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Sitdown Sunday: The Irish animation studio making waves around the world

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

Image: IMDB

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. Witnessing a killing

Elizabeth Bruenig writes about witnessing the execution of inmate Alfred Bourgeois.

(New York Times, approx 20 mins reading time)

Mr. Bernard’s case was compelling: He had been only 18 in 1999 when he joined several of his friends in a carjacking that concluded with the murder of a married couple, and he had played a subordinate role. Since then, he had expressed deep remorse for his actions decades earlier. Terre Haute had been flush with protesters advocating for Mr. Bernard that day. The fact that all that support and his tale of redemption amounted to nothing arrived as an ill omen for Mr. Bourgeois. His case was much worse, or so it seemed.

2. Heroes

Actor Leonard Roberts starred in Heroes, and the role was meant to be his big break – but he says now that it nearly broke him. 

(Variety, approx 20 mins reading time) 

As production began, I looked forward to sharing my thoughts on my character with the writing staff, as I heard other cast members had done the same with theirs. Unfortunately, no such meeting ever materialized. Then I learned that despite the show’s three Black series regulars, there were no Black writers on staff. After a particularly odd promotional photoshoot — in which all the Black adult series regulars were relegated to the back and sides of photo after photo because, we were told, we were “tall” — I was approached by Tim Kring, the creator of the show. He told me my character would not be introduced in the second episode, but that great ideas were on the way. 

3. The wonder of Julia Donaldson

Donaldson published her first book in her forties, and grew to become a bestselling author thanks to her book about The Gruffalo. Here’s her story. 

(The Guardian, approx 21 mins reading time) 

Her original notes for The Gruffalo are written in a neat hand. Down the right-hand side of the page is a list of body parts: “toes nose spots stripes eyes feet legs tail”. Phrases are crossed out and corrected repeatedly. “Who is this creature with spiky claws … terrible claws … enormous jaws,” Donaldson read, as if it was 1995 again, and she was thinking aloud. Often she will come up with dozens of little phrases, writing less by stream of consciousness than fastidious assembly. She took out the notebook for The Detective Dog, which was similarly filled with such snippets, like collage fabric: “Solved the case, cleared up the case, found the answer, got it right, puzzled it out, tracked them all down, got to the bottom of it,” Donaldson read.

4. How civilisation broke our brains

We live such different lives now to our early ancestors – how might it be affecting us?

(The Atlantic, approx 10 mins reading time)

The deeper cause, I thought, might have something to do with the modern psychology of time. Imagine the 21st-century worker as accessing two modes of thinking: productivity mind and leisure mind. When we are under the sway of the former, we are time- and results-optimizing creatures, set on proving our industriousness to the world and, most of all, to ourselves. In leisure mode, the thrumming subsides, allowing us to watch a movie or finish a glass of wine without considering how our behavior might affect our reputation and performance reviews. For several hours a week, on Sunday evening, a psychological tug-of-war between these perspectives takes place. Guilt about recent lethargy kicks in as productivity mind gears up, and apprehension about workaday pressure builds as leisure mind cedes power.

5. America’s war on Syrian civilians

A look at airstrikes in Syria. 

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(The New Yorker, approx 17 mins reading) 

As then, this battle was waged against an enemy bent on overthrowing an entire order, in an apparently nihilistic putsch against reason itself. But Raqqa was no Normandy. Although many Syrians fought valiantly against isis and lost their lives, the U.S., apart from a few hundred Special Forces on the ground, relied on overwhelming airpower, prosecuting the entire war from a safe distance. Not a single American died. The U.S. still occasionally conducts conventional ground battles, as in Falluja, Iraq, where, in 2004, troops engaged in fierce firefights with insurgents. But the battle for Raqqa—a war fought from cavernous control rooms thousands of miles away, or from aircraft thousands of feet in the sky—is the true face of modern American combat.

6. Cartoon Saloon

A lovely piece on the work of the Irish animation studio behind Wolfwalkers.

(The New York Times, approx 6 mins reading time)

When Tomm Moore and 11 friends in the small city of Kilkenny, Ireland, set out to make an animated movie in 1999 based on Celtic mythology, they could hardly imagine their labor of love would become a studio that would revolutionize the animation industry in Ireland, revitalize interest in folklore at home and connect with a global audience.

 …AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

Remember the Sony cyber hack? Here’s a look back at it from 2015, when Amanda Hess talked to employees about how the hack tore the company apart.

(Slate, approx 20 mins reading time)

One year ago, on Nov. 24, 2014, there was no “Happy Monday” when the screenwriter approached the Sony lot. Instead the guard told her to pull out her badge and swipe it to unlock the gate herself. Inside, she walked down the path and past posters for the upcoming geopolitical stoner comedy The InterviewAcross the lot, select company computers were playing a movie Sony hadn’t produced. It opened with gunshot sound effects and a spooky cartoon: a grinning pink skeleton, a gravestone marked “SONY,” the pale severed heads of studio bosses Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton. A threat scrolled by in neon-green broken English

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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