The fight we wanted, but not really

Mayweather is undefeated over his career and is the top pound-for-pound boxer in the world, according subjective sources such as Ring Magazine and computer ratings such as those found at boxing database site BoxRec.com. Pacquiao ranks third on both lists, but it’s a distant third. By BoxRec’s ratings — which are constructed according to a philosophy similar to the Elo ratings we use to rank NFL teams — the difference between No. 1 Mayweather and No. 3 Pacquiao (680 rating points) is the same as the difference between Pacquiao and No. 29 Kubrat Pulev.

For fighters at the level of Mayweather and Pacquiao, a 680-point difference translates to a lopsided matchup. Using the careers of fighters in BoxRec’s current pound-for-pound top 25, for instance, cases in which one boxer had a pre-fight rating advantage between 550 and 800 points saw the favorite win 30 times in 33 tries, good for a 91 percent success rate. (If you want a second opinion, the boxing simulation program Title Bout forecasts a Mayweather win about 70 percent of the time.)

So, if nothing changes between now and the May 2 date Mayweather suggested for his bout with Pacquiao, it’s unlikely the battle will live up to the hype.

Neil Paine on why the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight that looks like it will finally happen is years too late.

No doubt, anyone who knows anything about boxing knows Mayweather is one of the most skilled boxers of all-time, with historically great defense, speed, and tactical acumen. But it's also true that he has rarely stepped into the ring with fighters at the peak of their powers, challengers that threatened him in any real way. Some of that isn't his fault; you can only fight the contenders available to you at any point in time, and at points in his career that list was a sorry lineup. However, Mayweather has also “ducked” some of the best contenders when they were at their primes, only agreeing to fights with them either when they were too green or on the down slope. That's also a form of good defense, though not the ones the fans wanted to see. It reflects in the eye test, too. Mayweather has almost always been a PPV buy that many boxing fans have regretted because his fights are often dull marathons of dominant defense peppered with occasional precision scoring on offense.

Look at the BoxRec.com ratings for Mayweather and each of his opponents before and after each of the fights in his career: rarely has he been threatened, and the few occasions he was out-rated going into a fight were anomalous, like 2009 fight against Juan Manuel Marquez when his rating was low from a near two year layoff.

Mayweather likely retires with a perfect record, something that seems to mean as much to him as money, but in the heyday of boxing, we had the acknowledged greatest fighters of their day, like Ali and Frazier, confronting each other repeatedly, and those fights still hold court in boxing fans' memories in a way that no Mayweather fight ever will.

Cowboy Bebop

Alex Suskind with an appreciation of Cowboy Bebop, now on Blu-ray.

Set in 2071, Bebop imagines a dystopian future where earth has been irrevocably damaged due to the creation of a “stargate,” forcing humans to evacuate the planet and create colonies across the solar system. The result is a galaxy of lawlessness, where crime lords rule and cops pay bounty hunters (often referred to as cowboys) to handle some of the grunt work. People drink in dive bars. Income inequality is terrible. Everyone speaks like they’re background extras in Chinatown. The show ultimately features so many cross-ranging influences and nods to other famous works it’s almost impossible to keep track. It’s Sergio Leone in a spacesuit. It’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with automatic weapons.

This confluence of cultures is what’s helped the show sustain influence over the last decade-plus. Countless filmmakers, animators, musicians—they’ve all been drawn into the orbit of Watanabe’s space-age cowboy western. Take Quentin Tarantino. The animated sequence from his 2003 film Kill Bill Vol. 1 is straight Bebop, with blood gushing out of each wound like an infinite geyser. There’s also filmmaker and future Star Wars spin-off director Rian Johnson, whose cult 2005 thriller Brick takes a good chunk of inspiration from the Japanese series, with its snappy, noir-friendly dialogue and overall sense of dread. Other famous fans of the series include the late Robin Williams, as well as science-fiction author Orson Scott Card, who wrote an essay in 2011 praising Bebop, comparing to another critically acclaimed space Western, Joss Whedon’s Firefly. (Indeed, both series have strong female characters, a melting pot of cultures, and killer soundtracks.)

It's perhaps my favorite anime series of all time, and any time someone mentions that they like Firefly, I tell them to check out Cowboy Bebop, which is, IMHO, far superior.

When I first started watching the series, I had to purchase DVDs from other regions off of eBay and play them on a region-free DVD player, that's how much I craved new installments. Kids these days don't realize how easy they have it when it comes to binge-watching (my first experience binge-watching was tracking down the first two seasons of the X-Files; I posted a request to a newsgroup and found some saint who accepted a box of blank VHS tapes from me, dubbed every episode of the first two seasons, labeling each tape with titles and episode numbers, and mailed the whole lot back to me. If only I had kept those tapes. If I could reconnect with that guy, I would send him a bottle of bourbon or something.)

Why read (and reread)

Emphasis mine:

But how had I come to believe in this idea in the first place? A combination of my own experience and other things I'd read. None of which I could at that moment remember! And eventually I'd forget that Hilbert had confirmed it too. But my increased belief in the importance of this idea would remain something I'd learned from this book, even after I'd forgotten I'd learned it.

Reading and experience train your model of the world. And even if you forget the experience or what you read, its effect on your model of the world persists. Your mind is like a compiled program you've lost the source of. It works, but you don't know why.

...

For example, reading and experience are usually "compiled" at the time they happen, using the state of your brain at that time. The same book would get compiled differently at different points in your life. Which means it is very much worth reading important books multiple times. I always used to feel some misgivings about rereading books. I unconsciously lumped reading together with work like carpentry, where having to do something again is a sign you did it wrong the first time. Whereas now the phrase "already read" seems almost ill-formed.

From Paul Graham

For a period of a few years, I stopped reading Graham, or perhaps he wasn't writing as much, I'm not sure which. But recently he's been on some kind of streak.

The Knight of Cups

That's the title of Terrence Malick's next movie, and here's the trailer.

Of course I will rush out to see this at the earliest possible date, but it is amusing how easy it would be, at this point, to make a spoof Malick trailer. I'm surprised no aspiring editor out there has recut some other movie's trailer into a Malick-style trailer, complete with the soaring, lyrical classical music score and whispered voice-over.

The ghost of Long John Silver

Sarah Baird writes of the visual dissonance of seeing new businesses moving into old fast food restaurant spaces in New Orleans.

Lately I’ve been seeking out these puzzles in architectural form throughout New Orleans, where I live, and where numerous new, often independent businesses are popping up inside the shells of old fast food chains. Each time I enter a car rental office, a new Chinese restaurant, or a pharmacy that used to be a fast food restaurant, I find myself unable to shake its familiar ambiance no matter how different the new business may be. Just like I struggled to say ‘yellow’ when a word was written in orange, I stand inside a Taco Bell-turned-Enterprise longing to order a crunch wrap supreme instead of negotiate the price of my economy sedan. It’s cognitive dissonance at its finest.

This deeply rooted attachment to the form and function of fast food chains is, of course, no accident. These companies were early adopters of architectural branding — the process of creating easily recognizable, distinctive buildings that reflect a brand’s “personality” and attract customers through a variety of spatial and lighting techniques. The brick and mortar stylings of drive-thru restaurants — from the golden arches on McDonald’s to the chuckwagon shape of the first Roy Roger’s — are seared not only into our personal memories, but the collective public consciousness.

Once a Taco Bell, now “the city's premiere Korean restaurant”

I experience similar momentary cognitive dissonance when I see a blog that has borrowed a more famous blog's well-known template, something especially common with Tumblr and Wordpress.

Chelsea Peretti: One of the Greats

Jonah Peretti is doing some great things at Buzzed, but his sister Chelsea ended 2014 strong too with this brilliant standup special for Netflix. I saw her perform as an opener for Sarah Silverman a few times at the Largo in Los Angeles when I lived there. She was good then, but this act showcases her after some level ups.

I think all the talk of House of Cards being based on proprietary Netflix viewing habit data is vastly overblown, but I do wonder if all the standup Netflix has funded is based on empirical proof of the repeat viewability of standup comedy (not to mention its relative low cost versus a TV series.

When is everyday low pricing the right tactic?

When stores like Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, and Costco began their rapid expansion in the 1990s, supermarkets were thrown for a loop. The limited service, thinner assortments, and “everyday low pricing” of items in these “supercenters” — including foodstuffs — created enormous cost savings and increased credibility with consumers. What was a Safeway or a Stop & Shop to do in the face of such brutal competition?

A new paper from Stanford GSB looks at the strategic pricing decisions made by grocery firms during that period in response to the shock to their local market positions by the entry of Wal-Mart. The paper answers the age-old question in the supermarket industry: Is “everyday low pricing” (EDLP) better than promotional (PROMO) pricing that attempts to attract consumers through periodic sales on specific items? Investigators find that while EDLP has lower fixed costs, PROMO results in higher revenues — which is why it is the preferred marketing strategy of many stores.

The research is also the first to provide econometric evidence that repositioning firms’ marketing approaches can be quite costly. Switching from PROMO to EDLP is six times more expensive than migrating the other way around — which explains why supermarkets did not shift en masse to an “everyday low pricing” format as predicted when Wal-Mart entered the game.

From this article from Stanford's GSB. Ex-Apple exec Ron Johnson can attest to the switching costs of going from EDLP to PROMO pricing; it cost him his job at J. C. Penney.

I'm a Costco regular, but I'll buy groceries at Safeway or other grocery stores sometimes just because or geographic convenience and longer shopping hours. If you have proprietary products, that also allows you to sidestep, to some extent, the EDLP war of attrition.

For commodity products, however, the more retail moves online, the less tenable it is for stores to rely on the sheer convenience of physical store proximity to bypass the EDLP game. The paper above looked at the entry of Wal-Mart, but of course the modern day successor to Wal-Mart as an e-commerce gorilla is Amazon. If you are selling the same commodities as Amazon, it's a brutal game, especially as the eventual customer expectation will likely be same-day delivery AND every day low prices for most retail goods. In that scenario, the findings of the researchers above would not hold.