One day Aric Queen's "Shanghai Show" videocast shows his ayi cooking sweet and sour pork. On another, he hooks a camera to his moped and just rides, says Jenny Hammond.
Texas expat Aric Queen decided to check out China a few years back. He taught English in Beijing and got bored. He had US$500 in his pocket and heard Shanghai was a "fun, fun town." English again.
But three years later he's the man behind the daily "Shanghai Show" videocast that presents two-to-three-minute snippets of anything that strikes his fancy - showing Shanghai to foreigners.
Queen, 31, has produced the ChinesePod podcast for language learning, worked on Soul Fire media and is developing a radio station showcasing music podcasts from all over the world.
"I can't imagine having a nine-to-five job, being told what to wear or not being able to drink until 3am," says Queen, 31. "Each day is entirely different. One day I can be in the studio all day recording, the next out shooting, in the editing bay, or even up in Beijing checking out new bands."
So what is it like to live through podcasts? "Early on in my life, I was jealous that I wasn't artistically gifted, but now I understand there's a role for everyone," he explains.
"To have bands say that someone heard the demo I produced for them and ended up getting them a gig, or a guy hugging me in an airport because ChinesePod helped him propose to his wife - that's what it's about," the producer says.
Starting his career in Austin, Texas, at 17, Queen says, "a girl told me that with my voice, I should be in radio. It sounded better than sitting at a desk so I marched up to the local rock station and informed them of my intentions."
The radio station laughed, but took pity on him.
"Within a week, a DJ came in drunk and told me he needed to nap so could I just play music for an hour or so. I said sure and as soon as he was gone, I turned on the mike and started talking."
The next day Queen was called into the CEO's office where he was informed that the night before, the boss had turned on his station and heard someone he didn't remember hiring.
"I thought that was it for me, but he laughed and offered me the weekend gig, with the understanding that playing the 17-minute Pearl Jam live version of 'Betterman' would not be done again," Queen says.
After five years, he took off for Europe to find himself and became addicted to the vagabond life. "No, that's not true. I left to be cool, people that travel always seemed cool to me."
Eventually moving to Beijing to check China out, he taught English for a year and then answered the hedonistic call of Shanghai.
Queen moved here in 2004. "I was bored in Beijing and friends had told me here was a 'fun, fun town' so I showed up with US$500 in my pocket and thankfully found initial work teaching English."
After a few months, he was approached by Ken Carroll and asked if he would like to produce his Mandarin-teaching podcast - Queen's career snowballed from that point.
"Within a year we were giving interviews to CNN, BBC, MSNBC and every other news program you can think of. Out of that came more and more projects involved with podcasting."
One was Queen's attempt at kick-starting the music scene here with a show called "gigshanghai," a weekly podcast featuring the bands playing in town. He tried to convert that into a video show, but lack of content led him to stop it.
Then he went to work as program director at Soul Fire, a mass-media start-up. He started producing more corporate shows to pay the bills.
"Having made enough to survive for a few months, I left to pursue a few projects, one was a daily video cast called 'The Shanghai Show' (http://www.theshanghaishow.com) offering people outside of Shanghai a three to four-minute look at life here."
Now, four months later, Queen is well known for his "Shanghai Show."
"One day it might be filming my ayi explaining how to cook tang cu pai tiao (sweet and sour pork ribs), another it might be hooking a camera up to my moped and going into the former French Concession or a foreigner telling a funny story. It's whatever I happen to catch in the lens."
Another project under development is OMKOS radio (http://www.omkos.com), a platform for people all over the world to submit their own podcast showcasing music in their hometown. "We already have shows coming in from Paris, Egypt, Australia and India."
Looking to the future, Queen says, "I keep saying I'm leaving Shanghai to finish a book on life here, but more projects keep opening up that I can't say no to."
Hoping to eventually organize musicians and DJs to go around China and Southeast Asia, he concludes: "I would like to throw an all-day show in rural villages, ones that would never be able to have a music house, film it and give a bit of hope to the kids there considering picking up a guitar or something."
Description of yourself: Easily-bored, intense, idealistic.
Favorite place in Shanghai: Taikang Road where I live and work. It's the closest thing we have to a bohemian commune in town and great for those in the creative field, as you're surrounded by others who keep you from being complacent.
Worst experience: Teaching English when I first got here - they make you shave, be presentable and be a good speller!
Strangest sight: What this town does to previously docile average-looking white guys.
Ideal weekend: Boarded up in my favorite little hotel room in Xitang with my Mac, camera and a lot of cigarettes.
Life's motto: "There be no dragons" - meaning, once you escape your comfort zone, it's not nearly as frightening as originally perceived.
What can be done to improve Shanghai: Easing up on the restrictions for musicians.
Advice to newcomers: Ideas combined with patience, done without monetary care will make this town rewarding.
(Shanghai Daily December 11, 2007)