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Dublin: 12°C Monday 27 September 2021

Sitdown Sunday: The mystery of the 'Somerton man'

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

Adelaide Cemetery Authority pallbearers carry the body of the exhumed Somerton man.
Adelaide Cemetery Authority pallbearers carry the body of the exhumed Somerton man.
Image: AAP/PA Images

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 anxiety of influencers

A look at TikTok mansions/content houses/collab houses.

(Harper’s, approx 40 mins reading time)

For the past twenty-four hours, I’ve been dwelling among the influencers at Clubhouse FTB, enduring bouts of dick jokes and long glugs of White Claw, the sort of chaffing male camaraderie you’re apt to find in frat houses or hunting lodges. Among the various House Rules, which are enumerated on a whiteboard in the dining room of this mansion, are boldfaced injunctions to wake up by 10 am, to refrain from drinking Sunday through Thursday, to hold house meetings every morning at 11:30, and to “finish brand deliverables before inviting guests.” 

2. Life in Gaza

A podcast where Hazem Balousha, a Guardian correspondent, talks about life living in Gaza.

(The Guardian, approx 6 mins reading time)

He describes living in, and reporting from, the strip, which was under heavy bombardment from last Monday until the agreement of a ceasefire, beginning early on Friday morning.

3. Coming together

Korean adoptees felt isolated and alone, but Facebook helped bring them together.

(Rest of World, approx 25 mins reading time)

State failures, including deficient reproductive health and family planning services, and a lack of support for stigmatized, unwed mothers, converged with patriarchal, misogynistic attitudes to “solve” South Korea’s overpopulation problem by simply supplying an international demand for Korean kids. These children were labeled orphans only because it made them “adoptable.”

4. Burnout

Is burnout a modern affliction?

(The New Yorker, approx 15 mins reading time)

To be burned out is to be used up, like a battery so depleted that it can’t be recharged. In people, unlike batteries, it is said to produce the defining symptoms of “burnout syndrome”: exhaustion, cynicism, and loss of efficacy. Around the world, three out of five workers say they’re burned out. A 2020 U.S. study put that figure at three in four. A recent book claims that burnout afflicts an entire generation. In “Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation,” the former BuzzFeed News reporter Anne Helen Petersen figures herself as a “pile of embers.” The earth itself suffers from burnout. 

5. An oral history of Truth or Dare

Madonna’s movie gets the oral history treatment after 30 years.

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(Vulture, approx 28 mins reading time)

Maybe that’s because Truth or Dare wasn’t initially designed to be so personal. What began as a traditional concert film ripened when director Alek Keshishian observed the seven dancers, two backup singers, and dozens of attendants in Madonna’s retinue. What came next was less a celebrity-branding ploy than an organic peek behind the Blond Ambition Tour’s curtain. Madonna funded the roughly $4 million project herself, according to producers Tim Clawson and Jay Roewe, but she and Keshishian created a new approach to storytelling, unburdened by any rule book.

6. The scandal of black children sent to ‘special’ schools

A look at how in the 1960s and 70s in the UK, when hundreds of black children were labelled as “educational subnormal” and sent to special schools.

(BBC, approx 12 mins reading time)

But Noel’s parents were not made aware that his new school was for the so-called educationally subnormal. They had moved to England from Jamaica in the early ’60s and had high expectations for their son’s education. During his first night at the boarding school, six-year-old Noel lay alone in bed, crying for his mum. The school felt cold and institutional. “I can still smell the old wooden flip desks. Oh, and being racially abused on my first day,” he says.


Earlier this week, the body of the ‘Somerton man’ was exhumed in Australia, in an attempt to use DNA to figure out who he was. Here’s a look back at his story.

(ABC, approx 8 mins reading time)

Not realising the man was dead, the two jockeys continued along for a couple of kilometres south towards Brighton. “When we came back he was still in the same place, so we went over to see if he was alright,” Neil said. “We couldn’t see him breathing so my friend Horrie hopped off his horse and lifted his leg.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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