Friday, August 31, 2007

meet Amy Lee, The Happy Asian

Today's posting shall be one full of racism and stereotypes!

Keep in mind that since I'm Indian it's semi-okay for me to make judgements regarding Asian people (South Asian or otherwise) as well as Jewish people (my best friend is Jewish, so it's all good)

I was in Atlanta last week at my cousin's dorm when I noticed one of the activity boards, a trademark of all college residential halls usually placed next to the elevators. Amongst a myriad of random names and faces, one person stood out: Amy Lee.

I didn't exactly Amy Lee, but yet after one look I knew that I knoooow Amy Lee. Everybody knooows an "Amy Lee:...and no I don't mean the frontwoman for Evanescence, I mean like in "Amy Lee" in a more generic fashion.

Who is this Amy Lee you ask? Well, like I said, everyone knows her. Everyone knows or has known an Amy Lee in their lifetime, specifically around the time they were in high school or college.

Amy Lee, you see, is The Happy Asian. Amy Lee is the always cheerful girl in school who is always willing to help out, be friendly, and causes no drama. Amy Lee is that girl in school who is cute in a weird sorta way. Amy Lee is not hot, but she's definitely not ugly. Amy Lee is cute in a friendly sorta way.

While Amy Winehouse does horse tranquilisers, Amy Lee does study groups. Think about it for a second, this concept of the Happy female Asian is not as fabricated as it sounds....think about that Happy Asian girl you once were friends with and how the following faux quotes/comments seem eerily appropriate:
  • "...that Amy Lee, she once made me Raman Noodles when I fell sick during mid-terms..."

  • "...Amy Lee once drove me to the DMV on a Saturday morning to get my license..."

  • "...Amy Lee has the best lecture notes..."

  • "...ohmygosh, so last Friday some of my friends and Amy Lee went out to the Calpyso, that new Caribbean/Soul-food place that opened up off campus and Amy Lee totally had this great idea about getting hot chocolate afterwards..."

  • "...Amy Lee totally loves playing co-ed ultimate frisbee for intra-murals!"

  • "...I can't believe Amy Lee totally made all these posters for the new freshman during activities week..."
See I told you. We all know an Amy Lee.

The problem is that like many people in high school and college, Amy Lees drift away. It's not that they're bad people but often times they don't stay happy anymore. Usually years of maintaining a positive outlook and always being there for others brings a heavy toll as substance abuse and/or the East Village get the best of them...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

You'll Never Walk Alone

One of the greatest soccer rivalries is Liverpool vs. Everton. After last week's clash an 11-year old Everton boy was shot in an unrelated incident. As a gesture to the boy's family, tonight before another match Liverpool invited the parents and brother to the stadium (Anfield) where they played the Everton anthem (Z-Cars) as tribute. This is sorta like playing the Soviet anthem in America...minus the political tension and the whole Cold War aspect.

Afterwards of the crowd sang the Liverpool anthem, "You'll Never Walk Alone."

Incidentally one of the American Idol contestants sang it this year, but as you'll see it's nothing compared to tens of thousands of Liverpool fans (Liverpooleans? Liverpolites?) singing it early and seen from a Chelsea match not too long ago (wait for them to hit the main chorus with 40seconds left in the clip)

The song itself is was written by Rodgers & Hammerstein for their 1945 musical "Carousel." Others works of theirs include "The Sound of Music," "South Pacific," etc etc etc...

When you walk through a storm
hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of a storm is a golden sky

And the sweet silver song of a lark.
Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Tho' your dreams be tossed and blown.

Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never, ever walk alone.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart

And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never, ever walk alone.

I think the nearest equivalent that we have in American pro-sports may be Yankee fans singing "New York, New York" after victories, but after seeing stuff like this, it could only be a distant distant second at best...

Only 214 more days until I witness an Everton/Liverpool clash...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Anze Kopitar in 2008

People often stop me on the street and say "Hey Shakes, you're a nice looking person." Well that's neither here nor there, I just thought it's an important fact to bring out.

No but seriously, other people stop me on the street and say "Hey, I like your sassy writing style, but answer me this, are hockey players ever the subject matter of graffiti and if so does it happen in LA?"

It's a valid question. It's an important one too.

The answers, to the best of my knowledge are a resounding yes and yes.

Anze Kopitar's the LA King's star winger has had his likeness tagged in and around LA lately. You can see the tagging stencil in the picture above, where it's Kopitar face inside the King's logo Having a cult athlete honored in this fashion is sorta like this odd phenomenon that happened when I was in college where these Andre The Giant stickers could be found placed around campus in odd places (e.g. under stairwells, in the medieval poem section in the book stacks where ugly people hooked up in the library, etc.) . Oh well.

Now as much as I may have a man-crush on the guy I gotta admit that he's not the prettiest person in the world... I mean he's no Mackenzie Crook (aka the most awkward looking man in the history of the world aka Gareth from the British version of "The Office") but still...

All I know is that if you're a European guy on skates and people are tagging your face around town, that means you've arrived.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

go speed racer

Okay so maybe it's not the fast and furious, but sometimes my life does get an interesting element of danger in it. While driving home I spotted another fellow Acura driver who looked like they wanted to have a go (plus after noticing we had the same model, they tried to pass me up).

Over the next 20 miles in monsoon rains we raced down the 78 East at speeds that hit triple digits for only a few of those miles but were probably not safe for bad weather.... or for...or for good weather.... or for taking pics with the camera phone to memorialize the occassion.

The winner? Well let's just say the Black Acura was done in by the oldest speed racing enemy in the not the cops... their lack of an EZ Pass. The winner and still champion: me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

DJ Shakes_2007-08-21 (U2)
theme: U2

Okay so my favorite group is U2 and I pretty much consciously abstain from including them in most of mixes because I'm a little bit biased towards. In many ways they're sorta like a "musical home" from me; although I depart from them for long periods of time I usually find my way back to them. So here again I have found my way back to them. This is my mix of songs that I like, based on my current mood anyways, and while most of them won't be found on any Best-Of album I think most fans will agree that they're each classics in their own right. (although the very same fans would argue that 95% of their songs are classics and spend the next 10 years debating it on various fan blogs)

Since the artist is U2 in each case, I put the album in parenthesis next to the song title.

T R A C K L I S T I N G (approx 66min)

[0:00] Intro
[1:02] I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (Joshua Tree)
[5:16] The Unforgettable Fire (The Unforgettable Fire)
[9:25] Hawkmoon 269 (Rattle & Hum)
[12:23] Hallelujah (B-side from "Desire" single)
[16:19] Ultraviolet (Achtung Baby)
[21:20] Stay (Zooropa)
[26:10] Walk To The Water (B-side from "With Or Without You" single)
[30:35] Heartland (Rattle & Hum)
[35:14] Your Blue Room (Passengers)
[40:13] I Fall Down (October)
[43:27] Shadows and Tall Trees (Boy)
[48:09] Dirty Day (Zooropa)
[52:40] If God Will Send His Angels (Pop)
[57:06] Elvis Presley In America (The Unforgettable Fire)
[63:18] 40 (War)

Since the artist is U2 in each case, I put the album in parenthesis next to the song title. This conveniently leads to the great fan debate over which is the best U2 album. Most will say it's "Joshua Tree" and it's pretty difficult to ignore, and some will say it's the follow-up "Achtung Baby" almost perversely because Joshua was sooo good that any guys who totally change their entire musical style and make it great needs to be noticed (I mean they basically started the alternative musical genre).

The Joshua Tree was actually originally supposed to be a double album, but since they rarely do well 7 of the songs were cut and used as B-sides. It's a shame because the B-sides, 2 of which are on this mix, are really pretty tremendous. As good as Joshua is, I think it would've undiluted and just as good with the original 18 songs or so...oh and as for my favorite album, probably 1993's "Zooropa"..

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

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

Saturday, August 18, 2007

his name rhymes with "Shmeckham"...(Galaxy 4, New York 5)

Not too shabby for a night: 9 goals, one 2 goal deficit comeback, almost 70,000 people, and some English dude had 2 assists and played the full match and nearly sparked a bench brawl.

But you know what remains to be the toughest part about getting tickets?....reading the stupid encrypted verification word or pass code thingy on Ticketmaster. First of all I can barely read what the letters even say....I'm not sure if that means that encryption is soooo good or that its ultra crappy....and once you're able to decipher the letters I have no clue what the words even mean.

To be honest with you I'm not even sure if some of them are real words. I think I did pretty okay on my SAT's many moons back and I stare at that stupid box and am like "what is that little fucker?" I often curse in my inner thoughts. Usually of course you log onto Ticketmaster because some show/game just went on sale and you're pressed for time before it sells out which makes the whole thing a lot more stressful. More stressful than the SAT's.

I mean with the SAT's you just had the culmination of all your life's work being represented by a simple number which will invariably affect which college you get into and any job and the standing of your family that you may have in 20-30 years. With Ticketmaster you have the possibility of getting to see a soccer game in 2 weeks in the nosebleeds or on the lower deck. I think we can all see that the game is much more important.

Friday, August 17, 2007

me & my harmonica

A few weeks ago I met up with my dad and he gave me some things my mom had packed from home. Basically it was frozen shrimp and some chicken. Home cooking is the best. But tucked along with those edible delights was another small surprise. A gift, if you will, from mom. Mom had packed....a harmonica. Yes, a harmonica...or as it is known south of the border, el mouth organ.

Several days later while talking to mom the issue of the harmonica came up. "Mom thanks for the food and the harmonica," I started, " but with regards to the harmonica, I appreciate it....but...and don't take this the wrong way... why did you get it for me?"

Mom's reply was one for the ages:

1) "I know you like music and I thought you could make something of I figured maybe you could learn how to play it and sing Indian songs with it."
2) "Also you know the harmonica is an instrument that you have to blow on, so it will be good lung exercise"

Epic. Simply epic. My mom wants me to sing Indian songs with my harmonica. I nearly burst out laughing when I heard this one.

I can't make this stuff up. While this is extremely sweet you gotta admit it's a bit odd. Let's be clear here, while my mom's faith in my musical prowess is touching, it's not like I'm a singer-songwriter in English...let along in Hindi.

Needless to say I haven't exactly learned to play Indian songs to my harmonica (it was unclear whether I'd be singing original songs or merely covers). But I sorta felt like I'd be disappointing mom if the harmonica went to waste. Thus instead I have tried to bond with my harmonica and took pictures of it in everyday situations. So below are pictures of my adventures with my new shiny harmonica:

Ahhh...rise and shine with my new harmonica

Shower-time with my harmonica.

Driving to the mall with my new harmonica

The harmonica is getting a little wild and crazy by sticking it's mouth piece out of the window. This oddly creates a natural harmonica noise as the wind blows through it.

Walking to mall with my harmonica

Spotting a Maybach (retail value: $335k) in the parking lot

Going down the mall escalator with my harmonica.

After a long day the harmonica needs some time to unwind.

Yes, these are my adventures in life...and yes I mailed these pics to mom... and no she didn't kill me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

observation of the day*

Why is Filene's Basement on the top floor of a building? How is that a basement?

[Union Square, NYC]

*okay I'm big enough to admit that I'm not the one who noticed this one...a little bear told me.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

...and now a word from our sponsors...

"In order for evil to prevail over good, good has to be sitting there doing nothing with their thumbs up their asses jerking off" - cab driver in Brooklyn.

Cab drivers are the greatest cure for writer's block. You can get a view on politics, showbiz, sports, and Indo-Pak relations all within about 7 blocks of travel time for a fee of 30 cents per quarter mile (plus additional flat cost of $2). I find that in general it's best not to disagree with the cabbie, because after all they control your life.

For example if you read the above quote the most obvious comment to make after picturing this poetic gem is this: how exactly does one jerk off by having their thumbs (plural!) up their asses (also plural!)? I mean unless my dexterity is a sub par I think it's pretty close to physically impossible. Furthermore I can't help but feel that if one were to achieve such a physical position, it would be anything but enjoyable.

The other variant of cab driver is the one who wants to know about your life. I once took a cab from work to my train station (a glorious 5 minutes) and within seconds my new black friend/shrink looked at me and said "I don't mean to make any broad claims, but you don't look very happy. You deserve to look happier." There's nothing worse than when strangers tell you something which you already think about once in a while. And even if it's not fully true (I am happy!) it's pretty difficult to disagree when you're in a cab leaving work at 11pm.

The perverse thing is that I spent the ensuing 5 minutes trying to convince the cabbie otherwise and that life, much like roller coasters, has it's ups and downs but in general you're happy you got on the ride because you got on because of your own volition. Now that I think that this roller coaster metaphor is also powerful because you don't really enjoy it as much as you could and when you're older and you go through life/roller coaster your back tends to hurt a lot afterwards.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Separated at Birth: Wayne Rooney & Shrek

Although he's my favorite soccer player, at some point in life you gotta call a spade a spade. Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney looks like Shrek.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

our leader

Today President Bush had a press conference on the US economy where reporters asked him what he thought was going to happen to the bond and stock markets….this is like…you know what any simile doesn't do justice to how goofy this is. I mean you're basically asking a dumb guy to explain something that smart people disagree upon.

Now obviously as a policy maker his view holds a bit more sway in how things will be handled, but still. What's even more telling is that as he rambled on about bridges in the Midwest, football players turned war martyrs, and Congress's inability to do one thing or another, the stock market dropped 40 more points (13539 to 13490). Way to restore confidence Prez...

Allow me to provide a powerful allegory of the situation that involves Indian dads.

Hearing reporters speak to the President is a lot like watching my dad interact with weird teenage salespeople at computer stores. My dad will ask questions regarding functionality, compatibility and pricing to the know-nothing sales dude. What's even worse is that he actually expects to get a well thought out answer. Even more astonishing is that my dad is repeatedly astounded when the salesperson says "umm…sir…I dunno."

My brother and I can tell our dad from the very beginning "Dad, there's no reason to ask him, he's not gonna know" but time and time again we go through the process of actually believing that this sales guy is going to pull out a series of nuggets of wisdom from thin air…or at least from his classy Slayer t-shirt nearly tucked inside his Best Buy polo, thereby acting as an undershirt of sorts...and time and time again we're disappointed. Go figure.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

reason #125 for the Koreas to just unite already

This picture was taken following reports that North and South Korean soldiers exchanged a round of gunfire across their border.

The image shows a soldier throwing a rock at photographers. I'm sorry, but if your army is throwing rocks at people that's probably a pretty good indicator that your political doctrine is deeply flawed at best as it does not provide for adequate military supplies, let alone humanitarian ones....or something like that. I dunno. Whatever.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

four boroughs and one kickball game

[warning: another poignant touchy feely post below]

My work adventures took a glorious twist as I spent the day volunteering to paint a mural at school in the Bronx. The noteworthy events included:
  • Nearly doing a Super 5....we traveled through four boroughs during our bus ride from downtown Manhattan. For whatever reason our driver felt the need to go through Brooklyn and Queens en route to the Bronx...which is akin to telling someone traveling from LA to Chicago that a stop-off in Detroit is the most logical thing to do
  • I had a 10-year old kid tell me while I was taking a snack break (it was easily over 100 degrees on the asphalt) that if I don't eat apples I'll get fat
  • Being challenged by a group of kids to a game of kickball. Sometimes the best way to increase your own self-esteem is by destroying people who are half your size and age.
  • Being challenged by 3 kids to run a relay race. The race helped teach me that children of ages and background are a bunch of cheaters, as one of the kids cut me off in my lane
  • Having a 11-year old kid tell me that his real worry everyday is to not get shot
I don't need a 7 hour community service day to teach me how lucky I am, but it's good to be reminded once in a while that there are lots of people who would feel blessed to have the problems in your life.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

"Excuse me, are you Indian?

[warning: touchy feely post ahead]

I was walking out of Penn Station in Newark when a woman and her obscenely tall son stopped me and asked "Excuse me, are you Indian?" Over the years that question has really struck me in a couple of weird ways over the years.

Growing up it sorta was the opening shot in somebody making fun of me, my heritage, or something peculiar about me when asked by non-Indian. As I grew older it would morph into people feeling the need to tell me "oh I have an Indian buddy from college" or "I have a good Persian friend so that's sorta like Indian right?" or the even more remote attempt to establish another link in the Universal Brotherhood of Man "I love Indian food!" Answering "Yes" usually led to an innane conversation about how somehow it was so cool that I was Indian and then I was given a chance to share my opinions on this pressing matter. Answering "Yes" was something which prevented you from being like everyone else and blending in.

When asked by Indians/people of the South-Asian diaspora, the question is a bit more annoying. Cab drivers asking it can cut both ways. It usually is a starting point on how they're really from Bangladesh or Pakistan and that all brown people are the same....or they'll talk about how bad Indians are. Either way I find myself a little bit over self-conscious...rarely do I made phone calls during such cab rides because I don't want them to be making secret mental notes about me.

If it's Indians at airports or just in public the question "Are you Indian?" hits at some personal insecurities. Usually people ask that, and upon me saying "Yes" they'll burst into Hindi. At which point I'll say "You know, I actually can understand it a little, but can't speak so well, I'm sorry." There response is usually a disgusted look as if to say "What kinda 10 paise Indian are you?" There is nothing as enjoyable as sharing your deepest insecurities with others in a public setting.

It is for these reason that I often stall answering by making a geographic distinction versus an ethic one, but I usually stumble into giving my life story: "Yes I'm Indian...well, I was born here and grew up here...but my parents are from India...I'm Maharashtran...but yeah, I'm Indian." It's come to the point that I almost look disgusted for hearing the question.

My all-time low point as a human being came when I was at the airport waiting for a flight to Richmond when an elderly Indian woman who seemed visibly confused came up to me and asked "Are you Indian" and I just ignored her. Life wasn't going so well, work was stressing me out, and the last thing I needed was to feel any more pressure about who i was inside. Furthermore I had this horrible fear of everyone else in the terminal looking at me and having this woman's safe journey be my responsibilities since I was the nearest Indian. The woman kept asking me over and over and I just sat there with my headphone on, and my iPod turned off.

So here I was, walking out of the station when the South Indians stopped me. After saying "Um, yes I'm Indian" ...the woman asked me in perfectly crisp, non-accented English how to get to the airport. Clearly some relative dropped them off at Newark thinking the airport was right there but were mistaken by a few miles. So after telling them that their quickest and cheapest bet was a cab versus making a one-train stop, the woman thanked me and followed me out to the cab ride.

And while I opened the door for her and the gargantuan (but seemingly mute) son, it struck me that she was only asking if I was Indian because for her that's how she would make her decision on whether I was someone to be trusted versus the myriad of strangers in the station, and that my friends isn't a bad reason to answer "Yes I'm Indian."