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Sitdown Sunday: 7 deadly reads

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

Michael Freeman

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. I was a warehouse wage-slave
Mac McClelland goes inside the vast suburban warehouses that service online retailers, where low-paid workers pack iPad cases, games consoles and sex toys (Mother Jones).

The place is immense. Cold, cavernous. Silent, despite thousands of people quietly doing their picking, or standing along the conveyors quietly packing or box-taping, nothing noisy but the occasional whir of a passing forklift. There are nine merchandise sections, so sprawling that there’s a map attached to my ID badge.

2. Essam Eid, hitman for hire
Victoria Kim on the strange story of the Las Vegas poker dealer and family man who advertised himself as a hitman – and got embroiled in an Irish domestic dispute (LA Times).

Through the website, people around the world had written to Eid — some clearly more serious than others. A fifth-grade girl in Kentucky wanted another girl in her class dead. Several volunteered to kill for hire. One woman wanted help committing suicide.

3. The pill that makes you forget
Jonah Lehrer on how neuroscientists have located a chemical compound that could let us erase memories at will (Wired).

Even more troubling, it’s easy to imagine a world where people don’t get to decide the fate of their own memories. “My worst nightmare is that some evil dictator gets ahold of this,” Sacktor says. “There are all sorts of dystopian things one could do with these drugs.”

4. Inside the world of tattooing
Alex Halperin visits a tattoo artists’ convention to find a subculture living in fear of its own success (Guernica).

Bell was working on a flaming skull on the arm of a well-fed biker type in a Jagermeister cap and a white goatee. Skulls are as fundamental to tattooing as the Virgin was to Renaissance painting. Bell loves doing them. “You have so much movement and texturing and you can put so much life into ’em. Everyone is different,” he said. “And they look cool. Chicks dig ’em.”

5. Life, with dementia
Pam Bellick on how violent lifers in one US jail are falling to dementia in their old age, and how other inmates look after them (New York Times).

Their growing roster of patients includes Joaquin Cruz, a convicted killer who is now so addled that he thinks he sees his brother in the water of a toilet, and Walter Gregory, whose short-term memory is ebbing even as he vividly recalls his crime: stabbing and mutilating his girlfriend with a switchblade.

6. Putin’s nemesis
On the day of Russia’s elections, Masha Gessen explores the relationship between Vladimir Putin and Mikhail Khodorkovsky – the billionaire he sent to a prison colony (Vanity Fair).

Those who have been held in the same place describe cramped cells with a hole in the floor that serves as the toilet. Inmates take cold meals sitting on their cots, a few feet from the hole. Access to the outdoors is virtually nonexistent.


In October 1966, John Sack wrote a classic account for Esquire magazine of the exploits of a company of US soldiers during the Vietnam war.

“They hit a little girl,” and in his muscular black arms the first specialist carried out a seven-year-old, long black hair and little earrings, staring eyes — eyes, her eyes are what froze themselves onto M’s memory, it seemed there was no white to those eyes, nothing but black ellipses like black goldfish. The child’s nose was bleeding — there was a hole in the back of her skull.

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Michael Freeman

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