pseudopodium
. . . Microsoft

. . .

In production from MSNBC and Disney: Turner in the Rye, or Gone with the Windows. Reporting for duty are Martin Mull as Ted, Ernest Borgnine as Rupert, and lovable "Jane-Bo" courtesy of Pixar Animation Studios.

. . .

Last Saturday, a friend told me about Microsoft interviewing techniques. Least annoying sample question: "If you're using base negative two, how do you distinguish between odd and even integers?" Well, there's nothing like an arrogant geek for making really user-hostile interfaces, which explains the state of most Microsoft products. But now we have a different mystery: Why is that all Microsoft products are not equally crummy? (IE5, for example, is the best Web browser since Mosaic.)

The answer is temps. It seems that Microsoft doesn't subject temps to such "high hiring standards," thus opening a slim possibility for the accomplishment of useful work. To avoid rocking the arrogant geek boat, these temps are not judged by their performance ("We've set a hard rule: 364 days and these people are out. I don't care if they are rebuilding Windows 2000 by themselves, they are not going to work in this company."), and so Microsoft can be assured that they won't drain much needed funds away from, say, three of the world's five richest people.

. . .

Headlines for a New Society: Hackers due to release new computer bug to allow takeover of Microsoft computers

Sounds like the Microsoft press releases are getting more straightforward....

. . .

To Err Is Human; To Give Up, Divine: Good riddance. I was a lot sorrier to see the Mosaic name go.

Ah, memories, in the coroner of my mind.... Throwing Internet development into the Dark Ages by deciding to dictate new "standards" by whim was antisocial enough. But then came the Doughboy's astonishing claim that his (or NCSA's, who's counting?) browser was going to become an honest-to-gosh operating system and wipe Microsoft out. Oh right, I spouted off at the time, a cross-platform operating system that's going to fit without any problems in application space on top of another operating system (which in turn was on top of a third operating system, in the case of MS Windows).... It's exactly the kind of plan you'd expect from an arrogant college goop dropped straight from campus to boardroom.

And it worked exactly as well as you'd expect, too. As a business move, it brought Microsoft down hard on the browser market. As an engineering move, it turned the Netscape application into a breakdown-prone resource-tapeworm. And as for Andreessen's grander ambitions -- surprise! -- Microsoft's engineers had an easier time integrating with an existing operating system than Netscape's engineers had creating and layering a new one.

It did, however, shift enormous piles of money to those responsible for the debacle, thus helping to reorient software engineers' definition of "success" to match their CEOs': the timely manipulation of market gullibility.

Too bad Gates & Co. decided to keep IE5 single-platform; thank goodness they were dumb enough to get into legal trouble by using high-pressure monopolistic tactics to push an application which would be quite capable of walking on its own. And my very best wishes go to Opera and iCab.

. . .

Continuing his series of commentaries on Election Year '00, here's Henry Adams with some thoughts about the Microsoft antitrust trial:

"The merits or demerits of the particular interest, -- what Roosevelt calls the good and bad trusts, -- concern particular districts or individuals; but this personal question surrenders the principle; nor can I see, as our society has now fixed itself, any loop-hole of escape. The suggestion that these great corporate organisms, which now perform all the vital functions of our social life, should behave themselves decently, gives away our contention that they have no right to exist. Nor am I prepared to admit that more decency can be attained through a legislature made up of similar people exercising similar illegal powers.

"As long as these people subject me, as person and property, to the arbitrary brutalities of the Custom House Jews in order to make money for private individuals in business, I shall be perfectly willing -- nay! I shall be singularly pleased,-- to see you Spokaners skinned by Jim Hill. None of you dare touch the essential facts. The whole fabric of our society will go to wreck if we really lay hands of reform on our rotten institutions. From top to bottom the whole system is a fraud,-- all of us know it, laborers and capitalists alike,-- and all of us are consenting parties to it.

"All we can hope to do is to teach men manners in wielding power, and I'll bet you ten to one, on the Day of Judgment, that we shall fail."

-- Henry Adams to his brother, September 1900

(Like most turn-of-the-last-century well-to-do non-Jewish Anglo-American intellectuals, Adams uses "Jew" as the catch-all term for anything that he doesn't like about big business, small business, middle European immigrants, bad taste, or urban life. I've never seen him use it to refer to religious practice.)

. . .

pundit.org

"Encapsulation, Inheritance and the Platypus effect" is a not-bad little keep-it-honest rant for programmers, but the author mistakingly blames object-oriented languages for some foundational trip-me-ups of software engineering. He almost says it himself: Object-oriented techniques aren't so much useful because they map the real world, as because they map how software engineers think. I've always done my top-level design in what was later called a "object-oriented" way. Using an object-oriented language just shortens the trip from design to implementation. The better the language, the shorter the trip, which is why I still miss ScriptX.

Having said that, it's always good to be reminded of our besetting sins as software engineers and humans. Premature overgeneralization, for example, which is just Our Gang's variation of humanity-at-large's besetting sin, rushing into categorization. We receive so many internal and external rewards for generalizing and categorizing that we tend to anticipate categories long before we've had enough experience to justify them, and then feel forced to defend our itty-bitty-witties against all enemies (i.e., facts). Thus, our anticipations lead us to ignore the evidence of the real world (and, admittedly, reap the often sizable rewards of ignorance) rather than preparing us for it.

Less philosophically and more engineeringly, the advice to "trust no one" is well-founded. I mean, don't waste time trusting no one, but try not to tie your fate too closely to code you can't examine. On the grossest scale, all inter-group (much less inter-company; viz. ScriptX) projects are doomed; on a smaller one, I'd refuse to use any framework I couldn't modify, particularly after my Microsoft AFC nightmare.

(Removing and adding display elements wasn't thread-safe. OK, that's the horrible unworkable one. But the so-horrible-it-was-funny one was when I did a performance analysis and found a bottleneck at the Microsoft-supplied sorting routine. How hard is it to do a sort in an object-oriented language? There's gotta be pointers, right? I guess it depends on which sub-sub of a sub-sub gets the job, but Microsoft handed it to someone who must not've heard of pointers, and Microsoft never had the code reviewed. Christ. One routine rewritten; three-hundred-to-one speed-up.

Not nearly so bad is the temporary-object-and-synch-locking overhead of Sun's StringTokenizer. But BAD ENOUGH!)

Man. And Christ. Sometimes that English-Philosophy double major looks good.

Until I see what English and Philosophy professors are doing.

. . .

Gosh Darn the Pusher

One of the few things I don't like about MP3-mania is the way that the big software concerns have positioned it as a way to pirate CDs. I mean, what I love about MP3 is that it's a convenient cheap durable way to preserve and play audio that's otherwise available only on inconvenient or not-so-durable media: cassette-only recordings, old 45s and 78s, very out-of-print LPs.... But Real and Microsoft and MP3.com concentrate solely on making it easy for moving CD tracks to the computer, and since CDs are already pretty convenient and durable and are less likely to be out of print, it's hard not to see that as encitement to piracy.

In fact, one of the first free pieces of software that did convert non-CD-audio to MP3 files, BladeEnc, was hassled right out of binary distribution by big business monkeys. Conspiracy theory, anyone?

For alternatives, go to The Sonic Spot and Transferring LPs to CDR. My current toolkit: Wave Repair for recording and LAME for compressing.

. . .

Sticky Fingers

This graphic (via Beth Rust) does for connectivity what Microsoft Outlook has done for love letters, prompting the question: Might David Cronenberg have a future in Bell Canada commercials?

. . .

Innovation alert

IE 5.0 was the best web browser since Mosaic days (in other words since before Netscape, divinely ordained, decided at birth that they wouldn't have to worry about competition, that enemy of innovation), but avoid "upgrading" to IE 5.5. Besides removing plug-in support, Microsoft has given sites the ability to change your browser's home page and bookmarks without permission or notification. Eyewitness report: "You thought popup windows were bad? They're nothing compared to clearing out 20 unwanted links in your favorites and resetting your home page every third time you start IE."

Luckily, you don't need to "upgrade" as long as you remove auto-"upgrading" utilities and you don't install new versions of Microsoft Windows. So don't do it.

Man, remember when Microsoft Word was an OK program? How long ago was that, anyway?

... Well, I reckon that's the PRICE OF INNOVATION!

. . .

I sent this letter before I read about the increasing use of the DMCA as a convenient way to suppress web sites (link via BookNotes) without the bother of legal justification: a particularly clear example of the DMCA stripping rights away from US citizens and draping them around well-padded corporate shoulders.

Dear Senator Feinstein:

In recent news coverage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, I read the following quote from "Howard Gantman, a spokesman for Feinstein": "We need to protect copyrights and this law was designed to do that."

I find this attitude deeply troubling. Copyright was already well-established law, and laws are meant to be enforced, not protected. Human beings need to be defended and protected; laws do not, except in so far as legislators may try to defend a particular law against other legislators in debate.

If there's one common theme to the Bill of Rights, it's the need to protect American citizens from such "preventative" legislation. There's no doubt that police officers and public prosecutors would sometimes more easily enforce the law if those amendments, and other troublesome parts of the Constitution, could be conveniently dropped. But if those provisions did not exist, much too much added power would be gained by the wealthy and politically powerful at the expense of the relatively powerless. Our Constitutional protections help level the legal playing field.

The DMCA is a classic example of the kind of legislation that citizens need protection from:

  • It is based on a presumption by the powerful (large corporations) that the relatively powerless (the individual purchaser) is the guilty party in any dispute.

  • It specially privileges the rights of the wealthy (who can buy into patented encryption and distribution methods) over the rights of the less wealthy human beings who actually do the work of creating what corporate lawyers like to call "intellectual property" but who are unlikely to be able to afford the extra layer of protection.

  • In the name of protecting copyright and preventing piracy, it criminalizes human beings who have never themselves violated copyright or committed piracy.

Public domain and fair use are always under attack by large media companies, but defense of those concepts is absolutely essential to the cultural health and heritage of a nation. Profitability is the only rule that can be followed by a publicly-held corporation, but there are reasons besides profitability for making our culture and history available. (To take an example of special interest to California, much American film history will be forever lost over the next few decades: films deteriorate, inaccessible, in vaults because the multinational corporations which own them do not see sufficient profitability in making them accessible to the public.) Those non-profit-oriented reasons don't have a chance without public domain and fair use.

But the DMCA assumes that the best way to avoid disputes over public domain and fair use is to guarantee absolute power to the large media companies.

There is no requirement that a digitally protected work automatically unprotect itself once its content enters into the public domain.

There is no requirement for fair use workarounds to digital protection. On the contrary, even investigating such a workaround is criminalized.

There is no way for the consumer and scholar to protect themselves against the industry-driven shifts in media technology fashion which seem to take place every decade or so. To take another example from American film history, several of the great early sound movies of Ernst Lubitsch have never been released on VHS tape or on DVD, due to lack of anticipated profitability. They were, however, released briefly in the now-obsolete laserdisk format. Laserdisk players are getting rarer and more expensive, and will someday will be virtually unattainable. Purchasers of the Lubitsch laserdisks -- film schools, for example -- are able to preserve their investment by backing them up to another media format. If those disks had been copy-protected, the movies contained on them would effectively be lost to the public. Similarly, if 78 RPM records could have been copy-protected, there would be little left of the early history of jazz or blues by the time copyright restrictions ran out. Only the most consistently profitable works can survive such technological shifts.

There is no consumer protection against profit-gouging deals between large corporations. An early target of DMCA enforcers was software that allows DVDs to be played on the Linux operating system. Microsoft was able to cut a deal with the relevant media corporations, and thus gain extra leverage against any competitor; Linux, as a free operating system, could not. Should the manufacturer of a copy of a fifty-year-old movie really be given so much influence over the purchaser's home computer setup? Again, the DMCA criminalizes consumer protection.

Defense of our legal rights against the arbitrary rule of the powerful is what we look to our senators and representatives for. I believe that history will judge the DMCA as harshly as McCarthyism and the Alien and Sedition Acts. I urge the Senator to reconsider her support of this unjust and destructive legislation.

Sincerely,
Ray Davis

. . .

"I just wish webloggers (and the general public) were a tenth as upset about this as they seem to be about what the RIAA is doing, The Evil Empire That Is Microsoft (Windows XP, aieeee! Ooga booga!) or the SSSCA. It's not that we shouldn't worry about those three things, just that the USA Act (doublespeak lives) is far more threatening." -- ghost rocket

Blinded by keyhole No hiding place down here

Most of the people I've worked with through the years have shown little interest in social issues; I can't blame the EFF for occasionally pushing the funds-ahoy! issue of privacy any more than I blame the Republican party for targeting NRA members. But privacy laws only defend your freedom so long as no one cares enough about you to make an effort. In that sense, they're as obsolete as the Second Amendment: No handgun is going to protect you against a SWAT team and no PGP is going to protect you from seizure of your hard drives and backups.

We can't truly secure personal information. And that's just as well, since privacy laws are heavily relied upon by those in power -- for example, to prosecute a victim of police brutality who taped his own assault, to cover up election fraud, to launder money, and to hide embarrassingly glaring hypocrisies from voters. Note that video rental records only became legally regulated after a right wing leader was inconvenienced by them. And what makes a h4xor a "terrorist" -- as opposed to just another annoying-as-hell adolescent -- is the kiddie's unhealthy disregard of class lines when invading privacy.

The injustices of the War on Drugs are exacerbated rather than reduced by privacy rules: only those who can buy privacy are protected by the rules. Any security I gain by encrypting anti-administration sentiments is illusory if I can be jailed for anti-administration sentiments. There's no way to guarantee that a personal notebook full of written fantasies will be safe from prying eyes, but we can push for judges and legislators who won't try to criminalize personal notebooks of written fantasies. If the FBI grabs my credit card number, I want the FBI to be held liable for their database leaks; if my boss insists on tracking down my office-dynamiting fantasies, his curiosity should not count as my fireable offense. In short, the fights that matter most to me are not over protection of information, but over what gets done with the information that's collected.

That's not to say that our government fulfills any useful function when it attempts to circumvent or restrict our Fourth Amendment rights, or that habeas corpus should be suspended, or that unmonitored incompetent organizations should be given even greater opportunities to abuse power and misuse funds; nor is it to deny that encryption is to electronic communications as opaque envelopes are to postal services. To imprison and completely isolate someone for a month, making no charge and thus allowing no defense, ruining a life or two or three on little more than a whim, is an innovation well worth protesting. But "Privacy" seems a singularly uninspiring banner under which to rally.

Of course, this is just to say what principles I, personally, would be willing to risk life or (given my druthers) limb for; some people might find "Fair Use" or "Abortion Rights" banners just as dispiriting. My priorities, as previously admitted, are eccentric, and I'm not at all resentful when others prefer to direct their attention to issues like, for instance, starvation and torture.

Unfortunately, those of us who aren't millionaire politicians or professional pundits have to pick and choose our quixotic battles, as enticing as they all are each in their own way. At present there's even less chance of preventing crap like the USA Act than of improving public education and health care. And although moans often escape me involuntarily, I see no point in trying to force them. My friends have enough to put up with as it is.

. . .

Desertation

David Auerbach writes (or rather wrote, eleven days ago -- I gotta improve my turnaround time!)

Your treatment of free will as being subordinate to the predictability issue is justified (there are articles out there maintaining that chaos theory proves the existence of free will), but I think there's some cultural significance to the free will issue that you've overlooked. Free will is mostly used in ethical and political contexts. You say that regardless of your free choice, you'll be held responsible for hitting the lamppost, but I think that's only 2/3 true. Given the 3 canonical reasons for the sentence awaiting you:

  1. Let's use him as an example so people stop hitting lampposts as much.
  2. Let's make sure he never hits lampposts again.
  3. Let's give him what he deserves for hitting that lamppost.
--the first is almost never used as justification except in cases of capital punishment, where it's generally acknowledged as fallacious anyway, the second is more common for petty crime than real crime, leaving the third as the dominant rationale in the justice system today. Which would be fine, except that desert really does rely on some notion of autonomous action, separable from environmental factors, in order not to fall apart. (There's a lot of hand-wringing that can go on here over deserts being assigned within/without a being, but it's all bean-counting.) Agency survives determinism, since it was you what hit the lamppost, but a sentence that doesn't fall into the category of determent doesn't.

(I know I'm taking a Sartre-like position that inconsistency is the worst of all possible sins, but hey, that was always true in the rarefied world of philosophy.)

So, if you follow determinism, people can be assigned responsibility for actions without having any moral desert for what follows from them, and I've never seen a convincing argument linking the two. But introduce free will and the world is suddenly a much fairer place. And it's not just coincidence that

(t1) Paul Allen deserves to have 50 billion dollars.
sounds a lot better than
(t2) Paul Allen should have 50 billion dollars.
People like Robert Nozick have always been careful to couch their moral pronouncements in the first form rather than the second, and with good reason. But it's only with the presumption of some sort of free will that the statements have any meaningful difference.

It's been a few years, but I recall that Rawls uses the same desert principles to defend his social justice system, and I've never understood why, because he doesn't seem to need them. ("The poor deserve to have a decent standard of living" vs. "The poor should have a decent standard of living.", e.g.) Maybe it makes his arguments more palatable to Confucianists.

So my main point of departure from you is that I think there is a very definite use for the concept of free will beyond religion, unfortunately. The best that can be said is that free will is a far more established concept for neocons to pin their hopes on than, say, substantive due process or strict constructionism. You're probably right on the irrelevancy of the concept in classical civilizations, but that's a question for Alasdair MacIntyre to answer.

Work calls, but free will is a nice distraction from matters of importance. (I note the triumphalist tone in that piece clashing nicely with utter despondency in the privacy entry.)

I actually don't hear much about the world being a fair place, so I'll skip that debate.

Only in special circumstances (which I'll get to in a bit) does the notion of "desert" rely on the assumption of free will in the deserver. Instead, "desert" relies on the existence (tacit or explicit) of some disher of deserts, and moreover assumes that the disher has free will. It's meaningless to discuss "what reward or punishment is deserved" if there's no possibility of a rewarder or punisher. Without such an agency, all we have is "what is" or (if you're feeling ambitious) "what is caused."

It's easy for me to say that "Carol Emshwiller's books deserve front page coverage by the New York Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement, and the New York Review of Books" not because I assume that Emshwiller's books have free will, but because it's easy for me to picture the fat-cat top-hatted stogie-chomping editors of those organs free-wilfully derelicting their duties, the cads.

On the other hand, I'm more likely to say that "I wish M. John Harrison's books were bestsellers" or "People should really be doing more to make M. John Harrison's books bestsellers" than to say that "M. John Harrison's books deserve to be bestsellers" (and even less that "M. John Harrison deserves to write bestsellers"), because the birth of a bestseller is far too confusing a process for my pretty little blond head to handle.

And what ho! here's monotheism again! A more general notion of desert (or, as the professors call it, justice) assumes (again, often tacitly) a more general notion of judge: a universal, omniscient, omnipotent, fair, righteous, and free agency. When we say, "I deserve to be happy," that's who we're appealing to; when we say "Those 6000 people didn't deserve to die" (or, conversely, "Those 6000 people deserved to die") that's who we're implicitly arguing with (or explicitly agreeing with). Similarly, when we (or more likely they) say that "Paul Allen deserves fifty billion dollars," they're imaginatively placing themselves in the role of that wise and benevolent deity called the Free (ha ha ha ha!) Market.

Consider instead the human agents of the employee benefits organization CIGNA who decided that Wilson H. Taylor deserved a $1,200,000 salary and a $3,500,000 bonus. It's hard to believe that they cared about Taylor's freedom of will any more than Microsoft cares about its programmers' freedom of will. On the contrary, I imagine that any business would prefer that its employees be as deterministic as possible. What they instead assume is their own right to hand such a large sum of money over to an individual -- and, particularly, to an individual who so resembles themselves.

The apparent justice of such judgments depends on a shared context; that is, ideally on a jury of one's peers (as opposed to a jury of the peerage -- e.g., Bush before the Republican Supreme Court as opposed to you-or-me before the Republican Supreme Court, or Steve Ballmer in front of Microsoft's board as opposed to you-or-me in front of Microsoft's board). When I bomb a building, whether I'm punished or praised depends on what context I share with judge and jury; when I do my job, whether I'm given a million-dollar bonus or laid off depends on the same.

Which finally brings us to the barely visible sliver of human existence in which the notion of "justice" and the notion of "free will" overlap. "Free will" (or "determinism") is experienced more often in introspective recollection than in action -- "It's my own fault" or "I didn't really have a choice" -- and punitive judgment is, very slightly and only after the more essential matter of deciding whether a law has been broken or a party has been injured, a matter of applying that introspective experience to someone else's past conduct. On a jury or on the bench, we assume both an unusual freedom and an unusual weightiness in our decision making, and the closer the miscreant came to our own (extremely rare) state of knowledge and power, the more culpable we consider them. *

Therein inheres the wit of T. P. Uschanov's swinging the deterministic spotlight onto the hidden-but-necessary P.O.V. courtroom characters of judge and jury.

*       Which is putting it awfully idealistically, of course: many judges and juries couldn't care less about that aspect of "justice," and those who could find it much easier to apply these strict standards externally than internally: that is, we blandly assume that the (extremely rare) mindset that we're in at the moment is the same as held in whatever external situation we're considering, and then blandly forget that mindset while going about our quotidian affairs. Thus the honestly self-righteous indignation displayed by those in power when they're declared miscreants, or by daytime talk show audience members who find themselves treated roughly on the talk show stage.

. . .

Whither le Tonsille?

When last heard from, our acquaintance Anselm Dovetonsils was Vaguely Artistic Person in Residence at the Vaguely Arts Centre of Coals-at-Newcastle, Vancouvre.

At least that's when I last heard from him by name. The other day, however, I received this anonymous note which seems to bear his touch. It smells like KFC.

TO MY SECOND GRADE TEACHER. MISS LEE
I swore I'd remember you forever, that last day of class.
I didn't, though.
That is, until just now.

Does that count?

I also suspect he's behind this extensive Anselm Dovetonsils fan site. Because, really, who else would be willing to stand behind something like that? (Cf. The Proctology of Melancholy, all too forthcoming from Routlidge.)

As another indicator, the site's bills aren't being paid. Faced with looming storage costs, the editor has asked me to host a recent submission for him. He tells us:

...the attached email that covered 'All the Boy Arrested' promised me a low mortgage rate, Nigerian oil riches, free MP3s, a credit check, an America free from a meddling judiciary, that my PayPal account number would be fixed, and 100% organic priapic achievement of what might be record, not to say legendary, proportion and duration, if only I would read the enclosed work.

And he forwards a note from the artist:

The illustrations were found by entering the text of the relevant Dovetonsils poem into Microsoft Word's public domain clip art file; the 'most relevant' illustration returned was selected for loving glazing by yours truly.
-- HK.

Behold All the Boy Arrested: Sonnets To and From the Portuguese.

Responses

This Dovetonsiliana just in:

MARTIN MARIETTA
One year no lost
time accident
MY NEW LOVER. CAUTION: CONTENTS VERY HOT! WATCH LID FOR STEAM. STIR FOR SAFETY.

. . .

O Felix Error!

(Written for The Valve)
In whom the dear errata column
Is the best page in all the volume!
Thomas Moore

Establishing the "real meaning" is one goal of the critic's game, but no one achieves a perfect final score, even when they live in the author's time and know the author intimately. (Sociologists estimate that I misunderstand approximately 82% of what I write myself.) Although Blake wasn't referring to the Industrial Revolution, the "dark Satanic mills" we read inevitably reek of coal.

Since it's unavoidable, we might as well celebrate the preservative and generative aspects of literary misinterpretation. Misreading Virgil as a Christian prophet benefitted both Virgil's work and Dante's.

But how about misattribution? What benefits do we gain from that?

Forgery's not nearly as lucrative for English majors as for art students, and so I can only think of one.

Much as Microsoft or Sony won't be content till all content is licensed from Microsoft or Sony, a canon drowns competition through sheer shelf-filling reproduction. Misattribution to a canonical author can carry a work into otherwise inaccessible environments. How likely is it that we'd have good copies of the Song of Solomon or the Revelation of St. John if they hadn't wandered into exactly the wrong place at exactly the wrong time?

In English, Bardolatry promotes misreadings of the Bard and ignorance of everyone else. But, at the cost of their authors' names, some lucky parasites have hitched onto the Swan's belly. I got my first access to the helpfully anonymous "Tom O'Bedlam's Song" that way.

Appropriately, those Bardolators who worship misattribution itself perform the greatest public service. "After God, the Earl of Oxford has created most" looneys distributed copies of George Gascoigne's collection long before the first widely available scholarly edition. Ronald B. McKerrow pretty much established contemporary editorial scruples with his wonderful Works of Thomas Nashe, but it was last in print in 1958, and, on the web, only the Collected DeVere takes up the slack.

Responses

Josh Lukin points out the "felicitous misattribution of the 'St. Anthony Divertimento'":
. . . and could Brahms' "Variations on a Theme by Haydn" have even come into being as "Variations on a Theme by Ignatz Pleyel"?

Thanks, Josh that's an interesting case: a popular melody known only because of Brahms, who knew it only because somebody stuck Haydn's name at the top of the page.

Other recent re-attributions from Haydn involve Haydn's sticking his own name at the top a more ambiguous case than I had in mind. Presumably Haydn saw himself not as a plagiarist but as a guarantor of Genuine Haydn Quality, much as the senior tenured professor subsumes the work of underlings and spouses. In the art world, of course, few successful careers have been single-person operations, much to the confusion of our more naive age.

The literary equivalent has an even more dubious reputation: the factories of "Dumas" or "Nancy Drew" novels, and, on a more intimate scale, the ghostwriters. The late career of "Ellery Queen" is an amiguous case: since the named author is a fictional character, the only thing that makes Sturgeon's, Davidson's, and Vance's volumes more "ghostwritten" is the relative openness of the secret.

And then there's Klaatu....

 

Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.