Numlock News: March 31, 2022 • Caves, Autographs, Rock & Roll
By Walt Hickey
The livestreaming sector has exploded within China, and the ocean of cash flowing to creators has regulators worried. The industry as a whole is worth $30 billion, but authorities are drafting caps on users’ daily spending on digital tipping, and caps on how much streamers can make from fans. Tips can range from the equivalent of a couple of cents to the equivalent of thousands of dollars. The current gift cap being discussed is reportedly 10,000 yuan, or around $1,570, worth of gifts a day that a host can accept. The fear is that young people may be drawn to the lucrative field of livestreaming rather than go into occupations officials prefer they’d pursue.
The price of a 9-kilogram box of avocados from Michoacan in Mexico has hit 760 pesos, or about $38. That’s up 81 percent this year, and stands as the highest on record going back to 1998. Overall, Mexico’s output of avocados is projected to drop 8 percent in the 2021–22 crop year, and earlier this year shipments were temporarily banned after threats were made against American agricultural inspectors. Mexico supplies 80 percent of avocados consumed in the U.S., with California supplying 15 percent. Overall, per capita consumption of avocados stands at north of 9 pounds, double the amount in 2010.
Brendan’s Man Cave Is More Like A
FOCO is a manufacturer of licensed fan goods, meaning they pay universities and colleges in order to produce merch about their sports teams. One product they have is particularly illuminating as to how this licensing business works: the “Man Cave” wall decor that’s been sold since at least 2017. It’s a couple of linked boards with a team’s logo declaring the current room a man cave, and iterating a number of vaguely chauvinist rules including “man controls all remotes when the [team] play,” an exhortation to wear team colors, and then “what happens in ‘the cave’ stays in ‘the cave.’” There are 69 different versions of this sign for sale for about $35, for 44 pro teams and 21 college teams. What’s interesting is the teams that break from the boilerplate: Specifically, Michigan State and Penn State, two schools rocked by sex abuse scandals, swap out the first and last rules for a less menacing “no changing the channel” and “cheer on Michigan State and have fun.” Nine other teams also drop the man branding, instead using the gender-neutral “Fan.” All of those are active requests from the schools and teams.
The new trend among movie stars is private autograph events, where an actor can basically spend all day in a meeting room spending hours signing a bunch of merchandise and items that fans have pre-ordered and mailed in. While hardly a new concept, the pandemic — and the cash crunch that many in the performing arts felt, as well as a surge in interest for memorabilia — really kicked this kind of event into overdrive, meaning that stars can pretty much make maximum wage signing their name for a couple hours at a time, with some pulling in around seven figures a day. One company that organizes these signings, CGC Comics, said it conducted 60 signings in 2020, 90 signings in 2021, and will expect around 120 signings this year. A top performer can get anywhere from $500 to $700 a signature, and if you can do that by a couple hundred items wheeled in by the pallet, plus the flat guaranteed fee, well, you’re talking real money just for signing Funko Pops and comic books for eight consecutive hours.
In 2018, Californians overwhelmingly voted for Proposition 12, which set a minimum bar for animal welfare for livestock that is eventually sold as food in the state, one of which was pork. The National Pork Producers Council has been haggling with the state over the requirements for more space for their pigs, and as their fight has wound its way through the courts the Supreme Court this week agreed it would hear the case. Californians are responsible for 13 percent of the pork consumed in the United States, but their production of pigs is pretty much nil. The producers argue that the law violates the dormant commerce clause, but this issue is actually a pretty tricky one for the court because the issue makes for some extremely weird alliances among the justices given their various beliefs about the rights of states.
There is not a single rock artist among the Grammy nominees for album of the year, record of the year and song of the year. Most of the rock categories are full of older acts, and it’s actually worth considering that maybe it’s not rock music that’s the issue, but rather the Grammys. The award show appears to be seriously out of sync with what’s actually performing; for instance, R&B and hip-hop accounted for the plurality of music consumption last year, at 27.7 percent, but rock was in second place at 20 percent. Indeed, it makes up more on-demand audio streams (17.3 percent) than pop music (13.1 percent), and the top five highest-grossing concert tours of last year were all rock acts.
The Hubble has taken a photo of the most distant single star ever imaged by a telescope, an object whose light took 12.9 billion years to reach us. While we’ve seen things that old before, those were galaxies, and it’s very rare to spot a single star that far and that ancient. The way they caught it was through gravitational lensing, a neat phenomenon where the gravitational pull of a cluster of galaxies can actually magnify and bend the light of distant objects behind it. That light’s had an immensely long journey: The object is seen as it was 900 million years after the Big Bang, when the Universe was 6 percent of its age today.
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