• Leftover Women

    Leftover Women

    Chinese women and burden of marriage.

    Posted by on Sunday, July 15, 2012

    Only after many late night conversations with female friends have I slowly begun to grasp the heavy and consuming burden that young women must face in metropolitan cities throughout China.

    The concept of a shengnü or “leftover woman” is a fairly recent phenomenon in Chinese society. The term refers to single women, over thirty, who live in large cities and are often highly educated and well salaried.
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  • The Rape of Europa

    Don’t Be A Dick

    Fenwick Smith's foreign policy.

    Posted by on Monday, June 4, 2012

    Last week, when my doorbell rang at the optimum moment between my boyfriend leaving for work and me leaving for work—a thirty minute gap that seems to be the only time my local police station does any work—I knew who would be waiting even before I wrenched the reinforced steel door open.

    I had my passport, foreign expert certificate and residence permit all primed and ready in a nearby drawer.
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  • Photo © Rian Dundon


    Images from the provincial capital.

    Posted by on Thursday, May 10, 2012

    Rian Dundon, an American photographer who lived in China for 6 years, is trying to fund a new book of photography called Changsha.

    He is currently fundraising through Emphas.is, which is like Kickstarter for photojournalism. There's a month left to support the project. We talked over e-mail about his upcoming book.
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  • Manufacturing #10A (detail) by Edward Burtynsky

    Yet Another Mike Daisey Piece

    A few words on Daisey, truth, beauty, and bitterness.

    Posted by on Thursday, April 12, 2012

    Daisey creating a situation where he shares a real human moment with his interpreter and he touches her hand seems not that problematic—that’s drama. But Daisey claiming to speak to Chinese workers who suffered hexane poisoning, or claiming to have met with secret union workers in clandestine Starbucks meetings seems far more problematic. Why?
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  • Photo © This American Life

    Glass Houses

    On the hypocrisy of This American Life.

    Posted by on Monday, April 2, 2012

    I also found it extremely difficult to listen to the "Retraction" episode of This American Life. I could not even listen to the whole episode—I had to read the transcript. The only way I could have relieved the fury building up inside me, as I listened to that podcast, would have been to slap Ira Glass across the face. I have never heard such sanctimonious, self-serving hypocrisy in my life—not from someone I respect.

    I am going to tell you some things that may shock you.
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Mike Daisey


This week's episode of "This American Life" so depressed me that afterward I felt as if I'd been thrown into a pot of melancholy and boiled over low heat.
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Photo © Thomas Hawk from Flickr

To Procrastinate and Snub

China is a police state. Why? Because the police are paid more than the teachers—a definition straight from the mouth of V.I. Lenin and one of the few I wholeheartedly agree with. Blame my Trot father for that.

Even if you don’t agree that the above definition, you will surely agree that China’s police force and its bungling subsidiary, the chengguan, are an ever-present feature of life here. I have seen uniformed police and chengguan attending concerts, guarding swimming pools, and hanging around my community watching older residents play cards.

I have no clue how many plainclothes police officers I have encountered during my time here; the only ones who gave themselves away were a pair whom I saw bust two guys on Shanghai’s Nanjing Road back in 2004. They tazered the men, then beat them up on the ground, in full view of the crowds of shoppers. The only others I can say for sure I’ve spotted are the ones meandering around Tiananmen Square, dressed like a child’s drawing of a spy.

Bottom line, the Chinese police—sorry, the Public Security Bureau’s operatives—are everywhere.

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Photo © Angelmaker666 from deviantART

Seventeen Guesses about Jeremy Lin

This past summer, I vaguely remember watching an NBA TV special about undrafted players that touched on the now ubiquitous Jeremy Lin. At the time he seemed vastly less pitiable than the other aspiring pros featured—his Harvard degree guaranteed that he would not be banished to Slovakian league if he didn’t make it in the majors.

Lin has since become Linsanity, a subject for Saturday Night Live skits, or 林书豪 in your Tudou search. He is the current, brief king of New York City, whose Giants just won the Super Bowl and whose favorite basketball team features two high-paid All-Stars in Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. Less than a year ago the Knicks made the splashy signing of Anthony on the belief that he would become king of NYC if able to deliver a championship after years of disappointment. Basketball remains the only big four sport (basketball, baseball, hockey, football) in which a major New York team has not won a title over the past twenty years.

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Photo © Tom Bricker from Flickr

Visa Vis

Just in time for Chinese new year, President Obama unveiled new directives that would make it easier for tourists from countries like China and Brazil to visit the United States.
Photo © mandiberg from Flickr

Thank You David Sedaris

It all happened so fast. When I wrote my satire of David Sedaris three months ago, I didn't think anyone would read it. When it comes to writing for this blog, that's usually a safe bet.
Shanghai Metro

Humor Me (Shanghai Subway Edition)

The Shanghai subway accident has reignited concerns over China's transportation infrastructure. It's no surprise that this incident has spawned another wave of Internet jokes.
Calvin and Hobbes

Proof: Chinese Have Least Fei Hua

Time researchers coded languages to see which ones were more information-dense—meaning they contained more meaning per syllable. Mandarin was the densest language studied, with a score of .94.