Our new home life: Jell-O molds and virtual yoga

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Today's Agenda

Who's hungry for some ... loaf?

Photographer: Constance Bannister Corp/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Back to the Future: Food and Leisure

A reliable source of Internet fun has long been all the

terrible food our parents and grandparents used to eat. We've killed hours laughing at or trying out recipes for tuna-Jell-O pie and liver-sausage pineapple and whatnot. As it turns out, what seemed like idle, privileged amusement may have actually been important research.

Because many of the seemingly maniacal products of the 20th century's kitchen-laboratories were borne not of boredom or hubris but of dire necessity, writes Stephen Mihm. People mashed stuff into monstrous "salads" and Jell-O molds because the Great Depression had gotten them uncomfortably acquainted with the prospect of starvation. So they learned to use every part of the buffalo and/or Spam loaf. Now we, their descendants, are on the edge of what may be another depression, or at least a very ugly recession-cum-pandemic. We may soon have to rediscover such midcentury delights as Mystery Meat Casserole and bird-watching in the backyard.

The big question is how durable these changes will be. For some, this is a matter of not just idle speculation but also expensive business decisions. Take Lululemon. It sells fancy workout clothing at time when nobody's going to the gym to envy you wearing it. So it just bought a company, Mirror, that sells what are basically home gyms. Who knows if the merger will work, but Sarah Halzack writes it sure seems like it has a good shot at building a "lifestyle brand" suitable for our weird new lifestyle.

Less fortunate are the makers of printers. Yes, we're all buying the things now that we're all working from home. But those products aren't too profitable for printer makers, writes Tara Lachapelle. HP, Canon, Xerox and the like instead make money doing stuff for companies, which … have stopped ordering during the pandemic. It's like some kind of O. Henry story, but with toner cartridges.

Further Strange New/Old World Reading: To convince some Americans to wear masks, you have to Jedi mind-trick them. — Tyler Cowen

The Rent Is Now Unpayable

Unlike in the Great Depression, policy makers have been quick to stimulate the economy to keep it moving during coronavirus lockdowns. But the reopening isn't going as smoothly as some predicted, which will cause more economic pain, with special jobless benefits passed back in March expiring at the end of July. Unemployment could be at recession levels for years, warns Michael R. Strain, so workers will need more relief. But the benefits passed in March were too generous, in his view, discouraging people from going back to work. Congress should rework them.

Congress should also immediately help out the more than 21 million people who may not be able to make rent next month, writes Bloomberg's editorial board. We can't deprive landlords of cash, but also can't push millions of Americans onto the street. The Great Depression comparisons would be too fitting then.

Will Russia Get Away With This?

Set aside, for now, the politically nuclear question of whether or when President Donald Trump was briefed about Russia offering bounties for American soldiers' heads. The other big question is what the U.S. plans to do about it. Trump has downplayed the report as not credible. And we should maybe hope it's not. Because this behavior, if true, goes far beyond your normal great-power-wrangling stuff, writes James Stavridis, showing "blatant and reckless disregard for the norms of international behavior." It would call for expelling the Russian ambassador and reversing Trump's misguided withdrawal of troops from Germany, for starters, maybe with some new sanctions, including on Vladimir Putin.

Telltale Charts

Whole-business securitizations seemed like great ideas before the pandemic. Big chains such as Applebee's and Planet Fitness generated tons of cash, and these bond-like whatsits let investors tap into it. Now, Brian Chappatta notes, some of these businesses may never be the same again.

An Uber Eats deal for Postmates would create a big player in the food-delivery business without totally swamping competition, writes Tae Kim.

Further Reading

John Roberts's latest ruling chisels away at the boundary between church and state. — Noah Feldman

A new poll shows Joe Biden with a big lead, but also exposes how propaganda has poisoned the electorate. — Francis Wilkinson

Boris Johnson is trying to channel his inner FDR to bolster faith in his government, but making wiser decisions would be more effective. — Therese Raphael

China wants to create its own JPMorgan Chases, but its biggest banks aren't up to the job. — Anjani Trivedi

Covid-19 is driving open access to scientific research, raising the risk big commercial publishers will dominate the field. — Justin Fox


Florida's coronavirus surge is reaching older residents now.

Up next on your 2020 Catastrophe bingo card: a new swine flu.

Let's turn empty malls into housing.


History's biggest lightning bolt was 440 miles long. (h/t Mike Smedley)

Gravitational wave detectors pick up a massive collision between a black hole and a mysterious object.

Family rescues a bear with its head stuck in a jar. (h/t Scott Kominers for the previous two kickers)

Who wants to ride a balloon to space?

Note: Please send balloon rides and complaints to Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net.

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