Sunday Reading List, 29 May 2016

This Sunday, let’s go a little bit classical with one of my favourite composers, Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937). One of the leaders of French Impressionism in classical music, he was always a careful, painstaking and perfectionist composer.

The Piano Concerto in G, completed in 1931, shows plenty of jazz influence throughout; jazz was the hot thing in Paris, and Ravel had just gone on a very successful US tour in 1928. The first and third movements have plenty of fun, almost chaotic passages, but the second is just… well, listen to it. When Marguerite Long (the pianist to whom this was dedicated) asked Ravel about this wistful, languid melody, he replied: That flowing phrase! How I worked over it bar by bar! It nearly killed me!

Do enjoy. In this week’s instalment – tuna, chicken and their effects on antibiotic resistance, a prosperous country falls apart, and Vietnam’s favourite noodles – and its tumultuous history. And also awesome archaeology in Mexico.

Tsukiji Market Tuna

1. If you knew Sushi

Gaijin get lost in Tsukiji – where the seafood is, for Tokyo, Japan, and arguably the world.

This morning the No. 1 tuna, the 150-kilo tuna from Boston, has been won by Iida-san, who paid ¥5,700 per kilo. Given the tuna’s weight of 150 kilos, this comes to ¥855,000, or a bit over $7,250, a little less than $23 a pound.


chickens farming antibiotics

2. Playing Chicken with Antibiotics

Antibiotic resistance is an increasingly serious problem in current medicine. But the biggest culprit isn’t doctors giving their prescriptions wrong, or patients not following instructions. It’s in our meat. And one major US company is attempting to buck the trend.

This discovery revolutionized meat production. Adding a dash of antibiotics to feed and water rations magically made birds, pigs, and cows grow plumper, saving on feed costs and slashing the time it took to get animals to slaughter… Meanwhile, a steady accumulation of scientific research revealed a mounting public health crisis.


3. Venezuela is Falling Apart

Venezuela – a prosperous, populous country – is going to pieces.

No sooner had the TP delivery reached the factory than the secret police swept in. Seizing the toilet paper, they claimed they had busted a major hoarding operation… The entrepreneur and three of his top managers faced criminal prosecution and possible jail time.



4. The History of Pho

A history of one of Vietnam’s most beloved, renowned dish – a surprisingly short history, but also one as eventful and tumultuous as Vietnam’s itself.

… locals mockingly called their meager soup pho khong nguoi lai, literally “pho without a pilot.” A bowl of pho noodle soup is defined by its protein (you order pho by the cuts of beef or with chicken), and meatless pho seemed as surreal, if not as absurd, as a drone aircraft.


Teotihuacan Mexico

5. A Tunnel in Teotihuacan

A serendipitous rainstorm opens a hole at the Temple of the Plumed Serpent, one of the Aztec civilisation’s most spectacular monuments. And with a lot of digging, we’re finally beginning to see how spectacular it truly was within.

Gómez held out a knife for me to hold; it was marvelously light. “What a society, no?” he exclaimed. “That could create something as beautiful and powerful as that.”


Hope you enjoy reading these articles as much as I did! If you have any articles to recommend, drop me a line here or email me at

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