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Dublin: 4 °C Saturday 18 January, 2020

Sitdown Sunday: We need to talk about Michael Jackson

Settle back 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. We need to talk about Michael Jackson

In this podcast from The Guardian, there’s an interview with the men behind the shocking new allegations about Michael Jackson.

(The Guardian, approx 30 mins listening time)

The Guardian feature writer and columnist Hadley Freeman recently interviewed Robson and Safechuck, as well as Dan Reed, the director of the documentary. She discusses the film with Anushka Asthana. They talk about why the men have chosen to speak out now, and look at how Jackson’s fame affected the public’s perception of what was allegedly taking place.

2. The LGBT switchboard

This piece looks at the UK’s LGBT helpline Switchboard, and the pivotal role it played in helping people in the community. Contributors include the writer and actor Mark Gatiss, and the founder of Stonewall, Lisa Power. 

(BBC, approx 12 mins reading time)

The responsibility Lisa had as a listener really hit home while on holiday in Greece with her girlfriend. A woman who’d been sitting near her on the beach came up to her to thank her for being the first person she had ever spoken to about being gay. “She’d recognised my voice, she remembered my name, and she wanted to tell me what a difference that year had made,” Lisa says.

3. The rise and fall of the man cave

Are man caves a ‘thing’ anymore? And why did they exist in the first place? A deep dive.

(Vox, approx 12 mins reading time)

Man caves boomed in mid- to late aughts, one of those strange suburban spaces that everyone has a glancing familiarity with even if they’ve never been inside one. They were in Super Bowl commercials and sitcoms and The Sopranos, and they were all pretty much the same idea: Rooms that were shrines to television, sports, guitars, semi-nude women, and microwavable finger foods. 

4. The secret of a happy marriage? How to fight

Good advice for you even if you’re not married.

(New York Times, approx 10 mins reading time)

I hear couples talk about money by casting one partner as the obstacle — the wife wants a vacation, the husband wants a car — instead of noting that life itself presents obstacles. Financial decisions need to take into account the other person’s thoughts, which are often in conflict with one’s own. Many people are conditioned to avoid talking openly about money, so they simmer in silence.

5. The great Star Wars heist

It’s the story behind the Star Wars heist you didn’t know about – and one which had a massive impact on a big fandom…

(Popular Mechanics, approx 38 mins reading time)

That first act of trust ignited a phenomenon. Star Wars collecting became a hobby, then a passion, then a worldwide industry with insurance policies protecting collections worth millions and collectors chasing the rarest and most elusive pieces. In 2017, that hobby would be tested by an aspiring collector, a thief hidden in plain sight, and a rare plastic action figure worth more than your average car.

6. How David Pecker built his tabloid empire on fear

A long profile on the Enquirer boss, which dates back to 2001 but has been brought up to date with comments from Pecker himself.

(Daily Beast, approx 76 mins reading time)

The gangster ethos is another recurring theme. Pecker may be a Jew from the Bronx, but he could pass for an Italian from Palermo. It’s no surprise his favorite film is The Godfather or that he has a penchant for bodyguards and $350 custom Brioni shirts. Delve deeper and it becomes apparent that this is not the usual media story. It reads more like a Mario Puzo novel: betrayal, guns, bomb threats, large wads of cash, and a good marinara sauce. It’s exactly the kind of story you’d expect to find in the tabloids.


Can a good mother abandon her child? That’s what this 2009 article asks, as it tells the story of Lavennia Coover and her son.

(Longform, approx 40 mins reading time)

Eventually, he would finish his nuggets and his fries and his Coke, and he would look up and out the window, and in that instant he would know. And then… Lavennia winced at the thought. Then, it was impossible to predict. He might leap from the truck onto the open road. He’d done worse. Or lunge into the front seat, pummeling her with his fists and feet, sinking his teeth into her arms. He’d done that before, too.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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