By Walt Hickey
Come Friends Who Plow The Seas
A London judge has determined that a Greek shipowner conspired to have his ship taken over by fake pirates off the coast of Yemen in order to commit insurance fraud. The 2011 incident (and presumable 2021 comedy smash hit of the summer) began after the freight market crashed in 2008. The owner of eight tankers launched into a scheme where men posed as pirates and burned down one tanker in a bid to extract $77 million in insurance money from a syndicate of insurers. The assailants allegedly detonated a grenade to start the fire, and the shipowner convinced seven Yemeni coast guards and the ships’ leadership to play along with the ruse. The judge said that no, the shipowner is not able to collect the insurance money.
The great state of New Jersey awarded $13 million out of the total annual allotment of $75 million for film production tax breaks on Tuesday, and the cinema the Garden State has elected to subsidize is truly groundbreaking. Sure, the $10.3 million to the producers of a six-part miniseries called The Plot Against America seems like a worthy entrant to stand along the $28.6 million allocated to film productions like Joker — a film about a deranged clown who lives in a dilapidated hellscape, presumably highlighting the state’s native wildlife and natural splendor — and Spielberg’s West Side Story, which takes West to its inevitable conclusion. But more puzzling is the $2.8 million film tax credit given to WrestleMania XXXV, which took place in the Meadowlands in April. I don’t know how to break it to them, but just because an event contains Dwayne Johnson does not mean it is legally a movie.
Ang Lee filmed the new movie Gemini Man in 120 frames-per-second, 4K 3D, a bold and innovative shooting style from a director who has dedicated his entire career to exploring the technological limits of his craft. The problem? No cinema in North America will screen the film in 120 fps 4K 3D. Indeed, there are only 14 cinemas in the U.S. that will project the Will Smith two-hander in 120 fps 3D. The vast majority of the IMAX and 3D screenings will still stick to the high frame rate — which can make the movie look hyper-realistic and also, in some cases like Lee’s previous HFR outing Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, very nauseating. A few theaters in Asia are able to present the film as intended. Out of mere spite, I intend to watch this movie on my next Delta flight.
An analysis of a 2011 map published by Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography led to the discovery of 27 as-yet-unknown Mayan ceremonial centers. The maps were created using light detection and ranging technology, or “lidar,” an array of lasers shot out of an airplane that can pierce through forests. Typically, the maps are really expensive — one researcher got a deal on a $62,000 lidar map of 35 square miles — but the availability of public domain lidar mapping is opening up new opportunities for archaeologists.
The global whisky market is projected to grow 19 percent through 2023 to $147.6 billion. This has led Japan to scale up production even as their stores begin to run dry. The second largest whisky distiller in Japan, Nikka, is investing the equivalent of $606 million over the next two years to scale up the infrastructure to ship more booze, as demand for Japanese whisky is projected to climb 7 percent annually through 2022. All I have to say is you’re welcome.
Oddly enough the future of water sustainability may be found in desert cities that have gotten surprisingly good at managing their supplies. Take Phoenix, which has sneakily become the fifth largest city in the U.S., a fact I recently won a bet on. Home to 1.6 million, water usage in Phoenix has stayed flat for the past 20 years despite the municipality growing by 400,000 people. Some of this has to do with converting from artificially verdant fields of green lawns to, you know what a desert can maintain. In the 1970s about 80 percent of single-family residences had green grass or landscaping. Today that’s down to 10 percent of single-family residences with lawns.
Currently, there are 12 million single-family homes being rented in the United States. Overall, that’s 35 percent of all rental housing around the country, and it’s worth $2.3 trillion. Historically, single-family homes were rented out by owners or small real estate companies. That’s changing as large corporations muscle in on the mom-and-pop landlord business. A new paper estimated that the 4 percent homeownership rate decline from 2007 to 2014 means that about 1.5 million households shifted from owning their home to renting it. That’s $220 billion in housing wealth transferred from once-homeowners directly to larger corporations.
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Correction for yesterday’s editions: The emailed version said that regional theatergoers went to 23 productions annually, this was the number of plays attended by off-off-Broadway theatergoers. I apologize for the error!
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