Numlock News: May 12, 2023 • ALW, MSG, #GRWM
By Walt Hickey
Ladies and gentlemen, it is with utter delight and profound admiration that I can announce the following: A Chinese company did a MoviePass. Offcn is a company that sells test preparation for China’s civil service exam, a difficult test that is necessary for those who want to gain public employment. To back up their test prep, Offcn made a remarkable and difficult to decline offer in their premium course that if you fail, you get a full fee refund. Back in 2019, that meant they had an average refund rate of 44 percent, a high cost of acquiring customers to be sure but one that led to enough business that the founders grew to be worth $21 billion. Then the pandemic happened, and suddenly lots of people wanted to be civil servants for the job security and Offcn became absolutely screwed. By 2021, their refund rate was up to 70 percent, and Offcn posted a loss of 2.4 billion yuan. This past December, 2.6 million people signed up for the exam for a total of 37,000 open spots, which meant a whole lot of refunds for Offcn, and the stock has cratered. Its shares are down 87 percent from November 2020 and its founders worth down to below $1 billion.
With much of Hollywood tightening its belts financially as they seek to please Wall Street, music companies fear that cost cutting could impact the business of synchs, or song placements in television and movies, that has been growing substantially over the course of the past several years. Revenues from synchs hit $318 million last year, up from $285.5 million in 2018. That’s a healthy chunk of music publishing revenue in general, accounting for 26 percent of that pie. The fear is that with widespread budget cuts and potential reduction in episodes, music supervisors will see the number of needle drops they can pull off over the course of a season of television or a film decline.
Tennis-lite is popular the world over, but the manner in which people pick up the racquets varies based on whether or not they’re American. In the U.S., the sport of preference is pickleball, which has over 45,000 courts in the country. Outside the U.S., the preferred variant is padel, which has just 240 courts in the U.S. but an estimated 25 million regular players the world over as of last year. About 6 million of them are in Spain, but both France and Sweden have padel as one of the fastest-growing sports and it’s booming in Latin America, the Middle East and Europe. The sport was born in Mexico in the late ‘60s and has been a staple in Spain and Argentina since. Obviously, Americans are going to stick to pickleball, and then a few decades later a bunch of hipsters are going to wake up early on Saturdays and watch the English Padel League, and then a bunch of people are gonna pull their kids out of pickleball and put them into padel because you know, the injury risk, and every four years you’re going to try to get into the padel scene but you know the minute that the States are out of the World Padel Cup you’re going to check out on it, but apparently the U.S. Women’s padel team is absolutely dominant so you do tune into that, but let’s be honest you’re way more into Fantasy Pickleball than Fantasy English Padel League at the end of the day and you’re just going to have to live with whatever moral stain that leaves you with.
The New York City subway system has 354 elevators across 472 stations, and every one of those elevators has four corners, and it is an irrevocable element of human nature going back to the dawn of man that occasionally those corners will compel an inebriated individual toward indulging in a relieving desecration. Anyway, the MTA wants to figure out when people pee in the elevators so they can fix them, and are considering installing automated sensors to aid in that effort. That being said, New York ain’t the first city with a phosphorus donation problem, and so the city is seeing how other cities have dealt with the issue and the problems that stemmed from their attempted solutions. For instance, Atlanta tried to install pee sniffing devices, but ended up removing all 92 of the devices because they set off loud alarms — never a great vibe on mass transit — and also by the very nature of their work eventually began to stink in their own right.
Stage icon Andrew Lloyd Webber has had a production on Broadway for the past 43 years, going back to Evita and then anchored largely by Cats and Phantom of the Opera, but with the closure of Bad Cinderella in June after 33 preview performances and 85 regular performances there won’t be any Lord ALW shows on Broadway for the first time in decades. Bad Cinderella has struggled amid poor attendance — 54 percent full house last week — and poor reviews, and will fold soon. Capitalized for $19 million, the show failed to score any Tony nominations and last week grossed $326,303, the lowest for a musical on Broadway.
If the 2000s had the TED talk and 2010s had the Twitter thread, today the dominant form of storytelling is the “get ready with me” video, in which an individual will prepare their face and hair to greet the day all while telling an engaging and sometimes even nonfiction story during their daily morning routine. The accompanying hashtag, #GRWM, has exploded in the past year; videos with the hashtag have been viewed over 97 billion times on TikTok worldwide, of which 72 billion of those views happened since last May.
The World Health Organization and many governments around the world have been trying to find a way to cut sodium out of diets, given the long-term health risks of too much salt. The problem is that salt tastes really, really good, and most people would like their food to be flavorful, and most food companies want their food to taste good, which causes problems when trying to coax salt out of the diet. The solution may be chemistry, particularly chemicals like the once-feared but now-redeemed monosodium glutamate, or MSG, which can add flavor without the kind of salt content that can eventually strain the veins of its consumers. The nutritional science is scattered, but clear: By substituting MSG or similar chemicals in for salts, adults who eat cured meats could reduce salt intake by 40 percent, among cheese eaters 45 percent, common Japanese condiments could cut their salt by 22.3 percent, and in some Malaysian cuisine 32.5 percent.
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