Numlock News: September 21, 2020 • Malls, Mummies, Mulan

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!


In mainland China, Disney’s Mulan had a significant week two downturn at the box office pulling in a paltry $6.5 million, down from an already disappointing $23.2 million opening weekend. Disney also released the film in Hong Kong this weekend, but has declined to release sales figures there as a boycott of the film may have significantly diminished returns. Ahead of its intended release in March, the film was held up as the result of a decade on inroads the Mouse made in the Middle Kingdom, but following a tumultuous summer in China, the United States, and the world at large the state of those inroads is mysterious as the dark side of the moon.

Kelly Gilblom and Yueqi Yang, Bloomberg


A total 27 sarcophagi have been unearthed in an ancient Egyptian necropolis because I guess, sure, why not, let’s do this. What’s the worst thing that can happen? The sarcophagi — discovered at a well at a sacred site in Saqqara, south of Cairo — are colorfully painted wooden coffins buried over 2,500 years ago. Thirteen coffins were discovered earlier this month — and, listen, at that point I probably would have seen enough and wrapped things up because I am capable of taking a hint — and then another 14 were discovered after because screw it, this is 2020 baby, if you want to desecrate a mummy’s tomb, may as well shoot for a couple dozen and see how it plays out.



A new report found law enforcement seizures of pangolin scales and meat hit a new high in 2019, with 128 tons of pangolin trophies intercepted last year, a 200 percent increase from the level five years ago. The creatures — which look like scaly anteaters — are the only mammals with scales, and over a million of them were trafficked from 2000 to 2014, with well-funded criminal syndicates fueling the trade with the primary customer being China for traditional medicine preparations.

Rachael Bale and Rachel Fobar, National Geographic


In May, June, and August researchers surveyed 10,000 Americans aged 20 to 60 who earned over $20,000 in 2019 to find out how working from home was changing their routines. Based on the analysis, working from home accounts for about 52.3 percent of pandemic-era employment, about 10 times the fraction of 5.2 percent in the pre-pandemic economy. The aggregate impacts of this are breathtaking to behold: the total time Americans spent commuting to work dropped nationally 62.4 million hours per day, and aggregating that from mid-March to mid-September the national time savings was over 9 billion hours. On face, I had assumed all of this time was completely redirected into either Animal Crossing, making sourdough, or helplessly reading disturbing information on social media. This turns out to be only slightly wrong: while chores and leisure are up, the bulk — about 43.7 percent — of that time was just spent working even more on their primary or second job, which is oddly more depressing.

Jose Maria Barrero, Nick Bloom, and Steven J. Davis, Becker Friedman Institute


Mall vacancies are at an all time high, hitting a 9.8 percent vacancy rate as of early September, beating out the prior peak of 9.3 percent in 2011. The future of malls is very much in flux, and developers are recruiting new types of businesses — doctors offices, schools, storage facilities, dentists — to fill in the rapidly diminishing retail space and keep foot traffic up. Depending on how cheap rates get, one day a mall near you could be home to the Numlock Interactive Experience, where an extremely caffeinated man in a former RadioShack will ramble about MoviePass to you and occasionally ask for your email address.

Parija Kavilanz, CNN


Japanese companies like to recruit employees fresh out of school and then keep them for the rest of their lives. In 2018, 70 percent of open jobs went to new grads. About one out of every four workers in Japan has been at their job more than 20 years, a figure that in the States is only around one in 10. This means that companies cutting back on hiring in 2021 will be devastating for the careers of an entire graduating class, and possibly for the rest of their lives: the jobs-per-applicant ratio is lower than ever amid 122,000 fewer openings. When this same thing happened in the late 1990s, the effects were felt decades later: among that era’s college grads, 35 percent of men and 9.6 percent of women are yet to find full-time employment. This is prompting a push for more job mobility in the country.

Kazunori Takada and Shiho Takezawa, Bloomberg


Last night was the Primetime Emmy Awards, and with a completely virtual ceremony, lots of the workers who rely on the award shows and live events business in Los Angleles were out of luck. An analysis of the 2012 Emmys found that there was $43 million in immediate benefits to Los Angeles County, which included $2 million in out of towners spending money, $9 million in limousines, wardrobe, and event tickets, and $2 million in receptions and parties. For the folks who drive those limousines, sew those wardrobes, and work the bar at those parties, the show may have gone on but without the positive economic effects such events can bring for an entire set of businesses.

Meredith Blake, The Los Angeles Times

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