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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. The hit that never was
Karina Longworth picks apart the epic failure that was the Super Mario Bros. film. The big budget film seemed to have it all. That was until everything went wrong. Longworth looks at the lessons Hollywood should have learnt as a result. (Grantland)

When the dust settled, Super Mario grossed more than $20 million, on a reported (usually code for underreported) production budget of $50 million. As an unmitigated disaster, Super Mario is both emblematic of its time and troublingly anticipatory of the worst of our own time.

2. A mother’s love
Del Quentin Wilber talks to Jodi Homaune, the mother who had to travel halfway around the world to get her daughter back. (The Washington Post magazine)

In 2007, Homaune relocated to Charlottesville, where she took a job managing sales for a half-dozen radio stations. When her daughter was 6, Homaune agreed that it was time for M.H. to visit her grandparents in Tehran. Homaune planned to make the six-week trip in May 2009, but medication for skin cancer made her too ill to travel. She had no inkling of what was to come.

3. Sleeping our lives away
Jessa Gamble looks at the ways in which we can free up more free time by sleeping less, and the problems it can create. (Aeon magazine)

Many of us cherish the time we spend in bed, but we don’t consciously experience most of our sleeping hours – if they were reduced without extra fatigue, we might scarcely notice a difference except for all those open, new hours in our night time existence. Lifespan statistics often adjust for time spent disabled by illness, but they rarely account for the ultimate debilitation: lack of consciousness. Now a life lived at 150 per cent might be within our grasp. Are we brave enough to choose it?

4. Saying ‘I do’ to conformity
Zi Heng Lim bears witness to China’s marriage of convenience, where traditional social norms have led to gay men and lesbians becoming husband and wife. (The Atlantic)

For decades, closeted gay men have married unsuspecting straight women to hide their homosexuality. Zhang Beichuan, a professor at Qingdao University’s Medical School who researches gay issues, estimated that there are 20 million gay and bisexual men in China, of whom around 80 percent have married straight women. This means that around 16 million heterosexual women in China today are married to gay men. Typically experienced behind closed doors, the issue was thrust into the spotlight last June, when a 31-year-old bride from Sichuan Province jumped to her death after discovering that her husband was gay.

5. When creativity doesn’t pay
Genevieve Smith writes about the balancing act of staying creative in your job and keeping food on the table. (Elle)

I recently asked my dad if he ever regretted not following those early ambitions. No, he told me. Even though he’d toyed with doing a more commercial craft like silversmithing or pottery, he realized how hard a life that would be, always having to scramble to keep the money coming. So instead, he found a career that drew on something else he cared about – helping others – and that would also, in later years, allow him to support a family and have enough time to be active in raising them. “I was never out to make a whole lot of money. My whole goal was balance,” he said.

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6. The man who fell from the sky
William Langewiesche profiles Felix Baumgartner, the man who last October fell farther than any man in history, and at supersonic speed. (Vanity Fair)

Baumgartner took up jumping in 1986 when he was 16, at a skydiving club in Salzburg. He joined the Austrian Army, found his way onto its parachute-exhibition team, and for several years jumped almost daily, mastering the finer points of free-fall control. After he left the army, he lived with his parents and worked as a machinist and motorcycle mechanic to support his skydiving. He was the star of the Salzburg club. The club by then was being subsidized by Red Bull, which is headquartered nearby and supplied parachutes and provided petty cash. For Baumgartner this was not enough: he wanted to earn a living as a stunt jumper, and needed to figure out how.

… AND A CLASSIC READ FROM THE ARCHIVES…

In late 2010 Jonathan Mahler penned a piece in The New York Times about the fall of Tiger Woods, and the impact it would have on an entire industry.

Before Woods, professional golf was a niche sport watched largely by the same people who played it, its crossover potential limited by the parity among tour members. Sports are driven by stars, and it was impossible to predict who was going to be the big story at any given golf tournament. A leader one day could drop out of contention the next, replaced by someone you never heard of before – and might never hear about again. Woods changed all of this. He won roughly a third of the time he played, a rate that defied the sport’s conventional wisdom. Even when he lost, it didn’t much matter. Whether Woods was pumping his fist after an important putt, flinging his driver aside after a disappointing tee shot or just applying lip balm, he was the guy viewers wanted to see.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday >

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

About the author:

Paul Hyland

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