Numlock News: April 19, 2021 • Fyre, Mead, Lord of the Rings

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!


Skinny jeans still make up the largest share of women’s jeans in the U.S. at 34 percent of sales, but the world is changing, and the skinny jean hegemony has shown signs of breaking down. That figure is down 7 percentage points from last February, demonstrating that the tides around jeans fashion may be changing. The U.S. women’s jeans market was $7.1 billion, so catching on to the trend of high-waisted loose-fitting jeans is of critical importance for apparel makers looking to come out of the pandemic strong. Relaxed fit men’s styles at Levi’s saw a 50 percent increase in sales early last year compared to the prior year.

Sapna Maheshwari, The New York Times


Against all indications I received in college, it seems that truly a lot of people have become pretty cool with some stuff that I did not expect them to be cool about: the latest data out of the Pew Research Center puts support for legal medical and recreational marijuana use at 60 percent, which plus a further 31 percent support for medical use only, means a net 91 percent of Americans think weed should be legal. From 2000 to 2019, the share of Americans who wanted to legalize it more than doubled. A mere 8 percent think marijuana should be illegal for adults. This will hopefully open up a brand-new conversation about weed nationally, and I mean that literally, because finally people who enjoy marijuana will have an opportunity to discuss matters of import beyond “it would be great if marijuana was legal.”

Ted Van Green, Pew Research Center

Lord of the Rings

Amazon Studios’ spending on the first season of their forthcoming Lord of the Rings television show will reportedly hit NZ$650 million ($465 million USD), an objectively ridiculous sum of money that well surpasses any previous record for the medium of television. The figure comes from the government of New Zealand, which will throw the production a controversial NZ$160 million ($114 million U.S) tax rebate to subsidize the series. The massive production costs for the first season almost certainly include a number of expenses just required to get the machine in motion, like the estimated $250 million they paid for the rights to the Tolkien property, plus the ungodly amount of money it will take to make The Silmarillion appeal to a popular audience. I knew we should have been concerned about this project the moment the accountants attempted to assuage skittish executives by plainly explaining, “Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo! Ring a dong! hop along! Fal lal the willow! Tom Bom, jolly Tom, Tom Bombadillo!”

James Hibberd, The Hollywood Reporter


The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has released its latest 24-month projections, and forecasts that water levels at Lake Powell and Lake Mead will fall low enough to trigger an official water shortage for much of the Southwest. The projection is that Lake Mead, the reservoir for much of the region, will fall below 1,075 meters for the first time in June 2021, at which point a shortage declaration will be prompted. Under a shortage, Arizona and Nevada will be subjected to mandatory reductions in water use, with Arizona losing a third of its supply. Another issue may be at the Hoover Dam, the source of cheap hydropower for many rural communities in Arizona and Nevada. If the water gets too low and the dam can’t operate, costs may rise significantly.

Sam Metz, The Associated Press


The family behind the Samsung empire in South Korea owes the government at least 11 trillion won in inheritance taxes following the death of patriarch Lee Kun-hee. The inheritance tax of one of the wealthiest people in the world has been a major pain point for a family seeking to both maintain control over the sprawling business while also freeing up enough capital to pay the taxman. Some help could come from what is one of the largest privately-owned art collections in the world, with 13,000 works and an estimated value of 2.5 to 3 trillion won. South Korean law currently doesn’t allow art to be used to pay taxes, but some cultural groups want to see that changed in order to ensure the art doesn’t leave the country if the family decides to solve some of their money problems at the auction block. It’s hardly without precedent; in the U.K., about $89 million worth of art and cultural properties were moved to public ownership over the last year on record through tax programs.

Yoojung Lee, Bloomberg


A suit against the company behind the Fyre Festival may be approaching a conclusion and settlement for 277 ticket holders in a class action suit. The Fyre Festival was a notorious fiasco pitched as a deluxe concert and cultural festival for the Instagram crowd on an island in the Bahamas. It was not that, as any number of documentaries detailing the flopped fest have described, and duped ticket holders have been trying to claw back some of the money they paid for a scam that also landed several people in legal jeopardy. Right now, the number is looking like a $2 million settlement, which would break down to $7,220 each for their troubles.

Suzy Byrne, Yahoo Entertainment


Authorities in the Philippines have seized 200 tonnes of illegally harvested giant clam shells, which have an estimated value of $25 million. In the Philippines, killing an endangered species can lead to penalties up to 12 years of prison and up to a million pesos. Among the seized clam shells were Tridacna gigas shells, the largest clam in the world, which have been used as a replacement for ivory in the market for mean people who want to buy things made out of dead endangered animals.


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