Numlock News: October 20, 2023 • Sprite, Paint, Butts
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend! Everyone gets the Sunday edition this week. Those You Are What You Watch preorders are coming soon, order yours today to make sure you get it on launch day:
Yesterday I appeared on one of my favorite podcasts, Emerging Form, chatting all about the book and the newsletter. It was a great conversation that involved one of my favorite colleagues, former FiveThirtyEighter Christie Aschwanden. I really love the show, you should be sure to check it out.
Best Buy was an early kingmaker for the DVD format in the 1990s, but a recent announcement that the company will eliminate the category next year puts a serious question mark on the future of physical media. The company announced that it’ll just stop selling Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD discs in its stores next year, a big blow for physical media that was already losing a great deal of ground. This follows reports of Target cutting back the DVD and Blu-ray space in its stores, Netflix killing its DVD rental service, and last year’s choice by Walmart to cut space for discs by 20 percent. All told, the market for physical home media is down from $24 billion in 2006 to $2 billion last year, which makes it a niche around the same size as comics and hobby games.
Science Has Gone Too Far
Coca-Cola and Pernod Ricard have cut a deal to produce a ready-to-drink mixed cocktail that is literally just Absolut vodka and Sprite. Legendary adwoman Peggy Olson once quipped that “You need three ingredients for a cocktail. Mountain Dew and vodka is an emergency,” and that wisdom certainly holds here. The idea that a company could charge a premium to mix together Absolut and Sprite is an insult; as we all know, cheap vodka mixed with Sprite is an innovation of desperation, the mixture one creates when all other options have been exhausted, the kind of drink that you have when you’re 17 and new to the whole thing. This is the kind of beverage that is exclusively made at 2:45 in the morning in a college dorm because the bars closed and we can’t get mixers at Wawa because the line was too long. An Absolut and Sprite is the official drink of a CYO party. An Absolut and Sprite makes a Jack and Coke look like a Sazerac. That it is being combined in a ready-to-drink offering is an insult to the aluminum that went into that can. Given that the ready-to-drink category is projected to grow by $11.6 billion from 2022 to 2026 alone, I can almost guarantee it’s going to be amazingly successful and I already hate it.
The Marvels, which will be the 33rd entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and follows the 2019 Brie Larson-led film Captain Marvel, is currently trending to what would be a disappointing $75 million to $80 million. Estimates for the film, which is out next weekend, are a bit all over the place. The movie is suffering from a few factors, including the unsettled Screen Actors Guild strike that is hampering promotional efforts, as well as inevitable arguments about superhero fatigue and the difficulties of marketing the movie after Secret Invasion sort of bombed. Captain Marvel made $153.4 million on opening weekend in North America, so even with a soft opening given that the studios have punted lots of their slate to next year, the movie could have legs.
The British Museum is reeling after it discovered the theft of 2,000 gems over the course of 25 years, thanks in part to sloppy record-keeping. According to the museum, there are 2,400,000 uncataloged or partially cataloged items that need to be documented, and it’ll cost £10 million over an estimated five years to properly account for them. This revelation follows a rough summer for the museum, which houses the cultural proceeds of several centuries of empire, and the museum has revealed it’s only managed to recover 350 of the 2,000 stolen objects. Perhaps, if the Museum lacks the resources or competence to store their artifacts securely, they can rely on institutions in Egypt, Greece, Nigeria, Italy, Iraq, Polynesia, India, France, Germany, China, Turkey, Japan, Iran, Syria, Ireland, New Zealand or any of the more than 200 countries that can more securely store the cultural heritage items now on loan in London.
White paint is in style right now, or more specifically, many different shades of white paint are in fashion right now. All told, Sherwin-Williams offers almost 200 different shades of white, in warm and in cool colors, all subtly different than one another and different from any of the 35,000 color names that Sherwin-Williams has come up with over the course of 157 years of doing business. The sheer abundance of types of white paint can push redecorators into a state of decision paralysis, deciding between Dover White, Eider White, Panda White, and literally hundreds more. If that’s hard, have pity for the paint stores: Sherwin-Williams is not allowed to repeat a color name that’s been used before, meaning that all the nuances of white paint now available to your typical consumer are the result of a strenuous battle with not just a color swatch but likely also a thesaurus.
Worldwide, cigarette consumption is in decline, down by about a trillion cigarettes per year since 2012. However, the number of cigarette butts found in the environment by researchers has tripled from 2012 to 2019. The reason is, there’s a ton more research being done around the impact that cigarette litter has on beaches and other environments, to the extent that there were just four such publications about the environmental impact of cigarette butts in the year 2013, but 38 such publications in 2022. That 2022 figure is more than double the 15 such studies in 2021, already a record. Some of the research includes how best to compel smokers to discard their trash, finding that smokers who flicked the cigarette were an average of 9.45 meters from an ashtray, and 5 meters of distance was a key inflection point to get people to discard them appropriately.
The cost of sugar is up globally since the start of the year, owing to dry weather in parts of the world like India and Thailand that produce lots of it. U.S. sugar policy is strongly protectionist, and the government requires that 85 percent of purchases be produced domestically. Overall the global price of white refined sugar is up to 32 cents per pound, up 35 percent from 24 cents per pound this time last year. That said, U.S. supply of sugar is higher than it was during the 2020-21 growing season and there are 300,000 pounds of available supply as of September. All that’s to say that many industry analysts expect the price of Halloween candy to be up this year, based on those higher costs, but they’re not expected to spike badly because of how weird the sugar market is just generally.
Check out my appearance on Emerging Form here: