Getting ready for the Man

So we went out to the Man Base in the heat of the day, and the crew was cooking, figuratively and almost literally. (It was allegedly 99 degrees in Gerlach, but it felt like 119 on the playa.)

A week ago, on the day the fence went up, there was only the Golden Spike. Today, three of the four levels are already in place, and the fourth was lying upside down on the ground, waiting to be flipped over and eventually plopped on top of the others.

The lower level of the Man Base is 15 feet high, the middle two are 14 feet each, and the top one is 20 feet, including the base. It’s an impressive and imposing sight. When the Man himself is put on top, the whole thing will be more than six stories high.
The design for the base is somewhat reminiscent of the obelisk of 2008‘s American Dream. But there won’t be flags running down the exterior. Instead, at least from the  design illustrations, the finished product will evoke the feeling of a Deco skyscraper.

The Metropolis base is also being built differently than the American Dream base. The 2008 structure was constructed on its side, then raised into place. This year, the four sections are being constructed upside down, then flipped and set one on top of the other.

Big Stick and the Heavy Equipment crew were there Monday to get the fourth level into an upright position. It was dangerous work, involving three cranes and mandatory hard hats. Your correspondent was kept 50 feet away from the proceedings for his own safety.

While the crane operators were tilting the base, the Man crew was hammering, nailing, hauling, carrying and generally moving full steam ahead. There are stairways up the center of the structure, and observation platforms on each level. Today it was time to attach the guardrails, and while things seemed to fit together well, it was still awkward and hot work getting the big slabs into place.


Here comes the sun

How’s that for an omen?

There was a big rainbow over Black Rock City on Sunday night, just in time for the people leaving the Commissary after dinner to look skyward and yell, “A rainbow! A double rainbow!! … A triple rainbow!! What does it meeeeaaannn???”

Of course they were all mimicking the hilarious YouTube video that went around a while back, which you can see here. … The rainbow was amazing, and the number of people who referenced the video was pretty amazing, too.

Honestly though, you never get tired of the sky in these parts. It always bears watching.  On a day like today, when the blue is just impossibly blue, and the sky is filled with puffy white clouds, you catch yourself looking up in amazement at … nothing, really. Just the big vast wide-open sky. It’s kind of silly, but not at all.

With the rigging done, the shade was beginning to go up in Center Camp.

I  think most people were looking forward to the heat and the sun this year. Yes, it’s almost always hot and bright here, so it’s not a surprise, but if you come from San Francisco, like a lot of people here do, you are really sick of the cold and the fog. Even in a city known for its miserable summers, this has been a doozy. Someone said that during the entire month of July, there had only been three mornings with sunshine. I believe it. So dreary. So yes, we were ready for some heat and some light, and we’re getting it. (more…)

Sunday’s just another day

Sunday feels like any other day out here. The work doesn’t stop, the meetings don’t get cancelled, and no one’s dressed up in their Sunday finest. At least not at the 7 am meeting.

The number of DPWers in attendance seemed to have dwindled, though. It might have been due to the game of full-contact duck duck goose the night before, but there’s no way of knowing for sure.

Things were blazing after breakfast. Over in Center Camp, they had already finished putting in the 20-foot king posts and the 12-foot outer posts, and they had moved on to the rigging. That’s 12 king posts and 48 posts in the outer ring all set and secure.

It’s not glamorous work. It’s tedious and hot. But when you’re enjoying the shade and the camaraderie and the community of the Center Cafe during the event, you can think back to the second week of August when a lot of the heavy lifting was done.

There are 12 people on the Center Camp crew, which is called Oculus now. They used to be called the Aftermath crew, but that was back when Heavy Equipment did the Cafe build. They’d run the heavy machinery all day, and in their spare time construct the big tent that serves as the central meeting place at Burning Man.  Three years ago, the members of Aftermath who had moved on to other tasks decided they wanted their name back, so they took it. That left the Cafe crew nameless, and they decided upon Oculus. If you stand in the center of the Cafe structure and look up, you’ll see a beautiful opening to the sky above, framed by support wires. That’s where the name comes from, and it fits perfectly.

The whole crew was slaving away yesterday, Jamie and Austin and running the scissor lifts, Goat and Peaches and Tennessee and Bible Thumper and all the others pulling the cables, tightening the bolts and stringing the barrel wrap that the shade panels will hang on.


Winners–2010 Video Acculturation Series

This year, we had four awesome categories and many great submissions. We have selected four award-winning videos—fulfilling us beyond our wildest dreams with entertaining, educational media about playa culture.

Here’s a toast to these wonderful works and to the many more that are circulating out there!

Film Categories & Selected Winners:

+ Acculturation: What did you wish you had known before you got to Black Rock City?

WINNER IS: Gifting by Halcyon

“Gifting” – by Halcyon from Belief Buffet on Vimeo.

+ Ten Principles: Would you illustrate or teach others about one or any of our principles?

WINNER IS: Jewish Motherly Advice at Burningman by Lisa Shroeder and JTA (Radical Self-Expression)

+ History: Got a classic piece of video that illustrates a special piece of art, theme camp, or performance and why it matters to you?

WINNER IS: Burned By Desire (2009 webstream of the Burn) -Experimental

Burned by Desire from ViViDeo on Vimeo.

+ “We Are Everywhere”: Burning Man happens every day, all over the world. How can you explain what Burning Man is beyond the week in the desert?

WINNER IS: Gifted-Burning Man Values Go Global by

How Does a Theme Camp Leave No Trace?

[This is the third and final post in our series about Theme Camps for the Metropol Blog Series.]

Theme Camps are arguably the cultural lifeblood of [BM]. Participants gather their friends to camp together, establishing a common theme on which to base the interaction they hope to engender with the citizens of Black Rock City.  As free form and wide-ranging as they can be, from the sublime to the ridiculous, Theme Camps create an ambience, a visual presence, and in some way provide a communal space or provide interactivity. As such, they are very much the cultural engine of Black Rock City.

So we went to the source and did some interviews with a (wildly broad) representative sampling of camp organizers, including Bad Idea Theater (an entertainment camp), Kidsville (for families and children), Root Society (a dance camp), Suspended Animation (a BDSM bondage camp), and the Golden Cafe (an exotic bar). We asked them a whole bunch of questions, as you have read in our prior posts, and for this final post we ask them: “How do you Leave No Trace?“.

Before we start, a little lexicon.  MOOP is Matter Out Of Place, or things that don’t belong where they currently are.  LNT is Leave No Trace, and Burning Man is the largest Leave No Trace event in the world.

To read more about each camp click on the link that is the name of their camp. Here are the results of that interview:

Kidsville: Kidsvillains understand the village’s responsibility to uphold the larger Black Rock City community’s commitment to Leave No Trace.

photo: Susan Becker

As articulated within Burning Man’s 10 Principles, LNT exists out of respect for the environment.  The phases of incorporating LNT principles into Kidsville’s planning include education, participation, and follow-up.  Bridging all of these is communication.

Education: Each year Kidsville’s Master or Mistress of MOOP, a volunteer, prepares Kidsville’s LNT Plan.  A couple of months prior to the event the LNT Plan is emailed out to all of us and is also posted on the internet. It is required reading for all Kidsville families.

Participation: Each Kidsville family is expected to keep their own camp area clean of MOOP, and each Kidsville citizem is expected to take person responsibility for keeping ALL of Kidsville clean.  We share ideas for ways to keep individual camping areas clean. During the event, it is not unusual to see parents organizing groups of children to participate in “walking the grid” to clean up MOOP in community areas.

Follow-up: After the event, the Kidsville Mayor and/or the M. of MOOP emails out a report to our community regarding the condition of the Kidsville area after most families have left Black Rock City. If specific camps left behind MOOP, that is reported out to the community (peer pressure is often effective!).  If the LNT violations of a specific camp are particularly egregious, the Mayor may inform that family that they are not welcome as part of the Kidsville community in future years.  Another part of  follow-up involves reviewing and discussing (online) the Burning Man Organization’s LNT map following the event.  And, as mentioned previously, we communicate, communicate, communicate regarding LNT.


Uh oh …

Do we have time for a personal anecdote?

I hope so. I’ll apologize in advance for making this one more about me than the build, but eventually you’ll see the threads that bring it all back to Burning Man. … But if you get bored and want to come back another day, I understand. :)

So we had to make a trip to Reno to drop off a friend. Reno is, as you probably know, about 70 miles from Gerlach, across vast stretches of beautiful desert nothingness and Indian land.

We were about 10 miles outside of town, and it was about 20 seconds after I had said, “Gee,  we’re in good shape, this is going to work out fine,” when the engine warning lights lit up like a Christmas tree. “Check Engine Soon.” Temperature gauge buried in the red zone. Alternator indicator glowing red. And when I stepped on the gas, the engine revved, but no power reached the wheels.

Uh oh.

When I pulled over and opened the hood, there was oil everywhere. My expertise with car issues is, shall we say, limited, but it was clear even to me that something major had happened. And because I have AT&T, of course there was no cell service.

Aw crap.

So there we were in the middle of nowhere by the side of the road with the hood up and the oil dripping and the temperature rising, not a car in sight and no way of calling for help.


Moze’s Top Ten ART PROJECTS And Then Some

Welcome to the BIG CITY and BRIGHT LIGHTS, where it is said “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere,” and in Black Rock City by “it” I mean ART and by “make it there” I mean live, breathe, eat, sleep, follow your vision, work your ass off, raise your money, maintain cohesion in your group, create your dream and behold it there.

Then take a breath and load your trucks and GET OUT TO THE PLAYA to work another week or more in circumstances only someone as MAD as a Burning Man Artist could appreciate to put the thing up, all for the sake of GIFTING IT and SHARING your VISION with all of our FAIR CITY.

We are all like 40 THOUSAND moths attracted to those ENCHANTING PLAYA LIGHTS, twinkling and glowing all alone in the dark expanse, and the essence of ART is CREATION and CREATION is the ACTION of MAGIC.

So to this year’s ARTISTS, I say THANK YOU for your MAGICAL GIFTS, one and all.

2010 Theme Metropolis

This year our esteemed CITY FATHER, MR. LARRY HARVEY has suggested that we consider the theme of METROPOLIS, which is fitting considering the URBAN WONDER of our temporary COSMOPOLITAN silt alkaline jungle. I dare say that with 250+ LISTED ART PROJECTS, our fair ‘BURG has more art per square inch than most, and there is always room for more.

And, like in all GREAT CITIES, what is better than putting on your VAGABOND SHOES and joyously joining in the workaday hustle of our citizens on their way in the bustle of the boulevard, crossing  busy streets in-step, wearing anti-uniforms of surreal  gem embellished decoration, some naked painted and sparkling, others taking the forms of bizarre articulated machines or fuzzy bunnies.

What is better that TAKING IN SOME ART in Black Rock City while all around you the CITY RUMBLES with mutant vehicles and such delicious insanity; all carnival stilted, steam punk chaos tilted, flaming, blinking and at most times animated by passing clamorous groups of merry rabble rousers and otherwise exotic PEDESTRIANS. It is a place where the BOHEMIANS are the ones to gentrify the DPW Warehouse, CARP District and “DOWNTOWN” with VIOLENT HAPPY FIRE BELCHING FUN MACHINES. But the gentry here are a dusty sort, sordid and disorderly, a bunch of madmen and malcontents and the only thing that will RUN THE ARTISTS OUT of this town will be the artists themselves when the whole thing is over in however many days.

From UPTOWN to CITY CENTER, yes, this year, there will be ART from the AIRPORT through the BLM gated communities, up and into the SUBURBAN ROWS AND ROWS of RV housing to the TENEMENT TENT WARDS. ART will sprout in the new OUTER PLAZAS. ART will flourish from the MID-TOWN 420 DISTRICT, out the KEYHOLE, up the ESPLANADE and all the way to the TRASH FENCE.

And did I mention this year we even have PIGEONS! You’ll see them all over. And there is a GIANT pigeon too!

So START SPREADING THE WORD, it’s time to get all Black Rock Citified, if you aren’t ZONING out and ART is right up your ALLEY, well here you go. I’ve spent some time reading about this year’s art and listening to Anarchist Jim’s EXCELLENT AUDIO TOURS so, for now,  “LET us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky” to:



Raising the roof

An army travels on its stomach, and if the DPW is anything, it’s an army. A funky, sweaty, loud and brash army, and maybe not so big on the uniforms, but an army nonetheless, and one that builds up an appetite.

For the first days of the build, everyone eats  breakfast and dinner in the big back room at Bruno’s. Some mornings, the scent of sizzling bacon wafts powerfully down Main Street, and you can almost see the weary early risers being drawn to breakfast by the hypnotizing aroma.

But feeding everybody at Bruno’s is pricey, and the room gets  crowded and the lines get longer  as more workers arrive. So one of the first big tasks of the build is to get the Commissary tent up and running, so everyone can move from town out to the playa and start taking their meals on site.

The wind has been very strong the past few days, and putting up the tent in the gusts and the dust was a trial. It was a challenge to get the center poles in place while the wind was trying to take the whole thing airborne, but various crews came together from all the different work crews to get it done, with Bean and Hayseed providing overall direction.