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JOURNAL: NERVES

Credit: dsleeter_2000 (Flickr)

The skin on my hands has been peeling for weeks. At first, I thought it was a rash contracted while in the Chinese countryside in early November. Or maybe a flesh-eating bacterial infection, the next logical step my hypochondriac brain jumps to.

But my dad pointed out that his hands peeled when he was a younger and more nervous man. He would get nervous, his hands would sweat, his hands would peel.

So the solution seems simple enough. I just need to not get nervous or stressed. Right…

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CLIPS: AT THE MOVIES, CHINA INVESTS IN US

Credit: Jonathan Kos-Read (Flickr)

I’m really pleased with my stories from the past couple of weeks. First to go up online, my story on Chinese movies examined how the mainland movies may be catching up to Hollywood on looks, but censorship means they still lag in telling good stories. This article has it all: Heart-eating demons, Jackie Chan, Spiderman versus Batman and Chinese officials contradicting themselves. There were some great quotes in this one too, such as,

Rosen and Schechter cited the example of Hollywood’s “Kung Fu Panda.” “You’re dealing with a fat lazy panda, the symbol of China,” Rosen said. “It’s quite possible the censors might have said, ‘What is your ulterior motive for making this film? Are you suggesting that Chinese people are lazy or fat? Or is this an indirect critique of government bloatedness?”

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CLIP: GOLD LOSES ITS GLITTER/LUSTER

Credit: McKay Savage (Flickr)

Gold prices have had a fantastic run since roughly the mid-2000s. Those who feared the world’s growing economic uncertainty (perhaps rightfully so) poured their money into the precious metal as a safe haven.

But so far this year, prices have been swinging up and down rather than continuing on their climb ever upward.  That prompted many rather unoriginal headlines, similar to what I’ve written above.

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LATEST STORIES

I’ve tried a few things to keep this blog updated more regularly, with questionable success. This site is perhaps foremost a portfolio of my work, so at the very least, I will try to post my latest articles as they come out.

October is my first full issue of CER as the senior staff writer, which means I’ll be producing articles far more often from here on. Some of those articles have already started to roll out online before the month begins.

My first piece to come out was our front-of-book news briefing looking at how Hillary Clinton has helped promote gridlock in Asia Pacific’s regional relations and how that may be the best recipe for stability. Check that out here.

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ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY

I deplaned in Beijing on Sept. 9, 2011, and met my former study abroad roommate Jerry at arrivals. We took the long taxi ride from the airport to the city center, catching up about our former classmates and what had changed in my three-year absence. I felt exhausted from the long flight and didn’t put forth all that much effort in the conversation, concentrating on staying awake. I would be living in Beijing and would see Jerry again, I thought.

One year later, and I have not seen Jerry. Since then, not much has turned out as expected. I live in Shanghai now. I am not an untethered freelancer as I had initially intended, but a 40-plus-hour a week staff writer. I barely blog anymore, never tumblr, never tweet.

I’ve lived in four different apartments in China, some more pleasant than others. I’ve gotten my ass kicked. I have become that oddly dressed foreigner at the office, went to that other China and made a fool of myself on the stage of nearly every Shanghai club I’ve been to (at least the ones the bouncers didn’t pull me off of).

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FIRST COVER STORY

My first cover story at China Economic Review was published online today (Sept. 1 in print), roughly one-year after I first arrived in China. Check it out here.

This was the most fun to write out of all the articles during my time at CER. I lucked out by drawing such a mainstream, high-profile topic like the South China Sea. Cover stories allow us to dig more into a subject, so I did copious reading on the subject, much of which I gladly did over the weekend. I interviewed about 10 people (Chinese research staff helped with roughly another 5). By the end of it, I could hold my own and have nuanced conversations with some of the top experts on the conflict, something that’s often not possible on a four-source story.

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MORE CLIPS

Coming from the daily newspaper racket, I had imagined working at a monthly magazine would be relaxed. I would spend a lot of time bouncing a ball Toby Ziegler-style and thinking of that killer lead. Without the constraints of daily deadlines, I would immerse myself in my reporting, finding that angle that the wires and foreign newspapers missed.

That could not be further from the reality of my job. It seems the deadlines come just as fast, the only difference is all the stories come out as a batch once a month, or once a quarter in the case of the magazine I edit.

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MOBBED ON THE MOUNTAIN

Last week I worked Monday through Sunday under China’s odd national holiday rules that required us to make up two days of the Monday-to-Wednesday Qingming Festival (清明节, Tomb Sweeping Festival). I was ready for a few days relaxation and set out that evening with friends on a train to Huangshan (黄山, lit. Yellow Mountain).

The trip turned out to be anything but relaxing. Exciting and fun at times, climbing the steep stairs of Huangshan for more than five hours was probably the most strenuous physical endeavor that I have ever undertaken – I had apparently misinterpreted Huangshan’s description as breathtaking. Our toils were awarded with incredible views torn straight from the scrolls of a traditional Chinese painting, many of which the mountain has inspired.

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HOP THIS WAY TO SAVINGS

Oh, the Year of the Rabbit, I remember like it was only about month ago. I took this picture last year on Huaihai Lu of some rabbits chilling, not trying very hard to advertise what seemed to be the grand opening of a Sichuan restaurant that specializes in fish and rabbit.

The sign reads:

“Kinfolk [term of endearment], opening discount of 77% on your whole bill!”

Unfortunately for whoever rents those rabbit costumes, they probably won’t see much use for another 11 years.