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Sitdown Sunday: Letters from dad while he waited to be sent to Auschwitz

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

Image: Shutterstock/Sergej Borzov

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. Vaccines and humans

Vaccines have been life-changing and essential, but in some cases their testing has a murky history.

(Forbes, approx 11 mins reading time)

Some of Dr. Krugman’s trials built on previous research that giving children antibodies from patients who had recovered from hepatitis could prevent new infections. (A similar concept, using convalescent plasma of recovered Covid-19 patients to treat sick patients, is being explored today.) The experiments also involved infecting healthy children with the virus through the chocolate milk concoction. The doctors eventually learned how much it took for the children to show symptoms of hepatitis, allowed them to recover, and then gave them the virus all over again. These experiments were done to test if someone who had recovered from hepatitis would remain immune or if they could be reinfected again. 

2. How Clueless got made

Director Amy Heckerling talks about making the classic film Clueless.

(AV Club, approx 10 mins reading time)

AVC: Between doing Fast Times and Clueless, was there anything that you noticed that changed about teen culture in the meantime? Well, I wasn’t some sort of anthropologist looking through a microscope. Those were very different pieces of material, because Cameron Crowe went to a very specific school. It was working class, not big city kids. And he just recorded everything, and it was amazingly real. I don’t think a lot of people have read the book that the film is based on, but it’s wonderful. If they didn’t have a fast-food job, they weren’t going to be able to get a car—that’s what attracted me, the idea that because of the economics of their situation, they had to be more like grownups. And that’s kind of sad when you want to have a little bit of a freewheeling youth, you know?

3. Andy Samberg, butt of the joke

A nice profile of the comedian, actor and producer Andy Samberg. 

(GQ, approx 20 mins reading time)

Don Rickles had the insult. Jerry Seinfeld had the quotidian gripe. Andy Samberg, to his occasional chagrin, has the comedy rap song. Pretty much the only job he ever wanted was SNL, basically organized his life around getting there. He transferred from UC Santa Cruz to NYU’s film program, did standup for a while after college, and suffered through what he describes as a miserable audition for a sketch-comedy theater, since it seemed like that was another viable path to Studio 8H. But the bits that really worked—on his way to SNL, as well as during his time there—were the videos, many of them song-based, he made with his junior high best buds Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone. All three had grown up on a diet of golden-age hip hop, getting into rap and reggae while attending Berkeley High.

4. Left in limbo

Families who use ‘non-traditional’ conception methods are finding themselves left in limbo, as this investigation shows.

(Noteworthy, approx 19 mins reading time)

“We used my wife Audrey’s eggs and I carried our child,” von Meding says. “We were under the assumption that we would be treated the same as any other married couple. We were having our family and were in a happy little bubble. “But then we found out that there was no legislation covering reciprocal IVF – where one female partner provides the eggs and the other carries the baby – for same-sex couples. “To this day, Audrey is not recognised in Irish law as the mother to our children because she did not give birth, and that means our children do not have the legal protection of having two parents.”

5. End of the office

Things really have changed in terms of office work this year – here’s a look at how things are right now and what the future might look like.

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(The Guardian, approx 10 mins reading time)

Lockdown has not so much redrawn the workplace of millions as it has chewed it up like a broken printer. Working from home, a mode traditionally viewed with suspicion by bosses and with envy by commuting bureausceptics, has become the norm for those whose livings are tied to computer screens. As weeks become months and offices remain closed, many are predicting their permanent decline. Buildings that for decades have defined urban geography, diurnal rhythms and the meaning of work may never hum in the same way to the sounds of keyboards and fluorescent lighting.

6. Letters from Auschwitz

The story of a family whose father wrote letters every day while he was waiting to be sent to Auschwitz.

(BBC, approx 12 mins reading time)

They are describing how their father sent letters from his cell in Trieste’s Coroneo prison to the city outside – by stitching them into the collars and cuffs of his dirty shirts before they were taken away to be laundered. Two non-Jewish former employees of his upholstery shop would pick up his laundry from the prison, but instead of washing it themselves they would deliver it, at great personal risk, to the address where Daniele’s wife, Anna, was hiding. “Of course I remember when the letters arrived. We always waited for them,” Vittorio says.


This piece from 2016 looks at the lives of people who have died in jail in the US.

(Huffpost, approx 15 mins reading time)

We found evidence of 811 fatalities—an average of more than two per day. (By way of comparison, 178 unarmed people were killed by police during the same period, according to The Guardian.) And like so much else in this realm, the burden is not borne equally. Black people are more likely to die in jail because they are more likely to be arrested than any other racial group, for reasons that have as much to do with double standards in the justice system and historic oppression as they do with crime. African-Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population and, on average, 32 percent of people who died in jail between 2000 and 2013, according to federal data.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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