Exhibition Inquisition

The stuff you look at, but don't see.

Night Life

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California Academy of Sciences

What are you wearing!?

In case you didn’t know, I love 21+ museum events.  They combine three of my favorite things: museums, drinking, and a child-free environment.  While I was briefly home in San Francisco I checked out an event similar to the MCA’s First Friday program: Night Life at the California Academy of Sciences.   Every Thursday (that’s right it’s weekly!) the Academy opens its doors to the masses of yuppy first daters, and unwashed hipsters (seriously I overheard several conversations about burning man).  Like MCA’s First Fridays, every Night Life is themed; the theme on the night I went was Fire and Ice.  With a theme like that how could I not have a good time?

Polar animals are just so much more PC than a Christmas tree or menorah.

The Academy was still decked out in holiday gear, except that unlike the tacky Christmas decorations of say the Field, the Academy had a more universal décor.  Avoiding faith-based decorations, the theme was Polar.  A giant inflatable igloo had been erected in the “piazza,” and inside you could watch a short movie about the aurora borealis.  The Academy had brought out its rarely seen collection of polar animals: bear, arctic sheep, etc.  And the Academy had snow! Okay not really, it was actually really cheap snow, really soap suds that got spewed out of some fans.  After living in Chicago for the first part of winter, this left much to be desired.


(Some lackluster firedancing.)

So the ice part wasn’t so interesting, but the fire part was.  The fire was provided by the Copper Lantern Fire Theater.  The video I have of it was of this kind of nasty couple, that I wasn’t impressed by. Later on, however, the pro-fire dancers came on—a fire hula hoop was involved that’s all I’m going to say.

Makeout spots.

The Academy is a different place at night, which was most evident on the living roof and in the aquarium.  The roof is a perfect sightseeing / makeout spot and clad in romantic(?) red lights.  Downstairs, the large tanks normally lit with sunlight, are dark, making them even more beautiful and mysterious.  As in the day time, a small army of volunteers in  hideous orange labcoats were on hand with little carts with interactive stuff—one had fossils, another some dry ice, one even had live hissing cockroaches.

Who chose this color and why?

A crowded attraction was the touch tank where visitors can pet starfish and other sea critters.  It’s hilarious that this display is so popular with children and adults.  The major difference being the adults can simultaneously hold a Coors Light and a sea cucumber.  I worried about possible spillage, but the staff didn’t seem concerned.

Sea cucumbers thrive in beer right?

Both the rainforest bio dome and the planetarium were open, but closed early.  Those butterflies in the bio dome need to sleep too okay!  One thing that stayed open was the visible lab—the display where real scientists are put behind glass so that visitors can see them taxidermy owls.  I have a lot of respect for the poor fools who work in there.  Not only are they trying to do their science-y jobs, but they have to put up with little brats or drunken adults banging on the glass while attempting delicate science stuff.  I hope they get paid overtime.  A girl next to me asked me if the owl being taxidermied was still alive—the first sign people were starting to get drunk.

It’s nine! Time to get our drink on.

Around nine, the displays started to close, so people headed back to the seven plus bars scattered around the building.  The cheaper drinks were vodka drinks because of the alcohol sponsor, Blue Angel Vodka, which is the only sponsor of the event. Correction the “exclusive sponsor.” (Ahem, MCA…)

It was also around this time that people started to take notice of the DJ.  Mind you he had been there all night long. Around the stroke of nine, a large crowd of buzzed folks started to gather.  The awkward shifting from side to side gradually gave way to all-out fist pumping.  Two songs most popular with the crowd were La Roux’s Bulletproof, and Daft Punk’s One More Time (a classic that never fails to get my hips gyrating).  The DJ, Aaron Axelsen (from live 105) also spins at Popscene, one of my old (pre-21) haunts.  Aww the memories, and props to you Academy of Sciences for choosing such a hip DJ.

Not enough fist pumping!

When I left around 9:45, the dancing had reached a dizzying frenzy.  People were starting to get rowdy. I wanted to join them so badly, but it was not to be.  On my way out, I asked some security types if people ever get too rowdy at Night Life and if they’ve ever had to eject someone from the event.  The response was that yes, sometimes it happens. Sometimes fights break out on the dancefloor! (Emphasis mine.) Well hello!  Night Life sounds like an event I need to attend more often.  However, when I was leaving, the building did smell mildly of a kegger, but a kegger I didn’t have to clean up after, so it was all good.

– H.I.

P.S.  I will be celebrating my return to Chicago at MCA’s First Fridays this week, the theme is SUGAR who wants to join?  I need to put on some winter weight.

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