Out at the edge of the city … another city

They’re the outlaw project, or maybe just old school Burning Man. They’re the wild West, with infusions from all over the world, most notably New Zealand and Ireland. They’re the gang at the far end of the playa, building the huge project with the tiny budget. Megatropolis.

Five buildings will light up the far reaches of Black Rock City, each of them huge, and the tallest rising almost five stories above the desert floor.

The crew has a crackerjack core of carpenters and builders, but a bigger bunch of people who are willing to do a lot of hard work and take direction. But the size of the crew is minuscule compared to some of the other projects here. They’re about 20 strong, give or take.

And they’ve done it with very little money, too. Most of the leaders of the project are into it in the thousands of dollars already (but it’s not too late to help, by the way. Go to the Megatropolis web page to contribute).

Otto Von Danger and Kiwi are the lead dogs. They met at the regional burn in New Zealand this year, and the plans took shape. Build another city inside of Black Rock City, in the year of Metropolis.

Some of the buildings are recognizable, like the Transamerica Pyramid. Others are more iconic: the smokestack, the apartment building and the mega mall. In the center sits the tower, the biggest of the buildings and the one where you’ll be able to get a ride to the top on a scissor lift.

The whole city will be lit from the inside as well as the outside. It’ll be glowing in the distance, and the colors will be changing regularly. Oh, and there will be fire and fireworks — lots of both! — when the city is burned on Friday night of the event.

In the dust and the wind of the first couple of days, the generator was balky.

The construction camp is rough around the edges. It doesn’t have the amenities of the other big projects of its kind. There are some chairs and couches, some of which were apparently used in some sort of fire safety demonstration the first time they were on the playa.The overall impression that it’s a rough place to be.

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Join Us! On Playa Digital Rights: Copyright & Privacy- September 3, 2010 -Black Rock City, NV

The Media Mecca team is settling in and reporting direct from the West Wing (our internet office in Center Camp).

August 25, 2010- The West Wing- Black Rock City, NV

As you may already know, we’ve been undergoing a review of the Burning Man Digital Rights Policy this year. We have some changes that we will review at our Playa Digital Rights event (described below) and back in SF. We have until December to finalize this review, as new tickets and terms (2011) will be released at that time.

We want to invite all interested in this conversation to join our Playa Digital Rights: Copyright & Privacy event at Center Camp Cafe, Black Rock City, NV, in 2010. Ask questions, engage with our crew, and contribute to the evolution of our media policies.

Join the Media Mecca team

Friday. September 3, 2010

11.30am-12.30pm
Center Camp Cafe

Black Rock City, NV

Playa Digital Rights: Copyright & Privacy

The event will be audio recorded.

Questions this presentation will cover:
1. What constitutes personal use?
2. What are our guiding principles when it comes to documentation and when do we enforce and why?
3. Where and when can I report camera violations?
4. How can I contribute to the best practices document?
5. What are some of the issues around playa documentation?

Your Questions and comments are welcome in person and via cameratales here: cameratales (at) burningman.com

warmly and softly,

the burning nerds.

Howdy, Man

The Man got put in his place late in the afternoon Wednesday, and it was a sight.

Big Stick maneuvered the machinery into place, the Man crew performed their rituals, an admiring throng gathered, and up he went.

The Man started out the afternoon flat on his back, where a lot of us would like to be. By the end of the operation, he was standing atop the Metropolis base, looking out over Black Rock City. Also where a lot of us would like to be.

He was very shiny in the afternoon sun. The Man has a silvery sheen this year, and Will Chase was saying that maybe we should spread a rumor that he was made of metal and wouldn’t burn. But don’t worry; he’s made of wood, as usual, and oh, he’ll burn.

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Pen, pencil and moon

The rising full moon did a pas de deux with Bliss Dance

So we have to admit we are a little jealous to hear about the hot weather in San Francisco these past several days. San Francisco in the summer is just plain magic — people outside, hot nights, noise and life; no other place like it, the four or five times a year it happens.

Speaking of the weather, it looks like we’re going to have a little out here. It’s been both ungodly hot and pretty damn cold this week. And the forecast for Sunday says … wait for it … rain. Possible thunderstorms with a 30 percent chance of precipitation.

It does rain out here. I’ve only experienced very short bursts, which are often followed by amazing rainbows. But it CAN rain hard. Read your Burning Man Survival Guide on how to react. The most important thing is to be cool, and stay where you are. If you try to drive, you’ll just get stuck. Tune to playa radio BMIR 94.5  for the latest info.

But just stay cool.

It was drawing night at the Ghetto last night. The Ghetto is where the DPW crew camps.

Porcelain set up the stage and arranged chairs and provided drawing materials. Peaches and Weld Boy and Meredith and Phoenix and a bunch of other people did the modeling, and there were lots of people rotating into spots at the tables.

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More than fluff

Fluffer Nips

Sometimes you think you’re ready to hear the story, but you’re really not.

Fluffer Nips is the exuberantly good-natured person behind the wheel when the van with the water and the ice shows up. (Of course, you can’t miss the van because it’s decorated with Photo Mike’s stunning portraits on the outside.)

She’s the leader of the fluffer team, the people who make sure the work crews have what they need to keep going. Ice. Water. Sport drinks. Soda. Jerky. Sunscreen. Chips. Some sweets. Handi-Wipes. Maybe some smokes, if she has any.

She’d give you anything she has, and get you anything she didn’t.

Which makes what happened to her all the more painful.  It shouldn’t happen to anyone, of course, but especially not to her.

Nips always seems to have  a big hello for you. Always wants to know how you’re doing, what you need, before you even ask for anything. Maybe people don’t know you too well and are kind of suspicious, be she’s not like that. She’s one of the most genuine people you ever met. Not phony nice, real nice. You know the difference.

Three crews in separate vans make the rounds, visiting the 45 or so teams of workers pounding and sawing and lifting in the 100-degree temperatures. Things are in really good shape in Black Rock City, and you have to think that the fluffers are playing a role in that. They bring the drinks and some snacks and some friendly talk.

The whole fluffer gang is at the Depot after the DPW morning meeting, loading the vans with ice and water. Nips and Audrey and Rugburn and Shotgun and Ash and Little Girl and Purple Fluffer and TMI. It’s an an all-female team. “Guys could do it,” Nips says, “but they’re just not as cute.”

She and the others load giant Igloo coolers with six-packs of crushed and block ice. You know how it’s awkward and kind of a pain to get that bag or two of ice from the 7-11 to your cooler? Well, this crew carries six bags at a time, getting the ice from an insulated trailer to the big coolers in the back of the vans.

Then it’s time to see who needs what. Make sure the electrical crews’ big water jugs are filled. Slather on the sunscreen for the Shade crew. Give out some candy at the Heavy Machinery yard. The workers crowd around the van like it’s a taco truck in a warehouse district. They shoot the breeze a little, talk about last night or what’s happening tonight.

Sometimes the workers need to talk about other things, too. Because the longer you are out here, and the more you work and the more you sweat, the more likely it becomes that your nerves will fray. You don’t roll with the punches as easily. Maybe somebody on the crew just bugs the crap out of you. Nips knows that listening is a part of the job, too. You have to remember: All this is happening out in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes it’s easy to feel like you don’t have a friend in the world. Nips and her crew make that feeling go away.

And Nips has been making that feeling go away for people for most of her life.

She started the whole fluffer thing on her own, when she used her own vehicle to go back and forth to town to get ice. She didn’t get it from Bruno’s, though, because it would cost too much. She’d go to the Black Rock Saloon and bag it up herself, then take it the 40 minutes or so back out to the playa where it was needed.

Nips is from a tight-knit Philly family, and the big reason it is so tight-knit is Nips. She’s the glue that kept them together. Which makes what happened all the more unfair.

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Soaking the burlap and fixing the bike

On Sunday night, it was time to attach the wads of paraffin-soaked burlap to the innards of the Man, the better for the bonfire that is now less than two weeks away.

It’s a simple process, but a time-consuming one. You make a fire and suspend a big vat over it. Then you dump big chunks of  wax into the vat and wait for it to melt. Crimson Rose was stirring the strong-smelling stew with long metal tongs, as she has done for years now.  When the wax is sufficiently liquified, you dip rolled-up bags of burlap into the molten mass, which, appropriately enough, is crimson.

The pieces of burlap float in the blood-colored liquid until they are drenched, and then they are placed on a tarp to cool. Once they can be handled, the volunteers who’ve showed up on this chilly desert night attach them to the slats of the Man with metal wire.

“Maybe we should soak the burlap in bacon,” Rose was heard to say. “Then all the vegans would say, ‘I’m hungry!’ “

If you wanted to help, you needed heavy gloves and a good set of wire snips. The Man was flat on his back, and SF Slim pointed out that you have to remember to attach the bags in such a way that they don’t slide down when he is raised upright.

It’s not the most fun job you’ll ever have, but it has to get done if the Man is going to burn, and everyone wants the Man to burn.

The Man will sport something of a new look this year, which qualifies as news because, by all outward signs, he looks pretty much the same from year to year. He’s the most recognizable icon of the city, a thing of permanence at the event that celebrates temporality.

The strips of wood on his exterior were being covered with silvery tape, which Sunday night was being referred to as Tijuana Chrome. He’ll look all sleek and Deco, in the Metropolis theme, and the silver will make the neon will glow even brighter.

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A storm, a wedding, and the early burn

Wheewww, boy, what a Saturday.

It was the first really big whiteout dust storm of the year, and it was a bad one. And it came as more and more people arrived from San Francisco and Austin and Portland and all the other big points on the Burning Man compass.

We were coming in from Reno, and we could see the effects of the wind as we neared Gerlach. It looked like there was smoke from a forest fire blowing across the valley in the distance, except of course the smoke wasn’t gray, it was white. It actually looked more like a blizzard of dust.

When we passed through Gerlach and got a glimpse of the Black Rock desert, we knew we were in for it. The city was obscured and the wind was howling. We had to inch our way up the entrance road,  and when we finally got to the city we had to stop the car every few feet and wait for a break in conditions to continue. It was bad.

The storm threatened to delay or even cancel the early burn, the big gathering where all the construction camps make wooden sculptures to burn. It was also the night that Foxtrot and Huckleberry were to be married, and it was going to be tough for people to find their way to the Commissary for the festivities. One thing for sure, it was going to be a very white wedding.

It was dark when we headed out for the wedding, and along the way we picked up Phoenix. She stayed in the car with us for, oh, about 15 minutes as we tried to maneuver from the Center Cafe to the Commissary. Normally it’s a two minute drive, max. Tonight, we nearly ran smack into recycle camp. It was just that bad. We overshot the Commissary, and as we passed the Ghetto, where most of the DPW people camp, she piped up from the back seat, “Oh, this is fine, you can drop me off here.” Right. She’d have better chances on foot than we were having in the car.

We finally made it over, though, and joined the throng in the packed Commissary.

Hayseed called out to the room to listen to the music, and the couple made their way through the aisle. The wedding party exchanged hugs and kisses, and then it was time for Ghost to officiate.

He told us to honor the Paiutes who had lived on the land first. He summoned spirits from the north, the south, the east and the west. He lit sage to banish the harmful angry spirits, to make way for the loving ones. He was articulate and moving and real. He spoke of love and commitment and standing up for each other when times were tough. He was both serious and joyful. If you weren’t touched, if your heart wasn’t moved, you may not be ready for love.

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What, no fire?

We’ve been out here for almost two weeks now, and with the exception of a burn barrel here and there, we haven’t seen much fire. So naturally we were drawn to the flames the other night when we saw the bright light down by the Depot.

It wasn’t really anything special, just the accumulated burnables of a couple of days. The two Mikes were down at the Depot this evening, Rest Stop Buddy and Alipato.

It was quiet. Gameshow was inside getting pimped out for the boys and girls social. There wasn’t much chatter on the radio. We hung out and had a few beers.

“I’m a little suspicious of you,” Alipato said, looking sideways at me.. “The blogger doing the organization’s bidding. … It could just be my normal paranoia though.”

Nomad came walking by, on his way to the social. “Be home by 10,” Rest Stop said.

The night was absolutely gorgeous. Calm, warm, quiet.

“The biggest and earliest camp hasn’t arrived yet,” Alipato said.

“Which one is that?” I asked.

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