if I ever have to direct a movie of one of Cormac McCarthy’s books

or really any movie with significant horse action, I’m going to try to copy the way the shadows work around 1:22 in last year’s Breeders Cup Turf.

This is an interesting race. The favorite was Magical, shipped from Ireland, trained by Aidan O’Brien. The Irish are great trainers of turf horses, going back long before Stewball. Local Louisville boy Brad Cox had Arklow. Tarnawa, also from Ireland, was a four year old filly* – a girl racing against boys, past the age when females are usually still able to compete with their brothers. Channel Maker had run this race three times, finishing twelfth, eleventh, and seventh and was coming in strong.

*when exactly a filly becomes a mare is not a subject I’m prepared to opine on.


Games

When the US Congress put forward a bill in 1969 suggesting that cigarette advertisements be banned from television, people expected American tobacco companies to be furious. After all, this was an industry that had spent over $300 million promoting their products the previous year… So, what did they choose to do? Pretty much nothing.

Far from hurting tobacco companies’ profits, the ban actually worked in the companies’ favor. For years the firms had been trapped in an absurd game. Television advertising had little effect on whether people smoked, which in theory made it a waste of money. If the firms had all got together and stopped their promotions, profits would almost certainly have increased. However, ads did have an impact on which brand people smoked. So, if all the firms stopped their publicity, and one of them started advertising again, that company would steal customers from all the others.

Whatever their competitors did, it was always best for a firm to advertise. By doing so, it would either take market share from companies that didn’t promote their products or avoid losing customers to firms that did. Although everyone would save money by cooperating, each individual firm would always benefit by advertising, which meant all the companies inevitably ended up in the same position, putting out advertisements to hinder the other firms. Economists refer to such a situation – where each person is making the best decision possible given the choices made by others – as a “Nash equilibrium.”

… Congress finally banned tobacco ads from television in January 1971. One year later, the total spent on cigarette advertising had fallen by over 25 percent. Yet tobacco revenues held steady. Thanks to the government, the equilibrium had been broken.

That is from The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling by Adam Kucharski, a very readable book full of insights. It’s mostly about cases of physicists and mathematicians who have “beaten” (more often found slight edges) in roulette, poker, horse race betting, and sports gambling.

Kucharski is Sir Henry Dale Fellow in the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Now there’s a job!


guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office

He says Doc, you gotta help me.  I’m in a funk. I was shaken by witnessing the compounding drought and fire catastrophe across California.  The very forest is unhealthy, the trees are shriveled and dead, there is fire on an almost unfathomable scale and there’s more to come.  The streets of the hollowed out towns are full of twitchy, upsetting people in distress, scary to encounter and no doubt themselves caught up in a living nightmare.  In my own home town, there are ragged tent encampments all over the place, it makes your heart sink to see them, things are not going in the right direction.


Doc says go on.  

Not only that, the guy says, but my wonderful mom just died.  She was brave about it but she had so much more living to do.  Now the voice that meant love to me since I was born is gone forever, it’s a hole, a rip in the fabric that will never be repaired.


Doc says uh-huh.

Human relations seem warped, the guy says, maybe permanently.  Everyone’s beaten down and disoriented by interacting through screens.  I hear defeat in the voices of people I once knew to be great boosters and enthusiasts.  “Meetings” feel like some elaborate form of pretend no one has the energy for anymore.  “What are we even doing?” is like a mantra, I keep hearing it. There’s alienation and directionless anger everywhere.  


Right, says the Doc, I see. 


I don’t want to be a Whiny Winston, Doc. In many ways I’m absurdly blessed, returning to gratitude is always a good idea. It’s not my nature to be a downer. Ever since I was a kid the people I love have relied on me for cheer and laughter and uplift.  But honesty is important too. I look around, and what I see everywhere is dis-ease.  I don’t know what to do, I don’t know where to turn.  


Doc says, you’re in luck.  I’ve got the solution.  There’s this great blog called Helytimes.  The guy who runs it wrote all these funny books and worked on these funny TV shows, he has a couple funny podcasts, he’s terrific.  On the blog he finds wonderful art and interesting stories, the funny, the strange, the curious, just the other day he had one about Sienese painting, it was great.  You’re gonna love it.  It’ll cheer you right up to know there’s a guy like this out there.  


Guy says, ok, thanks Doc, I’ll check it out.     


same

“The country is grouchy and wants someone to tell them when normal comes back,” said Chad Rogers, a Conservative adviser and founding partner at Crestview Strategy.

from this Bloomberg piece on Canada’s election, “Trudeau Has 12 Days to Salvage His Career After Election Blunder,” by Theophilis Argitis. The blunder was calling an election at all, hoping to consolidate in the wake of a “successful” pandemic. That didn’t work. I wouldn’t want to be a prettyboy politician at the moment, Newsom or Trudeau, it’s not the mood.

If you’re an American and you haven’t seen Erin O’Toole yet, then first picture “Erin O’Toole” and then look up a picture of the Conservative leader.