Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 12°C
# 7 great reads
Sitdown Sunday: How music's effect on the brain can unlock memories for people with dementia
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. The Wirecard scandal

Fraud, lies and links to Russian spies – a riveting read exploring what led to the collapse of the multibillion dollar fintech company, described by a parliamentary inquiry as “the largest financial scandal in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany”.

(The New Yorker, approx 54 mins reading time)

It was against this backdrop that German institutions supported Wirecard. The country’s traditional industry is in cars and energy systems—BMW, Volkswagen, Daimler, Siemens. Wirecard represented the nation’s challenge to Silicon Valley, its leap into financial technology and the digital era. “German politicians were proud to be able to say, Hey, we have a fintech company!” Florian Toncar, a German parliamentarian, observed. Wirecard’s rising stock price was regarded as a sign that the business was dependable, that its critics were clueless or corrupt. The German business newspaper Handelsblatt called Wirecard’s C.E.O. a “mastermind” who had “come across the German financial scene like the Holy Spirit.” But it was not regulators or auditors who ultimately took the company down; it was a reporter and his editors, in London.

2. Sanctuary

The heartfelt tale of a 50-year bond between a woman and an elephant.

(The Atavist, approx 52 mins reading time)

The woman in this story is Buckley. The elephant is named Tarra. They met at a tire store in California, and together followed a serpentine path from spectacle to safety: from circus rings to zoo enclosures to a first-of-its-kind sanctuary. But now their bond was being tested. For complex reasons, Buckley had lost custody of Tarra, and just before Michael struck, a jury had deadlocked on whether the two should be reunited. In a few months, the case would go to trial again. If Buckley won, she would bring Tarra home to Attapulgus. If she lost, it was possible she’d never see the elephant again.

3. Music and memories

Researchers explain how music can conjure up the most vivid memories, even for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s, and how increased research into its effect on the brain could help to improve therapy for certain medical conditions.  

(Washington Post, approx 8 mins reading time)

“Music activates different parts of the brain,” making it an especially versatile tool, says Amy Belfi, assistant professor of psychological science at Missouri University of Science and Technology and principal investigator in its Music Cognition and Aesthetics Lab. “We can use it to improve mood, to help us learn, to socially bond with other people. It becomes part of our identity, like the soundtrack of our lives, which explains why it is so effective in stimulating and retrieving memories.”

4. The forests where trees are going missing

Poachers are stealing trees from forests in the middle of the night – here’s why.

(BBC, approx 8 mins reading time)

In the background, firewood prices have increased throughout Europe. In September 2022, the World Economic Forum weighed in, stating that a country’s woodstores are now an indicator of a strong economy. Bulgaria, Switzerland, and Poland all reported that the price of a bundle of wood had more than doubled, and that some people were being scammed into paying high rates for a cord of wood (about 3.6 cubic metres/128 cubic feet) that were never delivered. In Poland, it was reported, officials have begun to consider distributing anti-smog masks in anticipation of people burning wood and trash to find heat.

5. Bold Glamour

A new filter on TikTok that seamlessly alters people’s facial features and simulates make-up has gone viral and sparked concern around the promotion of unrealistic beauty standards.

(Dazed, approx 7 mins reading time)

Joanna Kelly, an influencer who focuses on body confidence for the female gaze, told Dazed that she believes these filters should come with a trigger warning, although even that wouldn’t be enough. “I know when I’m creating these videos to raise awareness that I don’t really look like that. But when I remove the filter I feel instantly ‘less than,’” she says. “And it’s not just my own personal use of these filters that impacts my mental health and self-esteem. It’s the level of content I am exposed to on a daily basis that I can’t help compare myself to.”

6. Jamie Lee Curtis

The original “Scream Queen” on her career and receiving her first ever Oscar nomination for her performance in Everything Everywhere All At Once. 

(Washington Post, approx 13 mins reading time)

Curtis is a child of Hollywood, daughter of actors Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, who never saw herself swimming in the big pool. A journeyman, not a major player. A repeat Oscar presenter, once descending hanging barefoot from a helicopter (amazingly, this was her idea), never an Oscar nominee. In recovery for 24 years, she takes little for granted, relishes the moment, refuses to speculate on what happens next. Her dictum: Live where your feet are. “I’ve been a hustler my entire life,” she says. It’s what she admires in other people. Photographed on the morning of her nomination, in pajamas with extreme bedhead, “I was in complete shock. This is not someone who knew this would happen. What you see is ugly crying.”


A piece from 2021 about the families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, and their decades-long fight for justice. 

(The Guardian, approx 32 mins reading time)

The lies began even as people were dying. The police officer in command, Ch Supt David Duckenfield, failed to take control of the chaos and organise a concerted rescue operation, but he started the false narrative that would form the foundation of enduring injustice. In an episode still profoundly shocking decades on, at 3.15pm Duckenfield lied to the Football Association official, Graham Kelly, telling him that Liverpool supporters had forced open a gate, and rushed into the Leppings Lane end of the ground.

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.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel