This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
Dublin: 8 °C Saturday 25 January, 2020

Sitdown Sunday: The psychiatrist who believed people could predict the future

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

Image: Shutterstock/Casimiro PT

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. Vigilantes and Trump’s wall 

Trump has made ‘the wall’ a cornerstone of his policies – but the border was not idyllic before he weighed in.

(The Guardian, approx 27 mins reading time)

The border patrol, for its part, continued being what it had been since its founding: a frontline instrument of white supremacist power. Patrollers regularly engaged in beatings, murder, torture and rape, including the rape of girls as young as 12. Some patrollers ran their own in-house outlaw vigilante groups. 

2. Donald Shirley and Green Book

There has been a lot of controversy around the Oscar-winning film Green Book – here’s the story of Shirley himself, and how the film reflects it.

(Shadow and Act, approx 38 mins reading time)

“And so, I said to him at the time, ‘Well, perhaps you can set some conditions whereby you can be involved if they agree to certain things in terms of control for you,’ and what he said at the time was, ‘No matter what they say to me now, I will not have any control over how I am portrayed.’” As the family’s insistence on the inaccuracies in Green Book shows, Dr. Shirley was right.

3. The psychiatrist who believed people could tell the future

John Barker was a British psychiatrist who began collecting stories of people’s visions. But his work had an intense impact on him.

(The New Yorker, approx 37 mins reading time)

Barker was intrigued. He believed that he had treated at least two men during his career whose extreme agitation had either killed them or hastened their demise. Medicine seemed only partly able to explain what had happened. In 1942, Walter Cannon, the head of physiology at Harvard Medical School, had used the phrase “voodoo death” to describe a potential biological mechanism by which someone could be frightened to death—an overload of the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal glands. 

4. The mysterious nodding disease 

The deadly ‘nodding disease’ has been affecting people in East Africa for decades – but what is it and why does it strike people?

(BBC, approx 15 mins reading time)

Eventually Jilek-Aall realised that her patients were having seizures, which they called kifafa – Swahili for “the little death” – and falling down. Sometimes they would land in the open hearths where they cooked their food. Occasionally they would end up in the river. But the mystery didn’t end there. The same children also tended to have stunted growth, intellectual difficulties and characteristic mannerisms, such as an awkward gait and deadpan facial expressions.

5. Was Bill Hicks a misogynist?

Bill Hicks is a now legendary comedian, but people are starting to re-assess his work in the light of gender politics today.

(The Guardian, approx 15 mins reading time)

Kemah Bob, a compatriot of Hicks, runs the Femmes of Colour (FOC It Up) Comedy Club in London. She’d never watched his work before I contacted her for this article, and found doing so a hoot. “He’s like, ‘Who smokes? All right! Now I’m talkin’ ’bout drugs. You know what I hate? The war on drugs. You know what I love? Sex. And rock’n’roll.’ It felt very reminiscent of the era.”

6. Revolut 

Revolut is a digital bank that aims to ‘disrupt’ the traditional banking system. But it’s recently been subject to a number of controversies. Here’s a look at what’s been going on.

(Wired, approx 20 mins reading time)

Several country managers hired around that time recount of a similar experience. One says that he would be working every waking hour of the day and every weekend. During the weekdays he would execute strategies to promote the app – such as organising events or talking to local journalists – and at night and in the weekends he would translate the Revolut app and website into the language of the country he was managing.


The US carried out A-bomb tests two thousands of miles away from civilisation. But the tests were discovered by Kodak, when strange anomalies started showing up on film…

(Popular Mechanics, approx 30 mins reading time)

More than 1,900 miles away from Alamogordo, at the Rochester, NY headquarters of Eastman Kodak, a flood of complaints came in from business customers who had recently purchased sensitive X-ray film from the company. Black exposed spots on the film, or “fogging,” had rendered it unusable. This perplexed many Kodak scientists, who had gone to great lengths to prevent contaminations like this.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel