Numlock News: May 11, 2023 • Baconator, THC, Cholula
By Walt Hickey
This weekend American cinemas will serve as the testing ground for the second installment in what may very well be the next MCU, a chance for a burgeoning franchise to demonstrate its staying power and hopefully draw an entire generation to the cinemas. That film is Book Club: The Next Chapter, which stars Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen, the hotly-awaited sequel to the 2018 hit Book Club. It’s a real test for the box office; the original film was a hit, bringing in $68 million domestically on a $14 million budget plus another $104 million overseas. The sequel — budgeted at $20 million — is projected to debut to $7 million to $10 million, but that’s entirely dependent on if the film can draw the same crowd of predominantly older women back to the cinema, a demo that has been more reluctant to return in force to theaters in the pandemic era.
Congratulations to all 34-year-old men of America, as science has heard your pleas, listened to your concerns and upon investigation can indeed conclude that yes, as a matter of fact weed got too strong. While medical use of marijuana is legal in 40 states and recreational is legal in 22 states, only two of them — Vermont and Connecticut — cap the content of THC at 30 percent for cannabis flower. In 1980, the THC content of confiscated marijuana was under 1.5 percent, while today many varieties are listed as over 30 percent THC, with some strains posting numbers as high as 41 percent and the concentrated dabs hitting over 90 percent. Now listen, nobody’s trying to compare a lid of ditch schwag from back in the day to the kind of boutique loud available in stores as we speak, but that’s a pretty significant distance particularly for customers potentially returning back to the marijuana market, and it’s an issue for the industry to address.
Many fast food joints have experimented with AI when it comes to the drive-thru, with Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr., Checkers and Rally’s and more all trying to see if a robot can take orders. McDonald’s ran an AI drive-thru out of 24 stores in June of 2022 in Illinois, but found that accuracy was in the low 80 percent range, far too low compared to the 95 percent accuracy McD’s was looking for. Wendy’s is the latest to attempt to use Google Cloud’s language models at a test location in Columbus, Ohio. Wendy’s stands more to gain than most from an AI order taker, as it’s universally understood that the main thing stopping people from ordering the double Baconator is the reality that they will have to utter that horrifying, twisted desire to an innocent human being, an event you never really come back from.
Global sales of Mexican food are projected to rise 6.65 percent per year through 2026, an increase of $113.8 billion over the course of the period. This is great news for brands like Cholula, which was acquired by spice titan McCormick & Co. in 2020 for $800 million and is now releasing three flavors of salsa. Mexican food is ascendant among younger generations: Right now 82 percent of millennials like or love Mexican food, which is for once above the 79 percent who say the same about Italian food. Among Gen Z respondents, Italian is in third place behind Mexican and Chinese.
Mobile-friendly comics called webtoons that originally hailed from South Korea are now firmly in the mainstream in the United States, with Korean firms like Naver Corp.’s Webtoon Entertainment and Kakao Corp. seeing significant traffic from the United States. At first, Naver pushed translated Korean content in the U.S., but since then has attracted a large number of comic artists to their platform. Of the 86 million users on Webtoon, 12 million are now in the United States, double the level of 2019. Other platforms are also seeing good American turnout including Manta Comics, Tapas, Tappytoon and Bilibili. That could have broader reverberations across the pop culture landscape; roughly 30 percent of South Korean dramas in development are adapting a webtoon.
While rivals like Amazon attempt to make a more conventional streaming television play, Microsoft’s hottest show in development is Trust Code, which was originally slated for just two or three years but is now proudly entering its seventh season. Trust Code is not an actual show but is, in fact, the compliance training video that Microsoft makes its 221,000 employees watch, albeit with sufficiently high production values, cliff-hangers and compelling scripts that make the standards of business conduct training actual appointment television for some Microsoft employees. The show follows Nelson, a software engineer, as he improperly uses customer data, is accused of stealing intellectual property, and more, classic antihero stuff and perfect for the modern age of television.
The Forest Service dropped 279 million gallons of fire retardant on blazes from 2012 to 2019, a massive volume of chemicals that is one of the more effective tools in the arsenal against wildfires. It’s 85 percent water, 10 percent ammonium phosphate and then some thickeners, and when it’s on organic matter it encourages it to release moisture that slows the flames. The issue is that it also kills fish when it’s dropped into waterways, which at the scale the Forest Service operates is pretty often. From 2012 to 2019 they dropped 761,282 gallons into water, and 248,285 gallons specifically into the habitats of endangered and threatened species. Obviously, sometimes the alternative is “it would burn to the ground,” but the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics is asking a judge to issue an injunction barring the use of fire retardant within 600 feet of water, doubling the existing policy of 300 feet, in order to force the consideration of marine life during firefighting.
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