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Sitdown Sunday: The rise and fall of Vanilla Ice

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. Trump and Covid-19

The story of what happened when Donald Trump started experiencing Covid-19 symptoms.

(Intelligencer, approx 17 mins reading time)

One hundred and one years later, the story of Trump’s “mild symptoms” became less and less true as the hours ticked by. His fever crept up. His cough and congestion grew worse. Doctors gave him oxygen and administered a high dose of an experimental antibody treatment unavailable to the ailing masses and made using fetal tissue, a practice his administration opposes, from the drugmaker Regeneron. Still, he resisted going to Walter Reed. “I don’t need to go,” he said, according to a person who spoke to him. “I’m fine. I’m fine. We have everything we need here.”

2. Military AI

On the rise of military AI, and ‘killer robots’.

(The Guardian, approx 16 mins reading time)

In the abstract, we can probably agree that ostracism – and more severe punishment – is also merited for the designers and users of killer robots. The very idea of a machine set loose to slaughter is chilling. And yet some of the world’s largest militaries seem to be creeping toward developing such weapons, by pursuing a logic of deterrence: they fear being crushed by rivals’ AI if they can’t unleash an equally potent force. The key to solving such an intractable arms race may lie less in global treaties than in a cautionary rethinking of what martial AI may be used for. 

3. Covid-19 vaccine

Why we can’t learn to live with Covid-19 until we have a vaccine, according to Sarah Pitt from the University of Brighton.

(RTE, approx 7 mins reading time)

In trying to answer the question, the concept of “herd immunity” – when around 60% of the population is immune to a disease – is often invoked. But this term is not well understood. Control of an infectious disease through build-up of natural immunity in the population has never been achieved before. Herd immunity works through targeted vaccination, and we do not yet have a vaccine for Covid-19. 

4. How to read the news without going insane

It’s hard, isn’t it? You want to know what’s happening, but too much internet can make you feel bad. Here’s how to do it.

(Vanity Fair, approx 9 mins reading time)

How, in this attention economy, is one supposed to be an informed citizen who votes while protecting one’s brain, which in my case, can I remind you, is trying to escape vis-à-vis exploding? I will warn you now: there is no great personal resolution at the end of this little essay—I haven’t figured it out. My head still hurts. I still pick up my phone an ungodly amount of times in a day, in an hour, in, I’m sorry, a minute. I re-downloaded Twitter onto my phone twice over the course of writing this paragraph.

5. Going Sohla

Many of us sought solace in the Bon Appetit test kitchen videos during early lockdown. But then stories emerged about the treatment of the stars of the videos, and things went sour. Now one of the former staff members, Sohla, is telling her side of the story.

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(Vulture, approx 12 mins reading time)

“They couldn’t find a single Black person who they thought was good enough to work in the Test Kitchen,” she continues, “but they were bringing in really experienced people, who have been in the industry longer than me, to work below us. Think about it: Every other person who’s had this job, this was their first job, because this is an entry-level position. But when they want to hire a person of color for that position, we need to have a million years of experience.” Disturbed by the hiring process, El-Waylly says she spoke to Morocco about it as well as Condé Nast HR and the company’s head of diversity, but saw no changes in procedure.

6. Vanilla Ice

Remember the rapper Vanilla Ice, who became globally famous in the early 1990s? Here’s how he went from bestselling rapper to pariah.

(The Ringer, approx 40 mins reading time)

In about two years, in September 1990, the anonymous white dancer in the crowd would drop To the Extreme, which would sell 15 million copies worldwide, faster than any album since Purple Rain six years earlier. Its inescapable lead single, “Ice Ice Baby,” became the first rap song to top the Billboard Hot 100 and accelerated the genre’s crossover into the American mainstream. There were Vanilla Ice dolls, a ghostwritten autobiography, a Scholastic book with MC Hammerrock ’n’ roll comics, and a board game that came with a toy boom box; a Vanilla Ice movie and cameos in both Madonna’s Sex book and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sequel


Here’s a story from 2003 about LeBron James, when he was an 18-year-old basketball phenom.

(Sports Illustrated, approx 15 mins reading time)

That was the scene after James’s first pro game, a 100-96 preseason victory over the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Oct. 7, but time and place are irrelevant. This is what it will look like all the time for James, one of the most famous and well-paid athletes on the planet though he has yet to play one official NBA minute, is two months shy of his 19th birthday, and begins each morning with a big bowl of Fruity Pebbles–”No extra sugar,” he assures. Hordes of reporters will cluster around his locker before each game; thousands of eyes will lock on him while he plays; sound-bite seekers will trail him afterward; an army of acolytes will wait for him before he departs into the night. Madness. Nothing but madness, 24/7.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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