Weekly Wanderings: May 13, 2023

Yesterday marked 15 years since a deadly earthquake hit Sichuan Province, causing the deaths of at least 85,000 people and revealing widespread corruption in the local government and construction industries. I wrote about the Wenchuan Earthquake on its tenth anniversary in this post (which I revisited yesterday, checking all the links and updating them as necessary).

That earthquake was also on my mind earlier this week as I read a New Yorker article by Suzy Hansen on the December 2022 earthquake in Turkey. The similarities are striking, in terms of how the disaster brought to light the fact that much highly touted recent construction was done on the cheap, contractors and officials pocketing funds meant for the projects. And as in China, public outrage following the earthquake might destabilize the ruling regime but seems unlikely to topple it. We’ll see how tomorrow’s election goes for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

When I first moved to China in 2005, I didn’t bring a computer with me; the school where I was studying had said doing so would be more hassle than it was worth, given the complexity of setting up internet access in the dorms and the availability of a campus computer lab. Whenever I traveled—or on the frequent occasions that the computer lab’s machines got infected with the latest virus making the rounds—I checked my email and kept up with American pop culture at an internet cafe, or wangba 网吧. Usually dark, smoky, and slightly grimy, internet cafes were generally large rooms filled with row after row of oversized early-2000s Windows desktops, most often occupied by young Chinese who settled in for hours to play games and carry on multiple simultaneous QQ chats.

I probably haven’t been in a wangba since 2008, since smartphones and widespread wifi eliminated the need to seek them out during my travels. But this World of Chinese article on the internet cafe culture of years past brought on a rush of nostalgia for those hours I spent in them. As I wrote on Twitter, while reading the article “I could practically taste the secondhand smoke filling my lungs as I read Television Without Pity recaps and sent Yahoo! emails.” Ah, memories.

I’ve very recently gotten into touring Frank Lloyd Wright houses—so far I’ve been to the Robie House in Chicago and the Meyer May House in Grand Rapids—but there’s a big difference between walking through carefully curated restorations and actually living in one. This Architectural Digest piece shares the experiences of seven Frank Lloyd Wright house owners and how they get to know the homes’ nuances over time. While I’m not sure I’d really want to be responsible for the day-to-day care of an architectural masterpiece (one of the featured houses has 500 24-inch windows to keep clean!), it’s fun to imagine.

I listen to the 32 Thoughts podcast for hockey news, but sometimes also find great music through their final feature. “On My Way” by Banditos is one of those songs—for me, it summons thoughts of outdoor concerts on hot summer nights, audience members dancing in their seats while holding cold drinks with condensation sliding down the sides.

Featured photo: Exterior of the Meyer May House in Grand Rapids, Michigan, March 23, 2023.

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