Numlock News: April 6, 2023 • Emperor, NASCAR, Scoville
By Walt Hickey
Headless Man In Turkish Bronze
The New York District Attorney’s office has confiscated more looted art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Last month the office returned 12 antiquities with an estimated value of $33 million to Turkey, three of which were from the Met, the most significant of which was a $25 million headless bronze statue which is believed to be of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus. The statue dates to the year 225 C.E., and was looted from a shrine in Bubon sometime in the ‘60s.
The fish turbot has been making its way on to New York City menus, which is peculiar for the highly overfished animal that’s caught usually off European coasts in Galicia and Brittany and associated generally with the fine dining of that continent. Indeed, sourcing a wild-caught turbot could cost a restaurant $100 wholesale or higher, which given the punishing economics of that field would require them to list the entrée for two on the order of $300, which is pretty rich for even Manhattan’s blood. Instead, it’s hitting menus for a third to a half of that, and the question is how? The answer is that turbot has become successful in aquatic farms in northern Spain, which grows them year-round and means that they can sell wholesale for $15 per pound, a far more manageable price point that many New York bistros are availing themselves of.
Chipotle was receiving an increased volume of feedback from customers that their Tomatillo-Red Chili Salsa was getting hotter than it had been before, which prompted an investigation by the quick service burrito chain into if there was in fact extra heat entering their chili pepper supply chain and if so, where. A Wall Street Journal-commissioned analysis by Southwest Bio-Labs of salsa samples from Phoenix, Chicago and Washington found significant variation in the heat — measured in Scoville units — in the salsas from different samples, with a range from 2,730 Scoville units to a more difficult to bear 3,420 Scoville units in the sample. Chipotle’s analysis of their chile pepper suppliers — sourced from Mexico, India and other parts of Asia — found that some chiles sourced this season from parts of India were more spicy than typical.
Game of Driver Seats
NASCAR team owners collectively boycotted a quarterly meeting with NASCAR leadership over a kerfuffle over the sport’s business model, which they argue pays track owners considerably more than it pays the racing team owners. The $8.2 billion media rights deal inked prior to the 2015 season splits the money 65 percent to the racetracks, 25 percent to the teams, and 10 percent to NASCAR itself, though there are just two track operators: Speedway Motorsports and, well, NASCAR, which owns most of the tracks on the Cup Series. Team owners don’t like this arrangement, and argue that they have to spend a great deal of time trying to recruit sponsors in order to make their money, saying that sponsorships are 60 percent to 80 percent of the budgets of the 16 chartered teams.
Reyes Beverage Group is the largest beer distributor in America, and last year bought up Capitol Wright Distributing in Texas that brought another 16 million cases of beer onto its books in that state. Texas is singlehandedly responsible for 13 percent of the beer volume in the United States, so it’s a massive market to serve, however March saw Reyes make some significant missteps and left many beers unavailable throughout the Austin area right around St. Patrick’s Day. The sales disruptions appear to have had a major effect; Reyes is the big distributor of Constellation Brands beers like Corona and Modelo Especial. In the week of March 17 nationwide, sales were up 1 percent for these beers week over week. In Texas, sales for Corona were down 12 percent and sales of Modelo Especial were down 10 percent.
Streaming music is the dominant form of music distribution these days, but the potential impact of fake or fraudulent bot-driven streams diverting lots of money are significantly worse than they would be under previous distribution channels. The German Music Industry Association has called for the establishment of a fraud detection system, while France’s Centre National de la Musique carried out a study that found 1 percent to 3 percent of streams in the country in 2021 were fraudulent. That’s a little bit that adds up to a lot: The worldwide music market is valued at $17.5 billion as of last year, so you’re talking $175 million to $525 million in streaming royalties being hijacked annually. Other estimates put the percentage of fake streams way higher — Deezer says it’s something like 7 percent of streams — in which case you’re talking $1 billion in royalties.
This year Major League Baseball rolled out a pitch clock, a rule against infield shifts, and several other rules all designed to reduce the amount of time in a given game, and so far it’s worked magically. The average game in 2022 took 3 hours 8 minutes, but the average game so far this season is downright reasonably 2 hours 38 minutes. The pitch clock significantly cuts the amount of time that batters and pitchers spent setting themselves up and dillydallying between pitches. If this holds, the aggregate amount of time it will take to be an avid baseball fan will decrease significantly: Across a 162-game season, a half hour less per game returns 4,860 minutes back to fans, some 81 hours, time that would be otherwise spent watching a guy not throw a baseball.
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