Numlock News: January 30, 2020 • Bats, Police Procedural, MoviePass

By Walt Hickey

Chapter 9

It’s happened: Helios & Matheson Analytics, the owner of MoviePass, the once-great $9.95 per month subscription service to see movies in-theater, has sought Chapter 7 protection. The interim CEO and CFO have quit, as have the entire remaining board. As befits an end of a company like MoviePass, there are wildly conflicting and inherently hilarious discrepancies in how much money the company — which effectively enacted a wealth transfer from creditors to cinephiles — is in the red. The publicly traded company has liabilities of as much as $50 million and assets below $10 million. However, other pages in the filings paint a more dire picture, showing MoviePass’ parent owes debts of $267 million. They also specifically indicate in the filings that while they could hire someone to get some specificity on that number, they literally cannot afford to get a current valuation of their debts.

Jeremy Hill, Bloomberg

Greeting Cards

Hallmark Cards will undergo a planned transformation amid a major slip in sales of greeting cards. The company will combine its card operations with the retail business of 2,000 stores, aiming to consolidate resources to improve its online offerings. E-cards, a business model that does not appear to have worked out as promised, is apparently the future for Hallmark, which is looking to an app overhaul to re-position. In 2014, the U.S. printed card business was worth $5.2 billion, and the U.S. e-card business was worth $460 million. By 2019, the printed greeting card market had slipped to $4.53 billion, but the e-card business hadn’t kept up the pace, increasing to just $710 million. I mean, seriously, sending a letter over the internet? As a profitable sustainable business? You’ve got to be nuts.

Sharon Terlep, The Wall Street Journal

Having Fun Isn’t Hard

The average American adult took 10.5 trips to the library in 2019, according to a new survey from Gallup. That makes it the most common cultural destination, and by a long shot too. The next runner-up, going to the movies at a theater, happened 5.3 times per year on average, followed by attending a live sporting event (4.7 times per year), a concert or theater event (3.8 times) and national park (3.7 times). Other events, like going to a casino (2.5 times) or zoo (0.9 times) are comparative rarities. Women are more likely than men to go to a library, 13.4 trips per year on average compared to 7.5 trips among male respondents. Young people are also the most voracious library users, with 15.5 trips, about double the rate of those 50 and over.

Justin McCarthy, Gallup

Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na

Bats are a key origin of viruses, historically ones like SARS, MERS, and Marburg virus, and possibly including bugs like the Wuhan coronavirus. Why bats, though? They carry diseases, but are often unaffected by them, have a high tolerance for viruses and can live decades. A 2017 study of 754 mammal species and 586 viral species found that bats are hosts to a much higher proportion of the kind of diseases that spill over from animals to humans. So next time you think of Batman, don’t think of a debonair billionaire who moves silently though the night as he wages a war against crime, think of more like a disease-riddled furry rodent that consumes disgusting insects by the ton and is a petri dish of possible human illness.

James Gorman, The New York Times


A new study analyzed 353 episodes of 26 different shows focused on crime in the 2017-18 television season to find out how Law and Order really gets portrayed on television. Police procedurals are a large chunk of the prime time block, with 21 of 34 dramas broadcast on the big four concentrating on some kind of cop. But they don’t truly paint a perfect picture of crime and punishment in the U.S.: just 6 percent of the episodes’ primary victims were black women, and the shows not only do a disservice to actual good police work by showing wrongful actions as routine or necessary to accomplish the arrest, but 18 of 26 shows justified as necessary cops doing actions that are illegal, unconstitutional or arguably torture.

Nick Martin, The New Republic


Researchers tagged 169 adult and juvenile albatrosses to find out what they got up to when they were out and about, soaring above the waves. The answer? Ruthlessly tracking down illegal fishing boats, apparently. From November 2018 to May 2019, the birds traversed an area 18 million square miles in size, and their sensors detected radar blips from 353 different fishing vessels. Of those boats, just 253 had an Automatic Identification System transponder turned on, while 100 ships — 28 percent — were sailing silent. One reason may be fishing for tuna and Patagonian toothfish without a license, or transferring illegal catches. Concentrating in international waters, 37 percent of the boats were in stealth mode. The avian dragnet may help countries find illegal fisheries to crack down on.

Katherine Kornei, The New York Times


Coal is collapsing in Canada, with the share of coal-fired power generation — 16 percent in 2005 — projected to fall below 1 percent by 2040. As of yet, just four provinces — Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia — house coal plants, but those are on the way out. The largest consumer of coal were Alberta’s coal-fired plants, which produced 43,581 gigawatt-hours in 2005, and in 2019 that was down to 36,552 GW.h, with a projected fall to zero in 2029.

Canada Energy Regulator

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