Weekly Link Roundup: March 7, 2021

Another week, another fast food chicken sandwich: The “new” KFC Chicken Sandwich finally got a nationwide release; this Popeyes chicken sandwich copycat has a slightly tangier sauce (not better imo) and with (moderately) thicker pieces of pickles and chicken fillet. They are even priced the same ($3.99 in most areas). But it is, on the whole, not even that different from the Crispy Colonel. There’s no need to try this one if you’ve been to a KFC within the last three years.

Chronicles of a Bubble-Tea Addict (The New Yorker): “Along with experiences such as strict parents, or a familiarity with the question ‘Where are you really from?,’ a fondness for bubble tea was … a signature trait of Asian youth… a boba liberal is someone who centers her Asian identity in buzzy cultural objects and ‘trend-chasing spectacle’ but lacks true engagement with the politics of her Asian identity. It’s the Asian who can’t stop talking about ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ as a breakthrough in Asian representation, or who posts boba selfies as a way to prove her Asian bona fides while, elsewhere, seeking acceptance within white culture. For the boba liberal, politics is as much a performance as is one’s choice of beverage, a cultural prop in the theatre of identity.”

The Robots Are Coming for Phil in Accounting (The New York Times): “White-collar workers, armed with college degrees and specialized training, once felt relatively safe from automation. But recent advances in A.I. and machine learning have created algorithms capable of outperforming doctors, lawyers and bankers at certain parts of their jobs … Nearly 8 in 10 corporate executives … said they had implemented some form of [robotic process automation]. Another 16 percent said they planned to do so within three years … Sales of automation software are expected to rise by 20 percent this year, after increasing by 12 percent last year … McKinsey, which predicted before the pandemic that 37 million U.S. workers would be displaced by automation by 2030, recently increased its projection to 45 million … Recent studies … found that the groups with the highest exposure to A.I. were better-paid, better-educated workers in technical and supervisory roles, with men, white and Asian-American workers, and midcareer professionals being some of the most endangered. Workers with bachelor’s or graduate degrees were nearly four times as exposed to A.I. risk as those with just a high school degree … and residents of high-tech cities like Seattle and Salt Lake City were more vulnerable than workers in smaller, more rural communities … Many of those vulnerable workers don’t see this coming, in part because the effects of white-collar automation are often couched in jargon and euphemism.”

Beige Ambition (The Cut): “The Row is fashion for those for whom money is no object but who don’t need to look obviously rich … It purses its lips at logos and that’s-from-last-season trend obsolescence … It speaks in the hushed tones of perfect propriety, of connoisseurship. It is crafted just so, cut just so. It is not original and doesn’t pretend to originality. It is chic in the excellent, unfaultably appropriate way that reminds you that true chic may be the apotheosis of boring … The sisters designed The Row, in effect, as the bushel under which to hide their light … If you do not already know that The Row is the second-act life’s work of the Olsens, they would likely be just as happy if you didn’t find out. The Row is not meant to showcase them, and that is how they prefer it, having spent their entire early lives being showcased relentlessly … The Row is often compared with Philo’s agenda-setting tenure at Celine … Many Philo women became Row women when the designer left Celine in 2017 … But The Row ‘doesn’t have that kind of energy and twist that Phoebe had at Celine … They don’t seem to have changed … it’s always the same thing. There’s no surprise, and fashion is about excitement.’ Instead, the brand is almost peevishly aloof. When pressed to do an ad, they offer a white page. Fashion’s relentless courtship of youth derives, at least in part, from the fact that most older customers would rather feel young than the alternative.”

Forget What You Think Happiness Is (The Wall Street Journal): “In the future, some experts believe, people will embrace a more complex definition of happiness that focuses less on uninterrupted bliss and involves everything from a person’s environment to exercises that train the brain in ways to be happy … Happiness levels in the U.S. fell slightly between 2008 and 2019 … even though by many measures—wealth being the most notable—we are better off … Emotional well-being will be as important as physical well-being in the coming years … Happier people live longer and are more successful … the risk of death was 14% higher among those who were not happy compared with those who were very happy. Happier people have greater earnings potential—earning 3% more—and are 12% more productive than less happy people, according to two studies … Genuinely happy people are emodiverse … meaning they can manage all different emotions. They are satisfied with the way their own life is going, which is a better way to define happiness.”

Can Fashion Be a Form of Self-Care? (The New York Times): “… in Milan this season Italian designers have doubled down on tactile pleasure. Clothes may be a poor replacement for a full-body embrace, but they lie next to the skin, and in their sheer materiality provide a semblance of comfort; of sinking into sensation … This is turning into a season of swaddling clothes; of adult snugglies and softness; of clothes so squishy they are like a portable form of self-care.”

♥ A book that I am currently reading (and enjoying), Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation, is now $3.99 at Amazon. This book sprang from the 2019 Buzzfeed article, “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation.”

How Remote Work Is Reshaping America’s Urban Geography (The Wall Street Journal): “While forecasts differ, as much as a quarter of the 160-million-strong U.S. labor force is expected to stay fully remote in the long term, and many more are likely to work remotely a significant part of the time … More than half of newly remote workers looking to move say that they want a significantly cheaper house; more than a quarter are looking to reduce their living costs by 50% or more … Remote work primarily benefits skilled professional workers, who are almost twice as likely to take advantage of it as the overall labor force … Households earning more than $100,000 a year are more than twice as likely to work remotely as those making less than $50,000. White workers are considerably more likely to work remotely than Blacks or Hispanics.”

Why Estée Lauder Is Finally Acquiring Deciem (The Business of Fashion): “The Estée Lauder Companies … announced that it was increasing its stake in Deciem to 76 percent, with plans to acquire the company completely after three years. The brand’s 2020 sales of $460 million and ELC’s $1 billion investment gives Deciem a $2.2 billion valuation … A brand like The Ordinary, which sits at a perfect price point for Target and Kohl’s but with an authentic, aspirational reputation, seems ideal for the hybrid concept … In 2020, the prestige beauty market declined 19 percent, with makeup taking a 34 percent hit and skin care 11 percent … But there was some positive growth as well. Sales of exfoliation products … were up in 2020 … Sales of clinical skin care brands, which center ingredients and a scientific-based approach, were up 3 percent. Jensen considers the Ordinary to be in this category, and therefore a boon to ELC at this particular moment.”

A Vexing Question for Democrats: What Drives Latino Men to Republicans? (The New York Times): “While Democrats won the vast majority of Hispanic voters in the 2020 presidential race, the results also showed Republicans making inroads with this demographic … particularly among Latino men … 36 percent of Latino men voted for Donald J. Trump in 2020, up from 32 percent in 2016. These voters also helped Republicans win several House seats in racially diverse districts … particularly in Texas and Florida … many Democrats did not understand how much Latino men identified with being a provider — earning enough money to support their families is central to the way they view both themselves and the political world … Many mention their anti-abortion views, support for gun rights and strict immigration policies. They … worry that new environmental regulations will wipe out the industry there. Still, most say their favorable view of Republicans stems from economic concerns, a desire for low taxes and few regulations. They say they want to support the party they believe will allow them to work and become wealthy.”

She Was Afraid of Her Lawyer. Then the Text Messages Started. (ProPublica): “Maine is the only state in the country with no public defenders. Instead, the commission contracts hundreds of private attorneys to represent criminal defendants who cannot afford legal counsel. John Pelletier, the commission’s executive director, is supposed to supervise his agency’s attorneys. But … Pelletier repeatedly failed to discipline the lawyers whom he contracted, allowing them to continue their work after being criminally prosecuted or cited for legal or ethical malpractice. In some cases, these lawyers used their positions of power to manipulate or harass their clients — often female, always poor — at a time when their freedom was at stake.”

OTB Buys Jil Sander as Fashion M&A Heats Up (The Business of Fashion): “OTB, the Italian fashion group whose brands include Diesel and Maison Margiela, has agreed to acquire the Jil Sander brand from Japanese conglomerate Onward Holding.”

♥ Currently loving: Shopbop’s New Arrivals. On my wish list: Vince Asymmetric Wrap Skirt (Vince’s spring collection is *chef’s kiss*), Acne Studios Two Tone Mule Sandals, Sister Jane Pink Petalled Mini Wrap Dress (more romantic options from Sister Jane here), and Tory Burch Short Sleeve Bow Sweater Dress.

Paper Source Bankruptcy Squeezes Small Greeting Card Sellers (Bloomberg): “Paper Source placed unusually large orders with greeting card suppliers in the months and weeks preceding the bankruptcy … The bankruptcy filing means that payment for those orders may be delayed and, in some cases, possibly never repaid in full … Exactly when Paper Source received the pre-bankruptcy orders will likely play a large role in how much money vendors … will recover. Under bankruptcy rules, orders received within the 20 days of a bankruptcy filing can become so-called administrative claims, which puts the supplier’s claim higher in the repayment line and increases the likelihood of it being paid in full. Prior to that period, though, vendors may be considered general unsecured creditors that often get just pennies on the dollar after months or years of legal proceedings.”

When Influencers Make Fools of Themselves (The New York Times): “… there is no longer so much difference between slick, professional media content and the way ordinary people document their lives — less and less distance between the photos you want of your night out and the photos you would see in an ad.”

Right to Be Anonymous? Not at Some Company Meetings (The Wall Street Journal): “For years, companies large and small have permitted anonymous questions during all-hands meetings, as a way to encourage free-flowing dialogue around sensitive issues. But … many employers are questioning the practice. Some firms are considering getting rid of anonymous questions altogether. Others are screening or editing potentially offensive ones … Anonymous questions at work have a lot in common with anonymity on the rest of the internet … ‘People who feel sort of afraid or anxious or underrepresented or unpopular, or have unpopular views, can use anonymity to express their perspective … The downside is that these systems seem to inevitably degrade to the lowest common denominator of discourse.’ “

DVF Shut Its Clothing Rental Service, Pivoted to Rent the Runway (Retail Dive): “Diane von Furstenberg’s clothing rental service, DVF Link, ‘is no longer active’ … consumers are engaging with the secondhand market and apparel rental services for environmental and economic reasons … nearly half of consumers say the pandemic has made them more concerned about the environment, with 11% saying they have shifted their purchases based on environmental claims within the past year … The secondhand clothing market, in particular, is picking up steam, with ThredUp this week announcing that it has filed with the SEC for an initial public offering. The company forecast that the resale market is predicted to reach $44 billion by 2029.”

You’ve Heard of Ghost Kitchens. Meet the Ghost Franchises. (The New York Times): “In exchange for a cut of sales revenue, the brand supplies the name, logo, menu, recipes and publicity images to any restaurant owner with the space and staff to make burgers as a side hustle. When a customer orders from the MrBeast Burger in Midvale, Utah, the food is prepared at a location of the red-sauce chain Buca di Beppo, following a standardized MrBeast recipe. In Manhattan, a MrBeast Burger is prepared at the neighborhood bar Handcraft Kitchen & Cocktails. Call it a ghost franchise … In the delivery app era, the ghost franchise can be a lifeline for the independent restaurateur, a way to make thousands of dollars a month in a devastating time. It can also be a liability, exploding the marketplace in ways that serve big brands more than small businesses … But even an independent restaurant can get a virtual brand up and running in less than 30 days, with few limits to the number of brands one owner can take on. And that potential speed of proliferation could result in a delivery-app ecosystem where the ghost-franchise parent companies duke it out at the top, while the truly independent restaurants are pushed farther down the list.”

♥ Recently purchased: Purell Hand Sanitizer Packets, Lysol Disinfecting Wipes (hard-to-find brand-name disinfectants are now reappearing on store shelves, and will likely remain in stock, so there’s no need to hoard), Reiss Lina Accordion Pleat Skirt, Bardot Anika Utilitarian Front Zip Romper, lululemon All Powered Up Bra, and J. Crew Camille Shrunken Sweater-Blazer.

Have a great week, everyone!

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