributed to the punched-in-the-gut feeling that so many people had immediately after the election was the seeming orthogonality of the data.

I'm using orthogonal in the broad rather than technical sense here (though I suspect both might apply) meaning to bring new information into the model. It wasn't just that the poll aggregators (with the partial exception of the outlier 538) were all telling us that the outcome was almost certain; we were also hearing exactly the same thing from pretty much everyone else, sources which supposedly had access to different information and were using a variety of approaches. A partial list included prediction markets, expert analyses, pseudo-exit polls (Slate's ill-fated, badly-thought-out Votcastr), and (from what we can infer) the consensus opinions within the campaigns themselves. All of these converged on exactly the same, completely wrong conclusion.

It is likely to take a great deal of hard work and deep digging to uncover exactly what went wrong here, but we can make some educated guesses:

The other data sources were never all that orthogonal (and possibly never all that good). For instance, even under ideal circumstances the predictive power of the markets was always overstated and overhyped, and presidential elections are nowhere near ideal circumstances.

To make matters worse, whatever orthogonality these other sources once brought to the table had faded to nothing by the time we got to this election. Between their early successes and the ludicrous amount of attention they received, the poll aggregators' predictions increasingly dominated conventional wisdom and became the only input (direct or indirect) that mattered for all the other “independent” sources of information.

I suspect that we reached the point where (if you'll forgive a clumsy phrase) prediction markets and the rest were anti-orthogonal. By providing the illusion of independent confirmation of the flawed polling data and likely voter models, they actually made it more difficult to bring new information in the system. It is entirely possible that better informed (or at least less misinformed) voters might have acted very differently, which suggests that the consequences of this particular failure may have been high indeed.

Friday, November 25, 2016

It's not what you'd call a pretty sound...

... but I'd still like to hear one in person.


[Serious blogging to resume after the holidays.]

Thursday, November 24, 2016

"As God as my witness..." is my second favorite Thanksgiving episode line [Repost]

If you watch this and you could swear you remember Johnny and Mr. Carlson discussing Pink Floyd, you're not imagining things. Hulu uses the DVD edit which cuts out almost all of the copyrighted music. .

As for my favorite line, it comes from the Buffy episode "Pangs" and it requires a bit of a set up (which is a pain because it makes it next to impossible to work into a conversation).

Buffy's luckless friend Xander had accidentally violated a native American grave yard and, in addition to freeing a vengeful spirit, was been cursed with all of the diseases Europeans brought to the Americas.

Spike: I just can't take all this mamby-pamby boo-hooing about the bloody Indians.
Willow: Uh, the preferred term is...
Spike: You won. All right? You came in and you killed them and you took their land. That's what conquering nations do. It's what Caesar did, and he's not goin' around saying, "I came, I conquered, I felt really bad about it." The history of the world is not people making friends. You had better weapons, and you massacred them. End of story.
Buffy: Well, I think the Spaniards actually did a lot of - Not that I don't like Spaniards.
Spike: Listen to you. How you gonna fight anyone with that attitude?
Willow: We don't wanna fight anyone.
Buffy: I just wanna have Thanksgiving.
Spike: Heh heh. Yeah... Good luck.
Willow: Well, if we could talk to him...
Spike: You exterminated his race. What could you possibly say that would make him feel better? It's kill or be killed here. Take your bloody pick.
Xander: Maybe it's the syphilis talking, but, some of that made sense.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

This is Joseph

I hadn't been thinking about density like this, but here is a good point about LA:
LA suffers from the too-dense-but-not-quite-dense-enough problem (overall it's a very dense city, but with a kind of uniform density that is a bit difficult from a transportation perspective). 
I have generally hold that density is a pure good for transit, but it seems obvious that "destinations" would make things work a lot better than thousands of point to point connections.  The former (New York density) seems to make transit look super efficient.  But if you are relatively dense everywhere, that almost makes a cab/uber style of transit look efficient. 

In anticipation

Thanksgiving, 1905 from the incomparable Windsor McCay

from Mippyville.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Another entry in the Annals of Bad Ideas

This is Joseph

From Slate:
An anonymous elector told Politico that the House election that would result from a Trump Electoral College defeat “would immediately blow up into a political firestorm in the U.S." and be a positive step toward galvanizing the public’s support for ditching the college. Another, former Democratic National Committee Vice Chairwoman Polly Baca, said she’d prefer that the Electoral College return to the model outlined by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers and become an independent body informed but not governed by actual vote tallies.
I am especially surprised by the second suggestion here: just how does this help the problem?  You still have a potential difference between the popular vote and the electoral college.  But now the college can go completely rogue and decide the election.  How do we know that this version of the college, with what sound like unbound electors, will improve transparency.  The problem that people seem to worry about is the discordance between the electoral college and the popular vote -- how does this help? 

As for the first, the electoral college is currently in the constitution of the United States.  Last time I looked, it would take staggering levels of public support to pass a constitutional amendment.  Especially since any such amendment would obviously disadvantage whichever major party draws lots of support from rural and low population states.  I like the general idea of reforming this system, but I am unclear if continuing to destroy the norms of governance is going to be a good plan.

One may want to have them around at some point. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

One more for the lexicon: Curse of the First Model

This applies to a wide range of contexts, but, just to get the conversation started, let's say you're doing targeted marketing. You can come up with a fantastic mailing model, one that improves on the previous one in every conceivable way – – better response even if you mail somewhat deeper, more stable, and using data that are more reliable, cheaper, easier to work with – – and yet you will still get, at best, a lukewarm response from the executives. Invariably, you will be told something like this, "that's nice but we got so much more lift from the first model."

The trouble is that the improvement you see going from model to better model is almost always underwhelming compared to the improvement you see going from nothing to model. This curse can badly distort reputations and often leads to a kind of super Peter Principle where people are promoted to a level one step higher than their perceived level of competence which is much higher than their actual level of competence.

Friday, November 18, 2016

And no, we are not going to talk about the movie version

I have a pet theory that you can get some of the best insights into a period, not from the serious novels and plays of the era, but from good, successful popular art. You can learn a lot about a group by studying the stories that connected with them. You can also see how those people change over time

Case in point, in the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, it was remarkably easy to find Soviet bogeymen in movies and television. By the mid 60s, sympathetic and even lovable Russian characters were commonplace in movies and television. Think the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Chekov from Star Trek and many others.

Even James Bond changed with the times. In the 50s, he battled SMERSH, a fictionalized version of a real Soviet organization combined with elements of the KGB. In the 60s it was SPECTRE, a cartoonish terrorist network with a propensity for playing East against West.

I originally assumed that the change in attitude was a reaction to the Cuban Missile Crisis, but the more I look, the more it seems the shift started earlier.

Which takes us to Matt Helm. Donald Hamilton's Helm wasn't just the American answer to James Bond; he was the Fawcett Gold Medal answer. A contemporary of Travis McGee and part of a tradition that stretched back to the film noirs of the 40s and the pulps of the 20s and 30s. As Anthony Boucher pointed out, Hamilton brought the sensibility of Hammett to the novels. Helm was as unsentimental and clear-eyed as the Continental Op.

This exchange from the 1960 novel the Wrecking Crew illustrates that sensibility, and you'll notice that the tough-mindedness extends to the political as well. Helm doesn't claim to be fighting on the side of the angels nor does he demonize his opponent. Instead he explicitly equates his role and motives with those of the man he was sent to kill.

Donald Hamilton wasn't John LeCarre and this isn't The Spy who Came in from the Cold. The Helm novels are meant to be fast-moving adventure novels with great mass appeal. That makes the lack of jingoism all the more interesting.

Page 107

"If you got other orders," she said, "would you really – –"

I said irritably, "let's not go into the morality lecture, honey. I've heard it before."

"But it doesn't make sense!" She cried with sudden vigor. "You're a… an intelligent person. You're even kind of… kind of nice at times. And still you'd hunt down the human being like… like…" She drew a long breath. "Don't you realize that if this man Caselius is so evil and dangerous that he must be removed, there are other ways, legal ways… Can't you see that I resorting to violence, you just bring yourself down to his level, the level of the animals? Even if you should win that way, it wouldn't mean anything!"

There was a change in her attitude that puzzled me, a kind of honest indignation that was incongruous and disconcerting under the circumstances. A day earlier, a few hours earlier, I have spent some time trying to figure it out, but it was too late now.

There comes a time in every operation when the wheels are turning, the die is cast, the cards are dealt, if you please, and you got to go on as planned and hope for the best. I can name you names, too many of them, of men I've known – – and women, two – – who died because some last-minute piece of information made them try to pull a switcheroo after the ball had been snapped and the back field was in motion. When that point comes, to scramble the similes even further, you just take the phone off the hook and walk away from it. You don't want to hear what the guy at the other end of the line has to say. You've done your best, you've learned everything possible in the time at your disposal, and you don't want anymore dope on any part of the situation, because it's too late and you can't do anything about it, anyway.

I said, "That's kind of a funny speech from you, Lou. It seems to be kind of a set speech in these parts. Sarah Lundgren – – I think you've heard the name – – made it to, a few minutes before your Caselius put a nice accurate burst from a machine pistol into her face and chest."

I made an impatient gesture. "What the hell makes everybody feel so damn superior to this fellow Caselius? As far as I can make out, he's a bright, ruthless guy working like hell for his country, just like I'm a bright, ruthless guy working like hell for mine. His country doesn't happen to like my country. He's responsible for the deaths of a couple of people I'd rather have seen keep on living. I even got some sentimental objections to his methods. Therefore it's not going to grieve me deeply if I get orders to go ahead and make the touch.

"But as far as feeling superior to the guy, nuts! I'm perfectly happy to be on his level, doll. It's the level of a tough, intelligent, courageous man who could probably make a better living selling automobiles or insurance or whatever they sell in Russia, but who prefers to serve his country in the front lines, such as they are today. I don't hate him. I don't despise him. I don't look down upon him, as everybody else seems to, from some kind of a higher moral plane. I'm just prepared to kill him when and if I get the instructions to do so, whether it means anything or not. Meanwhile, I'd like to find out who he is."

Thursday, November 17, 2016

With all this talk of moon bases and Mars missions

The unique conditions of the Post-war Era, tremendous optimism and prosperity balanced by Cold War anxiety got us to the moon. Space enthusiasts tend to overstate the part that the first element played and to overestimate the inspirational impact of the space race – the initiative was always controversial – but inspiration did play a role. Understanding that excitement is an important part of understanding what came next

The idea that conquest of the heavens was not just possible but eminent was greatly furthered by this...

From Wikipedia:
Man Will Conquer Space Soon! was the title of a famous series of 1950s magazine articles in Collier's detailing Wernher von Braun's plans for manned spaceflight. Edited by Cornelius Ryan, the individual articles were authored by such space notables of the time as Willy Ley, Fred Lawrence Whipple, Dr. Joseph Kaplan, Dr. Heinz Haber, and von Braun. The articles were illustrated with paintings and drawings by Chesley Bonestell, Fred Freeman, and Rolf Klep, some of the finest magazine illustrators of the time.

For more, check this out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016 " Why Hollywood Can Lose Billions & Still Make Terrible Movies"

One of these days we ought to do a deep dive into dysfunctional corporate decision-making, but for now I think the missing piece in the explanation of the green-lighting of seemingly doomed projects is the asymmetric risk associated with conventional versus unconventional decisions.

When everyone else is doing something, even when it is something that has failed badly and consistently in the past, you probably won't lose your job for doing the same thing. While your mother may not have been impressed by the "everybody else was doing it" defense, it is generally good enough to satisfy a Board of Directors.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Terrestrial superstation blogging – – MGM's the Works

[The over-the-air television industry continues to show remarkably strong and steady growth both in revenue and in number of stations (the last time I rescanned my television, I found well over 100). Press coverage has grown too, but at a far, far slower rate. The cynic in me might point to this as yet another data point in the argument that 21st-century reporters are only interested in stories that focus on the top quartile of the income distribution and have massive PR budgets behind them. Whatever the reason, there is remarkably little being written on the subject, so I thought it would be a good idea to do an occasional series of posts introducing some of the players.]

From Wikipedia:
The Works is an American digital broadcast television network that is owned by the MGM Television division of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.   …  Through its ownership by MGM, The Works is a sister network to This TV, a joint venture between MGM and Tribune Broadcasting which also focuses on films and classic television series from the 1950s to the 1990s and carries programming from The Works' corporate cousin MGM Television.

Compared to most studio--affiliated terrestrial superstations, the programming here is a bit of a hodgepodge, ranging from old movies to stand-up comedy shows to the odd sporting event like the Home Run Derby to HuffPost Live. This does not necessarily have to be a bad thing if the people running the channel know what they're doing, but no one at The Works appears to have put any thought whatsoever into pulling together the various strands. Nor has there been any apparent effort to come up with interesting and distinctive branding ideas.

The Works is also not at all insomniac friendly. While most of its peers program 24/7 (NBC/Universal's trainwreck COZItv -- which, for some reason, throws in a couple of hours of paid programming a day -- being the most notable exception), the Works runs late-night infomercials. I feel this is almost always penny-wise and pound-foolish. Late nights are a great time to build viewer loyalty, reinforce your brand, and just play around. To take an example from the world of cable, look at Cartoon Network and Adult Swim.

I do, however, have a couple of very nice things to say about the channel, One general and one specific.
Like all terrestrial superstations, MGM's the works is a good thing. For starters, you don't have to pay for it. More importantly(And this is the part I really, really like), you don't have to pay a cable company for it. I know I'm not alone in my feelings toward cable providers, phone companies, and satellite services. All of these industries have horrible reputations and long records of despicable business practices. This pattern of bad behavior is largely the result of operating mostly under monopoly or near-monopoly conditions. Even with the internet, you still have to deal with many of the same providers. For the moment, over-the-air television represents by far the healthiest competitive force in the field of live TV.

The second reason is specific to the Works. As you probably know, virtually every major piece of  popular art you can think of that is still under copyright is owned by a tiny handful of major players. Most of those companies appear to own or be in a relationship with at least one terrestrial superstation and these stations have been aggressively mining their owners' libraries. Furthermore, many of these stations are either operated by Weigel or modeled after their channels. As a result we have a lot of smart people who know what they're looking for digging through a fantastically rich collection of material.

Someone at the Works must've realized that MGM currently holds a great collection of major and minor gems of British cinema from the 30s through the 70s. A given week is likely to have multiple showings of something vintage from the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, David lean, or Noel Coward. There are also lots of not necessarily good, but interesting and hard-to-find films like Richard Lester's unique surrealist black comedy the Bed-sitting Room or First a Girl (the English remake of the German film Viktor und Viktoria which was in turn later remade by Blake Edwards as a vehicle for his wife Julie Andrews). I even saw a very nice print of Alfred Hitchcock's 1927 film the Lodger, nicely restored with an original soundtrack and tinting of selected done, I assume, to match the original.