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Ammunition for AK-47 via Shutterstock
sitdown sunday

Sitdown Sunday: 7 deadly reads

The very best of the week’s writing from around the web.

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. The rich recluse
Karen Abbott recalls the strange case of Ida Mayfield and the life (and money) that remained hidden behind her hotel room door for 24 years. Was she really who she said she was? (Smithsonian)

The manager said he had worked at the hotel for seven years and had never seen Ida Wood or her deceased sister. His records indicated that they had moved into the two-room suite in 1907, along with Ida’s daughter, Miss Emma Wood, who died in a hospital in 1928 at the age of 71. They always paid their bills in cash. The fifth-floor maid said she hadn’t gotten into the sisters’ suite at all, and only twice had persuaded the women to hand over soiled sheets and towels and accept clean ones through a crack in the door.

2. Davos on display
R James Breiding looks at the location of the World Economic Forum, and why it draws both the rich and the powerful. (The Wall Street Journal)

Davos, in short, is magnificently seductive, a monument to man’s need for self-actualization. (And it is mostly men—women only make up 17% of the elite participants at Davos, though they are 60% of WEF staff.) But does it improve the state of the world? Hardly. When you consider the lifestyle of those taking part, starting with the private jets, it is really quite an achievement for them to keep their cognitive dissonance in check for the better part of a week.

3. The third-richest man in the world
Vivienne Walt profiles the founder of fashion empire Zara, and looks at how he built his fortune. (Fortune Magazine)

With enough cash, Ortega opened his first storefront in 1975, two blocks from his teenage job at Gala. He named it Zara, because his preferred name, Zorba, was taken. From the outset, Ortega made speed the driving force. Decades later it still is. Zara stores refresh their stock twice a week and receive orders within 48 hours, tops. Ortega imposed the 48-hour rule in the 1970s, forcing him to open the first Zara stores near La Coruña. Many lined the well-traveled truck route to Barcelona’s textile factories. Even as the company grew, Ortega stuck to his two rules.

4. Stranger than fiction
Margalit Fox looks at the life of Linda Riss Pugach, and how her real-life relationships put her on the world’s stage. (The New York Times)

In the decades after their marriage, the Pugaches seemed hungry for limelight. Although reporters who visited their home in the Rego Park section of Queens wrote often of their unremitting bickering, the couple just as often appeared in the newspapers or on television to declare their mutual devotion. They received renewed attention in 1997, when Mr. Pugach, known as Burt, went on trial in Queens on charges that he had sexually abused a woman and threatened to kill her.

5. The world’s first computer pin-up
Benj Edwards tells the tale of how an IBM employee used a military computer worth $238 million to draw an image of a lady from Esquire. (The Atlantic)

The year was 1956, and the creation was a landmark moment in computer graphics and cultural history that has gone unnoticed until now. Using equipment designed to guard against the apocalypse, a pin-up girl had been drawn. She was quite probably the first human likeness to ever appear on a computer screen. She glowed.

6. Artificial intelligence – boxed
Bianca Bosker uncovers the inside story of Apple’s Siri and why it may still end up defining the tech giant. (The Huffington Post)

The SRI crew could see that the iPhone, which had launched just before their excursion to Half Moon Bay, would yield a population of networked, always-on-the-go consumers who would increasingly rely on tiny touch-screens to tell them what to do. An assistant, in the form of a voice-controlled iPhone app, seemed the ideal way to help mobile users complete all kinds of tasks, without having to poke at small screens with fat fingers or wait for web pages to load.


Cameron Crowe wrote in Esquire about the AK-47, and how its use impacted the Americans during the Vietnam War.

Since the AK-47, or Kalashnikov, had first surfaced, the American military had dismissed it as cheap and ineffective. But as this new weapon’s cracking bursts were heard in battle each day, the Eastern bloc’s assault rifle at last captured the Pentagon’s attention. It marked the Kremlin’s influence on how war was experienced by combatants of limited means – the Kalashnikov-carrying guerrilla, a common man with portable and easy-to-use automatic arms, was now in the field by the tens of thousands, and these men were outgunning American troops. To close the gun gap, the Pentagon rushed the M16 into service.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday >

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