Numlock News: February 11, 2019

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!

Everything’s Not Awesome

The Lego Movie 2 completely missed expectations at the box office this weekend, making $34.4 million compared to the projection of at least $50 million. Its predecessor was a surprise hit and pulled in $69 million in 2014. What went wrong? The first film seemed to resonate more with a wider audience, while the sequel really only nailed the youth demo: for the first Lego movie, 41 percent of moviegoers were under the age of 18, compared to 47 percent this time around.

Rebecca Rubin, Variety

Stuff You Smear On Your Face

The U.S. cosmetics industry is a $70 billion-per-year industrial juggernaut, with 3 million shipments coming in from overseas every year. Meanwhile, the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors has 27 staff members and a budget of $8 million, and the laws that give the office authority have not been updated since 1938. Needless to say, the fed are outgunned, and are basically powerless to regulate your various snake oil peddlers, charlatans, and beauty products. On the whole cosmetics have a pretty good safety record, but then again with absent labeling and enforcement, we really have no idea what we're putting on our faces, especially the imported stuff. Those 3 million shipments? That’s double a decade ago and less than 1 percent are inspected by the FDA, and about 15 percent of the shipments tested are contaminated or contain dangerous ingredients.

The New York Times

Fermented Fish Guts

In the early 1990s, a fish sauce company opened in St. Mary's in Newfoundland, Canada. Seventeen years ago, the plant shut down, leaving behind 150 vats, each holding 12,500 liters of fermenting seafood sauce. Today, the smell is unfathomable. The town of 400 can't afford the $700,000 it would cost to rid themselves of all those pungent rotting fish guts, and even if they did find the money they'd still have trouble finding someone to haul them out, as the site was described as "one of the worst" ever encountered and the fact that it's rodent-less being a bad sign, as "rodents know when something is toxic." Listen, I’m not a scientist but for some reason this seems like one of those problems that is one idiotic viral YouTube challenge away from being solved.

Rob Antle and Jen White, CBC News

Please Come Back

The Bahamas' tourism outreach efforts are paying off, with stopover visits to the nation increasing 17 percent last year. Tourism to the Bahamas made headlines when a group of morons attempted to hold a music festival there, but the nation’s tourism is bouncing back thanks to the Lenny Kravitz-helmed campaign. Hey, hiring Kravitz worked for Tommy Hilfiger in the 90s, perhaps he’s the one to help us all pretend the Fyre Festival never happened.

Kim Bhasin and Polly Mosendz, Bloomberg

Mayors Are Not Good At This

A survey of 110 mayors who oversee cities with more than 75,000 people found that 84 percent believe that giving businesses money to set up shop there is a good policy. All told, 44 percent said that the incentives were unpopular with constituents but good for the city, 40 percent said the inducements were popular and good, 14 percent said they were unpopular and bad and 2 percent said they were popular but bad. Failing to see the forest for the trees, a majority of the mayors agreed with the statement "other cities tend to offer too many tax breaks and other incentives to companies in pursuit of economic development." Anyway, if you're looking for a bunch of easy marks and easy-to-shakedown rubes who are desperate to give you money in exchange for the vague promise of jobs, America's mayors stand ready to incompetently bribe you.

Richard Florida, CityLab

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How Much To Make It All Better

A new economic study has found that men will pay over $37,000 to go from totally bald to a full head of hair. Men were presented with seven levels of baldness — one being a full head, seven being fully bald. To translate this into layman’s term’s, I’ll use the internationally recognized SVU Scale of Hair Stability: Detective Tutuola is a one, Detective Munch is a two, early-season Detective Stabler is a three, late season Stabler is a four, and Capt. Cragan is a seven. The study found that men were willing to pay $5,300 to $5,800 to reverse their hair loss by one number, which for those snooty prestige TV people is basically what happened to Pete Campbell on seven seasons of Mad Men. I think about this a lot.

Olivia Goldhill, Quartz


By 2039, experts estimate that updating aging water pipes and the water system in the U.S. will cost $1 trillion. Already the effects of repairing and maintaining the system are being passed on to the poorest residents, though, and a key reason is the federal government not keeping pace with the water needs of the country. Federal funding covered 63 percent of spending on water projects in 1977. By 2014 that figure was merely 8 percent. The amount spent on pipes fell from $77 per person in 1977 to $11 per person today, and that shortfall is now being filled by bleeding customers dry, and cutting off their water when they can't afford the rates. Weird that when the top marginal income tax rate was 70 percent, the cost of maintaining our infrastructure was considerably less brutal on the poor!

Maria Zamudio and Will Craft, NPR

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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite

2018 Sunday Editions: 2018  ·  Game of Thrones  ·  Signal Problems · CTE and Football · Facebook · Shark Repellent · Movies · Voting Rights · Goats · Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores