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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 this Sunday.

1. The last days of Whitney Houston
Mark Seal investigates the singer’s final days – the parties, the con artist and the message she left behind (Vanity Fair).

Fans were already gathering at the Hilton for Clive Davis’s party when Ed Winter, the coroner, took the elevator to the fourth floor. The hallway there had become a crime scene, with police tape blocking the area, and a dozen family members and friends were demanding, “What happened? Why did she drown?”

2. A tale of modern-day slavery
Ben Montgomery on how homeless, drug-addicted men are used as indentured labour in the heart of Florida (Tampa Bay Times).

What Smith found when he got there: “Slavery. Abuse. Overwork. Deplorable, unsanitary conditions. Drugs,” he said. “The only reason there’s no shackles is because now they make the people submit to the cocaine. That’s what they use to basically control the people.”

3. Childhood, baseball, and the search for a naked woman
Justin Halpern remembers the trials of his school days – and what exactly lay inside the local canyon (Grantland).

I shrieked like a frightened monkey and jumped back, crashing into the bookcase behind me. As my eyes adjusted I realized that the shadow was my dad, sitting in total darkness in the La-Z-Boy chair that faced the windows to our backyard. ”Jesus H. Christ. Calm down, son. What the hell is wrong with you?”

4. Can a computer write a better news story than a human reporter?
Steven Levy on the algorithms that can do everything many journalists do – and sometimes better (Wired).

That’s not to say that computer-generated stories will remain in the margins, limited to producing more and more Little League write-ups and formulaic earnings previews. Hammond was recently asked for his reaction to a prediction that a computer would win a Pulitzer Prize within 20 years. He disagreed. It would happen, he said, in five.

5. The leftover ladies of China
Christina Larson on the phenomenon of the sheng nu – unmarried women over 30 and considered undesirable (Foreign Policy).

“The future is different,” Wu predicted, waving her arms for emphasis. China’s big cities will be filled with sheng nu. “Those who can bear the shortcomings and sufferings of men will get married,” she concluded. “Those not, single.”

6. Playboy moves on
Rachel Shteir on the last days of the legendary magazine in Chicago, where it has been publishing for 59 years (Prospect).

It requested “proper attire.” Several men were dressed up. Jimmy Jellinek, the magazine’s baby-faced editorial director, served drinks from behind the bar in a white suit and black t-shirt. Most of the women wore sweaters and jeans. There were no bunnies. No one was naked.


In June 2003, Paul Berczeller wrote for the Guardian about the body of a woman found frozen in the North Dakota woods. The police said she was looking for the $1million buried in the film Fargo.

But whatever the police said apparently didn’t deter Takako Konishi from her strange quest, which ended with her pointless death. “A hunter later found her body in woodland,” the story concluded, “near the village of Detroit Lakes, which lies on a road between Fargo and Brainerd.”

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