News 30.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 30.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 30.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 30.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When I think of a sit-up, my mind flashes immediately to the (carpeted, for some reason) floor of my elementary-school gym. Twice a week, our teachers marched us there for ritual humiliation and light calisthenics, and under the watchful gaze of a former football coach with a whistle perpetually dangling from his lips, we’d warm up with the moves we’d been told were the building blocks of physical fitness—jumping jacks, push-ups, toe touches, and, of course, sit-ups.

With rare exception, we were bad at sit-ups. We’d try our best, taking turns leaning on our partners’ toes as they threw their torsos up and forward for a count of 10. But kids are floppy creatures, and sit-ups are an especially floppy exercise. In gym class, our lower backs hunched, our necks strained, and our arms flew away from their cross-chest Dracula pose. Once a year, beginning in elementary school, the Presidential Fitness Test required us to do as many sit-ups in a minute as our little bodies could stand. Eventually we were introduced to crunches, a truncated variation of the sit-up that made our by-then-adolescent flailing a bit less dramatic.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 30.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 30.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The philosopher Roger Scruton once wrote that people become conservative as they experience loss; the sense of passing, of dying and death. Loss gives them a love of things as they are, a desire to hold, to protect, to conserveeven if all attempts to do so come too late.

I thought of this recently when I found myself in the absurd situation of feeling sad that a multimillionaire French soccer player had decided against joining the world’s most successful club. Why did I care that Kylian Mbappé had decided to stay with Paris Saint-Germain rather than sign a contract with Real Madrid, a club I do not support or even particularly like (and that is in fact playing against my favorite team, Liverpool, in the biggest game in world soccer today)?

Because his decision signaled the end of something, and with it came an understanding of that something’s passing. That thing was the old hierarchy, the romance and glory, of European soccer, or rather my naive belief in it.

European soccer, like European culture, is governed by a class structure. Each country has its elite clubs that, together, form a sort of pan-European aristocracy—clubs that, traditionally, have been able to acquire the sport’s best players in their quest for the ultimate prize: the Champions League. Formerly known as the European Cup, this is European soccer’s Super Bowl, the biggest club match of the year.

European soccer clubs, unlike American sports franchises, cannot switch cities but are rooted where they are, representing not simply their locality, but often also certain ideas about their communities—class, identity, or religion. At this year’s English cup final, for example, Liverpool fans booed Britain’s national anthem, protesting the country’s political establishment, which they blame—correctly—for appalling abuses of power in the 1980s. (The police wrongly held Liverpool fans responsible for a 1989 stadium disaster in which 97 people died.) Liverpool believes itself to be a nonconformist, radical city, somehow distinct from the rest of England. Its rival for the Champions League, Real Madrid, meanwhile, literally is the Spanish establishment, symbolized with a crown on its crest, supported by the royal family, and representing Spain.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 30.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

It’s inadvisable to project too much on to a hit single. But when cultural historians come to soundbite the post-pandemic moment, the montage on the privatised Channel 4 show will inevitably be soundtracked by As It Was, the No 1 single by Harry Styles. Currently in its seventh week at the top, As It Was ponders Styles’s love life, recognising how situations can change.

But the song’s success owes much to the way Styles pithily nails the gulf between the before times and now. “You know it’s not the same as it was!” Styles sings, joined on backing vocals by 5,000 very partisan observers at this small – for Styles – London show, a few days after the release of his third solo album, Harry’s House. The gig’s billing as “One Night Only” isn’t quite true. He performed last week in New York and will be touring the UK shortly.

But the sense of occasion is undeniable, with Styles playing Harry’s House end to end, plus a greatest hits encore; it’s a night that gets better the chattier Styles becomes. He stops songs to make sure fans get medical attention. He apologises to his mother for the line “Cocaine, side-boob” on one of the album’s most thoughtful reveries, Keep Driving. He grows grave to advise that, however lonely or troubled you may be, “you can always sing along to a song about oral sex!” That’s Watermelon Sugar, the lip-smacking song from 2019’s Fine Line, which confirmed Styles’s solo career was not a one-album deal and that he’d heard Arctic Monkeys.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian


News 30.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

It’s just before five o’clock, and Stripe cofounder John Collison is preparing to address his hundreds of Ireland-based employees on the top floor of his headquarters in Dublin’s “Silicon Docks” District.

Such regular Friday town halls, which are also simulcast to New York, San Francisco, Singapore and anywhere else its 7,000 employees want to tune in from over Zoom, are an almost sacred tradition at Stripe, the payments company that Collison cofounded with big brother Patrick in 2010. With Patrick away getting married, it’s up to John, 31 and with a dusting of gray hair now topping his boyish face, to field questions.

It could get contentious: There’s a social media “kerfuffle” playing out over Twitter this week: Stripe has been accused in a series of (since deleted) tweets by Zachary Perret, the billionaire cofounder of fellow fintech unicorn Plaid, of meeting with his company under false pretenses only to build a competing software tool.

Patrick, Stripe’s 33-year-old CEO, has interrupted his honeymoon to write a memo to the entire company (later shared publicly) warning that such scrutiny—and uncharitable interpretations of Stripe’s motives—will only increase over time. John, Stripe’s president, is prepared for the worst. But the staff question, when it comes, is just about a name. Is calling a new product Financial Connections a sign that Stripe is moving toward more boring monikers from now on? It’s a serious question. Artful names like Atlas (software to help with company formation) and Radar (fraud detection) sound better, John admits. But they’re terrible for search engine rankings. In the end, no one asks about the Twitter dustup. (Plaid declined to comment.)

“We will compete with a bunch of companies, and we’ll partner with a bunch,” John says with a shrug. “Everyone just needs to be a grownup and well-behaved about it.”

Even so, such “front page tests” of Stripe’s ethical reputation, as Patrick calls incidents that have the potential to bubble up in the popular press, will only prove more common as Stripe transitions from startup darling to tech dreadnought. The company, dual-headquartered in San Francisco and Dublin, processed $640 billion in payments last year across 50 countries. Its gross revenue, still mostly the 2% to 3% it collects on such volume, reached nearly $12 billion in 2021, according to sources with knowledge of its financials, up about 60% year over year. Net revenue, which excludes the cut Stripe passes along to partners like Visa and Chase, reached nearly $2.5 billion. And, unusually for a unicorn that’s still growing fast, Stripe finished the year with hundreds of millions in profit on an Ebitda basis, two sources add. Stripe declined to comment on its figures.

Its eye-popping financials explain why investors including Fidelity and Ireland’s sovereign development fund poured an additional $600 million into Stripe in March 2021, raising its total funding to date to $2.4 billion and valuing it at $95 billion. That puts Stripe behind only TikTok owner Bytedance, Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Shein and Elon Musk’s SpaceX for the title of the world’s most valuable startup. (Forbes estimates Patrick and John Collison each own about 10% of Stripe, making them worth $9.5 billion each.)

Read the rest of this article at: Forbes

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News 30.05.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In January 2022 I came down with mild symptoms of something or other. I was already triple-vaxxed, with a French vaccine passport (“pass vaccinal”) on my iPhone to prove it, and like a true pioneer I had already suffered through a bout of COVID-19 long before, in March 2020. So I was basically unworried, but still I made an appointment for a PCR test in order to comply with my workplace protocols and to ease the concerns of my spouse. The soonest slot I could find was at the Pharmacie de Stalingrad in the nineteenth arrondissement. It stands just across from the Boucherie Stalingrad on the Avenue de Flandre, a dismal strip of brutalist apartment blocks, vape stores, and barber shops serving the neighborhood’s immigrant communities.

Inside the pharmacy, an older Muslim woman was nearly in tears. She couldn’t figure out how to complete, on her phone, the form required to receive the test. I pulled up the form on my own phone and saw the logo of the Ministry of Solidarity and Health. Like all government documents here, it featured the slogan: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. The pharmacy claimed that it could not provide a paper version of the form. She complained that old people should not be required to navigate online labyrinths on screens too small for their aching fingers and fading eyes just to comply with the rules. And in that officious, dismissive, yet technically polite way in which French petty clerks help to maintain the structures that somewhat call into question the force of the trinity of words in the Republic’s motto, the pharmacist barely looked up as he said: “Yes, Madame. You are absolutely right.”

She wandered out, untested, presumably unable to provide the documentation necessary for whatever official business she had hoped to finish next. I regretted not having volunteered to assist her, but my thumbs are fat and screen-averse, and my glasses were fogged up from the hot breath beneath my mask, and I could barely make sense of the questions myself.

Not quite a digital native, I am old enough to feel that this plight of ours—filling out onscreen forms, recovering lost passwords, scanning QR codes, downloading each new version of our government-approved coronavirus tracker or vaccine passport, always waiting for the little buzz of some notification or authorization or other—represents more than just an onerous imposition. It has been a foretaste of a new mode of existence. If I am going to have any hope of thriving under future conditions, I will need to get used to all this. And yet, though some of my coevals associate the following sentiment with petulant and self-absorbed Zoomers, I confess that I am tired. I feel as though the past few years have broken me.

Read the rest of this article at: Harpers

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