Numlock News: August 19, 2019 • Halloween, Comedy, Pompeii Sorceress

By Walt Hickey


Good Boys made an estimated $20.8 million at the domestic box office this past weekend, which not only smashed expectations that were in the $12 million to $15 million range, but moreover makes the film the first comedy to open to number one in over three years. The last time a comedy opened to number one was The Boss in April, 2016 which goes a long way to explaining the dire state of the original feature length comedy genre. Just think about it: the Adam Sandler movie was direct-to-streaming, the big Melissa McCarthy movie was some weird gangster film, and the Seth Rogan tentpole was the Timon and Pumbaa parts of The Lion King. It’s bad out there.

Nate Nickolai, Variety


As we all know, it’s August, therefore store shelves are transitioning directly from back to school to Halloween seasonal items. As the year-end holiday season has been creeping ever earlier, Halloween itself serves as a crucial buffer ensuring that there’s at least a zone of “contemplating death” between the sun-soaked sandy summer and the the peppermint-and-tinsel season that would otherwise seek total calendar domination. Craft stores start early with the Halloween gear, with Michaels and Joann Fabrics rolling out spooktacular aisles in mid-July. Consumers are at least partly to blame, as last year 37.1 percent said they planned to shop for Halloween before October. Nevertheless, Halloween has the benefit of being both less psychologically complicated than Christmas and also way cheaper, with the average consumer planning to spend $90 for Halloween compared to $1,007.24 for the holidays.

Hilary George-Parkin, Vox


Experts have unearthed a wooden crate full of 100 miniature objects that include “miniature dolls, phallic amulets, necklace beads, and a tiny skull among other objects made of bone, bronze, glass, and amber” in the doomed city of Pompeii, which was annihilated by a volcano 2,000 years ago. Naturally, they’re analyzing and examining the trove — which the general director of the Pompeii archaeological site said belonged to “a female sorcerer” — found in the room with 10 victims of the volcano explosion, because you know what is the worst thing that could happen?

Kate Brown, Art World


An auction for a vintage automobile designed by Ferdinand Porsche descended into chaos this past weekend. The car was designed by the founder in 1939 in Germany — you know, an uncomplicated origin story — well before the founding of Porsche AG in 1948, and was projected to sell for about $20 million. Due to an error, the bidding opened at “$30 million,” and then jumped to “$70 million,” which would have smashed a record before the auctioneer announced an error that he meant to say “$13 million” and “$17 million,” and then a fiasco ensued.

Hannah Elliott, Bloomberg


China’s agricultural ministry reported that the nation’s pig herd is 32.2 percent smaller than it was the same time last year, a staggering testament to the effect that the African swine fever has had on the country’s pork business. The sow herd, which is a great indicator for how quickly the industry could bounce back, is officially down 31.9 percent. Those are major shifts from the data reported in June, when the swine herd was down just 25.8 percent. Independent analysts think that it’s actually even worse than the official statistics indicate, closer to 45 percent down year over year. The disease, which does not affect humans, has yet to be completely wiped out.

Jennifer Shike, Farm Journal’s Pork


To outside observers, this year looked like a bloodbath at Netflix, with two dozen cancelled television programs including some critical darlings and niche programs with dedicated fanbases. But Bloomberg’s analysis indicates that the streaming network isn’t any quicker to pull the plug on flailing shows than traditional networks: 81 percent of Netflix shows get canned before making it to season 4, which may sound high, but is actually fairly normal. It’s a hair higher than HBO, where 77.2 percent of shows get cancelled prior to season 4 from 2013 to 2017, and more merciful than CBS, where 83.7 percent of shows get the axe before season 4. About half of Netflix shows make it to season 3. The issue for Netflix is that they don’t share data, meaning that it’s less easy to justify cancellations with publicly available figures.

Lucas Shaw, Bloomberg


According to a new study published in Nature Energy, there are 344 cities in China with solar energy generation that is cheaper than the energy coming from the overall grid, and another 75 cities where the price of solar can even compete with the price of coal electricity. The nation is investing $367 billion towards renewable energy from 2017 to 2020, and that’s crucial: right now 59 percent of China’s energy consumption comes from coal power.

Jack Guy, CNN

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