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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.

PastedImage-86822 Sky Atlantic / HBO Sky Atlantic / HBO / HBO

1. Winter is Coming

Do we have any Game of Thrones fans out there? Timothy Westmyer has decided that the dragons (yes, there are dragons) are a metaphor for nuclear weapons.

(The Bulletin, approx 10 minutes reading time, 2,783 words)

Dragons are the nuclear deterrent, and only [Daenerys Targaryen, one of the series’ heroines] has them, which in some ways makes her the most powerful person in the world,” George R.R. Martin said in 2011. “But is that sufficient? These are the kind of issues I’m trying to explore. The United States right now has the ability to destroy the world with our nuclear arsenal, but that doesn’t mean we can achieve specific geopolitical goals. Power is more subtle than that. You can have the power to destroy, but it doesn’t give you the power to reform, or improve, or build.”It makes for a bleak outlook. Or, as a character repeatedly warns in the first episode: “Winter is coming.”

2. Arms Wide Open

All eyes will be on Brazil come next Thursday. One of the country’s most iconic landmarks, the Cristo Redentor will be surrounded by football fans shortly. But how many of them will know its story?

(BBC News Magazine, approximately 9 minutes reading time, 2,378 words)

The original idea for a monument to Christ came from a group of Brazilians who, in the wake of World War One, feared an advancing tide of godlessness. Church and state had been separated when Brazil became a republic at the end of the previous century, and they saw the statue as a way of reclaiming Rio – then Brazil’s capital city – for Christianity.

3. America’s Most Prolific Murderer

PastedImage-22010 A cartoon from 1909 showing anger at wealthy motorists. Library of Congress Library of Congress

Hunter Oatman-Stanford compiles a completely fascinating account of how the automobile industry changed street norms and lobbied until people didn’t really notice that cars were killing so many people.

(Collectors Weekly, approximately 19 minutes reading time, 5,752 words)

In 2012, automobile collisions killed more than 34,000 Americans, but unlike our response to foreign wars, the AIDS crisis, or terrorist attacks—all of which inflict fewer fatalities than cars—there’s no widespread public protest or giant memorial to the dead. We fret about drugs and gun safety, but don’t teach children to treat cars as the loaded weapons they are.These losses have been privatized, but in the ’20s, they were regarded as public losses,” says Norton. After the auto industry successfully altered street norms in the 1920s, most state Departments of Transportation actually made it illegal to leave roadside markers where a loved one was killed. “In recent years, thanks to some hard work by grieving families, the rules have changed in certain states, and informal markers are now allowed,” Norton adds. “Some places are actually putting in DOT-made memorial signs with the names of victims. The era of not admitting what’s going on is not quite over, but the culture is changing.

4. Who you gonna call?

GHOSTBUSTERS Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

It became an instant classic but Ghostbusters didn’t have an easy ride into film history. Lesley Blume gets together with Dan Aykroyd to discuss his big idea – from concept to director Ivan Reitman’s prediction: “This is going to be fucking great.”

(Vanity Fair, approx 19 minutes reading time, 5,451 words)

With Meatballs, he was the star of that movie and I didn’t know if I had him until the day before we started shooting,” Reitman recalls, and added that Murray’s nickname, the “Murricane,” sums up the actor perfectly: “He was sort of a remarkable force of nature.” According to Aykroyd, “Whenever you can actually put a script into Billy’s hand, as if you were a process server . . . you gotta look him in the eye [and say], ‘You did receive this.’

5. The final days of the King of Pop

Michael Jackson’s two-person security team, Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard, describe how they became the only gatekeepers between the outside world and the King of Pop. They say the came to know a loving father and a quiet man in their new book recounting his last days.

(An extract from Remembering the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in his Final Days, Slate, approx 10 minutes reading time, 3,208 words)

And Mr. Jackson? He’d been making plans for two weeks. This was so important to him. So for him to write it off and go to bed? That was a moment that let us know, okay, this family has some real power over him. It threw off his whole night.
After that, Mr. Jackson didn’t leave the house for three days. We didn’t hear from him. No phone calls, no communication, nothing. He just shut down.

6. I’m a father who wants his son back 

For something a little different this week, we have included The Guardian‘s short film of Bob Bergdahl, shot before his son Bob’s release from Taliban detention last week.

(The Guardian, watching time approximately 12 minutes)

I don’t think anybody can relate to the prisoners in Guantanamo more, I don’t think, than our family… Because it is the same thing. My son is a prisoner of war. And wars end with reconciliation and negotiations with the enemy. And prisoners of war should be part of that dialogue and I insist that it will be.


China Hong Kong Tiananmen Crackdown The bodies of dead civilians lie among mangled bicycles near Beijing's Tiananmen Square. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

7. China erupted…the reasons why

This week marked the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests in China. Looking back to those violent days in Beijing, we went to Nicholas D Kristof‘s invaluable archive in the New York Times.

(The New York Times Magazine, approx 14 minutes reading time, 4,276 words)

I’m worried about whether all this corruption will lead to a rottenness that will be difficult to correct without big change,” said [Zhang Hanzhi, a former English teacher and interpreter for Mao Zedong and the widow of former Foreign Minister Qiao Guanhua].And then she spoke most poignantly about the drift to America of many of China’s young people. Her own daughter, sent to the United States in the mid-1970′s by Mao Zedong to learn English and help the motherland, now lives in New York.”To see them all settling down over there and not coming back is somewhat depressing,” Ms. Zhang said. ”My daughter, my niece, and the children of almost all my friends. Almost every time a young person comes by my house to say goodbye, I have the feeling they’re not coming back.”

Interested in longreads during the week? Look out for Catch-Up Wednesday every Wednesday evening.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday >

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

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