By Walt Hickey
The Gist of Freddie Mercury
Bohemian Rhapsody, one of the first films in a generation to take a searing look at rock music and conclude that, yeah, people really liked Queen, made $50 million domestically and posted huge numbers overseas with $72 million. That makes it the second-best opening for a music biopic after Straight Outta Compton, which made $60.2 million in 2015, as long as you do that thing that fuels the entire box office headline biz where you pretend that inflation doesn’t exist. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, the latest raid on the public domain from Disney, missed expectations with only $58 million worldwide on a $125 million budget
A 3000-year-old Assyrian stone relief sold for $31 million to an anonymous buyer, way higher than the $7 million starting bid. That high sale price has archaeologists worried that the prices of antiquities will rise and prompt looting. The black market for antiquities has seen fragments of other Assyrian works — stolen from Iraq in the turmoil of the past decade — linked to false documents claiming their provenance.
Broken Elevators On Earth’s Priciest Boat
The Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier cost $13 billion, but there are still some serious bugs with the ship. It has 11 advanced weapons elevators which lift bombs to the flight deck and are moved by magnets rather than cables, conceptually at least. In reality, those elevators were not installed when the ship was delivered because of “four uncommanded movements,” which is military contractor speak that approximately translates to “for the love of god do not put bombs in this elevator because sometimes it moved on its own.” The Navy is working to expand its 284-ship fleet to 355 ships by the mid-2030s.
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The promotional products industry — think branded tote bags, mugs, pens, magnets, T-shirts and other knick knacks that get handed out for free by companies or at conferences — is a $24 billion dollar industry in the United States, and has grown by 2.5 percent in the past five years. That USB drive in your house that is laughably small in capacity but has some software company’s logo on it? Those tech accessories are seriously 7.5 percent of the business. Tariffs are about to become a big issue for the promotional industry, as prices could rise 25 percent given the supply chain’s presence in China.
So far this year there have been 3.5 million campaign ads aired on television, almost a million more than the number that aired during the 2014 midterms. There’s been a fairly even split — Democrats funded 54 percent of them — and the media markets most affected by the blitz are in Tampa, Vegas and Orlando, all of which have competitive House, Senate and governor races. Healthcare has been the main talking point: 1.2 million of the congressional and gubernatorial campaign ads mentioned the issue, 75 percent of which came from Democrats.
No On Frexit
New Caledonia, a French Pacific territory halfway between Australia and Fiji, has voted against leaving France and becoming the newest nation on earth. The vote was 56.4 percent for remain to 43.6 percent to leave, with 81 percent turnout. Roughly the size of New Jersey and home to 268,000 people, the island punches far above its weight strategically and economically, producing about 10 percent of the world's nickel and hosting a French military base. A French territory hasn’t broken away since Vanatu in 1980.
The U.K. is considering ending 24-hour bar service at airports, a service typically offered by virtue of the round-the-clock nature of air travel. The push was spurred by a number of passengers who got way too lit before hopping on a cheap flight and complaints from budget airlines about the last-call exemption for airport bars. The Civil Aviation Authority had 417 incidents of disruptive passengers last year, up from 98 in 2013. On the other hand, last year 280 million passengers used a British airport, so maybe we should think this over a bit before ruining a million layovers by resorting to prohibition.
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