Welcome to Bespoke Brunch Reads — a linkfest of the favorite things we read over the past week. The links are mostly market related, but there are some other interesting subjects covered as well. We hope you enjoy the food for thought as a supplement to the research we provide you during the week.

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Changes And Stasis

Apple Pay Overtakes Starbucks as Top Mobile Payment App in the US (eMarketer)

Mobile payments leader Starbucks has been surpassed by Apple Pay, which now was more than 30mm US users accounting for 47% of total users who use proximity payment services. [Link]

‘Death by Amazon’ Was a False Alarm for Walmart and Some Other Retailers by Daren Fonda (Barron’s)

Bespoke’s own Death By Amazon index shows that traditional retailers have been having a great year despite the rise of the e-commerce giant. [Link]

Why the Gasoline Car to the EV is Like the Horse to the Car by Vitaliy Katsenelson (Contrarian Edge)

Part of an 11-part series on Tesla and related topics, this essay argues that internal combustion engines’ decline is a critical shift akin to the end of horses and rise of the automobile. [Link]


The Latest in Security for Hollywood Homeowners: “Laser Systems in Every Single Project” by Alexandria Abramian (The Hollywood Reporter)

Higher incidence of robberies and burglaries have the stars of the silver screen thinking more about their security and some of the results live up to the same over-the-top approach that celebrities bring to other kinds of consumption. [Link]

The One Where Apple Tried to Buy Its Way Into Hollywood by Lucas Shaw and Mark Gurman (Bloomberg)

A detailed look at the story of Apple’s entry into the world of streaming, powered by an ocean of cash and a need to bolster services revenues, a risky play given the history of what makes winners in Hollywood. [Link; soft paywall]


An Undeserved Gift by Shane Mitchell (The Bitter Southerner)

The delicious oral history of okra, a key ingredient in the cuisine of the south that was part of the massive Columbian Exchange; the vegetable goes back so far into that history that nobody can when or how specifically it made its way from Africa to the Gulf Coast. [Link]

Popeyes Will Hire More Staff to Deal With Return of Hit Sandwich by Leslie Patton (Bloomberg)

In early November, the chicken joint will resume its offering of chicken sandwiches which proved so staggeringly popular over the course of the summer, and it’s hiring extra workers to do so. [Link; soft paywall, auto-playing video]

Online ordering boom gives rise to virtual restaurants by Alexandra Olson (AP)

Commercial kitchens are sharing space and workers in order to offer precisely tailored menus designed for takeout that appeals to users of Grubhub, DoorDash, and Uber Eats. [Link]


The Student Vote Is Surging. So Are Efforts to Suppress It. by Michael Wines (NYT)

College student voting rates doubled from 2014 to 2018, as young people increasingly turn out in opposition to the GOP; the response has been to restrict voting by students. [Link]

A multi-millionaire set out to counter Dominion. Now he’s the state’s biggest campaign donor. by Ned Oliver (Virginia Mercury)

When a Charlottesville-based hedge fund manager Michael Bills ran the numbers, he realized he could buy more influence with state lawmakers than the local utility, so he did. This is both an amusing and slightly horrifying story about how basically (and legally) corrupt many lawmakers have become. [Link]

Democrats Seek Insider Trading Probe After ‘Trump Chaos’ Article by Ben Bain and Matt Robinson (Yahoo!/Bloomberg)

Bespoke’s Macro Strategist George Pearkes gave a convincing debunking of the conspiracy theory that insiders were moving around S&P 500 futures ahead of Presidential tirades (link), but apparently that wasn’t enough for some Democratic lawmakers who want more details; those details will inevitably disappoint the tinfoil hat crowd. [Link]


A century after Black Sox, baseball cheating goes high-tech by Ben Nuckols (San Diego Union-Tribune)

While nobody can accuse modern players or whole teams of throwing the World Series, there’s still plenty of evidence that more modest acts of cheating are commonplace. [Link]

Why Baseball in D.C. Finally Worked by Brian Costa and Jared Diamond (WSJ)

A story of how the Washington Nationals finally broke through after spending years in purgatory north of the border in Montreal. [Link; paywall]


Mark Zuckerberg’s fascination with Augustus Caesar might explain the Facebook CEO’s haircut by Mary Mesenzahl (Business Insider)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a fan of Augustus Caesar, the princeps (“first citizen”) who helped transition Rome from a semi-republic to a full empire, and his weird haircut is one example of that appreciation. [Link]


How Boeing’s 737 MAX Troubles Are Affecting the Economy by Matthew C. Klein (Barron’s)

Boeing’s manufacturing operations are so large that the halt in sales (and orders) for just one of their models (the infamous 737-MAX) is having a very measurable impact on government economic statistics. [Link; paywall]

Executive Efforts

How to retire by 40 by Jamie Powell (FTAV)

An amusing set of tips for those who want to cut their working lives in half. [Link; registration required]

Inside Ken Fisher’s Private Kingdom, Where Hardball Culture Reels in Billions by Sabrina Willmer (Bloomberg)

Cold calls by the hundreds, more than $100bn in AUM, and direct mail in industrial quantities: inside the sprawling empire that is Fisher Investments. [Link; soft paywall, auto-playing video]

Halloween Horrors

Scariest haunted house in U.S. requires 40-page waiver, doctor’s note, safe word (WGN9)

If you’re willing to get a physical, sign a book-length waiver, and watch a two hour training video you are allowed to try the scariest attraction in America. If you can get through it without using your safe word, you’ll get a $20,000 reward. [Link]

The Times Square Sbarro Is Closed by Chris Crowley (Grub Street)

An iconic – and somewhat laughable – figure in Times Square, the Sbarro pizza is being closed after opening 23 years ago. [Link]

Social Media

Online Influencers Tell You What to Buy, Advertisers Wonder Who’s Listening by Suzanne Kapner and Sharon Terlep (WSJ)

Quantifying the benefit of advertising spending that is funneled through “influencers” gets complicated, leading to significant questions about how much value they provide. [Link; paywall]

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Have a great weekend!

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