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Sitdown Sunday: Uncovering the buried secrets of Pompeii

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

Image: Shutterstock/silky

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. Pompeii’s buried secrets

Rebecca Mead writes about the first major excavations of the ancient city in decades, and what they reveal about the daily lives of those that once lived there.

(The New Yorker, approx 38 mins reading time)

The thermopolium, which opened to visitors in August, is a delight. A masonry counter is decorated with expertly rendered and still vivid images: a fanciful depiction of a sea nymph perched on the back of a seahorse; a trompe-l’oeil painting of two strangled ducks on a countertop, ready for the butcher’s knife; a fierce-looking dog on a leash. The unfaded colors—coral red for the webbed feet of the pitiful ducks, shades of copper and russet for the feathers of a buoyant cockerel that has yet to meet the ducks’ fate—are as eye-catching now as they would have been for passersby two millennia ago. (Today, they are protected from the elements and the sunlight by glass.) Another panel, bordered in black, is among Pompeii’s most self-referential art works: a representation of a snack bar, with the earthenware vessels known as amphorae stacked against a counter laden with pots of food. A figure—perhaps the snack bar’s proprietor—bustles in the background. The effect is similar to that of a diner owner who displays a blown-up selfie on the wall behind his cash register.

2. Sea swimming in Australia

Damien Cave writes about how becoming a volunteer lifesafer with his children led to him falling in love with swimming.

(The New York Times, approx 8 mins reading time)

Ocean swimming was a prerequisite — and an entry point for something more profound. Proficiency in the water, for me, has become a source of liberation from the cults of outrage and optimization on land. In up-and-down seas, I can be imperfect, playful, apolitical and happy as long as I’m moving. As a father and citizen, I often wonder: What might the world look like if we all found a place of risk and reward that demanded humility, where we couldn’t talk or tweet, where we had to just get better at doing?

3. Long Covid 

Healthcare workers suffering with long Covid detail how they were dismissed by their fellow professionals when they sought treatment.  

(The Atlantic, approx 9 mins reading time)

I’ve interviewed more than a dozen similar people—health professionals from the United States and the United Kingdom who have long COVID. Most told me that they were shocked at how quickly they had been dismissed by their peers. When Karen Scott, a Black ob-gyn of 19 years, went to the emergency room with chest pain and a heart rate of 140, her physicians checked whether she was pregnant and tested her for drugs; one asked her if her symptoms were in her head while drawing circles at his temple with an index finger. “When I said I was a physician, they said, ‘Where?’” Scott said. “Their response was She must be lying.” Even if she had been believed, it might not have mattered. “The moment I became sick, I was just a patient in a bed, no longer credible in the eyes of most physicians,” Alexis Misko, an occupational therapist, told me. She and others hadn’t expected special treatment, but “health-care professionals are so used to being believed,” Daria Oller, a physiotherapist, told me, that they also hadn’t expected their sickness to so completely shroud their expertise.

4. Climate change

An article on how a Dutch foundation are hoping to create forests across the Netherlands by replanting a million unwanted tree saplings. 

(The Guardian, approx 6 mins reading time)

“The Netherlands wants to plant 37,000 hectares [91,400 acres], which is about 100m trees,” says Hanneke van Ormondt, the campaign manager of Meer Bomen Nu and a member of the Urgenda climate activism organisation. “I don’t know how short we are in getting nurseries in place, but we don’t need them: we just need more circular forest management. Everywhere along the path, left and right, is always cleared of shrubs and trees. Replant it! My dream is that every council will open a tree hub where foresters can bring their stuff, and people who want a free tree can come.”

5. Jeffrey Epstein

A look at the disgraced financier’s final days as told by over 2,000 pages of Federal Bureau of Prisons records. 

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(The New York Times, approx 11 mins reading time)

The detailed notes and reports compiled by those who interacted with Mr. Epstein during his 36 days of detention show how he repeatedly assured them he had much to live for, while also hinting that he was increasingly despondent. The clues prompted too little action by jail and bureau officials, who made mistake after mistake leading up to Mr. Epstein’s death, the records reveal.

6. House of Gucci

An interview with, respectively, the director and the star of the highly-anticipated film, Ridley Scott and Lady Gaga. 

(The Irish Times, approx 8 mins reading time)

“I was in a really complicated place in my life when this script came to me,” Gaga says of her first starring role since A Star Is Born in 2018. She was struggling with depression as she recorded her 2020 album, Chromatica, and the woman born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta even wrestled with whether she really wanted to be Lady Gaga any more. When House of Gucci offered her someone else to become, she jumped at the chance.

…AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

In the week of the anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy, this article examines the 2,891 documents surrounding his assassination that were released in 2017.

(The New York Times, approx 7 mins reading time)

Every government authority that has examined the investigation of his death, from the Warren Commission to congressional investigators, concluded that Kennedy was killed by Oswald, who fired three shots with a mail-order rifle from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository when the presidential motorcade passed by on Nov. 22, 1963. But that has never satisfied the doubters, and polls have consistently shown that most Americans still believe that someone other than Oswald must have been involved.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday

About the author:

Jane Moore

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