The China Blog larb blog spiral

Why Chinese TV Should Be More Like French TV

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By Paul French

If you want to understand a country’s national obsessions and public concerns, watch their TV crime dramas. Cop shows, at least those with contemporary settings, reveal what the folks at home are worried about: they draw on popular tabloid stories and reveal the state of the nation’s concerns. This televisual truism is slightly skewed in China, however, where cop shows, censored and sanitized as they are, usually show what CCTV (the state-controlled broadcaster) thinks people should be worried about — invariably anything that threatens “social harmony.” In Chinese cop shows, the bad guys are usually either foreigners (often overseas Chinese from elsewhere), minorities (Uighurs from Xinjiang, mostly), or people with (unfounded, of course!) grudges against the Party. Chinese TV cops are clean-living, invariably uniformed, polite, and care only for the peoples’ welfare. Still, I can’t help wondering: What would a Chinese cop show be like if the censors took a holiday? Continue reading


LARB Channels larb blog boom tech

Who You Calling a Techie?

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Photo: Janet Delaney, Roof Terrace One Hawthorne 645 Howard Street, 2013.

This piece was originally published by LARB Channel Boom, in their Summer 2014 issue

By Leah Reich

When I tell pretty much anyone outside the tech industry I work at a start-up, there’s usually a pause. I can watch her compose her face, waiting to hear the worst. If I’m lucky, I’ll field questions about foie gras burgers, daily massages, or what it’s like to work with a bunch of clueless bros. I laugh, but I’m careful to say it’s not always like that. Sure, some places are beautifully designed and full of crazy start-up perks, but there are companies that aren’t. Like the one run by people I know, people who spent a year crammed in a tiny two-room office, busy around the clock, emails and messages flying at all hours. In fact, they’ve been going nonstop for a few years now, working on a product they hope will help people be smarter, safer drivers—and maybe even get people to use less gas. Continue reading


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Pop Politics: Angela Davis, Nina Simone, and Bob Dylan

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By Jordan Alexander Stein

If I hum a few bars, you might begin to recall the tune. It goes like this. In August 1970, a warrant was issued for Angela Davis’s arrest. Two guns she’d legally owned and registered turned up in a courtroom shoot out a week before, and this disgraced philosophy professor, doubtful of getting a fair trial in Ronald Reagan’s California, went underground. For two months, Davis evaded police and the FBI, before she was arrested in a Times Square motel, resurfacing to one of the most publicized trials of the twentieth century.

Those are the verses most people know. But the song I’d rather sing you begins elsewhere—sometime in 1971, when Nina Simone carried a balloon into the Marin County jail where Davis was being held for trial. Continue reading

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Faking Galileo: From the LARB Quarterly Journal, Spring 2014

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The following is a feature article from the newly released LARB Quarterly Journal: Spring 2014 edition. To pick up your copy of the Journal, become a member of the Los Angeles Review of Books at the $11 monthly level or order a copy at amazon.comindiebound.com or b&n.com.

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ART FORGERIES have long been the stuff of thrillers, with fake da Vincis or Vermeers fooling connoisseurs, roiling the art world, and moving millions of dollars. We don’t think of ancient books driving such grand forgery, intrigue, and schadenfreude. This is changing thanks in part to a clever forgery of Galileo’s landmark book Sidereus Nuncius, published in Venice in 1610. Arguably one of the most extraordinary scientific publications of all times, Sidereus Nuncius turned Galileo into the brightest new star of Western science. Four centuries later, a faked copy of this book has disarmed a generation of Galileo experts, and raised a host of intriguing questions about the social nature of scholarly authentication, the precariousness of truth, and the revelatory power of fakes. Continue reading


LARB Channels larb blog whats the matter sf

What’s the Matter with San Francisco?

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Below is a piece from Boom, one of our LARB Channels. We’ve reproduced it in full here; to read the original, and to check out more from Boom, visit their website

By Eve Bachrach and Jon Christensen

From Boom Summer 2014, Vol 4, No 2

We’re not arguing about what really matters.

So many columns filled, so much hand wringing, but no one seems to be able to answer: What’s the matter with San Francisco? Continue reading


The China Blog THE VALLEY OF AMAZEMENT
By Amy Tan
589 pp. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers. $29.99.

City of Reinvention: A Review of Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement

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By Maura Elizabeth Cunningham

Shanghai is a city of reinvention. The metropolis has transformed over the past two centuries from a regional trading hub to a massive global financial center. Shanghai has become the site where China meets the world, a point of entry for alien goods and customs that transfigure the city into an environment that is neither entirely Chinese nor foreign, but rather a blend of the two. With this growth, millions of people have poured into the city: migrants from within China, hoping to find work that will put their families on firm economic footing, as well as arrivals from around the globe, each pushed or pulled to Shanghai by personal forces. Some seek money; some hope for adventure; others want to escape, to disappear into the crush of people and emerge with a new name and history — and in turn, a new future. Continue reading


LARB Channels Mark Harris, The Nature of Creation: Examining the Bible and Science, Durham: Acumen, 2013, 213pp.

Can the Bible Survive Science?: A Review From Marginalia by John Walton

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Below is an excerpt from a review of Mark Harris’s The Nature of Creation, originally published by LARB Channel Marginalia earlier today. 

In 2003, an international research group successfully mapped the human genome, exposing for the first time the mass of genetic information encoded in human DNA. This event changed the ideological landscape of conversations on the Bible and science, in part because it produced genetic evidence for the evolutionary relationships between humans and many other species. This explosion of genetic data has prompted many questions about human origins and demands a renewed examination of the biblical text and of Christian theology.  Meanwhile, recent work in biblical studies has encouraged new readings of creation literature — particularly in the book of Genesis — thereby reconfiguring the Bible’s relationship to science. Yet, few scholars are competent in both the hard sciences and biblical studies. Even fewer approach the confluence of these two fields without a predetermined agenda to promote. Mark Harris, however, is competent — he is trained in both physics and theology — and even-handed in his new book, The Nature of Creation: Examining the Bible and Science. Continue reading


Dear Television DearTVlogo

Dear Television Weekly Roundup: June 15–21

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By Jacob Surpin

It’s been a big week for television coverage here at LARB. Along with Dear TV, two other excellent pieces on television appeared as well. While not technically Dear TV, they are featured in this recap. Including those pieces, we saw essays on Game of ThronesOrange is the New Black, and Louie.

Dear Television, June 15–21

  • The Game of Thrones season finale was this past Sunday night, and Sarah Mesle has thoughts about it. Her piece, “Arya’s American Fantasy,” is concerned with the choices Thrones characters are confronted with, how they deal with them, and how this relates to American narratives of freedom (“the desire to go someplace else, where our choices will, maybe, be somehow different.”)
  • Maurice Chammah‘s extended piece on Orange is the New Black blends a real appreciation for the show’s aesthetic appeal with an examination of whether “we actually learn anything about criminal justice from staring at these women for 13 hours.”
  • Micah Hauser carefully considers the politics of laughter in Louie. From the essay: “As a show, Louie relishes the repeated trope — there are YouTube videos devoted to excavating the conceptual continuities throughout the series — and one of the most persistent is Louie’s own rigorous pursuit of women against their will.”

LARB Channels larb blog beck

Quiet Days in Malibu: Beck’s Recent Album

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Below is an excerpt from a review by Dave Coon of Beck’s most recent album, “Morning Phase,” originally published on Avidly, one of our LARB Channels. 

Artists have been trailed out of the box canyons north of Los Angeles by enemies, real or imagined, for decades. Jules Amthor, Chandler’s sociopathic psychic, cornered Phillip Marlow in one of these canyons. Joan Didion haunted the curves of the PCH in her white corvette and Neil Young was pursued by an army of mutant machine gun toting dune buggies down the dunes and onto the beach.

Other than the need for record sales and lunch, what is chasing Beck out of Malibu these days?

Beck is among us again, staring out at his listeners from the cover of “Morning Phase”, his recently released record, and his first for new label home, Capitol Records. His twelfth long-player dropped this spring and — other than the fact that it is a gorgeous sounding record — I’m not sure what to make of it. Continue reading


The China Blog Wang Zihao, photo credit Dou Yiping

Why Study Journalism in China?

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Photo: Wang Zihao. © Dou Yiping

By Lu-Hai Liang and Dou Yiping

China’s journalism schools, like those in many countries, are packed full of students preparing to join an industry where the supply of graduates far exceeds the number of positions available.

The press may be perceived as the fourth estate in the West, but some journalism students in China follow a “Marxist view” that includes supporting party principles, criticizing the “bourgeois concept of free speech,” and maintaining correct “guidance of public opinion,” according to an article on the China Media Project’s website. Continue reading