MLM + more stuff

3 minutes estimated reading time


MLM or multi-level marketing is where people who need to make money buy product from a company like Avon, Amway, Herbalife, Nu-Skin or Tupperware. Usually the franchisee doesn’t buy directly but through a contact. They may be a long way down in a chain of sellers, which means you end up with a pyramid scheme. Some have described the onboarding and seller communications as a cult. (Disclosure, I did a bit of agency work on Nu-Skin when I worked in Hong Kong, I got to see products, but not how they were sold).

Financial freedom

The real product of MLM seems to be hope. Discussing the downside of MLM at this time is important. Financial freedom is going to sound particularly appealing to struggling middle class households wrestling with the cost of living crisis and rising mortgage interest rates.

These videos by Sean Munger give a really good insight into Amway.


Robert Fitzpatrick’s self-published Ponzinomics seems to be the most cited book talking about the underbelly of MLM. Here’s an interview with him.

Soviet space programme

Enough time has gone buy for us to know how innovative the Soviet space programme was. Some of the innovations were dictated to them by limitations in production campacity. I came across these films about it.

And how Russian closed cycle rocket engines surprised NASA after the cold war.

I, Claudius

Robert Graves period drama novels I, Claudius and Claudius the God were remade in 1976 as a 13 part TV series. (The first two episodes are called 1a and 1b, presumably to avoid an episode 13, given that theatre as a whole is superstitious). In 1965, the BBC had done a documentary about the unfinished 1937 film version and had found bringing their version to television difficult due to production rights still tied into the 1937 production.

I, Claudius was considered to be a high water mark from point of view of audience viewership of more high brow material and latterly critics consider it to be one of the best TV programmes ever on British TV.

Hello Hong Kong

I received post from friends in Hong Kong and the package had a large sticker highlighting the Hello Hong Kong campaign which the government has been using to paper over the cracks left by its authoritarian pivot.

Hello Hong Kong
Hello Hong Kong mandatory sticker.

One part of me thought that ambient media such as the sticker might be a good side hustle for mail services everywhere. As I dug into it, I found out that the staff ‘had to’ put these stickers on the packaging and at least some of them were doing so reluctantly. At least some customers were reluctant for their packages to be ‘propaganda banners’ for the Beijing backed regime. Meanwhile 7/21 alleged government backed triad actions are still fresh in the mind of locals.


You don’t think about how YKK clothes zips work effortlessly, but this Asianometry documentary gives you insight into the Japanese zip manufacturer.

Starbucks Rewards as massive bank

I used to use the Starbucks pre-payment system back when I could use it in both the UK and Hong Kong, but a rupture came in when Starbucks removed its rewards scheme from stored value cards to an app. So I found this video by ColdFusion reframing the Rewards scheme as a large bank like pool of money more akin to PayPal’s float than Avios loyalty points.

Apollo project astronauts off the record

On everything from the context of Project Apollo through to their views on climate change.

Restaurant of mistaken orders

A Japanese pop-up retail project with restaurant servers who are suffering from dementia. I was sent the link by a friend of mine from Japan – the Restaurant of Mistaken Orders really brings the impact home.