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A fictional road sign warning of possible alien abduction. 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. Streaming success
Ashlee Vance checks out the man behind Netflix, Reed Hastings. The service now accounts for almost a third of all internet traffic entering North American homes. (Bloomberg Businessweek)  (Approx 15 minutes reading time – 3,782 words)

Hastings doesn’t have an office. He moves around headquarters meeting with people and plopping down at spare tables to deal with e-mail. When he needs a quiet place, he heads to his watchtower, a room-size glass square built on the roof of Netflix’s main building. To get there, you climb a staircase to the roof and walk along a narrow walkway past air conditioning units and other machinery. Usually someone turns on the A/C in advance. The room can get hot since it’s basically a greenhouse with a round conference table and spectacular views of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

2. The Tsarnaevs
Christian Caryl spoke to the Chechen community in Boston about the Tsarnaevs and their lives before the Boston bombings. (The New York Review of Books) (Approx 16 minutes reading time - 4,015 words)

‘We’re the first [Chechen] family who lived in Massachusetts,’ Anna told me with pride. And for that reason it was only natural that they saw themselves, like so many other immigrants, as part of a support network for members of their own ethnic group who arrived later. In 2002 they welcomed a new family to the community: the Tsarnaevs. ‘They seemed like a really nice family,’ she says. ‘The kids were really sweet.’

3. Winning big
Michael Paterniti visited the town of Sodeto in Spain. While its inhabitants had been struggling to make ends meet, everything changed in 2011 when they won the largest lottery in Spanish history. (GQ) (Approx 26 minutes reading time – 6,701 words)

El Gordo is the name given to the oldest lottery jackpot in the world—and the richest. Held every year in Madrid on December 22, the Christmas Lottery culminates with the picking of the El Gordo number, the Fat One, which, for many, has become the true Christmas miracle in Spain. In the year of our Lord, Anno Domini, 2011, the tickets bear a painting of the Virgin Mary in red and gold robes, visited by a hovering choir of angels. Joseph and Mary have traveled miles through the Judaean desert in winter—in fear of bears and boars, wearing heavy woolen robes, in the rain and cold—and now it’s time for her to give birth. Unto this world will come a baby to absolve us of our sins. It’s a nice story, but the lottery jackpot is 720 million euros. Seventy percent of all Spaniards play to win, spending, on average, seventy euros apiece. People visit clairvoyants and fortune-tellers, plead for the winning number.

4. The good Nazi
Philippe Sands meets the son of the indicted war criminal Otto von Wächter, the same son who refuses to condemn his actions. (FT Magazine) (Approx 15 minutes reading time - 3,770 words)

In one room, under the rafters that support a great roof, Horst has kept his father’s library. He has invited me to look around the collection. I extricate a book at random from a tightly stacked shelf. The first page contains a handwritten dedication in a neat German script. To SS-Gruppenführer Dr Otto Wächter ‘with my best wishes on your birthday’. The deep blue signature beneath, slightly smudged, is unforgiving. ‘H. Himmler, 8 July 1944′.

5. Murder, remembered
Michael E Miller tells the story of the double murder of a mother and her daughter, and the family member who remembered it all – 25 years later. (Miami NewTimes) (Approx 22 minutes reading time – 5,575 words)

‘I just need somebody to listen to me,’ Gloria pleaded. The short 29-year-old with wide hips, tan skin, and curly hair had been through years of psychiatric therapy, she said. From the haze of her hurtful childhood, however, she had pulled one particular memory and polished it until clear. ‘I saw my father kill my mother when I was 4 years old,’ she said. ‘He put her body into an army-green bag.’ McCully was still skeptical. Cops don’t put much faith in recovered memories, and these were 25 years old. But after Gloria left, he cracked open musty boxes of cold-case files.

6. Experiencing the ‘experiencers’
Ralph Blumenthal was invited to the annual meeting of “seemingly ordinary folk with extraordinary stories” – those who believed they had been abducted by aliens. These are the stories he was told. (Vanity Fair) (Approx 22 minutes reading time - 5,565 words)

She had gathered them to compare experiences as, well, ‘experiencers,’ a term they prefer to ‘abductees,’ and to socialize free of stigma among peers. Cuvelier, an elegant and garrulous woman in her 70s, isn’t one of them. But she remembers as a teen in the 1940s hearing her father, Rear Admiral Donald James Ramsey, a World War II hero, muttering about strange flying craft that hovered and streaked off at unimaginable speed, and she’s been an avid ufologist ever since. ‘I want to get information out so these people don’t have to suffer,’ she says. ‘Nobody believes you. You go through these frightening experiences, and then you go through the ridicule.’


In 1970, Hunter S Thompson wrote about The Kentucky Derby. Gonzo journalism was born… (Approx 32 minutes reading time – 8,080 words)

In the air-conditioned lounge I met a man from Houston who said his name was something or other – ‘but just call me Jimbo’ – and he was here to get it on. ‘I’m ready for anything, by God! Anything at all. Yeah, what are you drinkin?’ I ordered a Margarita with ice, but he wouldn’t hear of it: ‘Naw, naw … what the hell kind of drink is that for Kentucky Derby time? What’s wrong with you, boy?’ He grinned and winked at the bartender. ‘Goddam, we gotta educate this boy. Get him some good whiskey … ‘ I shrugged. ‘Okay, a double Old Fitz on ice.’ Jimbo nodded his approval.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday >

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