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Flowers of Shanghai – New Opium Traces column at PopMatters

Hey hey hey just in time to be timely, my latest Opium Traces column has been posted on PopMatters…a meditation on Han Bang Qing’s 1890s novel The Sing-song Girls of Shanghai and Hou Hsiao Hsien’s 1998 film adpation Flowers of Shanghai.

Check out the full article here:

Butler’s Law comes to Popmatters…

…and Popmatters needs your help!

Background: Joe Butler was one of my favorite profs during my undergrad years at SDSU (two decades ago). He had a maxim he called Butler’s Law which reads: “Things will always get more chickenshit.” It’s a hallmark of post-modernity.

Now Butler’s Law has come to internet advertising which is rapidly falling prey, like all media, to the corportization of everything. So while a company like Disney Inc earns a trillion (yes with a T) dollars a year churning out formulaic drek for the masses, smart and small web-based companies like Popmatters have to go begging just to buy new computers.

This isn’t the internet we were promised back in 2000 but it’s the internet we’re getting. Try to turn the tide a little by giving some of your precious ducats to Popmatters.

Here’s their spiel with a link at the end so you can send your cash-based love:

“PopMatters readers have come to this magazine for its smart and entertaining articles of cultural criticism since October 1999. Our 17-plus years of quality online publishing have earned us respect and loyalty from our educated and savvy readers. We continue to work hard to bring you an intelligent, cool reprieve from all the hype and blather that crowds the Internet these days. We always will.

We remain committed to the essay and longform writing, in other words, we publish smart writing for intelligent readers, not SEOed clickbait for search engines.

We urgently need help from our readers to fund an upgrade of the technology that powers PopMatters, help cover our increasing hosting costs, as well as some modest funds to help pay editors. 

We come from humble economic backgrounds, and we have, for 17 years, run a lean, reputable, hardworking operation. PopMatters is a wholly independent small company owned and run by women with no outside investment.

The economic and business challenges of online publishing are rarely understood outside of the industry. Briefly, among other things: there is a huge economic disparity between print and online advertising; businesses are increasingly solidifying their advertising through agencies that take as much as 60 percent of ad revenue and; although we attract 1.5 million monthly visitors with our high caliber content, the advertising monies we earn do not even begin to cover expenses anymore. Furthermore, with the advent of adblocking and low-priced programmatic advertising, our primary source of revenue is endangered.

We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices strong on the Internet. Your donation will help PopMatters stay vital — and grow — through these changing and challenging times.

We can’t do this without you. Thank you for your support.”

New Opium Traces article Living Dangerously

Here’s my latest Opium Traces article, a meditation on the book and film The Year of Living Dangerously, set in Indonesia on the eve of the 1965 coup.

Check it out along with all the other great material on popmatters and support independent media by sharing with your like-minded friends.


new Opium Traces feature

My latest Opium Traces feature column is now available at It’s a take-down of the latest John Burdett novel The Bangkok Asset  which misses the mark so widely that it may signal the end of the once incrediable Jitpleecheep detective series.

Check it out here:

New Opium Traces article on popmatters…Saint Jack!

After a hiatus to work on the upcoming NIAS Press release of Alfred Raquez’s In the Land of Pagodas, I’m once again writing the Opium Traces feature column for

The return…a meditation on Saint Jack, the book and film that captured Singapore in the swinging 1960s…

Check it out now!

Expat Indonesia History issue

I’ve always enjoyed the freebie rags that appear weekly or bi-weekly in most of the cities where I’ve lived. In LA and Sandy Eggo we had weekly “Readers;” NYC had the New York Press and it’s pompous auntie, the Village Voice. Singapore had a a few weeklies that came and went. I contributed to at least one of these.

Here in Jakarta we have Expat Indonesia. It used to be Expat Jakarta and Expat Bali, but a year or two back they folded into one periodical. The current issue features articles by not one but TWO of my fellow Monsoon Books authors.

Here is the cover story by Tim Hannigan:

And here is my interview with Tim from popmatters:

And Rosie Milne puts in an appearance here:

Rosie and I presented together at the Singapore Books Festival last year…blog post here. Also check out the interview with me on Rosie’s blog (which people actually apparently read)…here.

And finally, since we dig jazz and art music and world music, there is this amazing column by Terry Collins on how all these genres intersected in an avant garde singer nearly 100 years ago:

So click those links and support independent writers and publishers…’cause honey, we don’t do this for the money…


Latest Opium Traces article on

So my most recent Opium Traces article on actually came out about a month ago and I totally missed it!

But you don’t have to:

A discussion of Gaspar Noe’s film Enter the Void and the so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead…ready to get your psychedelic groove on?


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