Friday, August 26, 2011

Photo Porn and the Demise of a friend

My trusty Canon G11, companion on many adventures during the last year and a half, died this week.  I was photographing the English competition at my school (more below) and used the telephoto lens for a closeup shot of a speaker. When I turned the camera off, the lens refused to retract.  When I turned it back on, I got the message: "Lens error, restart camera."  But restarting didn't help.  With a little jiggling and pushing, I could force the lens back down, but clearly it was in trouble.  That night I learned from Google than a stuck lens was the most common problem for digital cameras and it was almost certainly fatal.  I tried all the possible fixes suggested at one web site but nothing worked.  Yesterday I took it to the Canon service center at MBK and was told that the lens must be replaced, at a cost of 8,900 baht.  Since the G11 originally cost 16,900 baht, all I could do was laugh.

Humor is the best medicine.  There was something poetic, and even pornographic, in the G11's ailment, stuck with an erected lens as if it had consumed too much photoviagra.  I was sure Hef would understand.  A friend once told me that his cure for erectile dysfunction was a needle with a prescribed chemical.  But he miscalculated and gave himself an overdose.  The subsequent trip to the hospital was painful and embarrassing for him.  The impolite Thai word for the male member is จู๋ which is pronounced "jew" (I hope my Hebrew friends appreciate this), and the word for erection is derived from the Thai for ice (hard water), น้ำแข็ง.  So my new name for the unfortunate situation with my G11 is จู๋แข็ง.  Nan wants it known that I learned this entirely without her help or approval.

This is one of the first photos taken with my new G11 on the King's birthday a year and a half ago (you can always see a larger version of my pictures by clicking on them).  It captured a clarity under low light natural conditions that none of my previous digital cameras could achieve.  Smaller than an SLR and bigger than a pocket point and click, the G11 was a bit bulky, but I took it everywhere. It featured an adjustable view finder that allowed for centered self portraits and shots from awkward angles. It wasn't easy to whip it out of my bag on the spur of the moment, a necessity for fast moving candids in this photographable city, but it satisfied my aesthetic needs  to make art out of my surroundings.   What do you do with a defunct camera?  I'm thinking of turning it into a planter, perhaps with an orchid coming up out of the lens casing.  I shall miss you, G11, but you'll be quickly replaced, probably today by a Canon S925 (less bulky, easy to whip out).

Speaking of photos, before I went back to California last year I attempted to clean out and rearrange my computer files and folders and managed to accidentally delete a photo storage file containing thousands of images from my world travels circa 2004-2007. The backlog of old photos had long needed purging but I didn't mean to throw out the babies with the bathwater.  Some of my artistic masterpieces were in that folder.  Fortunately I had saved a good selection from my trips at my Flickr site.  Last week I discovered a site called Flick and Share that makes it easy to transfer Flickr photos back to my computer.  This is a photo I took of St. Paul's Cathedral during a trip to London and Europe in 2005.

When people outside of Thailand think of food, they often conjure up visions of the archetypal Thai cuisine: satay, pad Thai, tom yum kung, spicy papaya salad and exotic deserts made with mango, rambutan and durian.  Yes, there's that.  Last night we ate at the noodle buffet in MBK that featured sauces of undetermined origin, fiery beyond belief, and a week ago Ann's boyfriend Surin took us to a tiny hole-in-the-wall shophouse restaurant in Rattanakosin, the old part of Bangkok, that cooked us a 4-star meal of various sea food.  Last week I showed Nan what wonders May Kaidee's restaurant in Banglamphu could perform with vegetables and tofu.  But old tastes die hard.  In the evening after teaching, I prefer to relax with a traditional American root beer float, and many mornings Nan cooks me a farang breakfast of scrambled eggs with cheese, crispy bacon, and toast with blueberry jelly.  And we both like Swenson's, the chain founded in San Francisco with outlets everywhere in Bangkok.  The cheeseburgers at Sizzler's (Nan likes the salad bar), which are equally available throughout the city and very popular, almost remind me of my former homeland.

The big event this week was an English "Quiz Contest" held at my university and organized by the English Club, most of whom are my students.  Two teams of three competed in each round with the first to get five correct answers advancing to the next round.  Several of us teachers were tasked with devising 500 questions in four categories: Buddhism, Economics, Politics and Thailand.  I was asked to read them (we went through them all and had to repeat the unanswered ones).  Students came from schools all over the area, and the audience was filled with monks and guests from Ayutthaya and vicinity where Mahachula is located.  I was on my feet for five hours until the final question -- "What is the name of Vietnam's currency?" -- was answered by the winning team with a shout:  "the dong!"  I loved it, and a good time was had by all.  You can see a clip of it on YouTube.

After more than a year of landscaping, Sanam Luang, Bangkok's large park and parade ground near the Grand Palace is open for pleasure seekers (although the prostitutes and sidewalk vendors have been kept away by the large police presence).  Many are unhappy about the new fence and restricted hours, but during both afternoon and evening visits last week Nan and I found the grounds to be quiet, peaceful and, overall, lovely.  The golden spires of the palace, beneath which Anna taught the children of the king, never fail to inspire awe.  We enjoyed watching the kites.  Soon, half the park will be taken over by elaborate funeral preparations for the King's cousin, only daughter of King Rama VI, similar to that two year's ago for the King's sister.

My intellectual and social life continues to be busy.  Recently our IDEA group discussed "hybridity" as a fruitful concept for problematic issues of identity, among other ideas, from a challenging book, The Ambiguous Allure of the West: Traces of the Colonial in Thailand.  On a couple of Thursdays I've met at a cafe in Siam Paragon with Ray from California and a few of his expat friends where they ogle the Hi-So girls and pontificate about the world.  Graham from Australia, who teaches English at an international school, told me that some teachers can make as much as 100,000 baht a month which is more than twice what I expected.  But I'm not ready to give up my monks and retirement for filthy lucre.  And I attended a stimulating talk by Tibetan nun Ani Zamba, visiting from her center in Brazil, who said the self is created in the process of perceiving things as if they exist independently of our perception: "Frozen entities, frozen self."  The cost of this illusion, she said, is high. Next week I'm going to a lecture across the street from Sanam Luang at the National Museum given by American scholar Justin McDaniel on "The Making of a Saint -- Somdet To in the History of Thai Buddhism."  And I'll also hear him speak at a conference on Buddhism at the S.D. Hotel almost next door to my condo, organized by Mahidol University.  It will be a busy week.  The BuddhistPsychos also meet to complete their discussion (some would say savaging) of "The Little Prince."  This weekend Ann and Surin are taking us for a short trip to Pranburi on the coast south of Hua Hin.  The Paradise boogie continues!


And next Wednesday, my daughter (whom I just learned is traveling in Spain), will turn 34 years old.  Happy birthday, Molly!


2 comments:

janet brown said...

Thank you for the kite dance and the vocab lesson!

Sam said...

I think you've missed a trick on Sanam Luang. I think you should have mentioned the political agenda behind the so-called "face lift":

here and here.