Friday, July 17, 2009

Oakland goes up in flames

The Boy and I were wondering how many panicked 911 calls are made each night that the Fire Arts Festival is in action. There are a number of busy freeways that border the event and one would not have to be all that clueless to mistake a 30' tall kneeling female sculpture with flames pulsing from her heart (and occasionally from all over) for a situation requiring an emergency response.

(Of course I'm kidding! You'd have to be quite clueless! But in this clueless-infested land, that could still be a lot of calls.)

This was our second year of going to the Fire Arts Festival. We found out about this event from a coworker of mine that runs the extremely popular Flamethrower Shooting Gallery. This year the festival was moved to a much larger plot of sacrificial land, allowing additional art installations - some not even using fire at all but still inspiring awe. Because things are more spread out, it is not nearly as claustrophobic as last year. We went on a Thursday night, so it's possible it will be significantly more crowded on Friday and Saturday, but it still won't be that bad. There is also a large free parking lot you can use.

Taking pictures of a night-time event is a bit of a hit and miss proposition when using a PHD camera (Push Here Dummy), but some came out pretty good. (Note to anyone who is going and intends to take their fancy SLR camera - you need to get special permission.)

One of the most astonishing pieces of art is this Fire Vortex. If you look closely you can see a guy in a silver heat suit poking a long stick shooting a flammable liquid into a swirling wind caused by the scientifically placed fans.

This picture does not do this piece of art justice - the flames in each lobe of the heart are actually spinning like egg beaters.

This is the Hand of Man. There are two people sitting on that raised platform on the right that are controlling that large, fully articulated metal arm on the left. One of them wears a virtual reality-type glove to control the gripping of the fingers - it was fun watching them actually grab this motorcycle, lift it up, and then drop it. No flames for this, but an awesome display mechanical fun.

This is the Flamethrower Shooting Gallery, during the period where they train the audience members that are getting ready to shoot the flames. Last year this was voted the most dangerous of all the exhibits by the Oakland Fire Marshall, and he would not allow audience participation. Since nobody died last year (or at Burning Man - the only other place this exhibit has been seen), the Fire Marshall gave the OK to let normal people participate, as long as they are over 18. The Boy turns 18 in a couple of months. Heavy sigh.

The flames in action. They would prefer to use gasoline, but instead are only allowed to use a mixture of white gas and methane.

I love this sign at the flamethrowing place. it's not easy to read, but rule 2 says you cannot be drunk or stupid and rule 3 says they get to decide on the meaning of drunk and stupid.

This thing we had seen once before - it's a circular platform with sensors that, when tripped by someone waving their hand, foot, or head over it, causes a corresponding fountain of fire to shoot out. Kids really liked doing this, and some were pretty creative.

This was the coolest new thing there, called the Pendulum of Fire. Again, the picture does not do it justice. It is a ball with four flaming jets that is hanging from a curved arm. The operator controls which of the jets is flaming, and by fooling around with this a bit he gets it to swing in a graceful (but frightening) arc out over the crowd. Very cool.

Here The Boy is admiring a red hot glowing ant sculpture.

This is a 300 pound block of ice that is having a hole drilled through it. They then stand it up, shoot something flammable through the hole from the bottom to feed a flame up on top.

This is another flameless exhibit they added - a life size game of Mousetrap. It uses bowling balls for marbles and was fun to watch in action.

This guy, in a demonstration of just how dangerous morning breath can be, would take a swig of something from a bottle with one or more skull and crossbone logos on it, then spit it out at the torch he was holding.

Obviously, with all this fire around, they need to be prepared to fight any sort of blaze that might get out of control. It was comforting to see that this garden hose was what they would fight it with. I certainly feel better about attacking any sort of flames that might break out in our house.

And that's about it. Lots to see and do. There were quite a few kids running around - many of the exhibits were reasonably kid-friendly. There was also a stage with a mixture of talent on it (I swear at one point it was some guy singing Spanish love songs.) The weather was nice - calm and cool.

But with periods of intense heat.

That's it - move along...


mary ann said...

I never would have known about this if not for you. Not that I'd be tempted to go, of course. Great post, however.

DAK said...

Well, Mush, this does seem like a bit of a guy thing. I didn't see Mrs. That mentioned either. Got to say that flame thrower gallery definitely rocks my socks.

Diane said...

Actually I would love to have gone. Alas I was not invited. I've got a bit of the pyro bug in me too.

notthatlucas said...

This was a massive failure on my part - there is no way I would have thought Mrs would have wanted to go to this. I should not have assumed. (And I didn't include any pictures of the flowers with flames shooting out their middle or of the piano destroying adventure.)