Welcome to Substack Reads
This week: fake artists on streaming services, the death of British humor, plus a literary luminary’s ode to a feline friend
Welcome to Substack Reads, your weekly ingestible of the greatest essays, art, and ideas created on Substack.
Every Saturday, Substack Reads will introduce you to some of the world’s best work. Some writers you may know, others you will not. But our hope is that their work will delight, enlighten, and make you stop and think.
At Substack, we’ve always believed that what you read matters, but sometimes what matters isn’t always what you read. That’s why we want to surface some of the great writing across Substack that you may have missed. And it starts right here…
I’d seen others leave their well-paid, high-profile jobs and still expect to be treated in exactly the same way when they weren’t in charge of a useful magazine. I know of one editor who was really shocked to learn that her replacement—not her—would now be getting those coveted front-row invitations for fashion shows. The cautionary tale doing a constant loop in my head was ‘People don’t like Jo Elvin, they like The Editor of Glamour. They don’t want Jo Elvin at their party, they want The Editor of Glamour. Remember that.’ And I really did. I absolutely believed that the second I wasn’t ‘The Editor of Glamour,’ it would be like I’d died.
The root of the problem is the increasingly passive nature of music consumption. People will often ask Alexa, or some other digital assistant, to find background music for a specific task—studying, workout, housework, relaxation, etc. Or they will rely on a pre-curated playlist for that purpose. They don’t pay close attention to the artists or song titles, and this is what creates an opportunity for abuse.
This kind of scam wasn’t possible before streaming. People obviously listened to music while studying or working, but they either picked out the record themselves or relied on a radio station to make the choice. Radio stations were sometimes guilty of taking payola, but even in those instances a human being could be held accountable. But with AI now making the decisions, everything can be hidden away in the code.
“Winning Time” Isn’t Just Deliberately Dishonest, It’s Drearily Dull | Kareem Abdul-Jabbar | Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
How did so many talented people get a tv show so terribly wrong?
A lot of people have been asking me if I’ve seen the HBO series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. Actually, I had no real interest in watching the show, not because of any negative feelings about being exploited, but because I’d already lived through it. I know exactly what happened. To watch 10 hours of someone else’s interpretation seemed like a waste of my time. For me, the show would be excruciatingly familiar like being interviewed by Chris Farley in the famous Saturday Night Live skit when he asked Paul McCartney questions like, “Remember when you were with the Beatles?” However, after hearing some angry grumblings in the pop culture ether about misrepresentation and outright lies, my journalistic curiosity took over and I sat down to watch.
Last week I came across a fantastic collection of photographs collected by Herbert Geddes (a manager for a Canadian company) in Yokohama, Japan, during the years 1908–1918. What caught my attention was not only that the pictures were fascinating by themselves but also the fact that they were originally hand-colored.
It can be difficult taking that daunting first step into being a huge slut. What about my reputation at the office? What about venereal diseases? What about going to Hell? The thoughts can be assaulting and intrusive.
1. Say exactly what you want.
The fastest way to end up in a situation where you are having unsatisfactory sex is to be ambiguous about the type of sex you want. Society trains us to be mysterious and coy about our carnal desires, but oftentimes a brisk approach is the fastest way to getting what you want. Think of it as you leaning out a window and screaming, “It’s my money and I want it now!” It’s confusing, but at least now people know you are someone who watches a lot of TV.
The bonus of being very specific in your approach is that consent always comes packaged in a pretty pink bow. If you want a fist shoved in your mouth while someone degrades you and pops balloons, you are doing a courtesy by letting everyone involved know what to expect once the lights dim.
Britain used to be famous for being best at two things: politics and comedy. So while our political system may now be a laughingstock, when it comes to the famous British sense of humour … to paraphrase Bob Monkhouse, they’re not laughing now.
Cherie was a long-haired “smoke” calico; not an aristocrat among cats but possessed of a distinctly strong, even impervious, personality. From the start she was inclined toward mischief and misrule; she resisted any sort of discipline and did not like to be told what to do; she was of an age when cats in this area (rural Hopewell Township) were still allowed to prowl outdoors, and she proved herself a dismayingly prolific huntress until the final months of her life in early 2019.
Though Cherie spent much of her time both waking and sleeping on or near my desk, she was largely oblivious of the writing life, if not disdainful; she had no awareness of, nor indeed interest in, the fact that she was the heroine of two books for children which were written at two very different times in her human’s life.
Substack Reads is a weekly roundup of writing, ideas, and art from the world of Substack. Posts are recommended by staff and readers, and curated and edited from Substack’s U.K. outpost with writer Hannah Ray and editor Farrah Storr. We hope you enjoy it.
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