They do not alter. They are still ten inches, more or less, across, still taste of apple, still cut thrice in six. The same words, hours, associations, even the same price, produce them still. Brakemen accustomed to consume them in Minneapolis order them in Piggott, Arkansas. And taste no change. Sad automobilists buy them from town to town the way a man buys postage. Or Ford cars. Sure of the product in advance. Millions are eaten. More than seventy-seven millions in a year. Nearly a thousand acres of brown pie. Some ten thousand miles of pie on racks. Tons on tons. There is no need for testimonials: "The Duchess of X-- eats apple pie." Chicago endorses pies with $35,000,000 each year; of this, three fourths is spent by housewives, eaten in the home. One Chicago bakery turns out 90,000 pies nightly. The Census Bureau picks a figure—$59,8I1,168—this means pies produced annually by bakers alone. Of all desserts eaten, perhaps two thirds are pies. Of all pies, two-fifths are apple. The statistician smiles with pleasure; he deals with exact units. No need for weighted charts, adjusted curves. This Laredo pie is the statistical brother of that Philadelphia pie. They can be added into bigger and better statistics, divided into pro ratas. Why should they alter? From the polished shelf Atlantic City looks like Galesburg. And pie's pie.
Additive manufacturing is growing apace in China … ALTHOUGH it is the weekend, a small factory in the Haidian district of Beijing is hard at work. Eight machines, the biggest the size of a delivery van, are busy making things. Yet the factory, owned by Beijing Longyuan Automated Fabrication System (known as AFS), appears almost deserted. This is because it is using additive-manufacturing machines, popularly known as three-dimensional (3D) printers, which run unattended day and night, seven days a week. … The printers require an occasional visit from a supervisor to top them up with the powdered materials they use as their “inks”, or to remove a completed item, but apart from that they can be left on their own.
In this special HODINKEE feature of Inside The Manufacture, I will recount a four day experience that completely changed my perspective on the world's most important watch maker – the time that I got to spend inside all four of Rolex's actual production facilities in Switzerland. I had many ideas of what I would see, and while some were accurate, others could not have been further from the truth. Below, you'll hear and see what it is like to go inside Rolex in a way that few have, or will ever get to experience. This is inside Rolex, like you've never seen it before. ... Rolex is one of the few watch manufactures that has two completely separate but totally equal strengths – an amazing history of innovation (truly – like, not one bought with naming rights), and world-class manufacturing capabilities today.
She’ll dip her hands into a tray of water, to determine whether the temperature is just right. She can explain the intricacies of heating glass in a potassium ion bath. When she passes a grinding machine, she is apt to ask technicians to step aside so she can take their place for a while. ... Ms. Zhou knows the drill. For years, she labored in a factory, the best job she could get having grown up in an impoverished village in central China. ... Ms. Zhou has honed her hands-on knowledge into a world-class, multibillion-dollar operation, one at the vanguard of China’s push into high-end manufacturing. Lens Technology is now one of the leading suppliers of the so-called cover glass used in laptops, tablets and mobile devices, including the Apple iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy. This year, her factories are expected to churn out more than a billion glass screens, each refined to a fraction of a millimeter. ... In 2003, she was still making glass for watches when she received an unexpected phone call from executives at Motorola. They asked if she was willing to help them develop a glass screen for their new device, the Razr V3.
A conglomerate on the order of the old Gulf + Western, China National runs more than 160 cigarette brands, manufactured in about 100 factories across the country, and uses its earnings to invest in banks, luxury hotels, a hydroelectric plant, a golf course, and even drugmakers. Most of its money goes to its owner, the Chinese government; the tobacco industry accounts for about 7 percent of the state’s revenue each year, and China National controls as much as 98 percent of the market. All told, the industry in China employs more than 500,000 Chinese. They are among roughly 20 million people who get some income from tobacco, including members of 1.3 million farming households and workers at 5 million retailers, according to government figures. The extent to which the government is interlocked with the fortunes of China National might best be described by the company’s presence in schools. Slogans over the entrances to sponsored elementary schools read, “Genius comes from hard work. Tobacco helps you become talented.” ... While the growth of its cigarette production has slowed, the company is making more money than ever in the same ways its Western competitors do: by pushing premium brands. Some are low-tar, some are organic, and some feature tobacco from American farmers, whose fortunes have risen along with the demand from China. But China National is being challenged as never before. Faced with a mounting death toll from smoking-related diseases, the Chinese government in the last year has issued a flurry of anti-tobacco edicts and proposed reforms.
What Pyrex-maker Corning is to glass, CoorsTek is to ceramics. Name any big American manufacturer and it probably buys CoorsTek parts. ... CoorsTek makes over 1 billion tiny parts for cars each year, used in brakes, air bags, mirrors and headrests. Its parts are on NASA’s space shuttles; its valves are used in the fountain machines at McDonald’s; its bulletproof armor protects U.S. soldiers; and its fake knees are helping an aging population keep moving. ... With sales of $1.25 billion, CoorsTek is the largest engineered-ceramics manufacturer on the planet. It is also one of the most profitable, with estimated cash flow margins of 27%. ... tapping into the vast clay deposits surrounding Golden to form a pottery company that first made dinnerware and then labware during World War I; the Germans had dominated that market beforehand but were embargoed from selling to Americans during the war. Thomas Edison was an early customer. ... The ceramics business helped to keep the family fortune afloat for nearly two decades. ... Another factor that makes CoorsTek different from most industrial giants is that it can completely change its product offerings year to year without checking in with a public board of directors or worrying how investors will respond. Three of its largest markets–armor and defense, semiconductor equipment and oil and gas–are roller-coaster industries, so it must constantly shift its focus.
Since taking over in 2006 from the outsider Knight first recruited for the job, Parker has overseen a more than doubling of Nike’s sales. To outward appearances, Knight and Parker are a study in contrasts. Knight is an MBA and still an irascible presence around Nike’s Beaverton, Ore., corporate campus. Parker is a soft-spoken shoe designer, known for a thoughtful if demanding management style. ... Parker was one of Nike’s earliest recruits—he joined a design outpost in New Hampshire in 1979—and has succeeded at every task assigned to him since. ... Parker’s meticulous approach to product development, known as “design thinking,” is all the rage, thanks to the acclaim of Apple’s products under its famed designer Jony Ive. Parker remains committed to his original craft: He still noodles on two limited-run sneaker lines with famed Nike designer Tinker Hatfield, one of them with Nike spokes-icon Michael Jordan and the other with Japanese stylemaker Hiroshi Fujiwara. ... Parker equates his managerial style with being an editor, with his process focused on helping subordinates hone their ideas. He even edits himself.
They’re a physical commodity, but they’re also a meme — popularized by celebrities, shared endlessly on Twitter and Instagram and Vine, discussed to death by the chittering idea factory that is the English-language internet. ... One of those factories is Gaoke (or “High Tech”) Times, a midsize plant situated on 120,000 square feet in a Bao An industrial park. ... churn out 600 boards in a day, for customers in the U.S., U.K., Dubai, and Australia. ... In the two decades Gaoke has been here in Shenzhen, it has made desktop phones, then DVD players, televisions, mobile devices, and eventually tablets, which today are the largest part of its business. ... About six months ago, at the request of some of the company’s existing tablet customers, Gaoke had started manufacturing them. New product crazes present struggling businesses and eager entrepreneurs alike with an opportunity to leave behind glutted markets, and the nature of China’s booming electronics business is to be adaptable to the whims of a global market. ... Fang Zuoyi estimated that there are at least 1,000 factories in the Shenzhen area making hoverboards. ... It starts when a (typically) Western company, eager to cash in on a product made popular by the social internet, contracts a Chinese factory to make it. From here, the idea spreads throughout the elaborate social networks of Chinese electronics manufacturing until the item in question is being produced by hundreds and hundreds of competitors, who subcontract and sell components to each other, even as they all make the same thing. It reaches its saturation point quickly. It moves from product to product without sentiment. And it is proof that our never-ending digital output, our tweets and Vines and Instagrams and Facebook posts, has the power to shape the lives of people on the other side of the world.
Because rubber is so common, so unobtrusive, so dull, it may not seem worth a second glance. This would be a mistake. Rubber has played a largely hidden role in global political and environmental history for more than 150 years. You say you want an industrial revolution? If so, you need three raw materials: iron, to make steel for machinery; fossil fuels, to power that machinery; and rubber, to connect and protect all the moving parts. Try running an automobile without a fan belt or a radiator hose; very bad things will happen within a minute. Want to send coolant around an engine using a rigid metal tube instead of a flexible rubber hose? Good luck keeping it from vibrating to pieces. Having enough steel and coal to make and drive industrial machinery means nothing if the engines fry because you can’t cool them. ... To the extent that most people think about rubber at all, they likely picture a product made from synthetic chemicals. In fact, more than 40 percent of the world’s rubber comes from trees, almost all of them H. brasiliensis. Compared with natural rubber, synthetic rubber is usually cheaper to produce but is weaker, less flexible, and less able to withstand vibration. For things that absolutely cannot fail, from condoms to surgeon’s gloves to airplane tires, natural rubber has long been the top choice. ... Iron can be found around the globe; so can fossil fuels. But rubber today is grown almost exclusively in Southeast Asia, because the region has a unique combination of suitable climate and infrastructure. Despite all the ups and downs in the global economy, the demand for tires continues to grow, which has created something akin to a gold rush in Southeast Asia. For millions of people in this poor part of the world, the rubber boom has helped bring prosperity
The developed world’s workforce will start to decline next year, threatening future global growth ... Ever since the global financial crisis, economists have groped for reasons to explain why growth in the U.S. and abroad has repeatedly disappointed, citing everything from fiscal austerity to the euro meltdown. They are now coming to realize that one of the stiffest headwinds is also one of the hardest to overcome: demographics. ... For the first time since 1950, their combined working-age population will decline, according to United Nations projections, and by 2050 it will shrink 5%. The ranks of workers will also fall in key emerging markets, such as China and Russia. At the same time the share of these countries’ population over 65 will skyrocket. ... reflects two long-established trends: lengthening lifespans and declining fertility. Yet many of the economic consequences are only now apparent. Simply put, companies are running out of workers, customers or both. In either case, economic growth suffers. As a population ages, what people buy also changes, shifting more demand toward services such as health care and away from durable goods such as cars. ... Demographic forces are assumed to be slow-moving and predictable. By historical standards, though, these aren’t ... it took 80 years for the U.S. median age to rise seven years, to 30, by 1980, and just 34 more to climb another eight, to 38. ... There is no simple answer for how business and government should cope with these changes, since each country is aging at different rates, for different reasons and with different degrees of preparedness.
- Also: Wall Street Journal - 2050: Demographic Destiny
- Also: Quartz - By 2017, one in 17 Japanese will have dementia. Here’s how the country plans to cope < 5min
- Also: Bloomberg - Jefferies: Baby Boomers Will Spend Their Retirement Money on Golf and Travel < 5min
- Repeat: Wall Street Journal - Tastes Like Chicken: How to Satisfy the World’s Surging Appetite for Meat 5-15min
It’s a story that has become a part of business folklore in China. In 1985, Zhang Ruimin, the young general manager of the loss-making Qingdao Refrigerator Plant, decided it was time to turn things around. He got his factory workers to smash 76 defective refrigerators with sledgehammers. To drive the point home—that there would be no tolerance for low quality—he delivered the first blow himself. ... This moment marked a significant turning point in the history of Qingdao Refrigerator Plant (now known as Haier), so much so that the sledgehammer is now housed in the company’s in-house corporate museum. Three decades later, Haier is the world’s largest white goods manufacturer and boasts cutting edge innovation. ... None of this would have been possible without CEO Zhang Ruimin at the helm. He led the company through several path-breaking business model changes, which helped the company build a strong brand, grow both organically and through acquisitions, globalize and evolve a business model where the company “gets close to the customer”. The beauty of it is that he forced the company to change even before competition or technology made it imperative that it did so. ... Zhang is now leading the company through yet another transformation. He is, in essence, ‘breaking up’ the company and throwing rigid organizational structures and processes out of the window. The enterprise will, in effect, become an investment platform and the departments and divisions will be like entrepreneurial teams, which he calls “micro-enterprises”.
Around Shenzhen, since mid-December a cottage industry of more than 1,000 factories that were churning out the boards has shrunk to a couple hundred. “We maybe lost 50% of our revenues after the Amazon announcement,” says Feng, speaking from his shamrock-green factory floor. ... Unlicensed manufacturers had begun copying Chic’s board immediately after it appeared at the Canton trade show. By the summer of 2015, more than a thousand factories—up to 10,000, by some estimates—were making boards for distributors who sold them abroad online. Factories like Feng’s that had been making LED screens or iPhone cases switched to building hoverboards in a matter of days. And many factories, licensed and otherwise, cut corners on safety standards, often by subbing in cheaper, potentially flammable batteries.
Five years ago, after growing Fossil into a $2 billion accessories behemoth, Kartsotis hatched Shinola, a high-end watch brand famous, mostly, for being manufactured in Detroit. ... This is just the latest postmodern layer Kartsotis has baked into Shinola, which is no longer an experiment in manufacturing authenticity, but a fast-growing business. "The coolest brand in America"--as recently ordained by Adweek--can now be found in boutiques from Paris to Singapore. Shinola retail stores have surfaced in more than a dozen cities; plans are to almost triple that by late 2017. The brand isn't slowing down for anyone--not even the Federal Trade Commission. In November, the government agency went after Shinola's "Built in Detroit" tagline, accusing the company of embellishing its made-in-America claims. ... Kartsotis has spent his career finding creative ways to boost the value of ordinary products. Born to a Greek American family, he dropped out of Texas A&M, discovering his entrepreneurial flair as a ticket scalper. In his early 20s, he ventured to Asia with a plan to import cheap toys, until he was tipped off that the market for moderately priced Asian-made watches was growing. With $200,000 that he'd earned scalping, Kartsotis opened Overseas Products International, an importer of watches from Hong Kong. But it wasn't until Kartsotis came across Life and Look magazines from the 1950s that Overseas morphed into the brand called Fossil.
The L.L. Bean Maine Hunting Boot has gone on expeditions to both Poles, and been commissioned by the U.S. military to go to war as well. They've popped up on the feet of Babe Ruth and Derek Jeter, Jake Gyllenhaal, Chloë Sevigny, and recently, as shown on Twitter, the feet of a woman dancing on stage during a Bruce Springsteen concert. They seem to wander college quads and main streets with equal ubiquity. And when the boots return to where they were made in Brunswick, Maine, to be repaired, each is tagged with its home port for resending ... last year alone: Roughly half a million Bean Hunting Boots were manufactured and sold, marking a 300 percent increase from a decade ago. Even the guys over in corporate can't explain it. They see it less as a fluke than as a question of longevity: If you stick around long enough, you become the trend again. ... All you really need to know is that the waiting list on back orders—from the sorority sisters of the SEC to old-school hunters—recently ran as high as a hundred thousand. Inside the company, where the boot is simply known as the Boot, they can't crank out product fast enough. ... The Boot was famously birthed in 1912 by one L.L. Bean, an orphan who came to love the Maine outdoors, and who swore, after a particularly miserable hunting trip involving cold, wet feet, that he'd never repeat the experience.
Even before all of Fuhu's money disappeared, Mitchell was having a doozy of a month. Three weeks before, he and his co-founder, Robb Fujioka--Fuhu's mastermind and headstrong president--had been contacted by attorneys representing the company's primary manufacturer, Foxconn. The Chinese giant was more than just a vendor. It was an investor and patron that had been instrumental in launching Fuhu on its meteoric rise. With gross revenue of $196 million and a three-year growth rate of 158,957 percent ... But behind the scenes, the company was falling apart. In recent months, it had racked up unpaid bills from just about everyone it did business with. And Foxconn--to which Fuhu owed between $60 million and $110 million, depending on who was counting--had finally reached its breaking point. The lawyers told Fujioka and Mitchell that until they paid their tab, their company would be cut off. ... The consequences of losing their supplier were laid out in a thick stack of a Tennenbaum loan agreement that the Fuhu bosses had never bothered to read. ... The rise and fall of Fuhu is a cautionary tale about the seductions of early success and the overconfidence it can breed. But most of all, it's the story of two entrepreneurs who pushed too hard to go big--one whose personal drive led him to take oversize risks against the advice of those around him, and one who failed to stop him.
The banana’s parent plant isn’t a tree but an herb, and the fruit itself is a berry. The trajectory of bananas is a story of immigration, from obscure jungle species in Southeast Asia to the largest fruit crop and the fourth-most valuable food crop in the world, behind only wheat, rice, and milk. ... In a globalized way, there is only one banana. There were once thousands of varieties—fuzzy ones, striped ones, ones that tasted like strawberries. And in some parts of the world, there still are. But the story of the banana is the story of how humans hyper-optimized food production. More than any other industrialized food like beef, eggs, or bread, the modern banana is a miracle of biology, and because of this, an incredible biological risk. ... Of the thousands of bananas that have grown on Earth, the only one with truly global reach is called the Cavendish, which is neither the king nor queen of bananas. To most of the world it is simply the banana, cloned so many times that a banana you buy in Rome is identical as one in Rochester. This would be exciting news to Duke William George Spencer Cavendish, who first propagated the plant in 1834 and gave it his name.
My time in China has taught me the pleasure and value of craftsmanship, simply because it’s so rare. To see somebody doing a job well, not just for its own reward, but for the satisfaction of good work, thrills my heart; it doesn’t matter whether it’s cooking or candle-making or fixing a bike. ... the prevailing attitude is chabuduo, or ‘close enough’. It’s a phrase you’ll hear with grating regularity, one that speaks to a job 70 per cent done, a plan sketched out but never completed, a gauge unchecked or a socket put in the wrong size. ... implies that to put any more time or effort into a piece of work would be the act of a fool. China is the land of the cut corner, of ‘good enough for government work’. ... sometimes there’s a brilliance to chabuduo. One of the daily necessities of life under Maoism was improvisation; finding ways to keep irreplaceable luxuries such as tractors or machine tools going, despite missing parts or broken supply chains. ... More usually, chabuduo is the domain of a village uncle who grew up with nothing and can whip up a solution to anything out of two bits of wire and some tape.
If you’ve ever dressed up as a movie or television character for Halloween, the costume you bought was probably made by Rubie’s. The odds drop a little with generic characters like witches or vampires—plenty of smaller companies make those—but with more than 20,000 costumes and accessories for sale at retailers like Walmart, Amazon, and Party City, Rubie’s has probably played a part in your Halloween festivities. What started in 1951 as a soda shop/novelty store in Queens has, over the past 65 years, grown into an international business that earns hundreds of millions. (It doesn’t disclose figures, but the analytics firm IbisWorld estimates $251 million in revenue in the U.S.) Rubie’s has 3,000 employees, contracts with 12 factories in China, owns four factories in the U.S., and runs six large warehouses, four on Long Island, one in Arizona, and one in South Carolina. Rubie’s has also spawned 15 subsidiaries in countries such as Japan, the Netherlands, and the U.K. It sells Carnival costumes in Brazil, Day of the Dead dresses in Mexico, and Easter Bunny and Santa Claus suits around the world. But in America its bread and butter is still Halloween. ... Americans will shell out a record-breaking $8.4 billion on Halloween candy, costumes, and decorations this year, according to the National Retail Federation. That figure has jumped almost 70 percent in just 10 years, making Halloween the second-largest holiday in terms of decoration sales, behind Christmas. ... Rubie’s tries to anticipate Halloween trends a year in advance, but it’s constantly adjusting its plans as expected blockbusters flop (The Legend of Tarzan), beloved actors die (Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka costume will be popular this year), or millions of people get swept up in the Pokémon Go craze and Beige finds himself mass-manufacturing last-minute Pikachu costumes to fill thousands of back orders. ... unlike regular clothes, which are subject to high import duties, most costumes are considered “festive apparel” and can be imported duty-free.
In theory, the redesign begins with a problem. The problem might be specific or systemic or subjective. A logo makes a company’s image feel out of date. A familiar household object has been overtaken by new technology. A service has become too confusing for new users. And so on. The world is, after all, full of problems. ... The human desire to solve problems fuels brand-new inventions too: The wheel, for example, eased conveyance significantly. But the redesign tends to address problems with, or caused by, dimensions of the human-designed world, and identifying such problems may be the designer’s most crucial skill. Redesigns fail when they address the wrong problem — or something that really wasn’t a problem in the first place. While progress may entail change, change does not necessarily guarantee progress. But a clever redesign, one that addresses the right problem in an intelligent fashion, improves the world, if just by a bit. ... the platonic ideal of the redesign: A designer sees a problem, proposes a solution, makes a difference. Such tidy narratives fuel a reigning ideology in which every object, symbol or pool of information is just another design problem awaiting some solution. The thermostat, the fire extinguisher, the toothbrush, the car dashboard — all have been redesigned, whether anybody was clamoring for their alteration or not.
Pettis had begun his ascent in 2006, producing weekly videos for MAKE magazine—the maker movement’s Bible—that featured him navigating goofy tasks such as powering a light bulb with a modified hamster wheel. In 2008, he cofounded the NYC Resistor hackerspace in Brooklyn. By then, Pettis was a star. A year later, he launched a Brooklyn-based startup with friends Adam Mayer and Zach Smith (also a NYC Resistor cofounder) called MakerBot. ... By 2015, Pettis, Mayer, and Smith had all moved on. A new CEO and management team has taken the helm since then, and three rounds of layoffs cut the employee head count from a high of around 600 to about half that. This year a Taiwanese competitor nabbed MakerBot’s spot as the most popular desktop 3D printer maker. ... How did MakerBot, the darling of the 3D printing industry, fall so hard and seemingly so fast?
In the industries where there’s rapid productivity growth, everybody is freaked out, because what are people going to do after everything gets automated? In the other part of the economy, that second part, health care and education, people are freaked out about, "Oh my God, it’s going to eat the entire budget! It’s going to eat my personal budget. Health care and education is going to be every dollar I make as income, and it’s going to eat the national budget and drive the United States bankrupt!" And everybody in the economy is going to become either a nurse or teacher. It’s really funny, both sides of the economy get polar opposite emotional reactions. ... We are very much not present, in what we would consider to be a healthy way, in education, health care, construction, childcare, senior care. The great twist on that is that second category — that’s most of the GDP. Most of the spending is most of the GDP, and these are the areas where we have not yet been able to crack the code. ... How audacious or insane is it to think that you could bring tech to health care or education? It’s probably 50/50. ... What’s interesting is there are probably more new computer companies in the valley today than there were probably since 1982 — it’s just that the products are all these different shapes, sizes, and descriptions. ... Basically, the entire way we live today is a consequence of the invention of the automobile. Because, before that, people just never went anywhere. Therefore, everything that you travel to is a consequence of the automobile.
Lego is an idea as much as it is a toy; if you try hard enough, you can fit the entire story of the last century of child’s play and the hopes and desires of every parent into one of its 9.6-millimeter-tall rectangular plastic bricks. Molded in a thermoplastic polymer, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, Legos are known for their durability, which is why you can pull out the 30-year-old Legos stashed in your parents’ basement and, dated color schemes aside, they’ll be the same as they ever were. Not only will they look the same, but they will fit together with every other one Lego has ever made, even those going back to 1949, when a Danish toy-maker named Ole Kirk Kristiansen made his first plastic brick. Lego calls it the System of Play, and it is both a manufacturing principle, allowing the company to reuse the same molds to make infinite new sets, and a play proposition: The more bricks you own, the more you can build. ... Like all 6,500 Lego elements — cubes, rectangles, octagons, wheel beds, arches, even the tiny semi-circular hands of yellow mini-figures — the standard brick has a variation of just 0.004 millimeters, which means Legos are more precisely crafted than your coffeemaker, your television, even your iPhone. ... By 2003, the company was on the brink of financial collapse, just three years after Fortune had named it “Toy of the Century.” ... In Lego lore, the crisis provoked a companywide soul search. And where the soul was located was in the brick. Henceforth, the brick would be the center of everything it did, toy trends be damned. ... play researchers argued that toys should foster more open-ended creativity and exploration — toys that forced the child to do the work, like Lego.
Deng Xiaoping created the city from bucolic nothing in 1980 as the pilot of his special economic zone project. These zones were meant to create safe places for Western companies to do business—and they worked. Even though China is not the boom-country it was two years ago, favorable trade policies and cheap skilled labor lure companies and entrepreneurs from across the globe to Shenzhen’s nimble factories. Before the SEZ, there were some 30,000 people in the area. Today, Shenzhen’s population is north of 10 million, and its port is one of the busiest in China. You already know this: Your iPhone is made here. Everything is made here. ... As of 2013, there were 22,000 permanent foreign nationals living in the city, and nearly 8 million others visiting every year. The expats range from the manufacturing-industry vet with a house and a spouse to the fresh-off-the-plane Kickstarter romantic with a pocketful of pledge cash to the English teacher who can’t tell a diode from a dinner plate.
Hardly a lost city, Fordlândia is home to about 2,000 people, some who live in the crumbling structures built nearly a century ago. ... Ford, the automobile manufacturer who is considered a founder of American industrial mass-production methods, hatched his plan for Fordlândia in a bid to produce his own source of the rubber needed for making tires and car parts like valves, hoses and gaskets. ... In doing so, he waded into an industry shaped by imperialism and claims of botanical subterfuge. Brazil was home to Hevea brasiliensis, the coveted rubber tree, and the Amazon Basin had boomed from 1879 to 1912 as industries in North America and Europe fed the demand for rubber.
Shopping involves scrolling through an intoxicating admixture of goods: Commodity necessities appear next to fast fashion and knockoff apparel; extraordinarily cheap but on-trend electronics mingle with what I can only describe as global manufacturing overspill. ... These shipments were made in accordance with a bilateral trade agreement between the United States and China that originated in 2010, meant to address the rising tide of cross-border e-commerce. Items up to 4.4 pounds — more than the weight of, for example, a violin and bow — can be shipped as ePackets, at extremely low rates with tracking numbers and delivery confirmation. ... This obscure trade deal has become the quiet conduit for an explosion in a new and underexamined American consumer behavior: buying things directly from their countries of manufacture. ... Because of ePacket, and the decades-old international postal agreements that serve as its foundation, lightweight product shipments from China are heavily subsidized by the U.S.P.S. ... Wish certainly illuminates the peculiarities of international shipping, but it casts a much brighter light on the state of globalized manufacturing and commerce. In fact, it offers a somewhat convincing vision of what they might become in the near future. ... Wish wastes no such effort on concealing its international character. Its product selection feels like a churning, infinite cascade; its lack of any sort of organizing principle is part of the reason it’s so hard to stop scrolling.