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Is is just me or have the local Bay Area radio stations been getting some interesting guests this week.

Not sure how they got him as a guess, but my guess is that Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures’ PR teams have signed him on to promote their new movie 21, which opens this Friday (3/29). Based on the The New York Times bestseller, Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions” by Ben Mezrich, it’s the story about MIT Blackjack Team, six MIT students that would go to Vegas every weekend to make bank playing Blackjack by counting cards during the early 90s.

The title character, Kevin Lewis was based on Jack Ma. Apparently Jack had originally attempted to pen his story but gave up quickly after writing one sentence. He then asked his friend Ben Mezrich to write the story and the rest is history.

One interesting tidbit that I remember from the show was about a site called DoublePlayTV.com where Jeff Ma has published instructional videos that teach you how to count cards. If you’re heading to Vegas soon, it’s recommended that you check it out.

If you want to hear the whole interview, here’s a link to the podcast.

Sub-note: I had first learned about the MIT Blackjack Team from a documentary about the world’s greatest heists and thieves that was included as a special feature in the Ocean’s 13 DVD/BluRay. It’s a pretty interesting feature and some of the other heists (including a woman who would steal jewelery but simply walking out of the store with it on her finger).

  • Jennifer 8. Lee – Author of “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles”
    Wednesday, March 26rd | KQED Radio (NPR) 88.5| Forum

If you are a foodie with a special interest in China and Chinese/Chinese American culture, then you might want to read a new book by New York Times reporter, Jennifer 8. Lee (Yes, her last name is actually the number 8). Named “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles” the book (I hear….as I have not yet read) is a anthropological study about Chinese food in America.

As part of a fairly typical but very successful publicity/PR book tour in nine U.S. cities. While I am not too familiar with book/publishing public relations, her publicist, Cary Goldstein has been scoring some amazing media placements—NPR, Entertainment Weekly, Reader’s Digest, Everyday with Rachael Ray, Newsweek, AOL’s Home Page, Maxim, Glamour, etc.— with the book only out in less than a month and not yet in wide distribution.

Though my only thought is that it would be nice if she clip those placements and posted on her site, instead of listing them. It would be interesting to read different reviews, especially considering how diverse her placement has been and it would have saved me the trouble of trying to find all of those articles myself (click on the media outlets listed in the paragraph above to see their views on this book).

I had noted her appearance in the San Francisco Bay Area a couple of weeks ago but forgot to save the date and missed her talk at a local book store. On wells. But fortunately, I did tune-in to NPR/KQED Radio at the right time tonight and caught her interview on Forum.

Jennifer share some interesting facts and tidbits about specific dishes, but she raised a few interesting points that had never occurred to me:

  • Chinese food in American is actually highly regionalized. For example, there’s a dish called velvet chicken that is very popular in the Chicago/Mid-west region but is largely unheard of in the New York region and California. Likewise, another Chinese American dish called cashew chicken was originally developed in Springfield, MO first and later grew in popularity around the country.
  • Chinese Cuisines at the Tipping Point: Several listeners called in during the show to share their experience with Muslim Chinese food or Western Chinese food (i.e. not westernized Chinese food, but rather cuisine from West China) from the Kunming region. Many of them lamented that they were unable to find restaurants that served those styles in the U.S. and asked if she knew were they might be able to find it. Jennifer pointed out that these styles have yet to really become introduced in the U.S. in a very mainstream way, much like Sichuan and Hunan cuisine, though she did note a couple Muslim Chinese food in the Bay Area.
  • Traditional Chinese American Cantonese Cuisine is best found in Mexico. This seemed a bit over the top, but Jennifer had an interesting explanation. The Chinese American cuisine that most Americans were first introduced to was a Cantonese style (not to be confused with traditional Cantonese food from China and Hong Kong). In the 60s and 70s, this style in the U.S. became influenced by the influx and popularity of Sichuan and Hunan food (probably coinciding with new waves of Chinese immigration). Meanwhile, the Chinese restaurants in Mexico remained largely untouched by this influence and in some sense could be considered a more traditional Chinese American Cantonese food.

If you want to hear the whole interview, here’s a link to the podcast.

Sub-Note: I first heard about the book from my cousin’s blog and have been trying to locate the book in a brick and mortar bookstore ever since. I was later told to order it from Amazon, which I will once I get around to it.