saturday august 25
we hit the road at 1:30pm and arrived in BRC around 10:00. set up camp out at 3:00 and walk-in- way out on the edge of the city, where the streets have no name, where we would have no neighbors – under a full moon until about 2:00a. went to sleep on a quiet playa. it was beautiful.
sunday august 26
finished setting up camp; rode around BRC; went to register Remembrane at the ARTery, helped FP set up, chillaxed.
monday august 27
me, jay and calli set up Remembrane – the blue and green bamboo shade structure that jay designed and calli sewed the panels for – out in the deep playa, ~1 mile past the man and almost to the orange fence. it took us about 5 hours from start to finish to put it up and stake it down. we got help from several strangers, one of whom was a self-proclaimed “conservative” with a good ol’ boy accent who more or less followed a girl to burning man. i wonder how his week went. went back and helped FP set up some more. the full lunar eclipse started happening around 1:00 am and was breathtaking, lasting for hours and the moon turning from a full white orb into a deep blood red.
during this, from about 3:00-5:00am, jay was playing on the Garage Mahal art car (thx to our friend Tamo) and we were just riding around the playa, which was still pretty quiet, and it was also during this time that Paul Addis torched the man. i didn’t see the man burning, just the firetrucks’ tall streams of water a few minutes later. most of the buzz of the evening and the next days wasn’t angry or sad – like i said – someone burning something at burning man is like…. duh. Addis’ statements to the press since then are totally right on:
“I started to see that Burning Man’s social impact and efficacy in having a substantial role in domestic policy and personal growth was nil. Burning Man had degenerated into a postindustrial disco.” — valleywag
this interview in Wired especially touches on a lot of the things i felt about burning man after last year:
…everyone keeps waiting for something to happen and it never does. I think that is symbolic and really emblematic of Burning Man’s suburbanization of the underground and homogenization of the underground.
i think most burners – especially those who have been going for years and see where the event is moving – support what he did in one way or another, especially since the “green pavilion” under the man, showcasing new “green” technologies, was more like a trade show display than anything artistic and i think a lot of people were happy it was gone, although there are still those who think he’s just a manic fuckwad who was having a megalomaniacal moment and that he should be punished to the full extent of the law for endangering others. anywho, whether or not the action was right i think the effect has been positive.
with 25,000 people already in BRC by Monday afternoon, a higher population than ever, burning the man early and creating this sort of buzz about who/what/why was totally needed. the “green man” theme didn’t seem to be affecting the behaviour of the average BRC citizen too much except to create a sort of “holier than thou” attitude amongst the community at large and lots of patting-oneself-on-the back for yet another successful greenwashing campaign. people definitely needed a kick in the ass this year to start them thinking about how they actually feel about the hard decisions this community needs to make and what they really feel about freedom, civil rights, art and property.
anyway, with the eclipse and the man burning drama over, when the garage mahal art car ran out of gas, we went over to Remembrane and watched the sunrise, took some photos of the “trees” around the man, and went home.
tuesday august 28
after sunrise, went to sleep around 10am for about 2-3 hours until it got too hot, then got up and prepared for the long marathon of a day ahead. jay was in charge of sound logistics for False Profit’s tuesday night party and had to start equipment/DJ-wrangling at around 3:00pm. i hung around camp and went out for some bike rides, enjoying the half-empty city and beautiful desert afternoon, running into friends here and there.
after dark, we got ready for the night and the party went OFF. the FP camp was beautiful and full of smiling faces, the music was fantastic and as it was early in the week, everyone was still full of energy and got right down to it. a couple of people i’d only been communicating with online via blogs came and it was really fun to meet them IRL and i spent a good amount of time chatting. also spent some qT with orange and others, and by the time the sun came up the crowd was winding down and at around 8:30am we pulled the plug and it was time for strike.
jay was totally wiped out at this point, having been “working” on the party since 3:00 the previous afternoon and only a few hours of sleep, and he went and laid down in the shade structure near the end of fkir’s set. i don’t know what it is that i sense when jay’s blood sugar drops, but i looked over at him and knew, when everyone else just assumed he was passed out. obviously we hadn’t eaten since the evening before, so maybe it was just common sense, and i went over to him and tried to get him to sit up and talk to me. i felt bad waking him up because i knew he was exhausted but i also knew that i couldn’t just let him go to sleep. it was part of the reason i was still there and awake at the party myself even though i had felt like going home hours earlier; would anyone else there know to pay attention if jay needed help? probably not. they would have just let him crash on the couch and who knows how that might turn out. so i woke him up and asked him if he had checked his blood-sugar recently and he responded NOLEAVEMEALONE in his low-blood sugar tone, which is something like a 5-year-old refusing to eat his vegetables, and so i retrieved his glucometer and made him test it and it was super low and then made him drink a red bull at eat a luna bar. 10 minutes later he was on his feet helping take equipment down, so no harm done, but just thinking about what might have happened had i not been there, had i gone back to camp, had i not noticed the low-blood sugar signs was a definitely sobering moment. i hate that i get sort of neurotic about it, but honestly if i weren’t my boyfriend might actually die, so …. sigh.
wednesday august 29
there is a saying around false profit that tuesday night turns into thursday morning. and it more or less did. after the party ended we went back to camp and tried to sleep for a few hours but it was too hot, so we went back to FP and took care of taking back some of the stuff jay had borrowed from other camps for the party. when it started to cool down around 4pm we went back to camp and passed out cold until thursday morning. wednesday was more or less a complete wash.
thursday august 29
i meant to get up at sunrise to participate in the thursday morning white procession to the temple, but didn’t. i got up a little later in the morning and still put on my white outfit (for the record: best outfit of the week, i think, once again created right there in camp with safety pins and fabric scraps) though, and then we rode around the playa looking at art. Remembrane was still up and people were enjoying it, and we hung out there for a while. later in the afternoon, we set out to find jason’s camp and just after we did, the first real dust storm of the week hit. we sat in the moving truck in their camp, eating eggs and watching dust blow, knowing that probably both our camp out in walk-in was probably blown-down and wondering how Remembrane was holding up in the winds. as it started to slow down, we made our way back to our camp to find out that yes, indeed, our shade structure had once again (for the 3rd year in a row), blown down in the wind. fortunately, even when the canvas falls down it keeps everything underneath it contained and so our whole camp doesn’t blow away in the wind. the tent was still standing underneath it, and so we opted to just leave it down. besides, we had more fun things to do than put our camp back up, so we opened a bottle of champagne, poured 4 glasses and took a walk through the dust storm with whit and nicole, laughing at the whole thing. i mean, you’re just not going to win against the dust, so you might as well love it.
false profit had their traditional Thursday Night dinner and we enjoyed some fine curry and salad and dinner company, and then got ready for jay’s 12-2:00am set at Polaris, a friend’s camp. we arrived at their dome a little before midnight and there weren’t too many people there; and when the DJ who was on left, so did most of the people. jay (er….obi-J) went on and played a really good set, and i danced a lot. oh how i love empty dancefloors and non-crowded spaces. 6-10 of our friends came and went, so we had a small little gathering, but i quite liked it and i danced for almost the whole 2 hours that jay played, and was pretty exhausted by the end of it. i wasn’t interested in doing much after that; plus, i knew we had to get up and re-set up our camp in the morning, so we went home and went to sleep around 3:00a.
it turns out that was the only real night of dancing i had on the playa this year; i avoided all the other dance venues/scenes except to maybe just stop by and check them out, just not really wanting to “fight the scene”. those late night dusty dancefloors are a bit too overwhelming for me, what with everyone going full tilt plus all the amateur ravers you have to deal with. it’s not until about 5:00a that things start to calm down to the point where i might enjoy the dancing, and by then i’ve usually given up and gone to sleep. plus, i’m generally so physically exhausted out there that mustering up the energy to dance proper just doesn’t happen that much. just like hooping. there was no hooping done this year either. too much dust in the lungs, too much heat on the brain, too little sleep to do something that requires as much energy as that.
friday august 31
we got up early and re-set up our camp, reinforcing as best we could, and then went out to check on Remembrane. it wasn’t doing so well. one of the stakes had pulled out in thursday’s dust storm, and a whole side collapsed. still, people were sitting in it, playing with the toys we had placed inside and it didn’t seem like a hazard, so we left it even though there was the nicest note, addressed “to the artist”, tied to one of the fallen bamboo poles, from a guy that said Remembrane had been his favorite art piece, that he took lots of pictures of it, and if we wanted to come and try to find him he would help us put it back up.
later that afternoon, the wind started acting really weird. on the ground it was blowing toward the east, but higher up a large cloud formation was moving west. two fronts were merging, and that can only mean one thing: storm. a ranger came around telling everyone that 60 MPH winds and rain were approaching and everyone should buckle down. we did, and waited for it to come, and boy howdy did it blow through. we stayed in FP’s camp, knowing that our own camp was probably blowing down again, but not really caring. i mean, what could we do? after about half an hour, the wind and dust subsided a bit, and then it started to rain. cold, hard, pelting raindrops. you could feel the energy in the air from the storm, the sky was a crazy color blue/green, and even though we all stood outside laughing the nervous energy was palpable – if it rains TOO much, the whole playa turns to thick clay that could take DAYS to dry, bringing the city to a stand still, and we all stood nervously hoping that it wouldn’t turn into a torrential downpour. after a few minutes, the rain stopped and the clouds started to part, and LO AND BEHOLD (seriously), the most incredible rainbow any of us had ever seen appeared – double arches that went end to end on the playa – completely magical, and totally worth it even knowing that our camp might be completely destroyed. everyone around was cheering and looking up at the sky in awe. even to the most sober eyes, it was the brightest and most beautiful rainbow anyone had ever seen.
we rode back out to walk-in, and sure enough, our camp was blown over. again. but oh well. this time, we just staked it down really low and said screw it. we only had 2 more nights.
friday night we were graciously hosted for dinner by stephen and mary, who had lasagna in their dome! going out later that evening, we opted to walk instead of bike, as there were so many people out and about that riding your bike felt like a never-ending obstacle course, even while sober. we walked all over the playa, found some friends at the SpaceCowboys/DiOrIeNt party at the bigrigjig, checked out the party scene on the 10:00 side (whoah, ravers!), and strolled around enjoying the calm after the storm, taking in the sites and sounds but avoiding the crowds. went to bed at a reasonable time, i think.
saturday september 1
for saturday, we had three goals:
1. tie down camp in case of another afternoon dust storm
2. get ice (which involved standing in line in the hot sun for 45 minutes)
3. get FP art car and take down Remembrane, which we assumed was totalled by friday’s storm
after dealing with camp and getting ice (and getting a letter from my mom in which she told me she had quit smoking! which made me sooooo happy!), we headed out to wander around, and eventually found ivan at his camp, N-GON (which had an awesome trampoline). he agreed to come with us to help clean up Remembrane, and so we headed back to FP to rendezvous with calli to go clean it up. we had waited around camp for her for almost an hour and finally decided to go without her because we didn’t want to have to work in the dark. we expected it might take us 2-3 hours of work to get everything cleaned up and loaded, as we had heard it was totally blown over.
we headed out in the art car, way out past the temple and couldn’t see it. we figured we couldn’t see it because it was leveled; but then i spotted a pile of stuff and said “i think it’s that pile over there”. as we approached, we were sort of confused. it didn’t look like we expected it to look. at first i thought everything had literally blown away and that we had lost 50% of our materials. in fact, everything was neatly piled, all the rugs rolled up, lights organized, and almost half of it was already gone! i panicked at first, thinking someone got pissed that it was some kind of eyesore or safety hazard and cleaned it up and that we’d get some kind of nasty note from the ARTery or something, but there on one of the rugs sat two old naked people (who were… about to get it on and thought we were just being voyeuristic by walking right up to them. ha!) who told us that “some girl came by in a pig art car and her and her friends cleaned it up. they said another crew would come for the rest of it.” turns out calli was out riding around on the art car, took the crew by the site to pick up some of the toys, and they all jumped out and volunteered to help clean it up, saving us HOURS of work! it was such an amazing feeling – such a gift to us, as we were really dreading working out there with just the 3 of us. instead, we quickly loaded up the materials and then opened up a bottle of champange and watched the sunset. yay!
THANK YOU to our unknown friends on the You Are That Pig art car that cleaned up Remembrane! we are so grateful!
we returned the art car back to FP, spend another 45 minutes or so unloading and packing up everything, and then headed back to our camp to get ready for burn night. i wasn’t really in the mood to totally go all night long; i figured we’d watch the burn(s) (the Crude Awakening burn had been delayed by a night because of the dust storms) and then go to bed and maybe get up for some dancing at sunrise, which, last year, was “epic”. whatever that means. we caught up with the FP art car and got on – the man burned – woo hoo – and then car headed over to watch the oil derrick explosion, which, rumor had it, was to be the largest fuel explosion in the history of the US and so we parked the art car far, far from it.
after much waiting and many people falling asleep, sometime after 1:00am an air raid siren finally grabbed our attention, a cloud of smoke rose from the crowd, and fireworks started going off. lots of them. like….yawn. so many fireworks. then, the fire started. it was not just a fire. it was a fire PLUME, and then suddenly – WHOOOOM: an enormous fireball filled the night sky. it looked (and felt, even from 1/2 mile away) like an atomic bomb blast. “don’t worry, they bought enough carbon credits to cover it”, someone with a megaphone joked as the whole wooden structure when up in flames. using (rumor has it) 1,000 gallons of propane to ignite an art piece that is supposed to be a statement on our dependence on oil: the lack of irony was stomach turning and a bit disheartening. during the display i kept thinking about how sad it was that even such a really creative and talented group of artists as that couldn’t come up with something GREEN as a finale – they gave in to wanting to please the crowd (i don’t care if they couched it as “an ironic celebration”, because that is NOT how irony works, yo) with expected explosions instead of creating something totally unique and beautiful and unexpected to drive home their (supposed) message of ending the oil worshipping in this culture. instead, they worshipped oil. i mean – wow. what a complete bummer for those of us who were hoping for something more next-level from that crew.
so…. i’m genuinely wondering, like many others: did they really buy enough carbon credits to offset all that fuel used for the explosion? i mean, if you’re going to build a massive art piece commenting on US oil addiction and then use tons of fuel to create a crowd-pleasing explosion, which seemed rather self-congratulatory, ….i sure as hell hope that as an artist you find a way to resolve that incredible contradiction. i can’t find anything on their site with any insight as to how the artist(s) explain their position other than a brief mention of purchasing offsets in their plan for the project.
do the ends justify the means? in this case, to me it seems the point (oil addiction is killing us) was lost with the explosion (look at our awesome fireball!), even with carbon offsets (which many claim are complete BS and a way for the rich/enabled to feel OK about continuing to live excessively while still abusing a natural resource). i am not trying to be snarky; i would really like to hear their explanation/defense of their such flamboyant use of fuels in an art piece that more or less protests our use of fuels. i would email them but i heard they took off for australia to put up another installation.
update: this piece in Wired mag offers this explanation of their position:
“The artists realize that it might seem indulgent to burn so much fuel for art meant to dramatize our warped relationship with fuel. They understand those concerns. But they stress the personal conservation efforts about environmental and carbon impact that working on the piece created in all the 180 people involved, which they expect to continue.
The fuel the piece consumes only amounts to an ounce or so of fuel per attendee at the event, they note. Cusolito, who says she is thought of by her friends as somewhat of an “environmental Nazi,” says she thinks of Crude Awakening as if “all the energy I have not consumed by living the way I do, it’s almost as if I get credits” to use the fuel to “make the biggest environmental statement I could make in my lifetime.”
so, the crew is making up for it with personal sacrifices? and carbon credits aren’t meant to be “cashed in”, yo.
Its creators hope this massive flame will send a powerful message about the oil economy.
i still i just don’t agree with their ironic interpretation.
anyway, the night didn’t end as early as planned, and i ended up laying in the hammock (awesome) outside our tent for a couple of hours, under a blanket staring up at the moon and night sky, listening to the rumble and noise from the other side of BRC, wondering what the hell i was doing there.
sunday september 2
sunday morning is often my favorite time, but this one was a bit melancholy because we knew we were for sure packing up camp and leaving that evening. we spent the earlier part of the morning putting everything away and packing up underneath the shade before it got too hot, spent the hot hours of the afternoon dozing under the shade structure, and then packed it all up into the minivan at around 4:00p. we then headed out for one last bike ride around the playa, looked at more art, took some more photos, saw jason! while climbing on the beautiful metal lotus, and then headed back to FP to say our good-byes.
we hit the road at around 8:00p, it took us about 2:45 to get to the highway, and we rolled into Reno around 1:00a and found a random hotel room on the edge of town (after about the 5th try and almost giving up as most hotels were booked with it being labor day weekend and all, and some of the night clerks were downright rude when i walked in asking about vacancy. what the hell ever happened to vacancy/no vacancy signs?!) the hotel we found had a sign that didn’t look like a hotel sign and had a lot of words in weird font on it and looked more in the style of a Hofbrau or something – jay happened to notice that it said something about rooms, and we pulled in. the girl at the desk was really nice – it was a “wedding chapel and theme room” motel, with theme rooms ranging from “cave man” to “egyptian palace”. we had our choice between the Jungle Room and the Bridal Suite. uh…Jungle Room. the room was sort of janky with fake plastic vines nailed to the walls and a round bed, and the only channel that came in on the TV was some horrible porn. didn’t matter though – we just wanted to sleep, and after my first shower in over a week, we did.
monday september 3
got up, headed down to this good coffee house along the river in downtown reno that we discovered a while back, got brunch, then proceeded to sit in the Nugget and drink $5 32-oz margaritas until it was time to go check into the nice hotel, where a burning man afterparty was supposed to be taking place. standing in line to check-in we saw lots of people we knew, some of whom we’d missed out on the playa, and everyone seemed in pretty good spirits. we didn’t really care much about the after-party, but were really stoked about the suite we had booked. the hotel was nice, had dark carpeting, and our room had wood interiors, a marble bathroom/shower, a TV in the toilet, a flat-screen TV in the bedroom, an ENORMOUS king size bed with furry pillows and egyptian cotton sheets, a fridge, a microwave, and a chocolate brown suede couch. it was perfect.
we decided to head down to the pool party early, even though it was mostly empty and not really a party yet, to catch one more afternoon of sun. the girl working the door said “hey, i know you, i read your blog” when we approached (hi!). the pool had a sandy “beach” VIP section, which we got into via our friend Cam and ran into some more friends who we hadn’t seen on the playa and drank some more margaritas. once the sun went down, we went back upstairs to have dinner and take a nap, planning to come back down for what we assumed would be a full-swing party later in the evening, but alas, that king size bed sucked us RIGHT IN and we slept for 14 hours straight until the next morning.
tuesday september 4
woke up just before 11, noted that we’d slept through the afterparty (true to form) but didn’t care, packed up, checked out, and got some breakfast. it was sort of fun being in the swank hotel with all the burners – very reminiscent of the days when we’d go to phish shows and whole hotels in places like vegas or phoenix would get taken over with dirty hippies and everyone would STARE as you walked through the halls but you could all easily identify eachother and smile and giggle as you danced by the muggles. like hippies, burners more or less have fairly identifiable fashion trends that are certainly not your average street wear, and lots of touristy-looking people had these looks as you walked by like “when the hell did the gypsy circus roll into town?” after brunch we headed back to oakland and arrived home shortly after 5pm.
it’s still very strange how, even reading this chronological record, time simultaneously goes extremely slow yet also very fast out there (and other places where there is no schedule and only the rising and setting of the sun and moon). some afternoons you would ask someone what time it was and if they said “2:00pm” it would seem hilarious – the day was taking FOREVER to happen, time slowly crawling along with the shadows, and afternoons seeming endless. but then by friday afternoon you’re like…wait. this is almost over already? we just got here!
on the drama/hardship/human condition: i agree that there is way too much “insane, inane socio-political BS happening” at and around burning man. it’s unfortunate. i also struggle with it every year. i think those who are respond to this complaint about why people are such assholes/sheep with “wah wah wah don’t come” are making light of something that some of us feel deeply about, and it’s a topic that many would like to actually discuss, not just have our opinions labelled “crybaby” by those who claim to not give a fuck. why not stay out of it and let those who want to discuss the topic do so?
anyway, back OT: think about it: BRC is more or less one big stage. everyone is invited to be an actor. how people choose to act is a reflection of their world view. i guess it is surprising for many virgins that such an “enlightened” community still suffers the perils of human nature. i guess you hear so much about what a “utopia” BRC is that you expect it to be nothing short of Eden when you get there, and, well, it’s totally not. more like further on the other end of the spectrum. if nothing else, going to burning man is a HUGE lesson in humanity, and for those of us who hope to change the world for the better, it’s sort of important to see what people WILL do if you give them more freedom, and then try to figure out why. i know for me, this year, i spent a lot of time thinking about why BRC is the way it is, why people choose to do what they do. i think the amount of thought-stimulation i get out of being in BRC makes the rest of it worth it.
besides, humans love drama. have you ever watched daytime TV? or read Shakespeare? it’s unavoidable. i would expect a place where everyone is given a chance to be on stage to be a complete drama, all the time. the question is why?
on the theme of “green man” and how it played out:
before the immolation, the Crude Awakening project was beautiful and i think everyone got the message. it was moving and amazing, seeing those figures there, kneeling and worshipping the derrick. i appreciated them immensely aesthetically, but at the same time i guess it just isn’t in me to really LOVE an artwork that represents one thing but is the product of another. sort of like those who’ve critcized Al Gore for living in an enormous house and flying all around the US on private planes to talk about global warming….it’s hard to swallow. humans learn by what they see done, not by what they are told to do, and in this case i felt like people were shown that it’s ok to be excessive in your use of resources as long as you’re doing “ART”. what was taught here? some guy driving a Hummer is an asshole, but if you’re an artist, burn up all kinds of fuel and it’s fine? i dunno.
i guess what makes me stick on this point and use the Crude Awakening project as the center example is that this seems to be the attitude of burning man as a whole: it (whatever “it” is, whether it’s consumption of drugs or fuel or disposable camping items that go directly to the landfill) is OK as long as you’re doing it in the name of art, even though the general perception is that other people doing it in the regular world is not ok and in fact you might even campaign against it in “the default world”. as burning man becomes more and more popular with more attendance, these messages and lead-by-example moments become more and more important, with far greater potential social impact, and it is the artists’ and everyone elses’ responsibility to shoulder.
more than anything, i was just disappointed that the ending was so traditionally fire-based and completely the opposite of green, given the message of the installation up to that point and the potential to really do something different when everyone was watching. something else might not have gotten the crowd-response that the explosion did, but it could sent a much greater message about the green revolution than it did. i understand that as “fire artists”, it might have been hard to think of NOT doing an explosion, but if you’re going to present an anti-oil installation…i think you should try.
i mean no disrespect, but i did not stand and cheer. i almost cried. was that the point? if so, it worked on me, but i’m not sure the cheering masses got it.
the rest of BRC did not seem any “greener” to me this year than any year past – except for some really innovated personal art pieces and systems in camps, which deserve HUGE props. but the design of the city itself – why did Center Camp not have more educational information or art? why didn’t they take a year off from making/serving coffee to show that BRC *could* and *would* give up something for one year in the name of being Greener?
and yes, i agree 100% with those who have said that waiting for someone else to provide the answers to making Burning Man as green as possible is totally not in the spirit of burning man, nor is it an effective solution. i have no problem “preaching” to people while on the playa if i see them something not-LNT-friendly, and i think if you’re going to call yourself a “burner” then it’s actually part of the responsibility of being a true citizen of BRC. i yell at people who i see littering on the street in Oakland, too. it’s my city. i want it to be clean.
and yeah, i’m a little tired of all the people who seem to think they need to try to build a 5 star hotel out there, complete with luxury shower, full kitchen, freezer, fans, etcetera. you’re going to the desert. love it, or stay home, yo.
simple things i try to do and i think many others could too could make a big difference in how the city FEELS. sure – it makes burning man more like a backcountry camping experience, but isn’t burning man also about learning about survival skills?
–bring less prepare more – man, people bring a lot of shit. and throwing stuff away AFTER you get home because it’s covered in dust and broken even though you never used it is still not sustainable behavior.
–ditch the glowsticks for a resuable light source, like regular bike lights that normal people use on city streets. all i used this year was a headlamp and a bike light, and i felt well-lit all the time. if you must have glowy/blinky things, get ones that use batteries and don’t just throw them all away after 5 hours.
–lay off the full-service kitchens and dish-washing stations – eat food that doesn’t need to be cooked out there (make lasagna and prepare it /vacuum seal it beforehand, or eat raw trail mix all week, i don’t care, but food prep on the playa causes so much wasted food and water and fuel!!)
–screw RVs unless you have a serious medical issue that won’t allow you to sleep in a tent. my air mattress is pretty much as comfortable as my bed at home – and SLEEP AT NIGHT if sleeping in the day is a problem. “needing” an RV because your coked-up ass stays up all night and it’s too hot to sleep in the daytime is not a valid excuse for such a waste of resources.
i guess i come from the perspective that LEAVE NO TRACE means minimalism and minimal impact START TO FINISH, not “i’ll buy and use tons of things and throw them away when i get back”.
and again, i think that BMORG could’ve done a lot more to lead by example that was much more obvious and accessible and EDUCATIONAL to the average 1-week-a-year burner. the Whole Earth Festival in Davis is a supreme example of organizers taking the lead and making every single interaction educational. i read a lot in the months leading up to the event about all the different alt. energy projects being set up to help green BRC, but did most of those other 45,000 people? i’m guessing not. i’m guessing most of them barely read the survival guide, let alone got any info on all the ways BRC was trying to be green, and once you arrived there were few obvious signs of these efforts. it wasn’t in your face enough. it could have/should have been so much more. i know some people don’t think that’s BMORG’s role, but hell, if you’re going to go half ass, which they did with the displays in the pavilion, etcetera, then go all the way and really put it out there and own it as the theme. would this turn some people off? probably. but who cares? if you’re going to have a green theme, DO IT. otherwise, there’s a word for cashing in on this particular cultural trend: greenwashing. for those who think that burning man is being held up to impossibly high standards, especially compared with other landfill-loving festivals: they chose the theme….and every year talk a lot about sustainability. i think that calls for analysis as to whether they’re walking the walk, and i’m sad to say that i think this year the message seemed more like “talk the talk”.
on the future: the 2008 theme, “The American Dream”, has already been announced, and is already stirring conflict about what burning man is, who goes, and what direction the ORG is headed.
like many others i too was at first repulsed by the American Dream theme, feeling that people would use it as even more of an excuse for complete excess (and thinking of the dad on Malcolm in the Middle when they all go to burning man), but then reading this scathing link my friend stephen posted about America and what a nightmare some feel it has become, i came along this paragraph toward the end:
“So whatever we can do, we must do it ourselves. If we have no power or influence, if we cannot take large actions, then we must take small ones. Every word or action raised against the overthrow of the Republic will find an echo somewhere, from one person to another to another to the next — each isolated, individual voice slowly finding its way into a swelling chorus of dissent. It might be too late. It might not work. But failure – and much more horror — is guaranteed if we don’t even try. “
this reminded me of what it is i still love about burning man, despite the laziness of some participants to give up their comforts for even a few days, despite the hypocrisy of a “leave no trace” event which swallows thousands of gallons of fuel: i love that it is. i love that that it even exists in this fear-driven country, and re-reading that statement confirmed that yes, i think the American Dream is still alive in well, just in different ways, and maybe we’re all disillusioned, misguided, and misdirected, but i don’t think hope is lost. i think the amount of talent and energy present in BRC – in the middle of the stark desert – on a pulsing saturday night is in itself hope. art is not dead. music is not dead. people’s desire for freedom to behave uninhibitedly is certainly not dead. that it hope.
my mind pings back and forth while standing out on the deep playa at night, at once completely enamored with the scene from a distance, at its purposefully absurd ingenuity, and that same time reluctantly feeling it is all an echo inside a completely contained chamber that no one else will ever hear, and therefore pointless and, more to the point: selfish.
however, the little unjaded hope i have left inside of me wants to believe that even the most ridiculous acts of rebellion – whether lighting the man on fire on monday night or ingesting FDA-illegal substances – at Burning Man or in the streets of America’s cities – all contribute to a momentum that still feeds into the undercurrent of rebellion that is still slowly, steadily resisting the Bush regime and its warmongering. even Crude Awakening, with it’s totally unironic fuel-powered finale that made me absolutely shake my head at total disbelief in utter lack of creativity on the part of so many talented people who *supposedly* were making an important statement – even that, in all it’s hypocrisy, was still more or less a giant “fuck you” that only took place BECAUSE we are in America.
like many i have a tendency to also have an extremely bleak outlook (and dreams of ex-patriotism) on what America Has Become and occasionally also rant that America Is Dead, but usually taking a step back and getting some perspective i can still see all kinds of silver linings. i think perhaps the people at Burning Man are also hoping that the American Dream theme will illuminate more silver linings – will make people really think about what they WANT America to be, not what it is – **particularly** since i think they can totally sense that even burners are losing hope in the one place that used to be a safe-haven for freedom and productive den of counter-cultural breeding grounds: BRC.
as stated previously, i had fun, my expectations were well adjusted (lowered the bar for everything and everyone) after last year, didn’t try too hard, didn’t work too hard, didn’t play too hard, enjoyed the desert, enjoyed the art, enjoyed the absurdity of the liberty and the ingenuity and the complete idiocy of standing in a dust storm wearing sequins all rolled into one long twisted dream of dust and heat and moonlight and bikes and sound and textures and everything coming through in waves.
i was pretty glad to leave when i left, more just because of being tired of the heat and the wind than of life in BRC, but looking back now just a few days later, i’m wishing i had more time there, wishing maybe i hadn’t slept so much and that maybe i should’ve danced more and hooped more and lit some things on fire and maybe we should have camped with all our friends at False Profit instead of way out in walk-in (where we didn’t even really interact with the camp we were loosely connected with out there) because honestly: i don’t know if i’m ever going back again. i’m a little jaded but i’m certainly not bitter; i just don’t know if it will be worth the time, energy, and money to do it all again, especially when i have such a huge burning man community right here in san francisco that is doing things all year round. right now i feel like i got everything i needed from the part of burning man that happens out there in the desert. i felt that way early on, and i sort of settled into it. more than once i thought to myself: take this all in, because this is the last time you will probably ever see this. in fact, it sort of made the whole thing happier for me, knowing it might be the last time. i let so much of what i was holding on to last year go. i didn’t care anymore. i relaxed into it. i enjoyed myself.Filed in burning man | Comments (4)