Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

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May the year of the Rabbit be an auspicious one for us all.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Miracle on 33rd St.

A slam goodie from deep in the vaults: Bernard King's Xmas Day Massacre. I love it when I come across stories I literally have forgotten writing, especially when they are as much fun as this. I love Bernard, one of my all-time favorites to watch.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Putting their Nooks where their mouths are

Breakfast Nook 

Nook video spokegirls Skyler (l) and Anna actually using them this morning at breakfast, Bonte Waffles, South Orange.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays everyone. I am gearing up some really cool stuff for the new year, including book excerpts as Big In China's release date will be drawing ever nearer.
My favorite Christmas in China picture. From Jacob's 2006 Holiday show.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nega, please

Peter Hessler  author of River Town and Country Driving on Big In China“Alan Paul plunges into Chinese life and takes us along for the ride, through vegetable markets, used-car lots, Taoist temples, divey bars, and a beachside music festival before thousands of cheering fans. He conveys the thrills and challenges of living abroad, the confusions and regrets, and most of all the opportunity to become the person we always hoped to be. 

When I was first keeping this blog, Blogger did not provide any stats, so I had no idea which posts were getting the most views and I didn't really care, for the most part. I steadfastly refused to put ads up even after they were becoming widespread. I always just posted what I felt like when I felt like it. But now that there are stats I look at the posts that get the most hits and come of them are surprising... On October 18, 2005 -- over 5 years ago!-- still fresh off the boat, I posted a FAQ page and to this day people search online and find it.

Why is this so?  Because I wrote about how strange it was to hear people saying "nega, nega" all the time and headlined the whole post "Nega please." Apparently, many people arriving in China have the same sensation and Google "Chinese Nega," a query that often takes them to this ancient post on my little ol' blog.

Now some of what I wrote sounds kind of humiliating now, so far down the road, as I am supposed to be a China expert of sorts, but I have not deleted or altered any of the old posts. And I am reposting that section, with annotations included:  

Have you ever had it verified that "Boo Yah" actually means something in Chinese? It seems much more likely that whoever taught you that bit of language is laughing their ass off somewhere every time you say it. Just looking out for you, Al. Thanks Danny. I do appreciate your watching my back. Yes, I am quite sure about Boo Yah. On our trip to Yangshuo, there were often people trying to sell us stuff and Jacob and Eli got really into saying “boo yah, boo yah” which usually cracked the recipients up. It if actually sort of a rude term.. like, “Get the fuck away” more or less. Boo (actually bu) means no and that’s where you start. Bu Yah is really just when someone won’t leave you alone and I explained that to them.

Note: I guess I didn't know it yet, but it's actually "bu yao" ("don't want"). Everything else I wrote holds up. The kids loved saying it to people and they always laughed in response, especially when Anna got it going.

But that’s not even the funniest commonly used Chinese term… “Nega” means "that" but it is really commonly used. In conversation when stalling or finding your place, you can say “nega, nega” the way in English someone would go “like” or “um.” It is probably the most used word in Chinese along with “jigga” which means "this." NOTE: It's actually "jegga," but close enough. It takes some getting used to. At first I kept expecting to people to say “Nega, please!” or “You my nega!” And don’t even get me started on jigga. Luckily, after you hear it for a while, all of this stuff actually starts sounding like words. NOTE: As I struggled to learn Chinese, it truly was a big step to just start hearing words instead of sounds.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Yes! I have a Rock In China Page

You have no idea how exciting this is to me.

Woodie Alan "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go"

I was just watching this video from March 2008, just as we began to get it together, gel and prepare for liftoff. I still hear all kind of things I'd like to do better and that we soon improved, but it really captures a moment of significance for me.

As we get closer to the march 1, 2011 launch of Big In China, I will keep posting some of my favorite Woodie Alan videos.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Big In China promo video

Please have a look at the new promo video I made with my friend Rick Wagner at Blend Media. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

There are two kind of people in the world...

...Those of us who put buckets on our heads and run into walls and the rest of you. These pics show my cousin Amy's son Ethan, but boy do I relate. I knew I liked this kid!

The blurbs are coming!

I have gotten some great endorsement blurbs in for Big In China. I approached some of my favorite musicians and writers and asked them to read the book and comment if they like it. I have been very gratified to get back really kind, thoughtful quotes from Gregg Allman, James Fallows, Rick Telander, Jeff Zaslow, Peter Hessler, Evan Osnos, Jim McGregor, Warren Haynes and Lijia Zhang.

It's sort of dizzyingly varied crew, but I'm the guy who never thought it was odd to be a senior writer for Guitar World and Slam at the same time. It all makes sense in my world. 

Thank you everyone who took the time to read and comment.

Read them all at

Sunday, December 12, 2010

New Woodie Alan video

I am finding a couple of stashes of well-shot Woodie Alan videos. This is from our one-off reunion gig at the Orchard, Beijing, last February when I was in town to finish up some interviews and research for Big In China. No rehearsals. No talk. and no one had seen each other in six or seven months. I think given all that, it sounds pretty damn good.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Please visit

Just a reminder that while I continue to do some blogging here, my main site is now

That is the main source of information regarding my book release, speaking appearances, etc.

Thanks for your interest.

Sunday, December 05, 2010


Jacob and Gabe circa 2003, age 5 or so.
Jacob and Gabe Friday night. 12/3/2010

Gabriel Benson had his bar mitzvah yesterday. He and Jacob have been best of friends since they were six months old and being cared for at the South Mountain YMCA inside the temporary trailer. We have found journals from these days where the teacher says things like, “Jacob enjoyed playing with his friend Gabriel today.” They were literally six or seven months old.

I’ll never forget the first time we ran into Gabe and his parents, Laura and Greg, at Memorial Park. We barely knew one another, just saying hello at pickups and drop-offs. The boys were not much older than one but lit up when they saw each other, ran off together and sprinted around, playing in the dirt for as long as we would let them. This was at an age where the books all say kids are engaging only in “parallel play” and have no friendships, they don’t care who they are with, etc. What a load of bull.

The two have always had a wonderful bond and watching them grow up together, support each other, stick together, has taught me a lot about friendship and loyalty. It’s really been a pleasure to watch. Last year, when Jacob’s baseball team lost a brutal playoff game they had been winning and he (wrongly) blamed himself for the team’s total collapse, he held it together until we got in the car. Then, a tear tickling down his cheek, he only had one request: “Can I please talk to Gabe on the phone.”

So I took great joy in watching Gabe this weekend. I wasn’t surprised that he was so poised and did such a great job. He’s serious, studious, committed. And I was as proud of him as I have been of any relative I've watched do the same thing, but I really wouldn’t have cared if he messed up every other line. I just felt so happy to see him looking and acting like a fine young man. I don’t really know how to write about this kind of thing without sounding corny or clich├ęd and I don’t really care. In an age of irony or false emotion, sometimes you just have to pause, wonder and admit you're overwhelmed

I hear people all the time complain about getting older, and I get it. I really do. But given the opportunity to reflect and to look at Jacob and Gabe together over the past few days, I just felt so happy to see them grow, and it made me really reflect on what a gift it is, and how much it shouldn’t be taken for granted. At such times, I always, always think of Cathy Davis, my dear friend from Beijing, who died before her 40th birthday and never got to even see her two girls hit their sixth or seventh birthdays. So I say, share the joy, embrace the pain when it comes, and be happy you’re here and for everything you’ve got. Nothing else matters.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Official book launch reading Tribeca B&N March 1, 2011

I have an official book launch reading and signing at NYC Tribeca Barnes and Noble on March 1. If you're in the area, mark your calendar. A lot more events to follow soon.

Click here to see the listing.

Great China photos

We watched the CCTV tower go up and viewed it in more or less this form many, many times.
I am working on a promo video for the book and Ryan Pyle, a great Shanghai-based phtographer I have had the pleasure of working with a few times was kind of enough to grant me use of a few of his stellar images. I thought I'd share this one with you. Please check out Ryan's work here at if you like photography, China -- or adventure. He and his brother just completed an insane motorcyle journey that circumnavigated China. You'll have to read about it to believe it. That is actually at a different website --