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7 deadly reads

Sitdown Sunday: Mick Jagger on The Rolling Stones' new album, aging and the death of Charlie Watts

Settle down in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

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. Mick Jagger

ronnie-wood-from-left-mick-jagger-and-keith-richards-pose-for-photographers-at-the-press-conference-for-the-launch-of-the-new-rolling-stones-album-hackney-diamonds-on-wednesday-sept-6-2023-in Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards at the press conference for the launch of the new Rolling Stones album 'Hackney Diamonds' last month. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The Rolling Stones frontman reflects on turning 80, the death of drummer Charlie Watts and releasing the band’s first album of new material in 18 years. 

(The Guardian, approx 11 mins reading time)

“It’s a couple of years now, and I still think about Charlie a lot,” Jagger says. The day before we meet, he watched their beloved England cricket team thrash New Zealand. “Charlie would have liked Ben Stokes’s innings; I wish Charlie could have seen that 182. I miss his laconic humour. His taste in music. His elegance. His don’t-care attitude – he didn’t get intense. Keith and I get a bit intense.” There was a whole stretch of the 80s where the two were sniping at each other – Richards renamed Jagger “Brenda” and “Her Majesty” – and then again after Richards’ caustic 2010 memoir, which wasn’t kind to the size of Jagger’s manhood, among other things. “But Charlie wouldn’t, and it rubs off a bit – I’m not as intense as I used to be. I think about him when I’m playing, and what he would have played; whether he’d have liked this song, because I’d always bounce things off him. I’d be playing him the silly pop songs of the moment, and he’d love all that.

2. The Gilgo Beach killer

Robert Holker explores how police indifference, willful ignorance and corruption meant it took 13 years for them to arrest the man now charged with the murders of three women found dead in Long Island. 

(The New York Times, approx 33 mins reading time)

Since the case’s early days, law-enforcement officers have rarely spoken to the media. When I was reporting “Lost Girls,” my 2013 book about the case and victims, the police were largely silent. But after Heuermann’s arrest, some have been willing to discuss the investigation with a greater degree of detail and candor. Since July, I’ve conducted interviews with people close to the Gilgo case during every chapter of its bizarre 13-year timeline. (Several sources asked for anonymity, concerned that public statements by insiders might undercut the case against Heuermann before the trial.)

The story they tell — at times self-serving and at other times soul-searching — demonstrates, inadvertently and otherwise, how institutional rot helped contribute to the delays and paralysis of the investigation. What started out as indifference and apathy soon curdled into obstinance, willful ignorance and corruption. From the moment those women were found at Gilgo Beach, the law-enforcement culture of Suffolk County seemed so preternaturally ill suited to handle this case that a killer was allowed to roam free. Which was all the more galling, given what we know now — that everything the police needed to solve the case, they had almost on Day 1.

3. Don’t let the bedbugs bite

parasiticbedbugsonthecloth Shutterstock / Pavel Krasensky Shutterstock / Pavel Krasensky / Pavel Krasensky

You may have heard about the panic in Paris related to these insects for the last few weeks. Travel has made it easier for them to spread, and they’re getting harder to treat, as this piece explains. 

(BBC Future, approx 12 mins reading time)

Over the years, bed bugs have acquired three different mutations in the genes coding for sodium channels, which prevents insecticides from binding to them. We don’t know exactly when the mutations developed, but they have been around since at least the 1950s, after the widespread use of DDT in World War Two. However, until now the extent these mutations are present in the bed bug population has been difficult to measure. Booth and Lewis’s study showed that 36% of the older bed bugs collected in the US between 2005-2009 had a single mutation in their sodium channel gene, while 50% had acquired two mutations. Just 2.5% of the population had no mutations, and were therefore susceptible to insecticides. “Whenever you have one of the mutations it results in a several hundred-fold resistance to pyrethroid insecticides,” says Booth. “If you have both mutations that can ramp up to around 16,000-fold. So, it means you’re not going to kill them. You can pour a bucket load of insecticides on them and it’s still not going to have an effect.”

4. A carbon offsetting scandal

Heidi Blake investigates how the world’s largest carbon-offsetting firm sold environmentally worthless credits to well-known brands while millions of dollars meant to fund forest protection vanished without a trace.

(New Yorker, approx 50 mins reading time)

“This looks really bad, because you’re just sending money here, there, and everywhere, but, on the receiving side, I can show where we’ve got it,” he told me. “Well, I can show you the bundles of cash on the floor.” When payments arrived, he said, he would “grab the money and run with it,” distributing it among the stakeholders in the project. “For any kind of European or American, that’s not comprehensible,” he said. “How many Western people have carried half a million dollars of cash in their hand?”

Wentzel’s demeanor seemed to lighten as he unburdened himself, and he began to stage a mock interrogation. “Can I see the swift?” he boomed, referring to the code that banks use for international payments. “The money got there swiftly, but I can’t tell you what the swift was.” Suddenly his waggish smile gave way to a frown. “I don’t know what you’re going to report on this, and I hope to God it’s not all of it, because I probably will go to jail,” he said. Then he reassured himself. “I’ll go to jail for the right reasons,” he said. “Savior or villain? I’m right in the damned middle. And I’m happy to be that way.”

5. Focal dystonia

closeupofseniorwomanplayingthepiano Shutterstock / YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV Shutterstock / YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV / YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV

The neurological disorder that affects the muscle groups has plagued musicians for years, forcing them to give up playing. When doctor and musician Lynn Hallarman found herself suffering from it, she began to research the rare condition.

(The Guardian, approx 16 mins reading time)

At first, I thought I could practise my way out of the problem. Each morning, I pretended all was well. Then I would try to play. The hand spasmed and shook with barely a touch to the instrument. Had I forgotten how to play? Days went by, then weeks. After several months of denial, my search for answers began with a walkabout to various medical subspecialists – a neurologist, a hand surgeon and a GP. All were kind, attentive listeners and outstanding clinicians. But I began to understand how few solutions the medical community had to offer. They told me dystonia was incurable, and to switch to another instrument. They told me about illnesses I did not appear to have. Although I always brought my flute and offered to demonstrate, no one seemed interested in observing me while I played. As soon as it was clear that my problem did not match up with their therapeutic solutions, I was passed off like a hot potato to the next practitioner. And no doctor asked me how I was doing, even though I was now living in the wreckage of my falling-apart musical life.

6. Living in your car

Across the US, designated car parks have opened for those who can’t afford to rent and are living in their vehicles. Rukmini Callimachi speaks to those in that situation and the people who are trying to help them. 

(The New York Times, approx 11 mins reading time)

The Lake Washington United Methodist Church began experimenting with offering a beachhead for the “mobile homeless” in 2011 in response to Seattle’s “scofflaw ordinance,” which called for the impounding of cars that had accrued multiple parking tickets, a law that was disastrous for people forced to live in their cars. “Our simple idea was, ‘Hey, if they’re in our parking lot, they won’t get parking tickets. And they won’t get booted and towed,’” said Karina O’Malley, who helped create the program. Now it is one of 12 in Washington State. “Tens of thousands of people are living in their vehicles,” said Graham J. Pruss, an applied anthropologist studying the trend, who heads the National Vehicle Residency Collective. “It’s huge.”

…AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

dan-aykroyd-harold-ramis-bill-murray-ghostbusters-1984 Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Bill Murray in Ghostbusters. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

As Halloween approaches, here’s a longread from 2014 about the making of the 1984 classic Ghostbusters. 

(Vanity Fair, approx 25 mins reading time)

The fact that the script needed massive reconstructive surgery didn’t prevent the team from pitching it to Columbia Pictures chairman Frank Price. Ovitz, who also represented Reitman and Ramis, recalls calling Price about the project: “I said, ‘We have a project: Danny-written, Ivan directing; Bill Murray is attached; we’re bringing in Harold.’ Frank said, ‘What do you think it will cost?,’ and Ivan gave a number—$25 million all in—and Frank said, ‘I’ll do it.’” By his own admission, Reitman had conjured the figure up out of thin air. “Three times as much as [Stripes] sound[ed] reasonable,” he states.  The deal set off alarm bells among Price’s higher-ups. “It was a horrendous amount of money for a comedy,” Price recalls. He says that the president and C.E.O. of Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., Francis “Fay” Vincent, sent his top lawyer from New York City to Los Angeles to talk Price out of the project. “It was too expensive, too risky, [they said],” recalls Price. “I explained, ‘I’ve got Bill Murray.’ I was going to go ahead with it. They made it clear that it was all my responsibility. I was out on the limb.” Price slated Ghostbusters for a major summer 1984 release—giving Reitman and the Ghostbusters team just one year to write, shoot, and edit the first big-budget, big-effects film any of them had ever attempted.

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