By Walt Hickey
Have an excellent weekend!
The Lion King reboot drops on July 19, and early projections are suitably large. The Beyoncé and Donald Glover starring film will be king undisputed, respected, saluted, and seen for the wonder it is, according to one analyst, which projects the film will make $150 million in its opening weekend. This film is the third Disney live-action remake this year after Dumbo (which made $351 million globally) and Aladdin (which made $815 million). Previous live action remakes did considerably better, with the 2016 Jungle Book making $966 million after a $103 million debut and the 2017 Beauty and the Beast hauling in $1.2 billion from a $175 million opening. A shining new era may be tiptoeing nearer, though, as The Lion King has a clear runway on through September after its debut.
Art is often referred to as a serious investment, but let’s be real the people who hawk that line typically sell art. One study attempted to track the actual value of art sales, tracking 2.3 million paintings sold between 1960 and 2010. Of those, only 32,928 paintings were sold more than once for a total of 69,103 repeat sales, which is a fairly crummy resale rate for a purported “investment.” But even more to the point, once you account for the fact that lots of paintings aren’t sold because they haven’t accrued value, the estimated average annual rate of return for a painting drops from 8.7 percent to 6.3 percent. And keep in mind it’s expensive to sell a painting: factor in the 25 percent buyers premium, sales tax, shipping and handling to obtain the piece, then 10 percent sellers commission, insurance, photo, shipping and handling and capital gains to sell it, you’ve got to have a painting appreciate 80 percent just to break even.
The EPA estimates that wasted food accounts for 21.6 percent of discarded solid waste, and the consequences of food waste are intimidating. Even setting aside the vast resources applied towards growing food doomed to the landfill, food loss and waste contribute about 8 percent of global methane emissions because they rot in those landfills. One study of three American cities found that each person threw away about 900 grams of edible food per week, and 68 percent of discarded food is edible. If food loss and waste were one country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, according to researchers who study such things, and it would also be named New New Jersey, according to me.
In 1876, the import of some Japanese chestnut tree seeds led to the introduction of a fungus to the U.S., which American chestnuts — which span from Georgia to Maine, can reach 10 feet in diameter and 100 feet wide — had no resistance to. Discovered in 1904, the blight wiped out 4 billion American chestnuts, 99.9 percent of the species, by 1950. The New York Botanical Garden is home to a genetically modified organism named Darling 4, a wild chestnut with an inserted wheat gene that produces an enzyme that detoxifies the blight. A little drive upstate resides Darling 58, a successor to that tree, but with enough enzyme power to stop the blight. The successors of Darling 58 are planned to be released to the wild, to become the first GMOs purposefully planted outside a lab or farm plot. This is naturally super controversial and lots of people are losing their mind over a tree, because why not.
Back To School
A study released earlier this week points to an extended back-to-school shopping season, with 63 percent of parents saying that they were going to start shopping in July, up from 60 percent the previous year. The parents reported to expect to spend $507 for back to school clothing, electronics, and supplies, up from $465 last year. Amazon’s mid-summer sale, termed “Prime Day,” has prompted rival retailers to roll out their own mid-summer sales, and that’s become a serious trend: close to 250 retailers have rolled out competing sales.
In last week’s Sunday Special edition, I spoke to Bloomberg’s Jordyn Holman — yeah, the very same Jordyn Holman one who wrote that article about back to school! — about how the Champion brand stumbled into a wild comeback as a hot new brand beloved by stylish teens, and how this is the wildest year in the history of New York department stores in quite some time. Check it out!
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Websites need to find a way to prevent bots from overwhelming forms and interactive components, so Google’s reCaptcha product is in use on at least 4.5 million websites, including 25 percent of the top 10,000 sites on the Internet. This originally took the form of people trying to identify squiggly writing, which then became people identifying stop signs, crosswalks or storefronts in order to both stay ahead of the pace of bot technology, as well as train the next generation of bots to decipher squiggly lines and stop signs and storefronts. But the next phase of reCaptcha is a significant shift, with 650,000 websites today using “v3,” which instead of requiring a person to do a task one time, instead appears to track users continually to determine whether or not they are a risk, improving convenience by sacrificing a degree of privacy.
These Little Piggies Did Not Go To Market
Just as herds of swine in Asia are declining due to to the spread of African swine favor, the North American swine herd is bigger than ever, with more hogs and pigs in the U.S. living today than any time since at least 1943. There are 75,520,000 pigs in the U.S. today, up 3.6 percent from last quarter. American and Canadian producers are building the herd ahead of what’s believed to be increased demand from China, provided that American exporters can stomach the tariffs and Canadian exporters can get past the import stoppage.
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