Counting down the hours

The Striding Man is up in all his glory

It really won’t be long now. The months and months of prep are finished, you’re on your way or about to leave, and everyone already here is  getting ready for you.

The city really is different in this run-up week to the event. The number of people and the readiness of the theme camps, especially, remind us of what it was like during the first day or two of the event five or six years ago. Back then, it seemed, the gates would open and there’d be a mad dash to get everything set up. These days, there are more people on the playa early, and there’s a lot in place and ready to go right from the start of the week.

The weather has been hot, but there’s a cooling trend forecast for the coming week. The nights have been really warm, but it seems like you’ll want to remember to bring something warm to wear at night as the weather cools.

There's plenty of art installed on the playa already, and more is arriving by the hour.

The lines to get into the city are getting longer, even though it’s only those people with early arrival passes being admitted now. Yesterday afternoon, it was an hour or more wait to get through the gates. The greeter’s station was busy, with plenty of hugs and rolling in the dust and bells gonging to announce the arrival of first-timers.

The official opening is tonight at midnight, and there will be a huge group of people down at the gates to usher in the newcomers. Then, finally and officially, Burning Man 2011 will be underway.

The Man burns in six days.

The Temple of Transition is nearly complete, after three amazing weeks of work by the crew and the people of DPW, especially the Heavy Equipment folks. Kiwi, the mastermind of the Temple team, is ready for people to arrive. The team had to break camp yesterday, which was another long day of work. "People ask me, 'How can you build something so beautiful and then burn it,'" Kiwi said yesterday. "Just watch me," he said. "We built it to burn it."


The Playa is Really Big

As anyone who has walked back to camp after watching the sun come up out at the trash fence will tell you: the playa is big. Really big. Gigantic and huge to boot. But it’s even bigger than that. Really. Really. Big.

It’s so big the only way I can explain it is to show you a picture and hope that you click on it:

110 megapixel panoramic image of the Black Rock Desert

This is a 110 megapixel panoramic image I shot of the Black Rock desert last Wednesday. It’s made out of 42 individual images, and stretches all the way from the Temple of Transition all the way back to Gerlach. Click on the image to see the whole thing in high-rez interactive animated detail.  Requires Flash and a full water container. Extra sunscreen would be a good idea, too.

the last spire is in the ground

Marlee and her anvil

The installation of the last spire  is another of the key milestones in the building of Black Rock City. And it’s a big reason to celebrate. The work is nearly at an end, the guests are about to arrive, and it’s time to make the transition from work to play.

Yesterday afternoon, workers from all over the city got together in the near playa by the Jub Jub camp to put in that last funky, janky spire, which was “decorated” by all the various work crews here. Then there were cool refreshing beverages, and a bit of socializing. We may be under-describing the activities, but you get the idea.

Marlee supervised the blasting of a 100-pound anvil into the air. Why did they do this? Well, one big reason was because they could. She and her dad do it in the default world as well, and strange as it may sound, they know exactly how to engineer the blast for the maximum pop and maximum safety.
Which is not to say that you want to try and catch that anvil, because as we mentioned, it weighed 100 pounds. It took a pound of black powder and a special launching base, but the resultant boom and lift were truly amazing. The anvil soared almost gracefully into the hot desert sky, then crashed back into the playa to general hoots and hollers. The bang was big: even seasoned DPW workers were startled by the power of the thing.

Then there were beers, and a sledgehammer toss, and a pizza party, and general merriment. Yesterday had been one of the hottest days so far this year, and it felt good to catch a little shade and rest. And maybe admire the work that’s been done here.

BooYa can really toss that hammer.

This is the biggest Black Rock City that’s ever been built. Retro reported this morning that there had been more than 50 miles of “roads” laid out. (The city got bigger by two streets this year, and many of them were widened, too, so the footprint of the city is larger than it’s ever been.)

Many of you might be on the right by now, or just about ready to leave. It won’t be long until the gates are opened and we can truly get this thing going. As Logan said, “Let’s do this thing.”

What follows is a gallery of pictures from the get-together, featuring a lot of the people who’ve been working hard out here for so many weeks for you.



A Magical Moment at Burning Man

Magical moments occur of their own accord at Burning Man. These often appear as a spontaneous act of generosity, the perfect gift, or they might simply be a moment of special significance that would be missed if you weren’t paying attention. At Burning Man 2008, my magical moment was a dream that came true within an hour of wishing it.

This was the second burn for me and my partner, Flossie Starbutts III. As we were setting up our trailer at the Burning Mbers Camp, our neighbor Desert Wren was putting finishing touches on what she called Dream Tags, gifts she had made for her campmates.

“What is your dream?” she asked each burner. Then she carefully wrote the dream on the colorful quilted square, and hung it around the burner’s neck.

She got to me as we were readying our bikes for our initial foray out to see this year’s Man. What was my dream? I said the first thing that popped into mind. “Free flight.”

That was weird! Because by all appearances, I already live a dream that is the envy of many wannabe fliers: In the Default World I am an airline pilot. Not only do I fly jets around all time, I have also flown hot air balloons, gliders, seaplanes, aerobatics, and, oh yeah, I fell through the air under a parachute once, too. Plus, I get to fly for free as a benefit of my job.

But Burning Man was working its magic. In the spontaneity of the moment, an unfulfilled desire rose up to reveal itself: That I still have not flown free.

Desert Wren carefully wrote my Dream Tag: “My dream is of flying free on the playa.”

And off we went, Flossie and I, biking out to see the Man. Then something shiny and silver glinted in the sun. We changed course to go see what it could be. As we biked closer, it became a gigantic steel sculpture of bird wings with outstretched feathers, mounted onto a steel ring that was large enough to stand in. Standing in the ring, I was putting on a pair of huge silver bird wings. Just then, a breeze kicked up and I in my wings slowly pivoted in the wind… Flying free…

And, just like that, my dream came true. It is magical moments like these that make it – Burning Man!

by YourFlyIsOpen

(Note: The sculpture is “Spread Eagle” by Bryan Tedrick.)

On The Road To Black Rock City

Today is the day that many of us have been anticipating for weeks or months or years: The day that we leave our default realities for the playa.  After  all of the packing and preparation,  we’ll get into one kind of vehicular pod or another and scurry off to the desert, fixated on just one thing: getting to the other side of the Greeter’s station.

Rites of Passage is my 12th burn. I’ve often wished that I “had time” to stop in some of the beautiful places we pass through on the way to Black Rock City. After I made it into California I noticed that the stars were amazing, and the moon was starting to rise and had to stop and take it all in.

I find the Surprise Valley to be especially beautiful. This year it was just starting to get light as I made my way over Cedar Pass and I saw that a spectacular sunrise was about to unfold, so I pulled over and shot this four-frame panorama.

A little further South is Eagleville, and the sunrise was still indeed amazing.  I caught the tail end of a Burner’s Airstream in one of my photos.

And then the sun was up, and I was in Nevada, and that’s where the cattle grates begin to appear in earnest. That’s when you know you’re getting close to home.

Speaking of home I know you’re all thinking, gee, Holden, this on the road stuff is great, but how about some photos from the playa? Well, I’ll leave you with this one, and promise to post a bunch more soon….as I write this the sky is just starting to get light and there is some amazing art that I need to go photograph.

Open Call for “Burners Speak” Videos

Do you remember that moment when Burning Man changed your life? How do you participate in making Burning Man?

We’re looking for videos under six minutes, shot on or off playa, where you tell your story in the phenomenon called Burning Man.  Just you and the camera, tell your story.


— Video must be under 6 minutes

— Video must be posted on Youtube, Vimeo, BlipTV, Flickr, or another free video hosting platform that allows embedding and linking. Please do NOT email actual video files – host them elsewhere and share the link instead.

— You must have permission/model release from any other featured individuals (besides you) to use their image in your piece. (NOTE: Please be aware of participant privacy, as you would for any public video shot at the event. If you shot video with a personal use registration tag it is okay to use that footage for this project, but if your friends or campmates are recognizable in the video, it’s policy — and really, good etiquette — for you to let them know you now plan to share the footage with a much wider audience than your own friends and family. If you can’t manage to contact recognizable individuals in your shots, use other footage instead).

— By posting and submitting your film/video for this Video Call, you agree to let Burning Man share (and possibly excerpt or remix) your work for “Burning Man related video projects”.

— All submissions must be sent to with a working URL link and a credit list by December 1, 2011.

— Content containing nudity, violence, copyrighted materials or illegal acts will not be considered.

Winning Submissions will be announced in 2012. We will celebrate on Playa and beyond!! Lights…camera…Action!

C’mon Home

The road to Gerlach and Burning Man passes by Pyramid Lake

There’s been a dramatic  shift in the city over the past four or five days.

The people who build the city have been joined by the people who make the art and run the big theme camps, and now the city  is fleshing out and filling in. What once was open playa is now crowded with trailer camps, the big vehicles circled like wagon trains.

And it seems that people are throwing their arms around each other all over BRC, as another celebration of  community, art and FIRE draws very very close. It’s like the day  of a big dinner party; everyone will be coming over soon, ready to laugh and drink and dance, and you can’t help but be a little nervous even as your excitement mounts.

Much of the Temple of Transition is up, in all its glory

It’s hard to get population numbers at this point, but you should know that there are more early arrivers here than ever, or so it would seem. While in previous years you’d see signs saying “Reserved for Theme Camps” all over the playa, they’re not needed anymore, mostly because those folks are now coming in early to get things set up before the event begins.

The city reminds me of what it used to look like on Monday or Tuesday of the event week. People are in the throes of  getting used to the desert, of setting up their stuff, of getting everything ready for a week of adventure.

The newcomers arrive bright-eyed and anxious to get the playa dust all over them (it has strangely beautifying effects on almost everyone).  Then, by the end of that first day, there are flushed faces and tired-looking eyes. That’s what working in the dust and the heat all day will do to you.

But then evening comes, and the sky goes all orange and blue and purple, and the temperature drops, and the twilight lingers for what seems like hours, and you hug and scream when someone you haven’t seen for so long finally makes it to the playa, and you remember again what you came here for. You came for the art, you came for the music, you came for the desert, but most of all you came for the people. The community of freaks and bright lights and big hearts that call this place Home.


more signs of the times

There are miles and miles of welcome signs and road signs to put up in Black Rock City, and a dedicated crew of about nine, with occasional drop-ins and transfers from other departments, has been tackling the task since July.

They create all the signs out at the Ranch, and the crew not only makes the street signs that help you find your way through the city, but they also create the old-time sequential signs that line the road into BRC.  In all, about 1,500 signs of various signs and shapes are produced, and then attached to stakes in the desert floor.

Today the Sign crew was out on the entrance road, installing the signs that give you something to read on the way in. The first signs remind you that the speed limit is 10mph, but crew members regularly had to flag down early arrivers and tell them to slow down. The day was hot and dusty, and every vehicle that came in kicked up a little more. The faster you go, the more dust there is, so remember on your way in to do the city a favor and slow down.

“That’s the whole idea,” After Five was saying. “Slow down and read the signs.”