Numlock News: February 5, 2020 • Parking Tickets, Parasite, Almonds
By Walt Hickey
YouTube plans to spend $100 million over the next three years to fund original children’s programming. This noble gesture — listen, it happened right after the FTC dropped the hammer on them to the tune of $170 million for illegally collecting data about minors — is designed to provide an incentive for creators to make programming for the YouTube Kids app, which has a small audience and more significant restrictions when it comes to advertisements. The company said it’ll fund videos that drive outcomes like “compassion,” “gratitude,” “self-control” and “empathy,” which to me sounds like someone had a Jacob Marley situation where a ghost forced them to look at YouTube comments, really look at them and see what you’ve built. If anyone knows anything about how to make a kids TV show hit me up, that money sounds great and I would love to make Numlock 4 Kids!, a video series for youngsters that teaches kids important life lessons that mostly have to do with MoviePass.
Almonds continue to beguile science, and the finest minds in nutrition still struggle to answer the question of “yo but are almonds good for you.” Almonds used to have 170 calories per serving in them, which was based on an analysis of the number of carbs and fat and protein that were in almonds. But based on some additional research into what was and what wasn’t actually digested, government researchers are revising that figure down to 130 digestible calories per serving. This occurred after researchers gave 18 people meals with and without raw almonds and told them to return daily with urine and stool. Gross, but thank you for your service. Toasting almonds or grinding them increases the number of calories, but the drop in digestible calories means that fans of granola bars with nuts in them actually can shave off a few calories.
Parking tickets can be a critical tool for cities to ensure that streets remain accessible and usable for all citizens by making it financially onerous to be a complete jerk on public asphalt. But it’s worth remembering that such pains don’t apply to the wealthy: a team of contractors renovating a $23 million Washington museum into a residence for Jeff Bezos accumulated $16,840 in parking tickets while working on the property across 564 citations. Given that last week an Amazon stock price jump added $13.2 billion to Bezos’ net worth over the course of 15 minutes, it’s my strong suspicion the incentives here are not exactly going to work out as now written.
A report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that 95 percent of surgical masks used in the United States originated overseas, as well as 70 percent of the more tight-fitting and virus-protecting respirators. From an epidemiological worst-case scenario, this is a bit of a vulnerability. In China, where demand for protective facial masks has spiked, factories are pushing out 20 million masks a day, and it’s still not enough.
The Academy Awards are this weekend, and a strong contender is Bong Joon-ho’s film Parasite, a South Korean feature that had a solid performance in the United States in its limited release. A survey of 2,200 adults found that films in a foreign language remain a hurdle for many Americans, even suffering a negative favorability rating compared to other genres of film. The reason comes down to subtitles: 54 percent said they’re hard to read and simultaneously follow the action of a film, and 52 percent said they don’t like reading while watching a movie. There are other reasons — for instance, 31 percent said they don’t enjoy dubbed films, which is a disappointingly low result for me, a staunch subs partisan in the great subs vs. dubs fight — while just 21 percent said they don’t like the plot content as much as U.S. films. Streaming services may actually be leading the way on this, as last year a Netflix vice president indicated that half of subscribers had watched a foreign language show, up from 30 percent two years prior.
A preliminary analysis from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative shows that 2019 may have seen a serious increase in the number of films where a lead character was a person of color or a woman. Across 1,300 films from 2007 to 2019, 17 percent of lead or co-lead roles were played by a person of color, and 29 percent of the leads were women. But last year’s levels were considerably higher than that recent average: in 2019, 31 of the top 100 featured a person of color in a leading role, and 43 of the top 100 movies had a woman as a lead character. Levels are still lower than reality — 17 percent of leads as people of color is low compared to about 40 percent of the U.S. population who are people of color— but progress is progress.
New streaming service Disney+ accumulated 28.6 million subscribers in its first three months of launch, beating the 20 million estimated by analysts. Disney’s direct to consumer business as a whole jumped from a $900 million business to a $4 billion business in the quarter, which is a promising return for the Mouse. What’s most interesting here is Hulu and ESPN+, which are riding the Disney+ wave. Hulu jumped from 22.8 million subscribers at the end of 2018 to 30.4 million at the end of 2019, and ESPN+ increased from 1.4 million to 6.6 million over the same period, significantly thanks to the $12.99 per month bundle for all three. The company aimed for 60 million to 90 million Disney+ subscribers by 2024, and with almost 29 million in the bank after their U.S. launch, and a global launch yet to come, it’s poised to beat that expectation early.
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