SAM, I Am

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Yesterday Kish and I visited the Seattle Art Museum — also known as SAM.  It’s located smack dab in the middle of Seattle’s bustling downtown, and it’s worth a visit.

I like going to art museums I’m not familiar with, because you’re almost always surprised.  Sometimes it’s a good surprise, sometimes it’s not.  SAM falls on the positive side of the ledger.  It’s a big, sprawling facility, with all kinds of nooks and crannies to explore.  Every time you turn a corner, you see something interesting.

During our visit, the displays included an extensive and compelling Joan Miro exhibit — boy, he sure liked to paint birds and women! — and a fabulous and beautiful collection of blown glass objects that included numerous pieces by Dale Chihuly.  The museum’s standard collection is impressive and includes an interesting early American section, which blends portraits, landscapes, furniture, and other objects, Italian and French rooms, modern pieces by Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, and some whimsical and thought-provoking sculptures, including an untitled piece by American artist Marlo Pascual that featured a ’40s-style glamour shot of an unknown, sad-eyed woman on which a rock had been positioned to look like a hat.

My favorite part of the collection was a large array of indigenous art, including some fantastic masks and costumes and sculptures.  The masks in particular were riveting.  As I looked at the colorful depictions of serpents and wolves, I thought of the strong connection the indigenous peoples felt to the natural world and how we have largely lost that connection in modern America.  Maybe the piece featuring the well-dressed woman with the rock on her head speaks to that, too.

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Market Magic

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Like many cities, Seattle has a central marketplace.  This one is crammed with flower stalls, meat markets, restaurants, fishmongers, vegetable purveyors, fresh crab on ice, jugglers, ukelele players, and bars.  Needless to say, it’s a beehive of activity.

Long ago, virtually every big city had sprawling central market buildings.  In the last century, many cities tore them down, reasoning that they weren’t needed as people moved to the suburbs and the supermarkets began to rule the food world.  A few cities held on — and they should be happy they did.  Whenever Kish and I visit a new place that has a central market, that’s always a stop on our itinerary, and inevitably the central market is a fun, interesting place that puts the city in a good light.

Twitter Turnabout

Twitter is a good example of a double-edged sword.  When companies or entities try to use it for positive PR purposes, as often as not it backfires, and what is generated instead is embarrassing and often humorous.

As a very recent example, consider the New York City Police Department.  Some genius decided it would be helpful to ask people to tweet their pictures with members of the police force with the hashtag #myNYPD.  Clearly, the Department envisioned smiling photos of citizens and friendly, blue-coated officers.

But what actually happened didn’t go according to that plan.  Instead, people started tweeting photos of police officers handcuffing suspects, lashing out with batons, and otherwise engaging in less positive interactions with members of the public.  Other tweets identified people who had been shot to death by police and complaining about police brutality — as well as ripping the NYPD for a self-inflicted PR disaster.

The NYPD example probably should be taught in PR classes about use of social media.  What are the key elements of this colossal blunder?  One is a person or entity who lacks significant awareness of how they are actually perceived by the public and therefore can’t envision the negative tweets that their campaign might generate.  It’s hard to imagine that any police department would be blind to the fact that they aren’t adored by a significant percentage of the public — after all, the police regularly issue tickets, order people around, and arrest and apprehend suspects who proclaim their innocence, and those people have families and friends — but the NYPD apparently falls into that category. That’s amazing, and suggests that the PR decisionmakers aren’t adequately acquainted with reality.

A second element is a lack of understanding of human nature.  People who are angry and negative are far more motivated to post something than people who are happy and positive.  Tourists who were helped by members of the NYPD aren’t likely to take a photo or be aware of a Twitter campaign about the NYPD — but somebody who is convinced that the cops routinely engage in racial profiling will be monitoring and ready to spring when an ill-advised campaign gets underway.

If I were a company or a public entity, I’d be very cautious about inviting Twitter chatter.  Our grandmothers told us, “be careful what you ask for” — and that was wise advice,

Sunny Seattle?

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Maybe it’s just the sunny blue skies after days of rain and clouds in Vancouver, but Kish and I are liking Seattle a lot already.  Its waterfront area is beautiful, and we relished the opportunity to walk in the sunshine and breathe deep the cool ocean air.

I’ve never been to Seattle before, and I don’t know much about the city.  I understood it rains a lot here, but today it was beautiful and bright.  It makes me wonder whether my knowledge about Seattle is not only embarrassingly limited, but also misplaced.  Could it be that Here Come The Brides also was not historically accurate, and that in Seattle’s early days Jason, Joshua, and Jeremy Bolt didn’t joust with the evil, greed-addled Aaron Stempel over control of the future of the city, while boozy sea captain Clancy chased after Lottie, the tart-tongued tavern owner with a heart of gold?

Oysters, And Oyster Stew

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We’re in Seattle, where we are having dinner tonight with some friends we haven’t seen in years.  To get ready for the festivities, we took a walk along Seattle’s beautiful waterfront on a bright, sunny day.  The weather gods were with us.

For lunch we stopped at a place called the Place Pigalle in the sprawling Public Market Center a few blocks from the waterfront.  The food gods were with us, too, because the Place Pigalle was excellent.  When you’re on the coast, you need to seriously consider seafood, and I’m a sucker for shellfish.  When I saw oysters on the half shell and oyster stew on the menu, I decided to double up.

The oysters on the half shell were excellent — fresh, succulent, and served with a tart, vinegar-based dip.  They were the perfect complement to a tasty unfiltered wheat ale.  And the oyster stew was fabulously rich and creamy, with four huge whole oysters lurking just below the surface.  It was a fantastic meal and a great way to start our Seattle visit, and reminded us of what we’re missing in landlocked Columbus, Ohio.

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The TV In The Bathroom Mirror

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Our hotel in Vancouver, the Fairmont Pacific Rim, is one of those new hotels that has just about every electronic gizmo you can imagine.  There are buttons to control the drapes and the sheers on the windows, buttons to turn on, turn off, and dim the lights . . . and there is a TV in the bathroom mirror.

That’s right — a TV in the bathroom mirror.  It’s  built right into the mirror itself, distinguishable from the rest of the mirror only by a dim outline until you turn it on.  It’s directly above the sink, with its own remote control unit.

So, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, you can watch TV while you shave or brush your teeth, and because the walls of the shower stall are glass you can watch TV while you are taking a shower, too.  O, Brave New World!

I think we watch too much TV already.  I certainly don’t need to watch TV while I am attending to life’s little necessities.