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Five Great Reads: on masked babes, Buy Nothing groups and an evil version of Wordle | Coronavirus

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It’s Friday, we’ve all made it through the week together and you’ve found your way to Five Great Reads, a weekday wrap of great writing, joy and sit-back-and-think stories selected by me, Alyx Gorman, lifestyle editor of Guardian Australia.

If you’re interested in reading breaking news, our live blog is the place for that. If you’ll be glued to stories about Prince Andrew all day, you can see a timeline of his fall from grace here, and read some analysis of the royal family’s inner workings here. If like me, you’d rather watch some videos of cool sea creatures, please enjoy this rare, technicolour blanket octopus and this huge colony of icefish.

1. Mask up, cutie

Researchers at Cardiff University have found that face masks make men and women appear more attractive.

Images of men wearing a blue medical face mask were perceived as being the most attractive
Images of men wearing a blue medical face mask were perceived as being the most attractive. Photograph: Cavan Images/Getty Images/Cavan Images RF

What kind of face masks? All of them do the trick, but the steamiest option is a blue surgical mask.

Notable quote: “The results run counter to the pre-pandemic research,” says Dr Michael Lewis, who worked on the study. Back then, “it was thought masks made people think about disease and the person should be avoided”.

How long will it take me to read? Only two minutes.

2. Brighton Le Sands’ buzzing scene

It may not be Sydney’s prettiest beach, but the closest beach to western Sydney has developed a distinct identity. Mostafa Rachwani spends an afternoon there.

The view may not be postcard-perfect, but visitors to Brighton Le Sands come for something more important – a sense of community and belonging
The view may not be postcard-perfect, but visitors to Brighton Le Sands come for something more important – a sense of community and belonging. Photograph: Bahram Mia/The Guardian

This is Sydney-centric. Sarah Mazen, who was visiting from Melbourne, said she had to see the beach for herself. “I’ve heard about this place all over social media. I have another friend coming from Melbourne and we’re about to go pick her up, but thought we’d stop here first. I can see how vibrant it is here, how alive it feels.”

3. Buy Nothing breaks away from Facebook

For many, Buy Nothing groups – where users give away everything from vacuum cleaner bags (me) to concrete Komodo dragon feet (not me) – are the best thing about Facebook. Now the founders of the movement have stepped beyond the big blue app to launch one of their own.

The appeal of Buy Nothing groups goes beyond the chance to swap everything from nettles to power tools
The appeal of Buy Nothing groups goes beyond the chance to swap everything from nettles to power tools. Composite: Guardian Design; Rani Sr Prasiththi/EyeEm; ivanastar; Prostock-Studio/iStockphoto; vejaa/Getty Images; Carolyn Jenkins/Alamy

Why? To make it “more accessible [to people] who have been unable for a variety of reasons to connect with it on other platforms, so we get a more diverse set of voices”.

Notable quote: “The stuff is one thing, but the stories that go along with it – the humour, the poignancy, the memories – those are the things we really want from each other,” says Buy Nothing’s co-founder Rebecca Rockefeller.

How long will it take me to read? About four minutes.

Bonus read: Australia has its own thriving Buy Nothing community, which Calla Wahlquist wrote about around this time last year.

4. The educator caught in a culture war

When Texas school principal Dr James Whitfield wrote a letter to students after the death of George Floyd, he was praised for speaking openly about racism in America. A year and a half later, that letter had cost him his job.

Whitfield was placed on leave after being accused of teaching critical race theory at his high school
Whitfield was placed on leave after being accused of teaching critical race theory at his high school. Photograph: Ben Torres/for the Texas Tribune

How? “Nobody in the community was calling me or anything,” Whitfield says. “But I started to hear word that, ‘Hey, these people are talking about you and they’re saying you’re doing critical race theory’.”

Critical race theory? Yes. You may remember that phrase from Australia’s own legislative conflicts over the national curriculum in mid-2021; which US-based journalist Jason Wilson described as an “absurd moral panic” at the time.

5. Wordle: the evil version

The internet’s favourite new puzzle gets a dark clone, Absurdle, which is designed to make finding the right answer as hard as possible.

There are heaps of Wordle knock-offs now, right? Indeed there are. This one isn’t a shameless scheme to monetise something free and pure though; it’s more of a homage.

How long will it take me to play? You get unlimited guesses, and you’ll probably need them.

Bonus: let us read for you

On our new podcast Book It In, investigative journalist Debi Marshall talks with Lucy Clark about our enduring obsession with true crime.

Debi Marshall is the author of Banquet: The Untold Story of Adelaide’s Family Murders
Debi Marshall is the author of Banquet: The Untold Story of Adelaide’s Family Murders. Composite: Penguin Random House

Bonus, bonus: how’s this going?

Do you have thoughts and feelings about this newsletter? Let me know what’s working, what’s not, and whether you’d like to see it continue beyond summer by emailing [email protected] Or you can hit me up on Twitter (be nice, I’m fragile).



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