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Sitdown Sunday: How work became utterly inescapable

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

Image: Shutterstock/ViDI Studio

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 vampire ship

The seizure of Europe’s largest heroin shipment created bloody fallout throughout the world.

(The New Republic, approx 30 mins reading time)

On April 28, 2014, a fishing trawler intercepted an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman, a day after the tanker had left Dubai for Greece. Three men climbed aboard the tanker and spent the night packing hundreds of small sacks of heroin, weighing at least two metric tons in total, into its ballast boxes. After they finished, two of the men sailed back to the coast. One stayed behind. He carried a handgun and ordered the tanker’s crew to keep sailing.

2. The store that called the cops on George Floyd

Before George Floyd’s death, a teenage clerk called the police on him. What should the store were he worked do? 

(Slate, approx 25 mins reading time)

Frantically, his employee explained what was happening: A police officer had pinned a customer to the ground outside the store, and that man was saying he couldn’t breathe. Mahmoud manages the day shift at CUP Foods at the corner of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in southern Minneapolis, but that night, young employees were working the store alone. There’d been a brief confrontation with a man accused of passing a fake bill. Then an 18-year-old clerk dialed 911. The man was named George Floyd, and minutes later, a cop was kneeling on his neck.

3. Am I the A****le?

The subreddit forum Am I The Asshole? sees people asking pretty deep questions about their behaviour. Here’s how the hugely popular page got started.

(The Ringer, approx 20 mins reading time)

With everything else going on in the world (please see: a pandemic, massive unemployment, the upcoming U.S. election, Karens, police brutality, protests, riots, climate change, and balancing working from home with sending your kids to school), the Reddit forum known as Am I the Asshole? has started to feel like a safe space. It’s a place where accountability actually exists, even if only in the form of branding someone right or wrong in one absurd situation. It’s also a place for growth: Sometimes posters return to talk about how their lives changed—almost always for the better—because of the advice they got from thousands of anonymous strangers.

4. He joined a fraternity – it led to his death

Sanda Dia died after an initiation ritual at a fraternity in Ghent, Belgium.

(New York Times, approx 10 mins reading time)

“This was not an accident,” said Mr. Dia’s brother, Seydou De Vel. The details, uncovered recently in a string of local news stories, have forced the nation’s Dutch-speaking region, Flanders, to confront rising racism and xenophobia, even at such renowned universities as this one, the Catholic University of Leuven, now known as K.U. Leuven.

5. How do pandemics end?

A very interesting (and visual) look at how previous pandemics have gone.

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(BBC, approx 10 mins reading time)

But, thanks to a vaccine developed in 1796 by British doctor Edward Jenner and the efforts of the scientific community, [smallpox] has been completely erased – although it took nearly two centuries to do so. Smallpox remains the only human disease to have been eradicated this way. Prof Riley regards this feat as one of the greatest achievements of mankind – rivalling the Moon landings.

6. How work became an inescapable hellhole

Due to the digital revolution, work followed us everywhere – and now thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, we can’t escape it.

(Wired, approx 13 mins reading time)

Part of the problem is that these digital technologies, from cell phones to Apple Watches, from Instagram to Slack, encourage our worst habits. They stymie our best-laid plans for self-preservation. They ransack our free time. They make it increasingly impossible to do the things that actually ground us. They turn a run in the woods into an opportunity for self-optimization. They are the neediest and most selfish entity in every interaction I have with others. They compel us to frame experiences, as we are experiencing them, with future captions, and to conceive of travel as worthwhile only when documented for public consumption. 

AND ONE FROM THE ARCHIVES…

A look at the world of the US poet Frank O’Hara – the New York he lived in for 15 years until his untimely death.

(The New Yorker, approx 15 mins reading time)

Someone with O’Hara’s presence could afford to regard the writing of poetry as a secondary act, a transcript of personality. Transcripts aren’t generally thought of as art in themselves, which may explain why O’Hara was so reckless with his poems once he got them down on paper, jamming them in his pockets or in random drawers. Who knows how many O’Hara poems have been lost? Reconstructing his opus feels like reconstructing Sappho’s from papyrus scraps. 

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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