This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 15 October, 2019

Sitdown Sunday: Why was I left on a hillside to die?

Grab 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. Inside the Super Mario Bros movie

Source: SNB TV/YouTube

You might have seen this film pop up online a lot this week – because it’s a fascinating, and funny look at a commercial disaster of a movie.

(The Guardian, approx 19 mins reading time)

The incendiary actor-director, who had unapologetically told everyone he had taken the role for money alone, stood amid the grandeur of his character’s penthouse suite and exploded. “He just starts screaming at Annabel and Rocky,” recalls Edson. “He’s telling them they’re completely unprofessional, that he’s never seen anything like this. Rocky says ‘Dennis, what is it?’ And he yells: ‘You rewrote my lines! You call this writing? This is shit! It’s shit! And the fact you’d do it without asking me?’ He went on and on. He couldn’t control himself.

2. Mission control

Welcome to Nasa’s Space Flight Operations Facility, where all the magic happens.

(Longreads, approx 29 mins reading time)

When a mission launches into space, whether it is to Venus, Mars, or as far out as Pluto, we have to be able to track it, send commands, and receive data — all over a signal about as powerful as the wattage of a refrigerator light bulb. These faint whispers are hard to hear, and losing track of them for any length of time can be a harrowing experience. If the Deep Space Network goes down, if we permanently lose our connection to Cassini, it would not only be a loss of billions of dollars but also two decades of work.

3. Kayaking across the Atlantic… aged 70

Aleksander Doba During International Documentary Film Festival In Poland Aleksander Doba Source: Dawid Tatarkiewicz

Why on earth would you kayak across the Atlantic three times – the third at the age of 70? This article about Aleksander Doba is a fascinating glimpse into the life of a man on a mission.

(New York Times, approx 31 mins reading time)

Doba tried to sleep during the day but couldn’t, so he tried to paddle during the day and nearly got sunstroke. He kept no schedule. “I am not German — always 9 a.m. paddle,” he explained. “I am Polish. I paddle when I would like.” His skin broke out in salt-induced rashes, including blisters in his armpits and groin. His eyes blew up with conjunctivitis. His fingernails and toenails just about peeled off. His clothes, permeated with salt, refused to dry. The fabric smelled horrendous and aggravated his skin, so he abandoned clothes.

4. The tragic death of Jaco Pastorius

In 1987, a jazz musician was found dead in an alley in Florida. He was called Jaco Pastorius, and his life was utterly tragic. But who killed him?

(Stacks Reader, approx 37 mins reading time)

John Francis Anthony “Jaco” Pastorius III lay comatose in the intensive-care unit of a Fort Lauderdale hospital for nine days, unrecognized until he was spotted by the doctor who had delivered his children. Once he had been identified, local newspapers ran photographs to accompany stories headlined “DARK DAYS FOR A JAZZ GENIUS” and “JAZZ PERFORMER’S LIFE STRIKES A TRAGIC CHORD” and “THE LONG, SAD SLIDE OF A GIFTED MUSICIAN.”

5. Why was I left on a hillside to die?

Source: Anni Ferguson/YouTube

Anthea Ring has an absolutely fascinating story – her start to life could have been tragic, as she was found in a blackberry bush when just nine months old. But she has thrived and managed to find out who her parents are, thanks to DNA.

(BBC, approx 16 mins reading time)

“There’s a baby up here,” she said. Her father turned around. ”Of course there isn’t, there’s no-one up here,” he said. ”I haven’t had five children and not know what a baby sounds like,” her mother replied. The family started searching through the scrubland. Minutes later they found a blonde child hidden deep in a blackberry bush. She was wearing a pink dress and looked about one year old. She had scratches and insect bites. Her hands were tied tightly in front of her.

6. Creating Stephen Hawking’s voice

Eric Dorsey was the man who helped to create Stephen Hawking’s iconic voice. Here’s the story of how that voice was created – and almost destroyed.

(San Francisco Chronicle, approx 14 mins reading time)

 The voice synthesizer, a commercial product known as the CallText 5010, was a novelty then, not yet a part of his identity; he’d begun using it just three years before, after the motor neuron disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis stole his ability to speak. Hawking selected bits of text on a video screen by moving his cheek, and the CallText turned the text into speech. At the start of one lecture, Hawking joked about it: “The only problem,” he said, to big laughs, “is that it gives me an American accent.”


You’ve probably heard of Silent Spring, the seminal book about the environment and pesticides, by Rachel Carson. Here’s one of the first extracts from the book, from 1962.

(New Yorker, approx 90 mins reading time)

Then, one spring, a strange blight crept over the area, and everything began to change. Some evil spell had settled on the community; mysterious maladies swept the flocks of chickens, and the cattle and sheep sickened and died. Everywhere was the shadow of death. The farmers told of much illness among their families. In the town, the doctors were becoming more and more puzzled by new kinds of sickness that had appeared among their patients. There had been several sudden and unexplained deaths, not only among the adults but also among the children, who would be stricken while they were at play, and would die within a few hours.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel