Northwest Wining and Dining Confronts MIRROR

September 23, 2013

SAM MIRROR art installation

This is an open letter to MIRROR, a 120-food-wide LED installation by artist Doug Aitken that wraps around the northwest corner of the entrance to the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), cater corner  from our condominium building, 98 Union. 

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Dear Mirror,

I wanted to like you, I really, really wanted to like you.

For several months, I patiently endured the blasts of hammers and whining of saws while you were installed on the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) facade.

I looked on in wonder as the artist who created you and the technicians who made you possible tested your main LED panel and the flashing spikes that run vertically up the mullions on the north and west sides of SAM.

SAM MIRROR art installation

After many months of construction and testing, it was finally time for your grand unveiling in March. I stood on our tenth-floor balcony, which provided a bird’s-eye view of the crowds who gathered, members of the Seattle Symphony who serenaded your arrival, and even Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn who came to welcome you.

After a few tense moments when it seemed you might not light up correctly, your colorfully choreographed images finally started to move.

The crowd applauded. SAM big-wigs pontificated. The donor’s son waxed eloquent.

I snapped photos and put them on my blog.

A few hours later the stage and podium had been dismantled, the crowds had disbursed, the musicians were on to their next gig.

SAM MIRROR display

But the residents of 98 Union Condominiums were still there, just beginning to realize your unbelievably negative impact on our lives.

From the very first moment, your giant screen overtook our condominiums like an incessant, unwelcome distraction.

The jagged, ever-changing spikes of flashing light invaded our living spaces so much so that many of us have been forced to shut our blinds to keep out obsessive light pollution.

And your hours are extraordinarily long–from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. seven days a week. Unless we want to “live” from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. when you are dark, we can’t get away from you, as hard as we try.

Your reviews were mediocre at best. CityArts reviewer Erin King said, “Looking at Mirror for eight hours a day beats a plain gray wall. Its sleek sparkle hearkens back to a cheerier 2007, the year it was commissioned and the pinnacle of big shiny Aughties art. But as its light spills over the First Avenue sidewalk, Mirror already feels like a reflection of the past.”

In a review entitled, “Image Grab,” The Seattle Weekly’s Brian Miller says, “The mountains, greenery, orange Port of Seattle Cranes, silhouettes of pedestrians—these source images are too benign. They don’t grab your attention like the signage in Times Square, and they don’t seem grabbed from our immediate, lived world. . . .But that’s also why MIRROR is so boring: It just reflects an anodyne, outsider’s view of the Northwest. It’s tourist Seattle, not our Seattle, and even the tourists aren’t buying it.”

Have you seen MIRROR? If so, what do you think about it?

If you come to look at Mirror, isn’t it better to simply turn around, walk to the dead end of Union Street by the Four Seasons Hotel, take a deep breath of sea air from Elliott Bay, and marvel at REAL-TIME views of the Seattle Great Wheel, ferry boats , and the Olympic Mountains beyond?


Northwest Wining and Dining Welcomes MIRROR

March 18, 2013

SAM MIRROR art installation

With our condo perched at the intersection of First Avenue and Union Street, catercorner to the Seattle Art Museum, we’ve been lucky enough to have a bird’s-eye view of the new permanent outdoor art installation during construction and the intense testing process.

SAM MIRROR art installation

Entitled, MIRROR, by Doug Aitken, the huge LED display wraps around SAM’s northwest corner. Digital sensors that monitor the weather, pedestrian activity, and surrounding traffic transmit data that is used to animate LED images taken from digital footage Aitken captured throughout Seattle and other parts of the Pacific Northwest.

SAM MIRROR display

The exhibition will be unveiled on March 24. In the meantime, here are some images Spencer and I captured while shooting off our bird’s-eye balcony.

Pretty Puget Sound Cam Shots

October 2, 2012

On April Fool’s Day, 2009, we introduced a new feature on the Northwest Wining and Dining website called the Puget Sound Cam, or PSCam.

The PSCam is located in my husband’s office/studio five floors below the condo in which we have lived the past 20 years in downtown Seattle.

The PSCam boasts a westerly view of the Waterfront, with views across Elliott Bay to West Seattle and the Olympic Mountains. In the foreground of the Cam’s bird’s-eye view, you can see the new Seattle Great Wheel spinning away, as well as ferry boats and container ships plying their routes.

During this final gasp of summer in Seattle, I’ve captured some of the best shots from the PSCam and wanted to share them with you here.

A sunny day with both a ferry boat and tanker in the distance!

Brooding skies!

Sunset’s majesty.

More glorious sunshine!

Gorgeous Shots from the Puget Sound Cam

July 10, 2012


Since its inception on April 1, 2009, we’ve been very proud of the reliable performance and sheer usefulness of the Puget Sound Cam.

The PSCam documents the activity in Seattle’s Elliott Bay, which is part of Puget Sound. Through an intricate set of waterways, this “inland sea” runs about 50 miles to the Washington coast and the Pacific Ocean.

The PSCam is located in Spencer’s studio/office just five floors from the condo in which we have lived for the past 20 years. We’ve watched the landscape along the Waterfront change over the years, but never as dramatically as recently thanks to building of the Seattle Great Wheel.

We’ve been watching with bated breath as the Wheel takes shape, and welcomed it once it was spinning.

The Wheel is so pretty at twilight. . .

And dramatic at night.

I love this shot with the ferry boat heading toward its berth in the background. . .

Getting closer. . .

The Wheel almost looks like a band of sapphires in the nighttime sky. . .

Fiery and dramatic here!

All dressed up for a special light show to celebrate July 4 in this one! (Photo courtesy of Seattle’s KIRO, Channel 7, website.)

One final spin before the Wheel says “goodnight!”

Happy New Year from Northwest Wining & Dining!

December 30, 2010

Braiden and Spencer’s fun, if unconventional, Christmas tree!

With 2011 on the horizon, I’d like to thank all of you for being fans of this Web site, reading my Northwest Notes blog, as well as my articles in The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine, Wine Press Northwest, and’s Al Dente blog.

Cheers to more intriguing food- and wine-related research, reporting, and writing in the months to come.

Happy and prosperous New Year to us all!

A View From My Office

May 16, 2010

Things are slowly, but surely (don’t call me Shirley!) getting back to normal as we get reunited and reacquainted with our condo.

I now punch the microwave buttons correctly (the interfaces between the condo’s 1997 model and the studio’s 2007 model were distinctly different), my office is returning to normal (only a few files and books that I haven’t yet unearthed), and it’s more wonderful than ever sleeping in our own bedroom and lounging on the new sofa.

A View From My Office

So, just for old time’s sake, here’s one final photo of the remodel. Cheers to it being over and done with!

A View from my Office

April 29, 2010

A View From My Office

The painter’s plastic is down; the floors are sanded and refinished; the beams in the ceiling are boxed in, drywalled, and painted; the new low-voltage lighting is in; and the walls are freshly painted.

Here’s the view from my office (still sans new desk, so still not quite technically my office) but we’re makin’ great progress.

New desk will be delivered tomorrow or Monday; new sofa on Monday or Tuesday. We are slowly but surely unpacking boxes, finding “new” treasures and glad to see old familiar items again.

And, as of Tuesday, we started sleeping and cooking here again, and it feels so good to be back.

Cheers to our wonderful contractors, MODELREMODEL (especially Rick and Ronnie) for all their hard and expert work, and putting up with us throughout these past six weeks.

A View From My Office

April 19, 2010

With the expected finish date of our remodel just about 1 1/2 weeks out, I wanted to snap a few photos to show you how much progress has been made, but how our belongings are still in boxes and behind painter’s plastic.

A View From My Office 1

Here is an actual view from my office. Note the beautiful expanse of maple floors, which have been undergoing sanding and three coats of finish over the past week or so.

A View From My Office 2

And here’s’ a shot looking back towards my office and all my bookcases (behind plastic).

A View From My Office 3

Here’s the kitchen. . .more plastic and an indeterminate amount of construction dust lurking everywhere. We have scheduled two deep cleanings before we move back in!

A View From My Office 4

Finally, here’s a shot looking out from the “kitchen,” over the big granite counter, and towards the Four Seasons Hotel (our neighbor just across the courtyard). We will both be so very happy when the remodel is complete, the workers have moved on, and we can get back to “normal” life!

A View From My Office

April 8, 2010

I’ve been remiss in posting photos of the remodel currently engulfing our condominium and my home office, but suffice to say, there’s been A LOT of progress in the last week or so.

A View From My Office

Here is the actual view from the place where my computer used to sit and should (we hope) return by month’s end.

A View From My Office

And here’s the view looking inward. Note the floor sander in the foreground, which was used to sand down our wood floors prior to refinishing them.

You may remember that the floors were severely damaged on July 4, 2007, when our elderly neighbor left the plug in his kitchen sink while doing his dishes, forgot about the water, and went to bed.

Several hours later, water had intruded into five units here in the building, with our unit one of the most severely hit.

So we are so happy to finally have the floor situation resolved.

A View From My Office

In addition to the floors; new ceiling beams; a new, low-voltage lighting system; and overall painting, here is our new pride and joy: a floor-to-ceiling Sub-Zero wine cooler.

The remodel is supposed to end in another two weeks, god willin’ and the creeks don’t rise. Keeping fingers crossed. . .

A View From My Office

April 1, 2010

A View From My Office

This is no April’s Fool prank!

One nice thing about undergoing a remodel of our condo has been that it has forced me to clean out my office. Here’s the actual top of my desk, something I literally hadn’t seen totally naked in years and years.

A View From My Office

Of course, all that stuff had to go somewhere. So here is the pile of boxes (full of files and papers) right behind my desk. Note the painter’s plastic and pogo-stick-like poles that formed the “bubble” (for lack of a better word) that has surrounded my office for the past several weeks.

A View From My Office

And here is yours truly, a.k.a., Bubble Girl, looking a bit doubtful that this will ever be over and life will return to normal in my office and the rest of our condo.

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