Weekly Link Roundup

The Climate Crisis Is Happening Right Now. Just Look at California’s Weekend. (ProPublica): “The earth — at least the part of it that is California — was no longer a backdrop for our actions, the set of our play. It had become the diva, the star of our horrible drama, the villain demolishing cascades of plans for all of us little specks hubristic enough to believe we could still make them.”

A Secret Recording Reveals Oil Executives’ Private Views on Climate Change (The New York Times): “At a discussion convened last year by the Independent Petroleum Association of America … participants worried that producers were intentionally flaring … far too much natural gas … A well can produce both oil and natural gas, but oil commands far higher prices. Flaring it is an inexpensive way of getting rid of the gas … The remarks reflect the concerns of an industry that has presented itself as part of the solution to climate change, and natural gas as an important ‘bridge fuel’ that can help the world shift away from coal … Natural gas, when burned … typically emits just half the planet-warming greenhouse gases that coal does. But by flaring off natural gas, rather than capturing it for use, companies are creating pollution without creating usable energy.”

♥ (From 2016) The Falling Man (Esquire): “Photographs lie. Even great photographs. Especially great photographs. The Falling Man in Richard Drew’s picture fell in the manner suggested by the photograph for only a fraction of a second, and then kept falling. The photograph functioned as a study of doomed verticality, a fantasia of straight lines, with a human being slivered at the center, like a spike. In truth, however, the Falling Man fell with neither the precision of an arrow nor the grace of an Olympic diver. He fell like everyone else, like all the other jumpers—trying to hold on to the life he was leaving, which is to say that he fell desperately, inelegantly. In Drew’s famous photograph, his humanity is in accord with the lines of the buildings. In the rest of the sequence—the eleven outtakes—his humanity stands apart. He is not augmented by aesthetics; he is merely human, and his humanity, startled and in some cases horizontal, obliterates everything else in the frame.”

The Two Men Buying Your Favorite Retailers (The New York Times): “… Jamie Salter and David Simon … last week … closed a deal to buy the bankrupt Brooks Brothers … for $325 million. Last month, they acquired Lucky Brand denim, and in February, they bought Forever 21 … Many of the acquisitions are being made through a joint venture … called SPARC, for Simon Properties Authentic Retail Concepts. Its roots go back to 2016, but it was created in its present form in January as a vehicle that turned out to be almost perfectly positioned to take advantage of the current state of the industry.”

The ‘Zero Inventory’ Solution (The Business of Fashion): “In a trend-driven sector like fashion, perfectly aligning supply and demand is nearly impossible, especially when you have to place bets on product up to 9 months before it hits the sales floor … But what if you could shift entirely from a ‘push’ system — where a brand forecasts how much product it needs, pays for it upfront and pushes it out to shoppers — to a ‘pull’ system, where a brand is led by consumer demand, only making what it knows it can sell … And what if this was something brands of all sizes could put into place? Is it really possible to get to zero inventory?”

How Can We Pay for Creativity in the Digital Age? (The New Yorker): “… a 2018 survey … [found that] American musicians earned a median income of twenty-one thousand three hundred dollars from their craft the previous year … The Internet was supposed to free the artist, and to democratize and de-professionalize the practice of art. In some measure, it did—while also demonetizing art itself … The sheer volume of stuff on the Internet scrambled our sense of how art and artistic labor should be valued.”

Fashion Month Is Happening! Really. Probably? Maybe. (The New York Times): “What is a trend when we all exist in our isolated bubbles? Who needs so many new clothes? Who needs professional or dress-up outfits at all when offices are remote and events on hold? What is the point? It’s on designers to provide an answer; to, in effect, justify their existence, to help us understand how we are going to express are selves in the future. These shows are how they are going to do it. The stakes have never been higher — and not just because a bunch of them will actually be live.”

The Risks and Rewards of Dressing American Politicians (The Business of Fashion): “Boni, 72, admitted that her own politics are aeons away from the Trump administration’s. She refers to herself as ‘liberal,’ and has spent decades pushing for women’s equality in Italy. But she isn’t bothered that women in Trump’s circles wear her clothes … ‘Personally, I think you can be political but I don’t think your business should be’ … While having a piece in the political spotlight can catapult a brand’s presence … it can also lead to controversy. Shoppers on both sides of the aisle feel strongly about supporting their parties and keep dragging fashion into the political sphere.”

A Restaurant Ruined My Life (Toronto Life): “I … joined the burgeoning ranks of the know-it-all gourmand. I owned fancy knives. I photographed my food. I had a subscription to Lucky Peach. I had a well-thumbed copy of Kitchen Confidential and a demi-glace-spattered copy of The French Laundry Cookbook. At work, I had trouble concentrating on spreadsheets and instead found myself scribbling menus on graph paper. I could picture a quaint dining room with wooden tables, scalloped plates and plaid napkins … I naïvely figured I could do it as well as the restaurant lifers, the tattooed dude-chefs and the nut-busting empire builders. What I lacked in experience I could make up for in enthusiasm … Eighty per cent of first-time restaurateurs fail. I knew this. Opening a restaurant was the least sensible, dumbest thing I could do … I was in no position to take a risk.”

Parents Got More Time Off. Then the Backlash Started. (The New York Times): “As companies wrestle with how best to support staff during the pandemic, some employees without children say that they feel underappreciated, and that they are being asked to shoulder a heavier workload. And parents are frustrated that their childless co-workers don’t understand how hard it is to balance work and child care, especially when day care centers are closed and they are trying to help their children learn at home. The divide is more pronounced at some technology companies, where workers tend to be younger and have come to expect generous perks and benefits in exchange for letting their jobs take over their lives.”

The Loan Company That Sued Thousands of Low-Income Latinos During the Pandemic (ProPublica): “Silicon Valley-based Oportun, a subprime installment lender that operates in 12 states … portrayed itself as a financial ally to the Latino immigrant community, its primary customer base, and had built a reputation as a more affordable and humane alternative to payday lenders … Oportun has sued borrowers after they fell behind on their payments more than 47,000 times from May 2016 through July of this year. That’s 30 lawsuits per day on average … the company says its average APR is already 36%, ProPublica and the Tribune found that it has often charged rates as high as 66.99% in Texas and California”

Zoom Is Failing Teachers. Here’s How They Would Redesign It (Fast Company): “… class via computers itself is not inherently flawed. It’s the remote platforms that are failing teachers and students … More than 100,000 U.S. school districts and roughly half the country’s higher-education institutions use [Zoom] … in large part because it’s easy, at least in theory … Last month, Zoom went down for hours due to an unspecified problem, disrupting the first day of school for many … students … The company recently held a virtual training summit for 40,000 educators from 150 countries and plans to continue its focus on educating teachers about the features Zoom has, not on developing new software from scratch … these are largely iterative changes, and Zoom could be ceding its sizable competitive advantage if it doesn’t fully embrace its starring role in U.S. education.”

A Dentist Sees More Cracked Teeth. What’s Going On? (The New York Times): “… pandemic-related anxiety is affecting our collective mental health. That stress, in turn, leads to clenching and grinding, which can damage the teeth … an unprecedented number of Americans are suddenly working from home, often wherever they can cobble together a makeshift workstation … poor posture during the day can translate into a grinding problem at night … most of us aren’t getting the restorative sleep we need … Because of the stress of coronavirus, the body stays in a battle-ready state of arousal, instead of resting and recharging. All that tension goes straight to the teeth.”

With Century 21 Closing, New Yorkers Wonder Which Businesses Are Next (The Wall Street Journal): “The discount retailer, founded in 1961 by a high school dropout, evolved from a single store in the city to a destination for bargain hunters … Century 21’s business came to a standstill in March when the coronavirus pandemic hit and retailers were forced to shut their doors … the department store filed for bankruptcy … and said it would permanently shut its 13 stores, citing its insurance providers’ decision not to pay the $175 million it said it was owed under a policy to protect against losses from the pandemic.”

LVMH Is Calling Off Its Tiffany Mega-Deal. What Now? (The Business of Fashion): “LVMH has called off its planned mega-merger with American jeweller Tiffany & Co. The break up has not been amicable so far. Tiffany is suing the French luxury conglomerate … Arnault is certainly no stranger to hardball tactics. In the late ‘nineties, he sued Gucci relentlessly to try to block its takeover by … Kering. But usually Arnault has fought to acquire assets — never to back out of a deal … it could mean LVMH is back in the market for a big acquisition.”

Are Gender Reveals Cursed? (The New York Times): “Many critics of gender-reveal parties say the events are out of step with current times and over-reliant on the notion of gender as a binary … Gender-reveal parties, like weddings before them, are also plagued by one-upmanship. People feel obligated to create an over-the-top experience that friends and family will remember.”

The Desperate Fight to Save His Family Ends in Tragedy (The Oregonian): “Back in the Jeep, struggling to navigate a road once so familiar but now shrouded by smoke-filled darkness, Chris almost ran over what looked like a bikini-clad woman on the road. Once he was closer, he realized she was wearing underwear. Her hair was singed, her mouth looked almost black, and her bare feet were severely burned. He impatiently tried to help her into his car, explaining how he needed to find his wife and son, feeling like she was resisting. Finally, she spoke. ‘I am your wife.'”

♥ The American Red Cross is accepting donations and seeking volunteers to help those affected by the West Coast wildfires. If you are able, I hope you’ll consider making a donation or volunteering your time.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone!

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