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There’s a reason the Traveling Wilburys only released two albums: A Post-Mortem on

Well, it was fun while it lasted.  Sadly, as many if not both of our remaining readers are now aware, suffered the fate of all hastily conceived supergroups.* We were not the first to use clever punctuation in our name, nor were we the first attempt to bring together disparate voices into a unified site, but I think we had some good posts and for a brief moment were one of the go-to blogs out there.

Now Will and Brendan are in the United States.  Brian is in Kunming.  Dave, Yajun, and I are still slumming around Beijing but all of us have been busy with other projects.

Like most 70s or 80s supergroups, the siren call of solo projects often outshouted the need for unity.  It was an amicable parting, but by the end it was clear that we were better off writing on our own than together.

Still there were a few hits despite our short time together:

There was our (eerily prescient) movie pitch on L’Affaire Bo Xilai.  One of the first collaborative posts, although I ended up posting it by accident before we had finished.  Still the result was pretty good and contains one of the better “inside baseball” jokes we ever posted.

Brendan would have been the Bob Dylan of our Wilbury group.  He didn’t say much, but when he did it was always heads above what anyone else was writing.  It was especially true when he was pissed off and couldn’t restrain his desire to inject some sense into overheated discussions on Mo Yan and Yang Rui.  That’s right. Brendan O’Kane: Voice of Reason. I have lived too long.

Dave would have been Jeff Lynne.  While Dave didn’t write as much, he was responsible for a lot of the look and tone of the site.  He worked behind the scenes to keep us on message and the site running and looking clean and minimalist.  Not that he didn’t have some great posts involving technical tricks well beyond any of the rest of us. Classic example: Playing the Meritocracy Game.  Complete with playable game.

Taking this to the illogical extreme, Will was George Harrison.  Perhaps the most famous of all of us and whose keen sensibilities informed a lot of what we wrote.  He also wrote the catchiest posts.  Two of my favorites remain Godzilla Versus the SARFT Monster on why China can’t seem to generate any real soft power, and Facebook’s China Playbook complete with a handy diagram showing all of the unwinnable positions Facebook could take in trying to enter the China market.  There is also, of course, Will’s brilliant China valedictory, I’m Leaving China and it Doesn’t Mean a Thing.

Brian was Tom Petty.  A hippy even in a room full of hippies.  Brian’s one of the most plugged-in expats I have ever met, somebody who truly gets out and immerses himself in Chinese culture.  He also has the best spoken Chinese I’ve heard this side of Da Shan.  He had one foot out the door for Kunming even as we began Rectified and I’m glad to plug his excellent group blog (which is going strong) East by Southeast which brings together writers from Southwest China and Southeast Asia. His excellent Rectified contributions on staying sane in China and how corruption works here prefigured his equally brilliant work with East by Southeast.

I guess that leaves me as Roy Orbison. No, I’m not dead yet.  Although it seems appropriate in that my voice is…distinctive in a way that doesn’t always fit the songs. (Or so I’ve been told) Nevertheless, I enjoyed bringing that voice to Rectified.  Check out my two-part Game of Thrones Guide to the 2012 Leadership Transition.

Sadly there were no female Wilburys in the original. This is unfortunate because YJ brought her own unique perspective to a blog full of 30-something white guys.  I’ve always particularly enjoyed her meditation on the program Bite of China and why food matters so much to Chinese people.

What does this mean for the future? Well…it means that I am restarting the Granite Studio blog and will be continuing to inflict my thoughts and ruminations upon an unsuspecting public.  Stay tuned.


*I used Traveling Wilburys in this post because many people have actually heard of them, but really we were more of the West, Bruce, and Laing or, I suppose if we want to dig deep into the Orientalist thing, the Asia of the China blogging circle jerk.

4 Comments on There’s a reason the Traveling Wilburys only released two albums: A Post-Mortem on

  1. Nice post, shame about it all – there were some damn fine blogposts during Rectified’s time.

  2. Great while it lasted…

  3. was, like a lot of other things about my time in Beijing, really fun while it lasted. I enjoyed the opportunity to wax topical and chin-stroky, but ended up deciding that the farther I am from current events, the happier I’m likely to be. 珍惜生命,遠離新聞 and all that. Thanks for being the one who put the whole thing together in the first place.

  4. It pains me to say this, but I was technically a 40-something white guy while we were doing No regrets. I haven’t written a blog post on Rectified or Imagethief for nearly a year. Maybe someday…

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