Substack Reads: The power of a Beatles song, cab driver portraits, and what makes thunder thunderous
Hello and welcome to another edition of Substack Reads! This week, we have author Alex Segura on his obsession with the Beatles following the release of a new single; creative director and designer Amy Smilovic helps revive your wardrobe based on the language of color; and Bill Russell shares his illustrated portraits of San Francisco’s cab drivers. Many selections this week came from reader recommendations, so be sure to add yours by replying to our post onin Notes next week!
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On the release of a new Beatles track, author Alex Segura looks back at a lifelong obsession, and what makes this song so interesting
It started relatively late, in high school, when my friend Karina lent me her cassette copy of the “Red” and “Blue” best-of compilations. Then we were off, and the Beatles have just become part of the fabric of my life. It’s not just the music, though I could go on about that, obviously. I’ve read stacks and stacks of books—from the great to the terrible/libelous. I’ve made three versions of a “lost” album playlist, with detailed reasons for why each song belongs on there. That’s all in addition to basically memorizing their canon and solo output (I’m forever a McCartney apologist). I think about them a lot. It’s not just the songs, either, but the massive cultural impact. I always mention to people that to truly understand how important the Beatles were (and, to be fair, I only do that secondhand, since I was born in the ’80s), you’d have to merge the critical power/gravitas of a band like Radiohead with the pop sensibilities of something huge, like Madonna, Beyonce, or N*Sync. The perfect mix of daring and mainstream/hugely popular. The closest thing we have to that now is Taylor Swift, and she’s a great example—and it probably explains why I love her music so much, too. You could make a case for Nevermind-era Nirvana, too. Not surprisingly, Cobain was a huge Beatles fan, too.
Almost every decision being made in college athletics is being driven by television rights revenue. In its inaugural issue, The Athlete’s Bureau breaks down why
—Alex Wakefield forin
The past five years have brought unprecedented change to college athletics. Athletes, schools and fans have navigated a pandemic, seen the emergence of NIL and the transfer portal, and have watched an unparalleled wave of conference realignment call into question everything they thought they knew about college sports. But as the NCAA continues to plead for a flailing Congress to involve itself in college athletics while facing a plethora of legal challenges, the rate of change for college athletics could still accelerate.
Through the chaos, one player has emerged as perhaps the primary driver of college sports’ New World Order: television, and the companies that provide it. The following is the first in a series that looks into the impact of media rights on college sports and athletes. We will break down the key historical moments, the importance of advertisers, the emergence of streaming services as a major player in sports, the future of TV rights for other college sports, and what it all means for college athletes in the new world order of big-time college sports. Let’s dive in.
Nine years ago, PayPal launched an ad campaign against Apple Pay that changed the course of its future. With Apple Pay on the rise, will it ever be able to build up again?
—and in , recommended by
With the stock trading at 9 times its forward earnings, which is almost at a 50% discount to the 17 times forward earnings of the S&P 500 index, it is fair to say that investors have lost confidence in PayPal. Much of that angst comes from the fact that PayPal had fallen asleep at the wheel and allowed Apple Pay to overtake itself. But PayPal is no stranger to competition and has been gradually making moves this year. Let’s take a look at some of the latest areas that PayPal has been building on in order to rebuild its business and investor confidence.
As Thom Wong travels Japan, he searches for dumplings in Kobe’s chinatown and McDonald’s while waiting for Nagoya’s shinkansen, and nothing ever tasted so good
About twice a year I go to McDonald’s and order some presumably lifesaving chunk of calories. I am always drunk when I do this. Today, stone-sober and at 10am in the morning, I went to a McDonald’s in Nagoya Station and ordered a hashbrown (unequivocally McDonald’s greatest food stuff) and a sausage McMuffin with egg. I don’t know either, that’s what it was called.
I took my paper-bagged package with the intention of eating it on the platform while I waited for my train, set to arrive 20 minutes hence. But when I got to the platform I saw that exactly zero people were engaged in any activity you’d call eating except those carefully perched at dedicated food purveyor eating spots.
And so I was flummoxed. Were people not eating because they knew one shouldn’t eat on a train platform, or were they not eating because a) they had already eaten or b) it had never occurred to them to eat.
How you combine color in your clothing tells a story about you, says Tibi founder and creative director Amy Smilovic
I’ll break down the range of emotions I’ve drawn above:
A: Confident and creative. Maybe this is a more casual day in the office. The heel and the jacket has you squarely put together, mixing the ring 3 colored tee feels thoughtful but not overwrought, and the pink sweater makes you feel a bit happy. The ring 4 sweater balanced with the ring 3 and 2 colors gives that pink sweater a bit of sophistication.
B: Comfortable but refined. You’re boarding the plane. The white tee keeps everything fresh and sharp, super-casual but also put together. The high contrast between the blazer, the tee and the knit has you feeling very focused—which is what you were going for when you’ve got a long flight ahead; you want to somehow feel fresh and crisp but not strictly confined or overly fashioned-out.
C: Weekend effortless but with style. Just hanging in town. Running errands, put-together but the literal definition of chillful haphazardness that all of these ring 2s piled on convey. That sort of “I just got dressed with the lights off and this all came together” ease. Because indeed that may be how you got dressed, and this is now coming together some easily for you.
A young woman discovers that modern work culture isn’t all it’s cracked up to be … and everyone has something to say about it
All this is to say that the woman complaining about her job was entirely right. Most people in full-time employment have lost the one thing they can’t buy more of: time. And it’s not just the hours we’re paid for. Think of your evenings. These are, in theory, non-work time, but so rarely are they filled with anything of worth. We work late, then get home so weary from a day of work that we only have the energy to decompress from the day, sitting on the sofa and scrolling because that seems like it might be relaxing (it is not), then we have to do the life admin of eating and cleaning, then ooh, we’d better get ready for work tomorrow, and ooh, we need to get an early night because of work tomorrow, and we do this on repeat until the promise of the weekend arrives and we tell ourselves that actually this is when we’ll learn to play the guitar or make meaningful connections or write a great novel, only to find that Saturday needs to be spent recovering from the week, then Sunday disappears in a swirl of worries about the week ahead. Our time is spent either working or dealing with the after-effects of work or thinking about the work to come. And sleep. Where is the space for anything else, really, genuinely? The space that isn’t little scraps we’ve had to scrounge for and pay for with tiredness or the sacrifice of something else?
In his new Substack, academic Alexander Stapnes asks the questions we forget to ask, starting with “Why does thunder happen? Specifically, why does lightning produce a sound at all? And why is it so loud?”
Now the stage is set for Thor to work his magic, or in a more likely case, for science to do its thing. Science tells us that nature prefers a neutral charge, so it will try to equalize protons and electrons when possible. So if we have negatively charged fields and positively charged fields within a cloud, how do you think nature will correct this charge imbalance? That’s right … LIGHTNING! Or to put it more scientifically, the rapid (like, super-rapid) exchange of electrons between positively and negatively charged fields.
But wait, if all this is happening inside the cloud itself, why does lightning strike the ground? Good question, hypothetical reader! When the highly charged field is towards the bottom of the cloud (often negatively charged), like the protagonists in many romcom movies, it attracts its opposite. A negatively charged field in the cloud will attract positively charged fields on the ground and a lightning strike will ensue to balance the charges.
For a few years in the naughts, Bill Russell wrote and illustrated San Franciscan cab drivers he found interesting. He shares some of his favorites from the series, on his Substack
Cab drivers are often the first point of contact for tourists, with memorable stories and recommendations to share. It just requires asking and listening.
They are a resilient bunch. They face serious risks every day. Recent statistics show that cab drivers are 30 times more likely to be murdered than other professionals.
Uber and other ride-hailing businesses now dominate the market space, bringing on the near extinction of the private cab ride. Despite these threats to lives and livelihoods, most of the cab drivers I’ve met remain optimistic.
Coming soon is celebrating reaching #1 on international Amazon bestseller lists with his book The Software Engineer’s Guidebook, which he announced to subscribers here:
announced her new cookbook, Sift: The Elements of Great Baking. It comes out in May next year, published by Ebury, and is now available to preorder. The announcement comes three years after starting her Substack and publishing over 300 recipes.
Now the book is finally ready! It’s been four years of writing, re-writing, and polishing the manuscript. Turns out, good things do take time. The book is called “The Software Engineer’s Guidebook.” It’s been my longest-running project to date—excluding raising children, that is! It’s also a project of which I’m very proud, and that I hope you would find valuable.
Little did I know when I hit send on ‘Kitchen Project #001: Cannoli,’ just three years later (almost to the day!) I’d be sharing this happy news with you. It’s been an incredible journey and I’m so thankful to every single person who reads the newsletter each week. It’s been very difficult to keep it secret—and it’s incredibly nerve-wracking to send this out to you all—but I’m incredibly happy to finally be sharing the news with you. Without a doubt, this book would not exist without all of your encouragement and support.
Read more:announces her new book deal and puts out a call to readers for stories of unconventional housing, dude friendship, intergenerational community, and more.
I’m back working with the editor of my first three books, Kate Napolitano, who not only deeply fucking gets it, but also walks the walk (lives the life?) of prioritizing friendship and community in her own life. She’s also given me a long runway to do a bunch of reporting, and while I have ideas about what (else) I want to read and who I want to interview and how I want to arrange the chapters, they’re going to be made even better by your suggestions and stories. So: What should I be reading? Who should I be talking to? Whose stories should I be paying attention to—maybe yours?
Congratulations to Gergely, Nicola, and Anne on your upcoming publications! If you have a book coming out to publicize, please let us know in the comments or tagon Notes.
New and noteworthy
Readers are responding to’s post about his reading habits:
Substackers enjoyed an evening with Hamish McKenzie in Los Angeles:
Substack food writers are sharing their Thanksgiving recipes:
Andand hosted an Ask Us Anything on moving through midlife over on Notes:
Inspired by the writers featured in Substack Reads? Writing on your own Substack is just 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.
Got a Substack post to recommend? Tell us about it in the comments.