Numlock News: October 19, 2022 • Rotoscoping, Rams, Ex-Commuters
By Walt Hickey
Austin Li was, for a while, the most popular salesman in China, with 150 million followers who studiously followed his shopping livestreams. As of 2021, there were 638 million people shopping through livestreams in China, valuing the market at $327 billion. Li’s schtick was that he was the “lipstick king,” one time hawking 380 different lipsticks in a single show and moving 15,000 lipsticks in five minutes. This past June, Li disappeared after selling a Viennetta ice cream cake that vaguely resembled a tank, which was an issue for the government because June 4 is the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. It’s tough to overstate the impact of this: Li, along with another livestreamer named Viya who sells household goods, reportedly hauled in more sales than the next top 28 influencers combined in 2021.
Kroger and Albertsons, two large American grocery stores, are seeking to merge into what would be the second-largest grocery company in the country (after Walmart) with some 15 percent of the market. Oddly, Albertsons is giving $4 billion to its private equity investors in a special dividend, which is needless to say presumptive at best. As of its latest 10Q, Albertsons had $3.213 billion in cash and $565 million in receivables that can be sold to raise cash, which, yeah that seems to be the special dividend. The curious financial move of getting rid of all their liquidity for no discernible reason could be an attempt to play the “well if the government tries to block the merger we’re financially doomed” card to ensure a rubber stamp on the industrial consolidation.
Companies have loaded up a vast arsenal of apps, with the average company granting employees access to 89 different apps last year. That’s up from an average of 58 apps in 2015. At large employers, that’s up to 187 apps on average. As it stands, much of the country’s white-collar workforce spends their days flipping from app to app, with a recent study of 20 teams from three large companies finding that the typical worker clocked in at 1,200 switches between apps and websites per day.
This year director Richard Linklater released the film Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood, which is animated through rotoscoping. Essentially, live-action footage is painstakingly animated over using a technique that harkens back to the dawn of animation, a process that required a suite of about 200 2D animators for costs upwards of $20 million. The animated film, however, has been rejected by the animation committee of the Academy Awards, arguing it relies on live-action footage even though the film clearly surpasses the requirement 75 percent of running time must be animated. Linklater and company are ticked off, claiming that the branch has been captured by corporations and aimed at children, with 19 of the past 21 awards for Best Animated Feature going to CG-animated kids movies, and with just two independent studies winning.
In 2017 the city and county of St. Louis, Missouri, brought a successful suit against the NFL and the now-Los Angeles Rams arguing they owed damages for picking up shop and moving west. The conclusion was $790 million paid out by the league to St. Louis to resolve the suit. The Rams’ owner, Stan Kroenke, was itching for a fight with the league, and threatened not to honor an indemnification agreement that put him on the hook for defending such a lawsuit. This possibility — the owner of one of the now-most-valuable franchises in the league going to war with the broader league — was extremely exciting for gadflies like me but also perilous for the league as a whole. Tuesday it was reported that Kroenke agreed to reimburse $571 million, around 72 percent of the settlement, to the NFL to put the matter to rest.
A new report out of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimated the aggregate impact of work from home to be 60 million reclaimed hours every day that otherwise would have been spent commuting. Overall, about 15 percent of people work entirely remotely and 30 percent have a hybrid schedule. All told, much of that time has been reallocated toward leisure time and sleep.
A new study of 64 participants sought to find out if it is truly the case that some people are more attractive to mosquitos than others, and the data appears to show that is definitely the case. Participants were asked to wear nylon stockings on their arms so as to get the true essence of their baseline scent rubbed into them. Those nylons were cut into pieces and, two at a time, were placed into a closed container full of mosquito females, and then the researchers monitored to see if one set of stockings was favored. Overall, some people were clearly reliably more attractive to the mosquitos than others: Subject 33, who was the most targeted, had a mosquito attractiveness score over 100 times higher than the participants who least attracted the bugs.
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