Numlock News: November 12, 2018

By Walt Hickey

Good morning!


The hottest get-rich-quick scheme these days is the Narcotic Rewards Program, a State Department offering that will pay out as much as $5 million if you’re willing to narc on an international drug kingpin. Over the course of its run it’s distributed $108 million for arrests of roughly 70 such individuals. In the past five years they’ve been on a tear, distributing $32 million to 33 people. And while it doesn’t get the press of other cash-for-snitching operations, like the $173 million that’s been doled out by the State Department for deets on alleged terrorists, war criminals and international organized crime figures, it’s enough to make one go through the ol' contacts list to check if anyone is making good in transnational illicit pharmaceutical trade.

Olivia Carville, Bloomberg

All The Tender Sweetness Of A Seasick Crocodile

Speaking of international criminals, The Grinch from Illumination Entertainment pulled in $66 million at the domestic box office this weekend, crushing expectations of $50 million and taking the number one spot. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch doing a mediocre James Urbaniak impression and tells the timeless story of a dog who succumbs to the banality of evil and abets the disturbing goals of a maniac despite a conscience telling him that his actions are wrong the whole time. This dark story, which exposes the distressing rot at the core of the human soul and the capacity for reasonable people to aid in the vile in exchange for trinkets and safety, comes from the twisted minds that brought us the similar parable Minions.

Frank Pallotta, CNN

Speaking of Frank Pallotta, I talked to him for yesterday’s Sunday subscriber special! We went deep on why the box office is on a tear this year, and talked about the future and legacy of MoviePass. Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition.


In 2018, the average American wedding had five bridesmaids, up from four in 2007. It’s not uncommon for some weddings to have bridesmaids in the double digits, which usually means grooms have to find a way to field an equivalent baseball team. Part of this is that the median age for women to first marry is now 27, up from the 20 to 22 that dominated most of the 20th century, thus giving people more time to make more friends. The other part is that if the crew you assembled is insufficient to rob a casino, Ocean’s 11-style, how can you possibly expect them to pull off a coordinated jump during pictures?

Caroline Kitchener, The Atlantic

International Tour

A Los Angeles band has been accused of faking a fanbase in order to land a 10-city European Tour. By faking Facebook likes and allegedly impersonating representation, the band Threatin pulled one over on a London club by claiming to have sold 291 tickets when they had, in fact, not. All of the 100 people who claimed on Facebook they would attend, in fact, lived in Brazil. A closer look led to evidence the band’s YouTube presence was faked. The 43 monthly listeners should have probably been a red flag. It also appears the band’s booking agency, label, and Soundcloud page were equally spoofs. Now the band’s guitarist and drummer have quit and revealed they too were duped. If it pans out, it’s an incredible grift.

BBC, and Vince Neilstein, Metal Sucks


The U.S. House of Representatives has 435 members, a figure that has been fixed since 1920. This is in spite of an enormous expansion in the size of the country: initially the founders of the country wanted 30,000 people per representative, but today that ratio is almost 750,000 people per representative. The number of seats in a legislature is — in wealthy democracies — typically pretty close to the cube root of the population. In the U.S., that would put us at a legislature with 593 seats. Such an expansion would keep the general count of safe seats for each party in the same ball park, but would expand the middle considerably, with 45 toss-ups expanding to an estimated 150.

The Editorial Board, The New York Times

Fan Fiction

In 2007, a group of lawyers, academics, writers and fans formed the Organization for Transformative Works, which maintains the largest database of fanfiction on the internet. Archive of Our Own maintains 4.2 million fan works encompassing 30,000 individual fandoms. If you like a television show, odds are good that somebody has written about two of the characters from that television show getting weird and odds are equally good that it’s hosted on Archive of Our Own. It’s an explicitly non-commercial space and is situated in a fascinating intersection of copyright, First Amendment law and good taste. The management has hewed to a maximalist approach, allowing the objectionable and misspelled without regulation. Some want a heavier touch, perhaps confusing an internet fanfiction hosting site with the Library of Alexandria. Nonetheless, the future of free speech and censorship could very well come down the Supreme Court deciding Amalgamated Content Inc. vs LunaLovepony420 et al., so I say we hear them out.

Elizabeth Minkel, The Verge


Over 100 million websites give audience data to Quantcast and in a single week the company can collect 5,300 rows and 46 columns of data about a single individual. This kind of tracking data — according to their data, over 90 percent of people click that “I Accept” button to consent to data collection — is then crunched and sold to data brokers. Acxiom, one such broker, sells data about 700 million consumers pulled from hundreds of sources.

Frederike Kaltheuner, Privacy International

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Previous Sunday special editions: Voting Rights · Goats · Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores

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