BLM Inspection Passed. #BM2016 is a GO.

The combination DPW-BLM team.
The combination DPW-BLM team.


A great big CONGRATULATIONS to all of you moop maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire – we did it!

Awww, ya did it. Actual moop found today. Photo by Summer Burkes.
Awww, ya did it. Actual moop found today. Photo by @Summer_Burkes.
This morning dawned beautiful and clear, just in time for our Bureau of Land Management representatives to meet the DPW Playa Restoration team and review the site that once was Black Rock City.

Here’s what they found: very little. And that’s a good thing: once again, Burning Man has confirmed its reputation as the world’s largest Leave No Trace event.

The results of today’s inspection are NOT official. We’ll find out for sure, in writing, in a few months. However, I can tell you right now that – psst – we totally passed with flying colors.


“Hold on! But you haven’t finished mooping!”

Actually, we have finished line sweeping our way through the streets of Black Rock City – just yesterday, in fact. However, it takes us several days to produce the Moop Map images for you. So, for example, the map I posted yesterday reflected the results of last Monday’s line sweeps.

(Sorry for the confusion. Have you ever tried computering in this desert? It’s a slow process.)


“OK that makes sense. So what is this inspection again?”

NBD. This is only the most important part of the whole process. Each year, the Bureau of Land Management assesses how well Burning Man treated the Black Rock Desert (which is, of course, public land). The results of this inspection determine whether we will receive a permit to hold the event here next year.

In other words, if we fail, we can not return to the playa.

The BLM can’t inspect the entire 4.5 square mile event site in a single day, so 60 randomly-selected points throughout the city are chosen as a sampling. Each inspection point is one tenth of an acre. They cover all parts of the city, from the streets, to the Man and art sites, to the open playa.



Panorama shot of an inspection site (click to enlarge). Photo by @SFSlim.
Panorama shot of an inspection site (click to enlarge). Photo by @SFSlim.
Inspection tools: map, GPS readers, stakes and flags. Photo by @Shalaco.
Inspection tools: map, GPS readers, stakes and flags. Photo by @Shalaco.
Wee Heavy, Starchild and Kentucky with a flag marking one of the 60 inspection sites. Photo by @SFSlim.
Wee Heavy, Starchild and Kentucky with a flag marking one of the 60 inspection sites. Photo by @SFSlim.



In order to achieve success, there must be less than one square foot of moop found per acre. Therefore, each inspection point must produce less than one tenth of a square foot of moop. That’s a 3.8 inch wide square. It’s small.

And yet, once again, we passed with a visibly wide margin. Do you know how big a deal that is? It’s a tremendous accomplishment, and it’s something we all did together, as the community of Black Rock City.

From the BLM perspective, this is the most important thing. We share the same goal here, which is to return the Black Rock Desert to the way it was before Burning Man. We share your goals and the ‘leave no trace’ ethic. Thanks to all of you for this monumental effort.
— David, BLM Project Manager


A "full" baggie from one of the sites. Photo by @SFSlim.
A “full” baggie from one of the sites. Photo by @SFSlim.

“So how do we know we passed?”

It’s very scientific: each site gets a baggie, and into the baggie goes all the moop. Ten inspection teams, composed of Burning Man and BLM representatives, each cover about six different sites. They systematically line sweep the site, then seal the baggie and submit it.

The BLM then looks over everything that was found, and gives us the preliminary, unofficial result. Which, again, is a total pass for 2015.

Now they will go back to a laboratory somewhere and measure it all, create a detailed and much more official report, and send it to Burning Man as part of next year’s permitting process.


Phoenix Firestarter, Restoration Special Forces Manager, shows off the results of all our hard work. Photo by @Shalaco.
Phoenix Firestarter, Restoration Special Forces Manager, shows off the results of all our hard work. Photo by @Shalaco.


So first of all, let’s all thank the BLM representatives who joined us today, because they didn’t make us wait months to find out whether we passed!

And then, let’s thank our campmates, our neighbors, and our friends who took the time to moop their camps, pack it out, and Leave No Trace.

Finally, let’s give a big HURRAH for the Playa Restoration forces, who continually brave some pretty crazy conditions and do some rather brutal work in order to make sure that Burning Man keeps on rising from the dust.




As the inspection drew to a close, the BLM reps laid out all the baggies so we could see just how little was left behind from this city of 70,000. Champagne was popped and passed around. The cork landed on the playa.

“Pick it up!” someone yelled.

“No way, the inspection’s over,” said Summer. “That’s job security for next year.”

See you there.

How I fell out of love with The Latitude Society – and what Burning Man can learn from it.

Latitude ID card (front)
A well worn Latitude Society ID card. It’s not just a prop – it could literally open doors.

I’ve wanted to write about a piece examining Burning Man through the lens of The Latitude Society (or vice-versa) for some time. But I’m the kind of old-school that believes that when you join a secret society you goddamn well don’t go around saying “Hey, have you heard about this cool secret society?” Because dammit, words mean things. Maybe not when they’re written on t-shirts, or bumper stickers, but, otherwise.

However, now that The Latitude Society’s architect has opened a series of meetings up to a reporter for and gone on record about his plans for expansion – because apparently it’s damn hard to expand your secret society if people don’t know about it – I consider honor satisfied.

(UPDATE: Between the time I wrote this and the time I’m publishing it, The Latitude appears to have also shut down. More on this at the end.)

So hey, what do you think Burning Man can learn from an experiential arts community centered in the same place, involving many of the same kinds of people (or the very same people in many cases), but that does everything almost entirely differently from Burning Man?

I don’t have any data on this (The Latitude is a secret society, after all), but I’d be stunned if a working majority of its hundreds of members weren’t Burners. Literally every member of The Latitude I know personally (myself, obviously, included) has been to Burning Man and has at one time been active in Burner culture.

So the appeal, to at least a sub-section of Burners, of an organization almost wholly unlike Burning Man is clear. This isn’t a problem, exactly: most Burners belong to some organization that does things differently from Burning Man. The Republican Party. The Democratic Party. The AARP. Harvard. The SEIU. Christianity – Burners belong to a whole host of cultural institutions that have little in common with Burning Man, and that’s fine. That diversity, in fact, is both a strength and a precious commodity.

But The Latitude Society is an organization that is, at some level, dedicated to the same purpose as Burning Man: creating extraordinary arts experiences that will, over time, change the world. That mission statement doesn’t fit either organization exactly, but it’s certainly close to the heart of both. And it is in that context specifically that The Lattitude takes a 180 degree swing from Burning Man’s approach to … well … just about everything.


Moop Map Day 6: Bless the Rains

The entrance to the playa this weekend. Photo by Phoenix Firestarter.
The entrance to the playa this weekend. Photo by Phoenix Firestarter.

Hello out there, moop maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! The Hun here, checking in after a very R-E-A-L weekend.

Boy, did it rain in the desert.

Thursday brought a deluge, and by Friday the playa was limned with glinting streams – standing water just waiting to swallow vehicles and turn your feet into mudboots. And then … it rained again.

Now, we’ve been down this road before. As many of you will remember, early rains in 2010 caused the BLM site inspection to be delayed by EIGHT MONTHS as we waited for Lake Lahontan to dry. When the seasons change out here, they do it on a dime.

AND YET! Your Playa Restoration hotshots REFUSED to be grounded this year. I wish I could express to you what that means, what it takes to get people safely on and off the playa, not just people but busloads of DPW, fording actual rivers as the winds howl and the mud squelches. How many hours are spent by DA and his crackerjack team, just to find a route from the highway to the city. How many sleepless nights spent wondering… will we do it this time?

NOT one of our trucks, but oh boy. Photo by Kerry Lundin.
NOT one of our trucks, but oh boy. Photo by Kerry Lundin.

It’s not for the faint of heart.

And the moop goes on

Mooping in the midday sun
Mooping in the midday sun

There was a thin morning sun illuminating the steps of the Saloon as workers gathered to hear whether the playa had dried out enough to allow Resto work to resume after a two and a half day wipeout. The air was chilly, bordering on cold, and if there were pumpkins on the porch, they likely would have had frost on them.

Coyote sauntered across the street, muttering “It’s not summer anymore.” No, for sure, it’s not. But the rain had stopped, and that was a good thing. “At least it wasn’t snow,” Coyote said. Snow? During Resto? “Sure,” he said. “We had to call it one day because it was coming down sideways.”

Ok, we’ll count our blessings, then, that it’s only been rain, and not freezing cold, too. People went inside for the morning meeting, and the Cobra Commander and D.A. gave the word that the BLM inspection had been moved back until Tuesday. That was the good news. The bad news was that the Resto team was going to need just about every minute of that time, because there was a LOT left to do.

“This is the year we are absolutely not going to fail,” D.A. said. The Cobra said there would be a full work day tomorrow, and a full work day Monday, as well. “We’re good,” he said. “Let’s kill it.”

So the troops loaded onto school buses and headed out to the playa. And you had to be on a school bus, or some other fleet vehicle, because there were no personal cars allowed this day. The playa was too wet, and if you tried to drive, you would likely get stuck, and no one wanted to waste time rescuing you.

The drive out Route 34 gave a hint of what was to come. The rain from the past several days made the playa look like it was covered with water, because the sun was glinting off the surface. But the desert  was only wet, not submerged. But there WERE rivers of water in the depressions caused by off-roaders. Those  were rippling in the morning sun, and the “tide” looked like it was carrying the water back to town. And when the buses traversed the desert streams, there was lots of splashing water and a pretty good jolt if you were seated in the back of the bus.

D.A. pulled everyone together to give a sense of what the day would be like
D.A. pulled everyone together to give a sense of what the day would be like

As roll was being called along the shoreline, Phoenix Firestarter was doing stretches off to the side. “It helps me get my mind where I need it to be,” she said. And what she needed to be, and everyone else needed to be, was focused. There were a lot of streets left to sweep, and there were orange cones all over the playa, meaning that the Special Forces team would need to give them special attention to get them cleaned up.

And then off everyone went, the line sweepers and the fluffers and the scribes and the line bosses and the special forces, maybe 80 people overall, off to to make the most of the day.

By lunchtime, it had become clear that people were making serious progress. The special forces reported “busting” 150 cones  — six people in three trucks, cleaning and sweeping and raking the worst hot spots, and doing it fast and clean.

The regular lines moved through the middle of the city in the morning, then tackled the Esplanade in the afternoon. They were moving well, too, but then new clouds started moving in, and the wind picked up, and the weather forecasts that had predicted rain by 4 in the afternoon started to look pretty good.

By the afternoon, big dark clouds started moving in again
By the afternoon, big dark clouds started moving in again

The troops took a morale break around 2:30 in the afternoon, and by that time the sky had gone dark, and it looked like rain was already hitting Gerlach. There was also lightning in the distance, so the smart move was to get everyone off playa and back into town. And good thing, too. By 4 pm, sure enough, the rain arrived with a wallop, and with it came a lot of thunder and lightning, as well.

So that was it for the day — lots of progress, but more rain, and tomorrow’s work day looks threatened. The Hun will have her moop map update in another post, but for now, there are lots of antsy people wondering how it’s all going to get done.

Mooping along
Mooping along
Slim took a picture of the desert "stream" at the end of the day, when it had dried out considerably
Slim took a picture of the desert “stream” at the end of the day, when it had dried out considerably
We thought we had a pretty good day mooping; our haul included a crescent wrench, jewelry, coins -- and a mint
We thought we had a pretty good day mooping; our haul included a crescent wrench, jewelry, coins — and a mint




DPW dunebusting at Resto

Black Rock City got hit with some harsh wind this year. Not as apocalyptically near-tornado-level wind as the playa can whip up, but still, 2015 saw enough consistent and prolific dust to monopolize half the Burning Man experience for some people.

What this means for Playa Restoration, in general, is dustpiles on the moon.

tiny dustpiles collect around every left-behind item
tiny dustpiles collect around every left-behind item

It means the DPW stays busy combating dunes across the city’s site. On line sweeps, we look for little serpentines with rare MOOP treasures in them, and we rake long arrays of fine-dust layers until they smooth out and/or blow away.

Then there are the larger dunes where structures and fences once stood, which need to be manhandled and sometimes even heavy-machined.

Dunes have become Bobtuse and crew’s bailiwick. Bobtuse, DPW’s prime dunebuster since after he started volunteering in 2000 or 2001, drives his truck in large loops and pirouettes all day, pulling a huge flat heavy metal square thing.


“You might get seasick riding with me,” Bobtuse says on a recent crackling-hot day on playa. This is his sixteenth Playa Restoration, and he hasn’t gotten woozy yet.

“Sometimes it’s worse for the passenger than the driver,” he offers. Luckily, this writer doesn’t get seasick either, but on Bobtuse’ crazy-eights route, we begin to feel that euphoric and yukey carnival-ride feeling.

The dunebuster he’s pulling behind him with a chain smashes through tiny hills of playa — BOOSH — making miniature dust devils and wee windstorms as he tears down the dune. This huge tool on a truck chain, a square of metal-with-rebar welded by the DPW’s metal shop at the Ranch as usual, resembles a spiderweb.

no offense, but this buster will kick the sand in your face
no offense, but this buster will kick the sand in your face

Pen-and-paper note-taking becomes chicken scratch and we soon give up on writing and dunebusting simultaneously. It’s like mowing the lawn, this writer points out.

“Mhm, except it’s kinda random and irregular.” Bobtuse calmly drives in crazy patterns while we hold on to the truck’s oh-shit bar. Perhaps his relaxed and balanced manner, cowboy-succinct speech, and ninja-level composure are all due to his job requiring him to shake and spin his organs up all day long.

We reminisce about the first dunebuster Demilitia, then head of metal shop, created around 19-2000 or so. Her dunebuster prototype was basically a big chain to drag.

After the chain, Bobtuse says, Demilitia fabricated “one that was a railroad tie on a chain — but it was too heavy for most trucks to pull. It was hard even on the bigger engines. Then there was a big fence chain kinda thing with a tire for weight on top of it, but that one created dust. It was just abrasive.

“This one, we’ve had it for a while. There’s two edges that push — so it doesn’t really dig, it just displaces. We also have a new one now — more heavy duty. Because it’s heavier, it pushes more instead of just floating.” (That’s the one Mr. Blue’s driving this year.)

square new kid on the playa (the dunebuster, not Mr. Blue)
square new kid on the playa (the dunebuster, not Mr. Blue)

We ride out to the fence, with Bobtuse busting big dunes marked with Special Forces cones along the way. We are instructed to drive right behind him, right in his dust line, because to the left of us is unbusted dune, and to the right of us is fluffy, flat, freshly-busted playa.

Moop Map 2015: Day 5 – What’s That Red Thing?

Art! Art! Art! Honk! Honk!
Art! Art! Art! Honk! Honk!

Greetings, you moop maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! I’m writing this from the still-dripping eaves of the Burning Man office in downtown Gerlach, NV. We had a doozy of a storm that blew the crew off the playa Wednesday morning, then turned into a day-long rain. The playa turned to mud, and the entire Restoration operation was grounded Thursday and Friday.

After three days on the sidelines, we are all raring to go. Your Playa Restoration hotshots really love their job, folks, and can’t wait to get back out there and finish the job before Burning Man’s site inspection with the BLM. As a matter of fact, we’re planning to work through the weekend and right up until the moment our BLM representatives arrive.

If you ever felt like cheering on the Resto crew, now is the moment! Let them know you’re rooting for them. Send a prayer on the wind. Whatever good mojo you’ve got, send it toward the playa – we’ll take it!

Red Nose (purr)Rahna
Red Nose (purr)Rahna

So About the Red Thing

So listen, I want to answer a question that’s been popping up in the comments ever since Day One:

What’s that red spot right in the middle of the Moop Map?

Would you believe it’s Burning Man’s clown nose?

To start it only takes a spark

To start, it sometimes takes as little as receiving call from abroad with your friend’s voice on the other side and waterfall of words you hope you understand right. “I found great place, it is in nature, has enough space, they do festivals there and we can grow up to 2000 people. It is on the Austrian-Czech border. Let’s start the Central European Burn.” And your answer? Why of course “OK, let’s do it”.

IMG_0521This happened last Autumn and I can’t swear he said it like this word for word, but it is pretty close. It took 8 months and around 150 people from 12 countries gathered in Austrian countryside surrounded by fields and forest with a cold stream running in the middle.

Pirate ship at Spark
Pirate ship at Spark

Three days event with two days of preparations on site (and the eight months before over emails, Skype and calls, hours and hours of work) brought a bunch of creative people who share their love of Burning Man Principles and culture, and on a smaller scale recreated the thing we called Home. Because the reason we put ourselves through months of work and planning and sleepless nights is: we want to have Home closer to our homes.

When I arrived there was already Gate running and after some greetings, hugging and spanking, I jumped through the gate yelling Spaaark as loud as I could. And the world of magic opened in front of me. There was huge pirate ship with a swing and silk hanging down for acrobats. There was a treehouse on little island in the middle of the river and mud bath right behind our tents.

Workshop schedule at Spark
Workshop schedule at Spark

There was full timetable of workshops and performances from Japanese dance, shibari, human car-ass wash, screen writing to pimp your own cup. There was a cow with crazy projections. There was an installation of a camera which took pictures and shuffled them on three screens. The camera was supposed to take the picture every 30 seconds or so and after 20 minutes in front of we just didn’t figure out what the camera is really doing. I think the art project was actually to watch the people waiting for the pictures appearing on the screens. Funny.

Interactive art installation by Dawn, which tricked me to stand in front of it for ages:)
Interactive art installation which tricked me to stand in front of it for ages.

And there was this white dome with mini(do)me inside and I had to wait until the darkness to come to really see this interactive masterpiece of lights. I was actually rushing to bathroom when I saw it in all its blinkiness and said to myself, let’s stop for a minute. Yeah, I know, what was I thinking. I spent over 30 minutes (until my bladder was screaming out loud already) playing as a kid with the mini-dome, because by touching it you could change not only the light pattern and speed, but also the colors. It was like DJing the lights on the cutest mini(do)me ever and when you looked up, the big dome was shadowing the mini(do)me.

Mini dome by Mephy Kling and mini-participant.
Mini dome by Mephy Kling and mini-participant.

We talked about Burning Man a lot and how to bring it home and how to repeat and improve this event for next year and involve more people and have more art and our brains were working all the time. It took a spark on the phone and Spark happened with everything that one could expect from such an event.

And then, at the end, during packing, pirates attacked the ship, but they didn’t see this coming (none of us did). A troop of mud people surfaced out of nowhere and fought them off and it was epic.

Hurry up and wait

The playa LOOKED pretty yesterday, but you couldn't get there from here
The playa LOOKED pretty yesterday, but you couldn’t get there from here

Hi all, we’re subbing today for the very capable Hun and her Resto blog cohort Summer Burkes to bring you news from the playa.

And in a word, there is no news.
No moop map update, no reports from the lines, no nothing.
The crews have been idled in town since midday Wednesday, when a dust storm chased everyone back to town. Then the rain moved in on Thursday, and it rained and rained and rained.
By the late afternoon, there was standing water where Black Rock City used to be, and when there is water, you simply can’t walk or drive on the playa, which really hurts Resto efforts. The sun popped out toward the end of the day, reminding everyone how ridiculously gorgeous it is here, but it was too late to begin drying things out.
Phoenix stood in a puddle near the entrance to the playa; Shalaco was taking her pic for documentation purposes
Phoenix stood in a puddle near the entrance to the playa; Shalaco was taking her pic for documentation purposes
This morning dawned beautifully, and the work crews duly gathered for their customary 7:30 morning meeting, but work was called off for at least the first half of the day.
A little after noon, people began to gather with their moop sticks outside the Saloon, hoping that things would have dried out enough to be able to get out there. But no go. Booya and Bubblegique and Phoenix had made an exploratory trip to the Shoreline, but the news was not so good. In fact, Bubblegique  got stuck, and if the desert whisperer himself got stuck, you can imagine what would have happened to a busload of pent-up moopers. It would not have been pretty.
So we’ll try again tomorrow.
There’s at least one more street to go over, and the pressure is on, because the BLM inspection is scheduled for Monday.
Stay tuned!
Phoenix radioed in a report about the conditions.
Phoenix radioed in a report about the conditions.