We went out to see Kooza last Thursday (January 21) in the middle of the biggest storm to hit Southern California in ages. Floods, mudslides, tornadoes, lightning, high winds, power outages…and these tickets had been sitting in my desk since sometime last fall.

Fortunately, we managed to miss the worst of the storm. There was a lull in the early evening, and the cloud layer broke up enough that I could see the moon as I left work. We only hit rain during the post-dinner drive to the show. One moment: clear. The next: lots of brake lights ahead of us. The next: intense rain!

As near as I can tell, the storm passed through just north of the grandiosely-named Great Park in Irvine, where the circus had set up their tent. We could see lightning flashes in the distance, and it was cold and wet and windy, but the sky above was clear. So we reached the show against the backdrop of the moon, Orion and Sirus, lightning, and a giant orange balloon.

Night at the Circus

Tower of Chairs at the Orange County FairThe show was impressive. I think this is the sixth Cirque du Soleil show I’ve seen* and they’ve all been good. A few acts did look kind of familiar, like the guy balancing on a 20-foot-tall tower of chairs (we’d seen a similar act at the OC Fair last summer), but even those acts maintained the “how the heck do they do that?!” factor. A contortionist act reminded me of someone’s idea back in the early 1990s, never realized as far as I know, to get contortionists to play non-humanoid aliens on science-fiction shows. (These days, you can just use CGI to portray any body structure you want.)

Cirque du Soleil Wheel of DeathThe centerpiece of the show was sort of a giant double human hamster wheel. Two mesh wheels, each with a diameter of perhaps 1½ times the height of the performers, are attached to either end of a scaffolding, which is then suspended from the ceiling so that the entire structure can rotate. Then two performers proceed to run and jump inside the wheels as the whole thing spins around in the air…and then they start running around the outside of the wheels! According to the Cirque website, it’s called the Wheel of Death.

The clowns seemed more prominent in this show than in the others I’ve seen, to the point where they basically had two MC characters: one serious, one comedic.

Oddly enough, the show features a rainstorm. There was enough fake thunder and lightning that we probably didn’t recognize the real thing a few times!

*I’ve been trying to remember exactly which shows I’ve seen, and what I can come up with are:

  • Saltimbanco, early 1990s
  • Dralion, 1999 or 2000
  • Zumanity, 2006
  • O, 2007
  • Corteo, 2008?
  • And now Kooza, 2010

I keep thinking there’s one more, but I just can’t bring it to mind.

WTF?!? CNN reports: Tornado warning in effect for south central Los Angeles.

It turns out there’s a tornado warning in Orange County too. I can believe it.

Drove past Blizzard HQ during a thunderstorm. Saw a really nice lightning strike a few minutes later.

Got soaked walking out of the parking structure. Wouldn’t be so bad if the rain was coming straight down. Ducked into first restaurant I saw.

Oh, NOW the storm lets up while I’m INSIDE. Rain & sky are both lightening up, & I haven’t seen any lightning in at least 10 minutes.

Aaaand we now return you to your regularly scheduled California sunshine!

I glanced out the window while eating lunch at Johnny Rockets and saw this brilliant rainbow. I hastily told the server that I would be right back, and was just going to look at it, and left some of my stuff at the table while I came out and snapped a picture. A passing security guard remarked that he had the same idea, but didn’t have his camera. When I went back in, two of the employees were staring out the window at it.

I was looking up the proper term for a plasma lamp and stumbled upon the Wikipedia entry for the Zeusaphone.

It’s a Tesla Coil that’s set up to modulate its discharges so that they produce specific notes. In other words, it’s a Tesla Coil that plays music using lightning!

Seriously… how can you turn down a description like that?

It’s also been called a “thoremin,” — another lightning-god-based pun, this one on the theramin,

The company that makes them has a couple of video clips on their website, but sadly they’re a little underwhelming on a 200-pixel window with computer speakers. I imagine they’d be seriously impressive in person.

Photo by Dracoswinsauer. Used per Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

We drove up to UCLA last night for an Aimee Mann concert, and somehow, despite all the rain on the way up and back, we managed to not need our umbrellas at all.

The concert was great, and very different from the last concert we saw at Royce Hall just by virtue of having a full band behind her (Tori Amos performed solo last time we were there). It was also very different from the last time we saw Aimee Mann, at the House of Blues last summer. For one thing, she was focusing on songs from her new album, The Forgotten Arm.

It was also much more interactive than either of the other two concerts. What stuck in my mind was the request section. She had everything set up so that people would write the request on a piece of paper and leave it on the stage, but when she got to the break, people were shouting out titles. One guy came prepared with what looked like a balsa glider and wrote his request on that, adding that it was his birthday. I don’t remember his request, but she improvised “Happy birthday to the paper airplane man.” I’ve seen singers who get talkative, and singers who improv silly songs, but it really felt like the house was much smaller than 1800 people. (Of course, you could still make a drinking game out of the number of times she says “Thank you so much” after a song.) Continue reading