Numlock News: January 19, 2021 • E-Cigs, E-Books, Ecology

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!


A random Liam Neeson movie has bumped off Wonder Woman 1984 from the top of the box office, with The Marksman bringing in $3.7 million over a seriously quiet weekend at the U.S. domestic box office. Wonder Woman 1984, which was released direct over streaming simultaneously with its theatrical release wherever cinemas were open, actually slipped to third place behind the inexplicably durable, somehow hit The Croods: The New Age. That film has pulled in $40.2 million in North America and $134.8 million globally, a surprisingly strong performance for the feature. Places with their coronavirus outbreaks generally under control have seen solid turnout for movies: for instance, Soul became the third-highest grossing Pixar movie in China after hitting $43.1 million in ticket sales, the vast majority of its $57.4 million international gross.

Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter


A University of California San Diego study published in the journal Pediatrics found trying an electronic cigarette or vape before the age of 18 more than tripled the chance of becoming a daily smoker, with the risk increasing from 3 percent to 10 percent. Who could have possibly foreseen that giving teenagers access to one of the most addictive substances on earth, but flavored like candy, would lead them to eventually pursue that same addictive substance, but made to look cool? From 2013 to 2019, youth vape use increased from under 5 percent to 30 percent in the U.S.

Nancy Anoruo, ABC News

Exit Music (for an Auction)

A demo tape made by the band On A Friday is poised to hit the auction block of Omega Auctions on January 26. The TDK cassette tape has recordings of six tracks, three of which the auction house claims have not been heard yet: “Promise Me,” “Boy In A Box” and “These Chains.” The tape was recorded sometime before 1991, which we know because that’s the year that they signed with EMI Records and decided to change their name to Radiohead. The tape was given to a friend of the band and is expected to fetch £2,000, so if you’re a fan of the band and you want to make sure this one existing copy doesn’t get purchased by some insipid owner of a pharmaceutical company, now is the time to creep on over to the auction site and ready a bid.



A new study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology tracked 48 tagged animals from 2014 to 2016 across Wyoming to find out the impact that fences had on the day-to-day goings-on of the iconic pronghorn and mule deer of the west. Comparing those locations to the locations of 3,728 miles of fence, the researchers found the barriers presented enormous issues for the animals, keeping them out of habitats and costing them energy. About 40 percent of the time that the animals encountered a fence, they were diverted from their goals. Though a small impact, these instances add up and can seriously stress the grazers when viewed in the aggregate: the average antelope studied encountered a fence 248 times per year, and the average deer 119 times.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr., WyoFile, and Wenjing Xu, Nandintsetseg Dejid, Valentine Herrmann, Hall Sawyer, and Arthur D. Middleton, Journal of Applied Ecology


One impact of the pandemic’s forced shifts in behavior has been soaring interest in country music, at least compared to other genres, in part because the demographics that listen to country have been slower to change their mode of consumption to streaming. From March to May, country audio streams in the U.S. were up 20 percent, a pop that has held, with streams of country music up 15 percent as of the end of last year compared to pre-pandemic levels. By comparison, genres overall logged just a 3 percent increase. Country’s share of the overall pie is up from 6.9 percent of U.S. streams to 7.5 percent of streams since the pandemic began.

Neil Shah, The Wall Street Journal


Last year’s overall net farm income is projected to rise 43 percent to $119.6 billion, according to the Department of Agriculture. They don’t have to look very far to tease out what caused this enormous bumper crop: last year, farm cash receipts were down about 1 percent to $366.5 billion, but at the same time direct federal aid accounted for literally 40 percent of total farm income after more than doubling over 2019 levels. Producers made $46.5 billion from the government, with direct federal aid up 107 percent from 2019.

Western Livestock Journal


A suit filed by the law firm Hagens Berman in federal court in New York alleges that Amazon and five major book publishers struck a deal that led to higher e-book prices, an allegation of conspiracy that the filing argues forces consumers all over to pay more for books. Amazon and the publishers are yet to comment, and the firm is angling to make this a class-action case. The big five in total account for about 80 percent of all books in the U.S., and to get a sense of Amazon’s place in the digital book marketplace, they alone sold 76 percent of all digital books in September in the U.S.

Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg and Dana Mattioli, The Wall Street Journal

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.

Correction: an earlier version of this said that a study came from University of San Diego, the study was actually from University of California San Diego.

The best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINKin 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.

2021 Sunday subscriber editions: The Nib · Driven

2020 Sunday editions: 2020 · Sibling Rivalries · Crosswords · Bleak Friday · Prop 22 · NCAA · Guitars

Fumble Dimension · Parametric Press · The Mouse · Subprime Attention Crisis · Factory Farms · Streaming Summer · Dynamite · One Billion Americans · Defector · Seams of the Grid · Bodies of Work · Working in Public · Rest of World
Worst Quarter ·Larger Than Life · Streaming · Wildlife Crime · Climate Solutions · Blue Skies · UV
2020 Sunday Edition Archive
2019 Sunday Edition Archive
2018 Sunday Edition Archive