By Walt Hickey
Used Pokémon popsicle sticks are reselling for hundreds of dollars on the internet, but let’s hear them out. June 1 saw the limited release of Pokémon Garigari-kun, and a box of six of the popsicles retailed for 350 yen. However, some of them are winners that entitle the holders to special, rare trading cards featuring the Pokémon Zarude. Several sticks have sold in the 45,000-to-50,000 yen range (US$472), but the cards themselves are going for about 5,000 to 10,000 yen cheaper, the reasoning being that instead of buying a used, rare Pokémon card they’re buying a (disgusting) used popsicle stick that entitles them to a brand-new professionally-shipped from the manufacturer crisp mint condition card. Listen, back in my day you had to talk to strange man, then fly to a remote island, then ride up and down the coast of Cinnabar Island for a chance to get a weird Pokémon, so I can admire the hustle.
The Eight Hundred has made a total of $119 million in its opening weekend plus previews in China, which is an extremely normal box office number that I am incredibly unaccustomed to. The film accounted for 60 percent of total screenings nationwide, with other cinemas screening Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (11.5 percent), Onward (6 percent) and Trolls World Tour (4 percent). The films tells a patriotic story about a fight between China and Japan in 1930s Shanghai, and is the first blockbuster to hit China since the shutdowns began in January.
Gaming or Gaming
The video game business has evolved over the course of several decades from the original model — put the money on the GameStop counter, walk out of the shop with some software, end of transaction — to a newer model, which is more “Vegas meets Cosplay.” According to Newzoo, physical game sales were just 9 percent of video game revenues, and digital game sales were 12 percent. Now, in-game transactions account for 77 percent of video game revenues, such as purchasing custom items, character skins, and buying randomized, slot-style loot boxes. This shift has attracted the attention of legislators, litigators and other authorities who aren’t particularly cool with introducing children to the dopamine cascade of gambling for fun and profit.
Fewer than 40 percent of U.S. schools had a full time nurse before the pandemic, and a quarter of schools didn’t even have a part time one. You’d think that with months of preparation and lead time that a national effort to give districts the resources they need to hire full time nurses during a pandemic would be a simple, universally beloved pitch, but this is America, the land of “rub some dirt on it and get back in there, kid.” So, no, that has not happened. Some states in particular are at risk: in Washington State, just 7 percent of schools have a full time nurse and 30 percent of districts have one for no more than six hours a week. New York City has been on a hiring spree after the teacher’s union said members should not return to classrooms without a nurse in every school, so maybe there’s some sort of lesson in the advantages of collective bargaining and worker health there.
Mean streets are getting meaner, and more than 700 cities have said they may cut infrastructure spending due to budget shortfalls. Potholes caused $15 billion in damages to cars over five years, and some states are in a particularly rough stretch of road: in Rhode Island, 48 percent of urban streets are in poor condition according to the Federal Highway Administration, followed by California (46 percent), New Jersey (42 percent), and South Dakota and Hawaii (36 percent each). In some metropolitan areas in particular, most roads are bad: San Francisco-Oakland (71 percent of streets are poor), San Jose (63 percent) and Los Angeles (63 percent).
Births in many developed countries are poised to crater next year amid the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic and, in many cases, the botched response. Japan is projected to see births drop 10 percent in 2021, accelerating a decline. Last year there were 860,000 births in Japan, the first time the level dipped below 900,000 since tracking began. Babies in the U.S. could decline by 300,000 to 500,000 next year, a 10 percent drop in the 3.7 million average annual births. According to the International Labor Organization, 17.1 percent of people aged 18 to 29 around the world have not worked since the pandemic began, and those who did saw their hours shrink an average of 23 percent.
Two dueling storms — Hurricane Marco and Tropical Storm Laura — are bearing down on the Gulf of Mexico, and crews are splitting from oil derricks left and right. Of the 643 manned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, 144 have been evacuated. Those that have not been evacuated have mostly shut down, with 57.6 percent — 1.07 million barrels per day — of offshore production shut down.
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