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Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
sitdown sunday

Sitdown Sunday: 7 deadly reads

The very best of the week’s writing from around the web.

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. Cyber War

Michael Joseph Gross fills us in on the ‘cyber war’ that is being waged around the world, hitting banks, telecommunications companies and even Microsoft, Google and Apple. But where did it all start, and where can it go from here? (Vanity Fair) (Approx 35 minutes reading time – 7134 words)

When the history of cyber-warfare comes to be written, its first sentence may go something like this: “Israel gave the United States an ultimatum.” For a number of years, intelligence reports intermittently indicated that Iran was getting closer to building a nuclear bomb, which the Israeli leadership views as an existential threat. In 2004, Israel gave Washington a wish list of weapons and other capabilities it wanted to acquire. The list—for various kinds of hardware but also for items such as aerial transmission codes, so that Israeli jets could overfly Iraq without having to worry about being shot down by US warplanes—left little doubt that Israel was planning a military attack to stop Iran’s nuclear progress.

2. New look

Katie Drummond brings us the story of Carmen Turleton, who received a face transplant from Cheryl Righter. She tells us about the history of face transplants, the terrible incidents that led to people needing them, and why one daughter chose to allow the hospital to donate her mother’s face to another person. (The Verge) (Approx 19 minutes reading time – 3930 words)

In particular, the psychological implications of a face transplant have hinged on the appearance of the patient following their procedure. They won’t resemble their former selves, nor will they look like the donor whose face they’ve received. So how will they cultivate a renewed sense of self — one that encapsulates the faces they’ve seen in the mirror up to this point, and that also acknowledges the foreign parts now constituting their profile?

3. Unmanned weapons

Fred Kaplan fills us in on drones, the unmanned weapons that are “the very emblem of American high-tech weaponry”. He writes about their origins, to how their use has become hugely controversial, and why drone strikes are often kept secret. Anonymous sources help Kaplan to tell the tale.  (Technology Review) (Approx 24 minutes reading time  –  4939 words)

These strikes have provoked violent protest in those countries, alienating even those who’d previously felt no affection for jihadists and, in some cases, provided some support for the United States. At home, a political and legal debate rages over the wisdom and propriety of drone strikes as a tool in the war on terror. Heightening the controversy is the fact that everything about these strikes outside war zones—including, until recently, their occurrence—is secret.

4. Dark power and music

Paul Mason writes in The Guardian about the composer Wagner, and the power that his music still holds. This year marks his bicentenary, so his work will be honoured in opera houses around the world. Mason looks at Wagner’s legacy, and why the Ring is ” a flawed and ultimately broken work of art”. The man himself was flawed too, but still holds power over listeners. (The Guardian) (Approx 10 minutes reading time  –  2160 words)

Wagner’s Die Meistersinger was Hitler’s favourite opera: the führer could whistle its overture note-for-note, and made attendance of it compulsory for Nazi functionaries at the Nuremberg rallies. The antisemitism implicit in the depiction of Beckmesser caused Jews to storm out of its first performances. Yet its dramatic truth goes a long way to answering a question that gnaws at me every time I listen to Wagner: why can this antisemite tear my heart to pieces?

5. Ugly/Beautiful game

Wright Thompson shows us that though they call it the ‘beautiful game’, sometimes soccer can be incredibly ugly. That ugly side is represented by the racist soccer thugs who use Italian matches as a way to express their prejudices.  We read about the racist chants that players are subjected to, the skewed political ideals of hooligans, and the heritage of their hate. (ESPN) (Approx 47 minutes reading time  –  9490 words)

Kevin-Prince Boateng comes into the posh drawing room in the AC Milan headquarters rapping Snoop Dogg. The word “believe” is tattooed on his left hand. Wealthy, engaged to a swimsuit model, he’s left behind a childhood in the Berlin slums. The 9-year-old him would be awestruck by the room in his house completely filled with sneakers, which he cleans carefully with toothpaste. But the 9-year-old him also has scars, ripped open that afternoon on the Pro Patria pitch, when strangers looked him in the eye and called him a monkey.

6. Legalise this

Thomas Prior introduces us to the man who is the most influential person in the battle for legalisation of mariuana in America. Describing Ethan Nadelmann as “a wonky intellectual in dad jeans”, he takes us through his thoughts on the failure of the War on Drugs, and why pot smokers should be left alone. But how did this son of a rabbi get involved in the campaign in the first place? (Rolling Stone) (Approx 12 minutes reading time – 2496 words)

Before Nadelmann joined the cause some 20 years ago, marijuana legalisation was an orphan crusade of hippies handing out leaflets at Dead shows and outlaw growers with bumper stickers demanding US OUT OF HUMBOLDT COUNTY! Today, thanks in large part to Nadelmann’s efforts, pot is fully legal in two states and available medically in 16 others


In 2010, the New York Times profiled The National, then a band just about to release the record High Violet. It was clear things were on the up for the five men, but since then their success has grown in leaps and bounds. It’s a great opportunity to take a look back at their career when they were just about to hit the big time.

With the National, it’s never only rock ’n’ roll. Watching them record a song is like looking on as a group of skilled chefs make a sandwich together; even in a BLT, they can foresee endless possibilities. They are now five men in their mid- to late 30s, with mortgages, children, wives or serious girlfriends and musical tastes that have likewise settled into convictions. Each National song is a microbatch creation integrating their obsessive, often-diverging feelings about rock ’n’ roll.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday >

The Sports Pages – the best sports writing collected every week by >

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