I was going to write this edition of Best, on burnout but then work got crazy and my brain is too fried to piece together coherent thoughts, so it’ll have to wait. But you know I’m incapable of not producing something, so you’re getting an extended reco list this week instead.
Chew it as jerky, sip it in your coffee, lather it on your skin—mushrooms are no longer just tossed in salads or the source of your psychedelic trip. Given the failures of our healthcare system, and the rise of alternative medicine or “wellness” in its place, it’s not surprising we’re looking to nature to heal us—inside and out. Over the past year, they’ve taken over fashion and design too—from the runway to celebrity’s wardrobes to home decor.
Now, we’re not just turning to mushrooms as a soothing remedy for our mental and physical needs, we’re using it as material solution for sustaining the planet. I wrote about the latest plant-based material—mushroom leather, used in Adidas’ new sustainable Stan Smith released this week.
“There’s an understanding the world has gained in the last year of being locked up that perhaps we can’t go about business as usual,” Jamie Bainbridge of biotechnology producer Bolt Threads tells me in our conversation on developing mushroom leather for Adidas and Stella McCartney.
But what explains the shroom boom? I suggest the pandemic has created the perfect storm for us to become obsessed with this symbol of nature, immortality and resilience. I consulted Francesca Gavin, curator of the Somerset House exhibit Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi, for her take.
“Mushrooms provide a contemporary metaphor for new ways of thinking and living in a more positive way with nature, they show how living in symbiosis with the world around us is the only route for survival.” -Francesca Gavin.
On Personality & The Pandemic:
🌏 An interactive story on how the pandemic changed us.
“Depression is less about feeling sad and more about feeling nothing. I talk a lot about ‘learning to be happy,’ which implies my life has a lot of sadness. This is not my day-to-day experience. Happiness versus sadness is not what I’m thinking. What I’m thinking is the difference between surviving and thriving, between living and being truly alive.” -Melva James, 42.
🌱 Yes you can come out of this a different person. Studies show it’s easier to change traits—like introversion and neuroticism—than we think.
“After neuroticism, introversion was the most-changeable personality trait. Neuroticism and introversion are the two factors that play a major role in social anxiety. Change those two elements and you can extinguish much of your self-doubt.” -Olga Khazan.
🗑 But if you emerge from the pandemic just your same old garbage self, that’s ok too.
“I want to feel relief, I want to feel the sun on my face, everything feels so close that I fear I’ll miss the instant when this is over — that one day I’ll look around and find the moment of catharsis never happened because life isn’t a movie and it just chugs along with its assortment of thrills and sorrows.” - Lydia Kiesling.
✍️ Can criticism offer anything in the face of police brutality, a pandemic, global despair? (I grapple with this question all the time).
“On the darkest days, what do I have to offer but notes on some fictional tragedy? What does art have to offer but a shadow of ourselves?” - Maya Phillips.
🔥 A powerful piece on rage.
“There is no new angle. There is no new hot take. These killings are not continuing to happen due to a lack of exposure, but in spite of it. Our systems of law enforcement, criminal justice and communal consciousness have adjusted themselves to a banal barbarism.” - Charles M. Blow.
💆🏻♀️ This conversation between Cathy Park Hong and Chanel Miller on the double-edged sword of being underestimated and the “Asian American” experience.
Cathy: “Will we ever get to know the deep well of pain and joy of their lives?” She asks in regards to the Asian women who were killed in the Atlanta spa shootings.
Chanel: “I am so haunted by that untouched depth. Does it just disappear with them, or can we seek to preserve not just their stories, but the stories of our elders?”
🏠 Bless this Toronto carpenter for building tiny homes for the homeless.
🇨🇦 A stunning interactive story on how Yellowknife protected its population and Indigenous traditions during the pandemic.
🥡 Yelp now has a feature for businesses to self-identify as Asian-owned.
👩🏾🍳 What is hospitality?
🧀 Also by Tejal Rao - Is vegan cheese finally delicious?
🍕 “We’re approaching a future where a late-night Domino’s order could come complete with cashew-based mozzarella,” writes Alicia Kennedy, in her deep dive on the rise of vegan cheese.
🍩 The Krispy Kreme fatphobia “feeds into a larger structure of seeing a dinner plate as a battlefield to be won each day, rather than a source of community and happiness that is as much a part of food as its caloric content,” writes Margaret Eby.
🍡 Oh what I would give to have grown up watching Michelle Obama’s Waffles + Mochi.
“The world of ‘Waffles +Mochi’ is populated by celebrity chefs and celebrity celebrities and also by mycologists, salt farmers, deaf pizzaiolos, and tortellini rollers with special needs.” - Helen Rosner.
🚶🏻♀️I’ve been putting way too much pressure on my afternoon walk.
“I’m the last thing tethering you to reality, yet your only way of escaping it. I’m the singular effort you make to maintain your sanity, and your sole means of experiencing joy, hope, and happiness. It feels as if I’m your lover, friend, and therapist all wrapped into one.” - Emily Delaney.
🛋 Dude, Where’s My Couch? This is the dream accident for anyone waiting on a furniture order.
👖 What we can do without post-pandemic.
“Are we supposed to celebrate the end of a pandemic by punishing ourselves with interlocking metal teeth kissing our belly buttons?” and “Good luck getting us back in your straps and hooks, bitches.” - Shani Silver.
I can’t compare Small Axe (Amazon Prime) to anything because it’s truly one of a kind. But the time period (late ‘60s-‘80s) and social activism make it a nice, nuanced compliment to two other recent watches on the civil rights era—The Trial of Chicago Seven and It’s A Sin.
Before watching the five-part British anthology film series from Steve McQueen, I embarrassingly knew little about Black British history (apparently this is not uncommon in England too, where most Black history taught is American). Like the Mangrove Nine, a group of Black activists who were unfairly charged for inciting a riot in 1970, on which the premiere episode is focused.
Each ‘mini-film’ (‘episode’ doesn’t do them justice) tells an overlooked story from the Caribbean diaspora in the U.K and tackles racism on a different institutional level . All the characters and narratives are different but consistent is an exploration of systemic racism, and a seamless flow between painful difficult moments and scenes of unapologetic Black joy. The final installment ‘Education’—about the way the education system treats a Black boy with special needs—is my favorite.
The rich cinematography (16mm film gives it a grainy look), superb acting (John Boyega won the Golden Globe for his best supporting actor role) and poignant, immersive stories make it one of the “best” series I’ve watched in a while.
Because Lena Waithe’s new racism horror series, Them looks terrifying, I’d much rather consider the racism Black Americans face through the eyes of the South Side Chicago community I’ve grown to love on The Chi (Crave). I finally caught up on the latest season, it totally flew under the radar.
The first two seasons use a series of shootings to take us into the lives of several very different characters (yes, like what Waithe did in her Emmy-award-winning Master of None NYC episode). The fresh take on police brutality was timely when those seasons aired, and sadly still is today.
But in this third season we’re watching black women (from all walks of life) take center stage. The major plot line here explores what happens when a black girl goes missing. But what strikes me most is the seamless blend of comedy, suspense and painful catharsis, not to mention unapologetic scenes of Black joy.
The charming middle school trio (headed by Alex Hibbert from Moonlight) are so hilarious, they need their own spin-off.
If you haven’t already noticed, I’ve been obsessed with Cathy Park Hong ever since reading Minor Feelings: An Asian-American Reckoning. So naturally I’m fiending her recent conversation with the NYT. (Another one of my favourite Asian American writers, Jia Tolentino writes a brilliant review of the book here, which they quote in the interview).
“To be Asian-American,” she [Jia Tolentino] suggests, “is to be pissed on at regular intervals while dutifully minimizing the odour of piss.”
Hong explains the “minor feelings” that characterize the Asian American experience, the intersection of gender and class in the Atlanta shootings, and what makes this past year of anti-Asian racism different.
She also talks about how the unresolved consequences of the Cold War—namely the fear of communism among immigrants—is being weaponized by the right-wing to speed misinformation among Asian communities (from the Epoch Times to social media to ethnic news channels).
I love the end of the episode where they discuss what’s next for Hong (potentially a book about her mom, colonialism and the American occupation of Korea!).
“Who is responsible for the suffering of your mother?” Hong asks, quoting poet Bhanu Kapil. The question has been sitting with me all week, it’s such a powerful prompt for thinking about intersectionality. Can’t wait to see where it takes Hong.