Numlock News: August 14, 2020 • Arecibo, Qoobo, New Zealand

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend!


AMC Entertainment will open just over 100 of its North American cinemas on August 20. On the marquee will be movies like Black Panther, a film where a government official wears a mask to protect his people, Back to the Future, a movie where an intelligent young person has to ensure that reckless baby boomers do not jeopardize his existence, and Grease, where several youths in high school fail to correctly wear protection. As a gimmick to get butts back in seats, they’re doing throwback pricing and charging just 15 cents per ticket. You’ll pay for the whole seat but only need the edge, and also six feet of distance in any direction, plus proper PPE, and also sign this waiver.

Jake Coyle, The Associated Press

New Zealand

Thanks to their quick and decisive action to contain the spread of the pandemic within their country, New Zealand is now home to several major film productions that are restarting. Just seven foreign productions in the country are injecting NZ$400 million (US$262 million) into the country’s film industry, which has long been a home to international co-productions, as well as a robust domestic industry. Today the Avatar sequels in particular have been productive, with 400 locals working on that production alone. I personally look forward to 2021, when we get like 47 movies that all climax with a daring cavalry charge across Pelennor Field to liberate the besieged Gondorians from the depredations of Mordor.

Leena Tailor, Variety


The United States imports at least 10 million saltwater aquarium fish every year, and combined the nations of Indonesia and the Philippines supply 80 percent of the global market for such pets. The good news is that this is a reliable industry for often poor fishing villages, but the bad news is for a while many were catching the fish in literally the worst possible way one could conceivably obtain fish, by putting cyanide in the water to stun them and then capturing the fish that emerged and survived. This killed corals — by 1986 about 60 percent of the live coral in the reef around the village of Les were dead, and by 2000 only 10 percent remained — but they reformed the practice, moving to sustainable catch practices and breeding, and as a result, the reef is bouncing back, with live coral cover up 35 percent since its low point in several areas that reformed.

Stephanie Livingston, Hakai Magazine


Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory sustained significant damage after an auxiliary cable snapped, now sporting a 100 foot gash in the reflector dish of the telescope. Astronomy nerds know Arecibo as the National Science Foundation-funded observatory that is one of the best research telescopes on the planet, a 1,000 foot diameter, 167 foot deep, 20 acre dish constructed in a natural sinkhole that after 50 years of service still proves a reliable instrument for atmospheric and planetary sciences research. The rest of us know it as that place where James Bond killed Sean Bean in GoldenEye. The break occurred at 2:45 a.m., and the three-inch cable’s fall took out six to eight panels. The telescope will be repaired as soon as possible.

Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala, University of Central Florida

White Plains

The hottest new neighborhood for corporate offices is White Plains, New York, specifically an office building off Westchester Avenue now home to new tenants like an automotive parts company, a Russian vodka company, and a Singaporean oil services firm. In reality, all of these companies are in serious financial jeopardy, and by renting office space in White Plains they can declare bankruptcy before the only bankruptcy judge in town, Judge Robert Drain. In his career Drain has handled large bankruptcies, and is reportedly preferred because he’s considered by some to be fond of a type of chapter 11 restructuring that has a faster turnaround. Since 2016, there have been 116 bankruptcies in the Southern District of New York with more than $50 million on the line, and Drain handled 25 of them, the most of any judge in the district.

Jonathan Randles, The Wall Street Journal


Robots with the intention of emotionally supporting young or infirm patients are on the rise, with thousands in use around the world. Robin, a four-foot tall bot intended for sick kids, and explicitly designed to be hugged, launched in Armenia and is now in a number of hospitals in Los Angeles. PARO is a robotic harp seal, 6,000 units of which are in use around the globe mainly in patient care. Qoobo is a cushion with a tail designed to sooth, initially launched in Japan in late 2018 with an intended audience of young women who lived alone and wanted an unbelievably easy pet, but which since has become huge in nursing homes among patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s. There are 15,000 Qoobo units in Japan and around 300 in the U.S.

Devi Lockwood, Rest of World

This past Sunday I spoke to Rest of World executive editor Anup Kaphle for the subscriber special interview. I’m a big fan of their new site, it focuses on places that don’t get mainstream coverage. They have a great newsletter you should check out. Read the full interview here and consider subscribing to get the Numlock Sunday and more perks:


A new report from Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel puts the number of apartments in Manhattan available for rent at 13,117, a record in the 14 years data has been collected. This is leading to steep discounts: In July rent rates fell 10 percent, and landlords are offering 1.7 months of free rent on average. The average rental price for a two bedroom is $4,620.

Robert Frank, CNBC

Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.

The very best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINK in your inbox, it’ll create an easy-to-send pre-written email you can just fire off to some friends. Go to to claim some free merch when you invite someone.

Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at Send corrections or typos to the copy desk at

Check out the Numlock Book Club and Numlock award season supplement.

2020 Sunday subscriber editions: Rest of World ·Worst Quarter ·Larger Than Life · Streaming · Wildlife Crime · Climate Solutions · Blue Skies · UV · Facial Recognition · Vaccine Development · The Pudding · Burmese Pythons ·

Comics Future · Comics History · Streaming · COBOL · Esoteric Political History · Instagram · Weird · Copper · Transit · Shakespeare ·
Hot Hand · 2020 Movies · AB5 · Sharing · Astronauts · Casper · Minimalism · Ghost Gear · Tech jobs · Directors
2019 Sunday Edition Archive
2018 Sunday Edition Archive