Monday, July 14, 2008

Fire! Fire! Fire!

Nothing quite satisfies like the crackle and hum of a Tesla Coil. This past weekend I got to witness the awesome power and frenzy of a 1,000,000 volt Tesla Coil in action. So large, it was hung upside down from a crane. To further sweeten the deal, the operators unleashed a man dressed in a metal suit to conduct the thing. Purely electrifying. Later in the evening, he was joined by a woman in a metal suit. As you can imagine, she had a metal breast plate, with nipples serving as contact points for the Coil’s electric arc. Entertainment at its finest. This was all part of The Crucible’s Fire Arts Festival. The Crucible is an Oakland non-profit where people learn to weld, blow glass and do stuff with fire. Yearly they hold their Fire Arts Festival, a total extravaganza featuring performers, artwork and contraptions that spit, breathe and spew fire. All told there were over 20 installations on display plus a stage full of performers. Other great pieces included the Pyrobeat, a keyboard controlled, flame spewing pipe organ, PSWARM, a collection of homemade vehicles, buggies and bikes conjuring up the spirit of Mad Max that, given the installation setting, couldn’t go anywhere, so they satisfied themselves by rocketing 30 foot fire balls from their contraptions into the air in a chaotically choreographed and eyebrow-singeing spectacular. Other high points included the more soothing Pyrocardium, a 40-flame sculpture where people plug into the sculpture to see their heartbeat rendered in flame, and the straight up unsane Fire Vortex, a massive fire tornado. If you needed a break from flame, you could experience steam and hang out by the Kinetic Steamworks' 1920s steam engine or, if you paid an extra $50, climb into their Steampunk Tree House, a massive metal tree house spewing steam.

I suppose this is the kind of stuff that goes on at Burning Man, but I’ve never been. Regardless, this was awesome. I mean, when you get right down to it, who isn’t transfixed by balls of fire and flame? And let me also suggest, that it’s fun for the whole family. I took my seven year old son and he was mesmerized, but to be fair, he loves watching building implosions, bridge collapses and firework factory explosions on YouTube.

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