By now, the dust has settled from Black Friday, which in the US marks the post-Thanksgiving kickoff to the Christmastime consumer frenzy. It’s when Apple products, Legos, and cashmere scarves replace turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.
This very American tradition has even spread to Britain, where, The New York Times reports (paywall), the fourth Friday in November has brought “disorder and chaos,” as well as a 10% sales surge. This year should have been especially crazed, as retailers struggling with overstock and stiff online competition offered earlier opening times and deeper discounts to attract holiday shoppers.
And yet, despite the odd food-court fisticuffs, the US shopping day was relatively slow. Much of this, of course, can be attributed to shoppers taking their business online, but it seems a greater movement is afoot.
Even—or perhaps especially—post-recession, a bargain is no longer enough. Our values have shifted. For more than a year now, Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a guide to de-cluttering one’s life, has sat on the New York Times best-seller list. Even the clothes-horses among us have embraced systems to limit our consumption and work with what we have. Some even enlist the help of psychologists.
For Quartz’s 2015 gift guide, 40 people told us about the best present they ever received. You probably wouldn’t want to take it shopping. Few, if any of the featured gifts could be re-gifted to someone else. Rather, they conveyed some fresh perspective, personal understanding, or a moment—or, in the case of, say, a piano or even a grandchild, countless moments—of joy. Maybe we’re shopping on our phones instead of in stores, or spending money on experiences rather than stuff. But just maybe, on the day after Thanksgiving, some of us simply felt full, and not only of food.—Jenni Avins
Five things on Quartz we especially liked
Looking for love at a Chinese “marriage expo.” The intrepid Zheping Huang dives into a 4,000-person Shanghai singles event in an attempt to find the perfect bride, braving the perils of desperate mothers, money-grubbing matchmakers, and speed-dating exercises that sound like a modern form of torture.
Why you fall ill over the holidays. “Leisure sickness”—falling prey to flu on vacation because your body lets its guard down—probably isn’t a real phenomenon, explain Gwynn Guilford and Nikhil Sonnad. But traveling, which puts you in proximity to lots other people and their viruses, is more likely to be the culprit.
We can’t eat away our invasive-species problems. While lionfish ceviche and pigeon en crépine might sound appealing, Grace Dobush explains why the endeavor of turning pesky critters into high-end cuisine is unlikely and unsustainable.
The fate of the South China Morning Post. Alibaba founder Jack Ma is eyeing an acquisition of the venerable English-language paper—a Hong Kong equivalent of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post last year. Josh Horwitz looks at the implications for the paper’s future in the larger tussle over Hong Kong’s political freedom.
A little thing that makes a big difference to a woman’s career. Encouragement, in a word. Jenni Avins muses on how important it is to have recognition that one is doing good work, and how a systematic failure to recognize women’s achievements has harmed their progress at workplaces.
A podcast we like, and we think you’ll like too
This week, Actuality slips into some fast fashion and learns how it pushes your brain’s buttons to make you buy. And in a bonus episode, a reporter visits a refugee camp in France and is surprised to learn her own family’s refugee story.
Five things elsewhere that made us smarter
The feminist utopia in ISIL’s backyard. It might just be the world’s unlikeliest social experiment: Rojava, a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria where women have full equality and society is run along democratic principles laid down by an obscure American radical philosopher. Wes Enzinna visited to teach a journalism course and describes, in the New York Times magazine (paywall), what he learned from his students.
When is a salmon not a salmon? We’ve domesticated wolves into dogs and other animals into modern-day livestock. But we’ve never domesticated anything as quickly as salmon, and as Matthew Berger explains in Nautilus, the re-mixing of farmed salmon—which never has to migrate or leap up rivers—with its wild cousins could have strange and potentially catastrophic effects on them.
Donald Trump is good for American democracy. Frank Rich argues in New York magazine that Trump’s lies and clowning have exposed the hollowness of American politics, and will thus force a reset. It’s just a little Panglossian, but it nicely situates the Trump circus in a long-running American political tradition of buffoonery, self-parody, and delusion.
The incredible dysfunction of climate-change talks. Why can’t humanity agree to do something about the biggest threat facing the planet? Suzanne Goldenberg makes it clear, in a hilarious and horrifying account in the Guardian of massive climate summits where stressed-out, malnourished, sleep-deprived delegates hold negotiations that one likened to “playing chess on 15 different chess boards at the same time.”
The archaic chaos of New York’s subways. Most of the subway lines in “the greatest city in the world” still have no way to tell you when the next train is coming. How hard can it be? Incredibly hard, as Jason Somers discovered when he delved deep into the subway’s ancient infrastructure for the Atlantic—though, as he also finds, New York could learn a thing or two from other cities with similarly ancient systems.
Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, salmon genomes, and subway maps to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.