Before I saw Tom Olden's video, I heard reactions to it. It was described as a "leap off the deep end" with an "ISIS vibe," featuring a "headless girl in the background chopping carrots on an ironing board... PUA-style 'burns' on manhood, and, of course, that Jigsaw voice." That's crazy, I thought. Does the carrot represent neutered sexuality? Is the headless woman some self-aware avowal of misogyny? And what of the knife, that weapon-turned-tool of domesticity, scything away? Is the video menacing or ironic?
It’s one of the gifts of China that there’s something to write about on every street corner. It’s one of the curses of China that expats keep writing about themselves instead.
Growing up, Driver Wang’s father thought him a momma’s boy. “Send him to play outside more,” he complained. “The kid needs to get into some scrapes.” Little did Wang Hu know, his son had been through six lifetimes of scrapes. He’d been castrated by a sorceress, strangled by a lover, beaten by roving pirates, and tortured by Red Guards. Yet in his current life as a Beijing taxi driver, Driver Wang is unaware of this -- until a mysterious letter falls from his taxi’s visor one day.
In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of World War I, Penguin China has released a seven-book series on China-focused Great War history. It tabbed Paul French, author of the popular and award-winning Midnight in Peking: The Murder That Haunted the Last Days of Old China, to contribute Betrayal in Paris: How the Treaty of Versailles Led to China’s Long Revolution.... I sat down with the author (over Skype) to talk about the "betrayal," Japan's role in it, and how it might have been tipped by -- of all things -- America's Jim Crow laws.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of a turning point in modern Chinese history. In the run-up, around 20 key intellectuals and campaigners have been been detained, and security around Beijing heightened. And who knows how many warnings and threats have been issued to the family and friends of conscience-driven citizens across the country.
The temptation, when evaluating a poet gunned down by his government, is to start there, with the politics that led to his murder. But Wen Yiduo (1899-1946) was much too complex and heterodox to comfortably wear the martyr's robe, his works too nuanced and unsettled to be a paragon of any revolution. His poems explore religion and rickshaws, contain the chrysanthemums of Chinese folklore and the mud of contemporary times, and dare readers to challenge prevailing conceptions, even to render their own cynicism as hope.
The top-ten-list format has its limitations as a vehicle for instruction and dialectic, but The Nanfang has a great one you should check out: top 10 translations of quotes from the novelist Qian Zhongshu (yesterday was the 15th anniversary of his death). Our favorites come in a clump, Nos. 5-7:
Ed's note: China's first-ever expat anthology, Unsavory Elements, probably broke a Reddit Books record this past Friday night for the largest group AMA (“Ask Me Anything”). In honor of the 20-plus contributors who joined in, here are the highlights from this historic AMA.
Junkyard Planet, the first book by Bloomberg Shanghai correspondent Adam Minter, offers a look at the often unheard and unseen $500 billion global scrap and recycling industry, which has formed in the shadow of burgeoning Western -- and increasingly Chinese -- consumerism. Minter is himself “a proud junkyard kid” from a Minneapolis scrap trading family that established themselves through hard graft in the post-Depression period. This background provided him the connections to offer an invaluable insider perspective on this unknown trade -- and also informs his somewhat Romanticized, American Dream-inspired perspective.
A book called Those Who Don't Read It Upside-down Are Pigs, among others, has been seized for "spreading pornography," according to Xinhua, as edited by Global Times. And two publishers, China Pictorial Publishing House and Shaanxi Normal University Publishing House, have been suspended for three months.
Offbeat China has translated, in full, a Chinese adaptation of a popular fairy tale found in a children's book. The story is amazing, complete with amazing illustrations, and generally reads like an amazing version of a Brother Grimm tale, only funnier. Here's an excerpt:
Liao Yiwu was a fledging poet without a formal education, a hot-tempered philanderer prone to fights, a dreamer who actively despised politics -- until the early hours of June 4, 1989, when, from the living room of his home in the river town of Fuling, he listened with Canadian Michael Day to shortwave radio reports of Chinese troops opening fire on students around Tiananmen Square. "The bloody crackdown in Beijing was a turning point in history and also in my own life," he writes in his prison memoir For a Song and a Hundred Songs...
The problem with gringo lit about the gringo experience in China is it inevitably and unsubtlety reinforces the foreigner's sense of Otherness while feeding his inflated sense of importance. In doses this is not necessarily bad – it can be therapeutic to read, even for lesser voyeurs – but in bulk it becomes obnoxious, not least of which because it is both disingenuous and vapid to pretend that foreigners don't relish, if not secretly rejoice at, their entitled status as Other.
“From the moment we step foot in the Middle Kingdom,” editor Tom Carter writes in his introduction on the opening page of Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China, “foreigners are subjected to an extraordinary range of alien experiences, ranging from appalling to exquisite.” The use of passive voice – are subjected to – places the emphasis strictly on “foreigners,” who are subjects protraying themselves as objects, assailed. The next sentence begins – emphasis mine – “We contend with seething masses of humanity,” and it becomes abundantly clear who are the looked-upon They.
Google chairman Eric Schmidt has a new book ready to debut in April, The Digital Age, co-written by Jared Cohen, formerly of the State Department. As the Wall Street Journal puts it succinctly, the book is clear about one thing: “China is the most dangerous superpower on Earth.” Specifically, Schmidt writes that China’s hacking culture —... Read more »
Sun Tzu's The Art of War has been around for more than 2,000 years, and it may be a timeless classic, but it's about time it got a reboot.
Enter Kelly Roman, whose graphic novel The Art of War is set in a dystopian future and samples from the ancient military treatise. Explains China Daily's Kelly Chung Dawson, the book "overlays Sun Tzu's text against a revenge story set 20 years in the future, in an imagined time in which Wall Street has become militarized and China is the dominant global superpower.
Instagram can eat its heart out. As seen on Will Schofield’s 50 Watts, the pictures here, inspired by Lu Xun, are graphic designs from the 1920s and 1930s, a particularly fertile time for creative expression. They’re from the book Chinese Graphic Design in the Twentieth Century, by Scott Minick and Jiao Ping. As described on Amazon: Beginning with... Read more »