Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Dec 03 2018

Dulan, etc.

I was watching the clock all Friday morning, as I had to set out for the train station at noon on the dot so that I wouldn’t be late for our Puyuma Express to Taitung. Fortunately I made it, but it seems that pre-trip trepidation is worse than it used to be.

We gathered in front of the station and spent a few minutes rebuffing the overtures of a lady selling gum before heading down to the train. The journey was lovely; the east coast is so picturesque; the three-hour trip passed quickly thanks to a window seat and conversation. Then it was taxis to the Railyard Village where we were playing. The area’s cool, artsy vibe has increased in the years since we played there last. Soundcheck was thorough and professional, and after a lone dinner at the standalone Mosburger, we took the stage and played a very tight, thrilling show. It was one of our better shows, if I may say myself. Everyone was listening to each other, playing off each other; it was tight and fast, just the way our music should be, and the audience at it up. Our old friend and my old co-worker Brian Kennedy showed up for the show, and we hung out afterwards.

As the night wore on, we piled into taxis out to Dulan, where Tim and Conor headed out camping, Slim and Cristina headed to one hostel, and David and I to another. The next morning I got up first and found some breakfast at a local place, and then wandered around the town for a bit. I followed the sound of loud music to the temple, in front of which an aborigine wedding was taking place. I took some photos and texted my old college roommate DJ, who is familiar with Dulan as he stays there when he’s in Taiwan. It turned out, no doubt to the surprise of no one, that DJ knew the happy couple as well as many other people there, and I talked to many of them, including Suming, the singer. It was a lovely, warm atmosphere, so much so that I had to leave at one point to get my bearings, have some coffee and walk around some more on my own, talking with some people I met.

By the time I returned, the party was over; a few people remained taking down the settings, but they soon piled into a truck and left. Suming sent me a message on Line that they were at the groom’s house, though he had to leave for another gig. I walked over the bridge and to the groom’s house, where the party was in full swing, with joyful, coordinated dancing that was so much more fulfilling to watch than the usual tourist dances that they always seem compelled to do.

But we had another show to play, so I walked back to the hostel and got my things to take to the Sugar Factory. It was kind of strange leaving the aboriginal wedding group and entering the backpacker/expat sphere that is another component of the town. We played a one-mic show and it was again a wonderful performance. I drank rather a lot of mead, and afterwards we talked into the night while sitting on benches by the highway, accompanied by a very nice cat.

Our train back to Taipei on Sunday wasn’t until evening, so after some nice pho with David, he and the others all headed out on various ventures, some went river tracing, others to the beach. Slim and Brian sat around the Sugar Factory talking with the two couples who sell coconuts and quiche, respectively. Unfortunately, some of the conversation brought back some of the BS that I’d wanted to escape recently, so I went for another walk around town. I walked to the junior high school, empty on Sunday except for a few students, and then up towards the mountains for a bit. Then I walked back down through town again, to the sea, where I watched the waves. A miniature expat drum circle provided unwelcome musical accompaniment to the waves, but the light was very pleasant.

Then it was back to the factory, where we’d gathered up to go back to Taitung, onto the train, and back to Taipei.

posted by Poagao at 11:36 am  
Nov 17 2018

The unkept promise of mirrorless

I’ve had some time in the afternoons this last week due to having to be in the city for other engagements, so I’ve been taking advantage of the fine weather (of course it’s raining today, Saturday, resulting in me here at home, writing this) to wander around, which is generally my favorite thing to do.

After finishing a radio interview on our latest album, after David Chen caught a Youbike to another part of town, I walked up to the Syntrend Center to see what was up. The VR arcade has been redesigned; it’s now just a big empty pen that can be used for any type of game rather than the rather specific WWII setting they had. This might herald the new generation of wireless headsets that are coming out. The camera stores on the third floor had some of the new mirrorless models I’ve been hearing so much about, so I took a look. The Nikon store had the Z7, which felt nice enough. Startup time was quick, probably quick enough but I couldn’t be sure without really trying it out in real-world shooting. The shutter felt ok, with a definite half-press and a decent sound/feel. Too bad Nikon didn’t see fit to release any smaller lenses for it. But a nice enough camera, it seemed…there’s potential there, even if I’m not as big a fan of Nikon colors.

Then went over to the Canon store, and while they did have the new EOS R, I didn’t realize it at first; it was sitting in between the 5DIV and the 6DII, and didn’t stand out. It’s a big camera, and doesn’t really trade on the promise of size reduction mirrorless can offer as much as it might have. I realize that all the posters on DPreview are over all that “small camera nonsense” and just want the highest specs possible, but this was the main reason I went to mirrorless in the first place. The R’s startup time was ok; it didn’t feel as fast as the Nikon, and the shutter didn’t feel as nice, though of course better than that of my A7r (it would be hard to be worse than that). The R had the 24-105 lens on it, of course; I’ve never seen anyone in the reviews actually show the small 35 f1.8 IS, which would be the lens I would choose to use with it. Suddenly everyone’s into big cameras again for some reason; perhaps the chiropractor lobby is behind it. I joke, but it just proves the point I’ve made elsewhere, that most camera consumers are only interested in photographing predetermined subjects at certain places and times, so size and weight and battery life aren’t their main concerns. They have phones for everything else. But as for the R, the on/off switch is located so that I would need to reach over with my other hand to turn it on instead of just turning it on with my holding hand in one motion. The R’s rear screen is another problem; in order to tilt it up or down, you have to first pull it out and away from the body, so forget using that with any degree of alacrity. It’s a shame, because I do miss Canon colors; the Sony has never quite done it for me.

Next, of course, was the Sony store, but they only had a few ratty first- and second- generation cameras there, the guys at the counter too busy chatting to realize that marketing old cameras is probably not their best strategy. Of course Sony has also made their mirrorless cameras bigger and heavier with each iteration. I don’t need IBIS much; in fact, that little bit of resistance the frame gives when I’m trying to get a precise composition is rather irritating. Just an original A7r, even with the same sensor and viewfinder, but a nicely damped shutter and new firmware to make it more snappy would be just the ticket.

In short, the digital camera world has not seen anything like the original Sony A7r, before or since. I would have been happy if they had simply updated the sensor, viewfinder, shutter and battery, keeping something like the original size and shape. But they didn’t, and the other manufacturers saw this and decided they could now get in on the game. It’s all moot as my five-year-old model still works (for now, knock on wood), but I can’t help but think what might have been, and be happy that I never sold my M6.

posted by Poagao at 1:49 pm  
Oct 29 2018

Hong Kong ’18

I felt a certain sense of unease, almost antsy, in the days before we left for Hong Kong on Friday. There wasn’t much to pack; it was just a weekend jaunt, and all I needed was some clothes, my trumpet and cameras. Though our flight was scheduled to take off after noon, we met up at Xindian Station just after 8 a.m. I’d slept poorly, waking up every hour and only sleeping again with difficulty, but I somehow made it on time. I should have been able to relax at that point, but something still felt off.

We got to the airport in plenty of time, David and I having lunch at the Mos Burger upstairs after the quick and efficient customs and immigration. The others wandered off during the time before we met up at the gate for the Hong Kong Airlines flight, a brand-new Airbus A350 waiting at the gate. “Excuse me, could you let us by?” A middle-aged white woman said as she pushed past us on the way to the gate, where nobody had even begun to line up for boarding. It reminded me of those people pelting down the escalator at the subway station, risking life and limb so that they could be at the platform in order to wait eight minutes for the next train to arrive.

The flight was smooth; a couple of hours later we were taxiing into the gate at a new terminal at the airport in Hong Kong. Vast swaths of construction constituted a theme that would continue throughout the weekend. We caught a double-decker bus into town, alighting amid the familiar canyon of Nathan Road. It had been years since I’d been there. Hong Kong, with its rough edges and agrophilic tendencies, will always feel surreal to me; I’ve lived there in relative luxury and destitute squalor, as an overseas company employee and a stateless, homeless migrant; it always messes with my mind.

We made our way to our hostel, the Hop-Inn on Mody Road, dropping off our things and heading out again. The air was heavy with smog, the view across the harbor obscured as we walked along the promenade marveling at all of the massive construction sites and new buildings. We circled around the old clock tower and then headed back to the Chungking Mansions, where Slim thought he remembered a good Indian restaurant. Though the exterior has been renovated, the interior of the building retains most of its old character, and Slim’s memory didn’t let us down; we had an excellent and filling meal at The Delhi Club.

Then we all got on the MTR out to Diamond Hill, where we made our way to an interesting space in an industrial building that Gloomy Island festival organizers Tomii and Andrew have made into their creative space. They’d bought a plastic tub and stick that we needed to try out before the show the next day. The tub, made in China, wasn’t quite up to par, but the stick, while a bit too long, thick and heavy, turned out to work well enough after I sawed a few pieces off of it. Tomii, Andrew and the other residents of the space that night are all musicians, so we jammed and talked into the wee hours of the morning before catching cabs back to Tsim Sha Tsui.

Sandman and I were the first up on Saturday morning, most likely because we’d elected to go to bed after returning to the hostel the night before rather than going out again as some of the others had. As we were waiting to cross Nathan Road, I noticed a group of photographers on the mid-road pedestrian island, all with at least one and in some cases several cameras, shooting each other. I took a couple of shots of them, and they smiled. Apparently at least one of them recognized me and messaged me on Instagram later.

Sandy wanted to walk over to the Marks & Spencer to look at the food there, but it didn’t open til 10 a.m., so he accompanied me through Kowloon Park and over the skybridge to the Pacific Place towers where I stayed during my days with ESO, taking ferries to the interior of China to inspect shoes, me no doubt boring Sandy to tears as I went on and on about those days. I took another selfie at the same place I did back then, but I don’t know if they’ll match up. On the way back, we passed a guard outside an expensive shop holding a pump-action shotgun. Then, at M&S, I bought a sandwich and a yogurt, which I promptly dropped, covering the floor with a combination of blueberries and black current. This, you see, is why I hate backpacks. Every time I need to use them, I have to take off my camera, take off the bag, open it, use it and close it while holding my camera, put it back on, and then put my camera back on. Messenger bags are much better IMHO.

After returning to the hostel, everyone had different yet equally vague ideas of what they wanted to do that afternoon before the gig, so I set out alone, walking down to the clock tower and boarding the Star Ferry for Hong Kong island. It was splendid to be on that old vessel again, bobbing and weaving across that magnificent strait. There is a smell to Hong Kong harbor that is unique as far as I’m concerned. The Hong Kong side pier isn’t the one I knew, and feels crassly commercial, but I suppose they had to move it to deal with the more-or-less constant land reclamation that will most likely result in the crossing becoming a matter of stepping over a large puddle.

I walked through Central, various sights bringing back memories. Markets, crosswalks, buildings, etc. I entered Pacific Place across the same pedestrian bridge I did back in the days when that mall was my way to escape my rather desperate predicament, and took the escalators up to Hong Kong Park, which made me sad and nostalgic. None of the frolicking tourists or kids catching Pokemon could ever know about those days.

I continued walking towards Wan Chai, stopping at another large construction site to take photos, and down towards the harbor where another even-larger one greeted me as I walked over to the Wan Chai Star Ferry pier. Another lovely trip later I was back in TST, arriving back at the hostel in time to take a quick shower, get dressed, grab my trumpet, and head with the others over to Fortress Hill, where the Gloomy Island festival was taking place. We changed trains at Admiralty and arrived for our soundcheck before 5 p.m.

The festival venue deserves special mention, as the MoM Livehouse is located deep within an underground, apparently dead shopping center. A group of men were playing cards in the hallway, and empty shops sported rent signs. After soundcheck we chilled for a while on the hill opposite, and then Cristina and I tried and failed to find a good place to have dinner, only coming across several promising restaurants after we’d already spent too much on some mediocre egg shrimp and beef noodles. Alas.

Before the show, I walked down the road to Tin Hou, at the edge of the big sports park. It was where I stayed when I first arrived in Hong Kong to renounce my U.S. citizenship. I looked up at the building, imagining that tiny, windowless room a quarter of a century ago, and then a the scar on my hand from a piece of glass that had finally worked its way out when I was staying there (I’d cut it on a window during a typhoon in Taipei years before). I thought about selling my sci-fi books for food money, running in the park to get into shape, and watching newfangled “DVD” movies in storefront windows.

And then, 25 years later, I walked back up the road to play a gig at a jazz festival. It went pretty well. The other bands were very good, including both Tomii’s and Andrew’s bands, as well as an enthusiastic Filipino band. We were last, and wrapped everything up. I lingered and chatted with some of the other bands as the place emptied out, and soon it was past midnight and we were standing out in front of the empty center, behind an old building shrouded in bamboo scaffolding.

We caught the last train back to Kowloon, put our instruments and ties away, and rendezvoused back at the clock tower after picking up some hamburgers to munch on. There we sat and drank and chatted through the night. Silhouettes of ships floated across the twinkling lights of the city across the harbor. We talked about oceans, and people, and music. We’d done what we’d come to do. I had, anyway, and by that I mean to play music and visit a few ghosts.

The sky was glowing towards dawn when we left, ferries bringing workers over the waves before the Star Ferry began service again. On our way back, inexplicably, Slim decided to traverse an alley behind the Chungking Mansions.

I woke at 10:30 and started getting my things together. Something had changed over the weekend, over the night. I’m not entirely sure what that means yet. I had a big tasty breakfast at the coffee shop downstairs, eventually joined by Cristina, Sandy and David. One quick walk to the store later, we were once again trudging up Nathan Road, instruments in hand, to catch the bus back to the airport. After three days, I’d lost that frantic edge that had built up before the trip, but it had been replaced by something darker.

The mere aroma of the Popeyes meals everyone else bought at the airport made me regret not getting one myself. I don’t know what I was thinking, but the scraps they did toss my way were delicious. The late afternoon sun was throwing lovely golden beams through the airport lounge as we boarded the plane, but someone forgot to tell them that they needed a little truck to tow them out to the runway, so we waited around for an hour while they looked for one, possibly on EBay. I sat and watched the Han Solo movie, which I enjoyed for the most part, until we managed to finally get dragged out to the runway and take off.

Back in Taipei, the flight ended just before the movie did, so now I have to rent the damn thing to see the last five minutes. So I felt unresolved as I got off the plane, waited for the others to get their luggage, and met up at the food court downstairs, where we sat down to examine the Liberty Times article about us that had hit newsstands that day. We oohed and aahed over the full-page piece, noting a few mistakes, but generally happy that it happened.

Then, because none of us could face the long journey back to Xindian via the subway, we piled into a cab. It was dark outside the cab, but we knew what was out there.

I was the last in the cab, after Slim and then Cristina were dropped off at their respective domiciles. It was a quiet, empty drive across the bridge, as was the climb back to the Water Curtain Cave. Things have been revealed on this trip, some good things, some ugly things, but all real things. Maybe I will sleep well again, but maybe I won’t.

posted by Poagao at 9:10 pm  
Oct 22 2018

The real source of good photography

“Going out to take photos?”

“Get any good shots?”

Even though I’m often asked one of these two admittedly innocuous questions, my first reaction is usually puzzlement: Do they know something I don’t? Then I realize that the questioner is looking at the ever-present camera on my shoulder and thinking that today is special, that I’m going out today to specifically capture certain images that I already have in mind. Or that have just returned from doing so, mission accomplished.

“Not really,” I say. Usually I leave it at that, and watch as the puzzlement volleys back into their court.

“But you’re carrying a camera-”

“This is true.”

“Are you not going out to take pictures?”

There’s not much I can honestly say at this point without causing them to look around for escape routes: “Maybe!” or “We’ll see!” or “Ya never know!”

Mostly I just lie, because I realize most people are just making small talk, and talking to a person who is obviously going out shooting but steadfastly refuses to say so can’t be a pleasant experience.

And I can’t blame them. Photography has in recent years become so wrapped up in itself at the expense of its very purpose that such conversations usually end up going nowhere fast. I also suspect it might be much worse if I were a Real Photographer.

So many people are looking through the wrong end of the telephoto lens, so to speak. These conversations might continue on to things like “So what camera/lens do you use?” followed by endless listing of specs and the kind of loyalty statements usually reserved for sports teams, then moving eventually, perhaps, to “Where/when/what do you shoot?” and almost never to “Why do you shoot,” much less “Who are you?” Ironically, mall security and cops tend to be the ones asking this last question, though I’m not sure if they’re really interested in the answer unless it involves letting them arrest me.

Whether it’s out of politeness, caution, social mores, or simply an unspoken fear that one hasn’t even bothered ask oneself these questions, the result is that we rarely actually communicate on this subject. Photographers are often so ill at ease with social navigation that we resort to photography as a primary means of communication. That, of course, doesn’t excuse resorting to a similar amount of shallowness when working in one’s chosen medium.

In a nutshell, who you are determines what you notice, the questions you ask, your doubts and inspirations. All this is constantly changing, and simply saying “I’m going to shoot different photos now” is an oversimplification of that process. The photography is incidental, more of a result than a cause.

People often express a desire to improve their photography, their desire to take “better” photos; that means taking different photos than the ones they’re taking now. Changing the location or equipment involved will most likely not result in fundamentally different photos; you can’t take different photos until you see different things. And that, in turn, won’t happen until you are different than you are now in some fundamental way. You see the things you see because of the person you happen to be at this moment.

And you are always changing. Some say travel changes a person, some say switching jobs, some say switching partners, some say limitations engender creativity…when it comes down to it, life changes you constantly, by definition. At some point, some that youness might intersect with photographic expression for an undetermined length of time. Or it might not.

So try not to distract yourself with the superficialities of gear and travel. Photography, as Jay Maisel once wrote, is about everything else. The most vital variable in the mix is you. You are the genesis of your photography; start with that, and everything else will follow.

posted by Poagao at 11:45 am  
Sep 18 2018

Photography and Personing

Are you into photography? Do you like to person? Do you like to do both at the same time?

When I say “into” photography, I don’t mean someone who has/desires a great deal of gear, or someone who knows all the best places to find the best birds/orangutans/fire escapes, nor am I talking about dudes who take thousands of photos of women models in studios and random parks. I’m talking about people who are afflicted with the condition where they can’t not see photographs everywhere they go, even if they don’t have a camera at hand.

Another group I’m not talking about: Those who “got into” photography when it became the hot thing with the popular kids a few years ago (featuring skateboarders, that oft-used demographic every large corporation knows is perfect for bringing “the youth” into the fold for effective consumerism). I won’t waste my time because soon enough you’ll be saying things like “I just haven’t had time to go out shooting” and “There’s just nothing going on here” when something else comes along. Whenever I hear those phrases, I recall my ophthalmologist’s advice that I really need to stop rolling my eyes. Just admit it: You are not really into photography. But hold up: That’s great! It’s not an insult; it’s a compliment. Congratulations, because, as it turns out, being really into photography (as opposed to being a professional photographer, which is often a different thing), can be rough.

What could I possibly mean by this? Isn’t “everyone a photographer” these days? Don’t most people have a capable camera in their phone or around their neck? How do these people people, as it were?

Let’s say you are with other people. It doesn’t matter if you’re walking, eating, in a car, on a bus, in a meeting, having sex, or paragliding, or all of those at the same time (which admittedly sounds like one hell of a party). Do you remain committed to maintaining your interaction with them, or do you remain open to all of the potential photos happening around you?

Most normal people opt for the former. Obviously. Even in the unlikely event that you can engage with your companions as well as paying sufficient attention to your surroundings, what happens when a photograph become apparent to you? Do you maintain eye contact? Try and keep the conversation going? Think up an excuse to leave suddenly?

Again, for most people, the conversation is their literal focus. Most non-photographers, regardless of the photographic machinery they may have on hand, aren’t even looking. Of those who are looking, most ignore it. Of those who can’t ignore it, most watch helplessly as the photograph disappears while they try to keep their attention on the other people. Of those who make an attempt to socially disengage in order to make the photograph, most will be too late as well as flustered from resisting the ancient DNA-level code of Not Being an Asshole to one’s tribe. And those who just go take the damn picture are of course rude, self-centered malcontents who think their so-called “art” is more important than the actually important matters their companions are earnestly discussing with them at the time of the aforementioned abscondment.

“But TC,” you say, “I’ve found the Perfect Friends/Significant Other who is perfectly fine with me shooting anything I want at any time!”

That’s great! I’m sure they’re very nice, lovely, accommodating people who are really into you, and willing to put up with this behavior in order to be around you. I’m jealous, truly I am. Perhaps they even point out little scenes they think you’d be interested in, even though you aren’t because they can’t actually know what you see, and by the time you’ve followed their pointing finger and excited, slightly patronizing tone that of course has alerted the denizens of said scene to your attention, it has vanished. But I’ll bet a reasonable amount of money that they in fact hide their dismay when you display in a most abrupt fashion how much more devoted you are to some imagined, phantom scene than you are to really being truly “with” them.

That they’re willing to go through that for you is admirable. But perhaps, just perhaps, they’ll eventually get to wondering exactly why you can’t deny yourself this stupid photography shit in order to be with them. It’s not like you’re exactly famous or really any good at it. Which is most likely true, because in their eyes you can’t be good until you’re famous, and becoming a Famous Photographer is not only nearly impossible, it almost by definition disallows continuing to be into photography, because you need to person. If they don’t want you to give up photography for them, they will almost certainly try to steer you into a more lucrative, “useful” form of it. Again with the personing, extreme personing in this context, because lucrative photography is generally more about the lucrative part than the photography part. Can you schmooze? I mean, are you really good at it? Here, I’ll just take that camera; you won’t be needing it. Your attention is elsewhere. Go person.

This condition, of being disconnected enough from the tangled skeins of social obligation in which most people are ensconced that you are able to readily observe the things around you, can wear you down if you let it. Someone is always in the way, if not physically then mentally, assuming that you are engaged in the conversation or whatever else that may going on. People see you as off in the clouds somewhere when you are actually as present in the world as they are, just in a different way. They don’t notice the man quietly sobbing in the corner, the cat perched precariously on the railing, the estranged couple maintaining an awkward distance in the park, or the factory lazily polluting the river. And you don’t notice the latest gossip, that thing we have next week, or that horrible insult someone said that might mean something else. You’re there, but not in the “right” way. Not for personing.

Some extremely talented photographers in the past have obviously been the kind of “difficult” individuals I’m talking about, but by definition and due to survivor bias, the ones we know of are the ones who had special ways to deal with it. Many, such as Cartier-bresson and Eggleston, were independently wealthy when they started out, and just DNGAF. Others like Robert Frank, Eugene Smith and Garry Winogrand failed spectacularly at maintaining the relationships in their lives.

Of course there are many successful photographers who are friendly, engaging, well-adjusted individuals with happy friends and families. That’s great. I’m happy for them…mystified, but happy. The rest of us are left with a sense of not quite belonging to the world we are so intent on observing because, were we capable of belonging, we would no longer see it. Some of the photos resulting from this state might happen to be interesting, but nobody will know or care because we cannot person*.

So what can we do? Don’t worry; all is not lost. While we may not be able to ignore the draw of photography, we might be able to control how much we care about superficialities, things that are on the surface at least tangentially related to this Thing We Can’t Not Do, but in reality just drag us down…things like social media addiction to likes and faves, trying to be noticed and published, things like gear obsession and one-upsmanship. Take that time and use it better; instead of clinging to the impossibility of being universally adored, try to make friends with a few like-minded souls instead of just anyone you think will advance your social status. Recognize, explore and embrace your own instincts and inclinations. Be there for yourself. Person for yourself.

If we simply value being as open and genuine as possible, we might stand a chance of getting through all this with some semblance of sanity. And maybe, just maybe, collect a few good shots along the way.

 

 

*Of course, if you’re “lucky”, after you’ve died someone might buy your photos at an auction and “discover” you, now that your difficult ass is safely beyond having to deal with.
posted by Poagao at 10:46 am  
Jul 17 2018

Bangkok, return

When I woke up this morning, I lay in bed, thinking it would be nice to walk over to the train station, have a donut and spend the morning shooting, then meet up with some people…but no, we had to leave. Rammy was nice enough to offer us a ride to the airport, so after saying good-bye to Barry in the lobby, we trekked over to Rammy’s car, which happened to be the site of a monk overseeing the painting of a building. It would have been a good scene to work, but we had to be on our way. On the way, Rammy informed us about Thailand’s recent political issues, which was fascinating. By the time we reached the airport I’d learned a lot about the situation. But we had to go.

We scored some exit row seats, though we had to check a couple of pieces of baggage after Chenbl’s mass shopping spree last night. I just managed to avoid the Rapiscan machine when they turned the infernal thing off just before I reached that part of the line, and we had a leisurely lunch at a Japanese place while other people on our flight ran past us, hollering “Wait! For! Us!” But Chenbl was serene in the face of potential tardiness, a trait I assume has rubbed off on him from me, and an encouraging sign. We shooed away some hopefuls from our seats, sat down, and were soon jetting back to Taiwan. Most of the flight was filled with another viewing of Kung-fu Panda 3 (“Now with Real Chinese Producers!”) and Batman vs. Superman (“Face it: You’re not here for clever dialogue”).

Down on the ground, immigration and customs (Chenbl got held back so they could look through Tavepong’s new book and make sure he exposed everything correctly, I assume), we hopped on the train back to town to meet one of our students at Main Station for dinner. After I took the MRT to Bitan, I found it was raining, and after almost no consideration I elected to take a taxi across to the Water Curtain Cave, which I’ve spend the last couple of hours airing out as I unpack.

It’s been a bizarre ten days or so. I’m glad I went. I’ll have to go back sometime.

posted by Poagao at 2:07 am  
Jul 16 2018

Bangkok, part 8

We met at a McDonald’s this morning, the final day of the workshop. Everyone seemed happy and eager, at least after coffee. We set out into the cloth market, which was actually kind of boring itself, but the alleys led off into far more interesting territory. Alas, the students had disappeared by that point, and Chenbl and I got lost before meeting back up with the rest of the group at a Starbucks (Are you sensing a theme here?) and then splitting up into two groups. Our group walked with Job to an interesting canal-side community that seems to be predominantly Muslim, judging from the calls to prayer to be heard there. We walked through the alleys while taxi-boats sped down the canal, occasionally whipping up spray onto the fragile railings on the banks.

We came upon a Muslim school; inside a woman was teaching English family terms to a group of kids. I admired one man’s hat, and he offered it to me off his head. I said no, of course, but he went home and came back with two other new hats. Hand-woven, he said, insisting we take them and refusing any money. Muslim people are awesome.

Lunch was at a riverside stir-fry place, and we browsed a local gallery featuring a film shop run by a fellow trumpet player. Alas, I didn’t get to meet him as he’s off playing in Japan. But it was time to return to the classroom and look at what the students had done that afternoon. Again, it was instructive to watch them shoot, and it was gratifying to see them implementing some of the methods and approaches we’d talked about the day before.

It was a long afternoon, but eventually we wrapped things up and had dinner with Kabir, Tavepong and several others joining us downstairs. Then Chenbl and I caught a car to the Big C and spent an inordinate amount of time shopping as I wandered around rather wanting to go to bed. Then, thankfully, it was back to the hotel.

Tomorrow we fly back to Taiwan. It’s been interesting.

posted by Poagao at 3:33 am  
Jul 15 2018

Bangkok, part 7

We met up once again and for the last time at the train station this morning, and got everyone started before the national anthem pulled everything to a standstill. I followed the students and watched how they were shooting, making notes, and we met up again at intervals. Mid morning we switched things up and walked back to Chinatown for some more shooting in alleys and the like. During the noon break Chenbl and I made the latest of our many questionable meal choices by trying out the brand-new Dominos in the neighborhood, which turned out to be basically Thai food on a pizza crust, and then we took the subway back to the workshop to find the students hard at work editing their work from the morning. Barry wasn’t feeling well and needed to rest, so I took over the review part until he showed up later.

Some of the work was quite good, while some…wasn’t. But it was all instructive, which is what we were there for. My voice was a bit raspy by the time we left for the arts center, where I was happy to finally meet Noppadol Maitreechit and Enamul Kabir, both of whom I’d only known online before. The awards ceremony was strange, because as judges we of course knew who had won what, but it was fun to watch.

After that, Barry and I did an interview/Q&A session, and then we talked with Tavepong about his upcoming book. By this time it was late and we had to get back to the hotel. Tomorrow is the final day of the workshop, and we’ll be someplace different, but I have no idea what it’s like; I guess we’ll find out.

 

posted by Poagao at 1:17 am  
Jul 14 2018

Bangkok, part 6

I still felt tired this morning, even though I was kind of able to actually sleep in after several days of getting up early. Perhaps there is something to this “Early to Rise” thing after all. After a lackluster breakfast in the alley, we walked in a random direction and after a search for coffee came across the Green Bakery, lured there by the smell of freshly baked cake cooling on the counter. The cake was delicious and yes, we paid for it and the coffee. The owner was a young woman who was holding her six-month-old son as she worked. We also had some delicious banana bread muffins, and she sent us off with our ice coffee cups full of water for the walk. Very considerate. If you’re in Bangkok, I highly suggest stopping by for some of that delicious cake.

The weather was threatening to turn nasty, clouds rolling in as Chenbl did some more bag shopping at the riverside mall and I stewed at being stuck in a bag store while the whole city lay at my feet. We then we set out along another unfamiliar road and were sent the wrong way by a woman of questionable sanity before finding the metro stop we sought. We caught a series of trains to “Terminal 21”, a mall where people pretend they’re traveling, with signs and airport schedules and the like, and the place just put me off…I’m usually just fine with pretension, but something about this concept rankled me, and I was grumpy all through our fake Mexican lunch.

Chenbl bought out the entire Happy Happy Fun Fun Squid Treat shop, and, laden with packs of this delectable dish, we took another series of extremely full elevated trains though the city canyons to the workshop space, which is located in in the penthouse suite of a hotel, swimming pool and all. Fancy. The students assembled as Barry meditated on stage, and we started out with introductions. The class went well…we’ll see how and what they shoot tomorrow.

posted by Poagao at 2:22 am  
Jul 13 2018

Bangkok, part V

After an in-room breakfast of coffee, yoghurt and a Kit Kat mini bar I bought at 7-Eleven last night (I continue to be seduced by the promise of a decent Kit Kat bar after some good experiences with interesting flavors in Tokyo circa 2008 for some reason and have always…ALWAYS been disappointed), we headed out, minus a few of my Taiwanese students, who were preparing to board flights back to Taiwan. We walked back to the train station, where ABC was shooting, and smiled at a large family sitting on the floor of the station hastily getting up for the standing-ovation-only national anthem that plays every day at 8 a.m. They did the same thing before the show last night, reminding me of the days in Taiwan when the audience was expected to stand and sing along to a video of the national anthem before each and every movie at theaters.

Train stations here apparently feature monk service quarters, but I didn’t venture inside to investigate, not being of the monkly persuasion myself. Instead I walked along the last platform, where the cars are in for repair, and members station staff sit inside, eating, smoking, talking on phones, etc. Back on the proper platforms, trains came and went while station police roused sleeping families from seats.

It was fun, but we needed to be moving on, even though Barry had just arrived. I bid ABC farewell, our remaining students went off on their own, and Chenbl and I walked through Chinatown towards the river, where we boarded another boat to the Grand Palace. There we followed the large crowds and, after some lunch, proceeded inside, where we amazingly ran into Barry again.

Ten years ago, according to Chenbl, you never saw any Chinese people there, but now it’s mostly Chinese tourists. We played with little mirror shots til we were bored, and then took another boat down the river. Well, first we went up the river mistakenly, and then down again, before switching to the metro to go look for a massage place. The place Chenbl had read about, coincidentally close to where Rammy lives, was full, so we went next door, figuring how different could it be?

Vastly, as it turns out. Our mistake in this respect realized, we again took the now-incredibly crowded metro back to Hua Longphong, where we met Rammy and Nong, and took a taxi down to the riverfront complex where we’d met them for the riverboat ride. There we had dinner before walking back.

Tomorrow night we’re starting the workshop, so get ready everyone!

posted by Poagao at 1:02 am  
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