Thomas Burkes Out and About

Yellow Peril: Sinophobia and the Great War, A Q&A with Dr. Anne Witchard

By Paul French

Anne Witchard’s England’s Yellow Peril: Sinophobia and the Great War is the final volume in the Penguin China World War One series of short books that have highlighted the various aspects of China’s involvement in the Great War (previously discussed at this blog by Maura Elizabeth Cunningham). England’s Yellow Peril builds on Witchard’s previous work, looking closely at British perceptions of China and the Chinese through literature and the arts in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century. In England’s Yellow Peril she looks at how the outbreak of war accentuated and intensified many feelings of English racial dominance, Empire, and notions of the Yellow Peril that had arisen before the conflict. She concentrates on London’s old Chinatown of Limehouse in the East End, where swirling tales of opium smoking, gambling, and interracial romance had became synonymous with the presence of the Chinese. Continue reading

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NEWS FROM THE OTHER COAST: LESS AMERICA SOON

By Joseph Giovannini

To see cultural terrorism at work, you don’t have to trek to Afghanistan, where in 2001 the Taliban dynamited a magnificent and monumental Buddha carved in live rock. Within our own country, the legislators and chief executive in Orange County, New York, a bucolic county a couple of hours west of New York City, seem keen on rivaling the Taliban for barbarism by irreversibly damaging the comparably magnificent and monumental Orange County Government Center, by the American architectural master Paul Rudolph. On February 5, unless a majority of the legislators at a meeting override a veto by the county executive, Steven Neuhaus, the bulldozers will be out by spring to demolish a large section of the building to make room for a soulless replacement. Our collective cultural patrimony will be diminished. Neuhaus claims he is accommodating pressure from the courts to reopen courtrooms in the currently shuttered building. He is also ignoring history and the national interest.

Continue reading

larb blog architecture

The Arrogance of Criticism

By Joseph Giovannini

In October 2014, our architecture critic, Joseph Giovannini, wrote about what he called La Comédie Architecturale. He now sends this update. 

LAST JUNE, in his New York Review of Books article “The Insolence of Architecture,” the New York architecture critic Martin Filler wrote a scathing appraisal of the London architect Zaha Hadid — more about her character, really, than her work — making a serious factual error when he accused her of indifference to the deaths of nearly 1,000 workers on the construction site of her Al-Wakrah soccer stadium in Qatar. The accusation and consequent controversy went viral.

In fact, not one person had died on the site; construction hadn’t even started. She sued Filler and NYRB for defamation, even as sages of the profession opined the suit was a strategic error on her part, bringing more attention to the issue. Was she a petulant diva? Continue reading

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No Crisis: A LARB Special Series

“No Crisis” is a Los Angeles Review of Books special series considering the state of critical thinking and writing — literary interpretation, art history, and cultural studies — in the 21st century. A new installment to the series will be released at the beginning of each month through the fall of 2015. Our aim, as our introductory essay explains, is to “show that the art of criticism is flourishing, rich with intellectual power and sustaining beauty, in hard times.”

The editors of “No Crisis” are Caleb Smith, Sarah Mesle, and Merve Emre. Comments, questions, and responses can be sent to nocrisis@lareviewofbooks.org.

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The Pessimistic and Optimistic Case for the Future of Innovation in China

By Austin Dean

It is always interesting when two books released at nearly the same time — written by two very different authors and aimed at two distinct audiences — at first glance appear to have nothing to do with each other but end up focused on the same thing. It is even better when they disagree.

Yong Zhao is Professor of Education at the University of Oregon. Shaun Rein is a marketing consultant based in Shanghai. Zhao’s book, Whos Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World, came out last September and aims to disabuse American educators of the dangerous notion that the U.S. education system should be more like China’s. Rein’s volume, The End of Copycat China: The Rise of Creativity, Innovation, and Individualism in Asia, came out in the same month and seeks to puncture illusions that the business environment in China is the same as it was a few short years ago when he published his first book, The End of Cheap China. Both works, though, ultimately center on one of the watchwords of our time: innovation. Continue reading

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Making Their Way in The World Today

Today’s post was originally published by LARB Channel Avidly

By Sarah Blackwood

“City’s hard,” my three-year-old son occasionally remarks. He offers those words as mere description, though, no real judgment. (I mean, he’s three; lack of judgment is the best and worst thing about him). He’s no stranger to the strains of urban life. He helpfully reassures my husband and I as we lug ninety pounds of children plus stroller up and down the urine-soaked stairs of the subway station. “We’re okay!” he chirps in encouragement from his seat, and we grimly move forward.

Last week’s cold open of Broad City found the unlikely protagonists running for the train, high-fiving when they snake between the closing doors, and then turning to confront the hell of other people on the train along with them. The bit that follows is a riff on the dystopian film Snowpiercer, in which humans have taken refuge from a dead world by boarding a never-stopping train that simply becomes yet another vehicle for brutal class warfare. But where the protagonists of Snowpiercer move forward through the train cars aiming to assassinate the single guy (heh) in charge (heh) of stoking and maintaining class warfare, Abbi and Ilana move in another direction. Continue reading

larb blog reading security

Reading Security

Image: Julianna Brion

By Randon Billings Noble

I’ve been reading a lot these days – novels, essays, and online articles about reading novels, essays and online articles. My own reading has been voracious and omnivorous – largely because the rest of my life is limited to being home with three-year-old twins and reading The Magic School Bus, Frog and Toad are Friends and Mr. Tiger Goes Wild.

So I do not have “reading insecurity,” as defined by Katy Waldman in a recent Slate article of the same name. Instead of “the subjective experience of thinking that you’re not getting as much from reading as you used to,” I fear I am in danger of taking too much from it. As soon as the twins’ door closes on their naptime or my husband comes home from work I am counting the minutes until I can fix a cup of tea and curl up with a book. Then, at last, I can rejoin Eula Biss as she explores vaccination in On Immunity, or Cheryl Strayed as she hikes the Pacific Crest Trail, or Lucy Knisely as she travels across Europe and into The Age of License. Through these journeys I can leave struggles with socks and broccoli and tantrums behind. Continue reading

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Free Speech and Its Enemies in Greater China

Image: ​“Let’s show Hong Kongers what it means to kneel for your country!” Soon after Wang Liming (a.k.a. Rebel Pepper) put this cartoon online, a post calling him a “traitor” appeared on People’s Daily BBS. (Artist: Rebel Pepper 变态辣椒).

Note from the China Blog editors: Issues of free speech, censorship, and attacks on journalists have made headlines around the world this month. The biggest news, of course, has come out of Europe, but some stories associated with the topics have broken that relate to Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. These topics are regular staples for some of the websites we track here at the China Blog, including the Hong Kong-based China Media Project and the Berkeley-based China Digital Times. This post is devoted to introducing Covering China from Cyberspace in 2014, a new e-book by the latter that focuses on political developments of the past year on the Chinese mainland, in Hong Kong, and in passing also Taiwan. Fittingly, given the headlines from Europe, it includes some pointed political cartoons from 2014, including the one shown above.  

What follows are two excerpts from a section of the book dealing mainly with the Umbrella Movement that erupted in Hong Kong last September, but also with the Sunflower protests that rocked Taiwan before that. Each of these events has been the subject of essays for the main page of the Los Angeles Review of Books (see, for example, this and this) and they were compared and connected in a previous post for this blog. In the excerpts that follow, readers can see how CDT’s latest e-book deals with, first, threats to freedom of the press in Hong Kong during the months preceding the Umbrella Movement, and, secondly, efforts by the mainland authorities to control the narrative of the protest surge once it was underway. Continue reading

inherent vice

The One That Got Away: On Inherent Vice

Today’s post was originally published by LARB Channel Avidly

By Evan Kindley

“Doc stroked his chin and gazed off into space for a while. ‘You know how some people say they have a ‘gut feeling’? Well, Shasta Fay, what I have is dick feelings, and my dick feeling sez—’” — Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice (2009)

“It is said that analyzing pleasure, or beauty, destroys it. That is the intention of this article.” — Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (1975)

***

The new movie by Paul Thomas Anderson is out, in most major U.S. cities anyway. It’s an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel Inherent Vice, and you should see it, unless you hate all of Anderson’s movies (some people do) or Pynchon’s books (ditto), because in various ways it represents tendencies that have long been latent in each of their work, and in American literature, film, and culture more generally. I’ve seen the film twice, and found it intensely pleasurable, but I will try to show how the nature of the pleasure it offers might not be available to everyone, and how that might be a problem. Even on its own terms, it’s not a perfect movie — it might be the most flawed film Anderson has made, though I’d give the edge to Punch Drunk Love — but, like all of his movies, it is touched with enough greatness to justify the price of admission and bear careful scrutiny. Scrutiny (and spoilers) follow. Continue reading

LOGO

LARB’s Top 25 Most Read Articles of 2014

1. Young Adult Cancer Story by Briallen Hopper, July 16th, 2014

Author John Green called it his “favorite essay on The Fault in Our Stars yet.”

2. We Need To Talk About Tyrion: How HBO Failed George R. R. Martin’s Iconic Character by Ilana Teitelbaum, November 21st, 2014

“What is most remarkable about this moment in the TV series is that the show gets it wrong.”

3. Hitler, Continued: Afterword from the Updated Edition of “Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil” by Ron Rosenbaum, July 10th, 2014

Ron Rosenbaum’s characteristically brilliant response to all the important updates that have occurred in Hitler studies in the past 15 years.

  1. Sarah Mesle on Texts from Jane Eyre by Sarah Mesle, November 6th, 2014

Texts from Jane Eyre is not only a major work of bathroom humor reading, but also a significant contribution to feminist literary criticism.

5. The Posthuman Scar-Jo by Sophia Nguyen, September 12th, 2014

Scarlett Johansson in Her (Spike Jonze, 2013), Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013), and Lucy (Luc Besson, 2014). Continue reading