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LEPORELLO’S LIST in Mozart’s Don Giovanni got me thinking about other lists of people. Who are they? How did they get on the list? This clearly calls for some research, in areas as varied as game theory, quantum physics, cryptography and opera.
In game theory and quantum physics, Person A often interacts with Person B (sometimes in the world of quanta from afar). It’s not uncommon in cryptography to have an eavesdropper as well. The trio of Alice, Bob and Eve are among those on a list of familiar participants.
Here, Alice and Bob engage in an example of public-key cryptography. He composes a message, encodes it with a public key, and transmits the coded version to Alice. Having the same public key, she decodes it. Eavesdropper Eve is a passive attacker. Whereas she can listen to the transmission, she’s not able to modify it.
Other possible participants are part of an expanding cryptographic list: There’s Mallory, a malicious attacker, who can change messages. Oscar is an opponent who’s not necessarily malicious; Faith is a trusted advisor. Pat and Vanna are a prover and verifier, respectively, named for Pat Sajak and Vanna White of Wheel of Fortune fame.
Another example of lists, a grand one, is the infinitely expandable list of Ko-Ko, Lord High Executioner in The Mikado, Gilbert and Sullivan’s sendup of their Victorian England wrapped in Japanese garb.
The executioner recognizes he’ll never be out of work as he sings, “I’ve got a little list. I’ve got a little list./Of society offenders who might well be under ground./And who never would be missed—who never would be missed!”
In Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1885 version, his list ends with “… apologetic statesmen of a compromising kind,/Such as–What d’ye call him–Thing’em-bob, and likewise–Never-mind/And ‘St–‘st–‘st–and What’s-his-name, and also You-know-who–/The task of filling up the blanks I’d rather leave to you.”
Ko-Ko portrayers have been filling in the blanks for years—with delight. There’s a wonderful theatrical tradition of Ko-Ko updating his list to poke fun at one thing and another.
Here are several of my favorites updates: “There’s the waiter with the piercings, who can put you off your food/Debaters on the radio who specialize in rude.”
“And skinny folks who exercise and tell you that you’re fat/And women with humongous boobs when one time they were flat.”
Last, “And those angry TV talking heads who rant like Captain Blye./Except, of course, the thoughtful ones who think like you and I.”
Now there’s a fine little list for me. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2015