Asian Heritage Street Fair

On Saturday, May 16, 2009, after the Buddha Birthday Celebration/Festival, I walked west to the Tenderloin to attend my second festival of the day, the Asian Heritage Street Celebration. As I neared, I noticed I was in the Vietnamese center of SF ("little Saigon"). There were banh mi joints galore, but sadly I had no stomach space left.

I picked up a surprisingly comprehensive newspaper about the festival, showcasing endorsements of the festival from politicians, promoting sponsors, and describing many details about the festival and its workings. I learned and like the idea that the festival changes location every year to a different Asia neighborhood in San Francisco, thus showing the breadth of SF and its Asian communities.

The fair was sizable, covering seven blocks and taking ninety minutes to explore. Most booths were the usual street fair vendors, e.g., low-end jewelry, handbags, t-shirts, sunglasses. The few distinctive products for sale included imported dvds, shirts, and posters, related to either Japanese rock music or anime. Also, foreign newspapers.

There were also lots of organizations doing outreach to this community, including tons of government agencies, some of which I'm surprised bother to do outreach at all (rather than expect people to come to them): muni (the bus company) and the Social Security Administration. There was even a booth to educate people about lemon laws. In addition, private utilities had booths (telephone, electricity, education, zipcars). Community groups, as well as health and education non-profits, were also represented.

Of the multiple entertainment stages, I caught an urban dance troop, a Filipino folk dance, a dance contest, and a martial arts bout (there was a ring devoted to it). There was also a kids zone.

I took four pictures as I explored the festival.

Regarding food, there was a wide assortment, including tons of grilled meats--the opposite of the last festival. Meats were being grilled at one Korean bbq booth, two Filipino booths, one Hawaiian bbq booth, one Cajun bbq booth, one Thai bbq booth, and one Vietnamese bbq. (No, I couldn't tell all these apart without the help of the booths' signs.) Another stand grilled corn. The non-grill selection included Thai, Lao (no, I don't know the difference), Indian, Vietnamese, crepes, slushies, and kettle corn (of course). Notably more aligned with the Buddhist festival was the Golden Era booth (vegetarian Chinese) and a Vietnamese Buddhist booth.

Despite the selection, I was glad I ate at the other festival. On a warm day like this one, I didn't feel love for something hot off a grill. Also, despite my thirst in the summer weather, I resisted the jamba juice, milk tea, and countless homemade lemonade and bottled water stands, instead looking forward to making myself a blended ice drink at home, and, perhaps later, a smoothie.

I did both.

Buddha's Birthday Festival

Festival season has certainly begun, with nearly a dozen on Saturday, May 16, 2009, that tempted me. Feeling like something unusual and not too far away, I selected from my slate of possibilities the Buddha Birthday Celebration Festival held in San Francisco's Union Square. To avoid the downtown parking nightmare, I drove to the Daly City BART and rode it in.

It was a fun though small festival. There were perhaps two dozen booths, some selling items such as books, clothing, sunglasses, and jewelry, another providing carnival games, and others promoting groups such as the American tea culture association. Most of the booths used their income as fundraising for various Buddha's Light International Association (BLIA) chapters.

I took pictures of what I ate and saw.

The food was a wide selection of entirely vegetarian food from China, Vietnam, and Korea. I ate well. Given the day's warmth, I finished my meal with a cooling shaved-ice dessert. It melted as fast as I could eat it.

The entertainment program was pretty good and varied. I took videos of two impressive performances: a lion dance and a ribbon-twirling dance. In addition, I watched kung fu dancing, folk dancing, and singing; the latter two included performances both by kids and by adults.

I stayed at the festival for 90 minutes, with much of that time watching the entertainment.

Interesting Articles: Q1 2009

Psychology & Culture:
* The Witnesses That Didn't (WNYC's On The Media via NPR). A story I heard a few times in psychology classes (about many people witnessing a murder and no one calling the police) that didn't happen the way it was told. Posted here so I can always find the reference to the truth.

Psychology & Economics:
* When people cheat on Wall Street (American Public Media's Marketplace). Though the results of the experiment aren't surprising, I'm simply impressed that someone designed such an interesting experiment. I liked the original research question, and the twist was icing on the cake.

Economics & Academia:
* What's in a Surname? The Effects of Surname Initials on Academic Success (pdf) (Journal of Economic Perspectives). An interesting analysis of the discrimination created in academic disciplines that order authors' names alphabetically, not by contribution. I wonder why the observed effect of higher tenure rates for earlier surnames occurs only at elite institutions (top 10).

Politics & Economics:
* In this On The Media piece (WNYC via NPR) about Treasury Secretary Geithner's inability to connect empathically, one person had a comment likening him and other political figures to Star Trek characters that I found so humorous, I'm posting it here.

* Sound Output Levels of the iPod and Other MP3 Players: Is There Potential Risk to Hearing? (Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Children Meeting) (internet archive version in case the link is broken). Finally, a definitive study providing guidelines on how loud iPods can and should be played.

* Bowl Mitzvah (Stanford Magazine). What a cute, giving idea.

San Mateo's Asian Pacific American Heritage Festival

Saturday, May 9, 2009, was a bit of an odd day. I went to the farmers market for breakfast, intending to figure out while I was there what else I wanted to buy to cook the following couple days. The farmers market was packed! I imagine it was a combination of factors: last week's attendance was sparse because of rain, this day was beautiful; the day after is mother's day; and the market began exploding with summer produce. For instance, cherries and peaches just arrived. My plans, however, turned out for naught when I discovered I had only enough cash in my wallet for a muffin, nothing else.

Leaving the market, I headed to an ATM to withdraw cash and to a bookstore to look at some books on a topic I was researching. I got distracted and was there longer than I realized. Though I intended to return to the farmers market in time to shop properly, I made it there at closing and only managed to pick up some cherries and peaches.

I decided to continue my errand at another bookstore, then returned home (an hour and a half later), thinking that the length of my bookstore excursions implicitly meant I couldn't make it to any of the day's festivals.

I was wrong. When I arrived home, I noticed I left on my desk a postcard describing this day's Asian Pacific American Heritage Festival, located right here walking distance way in a park in San Mateo. I'd been thinking about the festival earlier in the week, thinking that'd it be nice to go sit in the grass in the park. I'd forgotten about it.

A short walk later and I was in Central Park. The festival was much like it was when I went two years ago. In addition to sitting in the park and watching performances, including a good Korean drum group (similar to taiko), I stuck my head in the main building and also wandered (again) through the nearby Japanese tea garden and the rose garden, noticing the fragrant air and how everything was in bloom.