Numlock News: September 19, 2022 • Duesseldorf, Tetrapod, Phantom
By Walt Hickey
The Woman King
The new Viola Davis movie The Woman King made $19 million in North America this past weekend on the back of great reviews, beating the studio’s $12 million expectation. Audiences were 61 percent women and 60 percent Black, and the reviews were overwhelmingly positive. We’re still in the doldrums of September, so the film didn’t have a whole lot of competition besides a few awards season lotto tickets and your occasional early horror movie ahead of spooky season.
Apple had a great year at the Academy Awards, becoming the first streamer to bag a Best Picture win with CODA. Even before that win, they were already laying some of the groundwork for this coming award season, having shot the $120 million film Emancipation directed by Antoine Fuqua that tells the story of an enslaved man who escaped to the North and fights in the Union army, a powerful story that wrapped filming a month before this year’s Oscars. It was considered a centerpiece of Apple’s 2023 Oscars push, but there’s a bit of an issue: The star of this movie is Will Smith, who slapped a presenter in the middle of the Oscars and who has since surrendered his membership, been banned from all Academy events for the next decade, and ticked off a whole lot of people. Early screenings have reportedly tested rather well, but it’s unclear what Apple’s going to do with it.
Customs officials in Germany followed a trail of slime in the Duesseldorf Airport to find six bags of 93 giant African land snails, 28 kilograms of fish and smoked meat, and an entire suitcase of rotting meat belonging to a traveller from Nigeria. The goods were destined for a store in western Germany before the customs officials followed the slime and busted the smuggler. The snails are now in the hands of an animal rescue service in Duesseldorf. The meat was destroyed.
The surge in demand from streaming services and viewers has put a strain on the entire field, as documentarians struggle to keep up quality when production has become downright industrial. The number of original streaming documentaries increased 77 percent from January 2019 to July 2022, with demand up 186 percent. Industry associations say it usually takes a month per 10 minutes of finished work for a doc, but the sky-high demand for original work is pushing producers to work fast, which some think can come at the expense of accuracy or principles. Overall, in 2022 documentaries were responsible for 10.1 percent of original content demand on streaming.
Kirin is about to release a line of bowls and spoons developed alongside Meiji University that uses a weak electrical current to make food taste saltier without actually increasing the salt content. They’ll hit the commercial market by 2023, and work by making more sodium ions hit taste buds. Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, and Japanese men eat more than twice the WHO’s recommended amount of salt per day. The Japanese market for low- or no-sodium foods grew 26 percent over the past five years, but the main issue is that salt tastes awesome, so the new device is designed to make the low-sodium stuff taste as good as the full-sodium stuff.
The Phantom of the Opera Was Here
Producers have announced that the longest-running show on Broadway, The Phantom of the Opera, will end next February after what will be its 13,925th performance. As of last week the show had been seen by 19.8 million people and grossed $1.3 billion on Broadway. It’s an expensive show, and decreased international tourism made a dent in its finances. That means that Chicago will become the longest-running show currently operating in New York, with some 10,114 performances as of last week. That show is right now the second-longest running show ever, and is significantly cheaper to put on than Phantom when it comes to weekly operating costs.
Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod?
Four-legged creatures first came out of the water and onto the land 400 million years ago, and then 350 million years later a bunch of them recognized that was a huge mistake and immediately started heading back into the water. Over the next 10 million years those would become whales, dolphins and the like, and as the weirdest mammals they’re also fascinating genetically, with all sorts of nonfunctional genes and new evolutionary innovations. One study tried to figure out what happened with that back-to-water transition by comparing the genomes of dolphins, orcas, sperm whales and minke whales with 55 terrestrial mammals as well as manatees, walruses and the Weddel seal. The study found that 85 genes became nonfunctional when they returned to the seas, including the genes that make saliva — who needs that when you have an ocean? — four genes that make sleep-governing melatonin, and two genes that govern clotting that could pose problems on deep ocean dives.
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