December 21, 1999: Talked to Dr. Megavolt
I talked to Dr. Megavolt himself. He invited me to a "private" photoshoot with the coil on the 29th. Our friend Gunther wanted the firefall too, so we're getting together with his truck to bring it.
December 29, 1999: Dr. Megavolt Gathering
Austin Richards invited me over to a private showing of Burning Man folks. Larry Harvey, Maid Marion, Lady Bee, and a handful of other folks were there.
The evening began when Gunther showed up to use his truck to bring the Firefall to the show. I was happy to see he had a little Mitsubishi truck, because it was obviously big enough to hold the bottom bowl -- a question I've been wanting answered: if one of those little, cute, fun-looking trucks is big enough to handle the firefall, and worth it to trade my fun CRX... It held both bowls, the pedistle drum, the pump, fittings and the carpet. Unfortunately, it may not be big enough to hold everything completely... I'll have to try more efficient methods of packing. So in my car, I took the fire extinguishers, a box of misc. [fuel line and pump, extention cord, tiki torch pieces, and stuff like that.] The bowls fit well, though, and that's really promising.
They weren't really sure where to set it up, so I just kept putting pieces together, knowing it's easy to move -- until it's filled! :) Finally, they decided on putting it near the hot tub. Folks kept coming up to me, asking what I was making. I proudly told them it was a water fountain on fire. When I began moving it near the hot tub, one guy was concerned for the near-by cars. "No, it won't cause them any danger, plus, I'm not leaving it here, but putting it over there, more away from the cars," I assured him. Later, someone said I shouldn't tell the guy in the straw hat that I was doing anything having to do with fire because he's the landlord of the warehouse. Um...I just did. I wished I'd been better prepped. Well, It was no longer my concern. I had to get set up, and despite everyone's worry, the guy was very helpful, and helped me carry some things and set up. Besides, the firefall is really rather peaceful than dangerous.
I had everything set and ready to go, and needed only wait on my roommate Dave to show up to spot me. Greg Solberg offered to spot, but I decided to keep with someone I knew had some experience. I just want to err on the safe side.
Speaking of which, I was very careful to center the pedistle properly this time, and to make sure the fuel line was away from the pipe inlets, to avoid the problems I had at the Solstice Party. I also used three layers of filter cloth, like I did at the party. I decided not to change the fuel ring to the new double-loop so as not to be changing too many things at once. The centering, and moving the fuel outlet seemed to make a big difference.
Dave arrived around the time the Burning Man folks arrived. So we fired her up! It was difficult again to get the flames to stay lit at the top. I definitely want to put in a diverter in-line with the water line in. I'll have to think more carefully about how to do this...
We also weren't able to keep the inside of the bubble lit again, and we had a couple flares. It was quite frustrating, and I couldn't keep it lit, so it kept flaring -- all in front of Larry, of course... I eventually put a piece of wood in a stream of flames like last time, but opposite the fuel inlet, where most of the fuel was coming out as usual. This actually created an interesting effect -- the inner bubble area kept a group of small blue flames intact, but they burned in a whispy, fragmented way, not unlike the blue flameball we got at Burning Man and at Ben's party! Very lovely! And they often swirled around in a spiral. They really were lovely! I want to figure out a way to photograph them somehow... [Later, someone said they'd built an underwater camera which could be steered remotely and they might even be willing to try it in the firefall!]
Once the inner bubble calmed down, folks started playing the fire! My favorite was Maid Marion, who was all scrunched up in her black pullover, holding her hands out touching the flames! It was a memorable site for me, much like the woman in the silver wig at Burning Man, who played in the flames for hours and hours... I also took secret pride that when the coil was sending huge bolts of lightening at Lady Bee, who was dressed up in the Dr. Megavolt suit, most folks stayed over by the firefall to keep warm!
But Dave and I had to spot the firefall, so we didn't get do see Larry try on the suit and have lightening strike his head! :) [And Dave commented that it might just be the only time we'd ever get to see him without his hat!@#!$ Wow!]
Afterwards, I started breaking everything down. I knew I wouldn't be taking it home that night, but it'd be so much easier if it was all ready to go. I noticed the water was absolutely clear!! I'd used 4 layers for the Solstice Party, but the water didn't get nearly so clear! But, though I emptied the cruddy leaf-soaked brown water, I didn't really clean out the bottom bowl. But since I was tipping the whole thing on-end to bring to Dr. Megavolt, I did wipe it out clean, and rinse it well. I think this made the difference! That means three layers of filter are enough to make the water crystal clear with 2 hours of solid use! I'm absolutely thrilled with this! That means I won't have to be dumping 300 gallons of sooty water! I can dump clean water! Yay!
I had just about everything packed up, so when Dave and I saw everyone getting into the hot tub, we joined them! As it turns out, many of the folks work in the live film industry in one way or another. Austin was saying to someone that "well, you know the guy [who did the camera effects on The Matrix]. Why don't you see if he wants to do a shoot with Dr. Megavolt??" Now, that would be cool! Also, as I said, someone there [I wish I remembered his name] said he builds specialized cameras, and had built one for a fishing show that can be operated remotely under water. He was interested in trying to film the firefall from underwater! Austin was lamenting that he hadn't had time to take all the pictures he planned to with Dr. Megavolt, and I said, "it looks like you're in the same boat as we are: we don't have time to run it just for us to take pictures!" And he said we should all get together again and take pictures together. "In fact," he said, "is there any reason you have to take the firefall tonight?" Well, no! So we decided to leave it there. Later, Austin had left, and I couldn't help but blurt out, "what I want to so is to go in the suit!" The camera-building guy nodded, and said, "...well...that could be arranged..." Yay!! :)
So hopefully, there will be a part two to this story! :)
As per Greg Solberg's suggestion, I held a firefall party to celebrate the change-over from winter [rain, water] back to summer [sun, fire]. It was a small gathering, but even so, about 7-8 folks showed up as friends of friends who I dididn't even know! I had a great time! It was a lot of fun!
Scott was late in traffic, so we didn't get lit until 7pm. Greg and Lisa showed up with their light-up EL-wire cups. Dan Lyke showed up with some kid-friends of his -- he's been wanting to introduce them to me so they meet some "good pyros". :) Pretty much everyone got their hands wet and played with the flames. I didn't fill it quite as full as at Ben's party, which I think [hope] kept the fireball from happening.
Tuesday, we were having trouble getting the top bowl to light. Afterwards, both Scott and I realized simultaneously that it must be because the water was so very cold. I was planning on changing the water anyway, but we agreed I should change it the day we would be setting up, and also to cover the water with black plastic to generate heat from the sun somewhat. The night of the party, it lit reasonably okay with the fresh water -- though it was still not very bright as soon as we lit, and also, it got brighter as the night went on [and the water got warmer.] So we're pretty sure this was the problem.
Speaking of which, it started burning between the top inner aluminum lining and the bowl. No big deal, but it wasn't going out. I think the fuel was getting under the lining unburnt. This was near where the pipes come in. [I think this is because the bottom inner lining can't keep the fuel from getting under the top inner lining since there's a gap for the piping.] This was compounded by the fact that the pedistal wasn't centered [so the water came down really close to the sides] and the fuel was turned such that the inlet was on this side too [meaning that the pressure is highest there, so the most fuel was coming out there too.] All these things together caused the fuel to get behind the aluminum lining in the water, and when folks started playing, it started burning behind the lining. We decided to shut down a sec and fix it. I ended up using a piece of wood to keep the fuel from coming down so close, and also to raise the water level so the fuel can't get under the lining. The solutions are simple: add some lining over the pipes -- preferably bent towards the center so the water actually flows quickly away from the pipe area; make sure the pedistal is always centered; and turn the fuel inlet away from this area too. I also want to install the double-loop fuel feed, which will also help.
The 5gal can of fuel lasted about 2 hours and 10 minutes or so, and the water got only a little warm. I ran until 9pm, not to disturb the neighbors.
All in all, it went very well and we had a fabulous time!
Now we keep talking about that we need to run it just for us so we can take more pictures!
I talked to someone from Earth Circus at Dr. Megavolt's party. He asked how much it would cost, but -- like Kiki -- I hadn't decided yet. I said, "this is why I need a manager!" Then, with the prompt, Scott chimed in, figuring out loud: "1.5 hours to set up and break down, the run it for 3 hours... How about [he names a price about what I was thinking myself]?" "So [such-and-such] per hour?" Quite a bit... Scott shrugged, "well, yeah. Is that fair? I mean, would you consider paying that?" He shrugged and kinda nodded. So far so good!
On reflection, though, there's gonna be a lot more costs involved. Mainly, if there's audience interaction, we'll need more spotters than just me and Scott. Folks tend to want to talk to me, which takes my [precious] attention away. If we add another spotter, we'll have to pay them well. And certainly it would have to be someone I trusted... This price is certainly underselling ourselves, esp. when we become more professional at this... I don't mind under selling ourselves until we figure out best how to do this. I'll have to think about it more seriously, though...
Call from Ben: First real show
Again, I don't remember exactly when he called, but Ben from the Ranch folks said he was having a party and would like the firefall to be there! [His call was a follow up on some email he wrote on Oct. 7th, luckily I had given him my phone number as my email account went down for a time and I wasn't connected at all...] I insisted that it was BIG -- bigger than he remembered -- but he inststed that he had room for it, so we finally agreed on having him come over and just take a look at it.
Monday, November 8, 2000: Ben and Ruth come over
Well, Ben takes a look at it...and it is big! :) But he's sure it's still okay to bring, so we make arrangements for him to pick it up on thursday! Both of us are terribly excited about the whole thing for different reasons! :)
Wednesday, November 10, 1999: Fuel pump malfunctions
Wednesday, I add in a circle of hose to the fuel outlet to make the fire more uniform over the top bowl. I put in three pin-holes into the ring to make three places the fuel will come out and burn. I also made the water piping have a T instead of an elbow -- so one side of the T supports the weight of the top bowl better. I gas-up the pump and run the water, but don't run the fuel by myself, of course!
Later that day, I get two CO2 extinguishers. I like CO2 mainly because it doesn't have to be cleaned up if used. I want to feel absolutely free to use them if needed. I get one 15 pound and one 10 pound extinguisher. The 10 pound is still a bit much for me to weild by myself effortlessly, and I may get a 5 pound one if I can find one.
Scott came over later that evening to help out and to spot me -- and my brother was also in town on a last-minute conference with his students. [This is a big deal, since my brother works in the Virgin Islands!] I was hoping to show it to him and his students, but, sadly, Scott and I try to get the Cauldron fired up before packing it up the next day, but the fuel pump refuses to run. Not sure what had happened, but naptha is quite a potent solvent, and I figure it's dissolved some important pieces inside or something... We eventually give up and pack things back up...
Thursday, November 11, 1999: Ben and Trailer load up
Scott and I go out for parts. We get two fuel pumps, one for backup just in case the new one also fouls up too! The filter also has a tentency to come off, so I found a rubber ring that fit the water outlet, and added some bolts to the water outlet to hold the ring in place, and can now zip-tie the filter fabric in place far more securly. The fuel plug is a little more difficult to place in, however, but it's not impossible. I also get a tiki torch to use to light it with -- to keep my hands away from a possible flare if too much fuel gets below before lighting.
We fire it up, but it is really hard to see the blue flames. My downstairs roommate and his two boys come out to check it out. We could barely see the blue flames playing on the surface of the sheet of water, but they were there! We run it with a gallon can of naptha to see how much it uses up. It ran about 2/3 after 20 minutes, so we figured about 2 gallons an hour -- not nearly as bad as I had originally estimated!! I was quite pleased! Still, I planned to bring at least two 5 gallon cans to the party, and began to wonder if that was enough...
Ben shows up around 3pm with a trailer to pick it up. It was still set up, because I was still adding in these minor changes, but it took only a few minutes to empty it and pack it up. Ben enjoyed the Power of holding the feed hose while the pump empties the water! :) Not sure how long it took to pack up, but it was still light out when we got to his place in San Anselmo -- must've been only an hour or two to pack up from fully set up to in the trailer!
We unload everything and begin setting up in the courtyard. We get everything together pretty easily, and take a short break while the tank fills up. Ben asks me if I know about the animated movie "Princess Mononoke" and I laugh since I'd been following that movie for the last five years! I'm the hugest Miyazaki fan there ever was!! :) But I digress... :)
Thursday night: First run since bman!
Once the tank was filled up, I bled the fuel line, readied the filter, pulled the pins on the extinguishers so they are very ready to go... We spend a bit of time trying to get the water level in the top bowl. Unfortunately, the drum straddled a brick ornate line in the concrete in the courtyard, so when empty, it leaned one way, and full leaned the other way... This made it horribly difficult to level. Though, Ben does have an 8' level! Gotta get me one of those!! :) Turning the pump on and off, plus bleeding the fuel line caused some fuel to go down into the barrel inside. Not a big deal, but since it can't burn off, not sure what will happen with it...
I'm finally ready, and get Ben to turn on the fuel while I hold the tiki torch to light it... The torch worked very well! The surface lit nicely, and I went around to all sides to make sure all three places with fuel coming out were lit. I replace the torch in the ground -- putting it out, of course, since tiki torches are very dangerous [I'm not joking here, since they are an open flame, prone to being tipped over, and often totally ignored...] As I walk over to the fountain, there had been a small amount of build-up of fuel in the space under the top bowl. This ignited and pushed the sheet of water outward -- not a good effect to douse your audience! I was a bit worried about this effect... I also noticed when it flared that the hole in the barrel emitted a bit of a flame. I think this was because of the fuel trapped in there, and also due to the air feed coming through there from the fuel tunnel. Ben found the whole thing a bit exciting, but I saw it as something needing to be solved...
This whoosh was very similar to the blue cloud we got at Burning Man 1999, except a little more forceful. I liked it much better when it was slow-motion... :( I couldn't have this happen all night, even if it looked really cool. It was something I would have to be careful to watch for, since I didn't want the fuel to build up too much and throw out the water each time.
We played with the effect though, since it certainly was very cool and beautiful!
Saturday, November 13th, 1999: Party time!
[A bunch of pictures from the party]
Scott and I arrive at the party around 6pm and start setting up. I brought a new hoop for the fuel outlet, but decided not to make too many changes at once and set it aside. I put another layer of filter cloth over the outlet to reduce the flow and filter the water more. I had also gotten two more fuel cans -- 3 five-gallon cans of naptha total for the evening. Should be plenty.
Just as we were about ready to fire up, my brother, his sweety, and his four students show up! I kept everyone away until it was lit and until I was sure the inner area flared up and wouldn't throw the water out. I found that I could place a little piece of wood on the edge near a fuel stream and that would keep the flames inside and keep the fumes lit. I was a bit frustrated that I had to keep such a close watch on this. This must change in the future: I really need my attention used for other things... I'm working on solving this for the future... The kids were timid, but one girl -- who started out very timid -- got quite enthusiastic and played with the flames!
We also played with the blue cloud effect some -- and got some amazing effects!! If it was done just right so the flame burned very slowly, it looked almost like alge on the surface of water...bubbles and foam of flames. I wish I could describe this with any justice!! We shall see how the pictures come out! I am so excited!!
It was very well received by the folks at the party! I passed out my little "chits" of my web page. We had the blue cloud effect all evening, and folks scooped out the flames and enjoyed that a lot!
I brought out spray bottles with naptha in them, like we had done many times at our house on our deck. I let my friend Loren play with one, and he used it to get the blue cloud effect quite consistantly! Unfortunately, the bottle leaked a bit and I didn't know that or I would never have let someone use it...and it leaked over his hand, and since he was playing so close to the flames, it caught on fire... He got some small blisters, and we used the extinguisher to put out the flames... Not going to use spray bottles with the firefall ever again. As Scott said, it's too much flames at once... They're fun on the playa, but we just have to be far more careful with non-pyros around as we play.
Scott should be commended for being so quick with the extinguisher!!
I was sad about this, because I want my display to be absolutely safe and incident-free, of course. I just have to be even more careful.
[I have realized just what a big beast I hold the reigns of... The Cauldron is quite a powerful force to be controlled. I keep this strictly in mind every time I light it up! I must always keep this beast under my control.
Saturday night, Nov. 13th: Slides
Ben surprized us during the slide show with pictures of us setting up! He had some really amazing pictures of the firefall running! The pictures of the blue flames running along the sides of the sheet of flames were breath-taking! Now I really can't wait for Scott's pictures to be developed! [I also can't wait to get a scanner or slide scanner!!]
Not sure when she called me, but Noel called me back sometime in November. She is organizing a show in February and would like to invite me to possibly do this show. Not sure if she wants the Cauldron, since it will be in the same place as the last show that she and Nicolas invited me to... But if nothing else, I can bring other artwork of mine!
I'm not really sure when Nicolas called, but it was for an art show his friends were putting on on Oct. 23, 1999! He was also wanting the small firefall while his band played the next day! I sadly explained the small one was broken and I was also a bit dubious of the Cauldron, since it's so BIG... The woman organizing the show, Noel, called me back, but we both agreed that the Cauldron was probably a bit too big for what they were doing... :( So I had to decline the offer to show it at their art show.