Numlock News: November 3, 2023 • Amusement Parks, Vapes, Tattoos
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
Good news, after cleaning them out entirely in week one, Bookshop.org and Indiebound have restocked my book, You Are What You Watch. As of today there are also several signed copies available to order from Astoria Bookshop, if you can’t make it to the upcoming Chapel Hill, Austin or Washington D.C. signings!
The island atoll of Tokelau, like many people in the early days of the internet, finds itself having made some regrettable business decisions that imperil its overall reputation online. The country was the very last place in the world to get onto the internet, which it obtained access to in just 1997, and then when the former New Zealand territory learned it had been assigned a specific country-code top-level domain of .tk, the whole thing basically came as a surprise. The telecom operator in Tokelau, Teletok, decided to heed the pitch of an internet entrepreneur from Amsterdam who essentially offered to pay them a bunch of money in exchange for him being in charge of the .tk domain, and since Tokelau didn’t really care about the internet, from their point of view who cares. Well, the guy essentially allowed users to register a free domain name for a year in exchange for ads running on their websites, and that led to 25 million registrations under the .tk domain, more than any other country in the world, until recently. The issue is, because they’re free, .tk domain is lousy with scammers: The .tk domain (Tokalau), .cc domain (Cocos Islands) and .pw domain (Palau) are responsible for 75 percent of all malicious domain registrations. Now that we’re firmly in the 2020s, and Tokelau is actually interested in engaging with the internet, it’s sitting on a reputational lemon of a domain.
With increasing competition from Universal and Disney parks, the other large American theme park businesses, Six Flags and Cedar Fair, will throw their lot in together and merge, creating an $8 billion company with 27 parks, 15 water parks and nine hotels and resorts, not to mention a handful of safaris and marinas across the continent. While Disney holds all their characters and Universal has the rights to things like Harry Potter and Marvel characters, the combined company — which will trade under the stock ticker FUN — will have the rights to the characters of DC Comics, Looney Tunes and the Peanuts comic series, the latter of which is Cedar Fair’s contribution to the tie-up.
For most of history, tattoos were simply permanent. Tattoo removal, though, has gone completely mainstream, shifting from a pricey and yet-to-be-proven dermatological procedure a decade ago to a fairly straightforward process that can be accomplished at a medspa. Just looking at the dermatologists, members of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery removed 63,000 tattoos in 2012, a level that in 2019 had risen to 164,000 tats, and that doesn’t even include all the ink zapped off in spas and clinics. Laser removal has, to some extent, changed the very nature of a tattoo, from a permanent, indelible mark to one that could, with sufficient motivation and sufficient lasers, simply be for a short time.
In its first six days of release, Taylor Swift’s re-recorded 1989 (Taylor’s Version) has sold over 1.1 million copies. Those are simply the records she’s actually sold; when factoring in the album-equivalent units that attempt to aggregate streams into an apples-to-apples comparison to sales, she’s moved 1.35 million units. What’s exciting is how many of those sales happened on vinyl, so much so that this may be the bestselling vinyl record of the modern era, since stats for the format were tracked again in 1991. Over those six days, Swift moved 580,000 vinyl albums, which would beat the record set in 2022 of 575,000 vinyl albums sold in a single week, a record held by… Taylor Swift, with Midnights.
A new survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that the percentage of teens who vape has dropped sharply, falling from 14 percent last year to 10 percent this year. The government attributes the decline to efforts to hike up the price of vapes and moves to raise the age at which one can obtain tobacco products to 21. Of the students who vaped, 90 percent said they used flavored products, specifically vapes flavored like fruit and candy. The most popular brand of vape was Elf Bar, which was the preferred tobacco product of 56 percent of teenagers.
The use of company-owned private jets is flat, which is weird, because overall the number of flights in the private aviation industry is up a whole lot, up 19 percent since 2019, in fact. Corporate executives that may have flown in the company PJ a few years ago appear to be hesitating, whether out of a desire to avoid climate-related criticism, board scrutiny, a pilot shortage or the rising interest from people on the internet in tracking private jet travel data. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re actually flying private less, just that they’re laundering that private jet travel through jets that aren’t owned by the company, specifically through the rising popularity of fractionalization. That’s when companies like NetJets or Flexjet essentially sell companies a portion of a plane in increments of 1/16th of a share, and that grants them a certain number of hours to use the jet, and has pretty much the same tax advantages of lock, stock and barrel ownership. Demand for private flights from such fractional operators is up 41 percent from 2019 levels.
A new report diving into the state of employment within America’s craft beer industry tried to find out the state of play for workers within the massive beverage sector, and found a troubling and downright distressing statistic. The shift beer — the humble and downright American notion that after a hard day of work in the brewery, a sweaty laborer can look forward to some free product when they punch out as a testament to the camaraderie needed to produce a high-quality craft beverage — has lost a step, with only 87.7 percent of responding breweries continuing to offer the longstanding perk. Is that high? Sure. Is it 100 percent? Sure doesn’t seem like it to me.
Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.