Thursday, March 29, 2012

Link roundup

1. I love it when characters from Penny Arcade strips are turned into genuine video game characters.

2. Remember that gambler who cleaned out three Atlantic City casinos without counting cards? This fascinating article explains how he did it (a combination of skilled play and (at the very least) negligent casinos). But what kind of man is able to take advantage of casinos?

But even though he has been around the gambling industry for all of his 49 years, Johnson snuck up on Atlantic City. To look at him, over six feet tall and thickly built, you would never guess that he was once a jockey. He grew up tending his uncle’s racehorses in Salem, Oregon, and began riding them competitively at age 15. In his best years as a professional jockey, he was practically skeletal. He stood 6 foot 1 and weighed only 108 pounds. He worked with a physician to keep weight off, fighting his natural growth rate with thyroid medication that amped up his metabolism and subsisting on vitamin supplements. The regimen was so demanding that he eventually had to give it up. His body quickly assumed more normal proportions, and he went to work helping manage racetracks, a career that brought him to Philadelphia when he was about 30. He was hired to manage Philadelphia Park, the track that evolved into the Parx casino, in Bensalem, where he lives today. Johnson was in charge of day-to-day operations, including the betting operation. He started to learn a lot about gambling.
Really interesting article.

3. Long New Yorker article on how pop hits are precision engineered. Here's the origin of Top 40 radio:
Top Forty radio was invented by Todd Storz and Bill Stewart, the operator and program director, respectively, of KOWH, an AM station in Omaha, Nebraska, in the early fifties. Like most music programmers of the day, Storz and Stewart provided a little something for everyone. As Marc Fisher writes in his book “Something in the Air” (2007), “The gospel in radio in those days was that no tune ought to be repeated within twenty-four hours of its broadcast—surely listeners would resent having to hear the same song twice in one day.” The eureka moment, as Ben Fong-Torres describes it in “The Hits Just Keep on Coming” (1998), occurred in a restaurant across from the station, where Storz and Stewart would often wait for Storz’s girlfriend, a waitress, to get off work. They noticed that even though the waitresses listened to the same handful of songs on the jukebox all day long, played by different customers, when the place finally cleared out and the staff had the jukebox to themselves they played the very same songs. The men asked the waitresses to identify the most popular tunes on the jukebox, and they went back to the station and started playing them, in heavy rotation. Ratings soared.
Great article. Via.

4. Sad story about a young fired CIA agent and her Twitter feed.

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