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7 great reads

Sitdown Sunday: The man who repairs the world's most expensive violins

Settle down 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. #DiedSuddenly

Kaitlyn Tiffany writes about the latest anti-vaccine conspiracy theory taking off on social media.

(The Atlantic, approx 8 mins reading time)

As a meme, “died suddenly” could last a long time—possibly indefinitely. People will always be dying suddenly, so it will always be possible to redeploy it and capture further attention. What’s more, there is a thriving alt-tech ecosystem that can circulate the meme; a whole cohort of right-wing, anti-vaccine influencers and celebrities who can amplify it; and, crucially, a basically unmoderated mainstream social-media platform that can put it in front of hundreds of millions of users—some of whom will make fun of it, but others of whom will start to see something unsettling and credible in its repetitions.

2. Crossing the border

Patrick Strickland writes about the dangers facing refugees and asylum seekers who attempt to cross the border from Turkey into Greece.

(Long Road Magazine, approx 25 mins reading time)

In recent years, Greece has turned its land border with Turkey into an especially dangerous and intensely surveilled crossing point for refugees and migrants. Hundreds of border guard officers are deployed to the region, surveillance technology is everywhere, and much of the area is designated a closed military zone. In August, officials announced plans to seal off the country with fencing that stretches the border’s entire length. Around that time, Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi boasted that “constant patrolling in the Aegean and the fence in Evros force the traffickers to find other routes.”

3. The wildlife paradise that has become a wasteland

A disturbing look at how an ongoing climate change-induced drought is affecting the animals and the people at a Kenyan wildlife sanctuary.

(Undark, approx 13 mins reading time)

Thousands of animals have died here in the last year, not from thirst but from lack of pasture and green shrubs, which usually are abundant and lush during this season but haven’t been for two years running. A third year of drought is on the way. There are so many dead animals here that vets and park rangers have volunteered to drag them away, out of sight from tourists.

4. The violin doctor

A fascinating look at John Becker, the man who fixes some of the world’s most famous and expensive instruments. 

(Chicago Magazine, approx 21 mins reading time)

There are other luthiers with expertise in instruments from the Italian craftsman’s golden period, from 1700 to 1725, but master violin restorers are rare — around 20 worldwide now — and Becker is widely regarded as the best. At 64, he has worked on more than 120 Stradivarius violins — likely more, he says, than any other living person. David Fulton, a Seattle-based former software engineer and entrepreneur who once possessed the world’s largest collection of historic Cremonese instruments (named for the city where Stradivari and other renowned Italian luthiers worked) with 28, including eight Strads, entrusted Becker to care for them. (Fulton has since started selling off the bulk of them.) “He’s probably as fine a woodworker as lives on the planet today,” says Fulton. “Without men like him, these things would have decayed into splinters long ago.”

5. Shania Twain

An interview with the ‘Queen of Country Pop’ ahead of the release of her sixth album.

(The Guardian, approx 11 mins reading time)

“When I started to win awards was when it really bothered me the most that my parents were not there to see the glory. Because I felt that they had sacrificed so much. And they deserved to share in those moments,” she says. “It was a treacherous relationship, anyway, for all of us. The sacrifice on their part was just suffering through all of those arguments. And, in the end, I make it and they’re not there to say: ‘Well, at least it was for something.’ It’s very painful. It’s very, very sad that they never got to see one moment of it.”

6. Just the three of us

What happens to a friendship when two friends have the same lover? Lauren John Joseph shares her experience. 

(The Guardian, approx 12 mins reading time)

When I set off to the US after graduation, to pursue my dream of becoming a real bohemian, my friend came to wave me off at Heathrow. My lover, peeved and irascible, and as I now understand, hurt, did not. All the same I wrote to the pair of them via email and post almost constantly for the two years I was away. The steady flow of mail back and forth across the Atlantic kept me abreast of their lives, their careers, their wins, their losses, though they were oddly taciturn on the subject of love. When I returned I assumed that life in London would be just as I left it, blinded I suppose by my own self-importance. I fell right back into my lover’s bed, of course, and the next morning met with my friend to pick over the gruesome details, just like the old days. Only this time when I told him how I’d spent the night he turned white and the truth of the matter hit me cold and hard.


Ian Black, the Guardian’s former Middle East editor, died last week aged 69. He had a rare neurological disease. Last October, Black and his wife Helen shared this moving account of life with frontotemporal lobar degeneration.

(The Guardian, approx mins reading time)

Given my increasing speech difficulties I have begun enjoying listening to music by myself – classical, folk and pop – much more than previously. Headphones and Spotify prove very useful. I also listen to podcasts a lot. Walking and talking are fundamental human activities that I can no longer do easily, so I focus on other things. I have become obsessed with loading and emptying the dishwasher. It’s about all I can do now to help in the house. I can’t multitask; I have to focus on the matter in hand. It is hard to ignore the increasing realisation that as my brain is shrinking, so is my world.

 Note: The Journal generally selects stories that are not paywalled, but some might not be accessible if you have exceeded your free article limit on the site in question.

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