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Substack Reads: The great antitrust trial, performing in silence, and the illusion of busyness
Hello and welcome to another edition of Substack Reads.
This week, perceptions of what is real or fake are challenged at New York Fashion Week, as dissected by Emilia Petrarca, and musician Kimbra describes breaking the wall between artist and audience in her eponymous new Substack. We move between the illusion of being busy, written by Poorna Bell in her new Substack, and of beauty, considered by photographer Alice Zoo, prompted by a retrospective of Diane Arbus’s work in France. We hope you enjoy it!
When New Zealand artist Kimbra asked the audience at Sydney Opera House not to applaud between songs, something unexpected and magical happened
The shows were going great but some nights I felt empty. I was in total control but yet I still felt like a monkey, stepping on stage and doing the same tricks I knew so well. Playing the same show, the same songs every night. The fans were amazing, the shows were selling well and sure, I’d change up my versions of the various songs to feel inspired (I don’t think I’ve ever played ‘Settle Down’ the same way twice), the band would vary their performance from time to time, but I knew what would happen when I stopped. The audience would clap. I would smile. The song would start. I would move. They would look. We would do what we’ve always done. Audience and Performer. Bow and Stand. I was tired.
I think rock bottom was when I fell off the side of the stage during my headline show at The Fonda in Los Angeles. I don’t think anyone actually noticed.
Both sides agree that the future of the internet is at stake. They disagree about everything else
The parties’ opening statements presented these fundamentally conflicting views of Google’s conduct and focused Judge Mehta on specific disagreements between the parties. But they also framed the broader stakes of the case, recognizing that this was merely the opening act in a two-month-long morality play. Judge Mehta will make the final ruling in court, but legislators are also paying close attention; regardless of the legal outcome, the facts that come out at trial could motivate a renewed reckoning with whether existing antitrust laws are equipped to regulate Big Tech.
In the DOJ’s opening statement, DOJ lead lawyer Kenneth Dintzer began by stating that “this case is about the future of the internet,” which required looking at what Google has done in the past. Dintzer made multiple references to Google “rigging the game” and “flexing” its monopoly on competitors. He also took a shot at Google’s use of history-off chats, which went as high as Google CEO Sundar Pichai: “They turned history off, your Honor, so they could rewrite it in this courtroom.”
A former senior fashion writer of NY Magazine’s The Cut, Emilia Petrarca has the no-holds-barred lowdown on New York Fashion Week‚ including the hottest-dressed, biggest faux pas, has-been brands, and Julian Casablancas quips
My New York Fashion Week began last Tuesday night at J.Crew’s 40th anniversary event, where Julian Casablancas of The Strokes looked out at the sparse crowd of sweaty industry professionals in attendance and said without a drop of sincerity: “Cool party, guys.”
I don’t really know what he was expecting. NYFW is, for the most part, not cool. I don’t mean that in a bitchy way, I’m just crunching the numbers. Big brands and billionaire adjacents are the only ones who can afford to participate anymore, and even they are probably spending more money than they should. If smaller brands do put on a show, they’re usually forced to do so in corporate hellholes like Hudson Yards, or find sponsors like Cash App.
The James Webb Space Telescope provides a view of the magnificently dusty skeletal arms of the spiral galaxy M51
M51 is a nearby spiral galaxy that we happen to see face-on. As is the case with a lot of nearby galaxies, the exact distance isn’t well known; it’s roughly 20–30 million light-years away. Different methods yield different values for its distance, and it’s not far enough away, ironically, for the expansion of the universe to be strong enough to use redshift reliably.
Still, it’s close enough that it can be seen with binoculars from a dark site, or with a small telescope from mildly light-polluted areas. Despite that, I was never able to see it through the eyepiece with my own telescope when I was growing up, frustratingly. I eventually did when I had access to bigger ’scopes and darker sites, which was a wonderfully moving experience. Seeing another galaxy’s spiral arms with your own eyes, even faintly, is pretty danged amazing.
Now imagine what you’d see if you take a truly huge 6.5-meter telescope, launch it into space, and aim it at M51 for a little while.
In his semi-fantastical story about the misadventures of Leonardo da Vinci in Italy and France, director Jim Capobianco achieved the near-impossible with The Inventor, released on September 15
It’s unbelievable that we actually pulled it off. There were many, many days when I didn’t think the film would get made, and I thought I was wasting my time. Even worse, wasting other people’s time.
The belief of all these wonderful people in the film made it a reality. Robert Rippberger, who stuck with the project from nearly its inception. Composer Alex Mandel, who worked on it for about as long, writing songs and a score that might never have been sung or heard. Kat Alioshin, Ilan Urroz, Nicolas Flory, Foliascope. It wouldn’t have happened without meeting them, and especially without Ilan saying, “Oui! I want to make this!”
Photographer Alice Zoo attends a new retrospective of Diane Arbus’s work at LUMA Arles international photo festival
A photographer’s vision isn’t a copy of the world but a compaction of a feeling about it. Arbus’s world was off-kilter, uncanny; a world of extremes, disorientating. Constellation reproduced this world, containing me in it. I felt all this in the gallery, trying to make sure I’d seen all the pictures, trying to maintain my waning focus through the hours I spent there. A frantic feeling that I might not be able to see it all—not only because of the show’s scale but because of the purposive disorganisation—that I might miss something. The shock of first coming into the enormous and endless-seeming room, doubled by the mirror. The austere angles of the black metal structures. The monochrome. The thin air.
Beauty is a joke, I thought, as I looked at the photographs. Beauty is seedy, a moth-eaten rug, a threadbare consolation for all of life’s darkness. It feeds on itself, the primping and polish only showing the darkness up more strongly. This is beauty as Arbus sees it: the teenage beauty queen with the coat of dark hair from shoulder to wrist; the children with old people’s faces; the looming wax figures of celebrities and politicians; Mae West baring her teeth in her terrible, shiny bedroom.
Former Netflix CPO Gibson Biddle is hiking the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail with his wife, Kristen. He shares a breakdown of how they make their packs lighter, and what they can and cannot live without
Our nighttime food storage has evolved. Most PCT hikers store their food inside their tents, but because we sleep in a space equivalent to a single bed, we often store food in our outside tent vestibule in an open Walmart grocery bag. But in Washington State, we were attacked by mice. (Super rookie mistake: In the middle of the night, we brought the bags into our tent, but the mice were still inside the bags—they sprinted around the tent walls like they were in a bike velodrome.) So I started hanging bags in trees. But mice can climb the ropes and quickly entered our open Walmart bags, so we switched to closed nylon bags. And while I am good at hanging food bags in trees—out of the reach of bears—bears are much more intelligent than I thought. Bears took ten bear hangs down in one season in Desolation Wilderness. My guess is for the rest of the trip, we’ll sleep with the food inside our tents. Mice seem unwilling to chew through tent walls, and there are no reports of tent-slashing bears—yet.
Society tricks us into thinking hyper-productivity is success, but it’s an absolute waste of living, writes Poorna Bell in her new Substack
Part of this comes from city mentality, another part is certainly inherited from being the child of immigrant parents, specifically my mother. Sitting still or relaxing is not in her DNA. When I go to visit, she’s either tidying up, pruning things in the garden, cooking ‘just a small simple meal of four courses,’ or asking me a list of questions about future plans. I said to her: ‘You don’t know how to just be, do you?” She looked at me as if I’d just sprouted a third ear. She has grown up with the ideology that you earn your value by being busy all the time, and anything you do for yourself is self-indulgence or laziness.
What I learned, the hard way, is that it just isn’t true. When you die, no one says in your eulogy how you were such a busy person, and you don’t get a badge because you burned your life up trying to constantly prove your value. I don’t have children, which I know adds an inescapable layer of labour (even if it is done with love)—however, I’ve sense checked this with my sister who does—but being busy all the time doesn’t benefit anyone. Not you, and not the people who love you.
Singer-songwriter and producer Neko Case welcomes the first signs of a new season
It’s the first hint of fall here, but I’m not yet in long pants. I love the sensory differences from what I’ve become accustomed to with summer (not that we’ve had a normal one). Yesterday I went to get something out of the car and a warm breeze wrapped around my calves as I stepped into the daylight from the studio. It tickled the hair on my legs and I felt an insect feeling, like my antennae were trying to tell me something was coming. Some kind of curtain floating toward me, gently brushing everything with its hem as it passes over. While I know the answer is “fall,” the call to notice given in the sensations plucks at ancient instinct and trills me to my core. It’s good spooky.
Launched a paid offering:
Congratulations to the following writers celebrating publication.’s debut book—sharing its title with her Substack— , was published on September 7 and featured in The Guardian. celebrates the preorder date and cover reveal for her new illustrated memoir: announced her new book, Humanity: A Survival Guide, to be published by Penguin Random House in 2025.
Substackers in the press
The Guardian featured 33 Substacks across a range of categories.
What’s happening in Notes hosted an AMA on AI:
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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