Happy Sunday and welcome to the second edition of the Contemporary Idiot newsletter!
Each edition will bring you 5 stories on random topics that have piqued my interest.
My aim is to:
✔️ Make you laugh
✔️ Make you a little bit smarter
✔️ Make it quick (5 min)
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BONUS: On Thursday, the White House announced plans to increase capital gains tax. Here’s an Idiot’s Opinion (also linked at the bottom if you want to save it for later)
FINANCE: Jeff Bezos is Playing Chess
CANNABIS: Legalization: How To Not F*** It Up
TECH: Elon Musk is a Space Bully
HISTORY: How a Cuban Immigrant Invented Modern TV, Kinda
Jeff Bezos is Playing Chess
On Tuesday, Amazon opened a salon. Why would Jeff Bezos, a bald man, open a hair salon?
Because he’s playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers.
The salon will implement augmented reality (AR) so you can “try on” hair colors and styles.
Customers will be able to explore products using point-and-learn technology. Like a product? Just point and a display will pop up behind it with more information.
He’s not done. “Just Walk Out” tech is coming to Amazon Fresh stores. No more cashiers.
What does this all mean?
Amazon is using its own brick-and-mortar locations to slowly test out a bunch of cool shit that it thinks will be the future of the in-store shopping experience.
designed as an experiential venue where it will showcase new products and technology - Amazon (on salon)
Then I presume the plan is to scale up by making these innovations the industry standard. Must-haves for all physical retail.
Amazon already dominates the online shopping space, this is their way of extending their reach into the real world. With augmented reality, ironically.
This doesn’t mean they’ve taken their foot off the gas with respect to e-commerce. Here’s a (chess piece) patent application they filed on April 1.
You’ll be able to create a 3D model of your body using pictures taken from different angles.
The goal is to help you find the right fit or maybe order custom-sized clothes.
You’ll also be able to adjust measurements (i.e. fat, muscle) to make yourself look like a level 99 create-a-player.
TL;DR: Amazon Salon has nothing to do with hair, and everything to do with world domination.
Last = $3,340.88. Earnings announced Thursday after the close.
Legalization: How To Not F*** It Up
New York became the 15th state to legalize recreational marijuana this month.
Looks like the old stigma1 might finally be going away.
That’s great. Now let’s talk about how states should and shouldn’t tax the industry to give it the best chance of not being a total disaster.
Because let’s face it - when there’s heavy government involvement in anything, there are only 2 things we know for certain: it’s going to cost more than it should, and it’s going to be less efficient than it should be.
Ok, let’s begin.
The whole point of legalization is to stop illegal drug sales, thereby preventing the negative consequences that arise from them (i.e. gangs, violence, substance abuse, etc). Agreed?
Well, you can’t do that if you rig the game against yourself!
California was among the first states to legalize back in 2018, but it’s estimated that 3/4 of sales still occur underground there.
Because the 36% effective tax rate makes it impossible for legitimate operators to compete with underground dealers.
Who by the way, aren’t so underground. Pot has been illegal for a long time, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been being consumed.
A lot of these illegal operations have physical storefronts, delivery services, and customer/vendor relationships going back decades.
It wouldn’t surprise me if some of them had better customer service than a lot of big Fortune 500 companies, to be honest!
Having said that, this could be great for the state of New York. It’s estimated that it could generate $350M in tax revenue annually, which is significant.
For reference, alcohol tax revenues = $260M in 2020.
But they can’t generate that revenue if there are no sales to tax!
Thankfully, New York is taking a more reasonable approach with an effective tax rate of 21% for dried flowers, and 25% for more potent stuff (similar to how stronger liquor is taxed heavier).
We’ll see how it works out, but they’re already off to a better start than tax-happy California.
Elon Musk is a Space Bully
Ironically, the orbital space that separates us from an ever-expanding universe is finite.
And Musk’s Starlink wants all of it.
Starlink is SpaceX’s project to make high-speed satellite internet available to the world. Musk expects it to be “fully mobile” by the end of the year.
It currently has over 1,300 satellites in orbit, adding ~120 monthly.
They’ve already got the green light to launch another ~12,000 satellites, but now they want to boost that number by 30,000!
Competitors are not happy about this.
The thing with orbital space real estate is…there isn’t really any universal regulation…it’s basically first-come, first-served.
Starlink, much like Tesla, focuses on launching as many satellites as possible as quickly as possible.
This means they’re snatching up real estate, but it also means lower quality and higher failure rates.
Starlink also does not give a f*** about other satellites!
Just this month one of their satellites was on a collision course with a OneWeb satellite.
Because Starlink’s satellites have the maneuverability of Evergreen’s ships, OneWeb engineers had to engage in evasive maneuvers to avoid disaster.
In 2019, an E.U. weather satellite was on a similar collision course with a Starlink satellite.
The only way the European Space Agency (ESA) was able to contact Starlink? An email!
To which Starlink replied: “lmaoo my bad”
Not really, but they did say that they weren’t going to do anything about it, leaving it up to the ESA to figure it out.
It’s basically a game of space chicken up there. Except you know that Starlink isn’t going to (or can’t) flinch.
“It’s a race to the bottom in terms of getting as much stuff up there as possible to claim orbital real estate. Musk is just doing what’s legal…but legal is not necessarily safe or sustainable.” - Moriba Jah (associate professor Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, University of Texas-Austin)
Oh! And NASA just picked SpaceX to take the next Americans to the moon! He’ll also be hosting SNL on May 8 which should be…something. It’s Elon’s world, we’re just living in it (until it belongs to Bezos).
How a Cuban Immigrant Invented Modern TV, Kinda
Desiderio “Desi” Arnaz and his family fled Cuba to come to Miami in 1933 when he was just 16.
After high school, Desi formed a band, which led to him playing for an orchestra, which led to him forming his own orchestra.
The music took him to the New York club scene, where he’s credited with introducing the conga line to the gringos.
His talents eventually landed him a role in a major Hollywood movie, Too Many Girls. On set, he met America’s sweetheart: Lucille Ball.
The two immediately fell in love, eloped, and went on to create America’s most iconic TV sitcom: I Love Lucy.
I Love Lucy was revolutionary in part because, at Desi’s insistence, it was the first TV sitcom that used 3 cameras to record instead of just 1. At the time, only Hollywood films used multiple cameras.
He got a lot of pushback from the studio executives for this because it was much more expensive to produce a show using 3 cameras vs 1. Duh!
But Desi had to have it his way.
Eventually, he offered to cover the extra costs himself, but he wanted to own the film reel. He was the one paying for the damn thing after all.
The studio agreed.
This was significant because it was the first time in the industry that the actual product (the film reel) would be owned by the actual artists (Desi & Lucy), and not the studio.
But it would take years + at least 1 sex act + 9 months for Desi to realize just how significant this really was.
You see, when Lucy gave birth to their first child, they wanted some family time, naturally. But this meant no work, so no income.
Then Desi thinks…“I’ve got years’ worth of film just gathering dust. What if we just…play them again?”
So he went to the studio heads with his idea to “rerun” each episode of I Love Lucy on their networks.
The studio gets viewers.
He and Lucy get paid (because they own the product) without having to work.
And that is how we got syndicated TV.
Chicago: Lori Lightfoot’s Ludicrous Lip Service
Not much to say other than this is an awful idea that I expect will be walked back quickly.
Plus, Key & Peele have already shown us what this would look like:
Thanks for reading! Have a great week!
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