Numlock News: June 17, 2019 • Macy's, Genius, Hemp
By Walt Hickey
I am so sorry about the delivery issues on Friday. Substack’s email provider had issues Friday morning, so most readers didn’t get Numlock in their inbox until midday and everyone else got a double send. I’ve been assured this bug won’t happen again and I apologize for any inconvenience!
2019 is the largest upheaval in the Manhattan department store scene in years, an unprecedented moment in retail when over 800,000 square feet of department stores are closing, nearly 500,000 square feet are opening. Longtime staples are closing down while longtime outsiders are setting foot on Manhattan bedrock for the first time. There are 30 department stores in Manhattan with roughly 6 million square feet of selling space, and these flagship operations are huge for the retail space. Bloomingdale’s on 59th Street alone accounts for 18 to 20 percent of the company’s annual sales. Macy’s Herald Square is 2.5 million square feet, a footprint so vast it can literally fit 54 other Macy’s locations inside of it. Nieman Marcus and Nordstrom are storming Manhattan with new 188,000 square foot and 320,000 square foot locations in 2019, while Lord & Taylor and Henri Bendel are folding.
From 1980 to 2009, the size of the largest 10 percent of houses increased 1.4 times as fast as the size of the median house, according to a new study. In 1973, newly built houses had an average of 507 square feet per resident, which by 2013 rose to an estimated 971 square feet per resident. Some of this, the paper contends, is because while Americans are pursuing larger and larger homes, the size is not making them satisfied in those homes, as other neighbors are also pursuing larger homes. Basically, people with larger homes are more satisfied, but that does not last if larger homes pop up nearby.
With increased pressure from the U.S. government, Chinese technology firm Huawei Technologies is eyeing an elegant economic weapon for a more civilized trade age, their patents. Huawei holds 56,492 active patents on telecommunications and networking tech worldwide, and if its access to American markets is going to be restricted they’re looking into ways to pursue royalties and fees on those technologies with companies like Verizon and Qualcomm, the chipmaker. Last year alone Huawei received 1,680 patents in the U.S., the 16th largest recipient of patents overall, and it sits on a war chest of 102,911 active patents and published applications. If you can’t join em, bleed em.
Genius, a company that inventories song lyrics and the ways to explain or discuss them, claimed it caught Google red-handed lifting their lyrics as their own. Traffic to Genius is dropping, the site said, because Google instead presents lyrics directly on their search page, and Genius said it identified over 100 examples of songs on Google that originated on Genius. How are they so certain? Well, there are a number of different ways to render an apostrophe in text, the straight kind (') and the curvy (’) kind. Genius swapped out apostrophes on some songs in a unique pattern so that they would know when someone lifted their lyrics without attribution. For what it’s worth, translate the pattern into Morse code and it would spell out “Red Handed,” demonstrating that Genius knows how to drop a mic. Google denies doing anything inappropriate and said it licenses lyrics from partners. Searches that don’t end with a click to a website on desktop are up 9 percent since 2016 according to an analytics group, at 35 percent.
Hemp is an agricultural cousin of marijuana that can be used in any manner of industrial products, according to an analysis of crop production data from that friend you had in college who was really into legalizing marijuana. This year that may be put to the test, as hemp’s legalization through the 2018 Farm Bill and a rough year for farmers in general means more acreage than ever before may be handed over to hemp farming. In 2017, there were 25,713 acres of hemp planted under a pilot program. Last year, industrial hemp plantings accounted for 78,176 acres, and that could double this year. Sales of hemp were $1.1 billion in 2018, and could reach $1.9 billion by 2022. This will prompt a national reckoning of “what else were our stoner friends right about?” Is Phish good?
Capernaum, a film set in Beirut that was nominated for the Best Foreign Language film Oscar last year, has become the highest-grossing Arab film of all time after sweeping the Chinese box office. The film made $1.6 million in the U.S. and Canada, $184,000 in the U.K., and $635,000 in France, but opened in China to a jaw-dropping $12.5 million on April 29, and now has made nearly $54 million in the nation alone. That is higher than Dumbo, it is higher than Shazam!, and damn straight it’s higher than Aladdin. Arab films have struggled to find an audience, but this success is attracting attention from distributors in China.
Last year, the U.S. Treasury observed a 31 percent drop in corporate tax revenue. That was twice the decline that budget forecasters anticipated — the CBO projected corporate receipts would drop to $243 billion, an 18 percent drop — and payments amounted to $205 billion. Those receipts were projected to rebound by 20 percent this year. They have not, and they are now down by 8.7 percent. That’s about $11 billion in shortfall, and corporate taxes in total were at their lowest levels in over 50 years.
Anyone who has had even the most casual interaction with the American medical system knows in their heart it’s a Kafkaesque exploitative behemoth that consumes more bottom dollars than even the most amoral casino or loan shark could dream of. But worth noting is that Americans are not exactly model patients to begin with, taking doctor’s orders more as tips, treating annual checkups as optional and seeing company-sponsored drug ads more as pharmaceutical vision boards than recommendations. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found 74 percent of the variation in life expectancy from county to county was related to lifestyle factors like smoking or inactivity, with the actual impact of what medical providers do accounting for only somewhere from 10 to 25 percent of improvements.
Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.
Thank you so much for subscribing! If you're enjoying the newsletter, forward it to someone you think may enjoy it too! Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at email@example.com. Send corrections or typos to the copy desk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The very best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINK in your inbox, it’ll create an easy-to-send pre-written email you can just fire off to some friends.