A collection of analysis, commentary, and creative non-fiction.
Now on Netflix: a Love song to China's belt and road initiative
SupChina - June 8, 2018
"In the scenic yet deadly high mountains of Gilgit, Pakistan, a Chinese backpacker and a Pakistani doctor are thrown together during a group-tour road trip and, in short order, improbably but inevitably fall in love. While this may sound like the latest CCP propaganda flick (the rom-com version, perhaps, of Amazing China?), it is actually the plot behind a Pakistani film, Chalay Thay Saath, that opened to much fanfare in Pakistan and is now available in the United States on Netflix.
...as a commentary both on how China’s rise is being reflected in the countries where it is heavily investing, as well as the roundabout routes that Asian American actors must take for success, Chalay Thay Saath is fascinating."
The Outline - March 11, 2018
"To understand where race relations in China are right now, one needs only to look to the highest grossing Chinese film of all time, last year’s Wolf Warrior 2. Directed by its star, Wu Jing, the ultra-patriotic action blockbuster was China’s answer to the thinly veiled military propaganda of Hollywood films like Rambo or Zero Dark Thirty, grossing $854 million and becoming China’s 2018 submission for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars (sadly, it wasn’t nominated). Unfortunately, it also mirrored the American blockbuster’s tendency to lean into unflattering foreign stereotypes, portraying Africans alternatively as unscrupulous enemies or weak, faceless hordes awaiting salvation."
Inverse - Jan. 3, 2018
An excerpt of Journalist Emily Chang's new book, Brotopia, appeared in Vanity Fair at the start of 2018, and the excerpt's focus on not-so-secret sex parties made headlines. I waded into the debate by interviewing Emily and some of her online defenders and detractors for Inverse:
"...Chang’s book excerpt struck such a nerve precisely because, for its critics, her reporting confirms the worst suspicions of Silicon Valley, while for its supporters, the story — or “the media circus around it” — just feeds into “what people want to read about — sex, drugs, bondage, whatever."
The New York Times 'At War' blog - Dec. 4, 2012
In 2012, I spent several weeks traveling around Afghanistan interviewing entrepreneurs. In the meantime, I began to inadvertantly collect Afghan jokes, some of which made it into this piece for the New York Times "At War" blog.
"Funny isn’t an adjective often used to describe Afghanistan. Yet to many Afghans, the war and the foreigners waging it can present a surprising source of humor."
Participant | Observer
The Seventh Wave - Dec. 15 2016 (Issue 4 x Prose)
For literary magazine The Seventh Wave's 2016 post-election issue, I reflect on my experiences as participant and observer in two disparate presidential elections: Afghanistan in 2014 and the United States in 2016, questioning the nature of civic engagement and modern activism.
"Unlike in Afghanistan, a democracy in its infancy, where even dirty politics were brightened by a veneer of hope, I saw American democracy as stable but stagnant. I was turned off by images of politicians with fixed grins pontificating from quickly mantled and dismantled stages, perfectly coiffed talking heads whose main qualification were how far removed they were from reality, Occupy-style protestors, always in some other city, disorganized and clamoring for some impossible change."
Outdoors (Print/Online) - Apr 24, 2017
For Outdoors magazine's spring print issue, I wrote a personal essay about discovering rock climbing -- and a new way of both travel and being in the great outdoors.
"On the wall, shifting my weight from one foot to the other, inching my fingertips to the farthest reach of my wingspan, I was grateful for the temporary shrinking of my world to only my body and the vertical surface before it. In those moments of flow, when I let instinct silence my overthinking mind, I realized how limited my previous notions of travel had been. Even as my sphere of awareness shrank, all I had to do was shift my gaze to the magnificent vistas behind and below me to remember the vastness and diversity of the world—well beyond the human artifacts that had previously fascinated me."
Inverse - Dec 22 2017
In the wake of the FCC's decision to repeal net neutrality, I explained the concept of "mesh wireless" and examined at the grassroots efforts across the United States to build more user-friendly, community internet service providers:
Mesh wireless technology has been around for a while, and so has the hype around its potential. But the end of net neutrality has created a greater sense of urgency.
This essay, written while I was on staff at science and technology media platform *Inverse*, made it to the homepage of Reddit.