Numlock News: November 8, 2023 • The Pope, Love Letters, Doritos
By Walt Hickey
A few more really fun appearances on podcasts talking about the book! I was so excited to appear on The Gist, that’s a great conversation with the one and only Mike Pesca. Then, I was on The Bulwark Goes to Hollywood talking to Sonny Bunch, that’s a really fun conversation, here’s a post Bunch wrote about it.
The Unification Church in Japan has had a controversial year and is now facing dissolution, after the assassin of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cited financially predatory behavior from the Church as a key motivator in his decision to murder Abe. As that dissolution order is pending, the Japanese branch of the Unification Church said it has set aside a fund of 10 billion yen ($67 million) to cover compensation from people seeking damages caused by the church’s fundraising tactics, considered to be an attempt to assure the government that the Japanese church won’t attempt to hide money in overseas accounts. The church, which is based in South Korea, has raised the majority of its funding from Japan, where it pressures Japanese followers to donate as payment for sins committed by ancestors during Japan’s colonial rule of Korea from 1910 to 1945, and where it has maintained a cozy financial relationship with the LDP party, the large, centrist party which has run Japan for the vast majority of its postwar existence.
Not A Bookclub
The hottest new trend in book clubs is book clubs that are barely book clubs — namely a series of events called the Silent Book Club, which counts 525 chapters globally and organizes events where people can all show up in the same place and read whatever they want to read. These “introvert happy hours,” as they bill themselves, have seen 75 percent growth this year alone, and in some cities like Seattle demand is so robust that meetups must take place in 10 different places simultaneously to accommodate the demand. It’s delightful to see what flash mobs have matured into 10 years after I was convinced they were the worst thing my generation had ever come up with.
A shocking new analysis out of the United Kingdom has found — and I ask you to brace yourself, as the shock of this finding may very well shake the firmament upon which your worldview sits — that sometimes sailors and, yes, French people are sometimes a bit horny in print. The earth-shattering finding comes from a cache of 104 letters that were sent by the families and paramours of French sailors during the Seven Years’ War that never made it to their intended recipients after being seized by the Royal Navy. During the war, Britain attempted to exploit the lack of French sailors by capturing as many of them as possible and detaining them to the tune of 64,373 French sailors imprisoned in Britain. It’s also a fascinating look into literacy and wartime social networks in that era, as 59 percent of the letters are signed by women.
Huge publishing news out of the Vatican, as Pope Francis has scored a book deal. What I can only assume is a dishy, gossipy memoir where the supreme pontiff and bishop of Rome spills all the goss on his rise and dishes on rivals, the book Life, My Story Through History has been bought by HarperCollins. The pope has written books before — a 2016 book sold 131,000 copies, and a 2020 book moved 56,000 copies in hardcover — and this carries on the long tradition of an apostolic successor to Saint Peter dabbling in the literary arts. Will it get rave reviews like Clement’s Letter to the Corinthians or flop like Pius VI’s Auctorem fidei, who can say.
RSVP for my event in Chapel Hill tomorrow, and my Texas Book Festival event on Sunday.
From 2006 to 2019, the average one-way commute for an American worker rose from 25 minutes to 27.6 minutes. The pandemic was a reset, to an extent; in 2021, that slipped back to 25.6 minutes, though as employers began dragging workers back into offices, as of 2022 the average commute was back up to 26.4 minutes. Some places have seen significant improvements in their commute times from autumn 2019 to autumn 2022: Atlanta commutes are 9.8 percent shorter, D.C. commute times are down 8.9 percent, and cities like San Francisco (down 8.1 percent), Boston (7.7 percent) and Chicago (7.5 percent) have seen significant drops in their commutes.
Across 24 countries, competition between the United States and China to be perceived as the leading economic and technological power is controversial, with each power having a claim to leadership. Even when it comes to the evaluation of, say, militaries, competition is rather tight. There are a few matters where the United States is perceived as the fairly unambiguous leader. One of those is entertainment, where globally the median country had 71 percent of respondents saying United States entertainment was above average, compared to just 17 percent of respondents saying the same about China. Similar strengths were seen on colleges and universities, standards of living, and respect for personal freedoms.
The nation’s finest scientists have produced an unprecedented advance in technology and materials science, releasing software designed to eliminate the sound of someone eating a Dorito while you’re playing a video game with them. According to PepsiCo, 85 percent of U.S. gamers have consumed Doritos within the past three months, and because either muting team chat is onerous or the social contract has completely fallen apart, people don’t mute themselves when eating chips anymore. To combat this, they developed Doritos Silent, which was trained on the sound of over 5,000 crunches and is designed to kill the crunch before it hits Discord.
The word of mouth on the book has been excellent, thank you to everyone who posted about it on social media or told a friend, it’s really helped the book quite a bit. If you haven’t yet but you liked the book, tell some friends about it, post about it, or leave a review!
Check out my conversations about the book with Sonny Bunch and Mike Pesca:
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