By Walt Hickey
Besides being the rally cry of the World Series-winning Washington Nationals, the song “Baby Shark” remains a bona fide hit, and the Korean family behind the tune is loaded as a result. Kim Min-seok co-founded SmartStudy in 2010, and in 2015 the company’s educational brand released “Baby Shark.” Based on stakes held in that company and also Samsung Publishing Co., which partially owns SmartStudy and is run by Kim’s father, the family fortune is now $125 million. So there’s rich, and then there’s invented “Baby Shark” rich. Following media reports about the song’s popularity among baseball fans, shares of Samsung Publishing rose 89 percent the week of the World Series.
Baijiu is the preferred liquor of choice in China, made by fermenting sorghum or grain. Its newfound status as a symbol of affluence has made Kweichow Moutai Co. the most valuable liquor company on the planet despite the fact that baijiu can be generously described as an acquired taste. Moutai advises retailers to charge 1,499 yuan ($213) for a half-liter of the 53 percent alcohol spirit, and since the beginning of the year, Moutai’s stock price subsequently popped from 599 yuan to 1185 yuan at the end of October. That means it’s market value is now about $210 billion, nearly double the $96 billion of Diageo. Now, if only they had something drinkable around so they could celebrate it.
Major theater chains insist on a 72-day period of exclusivity for movies released to cinemas, but Netflix is attempting to seriously push back on that precedent with its forthcoming release The Irishman. The film — a $159 million Martin Scorsese gangster movie starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino — will open Friday in cinemas and have a 26-day run in a limited number of theaters before streaming on Netflix. This is the disappointing result of months of negotiation between the theater chains and the streamer, where two major chains agreed to get it down to 60 days while Netflix refused to go above 45 days. As a result, The Irishman will play on a tenth of the screens and skip the majors, focusing on independent and small-chain cinemas.
There are 68 whiskey distilleries in Kentucky, up 250 percent in the past decade, and last year they filled 1.7 million barrels of bourbon. There’s a big problem, though, and its name is Baudoinia compniacensis. It’s a soot-looking fungus that thrives on alcohol and is prominent in parts of the state that house distilleries, so it’s basically my patronus. When bourbon is aged, anywhere from 2 to 5 percent of the alcohol evaporates from the barrel, a loss that is charmingly described as “the angel’s share,” although regrettably it does not ascend to the heavens above, but rather meanders in the immediate vicinity of warehouses. This is where Baudoinia pops over for a nightcap, growing on any surface where that airborne ethanol combines with dew or humidity. The $8.6 billion bourbon industry is no pushover, so homeowners who now must power wash their residences thanks to those ethanol emissions have little recourse.
A new study found a distressing loss in the number and diversity of insect and arthropod species in grasslands and forests. The study analyzed data about 1 million individual bugs from 2,700 species from inventories taken between 2008 and 2017. This covered 150 grassland and 140 forest sites in three regions of Germany. The situation is really quite bad: In the grasslands, the total biomass of insects was down 67 percent, the abundance was down 78 percent and the number of identified species was down 34 percent over the period. In 30 forest sites with annual data, biomass of the insects was down 41 percent and the species count was down 36 percent.
The sixth Terminator movie bombed this weekend, with Terminator: Dark Fate belly-flopping at the box office. The film made $29 million in North America and made $102 million overseas, but cost $185 million to produce, plus another $80 million to $100 million to market and distribute. Perhaps the concept just wore thin, given that the franchise premiered at a time when a government robotics system capable of taking human life by firing death from above was science fiction. The film — financed by Skydance, Paramount, Fox-but-now-technically-Disney and Tencent — needs about $450 million to break even, but at its current trajectory will probably not break $200 million globally. Looks like Skynet is going to get away with it this time.
New York City has three million parking spaces, most of which cost $0 to use. City officials are beginning to think that they may have set the price for that street space a bit low, and now transportation officials are indicating that free parking is in their sights. New York is the only major American city without a residential street parking permit system, and how much a parking space on the island of Manhattan should actually cost is a subject of some considerable debate. In one corner is economist Charles Komanoff, who advised on congestion pricing and estimated an 18-foot parking spot in the central business district of Manhattan is worth $3,000 per month. Another expert, UCLA Professor Donald Shoup, estimated that given parking garage costs the market rate for a space in Manhattan is closer to $400 to $600 per month, in Brooklyn is $175 to $300 per month, and in Queens is $200 a month. At those prices, the DOT would reap $3 billion in annual revenue, which is a bit higher than the $414 million it made this past year.
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