Numlock News: April 27, 2022 • Times Square, Oil, The Northman
By Walt Hickey
Daily pedestrian counts in New York’s Times Square are up to 290,442 per day in April, well above the 133,778 averaged last April but still much less than the 375,224 people who visited the neighborhood in April of 2019. That area’s industry — unlicensed character photography, cheap plastic souvenir models of buildings in better neighborhoods, hustling, the Margaritaville hotel, greasepainted Statues of Liberty, most of the American phone case resale industry, rat husbandry, TGI Fridays, The Walt Disney Store, people who yell outside of Good Morning America, Sbarro, and trucks that say they sell marijuana but legally cannot — relies on foot traffic. That absence of hundreds of thousands of out-of-town marks, schmucks and rubes has had a devastating impact on the hard-working scammers and legally-not-Elmo cosplayers who make the heart of this city what it is. City leaders want to add more hotels and even a casino to the neighborhood, but only because they have better lobbyists than the International Brotherhood of Scammy Breakdancers Union Local 920 or the Alliance of Midtown Pornographic Film Exhibitors do.
Ukraine produces most of the world’s supply of sunflower seed oil, and the invasion has caused the price of sunflower oil to spike 73 percent from last September to this March, to $2,844 per metric ton. This has led to a surge in demand for other exporters of vegetable oil to plug the gap, and it’s causing major supply problems in places like Indonesia, which accounted for 55.1 percent of the world’s palm oil exports and exports 30 million tons of vegetable oil a year. Because of the demand for that palm oil from abroad, it’s driven food prices up a whole lot domestically, and on Friday the president of Indonesia announced a temporary ban on palm oil exports until it’s “abundant and affordable” in the local market. This is poised to send shockwaves through the global supply chain for an ingredient that’s become used in all sorts of consumer goods.
Feed the Meter
In 2008, Chicago sold the rights to manage the city’s parking meters for the next 75 years to a group called Chicago Parking Meters LLC for $1.15 billion up front. The LLC is backed mainly by Morgan Stanley, and the privatization deal turns out to have been a terrible one for the city: Already, the investors made a $500 million profit, and there are still another 61 years left in the contract. As a result, Chicago drivers pay the second-highest parking rates of the entire country behind only New York, a city built on expensive parking since the moment a Dutchman decided to charge 5 guilders for Broad Way stabling. The deal gets even worse for Chicago, as the city actually has to pay the LLC every time it wants to take meters out of service for a parade or street fair, meaning that in 2020 the taxpayers actually had to pay $6.2 million to use their own streets for not-parking.
A new survey of Americans found that for the most part the only thing people can agree should be a major factor in college admissions is high school grades, which 61 percent think should be a major factor and 32 percent think should be a minor factor in admissions. Standardized test scores are on the outs, with only 39 percent thinking they should still be a major factor in admissions, followed by community service (19 percent) and being a first-generation college student (18 percent). And while 75 percent of people think that “whether a relative attended the school” should not be a factor in college admissions, still 5 percent of people think that legacy status should be a major factor in whether someone gets into a college, a portion of respondents presumably named something like Steve Harvard, Aloysius Princeton III, Blake Vanderbilt and Jessica Rhode Island School of Design.
Even after coal mines close, they will leak methane into the atmosphere for decades. When coal is dug out of the earth, methane gets released, and so ideally when mines are sealed the plug also comes with a pipe for methane exhaust that often can be filtered and pumped directly into the natural gas network. However, not all mines are so securely ameliorated: The thousands of coal mines that have shut down in the past decade are responsible for 9 percent of global methane emissions according to the EPA, and new evidence is emerging that that may in fact be an underestimate. For instance, one single coal mine in Australia emits 20 percent of the country’s methane emissions.
The Northman, a reinterpretation of the Hamlet story set among Vikings from director Robert Eggers, made $12 million in North America upon release last weekend and another $11.5 million from 41 international markets, a solid showing for an independent film from a rising auteur. The issue is that the movie wasn’t budgeted like an independent film from a rising auteur, instead carrying a $70 million budget after accounting for tax incentives. This may be an issue, as experts project the film will probably make $30 million to $40 million over the course of its theatrical run, substantially lower than the $140 million to $200 million it needs to generate worldwide to make back its budget and advertising costs. That’s a tough result for the budding multiverse of William Shakespeare Cinematic Universe content, especially after West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet), The Tragedy of Macbeth (Macbeth) and Jackass Forever (all the Falstaff parts of The Henriad) also had muted box offices.
Deliberately messed up, covered or missing license plates have become a huge issue in New York City, with issues meaning that drivers have evaded speeding tickets or red-light tickets 1.5 million times since March 2020. From January 2016 to March 2020, about 1 percent of all the tickets issued from speeding or red-light cameras were unreadable license plates, but serial offenders at some point caught on and as of December 2021 some 4 percent of offending vehicles have plates that are indiscernible. That adds up, as the city has not been able to issue $75 million in fines to the speeders and red light runners, and since they can operate with impunity — adding cameras to an intersection cuts the rate of speeding by 72 percent and red light running by 80 percent — the city’s streets are getting less safe.
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