Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Last Disneyland 5K

In front of King Arthur's Carousel
Once again, we braved the pre-dawn darkness to participate in the Disneyland 5K earlier this month. And, lucky, too, because we learned afterward that this was the final race weekend being held at the resort. Citing complications related to the new Star Wars land construction, Disney decided to end the Disneyland walk/run and focus just on Walt Disney World instead. We are not happy about this, but at least we got one last behind-the-scenes walk in. So long, Disney 5K!

Waiting for the race to begin

Still dark when we walked through Cars Land

Happy, happy!

The Moonliner at dawn—always my favorite 5K sight

Finishing in daylight

Sunday, November 19, 2017

War of the Worlds Opera

War of the Worlds opera logo
I am freakishly obsessed with the 1940s air raid sirens that still dot L.A.’s urban landscape. Erected during WWII and active through most of the Cold War, they were a major part of my childhood, when we had to practice ducking-and-covering under our school desks every time the sirens were tested (at 10AM the last Friday of the month). 

Although decommissioned many decades ago, a majority of the sirens continue to quietly stand guard today. Most people don’t even notice them, but I think they’re marvelous: rusting artifacts of a time when America knew exactly who its enemies were. 

No wonder, then, that I was thrilled to hear that three air raid sirens were being reactivated as part of a new public performance based on War of the Worlds, Orson Welles’ infamous radio play. Staged as an opera at Disney Hall, in downtown Los Angeles, the concert was interrupted by live radio interviews, detailing a Martian invasion around the city. The interviews were being remotely broadcasted from sirens located within one mile of Disney Hall. I immediately reserved tickets for one of the sites.


 Site 1: Olive and 1st

Site 2: Main St. between 3rd and 4th

Site 3: Hill St. between 7th and 8th
Anxious to see how the sirens had been retrofitted for the performance, we scoped-out the three remote sites last weekend. Sure enough, the sirens got a fresh coat of paint and new up-to-date black speakers. We also got to see puppeteers rehearsing with one of the Martian aliens—very exciting! This looked to be a fun event and indeed it was.


 Puppeteers rehearsing with mechanical Martian

Tim, Karen and I were greeted by three soldiers when we arrived at our assigned site yesterday afternoon. They told us to remain calm, even though they themselves were visibly nervous about something. The “stage” was setup in an empty parking lot on Hill St. About 200 white folding chairs faced the small platform as well as, of course, the air raid siren, which ended up being the centerpiece of the production.


 Soldiers, General Lansing (one of the opera singers),
and air raid siren in the background
After a short while, we heard an orchestra warming up through speakers placed behind us. The narrator, actress Sigourney Weaver, was introduced and the opera began. The music was suitably eerie as we listened and waited.


 Soldier taking aim at the menacing air raid siren (no!)
About five minutes into the concert, Sigourney politely interrupted with news that “incandescent gas” from Mars was hurtling toward L.A. at “an enormous velocity.” She advised that there was nothing to worry about, but reminded the audience to take note of the nearest exit in case we had to suddenly flee. Soon there were reports of “cylindrical objects on poles in the sidewalk” doing strange things as our siren started emitting high-pitched noises. Turns out L.A.’s innocent-looking air raid sirens had been hiding dormant Martians for 70 years and now they were coming to life! Sure enough, we were soon joined by a large mechanical creature, crawling along the sidewalk and threatening our space.


 Under attack!
Not only was it fun hearing our siren “speak” again after all these years, but the actors’ dialog was very L.A.-centric. Lines like “a loud, metallic bang was heard as far north as Tarzana” and “enemy tripod machines over the Cahuenga Pass” had us howling with laughter. In the end, music—and the controversial “titanium” skin covering Disney Hall—saved the day. But we were warned that “our world [is] being watched closely/With envious eyes/By a great intelligence.”


 Disney Hall and its titanium skin

So. Much. Fun.