Life

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

Written by Life

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

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

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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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Suddenly I’m Really Into Print: Concrete Flux Launches Issue 3 – Escapism

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It’s been all digital with me for 18 years. Since I was 13, digital digital digital HTML internet, and then one day I’ve got InDesign open and I have this from-the-gut need to make things I can touch. I want someone to show me paper samples. I want to understand bindings. I want data sets to call the cops and complain, breathlessly, that I visualized them in ways they never dreamed. (more…)

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Hometown Tourism: Three Months of Back-alley Beijing Finds

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Beijing, China

Turtle Guy is finally gone. Every day for two weeks, he stood near the exit on Dongsishitiao, holding a dead snapping turtle in the air and fixing passing cars with an accusing, dead-eyed stare. I guess someone got wise and bought the thing off him, because he’s gone, and he didn’t look like a quitter. (more…)

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Midnight in Peking: Cheers to Pamela on the Tartar Wall

Written by Life

Beijing, China

I still don’t know who killed Pamela Werner. There’s two more chapters until that big reveal.

Midnight in Peking, by Paul French, is one of those quintessential China reads. It follows the true story of a 1937 investigation into the murder of a young expat girl, Pamela Werner, daughter of British envoy E.T.C. Werner, who was butchered, mutilated, and dumped at the base of the Fox Tower (now Dongbianmen) on her way home from the French Legation ice skating rink just a few months before the Japanese occupation of Beijing. Most of the streets, buildings and monuments from that time still stand in one form or another, and Kyle picked up some champagne and the official walking tour map for a gruesome grey Saturday following in Pamela’s last steps.

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Blasted by Dawn: or, Free Sunrise, Courtesy of Hotel East

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Posted from: Beijing

Sunday morning, just barely 6:30. Kyle and I sat bolt upright in bed as the room was invaded by ultraviolets. All the hotel rooms at East are fronted with a floor-to-ceiling window looking out over the suburbs of Hebei and are positioned to catch the sunrise. And what a sunrise. I don’t need to be an astronaut anymore: I’ve already seen the intensity of the turning earth reveal the sun ray by ray as it pours over the edge of the planet. Which is good, since between you and I, I wasn’t looking forward to peeing in my space suit. (more…)

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Turning 30 at Mercante and Plans for Sweeping Tombs in North Korea

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Beijing, China

People keep asking me what it feels like to be 30. It feels like 29, except that no one asks you what it feels like to be 29. Birthdays, shmirthdays. I only hope that as time goes on, I’m able to muster the grace necessary to embrace the aging process without breaking down and boo-hooing into a botox clinic. Let the Me of then remember what the Myself of now already knows: buy a giant pair of sunglasses and a huge turquoise brooch, and leave the defeat of physics to physicists. (more…)

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One Pearly Snow Day: Kendra’s Vegetarian & Vegan Survival Guide to Beijing

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Posted from: Beijing

Before we get around to the veggie walking tour, a breaking news update: Rumor has it there are weasels in the hutongs. Kyle says he saw one, and the thought of furtive hutong weasels hiding in the drain pipes and making legends of themselves pleases me. I spent at least four seconds brainstorming how to feed them whole coffee berries then harvest the digested beans from their poop like they do in Vietnam. SARS, SHMARS, that coffee is ah-may-zing. (more…)

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Another Year in Toxitopia, or: Low Levels of Micro-Particulates are for Sissies

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Posted from: Beijing

I bought a fancy new camera that I don’t know how to use and always forget to bring anywhere except restaurants, which is why I pretty much just have pictures of food, the subway, and me in my bathroom mirror. It’s also why I don’t have pictures of the two tiny Tibetan village women who wandered into the UNIQLO at Ginza Mall, apparently fresh from a day of hawk-training on the wild steppes. (more…)

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