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Sitdown Sunday: She said, 'The students tell me that I’m seeing things that aren’t there'

Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.
Feb 21st 2021, 9:00 AM 30,147 1

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. Sarah Palin

On the fall of Sarah Palin, and media obsession. 

(Vanity Fair, approx 14 mins reading)

These days Palin has receded to a historical footnote and a punch line for a news media that’s become even more cocooned in its urban bubble since 2008, with Trump now receiving most of the credit for upending the presumed order of national politics. But it was Palin who opened the door for Trump, the first politician to fuse together backlash politics and anti-elitism with the mighty American power of celebrity. 

2. What I learned from being a sex writer

Tracy Clark-Flory writes about what her time writing about porn taught her about desire. 

(The Guardian, approx 12 mins reading time)

This wasn’t the first time I’d heard these messages, nor would it be the last. Hahaha, girls these days. I had to admit, there was something darkly funny about the suggestion that my sexuality had been shaped by an illusion. And yet through watching and reporting on that “illusion”, I was introduced to a vital truth: sexual fantasy can be a route of exploration and revelation. It was a path to myself.

3. Rugby return

Rugby clubs are preparing for a post-pandemic return – but what will that look like?

(, approx 13 mins reading time)

“It’s just unnatural. It’s unnatural for us not to be out on a Sunday morning watching our kids. It’s unnatural for us not to take a half day to go and watch a schools match. This is the most unnatural part of our life. I’m over 60 and I can’t get my head around not being able to go to a rugby match.”

4. Lord of the Rings

Fans of Lord of the Rings will be fascinated by this story of how the films got made – and what role Harvey Weinstein played. 

(Polygon, approx 14 mins reading)

Jackson and Walsh started toying with the idea of an original fantasy film while they were in production on The Frighteners, convinced that would be the thing they took to Weinstein. The longer Jackson and Walsh worked to figure out a story, the more they kept coming back to Tolkien and his enormous influence on the entire genre. They felt themselves inadvertently ripping off Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings no matter how hard they tried to avoid the monolithic text. Eventually, Jackson asked Weinstein to figure out who owned the rights to the Middle-Earth books. The producer agreed to hunt it down. In the meantime, he encouraged Jackson to crack the code and actually turn this material into something they would be able to film.

5. Living with a visionary

A man writes about how his wife of 50 years began to get seriously ill and suffer hallucinations. 

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(The New Yorker, approx 19 mins reading)

She sat down on the sofa next to me, took my hand, and said, “The students tell me that I’m seeing things that aren’t there.” I admitted that Maria had already told me about this. By then, Diana had begun treatment for Parkinson’s disease, taking a standard cocktail of medicines in small amounts: levodopa combined with carbidopa, in a drug called Sinemet. She had received the diagnosis only because her doctor couldn’t otherwise explain her onset of general weakness. Aside from fatigue, she had virtually no symptoms, and her behavior had been absolutely normal while taking Sinemet. Now she confessed that she was seeing things at home as well. 

6. Amazon staff

A look at how staff at Amazon are trying to organise in the face of the company making them work during the pandemic. 

(New York Magazine, approx 25 mins reading)

But something unexpected happened, too: Those who might not have complained about working conditions or considered themselves activists started speaking up. Amazon had long fended off workplace organizing, holding anti-union meetings that employees were required to attend. And while Amazon has often acknowledged that workers have the right to unionize, the company has tried to persuade them that doing so would introduce an unnecessary middleman. But Covid-19 proved to be a breaking point. Some workers were no longer willing to make concessions to a company that they felt was jeopardizing their safety and potentially their lives.


A 2014 piece about the hunt for El Chapo

(New Yorker, approx 40 mins reading time)

This was not a business trip: the killer, who was thirty-three, liked to travel, and often documented his journeys around Europe on Instagram. He wore designer clothes and a heavy silver ring in the shape of a grimacing skull. His passport was an expensive fake, and he had used it successfully many times. But, moments after he presented his documents to Dutch customs, he was arrested. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had filed a Red Notice with Interpol—an international arrest warrant—and knew that he was coming. Only after the Dutch authorities had the man in custody did they learn his real identity: José Rodrigo Arechiga, the chief enforcer for the biggest drug-trafficking organization in history, Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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Aoife Barry


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