Thanksgiving 2010

Niyantha: thanksgiving break — its gonna be legendaru
me: hahaha
Niyantha: it could be legendaru as well
if you’re up for drinking
Niyantha: daru = alcohol

I spent Thanksgiving 2009 with two of my best girl friends this side of the world. So of course, the way my world works, I ended up spending this Thanksgiving with two of my best guy friends, in Seattle. Four days in the Microsoft Metropolis included snow, an unbelievable amount of cooking and leftover food, coffee (obviously), a game of Life, a science fiction museum (!!!!), an experience music project museum, and Pike Place piroshky (I just like alliteration).


A becomes Whole Foods’ biggest fan; we cook for three hours; end result is aloo gobi, paneer makhni, rice and bhaji, masterminded by A and helped by myself and N. Also, my first look at real snow. Remember that scene in To Kill a Mockingbird, where Scout wakes up in the morning to pure white? “Atticus, the world’s endin’!” There’s a sort of muffled quality to everything when it’s covered in snow. Sadly, we did not make any snowmen. Food was excellent, food coma was helped along by episodes of The West Wing.


I’ll tell you a secret: I didn’t go to Seattle to see my friends. I went there to see the Science Museum.

It turns out that a Microsoft founder, who had money and a science fiction collection, established this Seattle science fiction museum, which I gather houses his stuff as permanent exhibits and has temporary displays like the Battlestar Galactica. It’s not comprehensive or anything, but the sheer variety of stuff — and the way it was put together, with explanations and interactive bits — was a hell lot of fun.

The Anatomy of Genius: Douglas Adams' Babelfish

And of course, I picked up some stuff for my thesis from the Battlestar exhibit. I’m not sure what the show is like when it comes to its pure cinematic merits, but it has some interesting themes when it comes to the Cylons. There’s some slight proof for a reversal in attitudes towards robots — I believe the original series just had the whole “evil robots” theme going on — in the later series where the Cylons are painted as beings which can actually experience human-like emotion. There’s a rather cool bit where there’s a Cylon on board one of the ships who realizes her true nature and “turns bad”, whereas another planet-bound Cylon knows what she’s capable of but ends up falling in love with a human (yes yes, trite I know, but workable). Emotion is always a contentious issue in simulated intelligence; is it necessary? How do we fake it? Does it add anything to interactions?

Some very cool things: seeing a stillsuit from the Dune series; a full-length wall projection of popular sci-fi movies, including Blade Runner and Matrix; another projection involving the different models of spaceships in the literature; a list of books I’ve never heard of and now desperately want to get my hands on.

There was also the experience music project, and one of the most amazing things is the ability to hole yourself and your friends up in a tiny soundproof room, with different types of instruments, and go crazy trying to create some kind of music. I wish we’d had something we wanted to try out, but either way it was fun setting the keyboard audio to “cosmic boom” and listen to the lovechild of Star Trek and Radiohead.


Self-playing guitars


The question to ask in Seattle is not “is there a coffee place somewhere nearby?” but “where’s the nearest caffeine joint?” And the answer will be, invariably, “down the road” or some permutation thereof indicating very close proximity. And they’ve got character, as well; N, Abc and I stopped off on impulse at Bedlam, which is a coffee house that lets you play board games.

Abc kicked our butts on the sly. And the coffee was definitely above reproach.

Red walls make coffee houses cooler.


Crimson Coolness Exhibit #2

There’s a certain character to that part of town that’s like a Boston that’s hung up its hat for the evening and is settling in with feet up on the table and a mug of coffee.

A certain, what shall we say, political vibe of a distinctly non-conformist character as well:

Father of Communism

I am also glad to report that certain sections of America haven’t given up on the written word. To wit, several bookshops, as eclectic as the coffee houses.

Tell me this isn’t a place you’d hang out at in the weekends. BOOKS. SO MANY BOOKS.

Yup. Legendarily comfortable Thanksgiving — hanging out, seeing the sites, swaddled in multiple layers and crunching through snow.


Photo courtesy: Niyantha “Don’t Panic” Shekar

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