Monday, April 30, 2007

Hey Jude/ Nebraska/ & Hey Jude again

...and no this post title is not the name of a Sufjan Stevens song...

New York is great. Just when I was thinking that I was suffering from major writer's block a cab ride while listening to the radio triggered a flood of thoughts. Today it just so happened that my Sikh cabbie was listening to the oldies station, you gotta love the Sikhs for keeping it old school, when one of the most underrated incredible songs "Hey Jude" by the Beatles poped on

In the song Jude refers to Julian Lennon, John Lennon's son who often didn't get the daily attention he wanted from his dad. Julian of course would go on to one-hit wonder fame with his 1984 epic "Too Late for Goodbyes." As a weird sidenote, this song was big when my family used to live in Nebraska. Living in Omaha was awesome; we were the only Indian family for probably a hundred miles. Whenever my family sat down to eat dinner locals could rightfully claim that the Indian community of Omaha was having a meal by itself. The only noteworthy things that I remember about Nebraska are as follows:

1) Getting chased by a dog at recess in the playground of Bloomfield Elementary School
2) Having my awful neighbor steal my Zoids toy that my dad had brought for me from Japan...not that I'm still bitter or anything...
3) Accidentally setting fire to a wooden shed where the trash dumpsters by my house causing a fire truck to come and put it out

4) Getting an autographed picture of John McEnroe who made an appearance at the local mall
5) Getting to know my first best friend, Jimmy Buchanan...(a big hello to you, wherever you may be in the world/Nebraska)
6) Noticing how all activity in the state would cease every fall on Saturdays when the Cornhuskers were playing college football
7) Watching Prince's "Purple Rain" video on HBO repeatedly (yes they used to show music videos) and being utterly moved by it....this was really one of the first 3 videos I ever remembered seeing at this age, the other two were "Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and "The Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats
8) Speaking of HBO, watching "Annie" at least 150,000 times during dinner. Gotta love Daddy Warbucks and his trusty butler. By the way, having a person named "Punjab" is akin to having Caucasian servant named "Whitey"
9) Learning in 1st grade that the word "island" is not pronounced "IS-land"
10) Learning to burn ants with a magnifying glass

But anyways, I digress. What makes "Hey Jude" so great is that it does everything it says it would do, it "take[s] a sad song and make[s] it better." The first half is so mopey and almost tragic. I mean here it is Paul McCartney telling his friend's son how to grip with his parent's divorce and it essentially tells the child that he can control his own happiness....and then, the chorus of "Hey Juuuudes" at the end has McCartney doing exactly what he's telling Julian to do; the song takes off into a euphoric celebration. It takes off so much to the point that you sorta forget how bittersweet the first half is.

Hey, Jude, don't make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better

Hey, Jude, don't be afraid
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you let her under your skin
Then you begin to make it better.

And any time you feel the pain, hey, Jude, refrain
Don't carry the world upon your shoulders
Well don't you know that its a fool who plays it cool
By making his world a little colder

Hey, Jude! Don't let her down
You have found her, now go and get her
Remember, to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better.

So let it out and let it in, hey, Jude, begin
You're waiting for someone to perform with
And don't you know that it's just you, hey, Jude,
You'll do, the movement you need is on your shoulder

Hey, Jude, don't make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What special talents do newscasters have besides literacy and having fake white teeth? Although they probably have more skills than Richard Gere who sits on gerbils and kisses B-grade Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Indian Filing Systems vs. The Dewey Decimal System

One of the things I don't understand is Little India....you know the Indian collection of stores that exists in and/or around most major American cities. Back home in LA it's in Cerritos, in Chicago it's Devon, in New Jersey it's well....the whole damn state but the capital is Edison.

When I say "I don't understand it" I don't mean that I'm unclear as to how such a place can occurs in nature, but rather how do the stores stay in business? My vast experiences in life have shown me that every India-Town has only 5 types of stores:
1) Food
2) CD/DVD/bootlegs
3) 220 Volt Appliances/ cheap luggage
4) Jewelry/Sari stores

5) phone cards!

Now obviously having multiple food and jewelry stores is understandable. Shopping for Japanese families is difficult; shopping for Indians is simple: show me the gold. (when I was younger I hated that jewelry and sari stores until I realized that that's where all the girls went).

But what I never really have understood and find bizarro is that there are literally dozens of CD/DVD stores who sell the exact same thing at the same prices. So much for product diversification. The fact that they all are located right next to each other isn't very helpful for maintaining profit margins either. One thing I do understand is that a lot of the guys seems related. I once was in Jackson Heights and upon requesting "Dil Chahta Hai" the video thug/goonda said "oh yes we have it" and then disappeared through a door in the back.....when I then saw him sprinting across the street to another store to pickup the DVD from someone else.

What's funnier is that most of these stores never give any special attention to actually organizing their crap (see picture above....you can see the back of my dad too). I mean you're selling a commodity product here people! At least try to win sales by making the ambiance appealing. Case & point, just look at the epic Indian Filing System in the picture above....and for those of you unfamiliar with the experience, the DVD's are not alphabetically ordered.

Usually asking the sales clerk if they have a video that is more than 30 days old results in him yelling to some other dude to look for it at which point he'll give a confused look as if to be in some pain, shuffle through a couple of DVD's randomly (which by the way is exactly what you were doing about 30 seconds earlier) and then sadly announce that they do not have it in stock.

This desi experience wouldn't be complete of course without noting one more thing.... in any other commercial interaction throughout the world the shopkeeper would at least suggest that they could always order the missing item even if he really has no idea how he would obtain it...but nooo, not here. The desi mentality is to make the shopper feel guilty for asking for the item. "Your movie is not here, it must not even be on DVD yet, you will have to come back in 3 weeks if you really want it."

And with that it is goodbye India Town, at least until I come back next week....

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

DJ Shakes_2007-04-19 (asian underground)

http://hbshakes.blogspot.com
theme: asian underground


This week's mix is Asian Underground music, which ranges from classical Indian to drum and bass. The whole genre was really define in Talvin Singh's "Anokha" album from about 10yrs ago. Within the one album compilation of artists who would perform at his club nights in London Talvin basically laid out the soundtrack for an entire genre of music.....which is pretty cool if you think about the fact the opening album of a new genre would encompass all of its possabilities.

My brother was the one who bought the album and with that introduction my next album I got was a "Star Rise Remixed" by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. In the album a bunch of the asian underground artists remixed the great Qawalli vocalists works and that started a moment when yours truly started tracking down all these individual musicians ranging from Asian Dub Foundation to Black Star Liner and Joi.

OK! Enough waxing poetic from me... I hope you enjoy!

T R A C K L I S T I N G (approx 62min)

[0:00] Intro - Me
[1:13] Shri - Tarana
[5:24] Midival Punditz - Fabric/Aaja Savariya
[7:18] Trickbaby - Neelaa (DJ Pathaan remix)
[10:56] Iraj - Mata Aloke Genadevi
[13:04] OTT -Splitting An Atom
[14:31] Nitin Sawhney - The Search
[19:00] Various - The Namesake Reprise
[22:58] Karsh Kale - Instinct
[28:32] Asian Dub Foundation - Debris
[32:19] Future Soundz of India - Shang High
[36:35] Talvin Singh - Butterfly
[40:56] Nitin Sawhney - Mausam
[44:57] Bombay Dub Orchestra - Feel
[48:44] Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan vs. Joi - Sweet Pain (remix)
[54:13] Sister India - Out of Place
[58:02] Navdeep - My Technique


As a quick sidenote, I think Talvin's "Butterfly" may be one of the prettiest non-vocal pieces in the mix and Sister India at the very end (which if you say fast sounds like "Scissor Sisters") is a hidden little gem. The prettiest vocal song in the mix, has to be "Mausam." And there you see the genre is not typical Indian songs nor is it bhangra or just drum and bass. It uses elements of everything and blends it together in a progressive manner...


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


If the link doesn't work, just message me and I'll upload the file again.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Spot the Desi: Desis On A Plane

What could be far scarier than snakes on a plane? If you answered "Nothing!" then you're a big fat loser...AND a person who answers trivia questions wrong. Or as they say down south, you don't answer 'dem too goodly. Which brings to mind another interesting question, when a man and woman from the south divorce, are they still considered brother and sister?

Back to the point Indian people at an airport are perhaps one of the
scariest things to witness. The classic signs of desis is the fact that any FAA or airline regulations on luggage size or amount of check-in items is completely disregarded. The goal of course is to act like they are completely oblivious to such rules and hope that the airport people don't realize either.

It's a bold strategy. It's funny though because part of me thinks that it's incredible that desis can consistently pretend that the rules don't apply to them, but after you watch it repeatedly you' have to think at some point that these people really believe that. I mean have you ever tried to wait in a line (or "queue") in India before? Exactly! No one has. You just crowd the front of the place you're trying to get into. If you were from a country of a billion people waiting in line would mean that you'd never get served.

The problem is that this mentality doesn't really apply for the rest of the free world and as such pesky details like "rules" apply...Indian or not. As such you get these awesome airport scenes like the one here, of Indians opening their bags and throwing out non-essential items at the last second to get their bags under weight limits. The items may include, but are not limited to, the following:
1) economy sized container of Tiger Balm
2) Parachute hair oil
3) Hajmola the digestive super tablets of choice!
4) pickles
5) pani puri mixture

And of course after they're done removing items from their bags then have to go through the chore of re-tying the ropes around their bags and boxes. This is a trademark Indian manuever. Whenever you're at the baggage claim and you spot a bag wrapped in ropes, you know it must be a desi bag.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

shameless plug of the day: Kyotofu (New York)

There always a time when you're sitting at work and ya sorta think "this is not for me." The problem is that most of us don't really do anything about it. At the most you see people really change their lives....and go to business school. Well my friend Nicole was a but disgruntled with working in an office building all day and eventually ventured off into the uber competitive world of New York restaurants. Her restaurant Kyotofu Ave, between 48(705 9th & 49th) has been quite a success ever since.

The spot is a Japanese dessert bar featuring traditional dishes with fantastic tastes. It's been a huge success, garnering praises from New York Magazine's Robin Raisfeld as being one of the top new restaurants in the city and for having the best cupcakes in NY (screw you Magnolia!) to name a few.

So anyhoo, I don't earn a commission for this, but it would be wicked awesome if i I did...

Monday, April 9, 2007

tonight's dinner: bean dip + red wine

For anyone who knows me, my eating habits are atrocious. It's not so much that I eat steaks and pure lard every night...although that doesn't sound too bad... it's that I don't really eat very much at all. In fact more often that not I don't eat dinner, and when I do it usually consists of Skittles. About a year ago I lost 15-20 pounds over a 2 month period merely because I had Coke and Jelly Bellies for dinner every weeknight that I wasn't at work. There really isn't a lot of deep introspection or comments about the South Asian diaspora that goes along with this post. I was just watching baseball highlights on my couch watching the season premiere of "Entourage" (by the way, how good is On-Demand? it may be one of the greatest inventions ever...along with the DVR) and realized that for the first time in my life I wanted wine....and what goes better than wine than bean dip.
There you go.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

family time, whales, & vomit

Time machines are the coolest things besides hip Japanese kids who have a knack for wearing cowboy hats. The problem is that besides for Marty McFly or Bill & Ted, no one seems to have a working time machine. But alas my friends everyone has one, we just fail to recognize it when we experience it. One of the funny things about going home as you get older is that everyone seems to fall back into their original roles. It doesn't matter what your age is, everything reverts back to when you were about 12 years old.

When this time traveling happens on your own terms, it's fantastic: eating cookies in front of the TV, sitting in the backseat of the car because that was always your spot, wearing PJ's all day.

When it's on your parent's terms it can be painful: be forced to take medications for illnesses you are not suffering from, being told what to wear, getting advice on how to do everything in life better...and so on and so forth.

Going home for my latest 36 hour excursion included an incredible twist in family time that had previously never occurred. Was it going to a new temple that was even farther than the pre-requisite 50 miles? No. Was it fasting for the weekend? No. The idea: to go whale watching.

Konichiwa bitches, it's on.

I'm not sure how this idea came about but in one swoop the chance for sleeping in on a Saturday morning was dismissed and was replaced instead by a 6:30am wake-up call followed by a car ride to the boat docks.

Very often in the course of family events we are forced to do things that we normally wouldn't do. Actually, this happens quite frequently. One could argue that that is by definition what all family time is. But be that as it may, in a funny way I've grown to look forward to these events because there is a weird sorta enjoyment that goes with complaining about family times. In fact seeing my brother's annoyance was worth the price of admission alone...

And with that our family went whale watching in the Pacific. We saw beach front properties, we saw sea lions, we saw dolphins, and we saw...well...more sea. For 2 hours our ship cruised around and not one migrating whale was spotted. But in one of those good feel good "Family Ties" moments, it actually ended up being a ton of fun. AND I got a lotta good pics of people who got sea sick and vomited in the garbage. This my friends is how every Easter weekend should be.

So in the absence of having any whale pictures here are my pictures which are just as exciting and also show mother nature at work:

1. Look! it's Vomit Person #1. The white skirt may have seemed pretty on the land, but I'm sure it's quite splendid with bits of upchuck all over it!






2. The Ulti (hindi for reverse...as in the food comes out in reverse, out of your mouth) Parade continues, as it's Vomit Person #2! Score one more for sea-sickness







3. Wait a minute, is that the Quaker Oats guy or perhaps Santa? (click the picture to enlarge)








4. If you look closely you can see the dolphin following our boat.
(click the picture to enlarge)









5. After observing the beauty of nature and God's sea creatures, there is nothing more satisfying than enjoying them and tasting that beauty.

Friday, April 6, 2007

outsight

New made-up word of the day: outsight.

Sometimes people give commentary that is the opposite of insightful. In fact it makes everyone dumber for having heard it. That's outsight. When you can take a topic and provide an opinion that is vague and general, that is outsight. When you hear about current events from the morning news, that is outsight.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Surya the Apprentice: The Barbara Walters Interview

Okay as many of you know Surya Yalamanchili is the greatest semi-current non-American Idol brown hope on TV was recently booted from "The Apprentice." After a slight delay yours truly was able to get a proper interview with him. You wanted hard hitting in-your-face journalism, you got it!....or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof. Anyhoo, enjoy:

Me: Okay you were up close and personal with the Donald, is his hair real?
Surya: The hair is actually computer-generated. Like the stuff that they made Shrek and Toy Story with. In fact up close, he's under 3 feet tall. It's pretty amazing.

Me: Professionally speaking, how distracting was Ivanka Trumps' hotness?
Surya: Shakes, if you had actually watched the show you'd see that I haven't actually met Ivanka on the show! She was around for a few seconds that first episode but then I don't think I ever saw her again.

Me: What is harder, steering through reality TV show contestants or finding your way through the desi scene at Rutgers?
Surya: I have nothing funny to offer here. Reality TV contestants are crazy and mean. Most of the people I met at Rutgers were just crazy. I kid, Rutgers is the greatest University in the world. Seriously.

Me: Why is it that every time we saw you on the show you appeared as being either overly anal or borderline crazy?
Surya: Because I am. There was no editing. In fact, they probably made me look more normal with their editing so I wouldn't scare anyone. They're very kind in that way.

Me: Indian parents are concerned about everything their kids do in public. Did your parents have any reservations about you being on the show?
Surya: No. My parents are great. I do think that my mom wanted to destroy her TV every Sunday night though. Well, actually, she told me that she couldn't watch the show on Sunday nights because when she did she couldn't go to sleep since she was so irritated. Aaah, the power of TV : )

Me: Are there any Apprentice groupies?
Surya: Yes. It would seem so. I count you as amongst them...hahahahahah. I'm sorry, that was unduly harsh. [editor's note: ziiing!] It's ridiculous. Much like the situation for ex-Californians who now work on Wall Street in NYC. It's sweet.

Me: At which point in time did you most feel that violence towards a fellow contestant was the most logical course of action?
Surya: I'm a big fan of Gandhi. Ben Kingsley did a good job in the movie, and I read his bio when I was younger. I even have a stamp. But as I sat at camp with Team Arrow, and wished death upon them all, I wanted us all to be blind. But that was also balanced out by the fact that I wondered if I could donate our eyes to charity or something. You know, Gandhi's "an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind" makes a lot of sense. Until you'd rather be blind than deal with idiots around you. My answer, violence was the most logical course of action quite frequently. I wussed out though.

Me: Are we going to see you on VH1 on one of its parade of b-rated celebrity reality shows alongside Eric Estrada from CHiPs?
Surya: Oh, yes. My application to Real World meets Survivor is in the mail. Oh wait, I was just on that show...

Me: Why did you run for Rutgers student body president?
Surya: So I could be blood-thirsty despot.

Me: How many desis are really at Rutgers?
Surya: 32,419

Me: So what happens to you know? Is the show helping you in your everyday normal life or is it a distraction from people who think they know you?
Surya: I've gone back to regular life and am working on some cool(er) things that I didn't do before. I'm writing a book that's due out end of '07 on politics. I also just launched a blog: realityTVelection.com It's all about how the 2008 election is a farce, just like reality TV. It's all about exposing the sham! There should be some other cool stuff that I can talk about shortly...

Me: What is one moment where due to TV show editing or just a lack of cameras around did we the audience miss the true story being a scene?
Surya: When I threw James, Frank and Stefani out the window. Trump was so impressed he fired all three of them.

Me: Do you ever think that Trump is just full of himself?
Surya: We didn't spend enough time together for me to get that impression. I was taken aback at the fact that he was 3" tall and had computer generated hair though.

Me: Does anyone really want to be his Apprentice?
Surya: Yes. Ivanka and Don Jr. Mini-Apprenti.

Me: Did you celebrate Holi while on the show?
Surya: Yes. But Trump was not impressed wen I doused him in 4 colors. He said he would get his revenge. Sure enough 3 episodes later. Bam. I'm fired. There's the under-reported story. I got fired because DT hates Holi.

So there you have it. Surya also has his own bloggo HERE. And with that we can all go back to reading about the hair apparent, Sanjaya....

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Monday, April 2, 2007

In an edition of Newsweek from a few weeks ago the cover story focuses on male depression. Moving away from the fact that it focuses on males, is the underlying theme that regular, everyday people really suffer from it often times without realizing it.

What's interesting about feeling depressed is that people on the outside can think everything is totally perfecto and yet you don't feel that way at all. I guess it is when the feeling persists or comes up every so often that you think you're slipping into different territory.

Sometimes when I see a balcony or an open window I wonder about jumping off. Now the reality is that I would probably never do it, I just think sometimes about what if I did it and what people's reactions would be if I wasn't around. Don't get me wrong, I think I'm a pretty normal guy and I would like to imagine that it's not really unusual to wonder about stuff like that.

Okay I stop writing there.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

hello, my name is Luigi Mario, and this is my super brother Mario Mario

Why is the video game Super Mario Brothers called Super Mario Brothers? I mean the two brothers, Mario and Luigi, don't share a common first name. If the whole game is based on the premise that they are two Italian brothers with a plumbing company, called Mario Brothers, wouldn't they name it after their coommon last name in order to be truly inclusive of Luigi?

I mean I understand Mario is the showboating star, but calling the game Super Mario Brothers makes as much sense as calling it Super Luigi Brothers.

I know all of this is coming as a bit of a shock, so maybe it's helpful to take a step back. Say there are two brothers, Adam Smith and Bob Smith. If they formed a company you'd call it, for example. The Super Smith Brothers. If you called it Adam Brothers it makes no sense. There's only one Adam. How can you have several of them?

Likewise it makes no sense to refer to both brothers as being Mario Brothers. The only way that could make sense is if Mario was also their common last name. That of course would be ridiculous, because their full legal names would be Mario Mario & Luigi Mario. This would not make them Super Mario Brothers at all, it would make them The Fantastically Bad Named Brothers. This would not make for a very catchy video game title.

Now I understand Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario Brothers is Japanese, so maybe details such as this Mario Brothers oddity got lost in translation but still...

Luigi-san deserves better.

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