Is that a towering lenticular, or are you just happy to see us?

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Well now THAT’S more like it!

We were pounded early this morning by a moderately fierce whiteout/brownout windstorm, and all of a sudden it felt like Burning Man.

It seems like forever since we’ve had a good, hours-long sand blasting, and we thought we were in for one today. But the dust became intermittent, and by 9 am or so the sun started working its way through the gloom. Then the skies got all blue and fabulous, and fantastic-looking clouds made everyone look skyward and go “ooooohhhh!”

We became mesmerized by the sight and wandered out of camp, and the next thing we knew we were at the Man Base, where Mr. Blue and Melissa and Opa and the rest of the lighting crews were putting in their final touches. The sideshows set up around the maze were in various stages of completion.

Medusa in the dust
Medusa in the dust

The Man Base crew was packing up shop, Silver Coon and Toolshop were putting all the tools back in the trailer container. It’ll be hauled off the playa to get everything ready for the big opening.

But this morning it looked like we were going to lose an entire day. The dust was so thick you couldn’t see the Center Café from Ring Road, and the wanderers who had ventured out were bent over in the wind, trying to see through fogged-up goggles.

Even veteran Burners like Flackmaster were disoriented. We ran into him as we made our way back to camp, and he seemed awfully glad to have found his way home.

Flackmaster
Flackmaster

The last DPW morning meeting was scheduled for the Depot today, but Playground made the call to postpone it at least for a day. It didn’t make any sense to have people trying to make their way around the city. That would be asking for trouble.

We were listening on the radio when Just George, out near the perimeter, was trying to meet up with Cowboy Carl. “I’m just going to be sitting here with my lights on,” he said tentatively, knowing that he’d be an easy target. “I’ll do my best to hit you,” Carl said.

But after a couple of hours, things lightened up. The weather forecasts have high wind advisories in effect until this evening, so we’re pretty much expecting occasional whiteouts most of the day. It reminded us of the old George Carlin weather report line: “Light followed by increasing darkness.” So it’ll be periods of dust followed by increasing amazingness.

The clouds over the playa, and if someone could help us out with the name of the art piece here, that would be appreciated
The clouds over the playa, and if someone could help us out with the name of the art piece here, that would be appreciated

The amazingness this morning included those clouds, which were, we were told, towering alto lenticulars. Matt Step works at the Man, and he’s also a pilot. “Seeing one this big is really rare,” he said. The wind whipping over the Sierra contributes to the formation, and glider pilots especially love to see them. “World records (for gliding) are set in Reno,” Matt said. “You get a massive column of lift, and sink. It can be scary as hell.”

Matt Step
Matt Step

Things actually took a turn for the weird last night, when a giant hazy rainbow appeared around the moon. It was a little like when you look at the sun after you’ve been swimming in a chlorinated pool and your eyes are all fuzzy. The first thing we did was to ask the person next to us, “Hey, do you see that??” Yes, they saw it too.

The rings round the
The rings round the

It’s a nice time to be on the playa. The big art cars aren’t allowed on the playa yet, so almost everyone was on foot or on a bicycle. It evoked a simpler time. We admit to being darktards – we wandered out without any lights on, but the moon was almost full and it was easy to see and be seen.

We heard reports of long waits at the Gates to get in the city, as the last of the early arrivers were pulling in. We’re guessing that if anything, it’ll be harder to get an early arrival pass next year.

Some of the early arrivers didn’t seem too clear on all the concepts, either. We talked to Shane Saw Sisco, who had been out on the Gate lines overnight. The Gate people have to check your car to make sure you’re not smuggling anyone in. Twice last night, Sisco said, he was asked to take off his shoes before getting into the RVs he needed to check.

Um, no.

Shane with his copy of the Gate Bingo card
Shane with his copy of the Gate Bingo card

And some more photos from out and about:

Melissa at the Man Base
Melissa at the Man Base
Jennifer Raiser, the do-everything, be-everywhere writer extraordinaire, did a Man Base guard shift and was caught in the dust storm this morning. "All this time and this is when you take my picture?" she said.
Jennifer Raiser, the do-everything, be-everywhere writer extraordinaire, did a Man Base guard shift last night and was caught in the dust storm this morning. “All this time and this is when you take my picture?” she said.

The in-between time

At the last spire party yesterday
At the last spire party yesterday

We’re caught between the now and the almost now in Black Rock City.

The work’s not finished, but it’s getting close.

The streets are as busy as they’ve ever been. The big theme camps have rolled in, and so have the artists. It’s a weird in-between time when it’s still ok to drive your car, but the numbers of pedestrians and bicyclists has shot way up.

There was a giant kickball game outside the Center Café last night, and judging by the shouts, it was World Cup intense. We first thought it was incongruous that all the dusty funky types would be so into the competition, but this isn’t really a hippie encampment. It’s more broad than that, more diverse, in temperament, outlook, and, while we’re at it, age.

We know the Black Rock Census keeps excellent track of the demographics of the participants, but it seems to us that an even wider mix of people here in the build-up.

Today was the first day almost since we can remember that it wasn’t bright and sunny. Early last week there were a few days when the sun and moon were shrouded in a red haze from distant wildfires, but of late the skies have been crystalline, the clouds dramatic, the sunsets mind-numbing.

We saw pictures of our friends back in the Bay Area, and KarltheFog was much in evidence, although it seems like a heat wave is baking the area lately.

After the spire was planted, it was time for the sledge toss competition
After the spire was planted, it was time for the sledge toss competition

Here, the temperatures the past few days have only been in the mid to high 80s, and the nights have been chilly. The big weather news is that high winds are supposed to be coming our way. By the time you read this, the predictions could have changed, so the best thing to do is check the Burning Man website for the latest info. But better to get the big winds behind us now, rather than when there are tens of thousands of cars kicking up dust on Gate Road. All the people here already will get an early test of just how well they’ve tied down their stuff.

The last spire was pounded into the playa yesterday, and all the crews plus a bunch of looky-loos came by to celebrate.

There was all sorts of general jank strewn about the site. Random trenching was done for no apparent reason, and holes that were dug were immediately filled in with kicked dirt. There were cars hoisted in the air, a compost pile and random pieces of fence. There were radio antennas and road signs, including one for Spoono’s Road.

Rushing the spire
Rushing the spire

In general, it was a celebration of the end of the build. The last spire usually takes place the last Thursday before the event, but in the past couple of years, rain and other interruptions have pushed the work schedule back and its been held on Friday. But this has been a relatively smooth year, work-wise and weather-wise.

The Spires crew did the honors of getting the whole thing started, because spires is what they do. Marleyne was shooting anvils, and the sledge-throwing contest rounded out the festivities. (River was the winner.)

You can check the whole thing out at 4:20 and Esplanade, right near the Thunderdome. It’s a quite amazing collection of … stuff … put together by the most amazing people anywhere. See for yourself:

You need something? These folks can probably get it
You need something? These folks can probably get it

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Stinger fashioned an OSHA blindfold for Coyote
Stinger fashioned an OSHA blindfold for Coyote

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The yellow bike crew moves in
The yellow bike crew moves in
The last spire goes up
The last spire goes up

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Pope Phabulous, his Hyster, and a contribution
Pope Phabulous, his Hyster, and a contribution
All the way from Georgia
All the way from Georgia

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The last spire
The last spire

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Cowboy Carl may look a little taken aback by it all, but we know it's not true
Cowboy Carl may look a little taken aback by it all, but we know it’s not true

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The dread crew
The dread crew

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Doyle's car is street legal in Detroit, where he's living
Doyle’s car is street legal in Detroit, where he’s living
There are some great dogs out here; this one's everywhere
There are some great dogs out here; this one’s everywhere

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Rain, the sledge-toss winner
Rain, the sledge-toss winner

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Marleyne got a necklace from Spoono several years ago
Marleyne got a necklace from Spoono several years ago
Goatt's on the the Artica build this year
Goatt’s on the the Artica build this year
The finished project
The finished project

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—–

The sign team has been working since the middle of July on creating and signs that help you find your friends, find your way back to camp, and help others find you when you might need help.

But something really crappy has been taking place over the past several days. It’s not a new problem, but it might be surprising in that it’s going on when the only people out here are supposed to be working, either setting up the city or building art.

The signs crew, the people you're hurting the most, besides yourselves, when you take the street signs down
The signs crew, the people you’re hurting the most, besides yourselves, when you take the street signs down

The street signs are being stolen. Already. Even before the gates have opened. Most of the signs on 4 o’clock were gone the day after they went up.

“It’s at the heart of the event,” said Jenerator. “Nobody steals art at Burning Man, and the street signs are our art.”

There are 300 intersections in Black City, and each of them has a double-sided sign with the names of the streets – Arcade, Ballyhoo, Carny, Donniker, Ersatz, Freak Show, Geek, Hanky Pank, Illusion, Jolly, Kook and Laughing Sal. They are all hand-painted by the sign shop crew, then installed all over the city.

It’s not a new problem. Folks have been taking the “souvenirs” for as long as they’ve been put out, but the deal is you’re supposed to wait until Saturday of the event to take them down. The Burning Man organization even has a special program to deal with the problem – Adopt a Street Sign, aka ASS. You can read all about it right here http://blog.burningman.com/2014/08/participate/adopt-a-street-sign-ass-project/ but essentially, if someone takes off with a sign from your corner, put a new one to help the people who’ve lost their way, and to help the people who may be trying to help you if there’s an emergency.

“You wait until the Man burns, or you’re a dick,” as Bam Bam put it, ever so succinctly. “We want you to take them”, added Stabby Abby, “but just wait.”

Bottom line: be an ASS, don’ be a douche.

 

BMIR is Now Broadcasting from Black Rock City!

BMIR sticker by JKanizzle
BMIR sticker by JKanizzle

Missing your playa? Want to feel a little more connected? Tune in to Burning Man Information Radio (BMIR), now broadcasting live from Black Rock City. Here’s how:

  1. BMIR website.
    There’s a flash player that will launch automatically, but you can pause that and click the Listen Now link that will launch in the audio player of your choice. There is also a BMIR iPhone app and a BMIR Android player, just search the Apple App Store or Google Play (apps are free and collect no user data). These are all 128 kbps streams so if you are using one of our mobile apps and are not on Wi-Fi it will eat data.
  2. iHeart Radio app – available for all mobile platforms.
    You need to download the iHeart app for a NO commercials broadcast, with no account creation required. Just search for BMIR or Burning Man. This is 48 kbps so it’s less of a strain on your data plan. (Only available in the US.)
  3. iHeart Radio website (Flash).
    Also 48 kbps, and only available in the US. Once again there are NO commercials and no need to create an account. Just search for BMIR or Burning Man.
  4. Over the air at 94.5 FM when you get to the playa. Bring a radio for your camp!

High Winds in Black Rock City Friday Night and Saturday

Playa Tornado, 2006 (Photo by Bowen Johnson)

Playa Tornado, 2006 (Photo by Bowen Johnson)

Nope, never a dull moment here in Black Rock City. The weather report tells us to expect sustained high winds beginning midnight tonight (Friday), peaking 10 a.m. Saturday morning, and continuing through 6 p.m. Saturday evening.

Winds are expected to gust up to 45 mph. Right, so what does that mean to you? Get ready and batten your stuff down! Like:

  • Batten down everything that could potentially blow away (furniture, camp chairs, folding tables, tents, shade structures, etc.)
  • Secure art pieces
  • Always travel with goggles and a dust mask
  • Use headlights and prepare to stop driving/riding in a whiteout

If you’re planning to come in tonight (Friday), definitely try to arrive before midnight.

If you’re planning to arrive on Saturday, consider postponing your arrival until later Saturday afternoon or evening. The way these things tend to go, your camp construction might be delayed due to the wind.

Keep an eye on the Voices of Burning Man blog, Facebook, Twitter, BMIR and IHeartRadio, cuz that’s where we’ll keep you updated.

Lovely Dusty People

camp_guysThe weekend before Gate opens is approaching and a certain feeling has set in. I’ve been out here early before and felt the change from being part of a small group of people building Black Rock City, then having the big art come in to start on the Temple and other huge projects, then watching as the big Theme Camps arrive and suddenly landmarks you’ve been using to navigate are replaced. The great unpacking begins with enthusiastic Theme Campers smiling as they create their fabulous spaces. Once the Gate opens, it becomes a free for all as you beautiful people flood in to stake your space in Black Rock City and build then share what you’re bringing.

Towards the end of pre-event, you realize that you’ve forged bonds with people out here that can only happen in a place as dry and desolate as this. There have been challenges met and there has been solemn sadness. There’s been triumph and a lot of hard work. It is tribal and essential, sometimes feeling as if we’ve stepped into another time where big personalities build things just because they can. My job is nothing compared to what the infrastructure groups like DPW, Tech, IT and their support do out here to build this place, and it takes a certain larger than life type of person to make Black Rock City happen. During the build, meals bring everyone together and it is there that you find old friends and make new ones. I sit there eating and face after dusty  face passes on their way to grab grub  and these are some of the most lovely dusty people I’ve ever had the honor to live amongst, if only for a short time each year.

camp_tentAs big Theme Camps begin their build, you no longer navigate in straight lines to your destinations. You’ll smell your first BBQ. You hear the hammers pounding all around and containers are opened with last year’s tarps and lights and everything that makes Theme Camps strewn about. You will see the groups of serious campers standing around, hands on hips, evaluating how many people they’re going to need to raise up that 60 foot wide shade structure. Work lights are running all night as massive tents are erected and decorated. People begin visiting you because they can tell you’ve been here for a while and maybe they can use your stove to make some coffee and share it with you, or borrow some zip ties.

Bring your own zip ties people.

camp_maxwellRiding my bike around I met Seth Maxwell Malice and I asked him how it was going. He said, “Don’t forget to bolt things together. Gravity doesn’t work like it should.” Passing all the camps that are setting up you’re greeted with constant hellos from happy folks setting up in the friendliest city on earth. They’re insanely happy to be here, but what rational person would consider packing, hauling all your stuff to this dry lake bed, working for days to build a camp, dealing with the weather, then tearing it all down and hauling it out while leaving no trace a vacation? We are a peculiar bunch.

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Hustles and hope

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We like to take at least one trip back into Gerlach after moving onto the playa for the build season. We like … no, we need … clean laundry, and there’s a spot at the Shell Station to do it if the Saloon gets too crowded.

But we like to see some of the people we’ve gotten to know a little bit in Gerlach, too.

Pete, who works at the gas station, had his nice pickup truck parked off the shoulder of the road the other afternoon when an arriving Burner got a little too close with the trailer she was towing. BOOM! Her awning caught Pete’s windshield, smashing through the passenger side. Fortunately, no one was inside.

Up the road a little bit, Bruno, the 93-year-old Gerlach patriarch who owns a lot of the town, is moving unsteadily from the bar to a back room. A little later, his daughter asks if anyone has seen him, and fingers point to the door Bruno disappeared through. Most days Bruno sits quietly in one of the chairs that line the other side of the bar. Sometimes he wraps himself in a blanket against the air-conditioner’s chill. A blurry mounted TV is on pretty much all the time.

A young man named Adam is hanging around outside Bruno’s, telling his story to each new person who pulls up. He was supposed to be hauling trailers from a nearby storage yard out to the playa, he says, but the guy who hired him never showed up.

Heidi and Lacy are opening a coffee shop in Gerlach on Friday. Stop in!
Heidi and Lacy are opening a coffee shop in Gerlach on Friday. Stop in!

Andy’s upbeat in a Rainbow Gathering kind of way, all platitudes and joyousness, ready for the light to start shining on him. He says he’s been doing odd jobs for a week on a ranch nearby (“Working my ass off!”), and he’s got $450 in his pocket to show for it.

Most of his story, we come to find out, isn’t true. He had only gotten to town that morning. He didn’t know how to drive a stick-shift, didn’t have the license he was supposed to have to haul the trailers, so he was told things weren’t going to work out. We’re not sure exactly what he was hoping for at this point, but getting onto the playa without a ticket was likely at the heart of the matter.

The Black Rock City offices on Main Street in Gerlach
The Black Rock City offices on Main Street in Gerlach

Lacy is big-city pretty in a small lonesome town, so when she works behind the bar at Bruno’s, there’s a spark. The rocketeers, the hunters, the locals, the Burners, they all like her easy smile and the way she listens and laughs. She seems kind and forgiving, so she makes the hard-edged drinkers feel better for awhile.

Her sister, Heidi, who also causes hearts to beat faster, moved to town last year, and the two of them will open a coffee shop on Main Street this weekend, hoping the travelers to Burning Man will need some caffeine and maybe a rest before they hit the craziness of Burning Man. They were testing the espresso machine and making freezy mocha frappuccinos the other evening. Real Ghirardelli chocolate, too.

Lacy’s sensitive to the plight of the hard-luck visitors this time of year, the ones without tickets, the ones still hoping that a miracle will happen. But Burning Man isn’t spontaneous anymore: You can’t decide at the last minute to make the trip. You need a ticket, and you need a vehicle pass, and neither comes easy. You can’t depend on the kindness of strangers, either.

A woman sitting at the counter in Bruno’s coffeeshop said she had just arrived from New York. She was supposed to have a ticket waiting for her at will-call, but it wasn’t there when she showed up. “But it’s ok,” she said, smiling. “It’s going to work out. I know it will.”

A busload of early arrivers
A busload of early arrivers

She had recently gotten out of a relationship, and Burning Man seemed like the right thing at the right time for her. But now she was struggling to figure out her next move. “The guy I got a ride with, he’s 62 years old, a really cool guy. But they wouldn’t let him in, either.”

Burning Man doesn’t let stranded travelers become a problem at the event site, so they require the people they are with to look after them, which sometimes means driving them back as far as Reno so they can get a place to stay.

Out on the dusty four-mile road into the event site, Tabitha was working a Gate shift. The wind was blowing hard, and most people were pulling on their goggles and facemasks. “We had a guy show up,” Tabitha said, “who felt his path in the world meant he should go to Burning Man.” The black-clad Gate folks were busy in the lanes of cars, checking for early arrival passes, checking for tickets, and looking in the trunks for stowaways. “But he didn’t have a ticket, or early arrival, or anything,” Tabitha said. And he, like so many before him, was sent away.

Tabitha at the Gates
Tabitha at the Gates

“If you show up here in a vehicle with someone who doesn’t have a ticket, you’re responsible,” Tabitha said. “That whole car, everyone gets turned around, and they have to deal with that person and make sure everyone gets taken care of.”

Do people get mad when they are turned away, or do they take a la-la, playa-will-provide approach?

“Most of the belligerent comes from people who are tired,” Tabitha said, “because they’ve been driving for three days. They don’t want their car to be searched, they just want to get into the city and do their thing.”

Miss Roach and Sailor were down at the Gates, too. We’re coming up on the biggest night of their year, when the doors open for 70,000 visitors.

Miss Roach
Miss Roach

“The rules are the rules,” Sailor says. “If there’s some mind-bending story, we’ll kick it upstairs, but ninety-nine percent of the time we just don’t have time for this stuff.” Miss Roach agrees: “We just don’t have the resources to make miracles happen,” she says.

Believe me, these are good-hearted, generous people, but there’s not a lot they can do. “Every now and then you get one that really moves your heart,” Miss Roach says, “but you’re like, crap.”

Hopefully, though, you’ll make it past the imposing, no-fooling-around Gate people, and you’ll head another mile or so up the dusty road to the Greeter’s station. Once there, all is well. Happy people will encourage you to get out of your car so they can give you a hug. If you’re a first-timer, they’ll want you to bang a triangle and roll in the dust.

“She didn’t want to do it at first,” one guys says after his lady friend got up from her initiation in the dust. “But she figured she might as well do it the right way.” He had taken pictures while she was down on the ground, and then the Greeter gave them more big hugs, and they got back in their car, and off they went.

Hugging for the camera
Hugging for the camera

Back at the bar in Bruno’s, Lacy is annoyed. She’s learned that her mom, who lives in the house with her and her sister and her brother, has invited smooth-talking, non-stick-driving Andy back to the house until he can get himself squared away.

“She’s gonna turn me into a mean person!” she says. “I don’t like it!”

Would she ever do that? Let a stranger with a sad-sack tale into her house?

“Oh yeah,” she says, softening.

The woman from New York who didn’t get the will-call ticket will be staying at the house tonight, too.

A few more pics:

Michael Michael at the Greeter's Station
Michael Michael at the Greeter’s Station
Almost home
Almost home
The dust was thick on the way in
The dust was thick on the way in

 

Welcome to the Man Pavilion

Midway TentYesterday the Man Base Crew took a little time off from their steady work pace to hang out in the shade, have some beers and get the low down on what art will be living inside the amazing structure they’ve built. BettieJune from the ARTery joined Kimba and Leslie to discuss the art, performance and otherwise illusory and carnivalesque interactivity that will saturate participants once the event begins. Right now the Man Pavilion is a hard hat construction zone with the Maze being completed and painted, the Illumination crew placing lights and eight Belgian tents (from the Souk last year) being erected to house Regionals’ and other artists’ Midway projects. At each of the four portals into the Man Pavilion, Hugh D’Andrade has created fantastical entrances inspired by carnivals around the world.

photo by Sydney Erthal
Leslie and Bettie June photo by Sydney Erthal

The Man stands tall above a Maze and not getting caught up in all the art in the Maze and Midway will be impossible. The Pavilion is anticipated to be a site to behold, an extravaganza of the odd, unusual and entertaining  where you can become one with the carnys who bark to you and bathe in the veritable glow of a Carnival of Art. The Maze structure entrance is to be covered with the “Bannerline Project” by Killbuck. His art once graced Defenestration in San Francisco and now we will have his sardonic Carnival banners in Black Rock City for the week. At the Maze entrance is an installation by Tony Spiers and placed around the Maze look for “Colossal Skeletal Marionette” by Christian Breeden, which is a big skeleton puppet. You will also encounter the “Hall of Mirrors Arcade” by Wolf, “Larger-than-life sized arcade pieces including Giant Pinball, Foosball Reimagined and Jumbo Pachinko.”

Klaus Putting up Lights
Klaus Putting up Lights

“Be the Managerie” by Michael Koi, featuring exotic animals where one can put their face through a hole to become the animal, is inside the Maze and the ARTery is referring to these openings as “Noggin Notches.” “Laffing Sal” by Dana Albany, Haideen Anderson, Flash Hopkins and Tom Kennedy has returned to entertain the little ones with maniacal laughter. “The Church Trap Organ” by Rebekah Waites & crew has been re-imagined Coney Island style and has arrived on the playa. It is being installed today.

Meeting with the Builders“Lumiphonic Creature Choir” by Mark Bolotin and Synarcade  is a 17-foot-wide sculpture with projected faces that promises to be an interactive audio-visual collection of heads that will sing, beat-box or recite fragments of prose. Barron Levkoff’s “Mystical Midway” promises to delight you with all manner of cosplay and invite you to join in on the Mythic Play.

photo by Sydney Erthal
Dana Albany photo by Sydney Erthal

The Midway tents will house Burning Man’s Regional projects, and this year, as with last year’s Caravansary, the projects highlight one-on-one interactions. The CORE began in 2011 with large wood sculptures circling the Man that were burned on Thursday of the event. Burning Man also burned the CORE in 2013 and in 2014 Burning Man brought the Regionals closer to the Man and stopped the large CORE burns to provide more human interaction and cross pollination than sculptures could provide.

photo by Sydney Erthal
Kimba working photo by Sydney Erthal

This year the Theme invites us all to create “panoply of strange and enchanting wonders” and Thursday morning pre-event, the Regionals and other non-regional artists will begin setting up their unique Carnival of Mirrors art and interactive performance. There will be 29 Regional groups that celebrate what makes them specifically unique in our vast Burning Man network and some installations include the “Pinball Machine” from our Wisconsin Regional group, “The Gallery of Infinity”, a sideshow of LEDs and infinity panels from Santa Cruz, “The Baltic Altar” from the Baltic States – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia Regionals that involves immersing yourself in a cube structure where you can compose unique melodies, the “Philly Phreak Show” which is a collection of oddities and “FoxCarn & the Betel Store” by the Taiwan and China Regional that will let “burners experience both forms of capitalist exploitation.”

The Man Pavilion is a saturated hyper microcosm of the entirely of Burning Man. This year it promises to be a fertile art space and a place for reflection and participation so be sure to make your way out there add your spice to the stew. They start installing tomorrow and this is just a sampling of what awaits you. Many more mysteries will be revealed.

a very early Man

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Smoke Daddy and his crew have been testing the neon in the Man over the past couple of nights. He was still burning bright as the sky got light this morning.