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News 02.12.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 02.12.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@nicole_franzen
News 02.12.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@lolariostyle
News 02.12.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@mvb

The family structure we’ve held up as the cultural ideal for the past half century has been a catastrophe for many. It’s time to figure out better ways to live together.

The scene is one many of us have somewhere in our family history: Dozens of people celebrating Thanksgiving or some other holiday around a makeshift stretch of family tables—siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, great-aunts. The grandparents are telling the old family stories for the 37th time. “It was the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen in your life,” says one, remembering his first day in America. “There were lights everywhere … It was a celebration of light! I thought they were for me.”

The oldsters start squabbling about whose memory is better. “It was cold that day,” one says about some faraway memory. “What are you talking about? It was May, late May,” says another. The young children sit wide-eyed, absorbing family lore and trying to piece together the plotline of the generations.

After the meal, there are piles of plates in the sink, squads of children conspiring mischievously in the basement. Groups of young parents huddle in a hallway, making plans. The old men nap on couches, waiting for dessert. It’s the extended family in all its tangled, loving, exhausting glory.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 02.12.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.12.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

He is taking off his pants while standing up, trying not to fall over. He’s got his ankle kind of balanced on the opposite knee, and he sometimes loses his balance for a second, the way you and I do when we take off our pants while standing up. He has to hop on one foot. Sometimes he lets out a little whoop when he teeters on one foot, the way you and I might, especially
if six people were watching us take off our pants and we lost our balance.

So there he is in his underwear. Macaulay Culkin.

I don’t know, they were like baggy briefs, I guess. Tan.

He goes by Mack. “Hi, I’m Mack,” he had said four minutes earlier, before I saw him in his underwear.

I’m not sure if I should look away, maybe. But it’s a photo shoot, so he has to keep changing, and he doesn’t appear to care that there are six people he doesn’t know watching him in his underwear. He’s making small talk with the stylist. (“Where’d you grow up?” “Manhattan. Yeah, I’m a city kid.” “Oh, yeah? Manhattan?” “Yep.”)

He sounds . . . normal?

He quickly re-pants, slips a T-shirt over his broad, taut, slightly elongated, pinkish, not-hairy, almost-forty-year-old torso. He slides on a pair of sunglasses with big rims tinted the color of a ripe peach.

He looks good. Healthy. Is that a surprise?

“Goin’ to get a little fresh air,” Mack says, smirking at his use of a cliché. The smirk is a Macaulay Culkin thing: One end of his full mouth curls up to one side in a way that makes him look like he knows something you don’t.

His publicist, a gentle woman who has been his publicist since he was ten years old, two people who connected with each other and haven’t let go, gently hands him his pack of Parliaments and beat-up green drugstore lighter. His fingernails are painted red, and the paint is scuffed. She is expressionless as she hands him the cigarettes, or maybe she chooses not to express how much it worries her every time he puts a cigarette between his lips.

Read the rest of this article at: Esquire

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I first met Mark Zuckerberg in March 2006. At the time, I was the lead tech writer at Newsweek and was working on a story about what we were calling Web 2.0—the notion that the next stage of the internet would be a joyful, participatory creation of individuals. I’d heard about a social networking startup that was spreading like kudzu on college campuses. I wanted to learn more about it, perhaps give it a name-check in the story. Luckily, Zuckerberg, its cofounder and CEO, was scheduled to appear that month at PC Forum, a conference I regularly attended, at a resort in Carlsbad, California.

We agreed to meet at the lunch hour on the conference grounds. We sat side by side at one of the big, crowded, round tables set up on a lawn under the bright sun. He was accompanied by Matt Cohler, who had left LinkedIn to join Facebook. Cohler, unable to nab a seat next to us, sat across the table, barely within ear range.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

News 02.12.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.12.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

It’s November 2019 and I’m standing in an Airbnb in Battersea, south London. But this is not the Airbnb I booked. Everything is slightly, confusingly, off. All the rooms are the wrong sizes, all the furniture in the wrong places. There are hints everywhere that something is up: the apartment block, a barely finished newbuild sandwiched between Battersea Park station and a Catholic church, is teeming with cleaning staff. There are cleaners in the hallways, cleaners lobbing bin bags of rubbish out of the front door, cleaners grabbing armfuls of bed linen in the elevator. It’s like a hotel – except there’s no front desk, and the allegedly clean duvet on my bed has a human-sized, yellow sweat stain running down its centre.

“And for checking out…?” I ask the cleaner who has let me in, gesturing at the open door of my sparsely decorated apartment. “Just leave the key on the table and close the door,” she replies. “And it will lock behind me?” I ask. “No, you don’t need to lock it.” I raise an eyebrow, and she explains that one of the cleaning staff will come and collect the key straight after I leave. “So nobody lives here?” I say as she steps out of the open door. “No I don’t think so,” she replies, half-laughing.

I close the door, look around the apartment again and open the Airbnb app on my phone. “I’m a little confused,” I write to my host, who goes by the name Robert & Team. “The apartment I’m in right now isn’t the one I booked.” Within minutes, a reply: “Hi James, Hope all is well. Rest assured that you are at the apartment that you have booked through Airbnb.” I reply, explaining that this can’t be the case. In the photos on Airbnb, the kitchen had countertops on both sides. The kitchen I’m standing in has a countertop on one side only. There’s a hallway where there should be a solid wall. Heck, the whole lounge is completely the wrong shape. “Rest assured that you are at the correct property,” my host replies, before going silent.

That night, I knock on the doors of the other apartments in the building. At one, three men who have just arrived are trying to work out why there are only two beds when they had booked an apartment with three. As we speak, the cleaner who checked me into my apartment rushes past, her arms filled with fresh linen. At the door of the penthouse, a couple from Newcastle complain about the complete lack of pots and pans in their kitchen. Standing at the open door, I notice something: the artwork on the walls is the same as in my apartment, so are the sofas, table and chairs. At the door of the apartment I had actually booked through Airbnb, the woman staying there explains she is also in the wrong listing. I return to my apartment, open my laptop and click on my host’s Airbnb profile. I count seven listings for the building I’m staying in, all with identical furniture, all with the same bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne. I flick back and forth between the listings on Airbnb, the bottle of champagne following me, mockingly. Who or what, I wonder, is Robert & Team?

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

News 02.12.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Maybe it’s cold, and you need some winter gloves. You know the brand of your favorite coat and remember who made your warmest sweater. Gloves, however, have always just been gloves, purchased without too much thought. So you open up Amazon and search: “winter gloves.”

On the first page you might see a brand you’ve heard of before, like Carhartt, whose W.P. Waterproof Insulated Glove, priced in my search at $24.37, has been positively reviewed thousands of times. Scroll a bit further and you might find the venerable Isotoner offering another popular basic glove.

Mostly, you’ll notice gloves from brands that, unless you’ve spent a lot of time searching for gloves on Amazon, you’ve never heard of. Brands that evoke nothing in particular, but which do so in capital letters. Brands that are neither translated nor Romanized nor transliterated from another language, and which may contain words, or names, that do not seem to refer to the products they sell. Brands like Pvendor, RIVMOUNT, FRETREE and MAJCF. Gloves emblazoned with names like Nertpow, SHSTFD, Joyoldelf, VBIGER and Bizzliz. Gloves with hundreds or even thousands of apparently positive reviews, available for very low prices, shipped quickly, for free, with Amazon Prime.

Gloves are just one example — there are at least hundreds of popular searches that will return similar results. White socks: JourNow, Formeu, COOVAN. iPhone cables: HOVAMP, Binecsies, BSTOEM. Sleep masks: MZOO, ZGGCD, PeNeede.

These “pseudo-brands,” as some Amazon sellers call them, represent a large and growing portion of the company’s business. These thousands of new product lines, launched onto Amazon by third party sellers with minimal conventional marketing, stocking the site with disparate categories of goods, many evaporating as quickly as they appeared, are challenging what it means to be a brand.

They’ve also helped overwhelm the United States Patent and Trademark Office, which, not unlike an Amazon shopper, has for years found itself mystified by pseudo-brands as it continues to approve them. Maybe they’re the future of shopping. They’re certainly part of the now.

There isn’t too much to say about my FRETREE gloves, which were $7.99 with free next-day shipping. They are, in quality and in origin, the sort of thing I might have bought at the discount store down the street (albeit there under names such as “Gold Medal,” “Polar Extreme” and “ThermaX”). They’re gray and logo-free. They work with touch screens and run a bit small, as I was informed by reviewers.

FRETREE products are sold by an Amazon seller called Pouss, whose other products include water bottles, USB hubs and inflatable lounge chairs, the more popular of which have hundreds of positive reviews. The FRETREE trademark, which was obtained in July 2019, lists 20 sorts of goods, including “ice cream scoops,” “animal-activated pet feeders” and “camping grills,” but not gloves. “The wording ‘FRETREE’ has no meaning in a foreign language,” the trademark says. It is registered to Li Nuo, who lists an address in a business park in Shenzhen, China, and holds two other trademarks with the U.S.P.T.O.: Dralegend and Corlitec, under which an assortment of products are listed on Amazon, including alarm clocks, flashlights, blowtorches and yoga mats.

Almost half of top Amazon sellers — those selling more than $1 million in the U.S. — are in China; about a third of Amazon’s Chinese sellers overall are estimated to be in Shenzhen. (This according to Marketplace Pulse, which tracks e-commerce marketplaces.)

Amazon shuttered its Chinese store, Amazon.cn, in 2019, after it failed to crack a market dominated by domestic giants like JD and Alibaba.

But it has been much more successful in recruiting Chinese entrepreneurs to sell abroad, opening “cross-border e-commerce parks,” where sellers can get assistance with logistics, branding, and navigating Amazon’s platform. For the last five years, the company has also hosted summits for Chinese cross-border sellers. Last year’s conference, held in Shanghai, was attended by more than 10,000 sellers, many of whom see, in Amazon, an alternative to increasingly saturated domestic platforms like Taobao.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

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