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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. Staying safe in Tahrir Square
Ghazala Irshad looks at how things are slowly starting to change for the women of Egypt who want to voice their opinion without fear of assault. (Gawker)

One of the beautiful things about Tahrir Square is that even if you’re there alone, you never really feel alone,” says Salma. A strong sense of solidarity comes across both within the square and online, even in its most tense moments. “You can connect with thousands of helpful people in the square through Twitter,” she says. At its peak, up to 500 people are using Twitter during a protest in Tahrir, according to independent research by business owner Hany Rasmy. So when Salma felt at her most vulnerable last Tuesday, preparing for a battle of defense against swarms of men at a protest, she rallied the Twitter troops.

2. Anticipation: boxed
Mark O’Connell delves into the world of ‘unboxing’ videos, the joys they bring and his desire to make his own. (The Dublin Review)

The ‘unboxing’ video offers the viewer the vicarious experience of removing a newly purchased product (usually an electronic device of some sort) from its packaging. It is a visual document of the consummation of the purchaser–product relationship, that apex of possibility and anticipation right before the start of the slow, inevitable decline into disappointment and neglect.

3. Nature’s zombies
Carl Zimmer looks at the ‘infected’ of the animal world, and what they end up doing to please their new masters. Could we be next? (The New York Times)

In the rain forests of Costa Rica lives Anelosimus octavius, a species of spider that sometimes displays a strange and ghoulish habit. From time to time these spiders abandon their own web and build a radically different one, a home not for the spider but for a parasitic wasp that has been living inside it. Then the spider dies — a zombie architect, its brain hijacked by its parasitic invader — and out of its body crawls the wasp’s larva, which has been growing inside it all this time.

4. Making sense of boredom
Maria Konnikova wonders why boredom still exists in spite of our increasingly busy lives. (The Boston Globe)

Sometimes the problem is that there is too much competing for our attention, sometimes too little. In all cases, they argue, boredom has as much to do with our inner response to our circumstances as to the circumstances themselves. If they are right, and boredom is closely connected to the well-studied field of attention, then it may pave the way to seeing boredom as something that we can manipulate deliberately – and perhaps even alleviate.

5. In for the long haul
Matt McClain re-examines the case of convicted murderer Jeffrey MacDonald, and the prosecution lawyer who wants to make sure he never gets away with it. (The Washington Post)

Murtagh won’t really admit this is personal to him, that it’s really under his skin. That would be un-lawyerly. Ask him why he has stuck with this case so long, pressed so vigorously to keep Jeffrey MacDonald in prison, and he quotes federal case law about the appropriate penalty for first-degree murder. But it is personal. This case made Murtagh famous, but it also, ironically, circumscribed his career. Despite his formidable talents, to stay with this case, he has had to remain a federal prosecutor, at government salary, his whole life. He has been the institutional memory of the case, indispensable to fighting a relentless series of appeals, one of which was deeply personal, charging him with misconduct for supposedly suppressing evidence. He won that, too. He has stayed on because of an abstract sense of justice, but also because of a concrete duty he feels to three people who died very badly.

6. Arcade on fire
Chris Stokel-Walker looks back at launch of the arcade game Pong and what it meant to those who made it happen. (Buzzfeed)

As Atari delivered those first arcade games to places they had previously visited to service pinball machines, patrons were still turning up to Andy Capp’s specifically to play Pong. They would wait in line outside the bar before it opened at 10 a.m. Now there were 12 other locations where they could play Pong. The game spread and grew. From that first run of 12, Atari eventually ramped up production. Dabney used a saber saw to bust down a connecting wall that allowed the company to take over an adjacent office. When they took an order for 300 cabinets, even the newly enlarged building wasn’t big enough — so they moved into an old roller rink.


In 1966, Nat Hentoff interviewed Bod Dylan for Playboy Magazine. Just five years previous, he had been reliant on the goodwill of friends to put a roof over his head. Now he was a star.

I wouldn’t advise anybody to use drugs – certainly not the hard drugs; drugs are medicine. But opium and hash and pot – now, those things aren’t drugs; they just bend your mind a little. I think everybody’s mind should be bent once in a while. Not by LSD, though. LSD is medicine – a different kind of medicine. It makes you aware of the universe, so to speak; you realize how foolish objects are. But LSD is not for groovy people; it’s for mad, hateful people who want revenge. It’s for people who usually have heart attacks. They ought to use it at the Geneva Convention.

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