Numlock News: October 5, 2020 • Hydropower, Hocus Pocus, Hurricanes Produced

By Walt Hickey

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Put A Spell On You

The 1993 film Hocus Pocus came in second place at the United States box office this past weekend just behind Tenet, in what will be the largest weekend gross for a pandemic-era catalog movie re-released into cinemas with something around $1.6 million to $1.8 million for the whole weekend. This is particularly wild because the film — starring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker — made $650,000 on Friday alone, winning that day. It’s even more confusing because the cable network Freeform aired it literally two days before, for free, and will continue to do so throughout the month of October. The film reportedly made a significant chunk of its revenues through drive-in cinemas.

Anthony D’Alessandro, Deadline, Rebecca Rubin, Variety


Checkouts of ebooks from libraries are up 52 percent compared to the same period last year according to OverDrive, the tech partner of 50,000 libraries worldwide for ebook services. Hoopla, a rival service, said another 439 library systems joined their network since March, increasing their customers by 20 percent. Digital offerings are nothing new — libraries pay an average of $40 per ebook compared to the $15 an individual pays for an ebook, and can lend that one ebook out for a certain number of uses or over a certain period. The system is tense: publishers are worried that a switch to library digital books will cause the bottom to fall out of their print business, while libraries don’t like that pricing model, especially because surges (like the one seen in pandemic times) can get very expensive very quickly, eating into other programming. Overall, ebook sales were up 7.6 percent through June, so library demand is outpacing overall demand.

Aarian Marshall, Wired

Hydro Solar

A new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory out of the Department of Energy finds that linking solar panels with hydropower could hypothetically produce the equivalent of 40 percent of the world’s electricity. The gist would involve building solar panels on top of hydro reservoirs, feeding the energy from the more erratic and unpredictable solar into the same substation as the more predictable and controllable hydropower, and making them both cheaper. The solar energy could more importantly be used to pump water into upper reservoirs for later use, basically a battery that uses gravity to store power for future usage. If solar fields were arrayed on the 379,000 hydro reservoirs, the hybrid generators could produce 16 percent to 40 percent of the world’s 2018 electricity production.

David Iaconangelo, E&E News


The town of Asbestos, Quebec has narrowed it down to six possible options to rename their town. Asbestos, once a magical substance mined in the town, has since become synonymous with the deadly cancers caused by the mineral, and so the town would like to put that bit behind them. The names up for a vote include Phénix, Trois-Lacs, Jeffrey-sur-le-Lac, L’Azur-des-Cantons, Val-des-Sources, and Larochelle. For those francophones reading, you probably get the vibe that they would like to rebrand by alluding to the local lakes, including the one that now fills the open pit of the mine where they got all that asbestos from. I look forward to the results from the vote running October 14-18, when inevitably the write-in name of “Towny LeTownface” wins.

Sandrine Rastello, Bloomberg

Labor Force

Last week saw the release of a disappointing labor report, with employers bringing back just 661,000 jobs in September, down from 1.5 million in August and 4.8 million added in June. Many job losses are becoming permanent, including 700,000 people who left the labor force in the month of September. All told, the suffering nationwide is still significant and far-reaching across the economy, with only half of the 22 million jobs lost in March and April back. Besides many job losses becoming permanent, September also saw a brutal and expected trend rear its head: in that month alone, 865,000 women over age 20 dropped out of the workforce, compared with 216,000 men over age 20 who did the same. September, which would normally constitute a return to school, instead saw many working parents hit a breaking point as the United States’ uncontrolled pandemic forced school-from-home.

Ben Casselman, The New York Times, Avie Schneider, Andrea Hsu and Scott Horsley, NPR

The Storm

The Atlantic has seen its 24th named storm with Gamma, which will bring flooding and rain to Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula and then carry on into the southern Gulf of Mexico this week. This is the fastest that a hurricane season has gotten to 24 named storms, and it’s so far the second most active hurricane season on record, behind only 2005 with its 28 named storm systems.

Brian K Sullivan, Bloomberg


Cineworld could shut down all 543 of the Regal Cinemas in the United States and all cinemas in the U.K. and Ireland next week, a signal that the theatrical business may be throwing in the towel for the foreseeable future as the pandemic has made their fundamental offering distressing to its core customer base. Regal is the second-largest chain in the U.S. and the largest in the United Kingdom. The move came a day after the James Bond film No Time to Die — which had been moved to November from its initially planned release date in April — was moved into April 2021. The muted releases of Tenet and Mulan led the studios to fret about the fates of their big-budget tentpoles slated for the end of this year. Here’s my plan: we seize control of derelict Soviet warheads by using the irradiated gold we obtained from an underwater bitcoin mine, and blackmail the United Nations until they release Bond on VOD. The plan is so clever, surely no man could stop m—

Manori Ravindran, Variety

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