Thursday, November 22, 2007

supporting the second favourite

As my natural inclination seems to be to support the second favourite in Everything, it makes me wonder whether this is a successful strategy in terms of return on investment.

Take betting: if you bet on the favourite you get the worst odds but you will win most often. If you bet on outsiders you get a few spectacular successes but mostly no return at all. Perhaps the second favourite gives the best cost benefit ratio. I suspect that a lot of effort by statisticians has gone into this.

My guess is it is psychological cost benefit rather than straight forward numbers. If you support the favourite you get most victories but they are expected and therefore the euphoria is minimal, more like smug satisfaction at proving the status of favourite was correct. By contrast the defeats are devastating as they undermine the position of favourite. This explains why managers and fans of the favourites are the biggest whingers about unfair conditions, refereeing, cheating by the opposition etc. They seek to explain how a favourite has not won.

Some would opt therefore to support rank outsiders, which is fine because every little victory is worth a lot. But the endless defeats must get wearing.

Now the second favourite: when you win it is still against the odds but it happens relatively often. It's still painful when you lose, but this doesn't happen much more often than with the favourite. There is a particular satisfaction at beating the favourite who has more support, money, status, i.e. has everything going for it.

I would have to confess to being a pathological second favourite supporter in all things in life (it is not a conscious decision any more than being attracted to somebody - it's inbuilt - whether nature or nurture is an interesting debatable point)

Saturday, November 17, 2007


One of my favourite comedy scenes is in the film version of Porridge. It involves Fletcher's exploitation of the naivity of the new warden and the theft of most of his bicycle in the kitchen. It is perfectly set up with all the ingredients introduced in an understated way (helped by the lack of any background music or laughter) during the build up and executed with an almost off-hand casualness by the cast: Fletcher's muttered "Shame" when McKay enters the room, Godber's backing away before the curry powder is poured and then quietly sinking McKay's hat with the ladle. It's like comedy unplugged, the viewer is drawn into intimacy with the situation and the characters like they are really there and it becomes funny because it is 'real'. You had to be there and you were.

blade runner is such a unique and impressive film because it represents the points at which the careers of those involved took off. harrison ford took the disgruntled maverick from starwars and added a depth and soul which turned a cartoon character into something far more interesting. ridley scott took the foreboding and suspense (not to mention lack of light) from alien and applied it with more subtlety and used the sci-fi hardware as backdrop to a human story without letting it overwhelm the personalities. rutger hauer is a scene stealer merely by his appearance but pulling off the tormented psychopath searching for and destroying his creator is a heroic feat requiring supreme confidence to avoid becoming a hackneyed frankenstein monster. Even the haunting music by vangelis is exceptional. the storyline deals with huge issues of what it is to be human which are usually delivered by captain kirk with full orchestra but somehow it is still cool - has become cult - and injects humour just when it is in danger of getting too introspective.

xmas lists


latest pratchett (making money)


books to read - 2nd hand, used, charity shop & carboot welcome (you can never have too many)

spanish beginners tape

saucer for used t-bags

big jar for muesli