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Sitdown Sunday 7 deadly reads
The very best of the week’s writing from around the globe.

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 man who can’t stop turning words upside down
Gregory Kornbluh on Barry Duncan, a man obsessed with writing reversible phrases, or palindromes (The Believer).

There was a point at which, Duncan half-jokes, he actually thought he might need to be hospitalized. “I really couldn’t sleep. I was thinking about reversibility all the time. And then it just became very natural for me.” And now? “I’m just all the time doing it,” he says. “I write hundreds a day, probably.”

2. A jester in Afghanistan
Jon Lee Anderson on his meeting with one of the last maskhara: the traditional Afghan jesters who do more than just tell jokes (Guernica).

Next, turning to me, Pashean offered to kill anyone I might want dead in Kabul for the equivalent of two thousand American dollars. When I told him that his price was absurdly high, he guffawed good-naturedly. As I had suspected, Pashean’s price was just an initial negotiating position. “We can talk price,” he said with a wink.

3. Building a garage gene lab
Erin Biba on the subculture of ‘biohackers’, who use home equipment to manipulate genes (Wired).

Polymerase chain reaction is really just a process of heating and cooling genetic material. Weill Cornell Medical College researcher Russell Durrett, cofounder of New York City’s community lab GenSpace, built one using a lightbulb, an Arduino board, an old computer fan, and some PVC pipe.

4. How scared is the Chinese government?
James Fallows on how Chinese people tried to start their own protests after the Arab Spring, and how the government reacted (The Atlantic).

One day in March, major boulevards in Beijing suddenly were lined with older women, bundled up in overcoats and with red armbands identifying them as public-safety patrols, who sat on stools at 20-yard intervals and kept watch for disruption. They had no practical effect except as reminders that the authorities were on guard and in control.

5. The unsung victims of rendition-lite
Nick Baumann on the Americans being brutally interrogated in foreign prisons – on US orders (Mother Jones).

He made it a couple of steps before two bullets fractured his femur. “I’m an American!” he yelled as he was dragged away. The men threw him in the van and sped off.

6. The real day after tomorrow
Bruce Barcott on the tsunami that could hit the US west coast, and why it could come very soon (Outside).

The water, black and powerful, jets through the opening between them: Broadway. Stragglers try to run, but the flow sweeps their feet from ­under them. Some hold on to lampposts. The ­water pushes wood, metal, and glass into them. The surge is strong enough to bend two-inch metal pipes.


In October 2000 Malcolm Gladwell wrote about Ron Popeil, the superhero of infomercials, in the New Yorker.

“Come on over, folks. I’m going to show you the most amazing slicing machine you have ever seen in your life,” he began. Phyllis, sitting nearby, beamed with pride. He picked up a package of barbecue spices, which Ron Popeil sells alongside his Showtime Rotisserie, and used it as a prop. “Take a look at this!”

Read more: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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