April 22nd, 2013

How Elephant

Calling in Burned

Spent the day mostly in the sun at the Songkran festival downtown San Jose. They blocked off two blocks on First Street and three or four cross streets for a block in each direction, but only filled about half of it.

Typical Thai event, they didn't announce the program until the morning of, they started late, MCs made a few mistakes, etc. Unlike most Thai events, the main stage and the seating area in front of it was in direct sunlight, not tent, no canopy, just white folding chairs. I pity the heavily costumed performers.

One MC WTF - she kept mispronouncing the Thai names, and making excuses like "they are long and complicated". Yes, they can be, but most Thais have no problem with them.

There was a pretty solid lineup of entertainment from 11 till about 3:30, several performances by various classes from the Fremont wat, the Berkeley Thai Center and dancers from the local Lao and Cambodian temples. There was also a group of students from Bangkok who did about six different dances from different regions of Thailand. Also a Thai classical music concert from Fremont wat students and a group of chaoban folk doing long drum and Isan music from Kalasin.

The highlight, though, was three rounds of Miss Songkran competition. To me, none of them stood out, except for an older woman who was a local favorite who had the air of an aging ex-beauty queen. She won Miss Popularity by a landslide. The judges were three local Asian women and Miss Asian American.

There was some food, but not enough for the crowds. The lines were too long for me, I just grabbed a Thai iced tea a couple of times.

A block away from the pageant they has a muay Thai competition, it was all organized by local professional fight studios. I didn't get any pictures because the "ring" was just an exercise floor, and the crowd was 4 deep and rude. Maybe they will spring for a real elevated ring next year. Or bleachers. Hanging around the fringes, I was surprised to see a lot of female fighters.

My boss was there with his wife & daughter, part of the Fremont wat dance class. I have been watching her group since she was 4 (she's almost 7 now) and they have gotten very good. I think they were better than the older dancers from that temple. Come to think of it, I don't think the oldest class was there. Hmmm.

Something funny happened with the chairs. In the morning, there was shade on both sidewalks, and two or three at a time the chairs found their way there. By about 1 pm all but a handful of chairs where gone from the middle of the street where they had started.

10:49 AM


And then as the afternoon wore on, two things happened. The theater which most of the shade was in front of opened for business, a 3 pm matinee of a pair of operas. And the shade started shifting onto the street.

3 pm

I told my boss we had a human sundial. We agreed if one of us didn't show up at work tomorrow, we would check the local hospitals' burn units.

Miss Songkran was crowned after a small glitch - they had added a Miss Photogenic at the last minute, and by accident gave the winner Miss Personality's sash, and maybe prizes too. I walked away when I saw that happen and saw the MC had no clue it had happened. Went down the block to Muay Thai and back again, and they had fixed it.

I was using a new lens, a Nikon 55-300 VR with fast focus, and it was pretty good at 300mm but at most of the other zoom ranges it was not very sharp, and had a severe problem with contrast. I spent a lot of time in Photoshop lightening shadows. I also shot with a 35mm fixed lens, I'll have to cull those out and see if it had the same problem. If so I need to change my metering settings.

Anyhow, it was mostly a good time, I got to speak some Thai, did not get nearly as wet as I should have, this being a water festival and all. And now to spend some quality time with a tube of aloe.

Plans for tomorrow: