IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair. We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.
Jeremy Repanich writes about the elite athletes that have an incredible talent, and provides us with both a comforting but also slightly depressing thought: that it’s not so much about the hours you put in, but your genes. He meets the author of The Sports Gene to find out more. (Outside Magazine) (Approx 26 minutes reading time – 5249 words)
In high school he wondered why the mini-diaspora of Jamaican runners that populated his team would blow away the competition despite, “some of these guys not showing up to practice that much,” he says. As a member of the track team at Columbia University (Epstein ran the 800m), more questions came. Epstein observed that despite starting the season slower than most runners, he responded better to training, even though he and his teammates trained stride-for-stride.
The Eagles in 1977. Pic: AP Photo
Bill Simmons says he has “never put much thought into the Eagles”, but finds his assumptions blown away when he looks into their rise and fall. He watches The History of the Eagles, Part One, and talks us through its finest points. You’ll be humming Hotel California before you know it. (Grantland) (Approx 42 minutes reading time – 8532 words)
I never knew the band abused their bodies and went through groupies like they were Marlboro Reds. I never knew three different Eagles guitarists left the band for stereotypically awesome reasons: jealousy, infighting, warring creative visions, credit jockeying, even a beer that was derisively poured on Frey’s head. I never knew when the Eagles split up, much less why, or if it mattered.
Sarah Stillman looks at ‘cash-for-freedom’ deals being made in the USA, where people have to forfeit their assets in order to escape being charged with a crime. But some people say that they never committed a crime at all – and it turns out you don’t have to be guilty to have your assets claimed by law enforcement. (The New Yorker) (Approx 56 minutes reading time – 11,360 words)
They could face felony charges for “money laundering” and “child endangerment,” in which case they would go to jail and their children would be handed over to foster care. Or they could sign over their cash to the city of Tenaha, and get back on the road. “No criminal charges shall be filed,” a waiver she drafted read, “and our children shall not be turned over to CPS,” or Child Protective Services. “Where are we?” Boatright remembers thinking. “Is this some kind of foreign country, where they’re selling people’s kids off?”
Bonnie Wertheim meets David Hilfiker, who writes a blog about Alzheimer’s disease, which he was diagnosed with in September of last year. He chronicles the decline of his mental state, and finds it helps him deal with his changing life. (Mashable) (Approx 26 minutes reading time – 2288 words)
Kris felt a responsibility toward other Alzheimer’s sufferers: to change the conversation about the disease by putting a new face on it. “I did not realize what a stigma there was about this disease,” Kris tells me. “I’d known people who had this disease before, but I never really thought about it as anything other than a disease, until people started treating me differently. I knew I needed to educate people.”
Elephants during a Hindu temple festival in Kochi, Kerala. Pic: AP Photo
Rollo Romig brings us to Kerala, India, where we meet the ‘celebrity’ elephants, like Mangalamkunnu Ayyappan. He has groupies, web sites, and huge fame… but he has also killed two assistant handlers. The life of a celebrity elephant is tough and dangerous one. (New York Times) (Approx 22 minutes reading time – 4464 words)
Twenty years ago, Kerala elephants would appear only at whatever festivals were within walking distance, and few elephants were famous. Now they’re trucked all over the state to the highest bidder, the price driven up every year by the enthusiasms of the superfans who form associations to honor their favorite animals, urge festival organizers to feature them and trash-talk the competition. “You call that an elephant?” they write on their rivals’ Facebook pages. “Go tie him up in the cow barn.”
Sabrina Rubin Erdely meets Georgia and Patterson Inman, young twins who should have had it all. The heirs to a $1 billion fortune, their life should have been more than comfortable. But instead, they experienced misery and abuse. (Rolling Stone) (Approx 48 minutes reading time – 9612 words)
Raised by two drug addicts with virtually unlimited wealth, Georgia and Patterson survived a gilded childhood that was also a horror story of Dickensian neglect and abuse. They were globe-trotting trust-fund babies who snorkeled in Fiji, owned a pet lion cub and considered it normal to bring loose diamonds to elementary school for show and tell. And yet they also spent their childhoods inhaling freebase fumes, locked in cellars and deadbolted into their bedrooms at night in the secluded Wyoming mountains and on their ancestral South Carolina plantation.
…AND ONE FROM THE ARCHIVES…
Photo dated 18/6/1963 of Cassius Clay (right), now Muhammad Ali, and Henry Cooper after their fight at Wembley London. Pic: PA Wire
In 1992, Joyce Carol Oates wrote about The Cruelest Sport, boxing, a battle in which “two men climb into the ring from which only one, symbolically, will climb out”. She examines how boxing is “a powerful analogue of human struggle in the rawest of life-and-death terms”. (The New York Review of Books) (Approx 20 minutes reading time – 4005 words)
Boxing is only possible if there is an endless supply of young men hungry to leave their impoverished ghetto neighborhoods, more than willing to substitute the putative dangers of the ring for the more evident, possibly daily, dangers of the street; yet it is rarely advanced as a means of eradicating boxing that poverty itself be abolished; that it is the social conditions feeding boxing that are obscene.