Numlock News: July 24, 2020 • Barbie, Britney, Mulan

By Walt Hickey

Have an excellent weekend!

Life In Plastic, It’s Fantastic

Overall sales of Barbie dolls increased 7 percent to $199.3 million in the second quarter of 2020, according to Mattel’s latest earnings report, a bright spot in an otherwise down quarter that saw net sales dip 15 percent to $732.1 million. I was wondering why there might be a surge in sales of the plastic simulacra of human companionship once we hit a few months of social distancing, but decided that was too depressing a road to go down. Still, in this economy, I guess nobody was more prepared than Barbie to ride out the challenges of 2020 given her seamless career transition potential, ample and spacious real estate holdings, and ambiguous, yet manageable, relationship with a reliable himbo. Girl came prepared.


It’s Not TV

HBO Max, the new streaming service from WarnerMedia, pulled in 4.1 million subscribers in its first month according to AT&T. That included the 1 million customers who have it through an AT&T wireless plan. The long-term goal is to hit 50 million to 55 million HBO Max subscribers by 2025, which, whoa crazy, is such a coincidence because Numlock has like that exact same goal. Altogether, HBO and HBO Max have 36.3 million subscribers, which is just a few million higher than the combined subscribers of Numlock and HBO.

Natalie Jarvey and Georg Szalai, The Hollywood Reporter



Wind and solar generation takes more space physically than more traditional means of generating electricity, with 7.6 hectares per megawatt needed for wind and 1.7 hectares per megawatt needed for solar. Worldwide, there are 650 gigawatts of solar and 644 gigawatts of wind commissioned that cover an area of 52,000 square kilometers, or roughly the combined size of Vermont and New Hampshire. All told, about 8 percent of global electricity generation is from wind and solar, and with onshore wind and solar projected to account for 48 percent of global electricity production by 2050, the global area of land required will encompass something like 423,000 square kilometers.

Seb Henbest, Bloomberg

Only ‘90s Kids Will Get This

A music identification data analysis has definitively identified which songs from the 1990s still hold up, and which songs fell off the grid, and thus only ‘90s kids will get them. Songs that retained recognition included Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time,” known by 99 percent of Millennials and 96 percent of Gen Z, “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion (known by 97 percent of Millennials and 96 percent of Gen Z), “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls (98 percent and 93 percent) and “All Star” by Smash Mouth (95 percent and 92 percent). On the other hand, several stars remained iconic among Millennials but failed to get traction with the youths, with songs like “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing” by Aerosmith (a 24-point recognition gap), “Smooth” by Santana (a 36-point gap), “Waterfalls” by TLC (45-point gap) and “You’re Still The One” by Shania Twain (52-point recognition gap) falling off the map.

Matt Daniels and Ilia Blinderman, The Pudding

Heads Up

Whittier is a small city on the Prince William Sound in Alaska, and 50 kilometers away near Harriman Fiord the receding Barry Glacier is believed to have destabilized a mountainside. There have been three landslide-generated tsunamis in Alaska in the past several decades, and all this has prompted a vaguely distressing but fundamentally open-ended warning to Whittier from geologists indicating that sometime in the future an enormous mountain that is unconnected to any warning system might cause a tsunami that reaches the city within 20 minutes, heads up. The lack of certainty is the rough part: the tsunami could take place this year or in the next 20 or also maybe never, who knows. Geologists want to go out and study the mountain, and are hoping the state and federal agencies can secure the funding to do so.

Tim Lydon, Hakai Magazine


The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and Australian Space Agency have announced December 6 as the landing date for the return samples from the Hayabusa2 mission. The probe visited the asteroid Ryugu last year and is returning to Earth with samples, specifically targeting a 122,000-square-kilometer region in the Australian outback as a landing site. The first Hayabusa returned to the same landing site in 2010 with a capsule that contained a millionth of a gram of dust from the asteroid Itokawa. That mission suffered a number of problems — hence the smaller-than-hoped haul — but Hayabusa2 should be up to one gram of asteroid dust.

Jonathan O’Callaghan, Scientific American

Summer’s Over

Yesterday Disney announced updates to their release slate, and the 2020 summer movie season is officially a wash with the removal of Mulan from the calendar altogether. Originally slated for March 27 but punted monthly all the way back to August 21, Mulan is now without a solid release date. The shifts in the calendar also pushed back a number of longer-running planned franchises, such as delaying the four forthcoming sequels to Avatar back by a year — now coming out in Decembers of 2022, 2024, 2026 and 2028 — and three unnamed Star Wars films, the first of which was pushed back a year to December 2023.

Petrana Radulovic, Polygon

Last Sunday’s subscriber special edition was with Frank Pallotta, a CNN writer who covers the media and entertainment business and is a regular appearance here. We talked about Netflix’s stellar quarterly numbers, the unleashing of Peacock, Mulan, Tenet, Disney+, and whatever Quibi is. Frank can be found at CNN, on CNN Business, and on Twitter.

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