Humor, Rants and Memoir

These are posts about the idiosyncrasies and frustrations of life in China, raising a family, and other random things that I experienced or noticed and was compelled to write or rant about.


I’m leaving China and it doesn’t mean a thing: In the midst of a fluster over foreigners leaving China, I leave China. And yet, I don’t think it’s a trend. Sooner or later, we all have to go. The valedictory post of my time in China, and an all-time favorite. November, 2012.

In defense of the fuzz: Every spring, Beijing is knee deep in fuzz from poplar and willow trees for about a month. Many people hate the fuzz. And I admit it did collect under my couch. But I’ll always be nostalgic for the fuzz. Published on sister blog May, 2012.

The devil’s air conditioner, and other tales of woe: It’s pretty clear to me that the giant air conditioning unit on the balcony of my plush, Beijing apartment has an unslakable thirst for human blood. Published on sister blog May, 2012.


I can haz international funds? There are many unpleasant things in life. Root canals. Colonoscopies. Tax audits. Being kidnapped and tortured by fanatics. All are sunshine and kittens compared to wiring your savings out of China. August, 2011.


Not enough radiation in your skull and other problems with retail: In which a semi-useful Italian supermarket in front of our apartment is replaced with the most useless thing imaginable: a Burberry store with two, vast, neighborhood-scorching video screens. December, 2010.

I suck at Christmas trees: After two years of Christmas vacation disasters I am forced to ask myself, who came up with the idea of Christmas cheer”, and how do I find him and kill him? December, 2010.

Absolutely the last post on nasty furniture: The Wretched Furniture Chronicles, part the second. Illustrated! August, 2010.

Journey to the planet of the electro-squids: In 2010 we did something foolish and dangerous in China: we moved apartments. This is The Wretched Furniture Chronicles, part the first. July, 2010.

Poorly thought out adventures in commuting: After starting a new job out in the suburb of Wangjing I virtuously try to commute by public transportation. Huge mistake. June, 2010.

How to ensure your reincarnation as a frog: Imagethief reminds Buddhists that throwing small animals to their deaths is not a good way to earn merit. An all-time favorite. March, 2010.

Down the rabbit hole in Kansai: After a man inconveniently dies of a heart attack on my plane to Osaka, I am stranded in the surreality that is Kansai overnight. An all-time favorite. March, 2010.


A few other people that China could helpfully quarantine: In the midst of the 2009 swine flu panic and enforced quarantines, I suggest a few other categories of people that ought to be confined. May, 2009.


If you’re angry about Guns’n’Roses surely it must be 1991: The Global Times decides that the release of the first Guns’n’Roses album in 17 years constitutes an intolerable outrage against the Chinese people. A favorite of mine for the chart I created for the post, which was rapidly as outdated as Guns’n’Roses. November, 2008.

Illegal baby part 2: I fought the law (and the law won): In which I discover that I have blown the process for registering the birth of a foreign baby in China. Under pressure from the fuzz, I confess my wicked ways in writing and fork over a hefty fine. October, 2008.

EZ steps to make your own Beijing air at home: Cheap pollution humor. But I boldly venture forth into cheap humor that would force a lesser blogger to retreat. This method is still valid, by the way. July, 2008

Illegal baby part 1: The strange case of the sluggish passport: Having a baby when you live abroad introduces you to all-new species of bureaucracy. This combines two original posts. In the first part I rant about how long my son’s Singaporean passport is taking. In the second part, Singapore responds. July, 2008

Let me tell ya about Edison Chen’s dirty photos: Hong Kong movie star Edison Chen and his squad of girlfriends all deserved what they got. The most viewed post in the history of Imagethief, with over 100,000 page views. 99,999 of those were from people looking for the photos. I assume one was my mom. But a longtime favorite. February, 2008.


I hate Secret Santa: Damn the office traditions. I always did hate Secret Santa, I always will hate Secret Santa.Death to Secret Santa. December, 2007.

Hairy crabs, the hill of pain and the boulevard of a thousand massage touts: After a year in Shanghai I move back to Beijing in November, 2007. It doesn’t take long to feel at home again.

Deconstructing the White Rabbit wrapper: White Rabbit milk candy is without a doubt Imagethief’s favorite Chinese confection. It’s also dynamite for yanking out fillings, bridges, crowns and sometimes completely healthy teeth. In this post I meditate on the surreal design of the White Rabbit candy wrapper. October, 2007.

Why aren’t you drinking the Wang Lao Ji? I dunno. Because it’s nasty? You’ll know I’ll never be able to leave China when my Diet Coke habit is finally replaced with a Wang Lao Ji habit. But no danger of that yet. September, 2007.

Run: What it’s like to run for exercise on the streets and sidewalks of Shanghai, told as a recollection of one run from my house in the French Concession along Fuxing Road to the river and back. An all-time favorite. August, 2007.

Stupidvator: It’s a passionate man who hates an elevator enough to write a 1400 word rant about it. I am that man. June, 2007.

The devil wears Prada and won’t rent me an apartment: In which I and my cats are unworthy of an apartment owned by a woman who works for Vogue China. An all-time favorite from Imagethief’s Shanghai era. March, 2007.


Fly the feces-free skies of China Southern: In the course of one of my periodic rants about domestic air travel, I actually work out how much jet fuel could be saved by making all passengers on an A380 void their bowels before boarding the aircraft. I may have had too much time on my hands in December, 2006.

Just walking my pony, officer: Why is such a huge city obsessed with such tiny dogs? It’s all in the regulations. November, 2006.

Adventures in mucilage: I fail utterly to negotiate the accessories and apparatus of the Chinese postal system. September, 2006.

The kid: An hour in the life of a child beggar in Beijing. One of my all-time favorites. August, 2006.

Electro-sphere and other photo-opps: I am bored stupid by event launches that feature a bunch of executives with their hands on a plasma ball as the photo opp. I propose creative alternatives. August, 2006.

Escalation: Chinese escalator habits revealed. As a piece of China insight, it’s crap (though perhaps relevant considering the lethal escalator accident at a subway station in Beijing, just days before this writing). As a nostalgic recounting of the phenomenon that was 49ers safety Ronnie Lott, it’s a masterpiece. August, 2006.

A week in the life of a China flack: PR consulting in China: The glamor, the adventure, the girls. But not really.  Here is the brutal truth, hour-by-hour. June, 2006.

Coffee, tea or bleeding ears? A donkey, a carrot, and your sister. Just another angry rant inspired by Chinese domestic air travel. One of dozens. June, 2006.

By chopstick to the moon! You could build a bridge to the moon with all the disposable chopsticks used in China in a year. Really. I did the math. March, 2006.

Chinese medicine puts the squeeze on Imagethief: The cure was substantially worse than the affliction. But it did seem to work. February, 2006.

Haircut: In which we learn that I am way, way too old to get my hair cut in the fashion of a Korean pop star. January, 2006.


Decadent Beijing suburbanites give me da bomb: Merry Christmas, 2005. Includes explosives and reckless behavior. December, 2005.

Beijing needs a giant monster attack: You haven’t arrived as a city unless a movie monster has devastated you. Generated surprisingly lively comments for an idiotic topic (comments are lost). December, 2005.

Chinese restaurant calculation made easy: How can something so simple be so complicated? Just ask your friendly, neighborhood PR man. Years later, we still order too much, almost without fail. December, 2005.

I am Beijing’s decadent man bitch: The deceptively simple question often asked is, “What is it like living in Beijing?” This is the best answer I have ever given. December, 2005.

How to write a generic China bird flu story: At the height of the bird flu scare, hysterical media reports begin to sound alike. I provide a handy cheat sheet for journalists. An all-time favorite. November, 2005.

How to survive a Chinese drinking party: It’s not about who can hold his liquor the best, contrary to what you may think. It’s about who is craftiest, more devious and a better actor. October, 2005.

The strange lunacy of translators in airliner cockpits: Regulatory solutions for the problem of imported, non-Mandarin-speaking pilots spur me to let my imagination run wild. Always trouble. October, 2005.

The great donkey meat – tiger piss – media whore axis: Seriously, with a title like this, how can you go wrong? China’s endemic food scandals used to be much more interesting. September, 2005.

Dark table-tennis match of the soul: In which a girl who weighs 80 pounds soaking wet and leaves a trail of sparkles wherever she goes thoroughly kicks my ass. August, 2005.

The strange medical odyssey of Tiny Cat: Tiny has catastrophic liver failure and needs a week of IV drips at a Chinese veterinary hospital. Over Chinese New Year. March, 2005.

Tiny and Xiao Xiong’s bogus journey: In which I import two house cats into China and learn that opportunities for corruption exist even in the realm of pet shipping. January, 2005.


My career in Chinese showbiz is launched: In which I undergo that rite of expat passage, appearing in a sleazy Chinese television commercial. Aptly, I like to think, for a male virility tonic. July, 2004.

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