Essays

A collection of analysis, commentary, and creative non-fiction. 

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In China, Black panther is a movie about America

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."
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The Real Problem With Silicon Valley's "So-Called Sex Parties"

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."

In Afghanistan, humor finds its way in lost translation

 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."
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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."

UP AND AROUND: WHY A GLOBETROTTING ENTREPRENEUR TURNED TO ROCK CLIMBING 

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."

Without Net Neutrality, Is it time to build your own internet?

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.