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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. One Hyde Park
Nicholas Shaxson tries to get inside London’s wealthiest and most secretive building, and looks at how the city has helped its mostly absent residents to thrive in the English capital. (Vanity Fair)

When the British Empire crumbled in the mid-1950s, London replaced the cozy embrace of gunboats and imperial trading preferences with a new model: tempting the world’s hot money through lax regulation and lax enforcement. There was always a subtle balance, involving dependable British legal bedrock fiercely upholding U.K. domestic rules and laws while turning a blind eye to foreign law-breaking. It was a classic offshore-tax-haven offering that tells foreign financiers, “We won’t steal your money, but we won’t make a fuss if you steal other people’s.”

2. All rise
Megan Garber charts the history of applause, what it once meant, and how those who knew its power manipulated it. (The Atlantic)

This is the story of how people clapped when all they had, for the most part, was hands – of how we liked things before we Liked things. Applause, participatory and observational at the same time, was an early form of mass media, connecting people to each other and to their leaders, instantly and visually and, of course, audibly. It was public sentiment analysis, revealing the affinities and desires of networked people. It was the qualified self giving way to the quantified crowd. It was big data before data got big.

3. The dance of death
David Remnick details the recent events at the Bolshoi ballet that left its artistic director disfigured and another member facing jail. (New Yorker)

The liquid was sulfuric acid – the “oil of vitriol,” as medieval alchemists called it. Depending on the concentration, it can lay waste to human skin as quickly as in a horror movie. Scientists working with sulfuric acid wear protective goggles; even a small amount in the eyes can destroy the cornea and cause permanent blindness. Filin was in agony. The burning was immediate and severe. His vision turned to black. He could feel the scalding of his face and scalp, the pain intensifying all the time.

4. The man with the red shoes
Massimo Gatto looks at the history behind the Pope’s choice of footwear. (The New York Review of Books)

With the red shoes went a red-striped robe, again in Phoenician purple – a wide stripe for members of the Senate, a narrower stripe for the second-rank aristocrats known as horsemen, equites. After the coming of Christianity, the tradition of wearing red passed from the Roman Senate to the “Sacred Senate,” the College of Cardinals.

5. Running out of chances
Jeré Longman follows the case of Tim Danielson, who went from the high of breaking the four-minute mile to the murder charges which now face him. (The New York Times)

Tim Danielson sat slumped on the toilet in a white T-shirt and underwear. He was breathing but apparently unconscious, unresponsive to the voices of sheriff’s deputies. In an adjacent bedroom, a generator ran loudly. The smell of gasoline was potent. Ming Qi, a former wife of Danielson’s, lay dead on the bed. A pump-action shotgun lay beside her. A .22-caliber rifle was nearby. Authorities said she was shot six times.

6. Rising from the ashes
Sarah Yager looks at the Marlboro Man, and the allure that the wild west is having on Marlboro’s smokers. (The Atlantic)

By the early 1960s, just before the Surgeon General’s advisory committee issued its verdict on the health risks of smoking, the theme had evolved into the mythical “Marlboro Country,” where cowboys in white hats rode horseback between golden grass and blue skies, or sat around a campfire with an open red-topped pack posed next to the crackling flames. The message beckoned over airwaves and from newspaper pages: “Come to where the flavor is.”

… AND A CLASSIC READ FROM THE ARCHIVES…

In 2002, James B Stewart wrote in The New Yorker about a divorced New Jersey housewife who met the love of her life. Everything changed on the morning of 9/11.

Susan made a point of reminding herself that a woman in her fifties with three grown daughters and two failed marriages behind her should have few illusions about romantic prospects. After nursing her mother through a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, she had resigned herself to merely going out to dinner occasionally with women friends in similar circumstances.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday >

The Sports Pages – the best sports writing collected every week by TheScore.ie >

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About the author:

Paul Hyland

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