[Book Review] Crashing the Party: an American Reporter in China

Uncanny silence has surrounded Scott Savitt’s memoir since it was published in November last year. Though National Geographic and Vice both recommended it, there was no New York Times review, no big book tour, no NPR interview, no Literary Festival headlining slot. The local expat rags didn’t even pick it up which is surprising considering Savitt was for many years a well respected foreign correspondent and afterwards basically started what we now know as expat media in China. Why the lack of attention?

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China’s Real Secret Weapon

A few weeks ago, a link went around to a Washington Post story with this alarming headline: “China’s Scary Lesson to the World: Censoring the Internet Works.” When I saw it I worried that someone had beaten me to the punch. I had been thinking of writing something along those lines. But then I read the story and was relieved knowing the Western media had gotten it wrong once again.

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The Legend of Hedy Lee

I haven’t thought of Hedy Lee in years. But in the last month she has made a comeback – among certain circles at least – courtesy of this thread on Reddit. It begins with indignation over a magazine article she wrote in 2009 giving advice for managing ayis before devolving to the question whether or not she was a fiction perpetrated by City Weekend. It’s an absurd question. A simple Google search shows you she is a real. The real question is – what to make of her?

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The End of City Weekend Beijing

Almost exactly one year ago we gathered here for the funeral for SmartBeijing. I certainly didn’t think only a year later it would be City Weekend’s turn. But that’s exactly what’s implied by this post which went around Monday. I started working for City Weekend Beijing in July 2006 and ran the entire editorial operation until October 2014 so this hits close to home. But this isn’t about rehashing the good times – you can go here for a bit of that – rather about trying to figure out what – if any – business model there is for expat media in China.

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On Cicadas

The cicadas are loud this year. Quite loud. At least they are where I live in Pudong. Their sound, which is almost indescribable – not a buzz, more a pulsating chatterous skeez – fills the air day and night. The high point came a couple weeks back when they set up a truly deafening, almost three-dimensional roar. They are trailing off now. Day by day the sound thins, like the tide going out leaving small islands here and there. Soon there won’t even be islands – just silence. Now there are are only a few left. You probably won’t even notice they’re gone, just like you barely noticed they were there. How can something so loud be so invisible?

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Yongkang Lu Fights Back! Sort of!

Yesterday the news came – Bao Bingzhang, the mayor of Xuhui, declared that Yongkang Lu – the drinking destination favored by Shanghai’s most discerning laowai – was to be shut down. “Yongkang Lu Bars Must Be Eliminated” the headline roared across the Xinmin Wanbao. The news went around Wechat like wildfire. And then today came the follow-up: “Yongkang Lu Bars To Be Shut by the End of July”. Tears were shed. Drinks were ordered.

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The Golden Age of Kungfu Komedy … Is Coming to an End?

Some surprising news went around last week – Kungfu Komedy veteran Turner Sparks was doing his last stand-up show in Shanghai. And then a few days later came some more surprising news – Kungfu Komedy veteran Joe Schaefer was doing his last stand-up show in Shanghai. And that was followed by some more surprising news – Kungfu Komedy veteran Paul Johnson was – you guessed it – also doing his last stand-up show in Shanghai. These shows all went down a within a week of each other. So what the heck is going on with Shanghai’s best stand-up outfit? Are the comedians just tired of risking their lives in the Kartel elevator?

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