Thursday, March 31, 2011

Panda Dad picked up by NYTimes.

Lisa Belkin, of the Motherlode blog, picks up on Panda Dad.

Big in China Excerpt 3 - Rough Travel with Kids

Well, the Panda Dad vs. Tiger mom brouhaha has taken off over on WSJ.com and that's a good thing, boosting my recognition, etc. But it has also overshadowed the fact that I also posted a Big in China excerpt over there.  It's about our family trip to Guizhou, so I thought I would take the opportunity to post some videos from this memorable trip as a sort of annotated ref. point.

I wish I had taken some better video... these were all done with my little pocket Canon Powershot and I didn't really know how to edit or clean up video at that point, either.

In case anyone doubts the interest in Anna. This is from the restaurant, as described in this excerpt:




Next two are Miao folk dancers from one of the villages we visited:


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tiger Mom, meet Panda Dad

Well, my Panda Dad essay is up on WSJ.com and kicking up a good little duststorm. Please click on over to check it out. 

I really feel that most of this is pretty simple common sense thought., but I'm happy to stir this particular pot and keep the conversation moving.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Panda dad, coming soon.

Hey Tiger Mom, beware the Panda Dad, coming soon to WSJ.com. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bob Edwards Big in China Interview/Feature on 3/28

Bob Edwards Big In China Interview/feature will run Monday 3/28 on XM/sirius - AND ONLINE. http://www.bobedwardsradio.com/


I'm excited about this one.

Friday, March 25, 2011

"You made a 73-year-old Jewish man complain."



Man, this is good.

Big in China is all about "the Power of Curiosity"

A really nice interview just posted on X-Expats.com. Thoughtful questions thoughtfully answered. I wish I could be quite this sharp in radio interviews.

From the Archives: Ron Artest


This is one one my favorite stories from slam and you'll see why it was so memorable as soon as you read the first paragraph or two. This was in 2002, pre-brawl when Ron Ron was just considered sort of an odd dude who could really ball. The rest speaks for itself.

“What issue is this going to be in?”

At least I’m pretty sure that’s what Ron Artest is asking. It’s hard to be sure given our current circumstances. We’re barreling up I-65, racing from Conseco Fieldhouse to Artest’s home in Carmel, Indiana in his Lexus SC430. The top is down, wind is blowing at an incredible speed and volume and Ron Ron has pulled the hood of his Pacers sweatshirt up to protect his face from the gusts, in the process placing a big sound baffle between us.

Even if I could hear, it would be hard to concentrate given the pain surging through my lower body. I’m insanely contorted in the back seat of what is really a two-seat car, with Artest’s brother Daniel in front of me doing his level best to hold his big-boned 6-4 body up and save my legs – or what’s left of them. I’m sitting on my knees with each of my 190 pounds pushing down on my feet, which are so deeply asleep you could probably amputate them pain free.

Ignoring this, I yell back, “Not the next one but the one after that and it’s going to be a big story.” Apparently I’ve guessed right – both Artests nod in satisfied agreement and smile at each other for a second.

Slam’s my magazine” Daniel yells back at me. “I been reading it forever and waiting and waiting for Ron to get a big story, instead of just one column.”
Fact is, Ron Ron has been a Slam favorite for years, beloved for his hard-assed play and diverse skills as well as his sometimes erratic behavior and his willingness to depart from jock speak to say what’s on his mind, even when it makes him sound a little kooky. Best of all, he plays basketball with intense, overriding passion, the way everyone should do everything they care about but so rarely do. And Artest is far from peaked; at 24 he has just three months on Al Harrington and is actually younger than Jamaal Tinsley and rookie Fred Jones. Now the time has come for Slam to do Ron Ron right, which has brought me to Indy looking for some good face time – but not this good.

“Put your feet up here.” Artest is patting the console to his right. He’s also looking back at me while cutting across three lanes of traffic at 80 mph. Not wanting to provide any further distraction, I mutter that I’m okay. Mercifully, we’re soon pulling into Artest’s house, a nice, modern number in a new development about 15 miles from downtown Indianapolis. It’s the type of neighborhood that was a cornfield five years ago. Inside, the place looks more or less just moved in. There’s not much hanging on the walls, but the counters are covered with pictures of Ron’s three kids, the youngest of whom is very much present.

Sporting braids and some snazzy Spider Man pjs, three-year-old Ron Artest III is in his dad’s arms the minute we walk in the house. “I’m coming with you, daddy,” he says with authority. It’s a cute moment, but daddy has to squash the thought because he’s rushing to the airport to catch a flight that leaves in under an hour. A month ago, Artest had surgery to repair ligaments in his right pinkie and he threw out a few stitches practicing. His hand surgeon in New York wants to see him and she wants to see him now. Never mind that I just flew from New York to Indianapolis to interview him. Which is why Artest yelled out, “Ride with us” when he saw me pathetically hanging around the practice gym.

Ron grabs a bag and we’re back in the car, minus Daniel, with me stretching out my legs in the front seat. We talk as he glides to the airport, shaking his head in disbelief that he’s going to miss tonight’s exhibition opener against the Hornets. I point out that it’s a meaningless game but he’s adamant. “It’s a new season, dawg.” Ron Ron lives for the game not the lifestyle. You can’t say the same about everyone in the NBA.

“I wasn’t playing anyhow but I was still pumped. I wanted to watch B.D. [Baron Davis]. He’s bad.  And I really wanted to see Al [Harrington] in his first game back after the injury and see J.B. [Jonathan Bender] go for real ‘cause he’s so much better than last year in practice.”

He says this without a hint of irony or jealousy despite the fact that he, Harrington and Bender are locked in a ferocious struggle for minutes. He’s also in the final year of his rookie contract, and big numbers would almost surely get him a big money, multiyear deal, but he’s not sweating it. Anyhow, compiling stats isn’t Artest’s thing, though he’s put up some pretty good ones in his first three seasons, averaging 12.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.7 apg and 2 spg. He’s such a hard-nosed, hustle player that it comes as a shock to watch him and realize how skilled he is, good with both hands, able to drive, shoot, handle and lock down just about anyone. Twice in his career he’s had eight steals and no one in the league enjoys running against him. Also, while primarily a swingman, the 6-7, 247-pound Artest can really play any position except center.

“Ronnie is a basketball player, not a number to be fitted into a slot and that’s something we’re really missing today,” says St. John’s coach Mike Jarvis.

Artest hesitates when I ask what he considers his greatest strength on the court, which is surprising because he does not lack confidence. Just a few minutes prior he said, “No small forward or two guard in the league can guard me, especially if I post them up.” But he momentarily seems stumped about what makes him great.

Finally he answers. “I’d have to say my greatest strength and weakness are the same thing—my intensity.”

Interestingly, Jarvis said almost the exact same thing the day before, but he widened the scope to make a broader point.

“Ronnie’s the same as most people,” he said. “If we’re not in total control of our strengths, they become our weaknesses.”

In other words, Artest cares so much about winning and is so demanding of himself that it sometimes takes him over the edge. He has been known to kick the ball, slam the scorer’s table and pound the basket supports. He says he’s trying to overcome this behavior, but he also points out that all this hostility is only aimed at himself.

“I just get mad at myself when I make mistakes,” he says. “I expect more from me.”

In frightening news for opponents, Artest also says that he should have better stamina and more energy this year following elective surgery to correct a heart murmur, which he says was no problem now but could become one in the future. “I did it for my kids and so I could quit thinking about it.”

Artest says the two favorite teams he ever played on were in AAU, when he teamed with Elton Brand and Lamar Odom to go 67-1, and in his second season at St. John’s, when he, Lavar Postell, Erick Barkley and Bootsy Thornton spread the wealth and came within a whisker of the Final Four. “On both those teams, guys didn’t care about egos or points. We moved the ball and it was the best,” Artest says. “That’s what I’m always looking for.”

That team-first thrust and his love of hard work and defense make him a coach’s favorite, even if his outbursts can be distracting. “He’s as serious and committed as any player I’ve ever seen in this league,” Thomas told the Indianapolis Star the day before my visit. “His work ethic is off the charts, We want toughness, we want passion, we want intensity. That’s what you win with and he’s going to win big in this league.”

Artest picked up most of these traits from his father Ron Sr. His parents were separated, but his dad was very much present, often dropping by the family’s project apartment in Queensbridge, New York after finishing the night shift at a nearby hospital to visit and play some one on one – full court games which would go on for hours, sometimes until three in the morning. By his junior year at Manhattan’s La Salle Academy, Artest was widely recruited. He was also playing on that great AAU team, but wanting even more hoops he sought out coach Ron Naclerio, whom he had seen working with Queens legend Rafer Alston.

“He would work out for hours,” recalls Naclerio. “He pushes himself as hard as anyone I’ve ever worked out and he has no set hours. He keeps going. If anything, he needs to get away from the game sometimes. He’s consumed by it.”

Indeed, all Artest wants to do is play ball. He neither hides from nor embraces the spotlight that comes with being a professional athlete. Over the summer, he had domestic incidents with the two mothers of his children (neither involved hitting), which received a fair amount of press in both New York and Indianapolis. This can’t have been fun, but Artest brushes it off.

“To me, it’s just about saying that I have as much right to see my kids as the mothers do, but the courts don’t always agree. I don’t know why anyone cares about that, but it comes with the job, so…”

Artest shrugs his shoulders. By now, we’re pulling into the airport’s underground parking garage. His flight leaves in 28 minutes and he doesn’t have a ticket yet, just a reservation, but he doesn’t give any sign of being in a hurry, so I keep asking questions as we stroll through the lot.

“Did you really work at Circuit City your rookie year?” This was a story circulated before his first season with the Bulls, one often used to prove his oddness. He just laughs.

“Nah, but I wanted to. I get bored sitting around. I was practicing, working out five, six, seven hours a day. That still left a lot of time. I was living with a friend from home who was working at Circuit City so I told him to bring me an application. I was going to work for three dollars an hour or whatever to have something to do, but the team and my agent was like, ‘Don’t do it.’”

Clearly, he still doesn’t see what the fuss was all about. “That’s a job and basketball‘s a job, basically. My dad has worked more than one job all my life so I didn’t see it as no big thing.”

We’re inside now, strolling up to the Continental counter. His flight leaves in 24 minutes. The agent says it’s too late, the computer won’t issue a ticket less than a half hour before a flight, but she’ll try anyhow. Meanwhile, a baggage handler has spotted Ron.

“My man!” Baggage Guy exclaims. “How’s it going, Ron? You guys gonna have a good season?”

“Yeah, Yeah, for sure. We ready.” Ron gives Baggage Guy a pound.

“It worked!” the ticket girl exclaims with surprise, handing over a boarding pass.
“Go right to the gate, Mr. Artest.”

We slap hands and give each other the kind of half hug you give someone you’ve only known for an hour. I wish him good luck and he saunters off to the security check.

When I turn back around, Baggage Guy is waiting with a question. “Hey, is Ron cool?”

“Yeah,” I say. “For sure. He’s a pretty cool dude.”


           


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ivan Reitman acquires Big in China Film Rights

I have sold the Big in China film rights to Ivan Reitman and Montecito Pictures.
There is a lot I could say but I am still a bit dazed and head-spinny so I should probably proceed cautiously, rather than with my usual let-it-all-out-on-the-blog fervor. It has obviously been an exciting and somewhat dizzying time.
I went to LA just a week after the book's March 1 release and met with my agents UTA and then with three producers. Everyone was
very interested, which was obviously flattering and exciting. We went through a whole process and here is where we ended up. I feel very good about it from all angles.
And since its release yesterday, the story is popping up all over the place, like here and here...

Big In China video

It just felt like time to repost this.

Big News just about to pop about Big in China

So close to being able to make a big announcement. Soon, soon. I have been too distracted by everything to blog, but thing shave been rolling along. More soon, I promise.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Leonard Lopate show on WNYC today

I was on the Leonard Lopate show on WNYC today. I have a lot to say about this, but it's been an overwhelming day and for now I'll just leave it there. All good - just dizzying. Very pleased and proud about this show, given how much

Monday, March 14, 2011

Alan Paul with Andy Aledort - Will the Circle Be Unbroken

As I plow ahead through the West Coast, a look back at that magical night in Maplewood, with Andy Aledort and the Groove Kings.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bay Area doings: West Coast Live, Mrs. Dalloways, Hi Dive, Booksmith. Come on down...

Photo by George Lange
Busy Weekend in the Bay Area for me and Big in China.
Today, Saturday, 10-12 PCT Saturday: West Coast Live.
Mrs. Dalloways, Berkeley 4 pm.
Party at Hi Dive at 7 pm.
Sunday: Booksmith on Haight, SF 6 pm.
Come on down.

is aired in the San Francisco Bay Area on KALW, 91.7 FM. www.WCL.org for live stream or list of stations that air it nationwide.

Jambands.com Features Alan Paul: Kind of (Beijing) Blue

One of the ost in-depth thoughtful pieces you will read about me or Big in China, written by my protege, Brandon Findlay. Jambands.com - Need We Say More? Features Alan Paul: Kind of (Beijing) Blue

Friday, March 11, 2011

Stuff is popping

Lots going on. Will write about it when I can. Thanks to everyone who came out in Seattle tonight. San Fran and Berkeley are next. Come on down.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Alan Paul with Andy Aledort and the Groove Kings - Beijing Blues

Too much Fun. From March 4 Maplewood Book launch.

Bob Edwards and more radio tales

I am off to be interviewed by Bob Edwards, which is exciting. I only wish Red Barber could join us on air.

My first big interview for the book was last Thursday on Wisconsin Public Radio for an hour-long live radio program; I was the only guest and the hour actually flew by for me. The first half was almost exclusively focused on the band. I was sitting in NPR New York's studio, staring at the npr logo - npr, which has been a huge part of my life as long as I remember. I'm sitting in there alone, with a mic and these great studio headphones on and they start blasting "Beijing Blues" and I got all misted up.

Hearing Beijing Blues blasting through npr was just unreal. If you had asked me any time in the last 20 years if I would have said that I could write a good book given the right subject and the right opportunity, I would have said, “Of course.” So doing so is incredibly exciting and gratifying – but it’s not surprising and certainly not shocking. I never would have said the same thing about writing and recording a blues song that can sound just fine blasting through npr, and that’s what made it so remarkable for me.

I was emotional because this crazy dream we all had together of making music together that the world would some day embrace was sort of coming true. And emotional because I was so sad that my three Chinese bandmates couldn’t share the joy= with me, having been turned down for visas by the US State Department.

It was in many ways my Chinese partner Woodie Wu’s dream of doing this that fueled my dream. I only dared to be that ambitious because of him. Luckily they went to the news after the interview and I had 4 minutes to comport myself and pull it together. And it went really well. I am being very self critical with myself as I try to master the interviewee process, and I did hear flaws, but it went very well.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

What a A Week

Big in China is a week old.

I am writing this on a plane to LA, embarking on the West Coast leg of the Big in China tour. Almost a week after the book’s release, I finally have a moment to breathe. The experience has been profoundly moving, tremendously exciting, fraught with nerve-racking moments and thoroughly exhausting.

I am an expert at keeping 12 balls in the air at once, but this has stretched me. It is hard not be frantic and frenzied but I am doing my best to enjoy it, well aware that this is a grand and special time in my life.

Friday, March 4 in Maplewood was simply an unforgettable night for me.

As I said in this article, no matter what happens with the book from here, I will always have March 4 in Maplewood. Words was overpacked and turning people away, and they sold out of books. I propped them up from my own supply, which will be replenished when they get their next shipment in. I was down there in the basement looking out over a sea of faces I know from so many walks of life, going all the way back to Jacob’s day as an infant and toddler at the South Mountain YMCA. Now he was sitting to my side with a gaggle of his young teen friends, all of them listening along. My parents were right in front of me, along with my brother and sister, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews… I felt as if I were floating on a sea of support.

I felt so relaxed and happy that I just let go and I think I did a pretty great job if I don’t say so myself. If I can reach the same level of confidence, presentation and insight on my own, I am going to be just fine.

And the night was just starting, as we moved around the corner, with Andy Aledort and the Groove Kings again providing the entertainment, as they did Tuesday at the Tribece Book launch, and me again joining them for extended jams. Night two was much better than night one, as I knew it would be. I was more relaxed, we had had already done it once, and we just hit the ground running.

I have some video of the night that I am looking forward to loading up and watching. I heard sounds coming out of my own body that I couldn’t fathom; where did that voice come from? How can I sing like that? I really don’t totally understand it, but I am going with it.

Andy has been a friend for 20 years or close to it. I have said many times before that he is one of my very favorite guitarists and I really mean it. From my perspective, there is almost nothing he can’t do on the instrument, but he does it all with tone, taste and groove. And we share the same perspective on what constitutes great music and a great sound; we are in sync.

On top of everything else, the music of the Allman Brothers has been very central to my life and to my musical conceptions. You probably know that. Andy has spent the last seven years playing with Dickey Betts, one of my very favorite guitarists. He has the Allmans sound down perfectly. He played some slide licks behind me that just took my breath away and made me laugh. They were just so pitch perfect in every way.

I wish everyone could have the experience of doing something like this. Playing music that you love, with this great band backing you and pushing you on and the fact that the guitar player not only sounded perfect but was my good friend… well, what more could I ask for? We closed the night with two impromptu Allmans Jams – “Statesboro Blues” and “Blue Sky”. Unfortunately, these flew off into the ether.. no videoing… but they were magical. Again, to play and sing “Statesboro” with Andy nailing those slide licks is something I will never forget.

And in San Fran next Saturday I have recruited Mark Karan, who played with the Dead and toured with Bob Weir for a decade, to play with me. So I am enjoying the whole thing and having fun with it amidst the roar and the neurotic fear that after all this it will slip away and be gone in a week. I don't really worry about that but it is had not to have some anxiety along those lines.

One of the ways I am blessed is having some great photographers in my life - and several showed up the other night. Thank you to George lange, Kathryn Huang and Tore Claesson for the great interviews.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Sometimes you need to get out of your own head

I have been living inside my own head way too much, for obvious reasons... my mind flying in a million different directions, but all of them, me, me, me. I honestly don't like it. This is a band that has been helping me get outside of that. Enjoy. I have been.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Live and online

I appeared last night on Hey! TV, a live broadcast streaming online interview show. Even performed a song. Raw, rough and ready. Enjoy.

Book launch Reading/signing/Party

Book launch reading/signing and party went really well. Thank you to everyone who came and everyone who sent me their best wishes. I felt supported by a big community and emboldened to try to knock it out of the park. Your support is very much appreciated.

I had a great turnout from such a wide cross section of my life.

Pittsburgh/Allderdice...Guitar World...Slam - with a huge turnout...Beijing....Maplewood...WSJ...

A whole photo album is posted on the Facebook fan page.

Let's keep the momentum going. Lots more cool stuff to come.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Big in China Excerpt 2 - Them Changes

From Chapter 19

My day-to-day existence was being transformed, with the band moving from a fun little side project into a far more central place in my life. This all felt normal in Beijing, where growth and change were the only constants and anything felt possible.

I had even taken up hockey, despite not having skated in 20 years. A dozen of us who had never held a stick before took up the sport after Canadian friends turned a nearby tennis court into a mini ice rink. We improved rapidly and soon actually considered ourselves hockey players, resenting our group’s official name: “Monday Night Learn to Skate.” None of this reinvention felt disorienting. Not in Beijing, where the whole landscape was being transformed. I would have had to spin a cocoon and emerge as a butterfly to match my surroundings’ pace of change. In this atmosphere, sitting still or staying the same would have been the strangest, most radical move of all. In that environment, remaking yourself—just hitting the reset button and starting over—seemed like the most natural thing in the world. It was happening all around me: there was the journalist running restaurants and bars; the doctor with a thriving export business; the teacher designing T shirts; the Italian musician selling antique furniture; the Boston bakery owner hanging his shingle as a sports marketer; and the British banker directing an art museum. Anything felt possible and the only crime was setting your sights too low.

The whole sprawling metro area often felt like a giant construction site, literally evolving in front of our eyes, making life in our rust belt hometowns seem positively glacial. Even in New York, projects like the World Trade Center site could take years to get off the ground. When we arrived in Beijing two years earlier, our compound sat on the edge of urban sprawl, with the countryside lapping up against the walls. Now, many humble local businesses had been replaced by higher-end establishments; fields had become shops, compounds and highways; and the formerly dusty, dingy Jing Shun Road was lined with trees, bushes and flowers after a beautification spurred by the Olympics, which were now less than a year away. I saw sections of the road transformed from morning to evening.

When a friend mentioned that a major construction project had begun on a quiet country road lined with fields and man-made fishing holes, I jumped on my bike and pedaled over. The field was filled with earthmovers, cranes, huge drilling apparatus and dozens of workers. The farmers who usually dried their corn there in the fall were nowhere to be seen. Pylons were rising for a new elevated highway that would transform the area, with flyways and a massive concrete structure cutting through what was now a village, many small businesses, light industry and farmland. Dust already covered everything and blocks of nearby small businesses, homes and factories had been reduced to piles of bricks, which were being carted away by mule-drawn carriages.

Though I wondered about the displaced people and mourned the loss of the country feeling—I liked the feeling of living on the frontier—I refused to talk about how things used to be; I’d only been there two years myself. Everyone’s view of “normal” starts the moment they arrive and the one thing that wasn’t going to change in Beijing was the constant change.

Wanting to document all of this in a column I spent a day driving around with a translator, asking people what they thought about the new highway. Inside the Kite Market, some vendors said the highway would bring more customers but most insisted that it wouldn’t affect them—though the construction was literally casting a shadow on them. They all spoke with an odd mix of fatalism and optimism I couldn’t relate to. They believed that they couldn’t do much about whatever was happening and it would probably be for the best anyhow.

I returned with Hou Ayi to buy produce and was rocked by how things had changed in the week since I visited to record the rapid pace of change. Half of the parking lots and all the vendors who had worked in them were gone. I looked at the paving bricks being carted away on mule carts and wondered what had happened to the vendors I was so used to seeing.'

Where was the lady who sold me the little turtle for Anna? The butcher selling pig’s hearts? The peasant fruit vendors who had asked how much of a fine I had to pay for having three kids in America and couldn’t understand why I didn’t have at least five if the government didn’t stop me? None of them were anywhere to be seen and the remaining vendors claimed to have no idea where they had gone.

Excerpted from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China (Harper Collins). Available now

in all formats. Copyright 2011 by Alan Paul. For more information, please visit www.alanpaul.net.