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Dublin: 4 °C Saturday 18 January, 2020

Sitdown Sunday: How to change your life by doing... nothing

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

Image: Shutterstock/BlurryMe

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. Change your life by doing nothing

Artist and writer Jenny Odell has a new book out that advocates we should just do nothing. Sounds good to me. 

(The Ringer, approx 28 mins reading time)

Inside its pages readers won’t find a treatise on lethargy or a call to throw up a middle finger and say peace out to the rest of society. Instead, she describes the negative impact that the constant messaging promoting productivity and progress has done to our outlook on life. She recounts what can be learned from people who previously tried to opt out from society’s expectations of what a valuable existence looks like—from the back-to-the-land communities of the 1960s to Diogenes of Sinope, an ancient Greek philosopher with a proto-Dadaist sense of humor who gave up all possessions except for a stick and an old cloak. 

2. How to identify a body

Richard Shepherd is a forensic psychologist. Here’s what his career has taught him.

(The Guardian, approx 24 mins reading time)

My interest in death began when I was just a boy. One of my childhood friends was the son of a GP. When we were about 13, my friend “borrowed” one of his father’s medical books from the shelves at home and brought it to school. It was Simpson’s Forensic Medicine (Third Edition) by Prof Keith Simpson; a small, tatty, red book which promised nothing on the outside. But inside, it was full of pictures of dead people. In fact, mostly murdered people. They were strangled, electrocuted, hanged, knifed, shot, asphyxiated. No hideous fate could escape Prof Simpson.

3. How to raise an intersex child

Stephani and Eric Lohman tell the story of their child Rosie, who is intersex, and how they are raising them.

(CNN, approx 24 mins reading time)

The next few days were filled with extensive tests and examinations until the doctors were finally able to make a diagnosis. Rosie had two X chromosomes, and so was considered to be female, they said, but she had salt-wasting congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a severe form of a condition called CAH for short. People with CAH are missing an enzyme that the adrenal glands need to produce cortisol. Rosie’s body is unable to retain enough sodium.

4. Guantánamo’s darkest secret

Mohamedou Salahi spent over 14 years in Guantánamo Bay, and was repeatedly tortured.

(New Yorker, approx 98 mins reading time)

As a result of Salahi’s coöperation, his private cell was now stocked with what the government referred to as “comfort items.” After the pillow came soap, towels, a prayer cap, and prayer beads—by the time Steve Wood arrived, Salahi also had books, a television, a PlayStation, and an old laptop, on which he killed time playing chess and watching DVDs. Eventually, Salahi would be allowed access to a small patch of soil outside his trailer, where he tended sunflowers, basil, sage, parsley, and cilantro.

5. Is there a serial killer in Chicago?

This piece details the fears that there may be a serial killer targeting black women in Chicago.

(Block Club Chicago, approx 7 mins reading time)

The majority of the murder victims were black women, with the oldest 58 and the youngest 18, according to the Murder Accountability Project. Their bodies have been found throughout the city but mostly on the South and West sides, largely in abandoned buildings or outside in alleys, garbage cans and vacant lots.

6. Selfie deaths are an epidemic

Careful taking that selfie… 259 people have died between 2011 and 2017 taking selfies. 

(Outside, approx 18 mins reading time)

Termed “killfies” by some social media researchers, these accidental deaths have involved social media personalities and, of course, adventurers. Canadian rapper Jon James McMurray perished last October after crawling out onto the wing of a Cessna while filming a music video. Last October also witnessed the much-publicized deaths of travel bloggers Meenakshi Moorthy and Vishnu Viswanath, who apparently fell while taking a selfie at Yosemite’s Taft Point, a popular rock outcrop with an 800-foot drop.


Back in 2013, Matthew Power interviewed urban explorers, who visit off-limits sites in the cover of darkness.

(GQ, approx mins reading time)

They had pried open the blast doors of the Burlington bunker, a disused 35-acre subterranean Cold War-era complex that was to house the British government in the event of nuclear Armageddon. The London crew’s objective, as much as any of them could agree on one, was to rediscover, re-appropriate, and reimagine the urban landscape in what is perhaps the most highly surveilled and tightly controlled city on earth.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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