Radiohead, Peacocks, Steel, Romania, Unit 731

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In A Room With Radiohead

Adam Thorpe | Times Literary Supplement | 18th May 2016

Notes from the South of France during the recording of A Moon Shaped Pool. “The members of Radiohead have been worrying about their age for some time: dining with the band in Arles thirteen years ago, I heard Thom Yorke announce that he would quit rock music when he was forty. Fifty now looms. But when he appears crossing a lawn in a kind of Flaubertian dressing gown and towel turban, cool behind reflective shades, he could be twenty, aside from his salt-and-pepper stubble” (2,200 words)

The Peacock Chef Of China

Christopher St Cavish | Lucky Peach | 19th May 2016

The main attraction at the Xishuangbanna Virgin Forest Park in China’s Yunnan Province is the “Flight of the Peacocks”, a seven-times-a-day show in which hundreds of peacocks fly down a small hill. But peacocks “aren’t really built” to fly. It takes years to train them, and many never learn. So. The park has non-performing peacocks; it also has a restaurant; and peacock is a rarity, if not a delicacy. “Think as a business owner might, and you can see where this is going”. They taste like turkey (1,500 words)

The Father Of Modern Metal

Jonathan Waldman | Nautilus | 19th May 2016

Riveting story of the man credited with discovering stainless steel, a stubborn Brit called Harry Brearley who started work as a bootblack’s boy in Sheffield and taught himself industrial chemistry. He was adding manganese and silicon to steel for hardening gun barrels when he noticed that his alloys did not rust. Others had got their before him, but none had grasped the commercial possibilities. Sheffield was the cutlery-making capital of the world, so Brearley had no such difficulty (5,200 words)

Surrounded By Jew-Haters

John Banville | New York Review of Books | 18th May 2016

Mihail Sebastian’s Journal 1935-44 is a “profound and moving record of some of the most terrible years in the history of Europe”, equal to the diaries of Victor Klemperer and Anne Frank. Sebastian’s newly translated novel, For Two Thousand Years, written in 1934, captures in barely fictionalised form the anti-Semitism and nihilism of Cioran, Eliade and the rest of the pre-war Romanian literary elite. They craved chaos. Sebastian saw where it would lead. “The underlying tone is one of prophetic dread” (3,360 words)

Train To Harbin

Asako Serizawa | Literary Hub | 19th May 2016

A short story, which I read to the end as if it were a memoir, and I recommend it in that vein. A Japanese doctor recounts, from the vantage-point of old age, how he was induced to abandon an unremarkable early life in academia to join Unit 731, a monstrous research project in occupied China which subjected thousands of live human prisoners to medical experimentation, ostensibly to further the development of biological weapons. Horrible throughout, but persuasive and transfixing (7,100 words)

Video of the day: Magnets And Marbles

What to expect:

A Rube Goldberg labyrinth (4’04”)

Thought for the day

A weapon that you don’t know how to use belongs to your enemy
Terry Pratchett

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