Weekly Link Roundup

♥ (Schedule your donation here) National Blood Crisis (The Red Cross): “The Red Cross is experiencing the worst blood shortage in over a decade. The dangerously low blood supply levels have forced some hospitals to defer patients from major surgery, including organ transplants. Your donation is desperately needed.”

While I own a few shares of Beyond Meat (for diversification, but mostly because of #FOMO), I have actually never tried their product–that is, until the national rollout of KFC’s Beyond Fried Chicken. This imitation chicken nugget looks and smells pretty good, but I thought the texture was off-putting: it was tougher and drier than even a BK nugget (which really says something). To be fair, it’s a little more tolerable when doused in sauce, but I just can’t see myself choosing this over another fast food nugget, even though I would actually prefer a plant-based option if it is comparable.

The Biggest Fast Food Rollout of Meatless Fried Chicken Is Happening in January (Vox): “Starting January 10, Beyond Fried Chicken will be available at KFC’s nearly 4,000 US locations, the first — and biggest —nationwide rollout of plant-based poultry at a major chicken chain. It will be served as part of a combo meal, or in six- or 12-piece orders.”

How Much Are You Willing to Pay for a Burrito? (The New York Times): “Last year, the price of menu items at fast-food restaurants rose 8 percent, its biggest jump in more than 20 years … Chains … were big winners of the pandemic as consumers … increasingly turned to them for convenient solutions. But in the past year, as the cost of ingredients rose and the average hourly wage increased 16 percent to $16.10 in November from a year earlier … restaurants began to quietly bump up prices … Menu prices are likely to continue to climb this year.

Why Fashion Can’t Escape the Discount Cycle (The Business of Fashion): “In the second week of January, 44 percent of apparel products were on discount, up from 35 percent in the same period in 2019 … The markdowns are deeper too, with an average 41 percent off, compared with 36 percent three years ago. Experts offer a few reasons for the sudden return of sales: a number of retailers received late shipments that missed the holiday season … The Omicron variant may also have caused a dip in consumer spending … Others see the recent spate of winter sales as a first step down the slippery slope back to year-round discounting and desperate end-of-season promotions. Both tactics were a cornerstone of many American mass retailers’ strategy to compete against new digital competitors and fast fashion brands … Complicating retailers’ pricing plans is a wave of apparel imports that is just reaching US shores. Apparel imports increased 5 percent in September compared to the same period in 2019, 12 percent in October and 33 percent in November … Before the pandemic, the average rise in apparel imports was 1 percent … Another wild card is inflation. Apparel costs rose 6 percent last year … slightly below the 7 percent average for all goods and services — the highest annual increase in 40 years. If prices continue to hover above what customers are used to paying … they may be less likely to spend as much in 2022 as they did in 2021.”

How Will Americans Eat in 2022? The Food Forecasters Speak. (The New York Times): 2022 will be another pragmatic, roll-up-your sleeves kind of year, shaped by the needs of people working from home and by the culinarily-astute-but-fickle Gen Z, whose members want food with sustainable ingredients and a strong cultural back story, prepared without exploitation and delivered in a carbon-neutral way — within 30 minutes … Mushrooms have landed on many prediction lists, in almost every form … all those 1980s drinks you can barely remember … Meat grown in laboratories from animal cells is on its way to winning federal approval as soon as the end of 2022, and chicken will be one of the first products to become available … farmed kelp will move beyond dashi and the menus at some high-end restaurants and into everyday foods like pasta and salsa … The quality of edible spoons, chopsticks, plates, bowls and cups is going up and the price is going down, signaling the start of a full-fledged edible-packaging revolution aimed at reducing single-use containers and plastic waste … Mash-ups like ‘swicy’ and ‘swalty’ … [reflect]an even wider embrace of flavor fusions that marry savory spices and heat with sweetness.”

How Men’s Hype Bags Became the New Sneakers (The Wall Street Journal): “For the past decade, men have feverishly collected sneakers … Recently, another men’s accessory has begun inspiring sneaker-level fervor: cross-body bags that cling to the torso like a baby monkey … such bags convey as much savvy and élan as a new pair of Salomons … U.S. sales of men’s and unisex handbags were up almost 700% percent in 2021 compared with 2018 … global luxury bag and small leather goods market [are expected] to reach $12.3 billion in 2022. While that’s smaller than the sneakers market … valued at about $30 billion in 2021, bags are ‘definitely among the fastest-growing, if not the fastest-growing [menswear] segment.’ “

How Microsoft Bought Activision Blizzard (The New York Times): “… adding Activision and its nearly 400 million monthly users would bolster Microsoft’s position in the lucrative video game business as it competes against Sony and rising powers like Amazon and Apple … Microsoft will pay Activision up to $3 billion in breakup fees if regulators block the transaction. Microsoft expects the deal to take up to 18 months to close.”

TikTok’s Next Big Move? To Become Facebook (WIRED): “Six new units … were being established within ByteDance, covering the Chinese and international versions of its short-form video apps; an online learning arm … its workplace collaboration tool … its game development unit; and … a business-to-business enterprise unit selling white-labeled versions of ByteDance’s proprietary algorithms … The company is expected to post healthy revenue growth of 60 percent this year, despite a challenging year of regulatory intervention at home and abroad. TikTok recently crossed 1 billion users outside China, and the company continues to ride high.”

The New Rulebook for First Dates: Sweatpants, No Makeup (The Wall Street Journal): “There seems to be a new rule circulating: Dress down—way down—to make a more forthright first impression … For a first meeting with a match … come straight from a workout (or the couch), barefaced and without artifice … a ‘mini screener date’: 30 to 45 minutes for coffee or an early drink. The idea is to economize your time, money and effort, but also to manage expectations.”

Why Luxury Wants in on Mystery Boxes (The Business of Fashion): “[LVMH’s] venture arm has invested in Heat, a UK-based mystery box start-up, as part of its $5 million seed funding round … Mystery boxes … were first popularised in the beauty industry in the early 2010s as a way to drive hype, introduce new consumers to new products and offload excess inventory. They’ve gained traction in the last few years, buoyed by the rise of resale and social commerce that made consumers more open to shelling out for unknown items … In China, where mystery boxes are already a popular retail strategy, JD.com reported 600 percent year-on-year growth in their sales during last year’s 618 shopping festival … For LVMH, the company’s appeal lay in its marriage of price accessibility, desirability and circularity … To date, Heat said it has sold over 20,000 boxes … The company has largely grown organically, building a network of 630,000 Instagram followers and 112,000 followers on TikTok, thanks to word-of-mouth and viral unboxing videos.”

Crypto Enthusiasts Meet Their Match: Angry Gamers (The New York Times): “… to some, the crypto craze has gone too far, too fast. Skeptics argue that cryptocurrencies and related assets like NFTs are digital Ponzi schemes, with prices artificially inflated beyond their true value … Nowhere has there been more unhappiness than in the games community, where clashes over crypto have increasingly erupted between users and major game studios like Ubisoft, Square Enix and Zynga. In many of the encounters, the gamers have prevailed — at least for now.”

People Are Hiding That Their Unvaccinated Loved Ones Died of COVID (The Atlantic): “In 2020, dying of COVID-19 was widely seen as an unqualified tragedy … it felt as if the entire world was in a state of collective grief. There was a palpable, shared mourning for all the lives gone too soon … Now the majority of COVID deaths are occurring among the unvaccinated, and many deaths are likely preventable. The compassion extended to the virus’s victims is no longer universal. Sometimes, in place of condolences, loved ones receive scorn.”

For Some, the Pandemic Has Helped Them Find Their Style (The New York Times): “For many, the isolation of the early pandemic days meant that there was no reason to dress up. Wearing sweatpants every day of 2020 became a social media trope, and articles about how the pandemic ruined style abounded. But that solitude is what helped some people break free of the noise that once influenced their style decisions. Dressing up during the pandemic was also a form of control, and dressing up made people feel better.”

Stop Fetishizing Old Homes (The Atlantic): “Americans are paying ever more exorbitant prices for old housing that is, at best, subpar and, at worst, unsafe … the median home nationwide is now 39 years old, up nearly 20 percent over the past decade alone. In the northeastern states of New York and Massachusetts, the median is much higher, at 63 and 59, respectively, while out West, in Nevada and Arizona, your typical home is still barely old enough to rent a car.”

The Undoing of Joss Whedon (Vulture): “I asked Whedon about his affairs on the set of Buffy … he had felt he ‘had’ to sleep with them, that he was ‘powerless’ to resist. I laughed. ‘I’m not actually joking,’ he said. He had been surrounded by beautiful young women — the sort of women who had ignored him when he was younger — and he feared if he didn’t have sex with them, he would ‘always regret it’ … Buffy ended in 2003, but his affairs did not. He slept with employees, fans, and colleagues … Whedon didn’t want to talk about his relationships with women in any detail, but it was possible to infer from various remarks he made throughout our conversations that he’d been aware, at least to some extent, of the pain he had caused.”

That Vintage Dress on the Red Carpet? There’s More to the Story. (The New York Times): ” ‘More and more people are aware that what we see on the red carpet is paid for — a branding opportunity … So when someone chooses to wear vintage, they’re kind of saying: I’m an individual here. I’m wearing this because I really love how it looks on me. I don’t care that it’s not sponsored by somebody.’ That feels more authentic to a lot of people in a very branded world.’ “

♥ Recently purchased: Chloé ‘Woody Lauren Sneakers, Abercrombie & Fitch Portrait Neck Sweater Dress, Polo Ralph Lauren Faux Shearling Hooded Jacket, Rebecca Taylor Ara Cable Knit Cardigan, and UGG Saela Rib-Knit Cuff Boot.

Have a happy and safe weekend, everyone.

Hi, I am Elle!

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