Numlock News: July 28, 2020 • Rich, Shots, Doolittle

By Walt Hickey

Seeds of Mystery

The agriculture departments of 27 states have each issued statements regarding mysterious packages of seeds received by some residents that, based on packaging material, are believed to possibly originate from China. The agricultural officials are urging residents to not plant the seeds that unexpectedly arrived at their doorstep, which is some real Twilight Zone stuff, and I don’t care for it one bit. Officials worry that since it’s unknown what the seeds may be they may be unsafe, ecologically, to plant. Also, do you want Ents? Because this is how you get Ents.

Allyson Waller, The New York Times


Researchers have found a link between seniors who got at least one flu shot and a declining risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The analysis of 6,000 medical records found that people over 60 who had at least one flu shot had their risk of developing Alzheimer’s decline 17 percent, and those who were regularly vaccinated saw an additional 13 percent drop in risk. The effects are not understood or guaranteed to apply the same to everyone, but the possibility of a protective effect is now being studied further, and may have something to do with inflammation.

Jon Hamilton, NPR

Paradox of Choice

A new survey found 50 percent of respondents have a difficult time deciding what to watch on streaming services, with 46 percent of respondents agreeing the number of things to watch is overwhelming and 40 percent saying they have a difficult time even deciding which streaming service to watch. According to Reelgood, the 140 streaming services in the U.S. offer 76,366 movies and 16,177 television shows, and I get why it might take a little time to decide, screw it, we’re just going to watch Friends again. What’s somewhat amazing is that the solutions people want to this trouble — 36 percent would like a random selection feature, 65 percent want popular shows pushed on them, 82 percent want similar content blocked together — is cable. What you people want is cable, the thing you are describing is called a channel. What have we done to ourselves?

Sarah Shevenock, Morning Consult


The U.S. Postal Service is struggling to keep up with both the pressures of running a logistics-based operation in a rough period as well as being systematically undercut by the people in charge of overseeing it. From 2009 to 2018, USPS was made to cut its workforce by 77,000 people, a steep cut for an agency with 634,000 employees and an ever-expanding workload. In the 2019 fiscal year, 17 percent of mail volume was not processed on time, and 20 percent of transportation trips left late. Today, USPS is delivering 60 percent to 80 percent more packages than it typically does at this time of year and without the staffing boost that links to the predictable holiday rush.

Aaron Gordon, Motherboard

In The Money

Every year Charles Schwab conducts a survey asking people how much money it takes to be considered wealthy, a figure that has reliably been stuck at $2.4 million from 2017 to 2019. As recently as January of this year, the average amount was $2.6 million as the threshold of being truly wealthy. Then some stuff happened that I don’t really want to get into right now, and for 2020 the amount has fallen 17 percent year over year to $2 million as the line at which one becomes rich in the public understanding. Even the perception of affluence is tinged by generational distinctions: in June, Baby Boomers drew the line at $2.2 million, Millennials at $1.7 million.

Suzanne Woolley, Bloomberg


Just to underscore the sheer desperation at the global box office right now, the 2019 film Doolittle — starring Robert Downey Jr., an inexplicable reboot of the Doctor Doolittle franchise that absolutely nobody was asking for — made $4.71 million at the Chinese box office in their first opening weekend since the outbreak began and shut down the cinemas. About 4,900 theaters in China were open, roughly 44 percent of the total screens, and they were allowed to have 30 percent capacity. With films like Doolittle in cinemas, this was not exactly a difficult bar to stay below, and total box office in all of China was $12.6 million.

Rebecca Davis, Variety


In a blow to U.S. esteem, Warner Bros. has instructed exhibitors abroad they intend to release the Christopher Nolan film Tenet to their cinemas on August 26. Tenet will launch in 70 territories at the end of the month of August, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United Kingdom. Somewhat notoriously, the United States — which ordinarily gets the first bite at the apple for tentpole American studio movies — is not on that list. Some North American cities may see Tenet on Labor Day weekend, but it looks like the brilliant mind-bending twist of this Nolan movie was that only countries that managed to rein in their outbreaks will get to see the movie.

Rebecca Rubin, Variety

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