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Sitdown Sunday: How Big Brother changed my life

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

Davina McCall and Nikki Grahame
Davina McCall and Nikki Grahame

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. How Big Brother changed my life

Participants in the iconic series Big Brother talk about how it changed everything for them.

(The Guardian, approx 12 mins reading time)

When you’re in there, there are moments when you do forget about the camera. That’s the genius of Big Brother. We’re all nosy – we love to see what’s going on in other people’s lives. If my neighbours are having an argument, I’m the first person to lean over the fence to listen. Big Brother was the first show to encourage voyeurism, but it made it public, so there was no shame attached to it. Anyone could do it. 

2. How the coronavirus will reshape architecture

A look at what this new era could mean for design and architecture internationally.

(The New Yorker, approx 19 mins reading time)

During quarantine, “we are asked to be inside our own little cells,” Colomina told me when I called her recently at her apartment, in downtown Manhattan. “The enemy is in the street, in public spaces, in mass transit. The houses are presumably the safe space.” The problem is, the modernist aesthetic has become shorthand for good taste, rehashed by West Elm and minimalist life-style influencers; our homes and offices have been designed as so many blank, empty boxes. We’ve gone, Colomina said, “from hospital architecture to living in a place like a hospital,” and suddenly, in the pandemic, that template seems less useful.

3. Stranded at Sea

Let’s take a long listen rather than a longread, with this Guardian piece about the crew members who are trapped on cruise ships because of Covid-19.

(The Guardian, 23 mins listening time)

Rachel hears from Will Lees, a Canadian who last October took a job as an art director on board the Norwegian Star cruise ship. When coronavirus hit in March, he found himself unable to get off. Shuffled between ships to await repatriation, he was eventually taken to Italy, where he was finally able to fly home. Perry*, a Mauritian crew member, is still stuck on his boat. With two cases of coronavirus onboard, Perry and fellow crew have been confined to their cabins for months. He does not know when he will be allowed home and is worried about how his family, who depend on his salary to support themselves, are managing. He has not been paid a wage since March.

4. Nu metal

An oral history of the Deftones’ album White Pony, on its 20th anniversary.

(The Ringer, approx 30 mins reading time)

How many bands can you think of where the singer and guitar player butt heads, especially when the singer starts playing guitar and steps into the guitarist’s territory a little bit? There was some of that going on, I’m sure. On top of that, these guys are extremely passionate, emotional guys. They feel very strongly about everything they do. The best records I ever worked on were ones that had conflict of some kind—some vibe that took things to a higher level.

5. Building barriers

The Noteworthy team look at the controversy around the largest flood scheme in Irish history, which is planned for Cork.

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(Noteworthy, approx 28 mins reading time)

Mrs Gibney was not too concerned that flooding at her home was imminent. Making her way to work, she could see no signs of overflow in the Lee Fields between Ballincollig and Cork City that tended to flood well in advance of land beside her family home at Inniscarra Bridge. That evening, things had changed dramatically as she sat down for dinner with her husband and their two visiting daughters. Opening the door for the family’s Alsatian, Mr Gibney was greeted with half a foot of water in which the family’s other dog, a Westie, was floating. By 10pm the family were trapped upstairs awaiting rescue by the fire service. 

6. John Bolton’s memoir

Five takeaways from The Room Where It Happened, which details Bolton’s 17 months at the side of one President Donald Trump.

(New York Times, approx 10 mins reading time)

To Mr. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s decision to meet North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in Singapore was a “foolish mistake,” and the president’s desire to then invite Mr. Kim to the White House was “a potential disaster of enormous magnitude.” A series of presidential Twitter posts about China and North Korea were “mostly laughable.” Mr. Trump’s meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki was a “self-inflicted wound” and “Putin had to be laughing uproariously at what he had gotten away with in Helsinki.”

AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

In 2007, Tom Bissell wrote about the Loch Ness Monster.

(VQR, approx 35 mins reading time)

The story I was familiar with maintained that in April 1934 a London surgeon named R. K. Wilson was driving around Loch Ness on holiday when he saw something break the water’s surface. He happened to have on him a camera with a telephoto lens. He snapped four photos, only two of which turned out. The second photo appeared to be of an otter. But the first photo . . . It was published in the London Daily Mail, and the sensation was instant. Indeed, Wilson’s photo is the mother of modern cryptozoology. But it was not snapped in a vacuum. In the previous two years there had been several sightings of a large, strange animal in or around the loch. In 1932 one witness saw something that looked like “a cross between a very large horse and camel” in the woods between Kent and Aberdeen.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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