Numlock News: February 6, 2023 • Kombucha, Jupiter, M. Night Shyamalan
By Walt Hickey
A proposed rule change out of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would jack up the prices of O-type and P-type visas that are currently used by musicians from around the world that want to tour the U.S. The O-type visa, which is used by people with “extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics” would jump from $460 to $1,655 for a petition, and the cost of the P-type petition — used by artists from Britain and Canada who belong to various unions and groups — would increase from $460 to $1,615. This would significantly increase the already sky-high costs of playing music for Americans and jeopardize the economics of even bothering to come to the U.S.
Knock at the Cabin, the new thriller from director M. Night Shyamalan, brought in a modest $14.2 million in its opening weekend, which was just enough money to become the first film to beat Avatar: The Way of Water at the weekly box office. Another film also managed to beat Avatar as well, none other than 80 for Brady, a film starring Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Rita Moreno and Lily Tomlin as women on a quest to see Tom Brady play in the Super Bowl. The movie made $12.5 million, had an audience that was 68 percent women and 49 percent over the age of 55, and may have been boosted by a campaign to set matinee prices for primetime showings of the film to increase the audience.
On Sunday night actress Viola Davis nabbed the Grammy award for best spoken-word album for the audiobook of her memoir, Finding Me, which made her the 18th person to win each of the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards. She has two Tony Awards, one for King Hedley II and one for Fences, and finished winning what we all agree is the hard half of the EGOT, the OT, in 2016 when she won an Oscar for the movie Fences. Her decisive Lead Actress in a Drama Emmy win for How to Get Away With Murder also means she is one of few EGOT winners where their Emmy isn’t for something extremely random, like writing the music for Winston Churchill: The Valiant Years, or hosting Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn, or a mediocre broadcast of Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert that inexplicably delivered EGOTs to no fewer than three men.
The moon count of Jupiter has been formally upped to 92 moons, as the International Astronomical Union recognized the discovery of an additional 12 moons. Once the leader in moons, Saturn’s 83 moons is now merely second-best. The dozen moons of Jupiter range from 0.6 miles to 2 miles in size and were discovered in 2021 and 2022 at telescopes in Hawaii and Chile. About half of the new moons are large enough to merit names, so if you or someone you know has had a sexual relationship with the Roman god Jupiter or Greek god Zeus, please contact the folks at the Astronomical Union as you may be eligible to have a space rock named in your honor.
During the 1980s, the average chart-topping song had 21 seconds of introductory instrumentals before getting to the vocals. As the music industry realized that a big, catchy lyrical hook was important to grab attention on streaming services, that time devoted to instrumental setup has declined significantly among the top-charting songs, and since the 2010s has dropped to 12 seconds of intro. This has also come in an era when songs are shorter to begin with — the average chart topper was 249 seconds in the 1980s and just 225 seconds in the 2010s, and in the nascent 2020s is down to 207 seconds. All told, the intro accounted for just 5.4 percent of song length over the course of the 2010s, down from 8.6 percent four decades ago.
Sales of hard kombucha — an alcoholic twist on the unique, ancient beverage that has ardent devotees — rose from $1.7 million in 2017 to $12 million in 2019, and as of 2020 were projected to rise exponentially over the next few years as large breweries bought up kombucha makers and investors put $100 million into brands like JuneShine, Flying Embers and Jiant. That said, while the non-alcoholic kombucha space is around a $2 billion market, the boozy kombucha is nowhere near that, and may have already peaked as a trend. According to NielsenIQ, dollar sales were down 6.4 percent year over year in 2022 and volume was down 10 percent. Several of the buzzy boozy kombucha brands have begun to diversify into different parts of the generally more reliable ready-to-drink category.
Many people are trying to get their hands on chickens of their own as a hedge on inflation, simply buying up egg-laying hens rather than deal with high egg prices caused by an avian flu and consolidated egg industry. Prices are down slightly in the egg department, with an average price of a carton of eggs at $3.40, down from $5.00, signaling that a hasty decision to obtain a farm animal may or may not be the most decisive long-term choice. That said, hatcheries are now having trouble to meet the demand for chicks, as difficulty getting labor to work in chicken hatcheries at a time of low unemployment means that the cost of retail chicks will go up 15 percent to 18 percent this year.
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