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7 deadly reads

Sitdown Sunday: Three men scale Nepal's Mount Jannu with two ropes and a sleeping bag

Settle down in a comfy chair 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. The ‘Last Great Problem in the Himalayas’

jannu-image-shot-042016-exact-date-unknown Mount Jannu. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The gripping, uplifting story of how three American climbers scaled the north face of Mount Jannu in Nepal. 

(The New York Times, approx 10 mins reading time)

They may not have had the full perspective. That is now coming from other top mountaineers, who see the group’s ascent of Jannu’s north face as a monumental achievement. “In my mind, it’s the greatest climb ever — the greatest Alpine climb,” said Mark Synnott, a renowned climber and author who was stymied by Jannu’s north face in 2000 and called it the “last great problem in the Himalayas.” At 25,295 feet, Jannu — with its remote location and combination of height, steepness and altitude — is one of the most daunting peaks for climbers. Its north face, especially, has stirred and vexed mountaineers. Others had been to the top of Jannu, though not many. None had done this route in following the minimal ethos of an Alpine-style ascent: no supplemental oxygen, no ropes fixed in advance, no porters beyond base camp. The three men used only what they could carry on their backs. “It’s the simplest way of doing something,” Rousseau said. “You just begin at the bottom and go to the top.”

2. Crime in football

Simon Hughes writes about Quincy Promes, the former Ajax footballer who has been sentenced to prison for stabbing his cousin, and the overlap between the worlds of criminality and football in Amsterdam.

(The Athletic, approx 14 mins reading time)

In the deal that brought him to the attention of the law, the Dutch justice department believes Promes, who was born and raised in Amsterdam, invested €200,000 into the drug trade. In that deal, it was alleged that the convicted drug trafficker Piet Wortel and another well-known trafficker “earned €6 million”. At the start of 2023, the PPS claimed Promes had paid a substantial fine to Wortel for a batch of drugs that was stolen by a rival gang. According to the PPS file, Wortel was also suspected of being behind the 2019 murder of former professional footballer, Kelvin Maynard, who was shot multiple times in front of a fire station in south-east Amsterdam, allegedly in revenge for the theft of 400kgs of cocaine.

Both Promes and Wortel denied these allegations. While Promes’ lawyer described the suggestion his client had paid Wortel as “total nonsense,” Wortel’s representative insisted there was little evidence against his client over Maynard’s death, calling the claims “gossip and backbiting.” The PPS acknowledged in January 2023 that it still had “no round case” against Wortel, and two months later he was released from detention over these charges. It leaves the murder of Maynard as an unsolved case.

3. Too much stuff

alto-hospicio-chile-25th-nov-2021-used-clothes-sit-in-a-landfill-in-the-desert-in-the-nearby-free-trade-zone-of-iquique-29178-tons-of-used-clothing-arrived-in-2021-through-october-about-50-imp File photo of used clothes in landfill. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

An extract from Chip Colwell’s new book about how humans became addicted to consumerism, the cost of that need to have more stuff and how – or if – we can change our habits. 

(The Guardian, approx 17 mins reading time)

Climbing into a van, Nyiro took us to an area where a new cell was being constructed: the foundation for a new mountain of trash. It was 10 hectares in size and lined with clay and crushed glass to prevent the liquid that would gather as the rubbish breaks down from leaking into the groundwater. Once completed, the cell will be filled with waste, and would reach 90 metres high within two years. Next, Nyiro took us to an active landfill area. We joined the line of traffic, driving a steep, rough dirt road to the top of a hill. We watched as a line of trucks stopped around us to empty out everything imaginable. “It looks like they just took all the contents of my apartment and dumped it here,” a man on the tour said, not joking. The wind whipped trash into the air like snow as 100-tonne tractors compressed couches and cookie boxes and everything in between into thick strata that contain the full record of modern life. The result: a dry tomb of waste that will endure for millennia.

4. Calling time

Missed school days, harsh security and restricted interactions – Alice Chambers investigates what visiting a parent in prison is like for children in Ireland. 

(Noteworthy/The Journal, approx 14 mins reading time)

Mary* is not sure how long she’ll be able to cope with the punishing trip to Portlaoise Prison. Every Wednesday, she picks up her three eldest children from school at 11am, straps them and her baby into a borrowed car, and drives two hours for a 2.30pm visit with their father. She’s only able to borrow the car during the week. By public transport, it’s at least a seven-hour round trip that involves two buses for the 30-minute visit. She’s done it twice and told us it was “complete mental torture… especially when you’re by yourself [with four kids], it’s about 15 times harder”.

Her eldest son Patrick*, who is primary school age, has ADHD and particularly hates the bus. So, Mary takes them out of school. “[The prison visit] is my whole Wednesday, from the moment I wake up, and I won’t be home ‘til seven or eight o’clock.” According to research, kids with a parent in prison “have been shown to experience negative educational outcomes”. All the families we spoke to are left with an impossible choice between the children seeing their father or going to school as weekend visiting times can be booked up or not available.

5. Maestro

maestro-bradley-cooper Bradley Cooper playing Leonard Bernstein in Maestro. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Bradley Cooper discusses learning to conduct music for six years and wearing that prosthetic nose to play the acclaimed composer Leonard Bernstein in the Spielberg-Scorsese-produced film that is being hotly tipped for Oscar glory. 

(The New Yorker, approx 22 mins reading time)

Growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs, Cooper got into his head that he wanted to conduct an orchestra someday. As he told me recently in an interview for The New Yorker Radio Hour, his most prized possession as a kid was a conductor’s baton. He used to flail his arms for hours at home to great symphonies. You can now see Cooper, aged forty-eight, on the podium at the Ely Cathedral, while the London Symphony Orchestra saws away at Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony. The film is “Maestro,” and Cooper plays Leonard Bernstein, the great conductor, composer, and teacher—a figure who peaked during the era of rock and roll and yet was not eclipsed by it. Somehow, he never seemed any less contemporary than Chuck Berry or John Lennon, and never condescended to them, either.

At the core of “Maestro” is Bernstein’s marriage to Felicia Montealegre, an accomplished actor, who married Bernstein knowing full well that he was bisexual, radically inconstant, and consumed with his art. Carey Mulligan’s performance as Felicia will almost certainly compete for an Oscar. Cooper’s as Bernstein is no less impressive, and it is a wonder that he manages to play such a self-consumed and art-consumed character with such unerring focus while being the film’s auteur, its director, co-producer, and co-writer. It is, like Bernstein himself, a project of extreme passion and wildness. 

6. C is for Cookie

Have you ever wondered what Cookie Monster’s cookies are made of? Well, here’s a peak behind the Sesame Street magic with the woman who bakes them. 

(The New York Times, approx 5 mins reading time)

Years ago, a reader wrote probing for details on a mystery that had vexed him: What’s the deal with the cookies that Cookie Monster eats?The email said nothing else. I chuckled and filed the note in the cupboard of my brain where such things go. Until I realized something: Me want cookies. And me want answers.

Cookie Monster, for those of you who skipped childhood, is a classic Muppet on “Sesame Street.” He is a scraggly, blue fellow with bulging eyeballs, who has for decades been singularly obsessed with chaotically chowing down on cookies. The crumbs end up almost everywhere except his mouth, an effect that looks like a high-speed blender without a top. The character was created in the 1960s by Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets, for a General Foods Canada commercial. Cookie eventually moved to “Sesame Street,” where he presumably found a good rent-stabilized apartment.  It turns out the cookies are real — sort of.

…AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

italy-milan-2009-06-13-shane-macgowan-singer-of-the-pogues-group-at-the-rock-in-idro-music-festival-live-at-the-idroscalo-in-milan Shane MacGowan performing in 2013. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The legendary musician, songwriter and singer Shane MacGowan passed away this week at the age of 65. Revisit an interview he did with Marion McKeone last year.

(The Business Post, approx 22 mins reading time)

That MacGowan’s name now features on Andipa’s roster of artists – sandwiched between Roy Lichtenstein and Henri Matisse on the gallery’s website – is an astonishing achievement, one of those collisions of serendipity, chutzpah and talent that have defined MacGowan’s success to date. A week or so later, we’re sitting in MacGowan and Clarke’s Ballsbridge apartment on a wet Tuesday evening. Clarke, whose cooking has come a long way since the London days, has prepared an impressive spread of champagne and scallops, lasagne and chocolate cake.

When I joke that marriage has improved her culinary skills, MacGowan gazes up at her affectionately. “She’s always been great at cooking,” he says softly. “She’s always been great at everything. She’s still great… And we’ve finally won the economic war,” he jokes, as he raises his glass in celebration. He’s referencing the British-Irish economic war of the 1950s. Now he observes, people in Ireland are drinking champagne on a Tuesday night while “the Brits have f***ed themselves with Brexit”.

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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