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Sitdown Sunday: The reality show that leaves two people 'naked and afraid' in the wilderness

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. The building blocks of the Notre Dame

As rebuilding work gets underway on the Notre Dame, very interesting things are being discovered.

(Science Magazine, approx 15 mins reading time)

The charred remnants of attic timbers have stories of their own to tell, says Alexa Dufraisse, a CNRS researcher heading the wood group. Variations in thickness, density, and chemical composition of growth rings reveal climatic conditions year by year. “Wood registers absolutely everything while it’s growing,” she says. Notre Dame’s oak beams grew in the 12th and 13th centuries, a warm period known as the Medieval Climate Optimum. By connecting the growth ring record with what’s known about economic conditions at the time, researchers hope to see how climate variations affected medieval society, she says.

2. My journey into a survival bunker  

Irish author Mark O’Connell shares an extract from his new book, where he meets the people prepping for the end of the world.

(The Guardian, approx 22 mins reading time)

One of the more perverse aspects of this obsession was a months-long binge of doomsday prepper content, of blogs and forums and YouTube videos in which burly American guys, most of whom were called things like Kyle or Brent, explained how to prepare for a major catastrophe – your global pandemics, your breakdowns of law and order, your all-out nuclear wars – by pursuing various strategies for “tactical survival”. And this had opened out on to a broader vista of apocalyptic preparedness, and to a lucrative niche of the real estate sector catering to individuals of means who wanted a place to retreat to when things truly went sideways.

3. Survivalism

There’s a show on US TV that’s a survivalist reality show. Blair Braverman writes about what happened when she was asked to audition for it. 

(Outside, approx 40 mins reading time)

Here are the rules to Discovery’s long-running reality show, Naked and Afraid: Two people, a man and a woman, are naked. They’re deposited into wilderness with just a few tools, often a knife, a fire starter, and a pot. They face predators, parasites, sunburn, cold, hunger, and each other. Their goal is to survive for three weeks, but there’s no prize for completing the challenge, and anyone can tap out at any time. The finished episodes, with their blurred genitals and Edenic concept, are strangely wholesome, family-friendly. It’s a sufferfest for glory, a chance to face nature and win.

4. The accusation

Sarah Viren writes about what happened when a person claimed her wife had sexual harassed people.

(New York Times Magazine, approx 30 mins reading time)

That night, after the girls fell asleep, Marta and I crawled into bed and pulled out our phones to reread the email she received. The anonymous sender wanted her to be aware that someone was posting about her on the message board Reddit. The email included a screenshot of the first post, which came from a person claiming to be part of a sexual-harassment case against Marta. “If you, like me, have been harassed by Dr. Marta, please contact the anonymous email line with A.S.U.’s Title IX Office,” the person wrote on the subreddit for our university, Arizona State University

5. Tom Brady

Tom Brady left the New England Patriots last week. Here’s a piece from 2015 about the star.

(New York Times Magazine, approx 30 mins reading time)

There have tended to be two popular narratives about Brady over the years, neither of them that compelling except in their incompatibility. The first is the familiar against-the-odds account: Brady as the not-great high-school player, the up-and-down college quarterback, the sixth-round N.F.L. draft pick. But over more than a decade of sustained excellence, a second narrative has taken hold: Brady as the anti-underdog. Arguably the most envied man in America, he dated an actress (Bridget Moynahan, with whom he has a 7-year-old son), then married and had two children with a supermodel, Gisele Bündchen (a union designated “the Brady Bündchen” by the tabloids). His team always wins.

6. The story behind Firmino’s smile

The journey of Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino, from Brazil to Anfield.

(BBC, approx 20 mins reading time)

Roberto Firmino Barbosa de Oliveira was born on 2 October 1991 in Trapiche da Barra, a poor neighbourhood squeezed between a polluted lake and a poverty-stricken favela. Inside his simple childhood home, he would drift off to the cacophony emanating from the nearby 20,000-capacity Estadio Rei Pele. It’s little wonder football was never far from his mind.


A woman goes missing. Her six dead cats are found inside. Then the new owners of the house discover bones, and eyeglasses, in a wall.

(Houston Chronicle, approx 15 mins reading time)

It’s harder still to pull together a detailed narrative of her life. Her parents died early. She married at least twice. She battled financial and health issues, as she held odd jobs along the way. Some people knew her only for a time. Those close to her are guarded. A few fear she will be defined as a crazy cat lady, because dead cats were found inside her home. The bits of information that have surfaced don’t provide clues to how she might have died. But they do offer a glimpse of how she lived.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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