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Substack Reads: The ’90s were better, India’s sporting growth, and Shanghai psychedelia
Hello and welcome to Substack Reads—your weekly digest of essays, ideas, podcasts, and poetry, designed to inspire, enlighten, and engross your creative synapses over the weekend.
In this edition, award-winning journalist Alina Cho takes readers behind the scenes at New York Fashion Week, and The Decemberists lead singer Colin Meloy records the song he made with a bot. Plus, comedian and actress Julia Sweeney is scouting for her mother in the vegetable aisle.
Alina Cho shares everything you need to know from New York Fashion Week—including trends such as “jet set” clothing at Michael Kors and dinner dresses with fishnets at Tory Burch—and asks, Does live fashion still matter?
There’s a reason why Michael Kors is, well, Michael Kors: 40-plus years in the business, the man knows what he’s doing. Nobody does chic, wearable “jet set” clothing quite like him. He practically invented the category. This season, Kors was inspired by the ’70s and muses like Gloria Steinem, who sat front-row. Think fringe, knee-high boots, and swishy sequin dresses in chocolate brown, white, and a neutral that’s a mix of camel and grey. Talking point: jet set all the way.
Without the second-mind mental surveillance of our current state, things were just better back then, argues Freddie deBeor
The ’90s were better. They just were. I’m sorry, but it’s science. It was the past, but there were vaccines and Jim Crow was over and there was a modern sensibility without all of the pathologies of the internet. Bill Clinton sucked and our government was doing all kinds of awful skulduggery in the world, but he didn’t suck in the same way as George W. Bush and there wasn’t this constant sense of the world falling apart. There was optimism about the coming of the new millennium before we found out what a rotten time the next couple decades would be. I graduated from high school in 1999; we were constantly told that we would become adults in a brand-new world, what a blessing it was to be 18 when the calendar flipped to 2000. What they didn’t tell us was that the new era would start with a spasm of nationalism and empire and that our culture would climb deeply into the prurient and grotesque, a world of frosted tips and reality television, and after that all of culture would be swallowed up by new devices that became intermediaries between us and the basic stuff of human life.
A former basketball pro looks at why an explosion in growth across India, especially in sports, will be felt across the globe
Sports in India are dominated by cricket, with an estimated 90% of Indians following the sport.
This has led to a huge increase in the valuations of Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises—with some now worth over $1B USD.
Many of the teams have investors from the US, including even notable athletes.
Rajasthan Royals ($200M Valuation)
Chris Paul (NBA)
Kelvin Beachum (NFL)
Larry Fitzgerald (NFL)
Most other sports dwarf the size of the IPL…
However, team and individual sports such as field hockey, badminton, and kabaddi are continuing to attract young athletes, eyeballs, and revenues.
The upside and long-term potential of these sports are strong.
Listen to what the AI and Colin Meloy, lead singer of The Decemberists, wrote together
Imagine a future, if you will, in which us songwriters don’t have to sit around in our drafty garrets, plumbing the depths of our pain and misery for the public’s entertainment and enjoyment. A future where creative inspiration is at our very fingertips, right past our keyboards on our laptop screens, where we creatives can sit back and let robots do all the heavy emotional lifting for us.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, that future is now.
As you’re probably aware, this thing called ChatGPT was unveiled recently—it’s what they call a “conversational AI,” and I imagine that, very soon, it will be finding its way into our every daily interaction with the internet. On a lark, I signed up for access to ChatGPT a few weeks ago. I dabbled, I asked it a few questions. It was funny. You could ask it to tell you a story; you could ask it if Sanyo ductless mini-splits are compatible with line sets other than its own. It will happily oblige on both accounts.
Then I thought: what if it could write a song for me?
The priorities of post-pandemic parents are shifting, and the consequences could be felt for generations to come
Three years into the pandemic, I think we all have a better understanding of how this timeline works: Many of us are just getting around to following through on a life change that the pandemic shook loose from our routines. Since the start of this year, I’ve talked to folks who are leaving their spouses, having affairs, quitting jobs, starting companies, going on pilgrimages, and taking sabbaticals. Most of these steps, I would argue, are part of the messy middle of the massive, collective lifequake of COVID-19. It’s as if we were all pumped up on adrenalin the last few years and now that we’re through (what appears to be) the worst of it, all sorts of delayed responses are coming to the fore.
Perhaps no part of our lives better reflects this turmoil than our families.
Last month, Pew Research Center released a massive study of 3,757 U.S. parents with children under 18 called “Parenting in America Today.” The overall tenor of the report is how difficult most parents find the experience of having children. More than four in ten parents say that being a parent is tiring, and 29 percent say that parenting is stressful all or most of the time. Nearly two-thirds of parents say that raising children has been at least somewhat harder than they expected, with about a quarter (26 percent) saying it’s been a lot harder.
I want to rest effortlessly.
It’s my new mantra: I am calling it effortlessness. For me that word was always more associated with some Parisian sense of having everything and being everything without trying. It was akin to looking chic without being considered and pulling off a makeup look that works hard to look like you’re not wearing any. But the only effortlessness I truly care for is in how I rest.
We understand the theory behind why we’re all so overworked, overtired and overstretched, but the hardest thing is to maintain a practice of living differently. I don’t want my rest to rely on trips away from my life, on expensive massages or weekly acupuncture, I want it to be formed by new neurological pathways built on small changes in habits that evolve from my day-to-day life. ‘Rest is our new spiritual practice,’ the biodynamic psychotherapist Fiona Arrigo tells me. ‘It’s allowing the transmission of the new to expand you. Stop feeling bad if you haven’t achieved. Stop feeling bad about going in and unplugging from outsideness.’ Rest is the most drastic thing we can do because it’s where we upgrade ourselves. It’s how we discharge the nasties. It’s how we make sense of how we are feeling and what we need.
In her new Substack about getting older, actress, writer, and comedian Julia Sweeney shares a moment with her mother
I’m eight or nine years old and my mother and I are entering a grocery store. Near the entrance, she says, “Go look for—y’know.”
I go. I’ve done this. I do this. If there’s a larger woman than my mom, she calms down, she laughs, she’s free. If there isn’t, she’s self-conscious, distracted, self-hate eats her inside out.
I look up each aisle, then circle back.
“On aisle 3, there’s a very, very fat woman.”
“Ummm… I think, old?”
Off my mother’s exasperated look, my eyes widen. What?
I think. I say, “Because her hair is gray?”
“Then that doesn’t count.”
“If you’re old, it doesn’t matter anymore. Get some onions and a head of lettuce and meet me in soup.”
Jane Gatsby’s answer is everyone, and she is going to try to convince you why, starting with a familiar story…
I want you to imagine that you are lying in a sunny field, and out of the corner of your eye you spot a flash of white. You sit up and realize it’s a rabbit, in a waistcoat, with a pocket watch. Knowing where this story goes, you chase after it and soon find yourself tumbling down into Wonderland. But upon landing, you quickly realize it is not at all what you expected. There is no hallway full of doors, or table with instructional food. Instead, you find yourself in a completely novel place. You have wound up somewhere inside of a great hedge maze, the walls of which are too tall to climb or see over, and too dense to pass easily through. You explore a little, looking for the white rabbit, or at least a way out, but find nothing. Just a seemingly endless array of hedges and pathways going off in every direction. You start to worry. “What have I gotten myself into?” you wonder. And you look around, with three questions on your mind:
Where am I?
How can I discover it?
What should I do?
Alright, let’s pause and talk about what any of this has to do with philosophy. Now, the maze in this story is going to be a metaphor for life. Just like Alice lost in Wonderland, we have all found ourselves thrust into this big, beautiful, confusing world, and are doing our best to discover what rules govern it, what tools we can use to explore it, and what on earth we should do while we are here. The questions you must confront upon finding yourself lost in Wonderland are the same questions every person must consider living here, on earth.
Music journalist Jake Newby continues his exploration of non-pop music from China
— Jake in, recommended by of
There was a lot of buzz around Dream Can when they first emerged on Shanghai’s indie band scene in 2014. The three young musicians, who would namecheck the likes of Acid Mothers Temple among their influences, delivered their cosmic rock with confidence, while also throwing themselves into the afterparties with abandon. Within a couple of years, they’d become scene darlings and been signed to Maybe Mars. It felt like they were on the edge of something.
But then their progress appeared to stutter. The band started playing fewer shows and their debut album release kept getting delayed, eventually emerging in the summer of 2018. Although they notably toured Australia that winter and Maybe Mars founder Michael Pettis named their record Into Sparks as his favourite album of the year, things never seemed to quite catch fire for Dream Can in the way they’d expected.
This week’s cartoon from Suerynn Lee
Congratulations to Substackers Lisa Hurley and Sharon Hurley Hall, whose podcastwon an Anthem Award this week:
If you’re inspired by the writers featured in this week’s Substack Reads, and want to start your own Substack, you’re a few clicks away:
Substack Reads is a weekly roundup of writing, ideas, art, and audio from the world of Substack. Posts are recommended by staff and readers, and curated and edited from Substack’s U.K. outpost by Hannah Ray.
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