Author: Kendra

Coronavirus: Part I – Fear and Community

Written by Life

Posted from: Los Angeles
My flight left Beijing – where I’ve lived and worked and studied since the early 2000’s – for DC on January 24, the day Coronavirus panic took hold. I packed for five days. Six weeks, four cities and a couple of cancelled flights later, I’m still in the States. I fly for Beijing tomorrow.

Fear

If you care to live a life without fear, for the love of snack cakes, do not study history. Or cosmology. Do not read about Rome or Influenza or the birth of our solar system. Do not form an opinion on how quickly and with how little forewarning civilizations cease to function. Do not read about wars, and about the many millions of slaughtered families who would not be uprooted by them, not because they didn’t have the resources to go, but because they chose not to.

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Saying Nothin’ but Thanks: Getting Back to Roots in the East Bay

Written by Travel

Posted from: San Francisco, California

One Valentine’s Day in the nascent months of World War II, and not long after the opening of his flagship furniture store, young Sol Wiseman’s marriage to Bay Area debutante Elizabeth Wolfe was announced in the society pages of the Berkeley Gazette. Just two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, as the rest of the world was going to shit, he celebrated yet another blessing: the birth of his first-born son. His second son, my uncle Richard, followed two years later. (more…)

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Chasing Specters: Ghost Hunting in Beijing and a Long, Slow Ascent

Written by Life

Posted from: Beijing, China

Wang Wei took me ghost-hunting last week, some famous haunt off of 3rd Ring Road, built and neglected by a Hong Kong developer. We weren’t supposed to be there. I know that anything’s a nightmare if you listen to it at the right pitch, but there was an honest-to-God dark stairwell with unmarked floors, and scrabbling hand prints, and flawless red spatters where I guess someone got really excited about their gaifan and made exit wounds on the wall in tomato sauce. And at the very top, a single light and a locked engine room door, behind which there are definitely Outer Gods holding court at the center of the universe. (more…)

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Spring Comes Early: New Directions and Netflix Man Candy

Written by Life

A few months after the divorce was final, in the early days of January, I spent a couple nights watching back-to-back auto industry unveilings on Youtube. Maserati’s Alfieri at the 2015 Geneva Auto Show. The Lexus RC F in Detroit. Not because I know anything about cars. Rather, the existence of life on alien worlds trivializes our ant colony intrigues here on earth. (more…)

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Typhoons in Taiwan: from the Da’An Tea Gardens to the Yongchun Hills

Written by Travel

Posted from: Taipei, Taiwan

The national weather service tells me that Typhoon Chan-Hom is unlikely to make critical landfall near northern Taiwan, and will slam instead into the Shanghai coast. I stocked up at 7-11 anyway – water, salad, douganr, weird Haagen-Daas flavors – and now I wait for the storm warning to pass. (more…)

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Off the path and up the mountain: Beijing’s Abandoned 0498 Military Bar

Written by Travel

Posted from: Beijing, China

This is one of several pieces I did on urban exploration for now-defunct website Smart Beijing.

Holed up in his secret base on the outskirts of what would soon be the capital of new China, the traitor Lin Biao and his cronies once plotted to overthrow Chairman Mao.  But before Lin Biao was branded a counter-revolutionary, he put his skill at guerrilla warfare to use for the Communist cause, mowing through Nationalists and invaders like a warm knife through butter.

“Hand me a cold one,” Lin Biao used to say, wiping the blood of the oppressors off his face. “Killing fascists makes me thirsty.”

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Disco disco: Day-tripping at the Beijing Watermelon Museum

Written by Travel

Posted from: Beijing, China

This is one of several pieces I did on offbeat urban tourism for now-defunct website Smart Beijing.

I like outings. I like the idea of a jaunty walk through whatever rolling hills Hebei can offer me. I used to romanticize the thought of riding the Beijing subway lines all the way to each terminus, and as the rail laid by the long arm of industry bore me farther from city center, the station names would become flavored with village twang, arboreal and sweet. Apple Orchard.  The Paddy Fields.

“The next station is Biomedical Base. Please prepare for your arrival.”  

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VOX 10th Anniversary: A Jaunt Down to Wuhan

Written by Travel

Wuhan, China

I realized as I sat next to it with a bowl of reganmian that I’d never actually seen the Yangzi. It’s muddy. We were down in Wuhan for the 10th Anniversary of punk scene mainstay VOX Livehouse, co-founded by a close friend of mine who’s since moved on to greater things. We spent a day confirming that East Lake is, in fact, very large, and two nights holed up on VOX’s second floor balcony with a crew of Beijing music diehards and ne’er-do-wells. (more…)

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Comparative Color Saturation in Chinese vs. Western App Interfaces

Written by Tech

Sometimes you have one of those conversations that’s so full of new ideas, it pinballs around your head for days. I enjoyed one of those recently while interviewing a source at a Beijing-based mobile game localization company, a man responsible for reviewing non-Chinese mobile games and assessing whether or not they’re a good fit for China. We were talking entry-level stuff for him, I’m sure, but it was a new to me: the challenges of porting games to the Chinese market, the actuary tables for app vetting and what the criteria is for refusal, that kind of thing. I asked him about the common visual adjustments – color, animation style – that his company recommends developers make to their mobile games in order to better please the Chinese eye before a launch on the mainland. You know what he said?

“Bright colors are a must here and our localization team often increases the saturation on games where there’s too much visual neutrality. Games with darker palettes, too many grays, blacks or browns tend to do worse in the market.”

Jesus, really? A noticeable difference in market share based on app color values? I mean, I got the impression that the guy wasn’t using the word “saturation” in the Biblical design sense, rather as an expression of general vividness, but I wondered if that was a measurable fact. And if it was, how to measure it. Which is weird for me, because I don’t usually bother with measurements, I just eyeball a cup of flour and throw that shit in the oven.

(I moved this post. Read the rest over at The Pixellary.)

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In Cometh the Wood Goat: A Chinese New Year at Guanshuyuan

Written by Life

Posted from: Beijing

I’ve never really been able to capture Chinese New Year on camera. I’ve tried. But silly little SLRs don’t do continuity well, and it really is the continuity that’s so beautifully overwhelming. Imagine putting a hundred bags of popcorn in microwave, and imagine that some of the popcorn was actually thunder, and then imagine the explosions lasting for a week, until the noise became almost comforting, a low-level thread in the static that makes up your earspace. (more…)

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