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Nerdy Man

Geeks and Burners and Burner Geeks converge at Yuri's Night Bay Area.

Story by Julie Wiskirchen with photos by Julie Wiskirchen and Bill Gilman

April 19, 2008

Yuri's Night is a global celebration of space exploration which I guess is as good an excuse to party as any. It's named after Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, and there are over 100 Yuri's Night parties around the world. It's an unusual event, bringing together the geekiest of geeks (yes, people in Star Trek costumes) with the Burning Man crowd (variously costumed, sometimes on stilts). You can get your science fix during the day and into the evening, checking out talks and exhibits, and then at night techno DJs take over. The 2nd annual Bay Area party was held on April 12, 2008 and went from 2pm - 2am.

Upon arrival at Moffett Field, I met up with some friends and checked out a few science booths. I contemplated the Trash Tea Temple, a smaller-scale version of the temple installed at Burning Man 2007 where we took shelter at 4am after gifting PB&J to the masses. There were some funky breakdancers performing in front of the temple.

I caught a talk by Will Wright, the designer behind the Sim City games. His talk was supposed to cover his fascination with the Russian space program and his new video game called Spore, but he spent so much time going through the history of the space program (which was interesting) that he didn't have much time to talk about Spore. Fortunately, there was a booth where people could try out the game if they so desired.

There was a good air show, featuring some aerobatic pilots. Many state-of-the-art hybrid and electric vehicles were on display, including the high-performing Tesla. I think the show could have used some more Burning Man type art and interactive exhibits. There were a few worth noting: a fire sculpture, the aforementioned temple, and the Cyclecide - a bicycle-powered swing ride. But we kind of ran out of things to see and there was a bit of downtime in entertainment in the early evening. This led to insanely long lines for the 4 food booths and 2 beer booths. I think we waited about an hour for food that wasn't worth the wait. I would suggest incorporating more food and drink vendors into next year's event. The long lines were evident in the afternoon too, which was strangely hot for the Bay Area. Being on the tarmac at the air field only made things hotter, and we recalled the uncomfortable humidity and crowd scene at Woodstock '99. That is a less-than-positive association.

Tired from the heat and long lines, we left before the evening's entertainment heated up. Telstar (featuring Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead) were due to perform along with some DJs who would be spinning til 2am. There were many folks hanging out waiting to get their groove on.

While I didn't have an insanely fun time, I definitely recommend the event for techno fans and science fans. I think I'm unfortunately not enough of either category to really appreciate it, but I did enjoy checking out the costumes and the air show and getting the inside-NASA experience.

Behold the photos...

the air show

long lines for beer and food and where was the astronaut ice cream?

Meet an astronaut-in-waiting (No, I've never been to Space...but I've been to Oklahoma...)

A young astronaut watches Cyclecide - a human bike-powered swing ride

Fiery art

Projections on a jumbo jet

A side view spares you a glimpse of camel toe

Bears in balloon helmets

The main music tent

Breakin' at the temple

Temple at night


Visit the Yuri's Night Bay Area website

Check out my Picasa Web Album for more photos


Been to Yuri's Night? Did you find it to be outta this world?


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