By Walt Hickey
We’re off tomorrow for the observation of Independence Day, see you Friday!
Regal Cinemas is launching their own version of the unlimited movie ticket subscription service at the end of July, with three pricing tiers — between $18 and $24 per month — to rival AMC’s Stubs A-List and the doomed, but inexplicably kicking, MoviePass product. Even more interesting, there’s an indication that they’ll also sell an annual subscription for $288 at the highest coverage level and $216 at the lower coverage level if you plan to buy in bulk. Cinemas are eyeing the model that ostensibly replicates the Netflix streaming pay model, but for brick and mortar distribution. Outcomes for subscription-style cinema packages vary, as while AMC accumulated 860,000 subscribers to its program in the past year, MoviePass also died for this.
Scotch and Irish Whiskey may be the next victims in a trade war, with proposed import duties targeting those products ready to go. The U.S. is the largest market for Irish whiskey by a long shot, importing 4.1 million 9-liter cases in 2017. For perspective, Ireland only consumed 538,300 cases of Irish whiskey that same year. North America accounts for 45 percent of global sales of Irish whiskey. Scotland shipped $1.31 billion worth of whiskey to the U.S. last year too, its highest-value market. Worth noting is that out of all the things that have made Americans spontaneously revolt, whiskey excise taxes were literally the first.
The No Longer Walking Dead
The Walking Dead comics by Robert Kirkman came to a surprise conclusion with issue #193 today, a shocking choice that was not even told to comic store owners. The comic has sold more than 50 million copies in over 60 countries and in over 30 languages. Given the success of the long-running television show it spawned and continued sales of the comics, it’s without question one of the most significant comic book properties in history. The ending was unannounced because the creator felt that knowing the precise timing of a work’s conclusion removed or measured the degree of surprise and anticipation. The commitment necessary to pull off a surprise conclusion to a multi-billion dollar franchise and not even telegraph it is breathtaking.
Nationally, 300 coal-fired power plants have closed down since 2010. Pennsylvania has shut down 14 coal plants in the past nine years, an environmental success story that does not conclude when the coal stops burning. For instance, now you have 14 large factories that are environmentally toxic and unsafe for groundwater consumption, but ideally would like to host a new tenant. Pennsylvania is working on that, and the solutions are surprising. Shamokin Dam, a small town in Pennsylvania, has converted an abandoned coal plant into a legal medical marijuana cultivation facility, and smaller-but-more efficient natural gas plants are also opening up at the former plants. Several of the sites are even targeted to become solar farms, as proximity to the grid and little biological use for the poisoned sites lend themselves well to that type of use.
Somalia may have innovated the model, but piracy is now shifting to the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. In 2018, there were 25 attempted and 57 successful boardings in the area, 40 percent of the world’s reported incidents of seaborne attacks. Still, those number may be low given the reticence of some shipping companies to disclose all incidents. The fuel tanker MT Maximus has been taken by pirates three times between 2011 and 2016. While Somali pirates made daring attacks at sea on cargo vessels, the latest trend is more opportunistic attacks, even on fishing vessels or ships ferrying equipment to offshore oil rigs, mainly to score quick ransoms for thousands of dollars rather than the millions sought by Somalis. The economic cost of this ocean crime was estimated to be $818 million off West Africa in 2017.
Grand Cayman island had no green iguanas in 2000. By 2018, the island was home to an estimated 1.6 million iguanas. Last fall, the island killed almost 800,000 iguanas in an attempt to restore their ecosystem, which evidently was a perfect home for the five-foot long, 17 pound lizards. Getting rid of the iguanas is not that easy. Females can lay 72 eggs at a time, and they dig tunnels up to 80 feet long. And guess what: they’ve successfully invaded Florida now. Iguanas cannot tolerate long periods of cold, and thanks to climate change they no longer have to. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission — who I personally like to envision as having a real Mad Max: Fury Road aesthetic — has declared open season on the menaces, encouraging Floridians to kill them on their own property whenever possible. Honestly, send them here, ever since freakin’ Giuliani got rid of the alligators when he Disney-fied the sewer system, the roaches have been getting a bit cocky for my liking.
Since 2004, congressional campaigns and political action committees have spent over $144,000 on paintings of members of Congress, an analysis found. The 2016 passage of the End Government-funded Oil-painting Act, or EGO Act, ended the use of taxpayer funds for the hagiographies. Now all such portraits are handled by the U.S. Capitol Historical Society and funded largely through donations, which are regrettably not reported. The portraits cost between $20,000 and $80,000 each, and while that is obviously stupid, I personally love it, as it’s a direct transfer of material wealth from the rich friends of vain backbenchers directly to artists, with the result of that labor then going to the public trust. Sure, it’s pathetic and sad, but as far as the gig economy goes I’ve seen worse.
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