"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
Hi, this is Greg Powell. I hope you'll enjoy one or more of these interesting topics from the world of business and beyond. Dan Powell, my son and collaborator, has researched the articles and written the summaries, so this is not a boilerplate message. We'd like to give you a weekly break to learn about something cool or, better yet, 5 Cool Things.


America’s Monopoly Problem, Explained by Your Internet Bill (Vox)

Anyone with an internet bill knows the pain of receiving a new, higher bill almost every month with little explanation. Enormous companies like telecoms have outsize power to set their own prices in modern America, where citizens pay more than those of other nations for the same quality of service. “In 2017, the average monthly cost of broadband in America was $66.17; in France, it was $38.10, in Germany, $35.71, and in South Korea, $29.90.” According to one analysis, corporate consolidation costs American households $5,000 a year. The extent of the problem is also hidden behind conglomerate fronts — three companies, for example, control 75% of the beer industry. To change the status quo would require more effort than seen from Washington in a generation, but as awareness grows, politicians on the right and left have begun to beat the drum of antitrust action. Read more…

How the Brow Lift Went Mainstream (Vox)

The “brow lift” is a surgical procedure that’s been around for decades, traditionally performed via fairly invasive methods where hairlines are cut and the skin is physically stretched upwards. In the 21st century, the surgery can be performed using Botox injections, neither requiring anesthesia nor leaving any visible scars. As a result, its popularity is skyrocketing, evidenced by legions of starlets like Ariana Grande and Kylie Jenner who sport catlike stretched eyes. The ideal look is sometimes known as “instagram face:” a combination of angled eyes, high cheekbones, and large, full lips — once you recognize it, you will see it everywhere. The surgery-averse can also make use of FaceTune, a digital tool that gives the same effects. The young and successful have always chased an image of ideal beauty, but it’s too soon to say if the trends of 2020 are a passing fad or a sign of things to come. Read more…

The Age of the Vertically Shot Blockbuster is Upon Us (Quartz)

Imagine watching an entire movie on a vertical screen, like your smart phone blown up to theater size. V2. Escape From Hell, a World War Two epic set for release in 2021, will be the first movie to explore such a format, and it seems likely that others will follow. It might make sense for mobile app developers to push a vertical format, but bringing the idea into traditional theaters is something else entirely, and shows how the technological revolution of the past couple of decades is continuing to spread into other arenas. After all, studies show that 94% of smart phone users watch content in the vertical, despite recent backlash by filmmakers and others against watching or recording in any form but widescreen. Read more…

Japan’s Lost-and-Found System Is Insanely Good (CityLab)

Leave it to the Japanese to perfect the lost-and-found, that honor-based system that many people only consider when they’ve lost something important. In Japan, a network of “police boxes” collects any personal items found by passersby, with an astonishing recovery rate: “83 percent of cellphones lost in Toyko, for example, are eventually retrieved.” Even umbrellas and cash are brought in and returned to their owners via these stations, although umbrellas, extensively cataloged and stored, are the least-likely items to be reclaimed. Maybe someday the Japanese method can be adopted in western cities like New York, where council ember Gail Brewer recently dubbed the lost property scheme, complicated and mired in bureaucracy, a “long ride to nowhere.” Read more…

'Sonic' and the Costs of Fan Anger (Hollywood Reporter)

When the trailer for Paramount Pictures’ Sonic the Hedgehog movie was released, a minor storm erupted online over the character’s design — the new Sonic was more humanlike, with smaller eyes and a toothier smile, than the beloved Sega video game star of many childhoods. The backlash was so widespread that Paramount delayed the movie’s released for months while it reanimated the character to be faithful to his original appearance, with apparent box-office success this week. But where is the line between artistic license and fan service? Future properties, like the extremely popular Marvel and Star Wars franchises, may soon have to grapple with a world where internet buzz can shape the destiny of a multi-million dollar movie project. Read more….

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See you next week!
            - Greg
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