By Walt Hickey
And we’re back: F9, the latest installment in the Fast and Furious family of products, made $70 million domestically, which is not only the best North American opening weekend of the pandemic era but also the best opening since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opened at the end of 2019. It’s playing in 4,179 theaters and made $30 million on Friday alone, a one-day pandemic record. It missed the $98.8 million made by its predecessor The Fate of the Furious but did beat the Dwayne Johnson-Jason Statham two-hander spinoff Hobbes & Shaw, which opened to $60 million in 2019. The series continues to be among the most diverse draws Hollywood has to offer: among Friday ticket buyers, 33 percent were Caucasian, 32 percent were Latino, 22 percent were Black and 13 percent were Asian, Native American or another race. I have to admit I’ve been rooting for F9, if only because much like Numlock it’s also a beloved media property named after a rather useless and specific functional key on a standard keyboard.
One of the biggest shows on television right now is The Chosen, an independently-produced pricey television series that depicts the life of Jesus Christ. It’s beaten 194 million views on its own app, and dropped on Peacock earlier this year. It was the result of a $10 million crowdfunding project, the highest ever for a media crowdfunding, and contains the kind of splashy direction and prestige quality that lots of faith-based media skimps on. Adapting the Bible likely has some draws — any comic book filmmaker will tell you there’s an appeal to tapping into a fervent existing fandom, King James isn’t exactly out there collecting royalties anymore, and at least we know the author’s not gonna drop the ball on finishing the last couple of books.
The International Seabed Authority is working on developing a Mining Code to govern extractive industries targeting valuable minerals on the ocean floor. For instance, there’s a whole lot of cobalt and manganese down there, and we need that for batteries. As any good bachelor party organizer knows, international waters isn’t exactly known for a surfeit of regulations, so the ISA needs to set some rules about appropriate mining and extraction lest environmental wreckage ensue. So far the ISA has issued licenses for exploration to 22 contractors both public and private to collect data on polymetallic nodules sought for raw material.
KTNN is a radio station serving the Navajo Nation, a 27,000 square mile stretch of land. There are about 300,000 enrolled members in the Navajo Nation, about half of whom live on the reservation. About 27 percent of households don’t have electricity, and 7,600 people solely speak Diné Bizaad, the Navajo language. During the pandemic, the station served a critical informational role, as the sole news source covering the nation producing stories primarily in Diné Bizaad as well as in English. This was important, because roughly 17 percent of Navajo Nation has been diagnosed with COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic.
December saw an 8 percent decline in births, and using the power of extrapolation and a rudimentary understanding of how pregnancy times out, it stands to reason that may have had something to do with the March onset of the pandemic. For the full year of 2020, the number of babies born in the U.S. was 3.6 million, a decline of around 4 percent and the largest annual decline since 1973. The 2 percent decline observed in the first half of 2020 led to a 6 percent decline as the effects of the pandemic reverberated.
The Pacific Northwest has historically been a region with low use of air conditioning, with the natural climate making it well suited to avoiding active cooling measures even in the summer. In 2013, 31 percent of Seattle metro area houses had air conditioning. However, the climate’s been changing, as seen acutely this past week with a serious heat wave striking the region; in 2019, 44 percent of Seattle metro area houses had air conditioning. That’s still some of the lowest in the country — 79 percent of Portland units had air conditioners, 47 percent in San Francisco, needless to say over 99 percent of Houston — but constitutes hundreds of thousands of people clocking a shift in the thermodynamic situation.
Birding became really popular over 2020, and the data seems to indicate that the hobby, which entails the systematic admiration of birds, will continue to hold its popularity. Web searches and Wikipedia traffic for popular, seasonal species is peaking at around the same time and intensity as it did last year, well above the 2015-2019 period. About 750,000 people signed into the Audubon Bird App in Spring of 2019, a figure that peaked at 1.2 million in May of 2020 and has already exceeded that record in 2021. Sales of backyard bird feeders are up 50 percent, and birdseed sales are up 45 percent. Man, birdwatching seems fun, but like just wait till all you people hear about Pokémon.
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