Shanghai Nightscapes Goes Live

Finally, nearly twenty years after this project was first conceived in the Hithouse Bar near Fudan University, over a couple of soggy, warm beers and the bleery-eyed environment of a student-populated disco bar, our book Shanghai Nightscapes is now being launched into the world.  Special thanks goes out to Doug Mitchell and the rest of the team at U Chicago Press, as well as to our various editors and compilers.  James Farrer, my coauthor, was the driving force behind this project's completion, and definitely deserves top billing. I hope that those who read the book will find something of themselves reflected in its contents.

You may find the book on Amazon or just go directly to the publisher, University of Chicago Press.  Happy reading!

Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life

I have long been fascinated by the life story and the writings of Walter Benjamin. Benjamin's life and works have taken on mythical powers over the past decades. This book combines a painstakingly detailed account of his life with deep critical analyses of his works, richly contextualized within the framework of his life story. It is a stunning work of scholarship, which reconstructs his life through his own letters and other documents as well as those of his friends and others in the circles in which he traveled.

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A Great List of Books and Films on Old Shanghai

At risk of sounding narcissistic, I was just googling my own name to see what comes up (at least I don't post selfies on facebook!) and on the Frommers website I found this excellent listing of books and films about Shanghai history.  Can't recommend it highly enough to those interested in learning about our fair city (and not just because my book Shanghai's Dancing World is on the list--and if you made this list, please update it to include my book on Mu Shiying!)


Another review of Mu Shiying

I just received news of a very favorable review by Frederik H. Green of my book, Mu Shiying:  China's Lost Modernist, for the e-journal MCLC.  The review may be found on this web page.

Time to celebrate with a night on the town, once I've recovered from this head cold I caught whilst on a company retreat in Moganshan.  James Farrer is in town now, and we have some more follow-up research to do for our upcoming book, Shanghai Nightscapes!

The recordings of Whitey Smith, the Jazz-Man who Taught China to Dance

Whitey Smith was one of Shanghai's most cherished jazz bandleaders during the 1920s and 1930s.  His autobiography, I Didn't Make a Million, tells his story.  In a nutshell, as a young jazz drummer, Whitey was "discovered" in San Francisco by the nightclub owner Louis Ladow in 1922, and agreed to sail to Shanghai to form a jazz band to play in Ladow's new club, the Carlton Cafe.  When the club folded he got work playing at the Astor House and later at the Majestic Hotel after in opened in 1925.  It was at the Majestic Hotel ballroom that Whitey taught China to dance (in the words of Pearl Buck) by incorporating Chinese folk elements into his repertoire, and by simplifying the complex harmonies and orchestrations of his tunes.  

He also recorded his own songs.  "Nighttime in Old Shanghai" is his most well-known song, which is available on an album of "Oriental" jazz tunes.  Taking a newsreel from 1929, featuring Whitey's band performing in the garden of the Majestic Hotel to a group of elegant Chinese dancers, I added this song and put it up on youtube.

Recently I found a file online of his complete recordings (as known).  I do have one of his other recordings, "To a Wild Rose," but don't have any others.  Would appreciate if anyone knows where to find them.


Announcing our New Book: Shanghai Nightscapes (to be published within the next year or so)

Over the next few months, as we gear it up for publication with U Chicago Press later, I'll be making some more announcements about my upcoming book, Shanghai Nightscapes, co-authored with James Farrer.  This book uses the methods of the historian, sociologist, and ethnographer to trace a century of Shanghai's history through the lens of its nightlife, with a focus on establishments featuring dancing and/or drinking in a public social environment as their main activities.

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Book Talk at Italian Chamber of Commerce in China

The SPWG with the Italian Chamber of Commerce in China invites you to our next meeting on April 23th at 18:00 in Shanghai. Our guests Mr. Andrew David Field (Associate Dean at Hult International Business School) will present Shanghai Metropolis - from history to the future and his new book Mu Shiying: China’s Lost Modernist

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Mu Shiying Book Talk at FCC HK

Hong Kongers, please join me this Sunday March 30, for a book talk at the FCC Club in Hong Kong:


Foreign Correspondence Club (2 Lower Albert Road, Central,

Hong Kong) Burton Room . Sunday, March 30, 2014

12:30pm to 2:30pm 150 HKD entrance fee