That’s where the juice comes from

Traditional sportsbooks are market makers. They set a betting line—the Cubs will win by two runs or more, for example—to attract a roughly equal number of wagers on each side while keeping a small amount for themselves. DraftKings and competitors start with the same approach, but other techniques they use are controversial and likely to attract regulatory scrutiny if the apps draw tens of millions of new customers, as many analysts expect.

The companies harvest user data to ensure that losing bets outnumber winning ones. This process starts with the companies’ ability, so far permitted by state regulators, to profile customers based on betting histories and limit the size of wagers from those expected to win, much like traditional casinos kicking out sharps from the blackjack table. The apps use internal ratings to target the biggest losers, marshaling online tracking technology in a way that casinos—which once handed out rolls of quarters to entice repeat business—could only have dreamed of. DraftKings and FanDuel hire spokespeople, often retired athletes, to pitch risky multi-leg bets that aren’t likely to pay out. In states where it’s allowed, the ultimate prize is cross-selling sportsbook customers into online casino games. “That’s where the juice comes from,” Adam Kaplan, FanDuel’s general manager and vice president for content until last year, said at an industry conference in New York in April.

from this Bloomberg piece about the DraftKings bar coming to Wrigley Field.


The Open

(Gordon Hatton for Wikipedia)

What with The Open going on I was reading up on The Old Course. Bobby Jones:

After he received the key, he said “I could take out of my life everything but my experiences here in St Andrews and I would still have had a rich and full life.”

I believe that monument you can see in the background commemorates some Protestants who were burnt at the stake.


authenticity / domain expertise

Have been mulling over Paul Graham’s statement here: does this apply to all writing? Think on the compelling novels. Don’t they usually combine authenticity and domain expertise? Even if the domain expertise is gained by a passionate amateur, as in Tom Clancy.

Last terrific novel I read was Elif Batuman’s Either/Or: authenticity and domain (Harvard, literary studies, sexual trauma) expertise? Check and check on that one.

Or here’s John Grisham:

I read a lot of books written by other lawyers–legal thrillers, as they are called–I read them because I enjoy them, also I have to keep an eye on the competition. I can usually tell by page three if the author has actually been in a fight in a courtroom, or whether he’s simply watched too much television.

(Grisham in that speech itemizes three essential elements of voice: clarity, authenticity, and veracity).

Or how about Ellison on Hemingway‘s authenticity and domain expertise:

when he describes something in print, believe him

Somewhere Shelby Foote said that the reason his Ken Burns interviews were compelling was simply that he knew what he was talking about, he’d been thinking, reading, writing about the Civil War for twenty years. (He still got some stuff wrong).

Is it that simple? Is the key to writing just 1) being genuine and 2) knowing what you’re talking about?

Gotta work on this.


How To Be Rich by J. Paul Getty

Couldn’t resist purchasing this handsome volume in the bookstore of the Getty Center (cheers to MLo for the invitation). I like that the title isn’t “How To Get Rich” but “How to BE Rich.”

On page 2 he gives away one of the formulas: have a rich dad!

I’ll report back when I finish the volume. First: Jimmy Buffett’s autobiography.


More on sugar ruination

Reading up on the Pintupi Nine, a band of Australian Aboriginal people who walked out of the desert and encountered white people and their creations for the first time in 1984. More evidence on the power of sugar over the human mind:

McMahon did not want to put the group under any pressure to join the community, but he witnessed the moment they were persuaded. “It was unthinkable that they would stay out there because the modern world was so seductive. One of the fellows suggested, ‘Give them a taste of the sugar and they’ll be in for sure.'”

Indeed, the taste of sugar had a big impact on the Pintupi Nine and it is this aspect of their story which now animates them most. “I tasted the sugar, we didn’t know what it was, but it was so sweet. I tasted the sugar and it tasted so sweet – like the Kulun Kulun flower. My mother tasted it and it was so sweet. It was good,” says Warlimpirrnga.

That was that for bush life.


Checking out the news

That’s over at the Wall Street Journal. Am I supposed to use this information to trade stocks?

Now that one’s tradable. (Imagine being the couple chosen to illustrate this headline!) Observed this phenomenon in Santa Fe, overrun with flush Boomers on Indigenous Peoples Day weekend, threatening the very specialness they were seeking (or was it the other way round?)


East Coast Greenway

I gotta check the ECG out next time I need a three thousand mile stroll. Do we need a West Coast Greenway? (obv). Idgar Sagjedev gets credit for this picture from the American Tobacco Trail segment:


so the caves are the stars?

Christopher Reynolds writing about Pinnacles in the LAT, “Why are so many people heading to California’s newest national park?”


Hello on the Steps of Friendly Greetings

Francis Ford Coppola profiled in GQ by Zach Baron:

But he has made a lot of money: first in the film business and then, spectacularly, in the wine business. His second fortune has allowed him to spend most of his time here now, he said, reading things like the 18th-century Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber, one of the longest books ever written. “They spend their time inventing poetic names for things,” Coppola told me about the characters in the novel. “For example, if I were to say hello to you, I should have met you on the Steps of Friendly Greetings and greeted you there. And when I say goodbye to you, I should take you into the Pavilion of Parting. And it’s the sort of attitude of making everything in life beautiful and a ritual of a kind. And you can do it! I’ll say goodbye to you in the Pavilion of Parting—you’ll never forget it.”


Sentences

Limbaugh, the dominant conservative pundit for three decades, was a dedicated indoorsman, with a physique that celebrated sybaritic contentment.

So says Evan Osnos in a Jan 3 & 10, 2022 New Yorker article about Dan Bongino.

Now that the drama around the CP-KCS merger has finally subsided, the trail market has to occupy itself with more mundane issues, such as the forward trajectory of coal loadings.

so says David Nahass in his Financial Edge column in the Dec 2021 Railway Age.


Think, think, think

And there were calls to two of the “damn smart men” who had given Jack Kennedy the brilliant concepts and the brilliant words that Johnson admired. “You’re going to have to do some heavy thinking for me,” he said to Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg. “I want you to be thinking about what I ought to do … I want you to think … just think in capital letters, and think, think, think. And then – then talk to me tomorrow or the next day.

Pulled down my copy of Caro to check some details on Johnson’s November, 1963 Texas trip (I thought he’d been at the Driskill Hotel in Austin on the night of Nov. 21; incorrect, although the hotel did play a key role in Johnson’s life). Was struck by this demand. Imagine the new president of the United States calling you and demanding you “think, think, think.” (Side note: the notion of a totally apolitical Supreme Court doesn’t seem to have been the accepted wisdom in those days).

A theme of Caro’s work on Johnson is that the Senate is almost designed not to work:

The inefficiency of Congress was nothing new, of course – the only period since the Civil War that the pattern had been broken in the Senate, the principal logjam, was the six years of Lyndon Johnson’s leadership.

Caro even blunter about this in Working, which is a handy cheat guide to Caro’s work:

Not getting stuff through the Senate is nothing new!


John Madden

He had the ability to

describe what was going on and have fun doing it

So said somebody in the Madden documentary, All Madden, streaming on Peacock.

if you even heard his voice in the distance that was a TV to run to.

so said Joe Buck. I hear him in my head saying “Ace is the place.” What a positive, pleasing public figure. The way my cousins laughed at the eight turkey leg turducken! (how much can I trust a memory of a Thanksgiving that might be 30+ years old?)

The rare gift to just be a human being enjoying other human beings, talking to them in an easy way.


2021 flying away

I guess it’s going to Qatar


Didion on Hollywood/gambling

The place makes everyone a gambler. Its spirit is speedy, obsessive, immaterial. The action itself is the art form, and is described in aesthetic terms: “A very imaginative deal,” they say, or, “He writes the most creative deals in the business.” There is in Hollywood, as in all cultures in which gambling is the central activity, a lowered sexual energy, an inability to devote more than token attention to the preoccupations of the society outside. The action is everything, more consuming than sex, more immediate than politics; more important always than the acquisition of money, which is never, for the gambler, the true point of the exercise.

I think about this one all the time. Source. Nobody was tougher on “critics.”

To recognize that the picture is but the by-product of the action is to make rather more arduous the task of maintaining one’s self-image as (Kauffmann’s own job definition) “a critic of new works.” Making judgments on films is in many ways so peculiarly vaporous an occupation that the only question is why, beyond the obvious opportunities for a few lecture fees and a little careerism at a dispiritingly self-limiting level, anyone does it in the first place.

and:

Perhaps the difficulty of knowing who made which choices in a picture makes this airiness so expedient that it eventually infects any writer who makes a career of reviewing; perhaps the initial error is in making a career of it. Reviewing motion pictures, like reviewing new cars, may or may not be a useful consumer service (since people respond to a lighted screen in a dark room in the same secret and powerfully irrational way they respond to most sensory stimuli, I tend to think most of it beside the point, but never mind that); the review of pictures has been, as well, a traditional diversion for writers whose actual work is somewhere else. Some 400 mornings spent at press screenings in the late 1930s were, for Graham Greene, an “escape,” a way of life “adopted quite voluntarily from a sense of fun.” Perhaps it is only when one inflates this sense of fun into (Kauffmann again) “a continuing relation with an art” that one passes so headily beyond the reality principle.


Platt National Park

Recently I had occasion to road trip from Austin, TX to Kansas City, MO, so I got out this 1974 National Geographic map to look for any interesting sites along the route. This map was preserved in a family map collection from a time when maps were rare and precious.

This caught my eye:

A national park I’d never heard of?

Turns out, Platt National Park lost its NP designation and was relegated to be part of Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

“It’s really different from the other national parks because it doesn’t have this grand scenery,” says Heidi Hohmann, a professor of landscape architecture at Iowa State University. She says Platt always struggled to stand out at the national level. Platt was the smallest national park. It had streams but no raging rivers. It had hills but no majestic mountains. And most of what you see today isn’t natural. During the New Deal, the Civilian Conservation Corps planted hundreds of thousands of trees and shrubs, carved trails and piped spring water to pavilions. Even the bison herd was transplanted.

Platt thrived in the 1950s as war-weary Americans flocked to leisure activities like boating and camping. But the conservation movement in the 1960s saw a push for more inspiring wilderness. In 1976, Platt was demoted. It was combined with a nearby reservoir and rebranded the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

from “In Oklahoma, A National Park That Got Demoted” by Joe Wertz for All Things Considered. Some Oklahomans I spoke with wondered if the the demotion may have been part of a larger reorganization of federal lands in that area, as Native people reclaimed more autonomy and control over public land management in eastern Oklahoma.

The park is quite nice, even late in the afternoon in the dead of winter, but I’d say if we’re being honest it’s more on the county or regional park level. It’d be a generous selection as even a state park.

The nearby town of Sulphur really does smell like sulphur.

I’d say superior sites of interest in Oklahoma for the casual tourist are the Oklahoma City Stockyards (cattle auctions Monday and Tuesday starting ~9am, Monday said to be better, on our particular Monday they were going through 15,000 head)

and the Golden Driller of Tulsa.


The Myth of Santa Fe: Creating a Modern Regional Tradition by Chris Wilson

Santa Fe is old. Founded in 1610, Santa Fe is older than Boston, older than Plymouth, older than any town in New England, older than any still-existing town in Virginia, older than Williamsburg, Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans. Quebec City is only two years older.

Santa Fe was laid out on the prinicples of the Laws of the Indes.

The Laws codified seventy years of Spanish town planning experience in the Americas and drew from a variety of European sources, Roman and Renaissance planning theory from Vitruvius to Alberti, monastic complexes and military encampments, and the siege towns built during the reconquest of Spain from the Moors.

Santa Fe is almost medieval, laid out (like Los Angeles) according to the Laws in a place “in an elevated and healthful location; with means of fortification; fertile soil with plenty of land for farming and pasturage; have fuel, timber and resources; fresh water, a native population.” It’s still has fresh water running right through it, it’s in an elevated and healthful location, timber and resources, a native population. It has the feel of being old, it’s small, it’s at a high, almost intoxicating altitude, it’s surrounded by forest and mountains, it’s charming and special. But in 2021, real estate is incredibly expensive, the buying of second homes is a huge force in the city. Is Santa Fe becoming a tourist attraction of itself? Is there the authentic still there? What even counts as authentic? How does this happen to a city?

This book The Myth of Santa Fe was for sale in Albuquerque, which struck me as funny, since I’d never seen it in Santa Fe. Comical to sell a book about how your rival city is a myth.

The New Deal populists of the 1930s sought to balance the myth of Santa Fe between the economic necessity of tourism and the use of its symbols to promote more broadly conceived social objectives such as public education and local economic self-sufficiency. Progressive regionalism peaked again in the early 1970s, with the counterculture and the Chicano and environmental movements.

But in the 1980s, this balance tilted almost completely toward the manipulation of the myth as a tourism marketing image. Simultaneously Ronald Reagan led a reallocation of resources from social programs to the military and from the lower and middle classes to the wealthy. Some of those with conspicuous new wealth were attracted to the city by the upsurge of international publicity that projected Santa Fe as a Tahiti in the desert, bathed in rosy sunsets, and elevated it (or reduced it, depending on your point of view) to a chic style of interior design and a world-class tourist destination.

The book is great, it functions as an informative and readable history of the city, as well as a catalogue of cultural shifts in self-understanding, belief, feelings towards that history which took form in architecture. Here’s a great summary of the book from 99% Invisible. Roughly the story told is how Santa Fe tried to be not Santa Fe, then stopped not being Santa Fe and switched to being more Santa Fe than ever (or at least an idea of Santa Fe, which may or may not have ever been the “real” Santa Fe) maybe to the point that it became so “Santa Fe” it risks not being Santa Fe any longer.

What is authentic, really?


Technical Analysis

Picking up the morning racing paper like Hemingway, I spot an interesting* item:

* interesting to maybe four or five people? Seth Klarman is a famed value investor and billionaire, author of Margin of Safety, a used copy of which will run you upwards of $800, or you can go to the Central Branch of the LA Public Library and read it for free. Apparently he’s been in the horse game for some time with a not too shabby record.

Asked how much different investing in a thoroughbred is to investing in a stock, mutual fund or company, Klarman said, “In my regular life, I’m a long-term investor, so we make patient, long-term investments on behalf of our clients. This is gambling, this is a risky undertaking. This is not at all like what I do the rest of my life, but it does provide one of the highest levels of excitement that a person can have.”

source for that

I put out the word to a few people I thought might be interested:

I’ve kept the correspondent here anonymous but trust me when I tell you: I believe he is being genuine!

My examination leads me to believe there is no “margin of safety” wagering on this horse, your safest bet in my opinion might be 10, Closing Remarks, to show, but where’s the fun in that? Analysts seem to think Aidan O’Brien can turn around Empress Josephine after just a week’s race – he’s done it before – but I dunno, I’d be tired!

Update: Technical Analysis came in 2nd, so if you’d made a “margin of safety” place or show bet, you would’ve done well: $2 to place paid $4.20, $2 to show paid $3.80. Seth Klarman, teaching us even through horses!


most boring job in the world?

Did The Sopranos glamorise mob life? “If you think that was glamour, you need a psychiatrist! It’s the most boring job in the world — sitting round reading the racing form all day.”

Steven Van Zandt talking to Financial Times. When I first watched Sopranos, I was absolutely drawn to Tony’s lifestyle, of just sort of driving around all day, accepting snacks. Further viewings and a deeper consideration of my character and the burdens make me think I wouldn’t trade gigs with Tony, but still, something appealing.

Also of interest:

Then David Chase approached him to play the lead in The Sopranos. At that stage, “it was a completely different show . . . a live-action Simpsons”, Chase has said. In the end, HBO vetoed someone with no acting experience as protagonist, but Chase incorporated Van Zandt into the show as Dante, a character the guitarist had himself created in a treatment for an earlier project.

FT can’t help but editorialize:

He mixes shrewd political judgment (in April, four months before the fall of Kabul, he tweeted that the US leaving Afghanistan was “a huge mistake”) with left-field ideas (such as mandatory martial-arts training for girls from kindergarten age to reduce sexual assaults).

Left-field doesn’t mean bad, FT!


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.     


Race track scenes

Trained down to Del Mar to see last year’s Kentucky Derby winner* Medina Spirit race against Rock Your World, who beat him at the Santa Anita Derby. Although there were other horses in the field, the story here was the match race between these two. At stake, in addition to the $100,000, was the integrity of Medina Spirit and trainer Bob Baffert, since the horse tested positive for the steroid betamethasone after the Derby.

The great race tracks of southern California were both built during the 1930s, when horse racing as a spectator sport was at peak popularity.

On August 12, 1938, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club hosted a $25,000 winner-take-all match race between Charles S. Howard’s Seabiscuit and the Binglin Stable’s colt, Ligaroti. In an era when horse racing ranked second in popularity with Americans to Major League Baseball, the match race was much written and talked about and was the first nationwide broadcast of a Thoroughbred race by NBC radio. In the race, Seabiscuit was ridden by jockey George Woolf and Ligaroti by Noel Richardson. In front of a record crowd that helped make the fledgling Del Mar race track a success, Seabiscuit won by a nose.

Horse racing as a sport, historical artifact, aesthetic, distraction, subject for a stylized form of writing, and opportunity for pondering how the brain turns a combination of near-randomness and excessive information into narratives has a strong appeal.

Cheers to Mac McBride and his team for letting me into the press room. A true gentleman.

Good company.

I’ve never had anyone criticize the quality of the writing on Helytimes, though they sometimes disagreed with me or noted a piece of sloppy copyediting. I did once however get a complaint about the quality of my photography. It’s true, I don’t think I have any particular talent for photography, but I do think I have a gift for being in the right place.

After an objection in the race was resolved with no changes to the results, there was a guy down at the rail screaming “YES! YES! YES!” Although he had just received good news, the intensity of his relief suggested he’d probably wagered more than is wise on the outcome of three year old animals running around a track. A visit to the racetrack will invariably turn up both intriguing and appealing characters as well as cautionary tales.

Outcome of the race:

You know who was good at horse racing scenes? Jack Yeats:

source