issue 036 • 2020-10-11
All The Pedaling, Without Going Anywhere
Hello and Happy Sunday, dear readers.
I hope that your weekends have treated you all well, and this email filled with internet goodness brightens your day.
It was a rather subdued weekend here in the Day household, but exciting in a “As Exciting as 2020 Allows” sort of way.
We officially had our Peloton bike delivered this weekend, an experience long awaited due to the delays of COVID-19 and everyone wanting an at home gym available to them. I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical, but my wife’s enthusiasm wore me down, and then I actually rode the darn thing…and that’s where I started drinking the Kool-Aid.
I know, I’m all of one ride in as I write this (presumably two by the time you read it), but the whole package, from quality hardware to easy-to-use software to goddamned enthralling video classes is a contained package hard to ignore, a’la the first time I used an iPhone. I could very much see myself making a habit of this, which I know is, at the end of the day, the real point.
I also finally took the time to watch Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, the much hullabalooed most recent Quentin Tarantino film. I missed watching it when it first came out, as that was when I was in the thralls of being unemployed, and heaven forbid I let myself enjoy things while doing so.
If anything, though, the time actually helped me take the film on its own, without the discourse, without the Oscar hype….and frankly, I dug it. It’s a more shaggy, personal, less consequential movie from Tarantino than we’re used to, but honestly, I could watch Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio act with each other all day long. At two and a half hours, they almost did — but really? It was worth it. You can rent it now for yourself, or stream it if you have Starz.
Now, onto the things…
Thing #1: You See Movies? In a Theater?
Funny to go from discussing a movie like Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood, which absolutely adores the movie-making process and its effect on audiences, to a stark piece which questions if there’s such a thing as living-breathing audiences in theaters again.
Mike Sampson for Vulture writes:
On August 28, after five long months of dramatically locked doors and darkened screens, the Logan Theatre — a small, independently run movie theater in Chicago — readied itself to reopen. With major titles like New Mutants and Tenet set for debuts that weekend and the next, the cinema felt optimistic about its chances to slowly crawl back to profitability after making zero dollars for nearly half a year.
“We’re really happy to be back!” the company said in a rosy Facebook post at the time, touting its intensive, COVID-era safety measures, which included the institution of a 25 percent seating capacity, the use of sanitizing foggers, and mandatory temperature checks for all staff. Guests were equally excited. “Thrilled to have you reopening!” replied one fan. “Can’t wait to see New Mutants!” said another, emphasizing that proximity to the theater was one of the reasons he moved to his neighborhood.
However, on September 23, less than one month after the reopening, the Logan Theater posted another, more somber message. Its Tenet and New Mutants sales were stagnant. The theater would be closing its doors once again. “Once it becomes clear that there is a consistent flow of films to play,” the statement said, “we will make plans to reopen.”
It’s a predicament theaters large and small are struggling to cope with: After months of uncertainty — during which just about every major studio blockbuster save for Christopher Nolan’s thriller and the critically lambasted X-Men saga dropped off the 2020 theatrical release calendar — and with no vaccine in sight, how do you entice people to return to the cineplex in the middle of a pandemic?
The truth is — you don’t — and that’s what’s truly scary. When even Disney is shoving off the latest Pixar film (Soul) directly to streaming this Christmas, you know something has gone terribly, horribly wrong.
Personally? I think we’re going to see theaters die, and then studios like Disney and Universal build theaters which are more offshoots of their theme parks than a proper “theater” as we knew it…but time will tell.
Check it out here.
Thing 2: Need a New Gig? Why Not Buy a Vending Machine?
Many times in life, I’ve fantasied about becoming independently wealthy through some means, and then with my free time, dedicating myself to random, “lesser” jobs. For a while it was a train conductor for Amtrak. Now, I’m wondering if vending machine owner is my idle pursuit.
Zachery Crocket for The Hustle writes:
Three months ago, Jalea Pippens — a phlebotomist at St. John Hospital in Detroit — had her hours cut.
In the midst of the pandemic, the 23-year-old found herself in dire need of a second income stream. One night, while scrolling through search results for “ways to make extra money,” she came across vending machines.
The daily minutiae of owning a vending machine seemed a bit dull: buying bulk candy at Sam’s Club, stocking machines, collecting weathered bills and buckets of coins. But Pippens saw an opportunity to be her own boss.
She partnered up with her boyfriend and another business partner, bought a vending machine on Facebook Marketplace for $1.6k, and plunked it down at a local auto parts store, where it now grosses $400 per month.
“I’d never really thought about vending machines,” she tells The Hustle. “I didn’t even know you could own one.”
Pippens is one of thousands of individual operators who make up the bulk of the vending machine ecosystem.
During the pandemic, the relatively low barrier of entry has attracted a new generation of vending machine entrepreneurs — schoolteachers, nurses, mechanics, students — who measure profits in $1 bills and utilize new technologies to monitor and scale their operations.
But are vending machines really a viable side hustle? How much does the average machine bring in? And what does the job entail?
Check it out here.
Thing #3: When the Cartoon Network Made its Own Network of Cartoons
In the era of shows like Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and The Amazing World of Gumball, it’s easy to remember that there was a time where Cartoon Network just aired a catalog of classics.
But it all changed with the cartoon pilot program called What a Cartoon.
You may not remember it yourself, but it gave birth to early Cartoon Network classics like Powerpuff Girls, Johnny Bravo and Dexter’s Laboratory, and was an invaluable incubator of talent.
John Maher looks back for Vulture:
Boundary-pushing but steeped in cartoon history, What a Cartoon! struck a remarkable balance between old and new. It featured work by Hanna-Barbera’s namesakes, William Hanna and Joe Barbera, the Italian animator Bruno Bozzetto, and the adult-oriented independent animated film director Ralph Bakshi, among other old hands. It also launched the careers of a new generation of creators and animators, among them Craig McCracken, Genndy Tartakovsky, Pat Ventura, Van Partible, Butch Hartman, Rob Renzetti, Dave Feiss, Miles Thompson, John R. Dilworth, Zac Moncrief, and Seth MacFarlane.
Of the 18 shorts released in 1995, four were developed into Cartoon Network shows: Tartakovsky’s Dexter’s Laboratory, Feiss’s Cow and Chicken, Partible’s Johnny Bravo, and McCracken’s The Powerpuff Girls. Cow and Chicken would go on to spawn the spinoff I Am Weasel, and Dilworth’s 1996 Courage the Cowardly Dog short “The Chicken From Outer Space” would later be turned into a series as well.
Getting there, though, took some trial and error. When Seibert took over Hanna-Barbera, he says, it was losing $10 million a year, and he had no previous experience with cartoons. He was nervous. But Turner reassured him that it couldn’t get any worse.
“Think about it this way,” Seibert recalls Turner telling him. “They haven’t had a hit since The Smurfs in 1981. If you come in and have a hit, people will think you’re a genius. And if you don’t have a hit, they won’t blame it on you!”
Check it out here.
Until next time…
Enjoy that brisk Fall weather, gang. Spooky season is here. Why not throw on a scary movie tonight, too?
Don’t be a jerk. Wear a mask. Vote. See you next week.