Off the Rails in Phnom Penh

Off the Rails in Phnom Penh: Into the Dark Heart of Guns, Girls, and Ganja by Amit Gilboa My rating: 3 of 5 stars Off the Rails in Phnom Penh chronicles the adventures of the expat community in the 90s, in the post-civil war era of anything-goes hedonism. It made quite an impression on me Off the Rails in Phnom Penh

Sexual Fascism

In ‘Civilization and its Discontents,’ Freud tells us that civilisation necessitates the curbing of the natural expression of the libido, and this repression leads to neurosis. The answer is to redirect the libido into work or artistic expression. For author Isham Cook, the state keeps us in fear of our libido as a mechanism of Sexual Fascism


Unwelcome by Quincy Carroll My rating: 5 of 5 stars In ‘Unwelcome’ we follow Cole Chen through his awkward misadventures in California and Changsha, China. The twenty-three-year-old has come back from his second stint in China and is crashing on his brother’s couch. Our introduction to Cole is through the eyes of his more successful Unwelcome

Eyes Wide Shut: Malaparte in China

Originally published in the Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel as When Malaparte Met Mao. A former fascist sees only the good in Mao’s China. In 1956 Italian novelist Curzio Malaparte received an invitation to travel to Beijing for a commemoration of the death of writer Lu Xun. Malaparte is most famous for his Eyes Wide Shut: Malaparte in China

What Really Happened in Wuhan?

“It began in the autumn of 2019. Months before the first reported case of human-to-human contact, the Wuhan Institute of Virology began to go dark. Publicly available information was wiped from the internet. Staff connected with the Institute disappeared as the scientists fiercely criticised its safety practices and standards. At the same time, there were What Really Happened in Wuhan?

Teacher, We Girls!

In the animated film “The Swallows of Kabul” the Taliban force a man to pray in a mosque and his wife must wait outside in the hot sun wearing a suffocating cover-all burqa. We see the world as she does: through the grill of a veil. And we hear her laboured breathing as she nearly Teacher, We Girls!

Thoughts: Netflix, The Serpent, The Queen’s Gambit, Walter Tevis, The Hustler, The Color of Money 

I just watched the first two episodes of “The Serpent” and am happy to find another engaging Netflix series. It is somewhat based on a book called “On the Trail of the Serpent”, published in 1979. In the quest for hit shows, Netflix writers are scouring non-fiction and novels for exciting (long forgotten) tales. For Thoughts: Netflix, The Serpent, The Queen’s Gambit, Walter Tevis, The Hustler, The Color of Money 

Confucius and Opium

The American writer Isham Cook is an eccentric who might be telling us the truth – or at least trying to. An open minded reader, who doesn’t mind having their leg pulled a bit, will find the erudite “Confucius and Opium” a rewarding read. This work contains eleven ‘book review essays’ that are in-depth, no Confucius and Opium

China Sketches: Dalian 2001 skyscraper photo essay

It had passable beaches, a large shipbuilding industry and a lot of impressive skyscrapers; from the top of any of these you could see the port and in the other direction the green hills marking the end of the urban sprawl. At that stage of my life I hadn’t seen Shanghai, Hong Kong or New York. I was overwhelmed by the shiny skyscrapers in Dalian. When I later visited New York, the first museum I went to was the Sky Scraper Museum, my enthusiasm has since waned due to overexposure to tall buildings…