Numlock News: May 6, 2019 • Titanic, Thrones, Robots
By Walt Hickey
Avengers: Endgame became the second-highest grossing film of all time this past weekend, pulling in a cumulative $2.189 billion. That beats Titanic with a level of precision that is just cruel, as the James Cameron film made $2.187 billion not adjusting for inflation. Avatar remains the only unconquered foe with its $2.8 billion global haul. Several other films dropped this weekend in a futile attempt at counter-programming, and most of the fresh meat didn’t do so hot. UglyDolls, an animated feature where every voice is by a famous musician and not, you know, an actual voice actor, opened to a disappointing $8.5 million, while the movie Long Shot (about President Charlize Theron dating Seth Rogen) made $10 million.
Still, that box office success for Endgame required decades of experimentation in comic book source material, so what are the prospects looking like for the Endgames of the decades to come? Not bad, actually: comic books and graphic novels bounced back from a rough 2017 to have a really fantastic 2018. Combined sales for comics were $1.095 billion, up $80 million from 2017 and the best since at least 2012 (the most recent year listed in the report). While the sales of individual floppies has been up and down for the past several years, the undisputed rise in the graphic novel and trade paperback market — last year $635 million, up from the ballpark of $400 million in 2013 — has helped make this one of the healthiest markets in a while.
Oh dang, did you see Game of Thrones last night? Well, shhh, less than 40 percent of viewers actually watch the program on the Sunday it comes out, so be cool. Of the fans who will watch it within a week, 60.6 percent will do so as of Monday, 72.5 percent by Tuesday, 82.3 percent on Wednesday and finally, by Thursday, we’ll clear 90 percent. Anyway, I thought it was really clever of them to have an entire bottle episode set at the Inn of the Crossroads with Hot Pie, I was getting a real Fawlty Towers vibe and I felt like it was a soft pilot for a spin-off. Did not expect them jumping to the multi-camera sitcom format, but for just the one episode I thought it was an interesting choice.
As of March, people were spending a collective 250 million hours every single day watching YouTube on television screens. That’s up 39 percent in less than a year, and doesn’t even include YouTube TV, the internet pay-TV service. In an average week, YouTube reaches more 18-49 year old Americans than all the cable television networks combined, which makes a ton of sense. I mean, until Discovery Channel launches the new show Watch This Nice Engineer Explain How Dams Work or Comedy Central starts airing old McElroy brothers clips on a continuous feed, YouTube’s gonna beat the cable box on the watch time front, for me at least.
Shockingly, an estimated 18 million Americans are unable to buy a legal drink where they live thanks to the absurd existence of dry counties in the year 2019. Granted, this is generally changing: Texas had 142 dry counties in 1965 and now boasts merely five, and only Beaver County remains dry in Oklahoma after 13 counties voted to turn on the taps last year. Not going to lie, for a minute I was thinking, “Wow, I bet someone could drive liquor into those counties and make a killing.” Then I remembered bootlegging and realized other people totally thought of this already and it’s the reason we have an ATF. Forgive me, I live in Queens, which is a dry county only in the sense that it’s kind of frowned upon to drink liquid PCP.
Elite Tax Strike Force
The IRS is completely outgunned by the ultra-rich. One study of income hidden from the IRS found that it’s the richest who hide it the most effectively: the top 0.5 percent of high-earning Americans account for one-fifth of the income unreported to the IRS, amounting to some $50 billion per year. Part of that is because for the bottom 90 percent of us, wages get directly reported to the IRS making it ultra-easy to verify accurate reporting. In 2009, the IRS planned a legion of elite accountants to audit the super wealthy, but thanks to budget cuts and lobbying this team never actually came together. Instead of the target of 240 expert auditors by 2012, it had only 96 by 2014, and as of last year had only 58. So change the tax code however you want, if the enforcement of that tax code is being deliberately shortchanged it won’t mean a thing.
Automation is already rampant in manufacturing, shipping and warehousing, but one task — loading and unloading trucks — has so far remained elusive for bots to handle. Siemens and Honeywell are working on that, and they’re actually getting decent at the unloading part of the process. It takes one person about one hour to unload a standard trailer, but the Siemens process (a rolling belt permanently installed on a truck trailer floor that is activated upon arrival at the loading dock) can manage it in about 10 minutes. Loading is still too complicated for the current bots, but companies are working on it.
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