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Sitdown Sunday: 7 deadly reads

The very best of the week’s writing from around the web.
May 5th 2013, 10:00 AM 13,470 2

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. Finding out the truth
Yudhijit Bhattacharjee recalls the story of social psychologist Diederik Stapel, who committed academic fraud by making up studies that told the world what it wanted to hear about human nature. (The New York Times)

Right away Stapel expressed what sounded like heartfelt remorse for what he did to his students. “I have fallen from my throne – I am on the floor,” he said, waving at the ground. “I am in therapy every week. I hate myself.” That afternoon and in later conversations, he referred to himself several times as tall, charming or handsome, less out of arrogance, it seemed, than what I took to be an anxious desire to focus on positive aspects of himself that were demonstrably not false.

2. No food for thought
S Abbas Raza looks into the supposed benefits of fasting and, with his wife, decides to live on nothing but fluids for seven days. This was his experience. (Aeon Magazine)

Since my wife had a week’s break in February from her work as a schoolteacher, we decided to try our fast then. Our preparation was pretty minimal. I would keep a journal in which I would record my weight, blood pressure, activities and, several times a day, just note how I was feeling. We bought some emergency supplies in case one or both of us ended up feeling ill or fainting: some energy drinks, a couple of bars of Swiss milk chocolate, some fruit, and some bread and cheese, and put them in the refrigerator. My wife also told me to stop locking the bathroom door from the inside, just in case she needed to rescue me.

3. Out of sight, out of mind
Mohamedou Ould Slahi has written a 466-page memoir documenting his time at Guantanamo Bay. Here, he documents what happened after the torture stopped.  (Slate)

“I brought you this present,” he said, while handing me a pillow. Yes, a pillow. I received the present with a fake overwhelming happiness – not because I was dying to get a pillow, but because I took the pillow as a sign of the end of the physical torture. We have a joke back home about a man who stood bare naked on the street, and when asked, “How can I help you?” he replied, “Give me shoes.” And that is exactly what happened to me. All I needed was a pillow!!! I had nothing in my cell. Most of the time I recited the Quran. The rest of the time I was speaking to myself and thinking about my life and the worst-case scenarios that could happen to me. I had been counting the holes of the cage I was in: There are about 4,100 holes. When they gave me a pillow as a first reward, I kept reading the tag over and over.

4. 60 at 60
Ian Martin recently turned 60. Here, the writer of the show The Thick Of It lists the 60 observations he’s made about life so far. (The Guardian)

9. Compatibility is hugely overrated. I have little in common with most of my friends and with just about the entirety of my wife.
10. Grandparenthood is a beautiful revelation. You have kids, you know you will never experience that feeling of unconditional love for anyone else, ever, and then it happens all over again. A heart-stoppingly beautiful miracle.
11. I have nothing against pets in theory. It’s just that, in reality, pets are noisy, selfish, practically incontinent, morally depraved and just really stupid. They are walking, flapping analogs of your own paranoid self-loathing. You take your soul-searching labrador for a walk and a chat. I’ll just watch a bit of telly.

5. Tired of running
Ginger Thompson met Luis Octavio López Vega, the Mexican drug informer who is getting tired of having to live life in the shadows. (The New York Times)

Mr. López, a native of Mexico, said in Spanish that he has lived under the radar in the western United States for more than a decade, camouflaging himself among the waves of immigrants who came across the border around the same time. Like so many of his compatriots, he works an assortment of low-wage jobs available to people without a green card. But while Mr. López blends into that resilient population with his calloused hands and thrift-store wardrobe, his predicament goes far beyond his immigration status. Mr. López played a leading role in what is widely considered the biggest drug-trafficking case in Mexican history.

6. Smoke without fire
Benjamin Wallace looks at the history of the electronic cigarette, and wonders whether it has a future. (New York Magazine)

In December, when NJOY held a launch party for Kings at the Jane Hotel, in the West Village, guests encountered the shock of the old. For likely the first time since 2003, when Mayor Bloomberg banned smoking in bars and restaurants, a Manhattan barroom was full of people with little white sticks in their mouths and tendrils of vapor rising above the crowd. “It was the most extraordinary back-to-the-future moment,” says Geoff Vuleta, a product-innovation consultant who advises NJOY. “The entire room was smoking. It was like being back in the seventies. It looked like what 2020 will look like.”


In 2003, Richard Rys wrote in Philadelphia Magazine about the life of a bullet – from its manufacture to its eventual target.

Doug Nelson first walked past the guardhouse of Federal Cartridge Company in 1964 to do what his father did, and what his grandmother did before him, and what hundreds of his neighbors did. For nine hours a day, $2.20 each hour, Doug Nelson made bullets. Much of his handiwork ended up in the magazines of GIs charging and crying and roaring through jungles half a world away – good for man-hunting, but too powerful for the pheasant-hunting Nelson enjoyed back then.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday >

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Paul Hyland


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