My review of a new book on Scientology by Lawrence Wright for Esquire.
The question at the heart of Lawrence Wright’s new book, Going Clear, is obvious, yet seldom asked: Why would anyone in their right mind become a Scientologist? Some would say, “Nobody in their right mind does.” But I don’t think that’s quite fair, or accurate. Plenty of sane, accomplished, otherwise ordinary and intelligent people have at least dabbled in Scientology. Leonard Cohen did. So did Jerry Seinfeld. Even Mikhail Baryshnikov, the ballet legend, took courses. So what is the appeal? Why do reasonable people continue to tie themselves to a church with a reputation for ruthlessness? Continue reading
My first story for WSJ’s Scene Asia.
In Europe and North America, classical music concerts are typically a subdued affair, with a half-empty sea of gray heads quietly suppressing coughs and clapping politely at the appropriate moments.
In China, things are, well, a bit different. Continue reading
My first freelance story for The New Republic.
Au revoir,” said the grocer.
“Au revoir,” said the man in chic little canvas shoes. He had a bottle of champagne under one arm, and a bottle of “C’est la vie” chardonnay sauvignon blanc in hand. One elbow cradled a three-foot baguette. With an artful little pirouette, he piloted his cargo out the door. Continue reading
My first story for Foreign Policy on the release of Macau’s most notorious triad chief from prison.
MACAU — One of Macau’s most infamous gangsters must be feeling like Rip Van Winkle.
When Wan Kuok-koi, 57, better known as Broken Tooth, was released from prison on Dec. 1, nearly 14 years after he went behind bars, he emerged to a city utterly transformed. Continue reading
SHENZHEN, China — You most certainly could not see this Great Wall of China from outer space, but you can see it reasonably well from a golf cart parked 20 feet away.
At one foot tall, this miniature reproduction of China’s most iconic sight is the highlight of Splendid China, a bizarrely sedate theme park on the outskirts of the southern boomtown of Shenzhen. I was invited to tour the park as part of its promotion for several new attractions for Chinese New Year, the country’s biggest holiday. Continue reading
MACAU — If there’s one thing you can say for it, Titanic II does not lack audacity.
The brainchild of eccentric Australian billionaire Clive Palmer, Titanic II aims to precisely replicate the experience of the doomed liner for a 21st century clientele — minus the iceberg.
It will have the same ornate staircase, the same Turkish baths, the same smoking rooms, and even the same “Marconi room,” where the Titanic sent out its final SOS. Passengers will even be provided with early-20th-century-style clothes and undergarments in their cabins. The safety equipment will be up-to-date, however, and will include more than enough lifeboats and inflatable rafts for the 2,400 passengers and 900 crew.
It’s as if a dirigible company sold tickets for a new and improved Hindenburg. Continue reading
HONG KONG — There are few places for ordinary people to escape the mobs of tourists, touts and handbag hawkers in Tsim Sha Tsui — Hong Kong’s commercial hub — but for members of the city’s upper crust, there’s always the Platinum Lounge. Continue reading
My feature on cryonics that ran as the cover on the day The Daily announced it was closing for business. So poignant, so creepy. Original here.
The ice-man cometh — to a hospital near you.
America’s biggest cryonics companies say that after years of reluctance and hostility, hospitals are making it easier for patients to be frozen at death, even assisting with some of the procedures. Continue reading
Posted in Business, Features, Science, The Daily
Tagged Alcor, Apocalypse, cryonics, Cryonics Institute, freezing corpses, health, hospitals, technology, Ted Williams' head
Another favorite Daily item before the collapse. This one’s about the mugshot-website racket that experts say is borderline extortion. Original here.
It’s a 21st-century shakedown.
You might be innocent before the law, but you’ll be convicted in the eyes of the world — unless you shell out.
That’s the dilemma facing people across the country as a backlash rises against mug-shot websites that demand that people pay up to have their pictures removed, even if they were never convicted of a crime. Continue reading