Numlock News: December 19, 2023 • Anime, UFC, Direct Air Capture
By Walt Hickey
If you forgot to order a gift and you need one quick, have I got an idea for you.
A new study of garter snakes (Thamnophis butleri) found that they are social creatures, forming groups within communities of snakes that like hanging out with each other. The study tracked over 3,000 individual snakes in a 250-hectare study area over 12 years in Windsor, Canada, and found that the snakes don’t in fact wander around aimlessly but rather do so in the vicinity of an often reliable community of fellow snakes. The average group was of three to four snakes, but some reached 46 snakes in size. So now when you hear someone describe their job as “a total freaking snake pit” you know that it’s a place where everybody has lots and lots of friends!
The Association of Japanese Animations has reported the annual number for the size of the anime market in 2022, reporting that the market for anime has hit ¥2.9277 trillion ($20.56 billion). That is an increase of 6.8 percent compared to 2021, and a record high for the industry. Indeed, the market is now 2.67 times the size of what it was in 2002, and has very nearly doubled in size since 2013. What’s most remarkable is that as it stands, the size of the overseas market remains approximately the same size as the domestic Japanese market: Japan accounted for ¥1.47 trillion, and the foreign market accounted for ¥1.46 trillion. For years, the domestic market dwarfed the overseas market, but beginning in 2015 demand for anime from outside of Japan has rapidly caught up to local demand, coming at a critical time for a market where the overall consumer population is in decline.
The Transportation Department has issued the largest ever consumer protection violation fine in the history of the department against Southwest Airlines over their phenomenally botched 2022 holiday season that left millions stranded throughout the country. The airline has been ordered to pay a $140 million civil penalty as part of a consent order. The fiasco centered around a winter storm that forced Southwest to cancel 16,900 flights and left 2 million people in the lurch in December.
Merchandise tie-ins have become a standard strategy for films attempting to make money back on their budget, and historically this has been a pretty easy conceit for movies featuring the character Willy Wonka. Literally, Warner Bros. sold the rights to sell “Wonka” chocolates to Quaker Oats in order to help finance the movie they made adapting the Roald Dahl book in 1971, leading to the introduction of bona fide Wonka Bars in 1976. That was eventually sold to Nestlé in the ‘80s, and when the 2005 film came out they once again became mildly popular before being phased out in 2018. So obviously with America consumed by Wonka fever, there’s a candy bar you can buy, right? Nope! Ferrero Group decided not to make candy under the Wonka name for this flick. Best we can do is some Wonka-licensed Kinder Surprise eggs, gummies, a pair of $200 giraffe-style glasses, and a $220 Wonka-themed Fossil watch that’s basically Cartier on the outside, Chalamet on the inside. This makes sense, as nothing screams “independent, creator-driven passion project without a merch cash-in” like re-upping the Wonka I.P.
Increasingly countries are making carbon removal a major part of their climate strategies, and that’s got some of the people who were the original advocates for pursuing carbon removal slightly skittish. The process was seen as an ideal way to accelerate removal of carbon from the atmosphere in addition to a robust strategy phasing out new emissions of carbon dioxide, and to attach to carbon-intensive industries like chemical production and cement to prevent their emissions from making it into the atmosphere. Instead, some in government are touting it as more of a Hail Mary that allows for continued burning of fossil fuels without much abatement. This is despite the fact that there are only 27 direct air capture plants actually in operation, which contribute a small volume of removal.
Self-checkout is here to stay, but the social contract around that continues to evolve, with some shoppers suggesting that they ought to get a discount to reflect the labor they’re helping to offset. As it stands, 96 percent of retailers offer self-checkout, and as of 2021 self-checkout was 30 percent of transactions. Retailers have been adjusting the composition of their checkout lanes, adding and subtracting self-checkouts, to try to get an optimal balance of efficiency, speed, and compensation, and there’s no silver bullet yet. The number of people who work as cashiers dropped from 1.4 million in 2019 to 1.2 million today, and over the next decade the BLS projects an additional 10 percent decline.
Unauthorized digital streams of pay-per-view products have long been a bête noire of the entertainment industry, and various different sectors of it — movie studios, television networks, sports leagues — have variously throughout history stood up to serve as the frontman of the effort to contain pirates. The UFC is the next organization to take up the mantle of chief pirate hunter, and the organization claims that it sent an average of 1,173 livestream takedown requests per pay-per-view event between January 2022 and November 2023. They report that 26 percent of pirated livestreams are able to stay up for longer than an hour, and given the whack-a-mole nature of enforcement and imprecise nature of content detection, that’s not enough to stop bootleg streams.
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