May 6th, 2007

southpark

Long night

Just getting in, in fact. Many more details tomorrow (some here, some in the other blog). The new SAM is really, really cool. Not perfect, but easily an A-.
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southpark

Long yesterday

The Seattle Tilth Edible plant sale was this weekend. At first, it sounded like a great idea: a chance to support a neat non-profit dedicated to more green things in the world and to get some green things for my apartment, all in a very nice park. When I got there, though, reality set in: the pretty plants in front of me represented time, space, money, and (above all) effort. Plus, since I don't have a garden (or room for one, living in a downtown apartment and all), to say nothing of the lack of southern exposure, my options were limited. Even though I got there relatively early (shortly after noon), most things were somewhat picked over or just gone. I walked away with three varieties of basil (sweet, italian, and thai), english lavender, and what turns out to be chamomile (the sign said it was chervil; *grumble*). All things that were listed as "good for beginners" and "love being in pots". They are all lined up on my windowsill. Hope they turn out OK.

Did a lot of food shopping. Ended up not buying the two things I specifically went shopping *for*. Went back out and got one of them. Mer.

Also, seeing as it was the first Saturday, headed out to CC's for the Bear Beer Bust. It was much less crowded than I expected; I'd have though that Cinco de Mayo would make it more popular than usual. Wonder where everyone was. Around 10pm, bconn left to head down to SAM (the Seattle Art Museum), and I joined him. We walked down to it, but when he saw the (still very long) line to get in, he decided not to wait it out. We took a cab back to CC's.

I got home around 3am, so I had a snack, rested a bit, got changed, and walked down to SAM. There was still a line, but it was very short; at 4am, the museum was at least as crowded as it would be on a typical day. I believe that this is direct evidence of the massive, unfulfilled market for nightlife in Seattle. One of my few complaints about this place is that the sidewalks roll up far too early in the evening. If only I could afford to start up something on my own...

Next post: inside the new SAM
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southpark

The new SAM (4am edition)

For a long while now, the Seattle Art Museum has been closed as they expanded their space. Yesterday, they celebrated their grand reopening with a 35 hour long marathon event. I got there around 3:30am this morning. It was awesome. There was a crowd dancing in the new spacious public forum, and the bands were still going strong. The huge exploding car installation seemed to almost be flashing in time with the music; an unexpectedly vibrant atmosphere permeated the whole building. That noise travel may be one of the museum's few shortcomings, though: you could hear the (admittedly very loud) bands no matter where you were. At 4am, they switched to a more subtle electronica that appropriately reinforced the trippiness of being in a crowded art museum at four in the morning.

I'm not going to give another moment-by-moment account (of which I am so fond), but rather a series of general impressions. The new space is very, very nice. A good mix of large, open areas as well as small, cozy corners. (I won't spoil it, but if you find the sculpture called, IIRC, "Untitled (Cheap to Feed)", the placement they use is at least half the magic.) Enough of a maze to lose yourself inside the passages, but not so much that you get lost. It could be the late hour talking, but there were many, many extraordinarily beautiful pieces on exhibit. I was continually impressed with the quality of the collection. The Porcelain Room by itself is just overwhelming.

It really seems like someone wanted to spend gobs of money on making a modern museum with some class. They succeeded. And in what is perhaps the highest compliment I can pay to a museum, SAM seems *unique*, and not cookie cutter. This really hit home in (of all places) the gift shop. While the classes of items (books, glassware, scarves, &c.) were pretty typical, the particular ones they had seemed... so much better than any other museum gift shop I've visited. But on reflection, that quality really permeates the whole experience. The people who designed this place clearly knew what they were doing.

I can nitpick, of course. Some of the exhibit sections don't flow as well as I'd like (costumes to photographs to pop-art to 19th century landscapes; what?!?). And even though they've doubled their space, and there's a huge variety of styles, I was left wanting *more*. Perhaps I wouldn't be satisfied with anything less than the National Archives, though.

And while this is a fantastic place, I can't help but feel that it's not a revolutionary step, but an evolutionary one. Sure, there are audio/video displays, and even elegant computer aids in appropriate places (like the 70 foot long silver and gold Japanese scroll which couldn't be displayed in the traditional manner), but it doesn't seem like they tried to do anything on the bleeding edge. The more that I think about it, though, given Seattle's history of such projects (the monorail, the viaduct, public transit in general, the beautiful but not-entirely-user-friendly library), maybe that's a good thing. Maybe that's a *really* good thing. They just tried to bring SAM up to a world-class level (or close to), and I think they succeeded.

Well done.
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