Thursday, August 31, 2006

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

reason #367 that NYC is the best...

...even in the rain you'll see people play music for those passing by.

Greenwich Village, Manhattan

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Survivor: Desi style

[Stereotypes are Fun: Part 2 in a series]

The latest season of Survivor is going to be nutso. The past few seasons have seen the competing tribe split based upon sex, age, or just totally random. This season however promises to be off the hook...the tribes are going to be separated by race. There are going to be 4 teams, Blacks, Whites, Asians, and Latinos. Although this may be considered a cheap ploy to gain ratings, the fact of the matter is that it's going to work. There's nothing quite like watching a good race war on TV.

But the real question that I think we're all left with, is why isn't there an Indian team? I don't mean to pull the race card or anything but the numbers sorta speak for themselves. There are nearly 6 billion people on earth and Indians are more than 1 billion of them (the dot kind, not the feather sort, as Jay-Z would clarify it). Not having a desi team is a rather big omission.

However using the magic of our imagination and common stereotypes, I think we can all picture how the Indian team would
  • There would be no fire in the Indian camp for 4 weeks. No one on the Indian team would take the initiative and their would be massive infighting over the "Fire-Making Scheme." Finally a fire will be inadvertantly started when one ofthe trendy young males uses his Parachute brand coconut hair oil as fuel.
  • No one would build a shelter. Instead everyone would scurry off to their own corner of the camp.
  • While the other tribes would initially use local island coconuts to provide sustenance in the early days, the Indian tribe would destroy all their coconuts while doing a puja
  • If Deepak Chopra were on the show he would be on the White team
  • One of the Indian members would start a protest for an undiscernible reason and proceed to fast for 20 days. This would be his excuse for not having to do work.
  • Two Indian guys (Shady Indian Guys or S.I.G's) in their mid to late 20s would only wear black pants and black shirts and cause a fight for some reason every night.
  • One of the female desis would find a way to smuggle her cellphone on the island, only to see that it doesn't get any reception.
  • One of male characters, "Anand," would only wear very large white reebok shoes and a dhoti
  • While trying to pick a tribe leader, several members of the team would choose an Italian woman from the White team.
  • The Indian team would never win a challange. Never.
  • The Indian team would be the only one that would ask the host if it's possible to vote off more than one of their members at a time
  • The Indian team would be the only team to call the Tribal Gatherings which occur at the end of each show as the "Tribe Function"
  • After the 3rd day the desi camp would be mysteriously littered with paan stains
I guess in the end it's probably for the better that there isn't an Indian team.

Monday, August 28, 2006

DJ Shakes_2006-08-29 (Going Into Labor Music)

http://hbshakes.blogspot.com
theme: Going Into Labor Music

Okay so this one is a bit weird, I was set to make a mix of west coast hippity hop when my friend Scott called and requested that I make a mix for him and his wife Alex to listen to as she delivers a baby. This is a bit scary because I have no idea what kinda music one would wanna listen to during such a time. Also since I've never been pregnant myself I'm not really sure what I would want to listen to. Well in any case I was sorta conflicted between songs that just made me happy versus things with a bit more of a beat to versus things I thought you'd like Scotty...and at some point it seemed like everyone would wanna hear Ol' Dirty Bastard while they're going into labor. I mean he had 12 kids, so he can be inspirational from that perspective.

Well the end result is my muddled mixture. I was thinking about redoing it but there's something nice I think about not overthinking some things in life and just letting them be.... usually that's the best thing anyways. Hope you like it Scotty & Alex

TRACKLISTING (approx 60 min)
[0:00] Intro - Me
[1:55] Dianogah - Emerson
[3:11] The Doors - Break On Through
[5:31] U2 - Everlasting Love
[8:40] Joe Jackson - Steppin' Out
[12:49] John Lennon - Instant Karma
[15:53] Debarge - Rhythm of the Night
[19:27] Dane Cook - My Son Optimus Prime
[21:19] Marvin Gaye - Got To Give It Up
[25:02] Wham - Freedom
[29:50] Busta Ryhmes - Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See
[32:48] Ol' Dirty Bastard - Shimy Shimy
[35:25] INXS - Never Tear Us Apart
[38:07] Level 42 - Something About You
[41:36] Sam Cooke - You Send Me
[44:15] Neil Diamond - Sweet Caroline
[47:22] Ray Charles - You're My Sunshine
[50:15] The Cure - Boys Don't Cry
[52:45] Beach Boys - God Only Knows
[55:28] Lauryn Hill - Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You


DIRECTIONS: Right mouse click on the tracklisting above to save the entire mix (mp3) directly or Podcast Me! Simply drag the orange podcast icon on the top left of this page into your iTunes. Or:
  1. goto iTunes
  2. click on Advanced
  3. click on Subscribe to Podcast:
  4. paste this URL http://feeds.feedburner.com/EngineEngine9

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Coney Island on a rainy NY day...

...with my friends (Danny & Jess)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I wish were wiretap worthy

Lo and behold our President recently "found out" from the Supreme Court that his program of wiretapping is in fact illegal. Go figure. Who would've thunk? As it turns out our constitution does come in handy once in a while...

But that is besides the point, the real question is that I don't even think I'm wiretap worthy and that sorta makes me sad. Having your phones wiretapped means that you say important things on the phone. Having your phones wiretapped means that you have shit going down in your life. Having your phones wiretapped means that you have arrived. The fact that I've never been even considered for wiretapping (as far as I'm aware) means that everyone knows my life is pretty much bland...and now even the President knows about it. What an ass.

If I was even considered for wiretapping my phone conversations would reveal these interesting bits of dialogue:
  • Saturday, 9:15 am EST: "Mom! Quick! Turn on Showbiz Indian on the International Channel... what's the name of the actress dancing in the rain in the pink? She's hot."
  • Tuesday, 11:33pm EST: "hey Danny, are you watching the Dodgers game or the Yankees...it's 3-2 in the 5th inning...this is going to be a wild night"
  • Tuesday, 11:38pm EST: "Danny! dude the Cosby Show is on Nickelodian!"
  • Tuesday, 11:39pm EST: "...man, Cockroach is the shit."
  • Sunday, 3:07pm EST [cell phone]: "Mom, how come at the India Day parade there was a float that advertised getting Doordarshan as a pay channel on satellite, I wouldn't even want to watch that channel if it was free...haven't they damaged enough Indians over the years when it was the only channel available until the advent of....drum roll.... DD2?"
  • Wednesday, 10:05pm EST: "Hey dad, I'm eating Coke and Starbursts for dinner again..."
It doesn't really get much more dramatic than that. Unfortunately as it stands, I ain't getting wiretapped anytime soon. Sucks to be me.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pluto, R.I.P. (1930-2006)

Pluto, the servant planet, is no longer a planet according to the International Astronimical Union. Yet again unions have caused a disruption in our normal lives and regular market forces. Technically Pluto is now called a dwarf planet. Whatever...it ain't no real planet.

The picture to the right is a Hubble image of Pluto (and its moon Charon) during its happier times when it was a planet and "still counted."

Pluto could not be reached for comment since the IAU's ruling in the Czech Republic earlier today. In a related story millions of elementary students are thrilled because their mini solar system diaramma due next Monday got a lot easier because they only have to make 8 planets revolve around the sun instead of 9.

10,000 hits!....

... in less than 7 months!
they love me, they really love me.....

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Stereotypes are fun in groups: Act I

One thing which almost everyone can agree on is that stereotypes and judging people swiftly without knowing how they are as people is fun and enjoyable. Why bother learning about people when you can makeup much more interesting "facts" about them? The remarkable thing as we've all learned from empirical evidence is that more often than not our stereotypes are true. Germans really do not have feelings. Asians really cannot drive. All desis really do have an inclination to keep the original manufacturer stickers on all their electronic products. This is my opinion and a fact.

As such the following conversation at work should further elucidate the matter. The characters are me played by "me," my "Boss," and "Polish guy."

[stage directions: three characters are speaking to one another from their desks]
Boss: Hey "Polish Guy," you're really smart, why do people make so much fun of Polish people?
Polish Guy: Why they make fun of Polish? I do not know this. All the Polish people I know are rather smart.
Boss: So why do they make fun of Poles?
Polish Guy: I do not know this. It makes no sense
Me: So what you're saying is that Polish submarines don't have screen doors?
Polish Guy: What? No. I do not even know what our submarines are like
Boss: snicker
Me: So what you're saying is that Polish firing squads do not form a circle?
Polish Guy: Wait, what? Why would they stand in a circle? Would they not just shoot each other?
Boss: snicker
Me: Well I think every culture has a group they make fun of for no logical reason.
Boss: Who do Indians use?
Me: Well I guess it's Sardarji's. People who like wear turbans from northern India.
Boss: Whoa
Polish Guy: Are they like Polish people?
Me: Yes and no.
Boss: What do they say?
Me: Well all sorts of things. Along with the typical dumb jokes, people also say that they go crazy at midnight. Once they see stars they go bonkers.
Boss: Is it true?
Me: Well judging from how I've seen them at late night parties and whatnot, I would say the midnight-part is pretty accurate actually.
Polish Guy: Whoa.
[stage directions: all characters exit stage right]

See in this "fictionalized" conversation, we can see that stereotypes helped bring three different types of people closer together and enhance their understanding of other people. I think the results pretty much speak for themselves.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

"um hello officer, I just got hit by a Happy driver."

Jersey Turnpike North - on my way home from DC...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Friday, August 18, 2006

K.Y.G...Know Your Gods

As a kid growing up in Southern Cal there really weren't that many Indians around. Aside from two other kids in school (whom everyone thought I was going to marry and/or was related to), we were the only Indian family in the city that I knew of. The only times I really had to see Indian people/girls was at the Indian part of Cerritos or at a temple. I know this is going to sound sacreligious but this was a big reason that I actually didn't mind the hour long drive to the Malibu temple as a kid. It's like going clubbing...except in the day time...with your parents... without alcohol (or meat), and some of the fun. Temples were my first real foray into the desi social scene.

Now with that allow me to make a wildly unobjective and bold claim, watching Hindus pray is one of the most interesting things to watch. It's not because of everyone does everything in unison like you'll see at churches & mosques, on the contary everyone does everything different. This makes for a rather odd and amusing sight at times. While there are definitely common prayers and common rituals, which in themselves vary from place to place, at the end of the day a lot of it boils down to what you do by yourself.

All Hindus pray differently. The non-theological reason is quite simple: we pray the same way our parents do. Some people will turn around three times before they approach an idol, others will sit quietly. Some people will do a full face-down-laying-your-body-to-the-ground-bowing in front of an idol, others will do a simple namaste (clasping your hands together) without bending over. Some people will make sure to ring one of the temple bells as they walk in, others won't even bother. Is one variant better than another? Nope, not at all. You don't become a better Hindu by doing some thing versus another. There really aren't any guidelines about that sorta thing. For me that's the only way I know how to pray that feels natural, which is from seeing what my mom and dad do. This has some weird consequences which I'll pick up on later...

As such one of the the reasons the temple was always enjoyable was because my rather religious dad always felt that after you finished praying and did your rounds past all the idols, there really wasn't much to do and hence you could go home. Going home usually meant that we'd pick up lunch on the way home, which meant McDonalds for the hour car ride back home. The Temple...(badup-bup-bup baaaa) I'm lovin' it!

If all of this sounds like I'm missing terribly the point of going to a place of worship well I would beg to differ. I think I pray more than the next guy and now I like just going and hanging out sometimes. That being said my mind sometimes drifts a little bit and I start thinking of random things. For example, if I could've had one Hindu god in one of your classes in school, who would it be?

The answer of course would have to be based partially on the character profile that emerges from Hindu mythology and not just "I'd like Lord Shiva, because he's the destroyer, breaking things is cool." Krishna would be pretty dope because he would always bedoing some sorta mischief. I mean after all, he is popularly depicted as stealing butter as a child. Ganpati (the elephant god)on the other hand would be the kid who was always kissing up to the teacher. After all, once there was a competition between his brother and him to see who could circle the world the fastest and all Ganapti did was walk around his parents because he claimed that they were his world and as a reward he was given the fruit of knowledge. Sheesh. If you tried to pull off that kinda stunt in my school you'd probably get slapped by someone.

Not having set things that everyone does has strange consequences as I mentioned earlier. For me the problem was that it's almost intimidating going to a temple alone sans parental units for the first time. For me it's always a feeling that everyone knows exactly what they're doing and I don't. When I first started going alone I alwaysfelt like people were going to turn around at any moment and start laughing at me. It's a pretty sucky to feel intimidated about praying. I'm going to venture to say that this may be a common feeling that a lot of people get regardless of religion. The feeling of being lost in the process is almost enough to make you not wanna go back and put yourself through it anymore. Sigh.

But then when you do go there you start to realize that everyone is busy doing their own thing and no one really cares....well no one except the random old uncles and aunties who stare. Also occassionally some little kids point. But as we all know, little kids are dumb and are not to be trusted because they lie and steal and are filled with hatred. They are often times born with evil in their hearts and are only shackled from their devious desires through the application of civil law and getting detention at school.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Guerilla marketing 101

You may have remembered the sign I posted up the other day ("on 54th & Broadway today..." 8/8/06). Well it looks as though the same sign appeared in Chicago too. Alas this may not be such a cool thing which someone did, but rather some sorta guerilla marketing. As you'll see in the picture the sign refers to a cheating Steven and allegedly it's from "Emily." A little help and snooping from a friend led to a blog called "That Girl Emily" (http://thatgirlemily.blogspot.com/). After reading through a couple of blog posts (for investigative reasons only) it doesn't seem like a genuine blog. It's sorta unreadable. I mean you kinda find yourself asking "who would be interested in reading this blog aside from the writer." But then again if that was the litmus test for fake vs. real blogs, most of them would not survive. Oh well the billboard was cool to think about while it lasted. Alas it is no longer genuine. I know a lot of you were eagerly waiting for an update on this. Wait no more. You may now continue on with your normal daily activities.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

french fries + beer + Talvin Singh

Desi's Gone Wild took another turn in the city as Talvin Singh dj'd in Central Park today for the first time in a long time. While the music was great I think I may take an equal amount of enjoyment seeing all the random desis that come out of the woodwork. Amdst the masses of goofy Indians there are wannabe thugs who wear muscle shirts and travel in packs.

Even more bizarro is the timeless question man has been asking from the dawn of time: Why do all hot girls always have lame looking boyfriends? Sheesh. I'm not one to judge or anything, but if I were to judge I'd say that those guys better have a lot of personality. Also as a standard rule, every gathering of desi must include a pack of girls who look utterly disinterested in everything going on around them. It's not easy to look so actively disengaged, but time after time desi girls pull it off. We salute you.

Finally in every crowd there's always the one overly enthu guy. You can usually spot them at Indian gatherings because it's usually the guy who's not Indian. The best part is when they bop their heads and dance when there's no music playing at all. I think Snap said it best, when they astutely said rhythm is a dancer. In today's show, our hero of the day was the guy on the left. Special props to his "Dubstar" belt buckle. Wristbands sold separately.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

DJ Shakes_2006-08-12 (Bhangra 101)

http://hbshakes.blogspot.com
theme: bhangra 101

Due to popular demand this week's mix is a Bhangra 101. What I tried to do was capture a bit of the evolution of bhangra music in recent years from the old school vocals + drum to the modern variants that have hip hop influences and MC'ing. It's gotten to the point where in some senses it's starting to go back to the original roots a little. An interesting parallel can be made with hip hop which is becoming almost too overly ornamented and has seen some people revert back to an old school style. But I digress.

Now this Bhangra 101 mix is truly my own interpretation of various forms of the genre. I'm certain that I'm missing out on some major things, but hey I'm not even Punjabi, I'm Maharashtran. As a quick recap, bhangra music hails from the Punjab in North India where it was a harvesting dance. While it's had a long line of performers I think it's pretty fair to say that the modern remix and bhangra scene basically started up in the UK with Bally Sagoos in the early 1990s. In general the UK has the most progressive bhangra scene. Until about 5+ years ago, most of the people who seemed to like bhangra outside of those in North India were kids in England and America. It really didn't seem to be tremendously popular for most other parts of India.

Elitest musical commentary aside, one of the most noteworthy things about bhangra music is that the parts that make you want dance the most are NOT when the drums is beating the fastest, but rather during the breakdowns where the pace gets cut down significantly. It's somethinge everyone hears and responds to, but I don't think you really consciously think about it too much. I'll demonstrate at the beginning of the mix.

T R A C K L I S T I N G (approx 72 min)
[0:00] Intro - Shakes
[2:24] DJ Sanj - Tenu Blondee (UK)
[4:49] XLNC - Kuriya Nu Puchdee Pira (old skool)

[8:48] Sangeta - Pyar Ka Hai Bairi (old skool)
[12:45] Dalvinder Singh - Nachdey Punjabi (hip hop)
[16:30] Sabi - Ek Kuri (traditional vocals + garage beats)
[20:37] Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam - Dholi Taro Dhol Baaje (bollywood)
[26:06] Daler Mehndi - Saade Dil Te Chhuriyan Chaliyan (pop bhangra)
[29:14] RDB - Boliyan (UK)

[32:37] Sukhbir -Gal Ban Gayee (modern)
[36:06] L. Hassanpuri vs. DJ Sanj - Das Ja (modern remix)
[38:59] Rama & Bally Sagoo - Mera Laun Gawacha (classic)
[43:48] Sukshinder Shinda (feat HMC) - Soni Lagdi (half traditional/half modern UK)
[46:39] SR1 - Tappe
(traditional vocals + garage beats)
[50:14] Sardool Sikander - Phulkari (traditional)
[54:34] The Safri Boys - Long Chamkada
(traditional)
[58:56] B21 -Darshan (modern)
[63:54] Outro - Me (timeless)
[64:17] Malkit Singh vs Bally Sagoo - Guru Nalon Ishq Mitha (classic)
[68:14] RDB - Ranjhana (ballad)


That being said What's followed after that can be broken into some rather broad themes:
  • pop bhangra, like Daler Mehndi (which every hardcore bhangra person shudders at),
  • bhangra remixing of Hindi songs (e.g. Bally Sagoo)
  • The influence of MC's rhyming over traditional bhangra beats...
  • ...and the opposite move of traditional vocals over garage/hip-hop/dhol & bass beats
  • the increased use of vocodors
  • The mixing of hip-hop songs with bhangra on bootleg vinyl and cd's...which more often than not tends to be Jay-Z acapellas mixed onto bhangra and spliced with female vocals. On a sidenote most of the "Indian sounds" you hear on hip hop songs is less of a bhangra story and more of an Indian music hitting the mainstream (re: exploited) story... just throw on some breathy female treble piercing vocals, and a sitar, and presto!
  • bhangra songs appearing in Bollywood films in recent years (which you never really saw before, which further cements my claim that it really wasn't more than a regional musical genre in India for a long time)
...And then there's Panjabi MC's "Mundian To Bach Ke" which may be on the verge of being the most overplayed song since Happy Birthday. The fact is any ABCD can tell you that the song was overplayed before the Jay-Z mix in 2003. The song was originally released in 1998 (remember this year for the next paragraph) and any person who claims that the song wasn't overplayed clearly never attended any Indian function, Independence Day parade, party, or any gathering of desis between 1998-2003.

It is a terrific song, for sure and pulling in the Knight Rider bassline is wicked, but was it original? Not at all. Instead desis everywhere have none other than Busta Rhymes to thank. Say what? No one seems to remember that Busta Rhymes sampled the Knight Rider bassline first in "Turn It Up (Fire it up!)" in.... 1998. So PMC's remix may just be a case of a bhangra remix song stealing the beat from a hip-hop song....

DIRECTIONS: Right mouse click on the tracklisting above to save the entire mix (mp3) directly or Podcast Me! Simply drag the orange podcast icon on the top left of this page into your iTunes. Or:
  1. goto iTunes
  2. click on Advanced
  3. click on Subscribe to Podcast:
  4. paste this URL http://feeds.feedburner.com/EngineEngine9

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

on 54th & Broadway today...

picture of the day (via camera phone)
[Manhattan, NY]

The real problem is when 10 other guys named Steven in west-Midtown look at the billboard and think it applies to them...

Sunday, August 6, 2006

I'll talk famous Sikhs for $100

Here's a story which may have slipped by the wayside,...

As we come upon the fifth year anniversary of bad shit happening in New York (I hate calling it "9/11" because just the numbers alone invoke image of wannabe-aspiring-holier-than-thou political commentators) and racism towards Muslims & Sikhs (or well really anyone brown) seemed to be at a recent high.

Well right now people in England are cheering for a new Sikh hero, cricketer Monty Panesar. He's a spin bowler who's currently destroying the Pakistani batting order, taking 8 wickets in the first Test (that's a lot). Oh yeah, did I mention that he is the first Sikh to ever play for England? But then again, racism isn't exactly new to cricket or exclusive to England. People used to criticize India decendents in the West Indies who would cheer for the Indian team and not their home team, and their response was simple: "There aren't any Indians on the West Indies team...and it's not because of a lack of available talent." Likewise if you watch South African teams, they were basically all-white.

That being said this is an issue which is done an injustice to have such a cursory overview here. For example let's change the roles a little bit, if I were to ever play in the NBA I'd be the first Indian player. But have Indians been held out of the pro ball because of racism? Nope. It's just that that there are people who are bigger and better. Now if you zoom to the world of S'African cricketers it may be a question of opportunity and that those who were given the opportunity may just be the best cricketers around. But clearly there are/were racial overtones as to who gets the chance at an opportunity.

Anyhoo, that's is my deep thought for the day. You can now go back to snorting glue.

Saturday, August 5, 2006

word to the wise...

Don't get your new passport picture after you've been out late the night before. After getting my picture at the world famous Sears studio I realized that I look like a goober. I should've gotten a glamour shot instead. It sure does suck when you don't like how you look. The funny thing is that when I woke up in the morning I felt I looked pretty okay. Well instead of being relegated to having this be on my passport for the next 10 years I think I'll get another pic next week.

On a sidenote, I know this is not nice to say but what is it about some children that makes you want to kick them? Sears is an awesome place to see annoying, crying, drooling children with parents that don't really seem to care about controlling them. While waiting for my fantabulous picture to get developed the snot nosed kid sitting next to me started kicking at my plastic chair and then yelling some sorta Satanic war cry. He then started running around the store and while I was walking out we crossed paths and I swear for a brief moment in time I thought about drop kicking him across the home furnishings section. But I didn't, and that's the sign of being a real men. That and admitting that you watched "Pretty in Pink" by yourself.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

music fit for your ears (reviews)

Here are some music picks to seem cool in front of loved ones and others:

Sufjan Stevens, "Come On Feel the Illinoise!" - This is just awesome. Maybe I'm a bit late to find this, but this combo of pop, folk and instrumentals is too good to be missed. You'll definitely see this popping up on podcasts soon. The song "Chicago" is my personal favorite. I swear if you buy this and don't like it, I'll refund your money.

Jurassic 5, "Feedback" - To be honest there are a few misses on this album, but then again most of their albums have a few of those. That being said they have their own unique sound that says Southern Cal over it. I'm not sure what exactly says that, but work with me here.

Stevie Wonder, "Songs in the Key of Life" - Um okay, so this isn't a great revelation or discovery on my part. It's pretty much understood that this album is a classic. That being said it's one that a lot of people haven't really listened to. If you want something that's classy but has beat and heart, look no further. It makes you wonder though, that for a blind dude Stevie had more than his fair share of heartbreak. On a sidenote, now you can hear where how Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" is basically Stevie's "Pastime Paradise." In college my dorm neighbor and I had a tradition called "Stevening in the Evening" where we'd read a passage aloud from the liner notes of the "Best of Stevie Wonder" and play a song at full blast. Let's just call my neighbor "S. McGovern" or rather "Sam M" for anonymity's sake. Okay enough of this nostalgia which rings true to no one...

Ministry of Sound, "Mash Up Mix 2006" - Hands down the best compilation of the year. Mash-ups are basically combinations of two different songs, and this puts together like 40 of the best ones.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

on the #4 train...

New York hobos are the best. Socrates was to Greece as the hobo is to the subway. I'm not saying hobos are deep philosophers but rather more often than not they say what's on everyone's mind.

Part of the NY-uber-cool-attitude is to seemingly ignore everything around you while simultaneously being acutely aware of your surroundings. As such, the weirdness on the subway is too much to a handle. While you tuck yourself away under your iPod you're secretly looking at what other people are reading, checking people out, blatantly staring, and trying to decipher what the person next to you is listening to on their iPod while secretly hoping that they see what you're listening to so they can see how good your tastes are. Okay so maybe that last point applies to just me, but in general this strange dance happens discreetly on every train line, every day, every stop.

Cue music. Dim the lights. Enter the hobo.

The job of the hobo is to poke fun at people, talk with tourists, and say provocative things which makes you giggle in enjoyment yet sigh in relief for not being directly involved. For instance my ride last nite on the #4 train proved to be just the deal. After talking it up with some Aussie tourist sheilas our main man proceeded to give his fashion commentary on my fellow riders. Top comments:
  • "Hey there mistah, nice hat and glases, you look real sharp, like Denzel on a train. Look it's Denzel! Remember the Titans! Remember Denzel!"
  • "Oh baby, you need to go back to the store and get more fabric"
  • "Why do all the Goth chicks gotta be so dang ugly?"
  • "Hey there Condoleeeeza Riiiice, stop holding the door open!"
It's a blend of racism, sexism, and politics! What could be more fun? The funny thing is that as rude as it all may be, if you peak around, everyone is always secretly paying attention. The hobo speaks the truth, the adoring masses listen. That chick really did have too small of a dress. And the black dude across from me really was dressed dapper. It's sorta nice that someone told him.

The weird tension amidst all this is when each hobo tells a story deserving of sympathy (and money) yet you're unsure if it's genuine. In my case our hobo mentioned that he was happily married until last year when his wife suddenly passed and now he's trying to feed his kids. He even had pictures. What more proof do you need? Is he just making all this up? Maybe. But what kinda bastard would question a guy who may have gone through all this? However, I can't just go around giving a dollar to everyone who asks for one...

...This by the way is how you attempt to justify ignoring beggers in India in order to look at yourself in the mirror each night. Seeing children your age in such dire conditions makes you wonder how much of a crapshoot your fate can really be. There really is no good reason why I was born where I was and other kids where they were. I mean I'm a Hindu and I guess that implies I believe in nirvana, but you have to be kidding yourself if you can seriously use that as a rationale for feeling emotionless to others.

But I digress, studies show that strangers are more likely to give money to beggers if they don't mention anything personal or emotional about themselves. The theory being that people don't want to get involved and would just rather walk away. But in a train hearing these stories in a temporarily confined position is enough to squeeze a dry sponge just a lil bit more and get an extra dollar or two from people.

The clincher was at the end of my ride when the hobo pointed to the lady next to me and said "you know my wife passed away so I'm single, I'd marry you if you wanted" and merrily moved to the next car. Instead of taking it as a semi-rude gesture, the tacitly agreed upon decision of all the passengers was to look at the lady and see if she was in fact pretty enough to warrant this awkward compliment. The funny thing is that she really wasn't, but oddly by the smile on her face he made her day. It left a good feeling in our section of the #4 train and you could see my gawking trainmates relax their cheek bones just enough to display a bit of pleasure in the whole event.

Only on trains can people behave so independently in sync.