Thursday, September 20, 2007

A psychedelic wonderland

As most of my loyal readers know by now, I like to throw in the occasional off-topic entries to keep things interesting. And, if you hadn't noticed, this is a newsy week. But rather than delve into controversial topics like the war in Iraq or racial tensions in a small Louisiana town - or even the origin of this week's new catchprase, "Don't tase me, bro!" - I thought I'd discuss the Blue Man Group.

Why, you might ask? Well, it turns out two of the group's three founders - Matt Goldman and Chris Wink - recently opened a nursery school. The Blue Man Creativity Center now enrolls more than 40 kids between the ages of two and four.

I'm going to back-track here for a minute to talk about the actual Blue Man Group (or BMG). If you've never experienced a show, well, you're missing out and I say get thee to a performance. However, it's also a little hard to describe a production that features props like twinkies, marshmallows, Cap'n Crunch, jell-o, paint, toilet paper, a glow-in-the-dark band and odd homemade instruments. Described by its creators as a simple way to experience the joy of being alive, the Blue Man Group is truly a feast for the audience's senses.

I haven't been in a few years, but I still vividly remember the band playing an even more twisted-than-usual version of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," while an enthusiastic audience sang along and electronic signs flashed various messages. And I recall nearly drowning in a sea of toilet paper coming from every corner of the theater during the strobe-lit final minutes.

A little advice, by the way, for those of you attending a Blue Man Group show and sitting in one of the front rows - bring a poncho. It gets a little sloppy up there.

So back to the new day care center. Here's a description from the New Yorker:

"Every day at the center will end with a ritual called Glow Time, during which the shades are lowered, the regular lights are turned off, and black lights are turned on, illuminating the parts of the room (including work created by the students) that have been painted with special UV paint. The collection of Blue Man-inspired educational gewgaws on hand is a far cry from flash cards and Play-Doh. There’s a hypnotic Bubble Machine, with kid-controlled colored lights; a futuristic Water Machine, with a mini-whirlpool; and a trippy installation, left over from the B.M.G.’s 2003 tour, of giant computer-animated dragonflies that can be made to light up, flap their wings, and fly. The Tree House, whose slide deposits kids in the Texture Pit, looks like fun. So does the OMi-Beam machine, a computerized rig made up of eight ceiling-mounted halogen lamps, loudspeakers, and a video monitor (there is only one other OMi-Beam machine in the country, at Madame Tussaud’s). Colored beams create pools of light on the floor, and by waving a reflective wand through the beams kids can produce any number of sounds, from musical instruments to the calls of barnyard animals and samples of pop hits from the nineteen-eighties (one is Fatboy Slim’s “Rockafeller Skank”)."

How cool is that? It's akin to stepping into Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. All they need is lickable wallpaper and a chocolate river and it's a true utopia for children.

That being said, this sounds like a pretty sweet stomping ground even for adults. Computer-animated dragonflies, black lights and bubble machines? Seriously!
Think they'd accept me into the program? I might have 20-plus years on the other students, but I could teach the kiddies all about the 1980s pop hits that will be playing in the background.

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