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Sitdown Sunday: Can you love a robot dog?

Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

Image: Shutterstock/VTT Studio

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.  

1. Puff Daddy

An interview with Sean Combs about his career and what’s next for him.

(Vanity Fair, approx 24 mins reading time)

Combs descends the stairs just as a house staff person (I have no idea what you call a waiter in a private home) replaces my first glass of red wine with my first glass of champagne. Impeccably groomed, he still walks like a Harlem dude. It is an attitude as much as it is a rhythm, although he does move like a gymnast or dancer. Combs is wearing the classic hip-hop uniform that he helped enshrine in our popular imagination: white tee, track pants, and diamonds. A nameplate necklace with “Love” in bejeweled rose and white tones glimmers like neon pop art. He welcomes me and my assistant with a bear hug. When I mention it is one of my first hugs since COVID-19 made human contact feel dangerous, he comes back in for another. Sean Combs likes to spread the love.

2. Robot dog

Is it possible to love a robot dog as much as a real one?

(The Guardian, approx 20 mins reading time)

 The dog was heavier than it looked. I lifted it out of the pod, placed it on the floor, and found the tiny power button on the back of its neck. The limbs came to life first. It stood, stretched, and yawned. Its eyes blinked open – pixelated, blue – and looked into mine. He shook his head, as though sloughing off a long sleep, then crouched, shoving his hindquarters in the air, and barked. I tentatively scratched his forehead. His ears lifted, his pupils dilated, and he cocked his head, leaning into my hand. When I stopped, he nuzzled my palm, urging me to go on.

3. Mental Health

Author donald Antrim writes about how he underwent electroshock therapy to try and deal with depression and suicidal thoughts. (Please see the end of this article for helplines)

(The New Yorker, approx 30 mins reading time)

 That first night, people came. It was the middle of the night. I was deep asleep. Hands and arms lifted my body from the bed. Then I was going somewhere, moving through hallways. Was I in a wheelchair? Sometimes my eyes were open. I heard voices and machine noises. Someone said, “He can go back now.” I learned in the morning that I’d had a CT scan.

4. 9/11

It’s almost the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. In this feature, The Atlantic looks at the aftermath of the death of Bobby McIlvaine in the twin towers attack.

(The Atlantic, approx 58 mins reading time)

Then, on the morning of September 11, 2001, Bobby headed off to a conference at Windows on the World, a restaurant in a building to which he seldom had reason to go, for a media-relations job at Merrill Lynch he’d had only since July. My brother waited and waited. Bobby never came home. From that point forward, I watched as everyone in the blast radius of this horrible event tried to make sense of it, tried to cope. Early on, the McIlvaines spoke to a therapist who warned them that each member of their family would grieve differently. Imagine that you’re all at the top of a mountain, she told them, but you all have broken bones, so you can’t help each other. You each have to find your own way down.

5. Inside the world of Sally Rooney

A rare interview with the Irish writer, who is on the cusp of publishing her third novel.

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(Vogue, approx 10 mins reading time)

The F-word, as her new novel will attest, is much on her mind. It does not sit easily. “There’s a level at which I’m using the book in some way to explore emotions that I may not even be aware that I’m going through,” says Rooney, later alluding to “a kind of psychological toll” her success has taken. Rooney is a writer who “can only” draw on her own life and milieu for material (“imaginatively limited” is how she describes herself, archly) and is well aware comparisons are going to be made between her and Alice, one of her protagonists, a wunderkind novelist in her late twenties, who has moved from New York to a quiet Irish coastal town, where she is wrestling with her new status as a celebrity author. “There is a sense of having lived a lot of life very quickly, in quite a compressed sort of time frame,” says Rooney of the past few years. “I think the book dramatises some of those challenges.”

6. The kids of Camp I Am

A decade after a group of gender non-conforming and trans children went to a camp where they were free to express themselves as they wished, they reflect on how their lives have evolved.

(The New York Times, approx 14 mins reading time)

In seventh grade, Hannah started at another private school. At first, she kept her gender history secret, not because she was ashamed of being transgender but because she didn’t want it to define her. “Middle schoolers are judge-y,” she said, “and like every middle schooler, I wanted to blend in.” But some of her classmates knew her from elementary school, so word spread. Still, it was pretty much a nonissue: “At that point, I was already so well-equipped from Camp I Am, the Jewish camp, elementary school and my whole extended family. For many trans people, if they were put in the same amazing environment I had — fully accepted as trans — there would be so much more joy.”

…AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

The obsessive life and mysterious death of the fisherman who discovered the Loch Ness Monster.

(Pocket, approx 20 mins reading time)

Alexander “Sandy” Gray was born within sight of the loch on March 28, 1900. He grew up in Foyers, midway along the southeastern shore, in a secluded home known as the Bungalow. His father, Hugh, was a foreman at the British Aluminium Works smelting plant, which was hydroelectric-powered by the dramatic 140-foot cascade of the Falls of Foyers. The stone gable–fronted plant employed several hundred workers, and since opening in 1896 it had transformed Foyers from a tiny sheep-farming community, where many residents spoke the Scots Gaelic language, into an expanding industrial village.

If you need to talk, contact:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie
  • National Suicide Helpline 1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie – (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday

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