Numlock News: May 22, 2023 • Fast X, Snowmobiles, Payola
By Walt Hickey
Fast X, starring Vin Diesel, Jason Momoa, and no fewer than four Academy Award-winning actresses, won the weekend with a $67.5 million domestic box office haul as well as $251.4 million overseas, the second-largest debut of the year behind The Super Mario Bros. Movie. In second place was Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, also starring Vin Diesel, which is in its third week of release and has been retaining an audience deep into its run. Fast X is the 10th in a series of Dungeons & Dragons campaigns in which Diesel’s player character Dom leveled up from a roguish car racer to a heist architect to a global super-spy, with other party members including former enemies-turned-friends and several people who have been rezzed.
Every year about 135,000 fossil fuel-powered snowmobiles are sold worldwide, an important means of transportation for remote Arctic communities in addition to their more recreational uses. Sweden, where snowmobiles are popular, is looking to electrify the equipment, with one startup — Vidde Snow Mobility AB — cutting the carbon emissions of a snowmobile to a seventh of the gas-powered models with a prototype that is undergoing a design revision by Pininfarina SpA. It joins entries into the electric snowmobile markets like Taiga Motors.
Pay To Play
Documents obtained by Billboard revealed a scheme to direct payments to radio stations from independent radio promoters that got airplay for songs from major labels in an attempt to juice chart position. The 14 invoices came from three different sources in the record business who had worked with the promotor, and detail payments of up to $1,500 a pop, which led to increased plays for the songs in the following week in 28 out of 30 cases, with one song seeing 18 additional plays after the payment. The independent promotion business is inherently murky, as cash-strapped radio stations and labels hungry for more spins find a convenient intermediary that can keep the labels’ hands clean of a more unambiguous pay-to-play. The majority of the plays occur overnight, from midnight to 6 a.m., which may have few listeners but can still influence chart position.
Car dealerships finally have cars again, after years of supply fluctuations and high demand have led to empty lots and sky-high prices for new vehicles. Dealerships had 1.8 million vehicles in transit or on lots as of April, up 50 percent year over year. The average vehicle sold for $46,000 in April, a historic high, and discounting on the lots is still below the levels seen before the pandemic, as that 1.8 million is still half the stock available on lots compared to two years back. There’s some variance between car brands over how much stock they’ve got: At the low end, Ford’s got 70.7 days of inventory, while Buick’s got 105.8 days.
Crops have been successfully engineered to include genes from Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt genes, that kill the worms and pests that eat them. Today, 89 percent of cotton and 84 percent of corn in the U.S. contains Bt genes. First going on sale in 1996, there’s been some significant success — the USDA announced that pink bollworms had been eradicated in 2018, in one major win — but one issue is the emergence of Bt-resistant pests. The way to rein in resistance is to, for instance, have most of a crop be Bt corn that has high doses of Bt proteins that kill the bugs, but also have a “refuge” section that’s full of completely edible non-Bt corn that’s not fatal. That way, any of the surviving pests that are resistant to Bt proteins will have other bugs that are not resistant to mate with, making their offspring still susceptible to Bt, as if the only bugs left are resistant to Bt then you’ve got Bt-resistant offspring. The issue is that farmers don’t always follow that guidance — why risk a fraction of the crop? — and as a result 11 pest species in seven countries have evolved resistance to nine toxins.
This Woman’s Work
Kate Bush rode a Netflix show back onto the charts when “Running Up That Hill” appeared in an episode of Stranger Things last year and became a sensation yet again. Now she’s done it again, as “This Woman’s Work” appeared at the end of a new Netflix drama, The Mother, and it’s seen a 157 percent spike in streaming numbers, with 55,000 streams on May 14. Right now the momentum is mostly being seen on Shazam charts of people trying to identify a song, but last year that was the first bit of evidence that “Running Up That Hill” was about to go big, eventually crossing over from Shazam to TikTok and then to everywhere else.
The estimated cost of plugging all the oil wells in California, dismantling the structures on the surface, and decontaminating drill sites is projected to be $13.2 billion. Factor in uncertainty around inflation and the cost of dismantling pipelines and you’re looking at a $21.5 billion cleanup bill. This is a problem, because not only has the oil industry only set aside $106 million for cleanup, the entire California oil and gas production industry only will earn $6.3 billion in future profits over the course of operations to come, according to the new analysis, with taxpayers having to pay to make up the shortfall unless lawmakers act to ensure that only the oil companies will be responsible for their mess.
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