The Weekender, February 28, 2020


The newsletter picked up a bunch of new subscribers this last week. For the new people, welcome! Every Monday through Thursday, I send out a fun fact and the story behind it; if you missed those, you can read them at the links below (check out “The Now I Know Week in Review”). On Fridays, I write a letter like this one, sharing something about what I learned or did while writing the newsletters this week. At the bottom are some long-reads for the weekend.

On Tuesday, I talked about Blockbuster Video and said that “like almost all the other Blockbuster Videos, the one in Mission, Texas is long gone.” A few of you wrote in taking note of (or exception to) my “almost” in that sentence. Yes, there really is one Blockbuster left. I wrote about it in the Bonus Fact in a May 2019 story, below:

There’s one Blockbuster video left, as of March 2019. It’s in Bend, Oregon, and as the AP reported, it’s frozen in time — “a tight budget meant no money to update the surviving store.” At times, that’s become a comical problem — employees have to write membership cards by hand because the printers are all broken, and “the store’s business transactions are backed up on a reel-to-reel tape that can’t be replaced because Radio Shack went out of business.” But it’s not all bad news. Because the Blockbuster is so familiar to those who lived through its heyday, it’s become a tourist attraction; per the same AP report, “its newfound fame has been a shot in the arm, and customers stream in to buy $40 sweatshirts, $20 T-shirts and even $15 yellow-and-blue beanies” hailing “the last Blockbuster on the planet.”

Back to Tuesday: I meant to link to that story in the “From the Archives” section but realized that it was only from 2019, and I try to go further back when I can, so I picked something older. And then I forgot to revise the main story to talk about the store in Oregon. Whoops.

Also, thanks to everyone who replies to the emails this week with your feedback, particularly those who shared notes of appreciation when I highlighted stories of kindness and self-sacrifice. I had three of those this week (an accidental theme) and it’s good to know that you liked them, even though they’re not necessarily standard “trivia.” 

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: The Man Who Covered Up An Eruption. “Covered up” is a bit misleading. But it’s accurate!

Tuesday: A Blockbuster Parenting Move. A tangent: Blockbuster Video was, in many ways, a community center for a few years, at least in my town. So, so many people were there week in, week out, until almost overnight, the Internet replaced it.

Wednesday: The Beyond Gold Medalist. He didn’t win a gold medal, but it was worth it.

Thursday: February 30th: Yes, there was a February 30th. Once. (And I made a video about it, too.)

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “The Great Buenos Aires Bank Heist” (GQ, 30 minutes, February 2020). This would be a great movie. Like, an Ocean’s 11 movie. 

2) “Was Jeanne Calment the Oldest Person Who Ever Lived—or a Fraud?” (The New Yorker, 40 minutes, February 2020). I don’t want to summarize this one because knowing what the alleged fraudulent act was could spoil the story.

3) “A former NHL goon used Twitter to create a hockey-abuse hotline. His inbox exploded.” (Washington Post, 11 minutes, February 2020). Sorry that this is behind a soft paywall; the good news is that the paywall freebies should reset on Sunday. 

Have a great weekend (and a wonderful Leap Day!)