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Xbox* of a Seattle melting pot!

July 20, 2012

Thunderous applause and a standing ovation. The audience adored them and would not want the performers to go. Herr Gerard Schwarz, Music Director of the Seattle Symphony, and the Contralto Ewa Podles did something they had never done before. Bowing again and again, they did. But came back to more than reciprocate the claps and cheering to reinterpret nature for Mahler! Just the way it unfolds during bright sunny summers of Seattle… That was five summers ago. The great conductor has retired since then.

It all starts with the chalk art spilling around the Benaroya Hall. Incidentally, the lane besides now bears the Schwarz name. Engulfing the whole place in a blossom of innocent creativity where I first saw children unleashing art in chalk. Except subdued in parts where adult helping hands came into play. The budding artists captured the excitement of anticipation for those boarding or fulfillment of all the ones disembarking an Argosy cruise, straight down the steep road at the waterway.

Alaska ahoy!

Occasional containment of the adventurous spirit for those who get charmed by the Radio Jazz and the cozy comforts of its air-conditioned confines. No sooner you step onto the deck of the Argosy that you get the welcome blast of fresh air into your face. The shimmering waters of the Pacific. Just in case you miss the sparkle of refracting lights, be ready to be surprised by the photographs. The frolicking sea-lions and the swooping bald eagles reminding you of the world above and below. And the acrobatic orcas of the neighbouring San Juan islands  that appear from below and then disappear into nowhere. It could even be an adieu to the departing Alaska cruise. Five years since then, I do get my opportunity to board the cruise line taking me beyond the Vancouver island – as far as Skagway. Beholden by the sights & sounds of British Columbian coast as it unfolds into Alaska.

The sea gulls mockingly inviting all and sundry to let go themselves into the elements of nature. And the mockery of those who cannot figure out whether the Mount Rainier or the Olympic Mountains are farther or nearer. And the frozen volcano deriding those who take it on its face value. Saintly & sublime. Come, measure me by my trails. Figure out if you do hear my guts rumble, my lava awaits just the moment to splurge – in its most intense and expressive form. Undoubtedly paling to glory fireworks on Lake Union and Puget Sound, which in turn desperately attempt to synchronize with Radio Seattle music, every Fourth of July.

Rainier

Drums of Destiny:

The city streets are the biggest theatre, be it bright summer nights of Seattle; cold, wet and windy mornings of London or the year-round muggy Mumbai. Drama never ceases there. The drums of destiny keep beating. Must say Vancouver was an exception and the train ride to Whistler only more exhilarating!

Pathos of all those who beg on the streets of Seattle, London or Mumbai. Not because they beg, but succumb to the desire of easy money. How unimaginative they must be when they wear a placard reading “My father was killed by a Ninja. I need money to learn Karate”. Less obscene is the one who politely approaches you with a request for 20 cents and whichever way is your response, does move away with a respectful thank you nod. Neither of these, is certainly the American way. Not in the least portrayal of misery and desperation that ‘Saint Martin and the beggar’ on display at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). What to talk of the gleeful merriment of the lonely gull. She seems to have an inkling of the divine awakening within. Thanks to ‘Entheogen’ by Sheldon Skillie at the Stonington Art Gallery, that I now understand their gay abandon better.

Not really an ode to the reincarnated street boys of Mumbai who have turned entrepreneurial. Having realized there is greater margin selling pirated Harvard Business Reviews (HBR) than pestering passer bys for loose change. In some sections of the city, as the road signals go red, they swarm in the melee of cars and you can be sure to hear the knock on your windscreens. Ask them what is inside those pages and they will tell you with eyes gleaming, “It’s all about marketing. Good stuff. Please take it”. Urging to close the deal before the signal turns  green. Just as in an Xbox. Bizarre, rather true.

Sleepless in Seattle:

The yin and yang is writ large. It is not about the Chinese fusion cuisine as in Pink communism. The dumb alms leave you exploring all possible notes; the deafening ambulance sounds make you wonder whether it is actually a police chase; sudden upward graph of the Seattle skyline and the silence of the cranes despite the sounds of earth moving equipment.

The raven does get heard once in a rare while. Only an ornithologist can tell whether it’s a mate call or a sheer urge to remind of its existence. Just like the occasional American Indian you spot in the park on the edge of Western Avenue. Perhaps the totem poles have a way to vibe with those of their tribe?!

Then suddenly in one silent road corner you have these protestors wanting to support the cause for the tunnel under the Bering Straits. What then could happen to the summer daytime drivers playing loud music in their convertibles as they drive underground? And remember that will invite Russian auto invasion across the Seattle crossroads. Era of fresh tunes!

Not always fresh & juicy:

The Pike Place market is not just about real fish and the pigs. The drama and merriment. It is also not the organic but hybrid fruits alone. Without any doubt juiciest in the world. It is an orchestration of all the musical talent oozing out from the world over. No brew would be complete without the African American singers performing outside the first ever Starbucks. “We gonna be alright”, is indeed very reassuring. Generosity of the onlookers far more forthcoming. But wait, you also have the occasional retching inebriated to the dismay of mothers and wide eyed toddlers in prams, wondering why grownups cannot  behave. And a few obsessed, who must somehow dig out “I Love New York” in a mound of “I Love Seattle” T-shirts.

Boeing Vs Microsoft:

Yes, its been five years since the city celebrated the joy of Dreamliner’s (787) birth. There is still no hiding the grief of the aerospace industry. It bemoans that the digital world silently worked its way to get the best talent. The brightest flock from round the world around Redmond. It has been also that long since some ran from right here the greatest music ‘Live Earth’ show on the planet. Unlike the chess players, at the Seattle Public Library, making swift moves and talking in hushed tones – the aviation industry must quietly follow its destiny.

The Red Barn is the home to sights & sounds of European, British, Russian, Japanese and American heroics in the sky. It resonates the dare devilry of Red Baron, Kamikaze and much more. Whether they were Axis or Allies in the two great  wars. Also resting in peace is the stately Concorde, after overcoming many a barrier as does the Air Force One. The sea-plane groans but more drones as it takes off or lands onto the waters. Before too long they must all end up in the Museum of Flight. Its already the turn for the recently retired space shuttle to find a parking slot.

Hail, Chief Seattle:

Not too far from where the Chief Seattle greets chief-seattle.jpgenthusiastic visitors to Space Needle, the amphibious duck-riders create quite a mirth. Today Boy King Tutankhamen is a state guest in there. Glittering in his yellow metal-ware, dating three thousand years ahead of the Klondike goldrush which brought in the first hordes into the city. In a few months he heads back to Tahrir Square which has of late had more than its share of action. Only the joyous gull stays on. It is and shall be witness to the past, present and future of the Seattle spirit. A vast, timeless centrifuge that churns new shades of notes which musicians can only dare imitate. The white speck of a gull on an azure blue Seattle summer sky, should be all to keep the Chief’s benign smile.

*Postscript:

From Xbox to Xbox 360 to Kinect is a story of not just software development but vision, as well. How a gaming device was incubated to arrive at the future of man and machine interaction. Thereby producing a new motion sensing system that does away with the game controller in the favour of the player’s own body. A Star Trek kind immersive experience.

The Natural User Interface (NUI) brings your living room alive in a social & accessible way. Removing the last barrier between you and the entertainment you love. Making the hardware almost invisible to the user.

It was artists, musicians, painters, researchers, engineers, people from Hollywood and several nationalities who made this vision come true – indeed a diversity in thought and creativity!

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