Since the last Blast, many things have transpired: I’ve traveled to Ningbo a half-dozen times at Knox’s behest, each trip in its own right interesting, substantive and eventful; I spent an evening atop Putuo Shan amidst the monks and the old, green forest; my hair has grown not-insubstantially, though I have no intention of heading its growth off anytime soon; and a 300 meter section of brand-new high-speed railroad collapsed in Hubei Province (the official explanation as to what caused the collapse: it rained), killing no one. Others things of note that have come to pass include the apparent end to the incessantly inclement Shanghai weather, the left shoe of my long-loved Puma sneakers developing a modestly-sized hole, and a fruitful weekend with a couple of good-hearted fellows at the Anhui Public Security Bureau.

Additionally, I’m fairly sure that Phil has been communicating my whereabouts to immigration officials; in the last month, the difficulty with which I elude bureaucratic snafus has increased tenfold, and this heightened sense of paranoia is a feeling I have only ever experienced in the fallout of one of Phil’s notoriously heartless pranks. So, needless to say, I am glad to be here, relatively unscathed, and I hope that you all share a similar sentiment about wherever you are.

Though I rarely travel by train, I am keenly aware of the dangers associated with traveling by any means (especially as I mount my Segway), and I was disappointed to hear that the high-speed rail here in China continues to be plagued with systemic and unsettling problems. James Weir discusses the Hubei Collapse.

I don’t mean to be a braggart, but I know a thing or two about hamburgers. I might go so far as to say that I know my way around a McDonald’s or three here in China, and I might even say that I know my way around a McDonald’s cashier or two—though I suppose that’s not really relevant. But while I’ve enjoyed the institution innumerable times over the years, I had never considered the ways in which McDonald’s convinced, and continues to convince, the Chinese populace to consume its products. So it was with great enthusiasm that I dove into two pieces relating to McDonald’s when they were sent to me this month: one, Matt Michaelson‘s translation and discussion of a print campaign targeted towards young, Chinese males; the other, a documentary about an American ad executive working on the production of a McDonald’s TV commercial in Shanghai. Though they take remarkably different tacks, they both to aim to convey a singular idea: Eating McDonald’s will, one way or another, make you feel better about the world and your place within it.

I have gone head to head with more than one glass of baijiu. I have stood tall—on occasion—and I’m able to bear the burden of baijiu when necessity dictates. But actually enjoying the liquor as I would, say, a glass of scotch, is a concept wholly unfathomable to me. It is aggressively, unapologetically bad. But there is at least one man who is persistent in the quest to develop a baijiu palate. That man is Derek Sandhaus, an American writer living in Chengdu, and on his journey to discover the subtleties of baijiu he has been delving into the history, lore and legend behind the infamous and wildly-popular Chinese drink. Here, he debunks a deliberately misleading half-truth propagated by many of baijiu’s biggest names.

The ways in which we carry ourselves in times of terror, struggle and pain speak volumes about who we are. The story Karen, he said, written by James Weir, is a snapshot of two people, made vulnerable by jarring circumstance.

Last week, as I exited the inter-city bus I take between Shanghai and Ningbo, an old woman got my attention by grabbing onto my shoulder bag. She had picked up a folded piece of paper from the ground (which eventually revealed itself to be two pieces of paper), and was gesturing wildly. It being written in English, and I being the only laowai on board, she assumed the papers belonged to me and was kindly ensuring that I didn’t depart the bus without them. They weren’t mine, but I allowed her to press them into my hand nonetheless, as I could tell that it meant a great deal to her to be doing me this kindness. The pages, which contain some kind of a love contract written in dense, legalistic prose, have greatly interested me. Using the internets, I have tried to locate the individuals this concerns; thus far my efforts have been in vain. If you know either of the parties, kindly have them contact me at rogerpresents AT gmail DOT com. I would gladly return their document.

It is with ease that we fall into routines. Breaking the patterns that weave themselves into our day to day can be difficult, though, and is often violently unsettling. Daniel Maroti‘s poem, Glass Ball Ornament, is a testament to this.

Finally, a few things from me. Though I resisted the phenomenon of Twitter for years, I have recently come to embrace it for what it is, and find the service much more valuable than I had anticipated. I use it as a way to keep up with the world; it has become a sort of real-time news ticker, with journalists and individuals whose opinions and ideas I respect filling my feed with stories on a regular basis—the best of which I assemble here, at Roger’s Recommended Reading. I’ve also become a tweeter, or a twitterer, or a twat, or whatever you call it, and have assembled a few of these missives here.

I find myself skeptical of most things. Here are Five Things I Don’t Trust. But one thing I am not skeptical of is the power of Al Green. This performance from Soul Train, most likely recorded sometime in 1972 or 1973, is one of the many examples of the subtle power of his voice. May we hear from him for years to come.

The image currently featured on the homepage was generously designed and provided by Amanda Pickens. In addition to being exceptionally punctual and genuinely kind, she has a wonderful sense of space and color. You can see more of her work on her website, and on Artwood Lane, her blog.

So until next time, I bid you all adieu. I hope that wherever you are, whatever you do, and however you do it, this Blast finds you content, driven and moving towards a better you. Do be in touch.

All the best to you and those who matter,



See more from Roger in Blast No. 1

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