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Ever since most planners grabbed their first smartphone, the bane of their existences has been the dreaded auto-correct function. Most smartphone uses often text a message or email and press send before realizing the dreaded mistake. I wrote “meeting” not “meek king!” I typed that we’re having “crab” cakes for dinner, not…you know. Sure, Steve Jobs meant well when he included it with the earliest iPhones, but the texting and messaging helper often turns your normal spelling into something R-rated, or worse. Entire websites are dedicated to the some of the funnier auto-correct mistakes.
At 7:55 am this morning, the USS Michael Murphy, its crew standing at full attention on deck, silently glided past the rusted hull of the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On land, a handful of aging survivors and their families, as well as a number of officials and service members, held a moment of silence. In an instant the tranquility was shattered, much as it had been 71 years before, by the sound of overhead planes, this time by members of the Hawaii Air National Guard solemnly flying in the missing man formation (one spot in the triangle formation is left vacant).
The ceremony, which occurs every year at exactly the same time and draws about 2,000 participants, commemorates the first shots fired during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan, the event that brought the United States into one of the darkest periods of human history and cost the country 2,403 lives, 68 of which were civilian. The attack shook the nation to its core and, much as the tragic events of 9/11 affected later generations, things were never the same. The slogan “Remember Pearl Harbor” became a common rallying cry, inspiring Americans until the ultimate surrender of Japan four years later in 1945.
Over the weekend, I capped a love-affair day with San Francisco (Ferry Building farmers market, the De Young museum, a cocktail at the Cliff House) by going to a place I can only imagine existing in the City by the Bay: Audium, a theater that explores sound in darkness.
Composer Stan Shaff came up with the concept for an exploratory sound space more than 50 years ago, and the venue, partly funded through a national endowment, represents the culmination of his vision. My experience there was, in a word, odd. But it was also oddly interesting.
My journey started in a small, slightly dingy foyer, where a group assembled for the 8:30 showtime waited. Finally, Shaff himself walked out, gave a brief welcome and shepherded us into a room with three concentric circles of chairs, sloping walls and a suspended ceiling. After taking our seats, the lights dimmed slowly until we were in pitch darkness. Then the sounds began: random pitches at various decibels, lapping waves, galloping, the voices of children at the beach, bossa nova. At times, the experience was somehow frightening, the floor rumbling with loud ominous tones. Other times, gentle nature sounds set a tranquil mood. A couple times, there was nothing at all.
This went on for an hour—save for one brief intermission in the middle—in a seemingly chaotic fashion until, at the conclusion, many of the sounds were overlapped onto one another in a dramatic cacophony of noise. Then the lights came up, Shaff said thanks and that was that.
Honestly, there were times during the experience when I got sleepy. My mind wandered. I got a little bored. But by the end, I found myself oddly stirred by the one-sense experience of taking in nothing but sound. It put me in a trance-like state, and it felt kind of nice. And I give it this: It was really, really different.
Shaff said in his intro that the space can be used by groups. I don’t think it would work for everyone, but for the right gathering of artsy, intellectual, cerebral colleagues, it could prove to be a memorable, only-in-San Francisco off-site experience. Check it out if you get the chance. And for other ideas on what to do when meeting in the Bay Area, check out our story on the destination.
Recently, the Smart Meetings office has been awash in holiday spirit, but today USA Today reminded me that there are a few other winter events afoot that don’t include, trees, candles or cookies.
It’s a tale of two cities: Detroit and San Francisco. Both hold out compelling attractions for visitors and residents alike.
My youthful years were spent in the western suburb of Wayne, Mich., and this town has much in common with the area in general. The roaring 1960s and 70s saw the population peak at 2,666,751 and tumble to 1,820,584 in 2010. While recent publicity takes the easy route and knocks the area, which has been hit with more than one recession over the past few decades, it retains a solid core of committed residents, uncommon architectural gems, world-class museums and ethnic influences from Native American and Irish to African American and Finnish.
Blue Man Group in Boston? The hilarious Doyle and Debbie Show in Chicago? The nostalgic 1940’s Radio Hour in L.A.? Billy Elliot in NYC?
Theater ticket prices have escalated over the past decade while incomes have dropped. But if you need theater to live, as many do, you’ll find them one way or another. Many regional theaters provide opportunities to run concessions or usher in exchange for entry to a play or musical—but that generally means committing to one company or juggling schedules. And you can’t really bring along a friend. The options for live entertainment have expanded to include everything from comedy acts and IMAX to concerts and dance companies.
It was nearly impossible not to get swept up in the heartfelt tributes of 9/11’s 10th anniversary on Sunday, from Paul Simon’s beautiful rendition of “The Sound of Silence” at the Ground Zero site to the image of the Twin Towers lights projecting up into the Manhattan nighttime sky.
For those in the hospitality industry, no reflection would be complete without a look back on the brave people in New York hotels who banded together to help those affected by the tragedy. This industry is, at heart, about helping one another, and at no time has that quality been more evident than after the towers went down.
The airline industry continues to think it’s above the law, or at least can do whatever it wants without getting reprimanded. On Thursday, Billie Joe Armstrong, the lead singer of Green Day, was kicked off a Southwest flight from Oakland, Calif., to Burbank, Calif., because the flight attendant claimed his pants were sagging too much. After the flight attendant asked for him to pull up his pants, he responded by asking if there were better things to worry about.
Maybe I’m biased, but I firmly believe California has the best wine in the world. Whether its varietals made in the stalwart wine-making regions of Napa and Sonoma or upstart areas of Temecula Valley and Tri-Valley, the Golden State consistently produces some of the most all-around amazing reds and whites.
It has been a discouraging few weeks for nature enthusiasts and U.S. national parks alike.
The past 10 days have brought a series of untimely, outdoor related deaths: A man from Michigan was found fatally mauled by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park on Friday; a solo hiker plunged to his death from the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, just one of 17 deaths in the park this year; and two European tourists became dehydrated in Joshua Tree National park last Monday when their rental car got stuck on a four-wheel drive only road. (authorities suspect that they were looking for the site of the cover shoot for U2’s seminal Joshua Tree album.) This past weekend, another solo hiker was found dead due to dehydration, this time in the Grand Canyon.