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Sitdown Sunday: My time with Kurt Cobain

Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.
Sep 26th 2021, 9:00 AM 20,327 5

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. My time with Kurt

An article by journalist Michael Azerrad about befriending Kurt Cobain, and the highs and lows of their relationship.

(The New Yorker, approx 32 mins reading time)

As “Norwegian Wood” played faintly on a crappy stereo, Courtney led me down a short hallway to the bedroom. I got to the door and opened it to find Kurt lying in a little bed in a little room, his back against the wall, facing the doorway, his shocking blue eyes gazing at me through the subdued lighting. His bare feet stuck out past the bedsheets, and his toenails were painted a rosy hue. The smell of jasmine flowers wafted through the screen of the window above his head. To this day, whenever I smell jasmine I’m transported to that moment.

2. The fight for inclusion

A piece by Shon Faye from her book about trans lives – this piece is about trans children and their families. 

(The Guardian, approx 15 mins reading time)

Joe and Kate soon felt a little out of their depth. “Like a lot of parents with young kids, I thought there was something I was meant to teach her that I had missed,” said Kate. “I just didn’t get it.” Joe told me how Alex soon started to tell other children and the staff at nursery that she was a girl – but would regularly be corrected. Soon she started to become frequently upset, particularly before bed. The source of her distress, said Joe, was always clear. “It was: ‘Why can’t you call me a girl?’, ‘Why won’t you call me a girl?’, ‘I’m a girl’, ‘I’m a girl’, ‘I’m a girl’, ‘Why can’t I be a girl?’” Joe was careful to stress how fixated his daughter had become on being regarded as female by those around her.

3. The ballet company

Doug and Ashley Benefield started up a new ballet company, wanting to start a revolution. But things got very dark.

(Vanity Fair, approx 29 mins reading time)

On the day they arrived, the dancers were greeted with a pizza party and a photoshoot. “They had a film crew following us around to talk about how excited we were,” said McDaniel. But even as they gave interviews and posed for the cameras, some of the dancers tried to suppress lingering doubts. When, over the previous months, some had inquired about ANB’s repertoire and performance schedule, they had received vague, blustery emails in response. “There are big things in store for ANB,” a deputy director told them in late July. “We are changing the face of ballet…. We will be making lots of announcements in the upcoming weeks.” Those announcements were yet to come, and the dancers still didn’t know where they would perform.

4. The cobalt problem

To help deal with climate change and power cars in the future, we need to solve the problem of making cleaner batteries, this article says.

(Bloomberg Businessweek, approx 15 mins reading time)

Because batteries are a technology like a microchip, rather than a commodity like oil, it makes sense that the trajectory of their capacity and cost will be closer to the former’s steady exponential improvement over time. But batteries also rely on the specific qualities of certain elements to work. The highest-performing lithium-ion batteries on the market today require cobalt, and cobalt is hard to come by. Most of the known reserves lie under Congo, a country plagued by corruption and frequent wars, where mining often occurs in dangerous, deadly conditions, and not infrequently is done by children. Chinese companies own most of Congo’s mines—clean energy, like dirty energy, has its geopolitics. The metal’s price has fluctuated wildly in recent years.

5. Internet phenomenon

When a brother wrote a touching obituary for his sister, the internet took notice.

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(LA Times, approx 6 mins reading time)

Others from around the world had never met the Sydows, but could relate to the account of a close relative’s medical issue. Some parents explained the joy — and pain — of caring for a child with cerebral palsy. “He’s an amazing person and I dread the moment we depart from each other,” one mother wrote of her son. And still others shared how they’d been affected by Erik’s writing. “If the point of an obituary is to make you feel you knew the person and to share their loss then the fact her brother did so in so few words is astounding,” one person wrote. “What a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing your sister with us Erik.”

6. No Time To Die

An interview with the director of the new and long-awaited James Bond film, Cary Fukunaga, about what we can expect.

(The Hollywood Reporter, approx 14 mins reading time)

“I try not to think about the box office pressures,” he told me at the time, “although right now obviously I’m very concerned about coronavirus.” Bond producer and gatekeeper Barbara Broccoli downplayed concerns about how the virus might affect the $245 million film and its expectations to eclipse the previous Bond’s worldwide haul of $881 million. “It sounds like the Chinese authorities are doing everything they can to contain it,” she said. But Fukunaga couldn’t shake the feeling that history was about to repeat itself. His first feature, the Spanish-language crime drama Sin Nombre, took a box office beating when swine flu shuttered theaters in Mexico in 2009.

…AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

Elizabeth Holmes of the ill-fated Theranos company has been in court in recent weeks. Here’s a 2016 article about her company’s downfall.

(Vanity Fair, approx 20 mins reading time)

Holmes had learned a lot from Jobs. Like Apple, Theranos was secretive, even internally. Just as Jobs had famously insisted at 1 Infinite Loop, 10 minutes away, that departments were generally siloed, Holmes largely forbade her employees from communicating with one another about what they were working on—a culture that resulted in a rare form of executive omniscience. At Theranos, Holmes was founder, C.E.O., and chairwoman. There wasn’t a decision—from the number of American flags framed in the company’s hallway (they are ubiquitous) to the compensation of each new hire—that didn’t cross her desk.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday

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Aoife Barry

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