November 9th, 2011  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

Is there too much positive energy at Burning Man?

Late Wednesday morning at the burn I was walked over to an unfamiliar camp.  Told:  “You’ve got to meet these guys.”

I sat down between their RVs.  They gave me a beer.  I don’t remember their names – I wish I did.

“Tell him the story,” one of them said to another.  “He’s going to love it.”

The story he told me went like this:

“So the other night we were passing by Playa Info, maybe around 11, and we realized that all the Playa Info staff leave at 9.  So we walked inside and sat in the staff area, behind the desks, and looked official.  People came in and asked us stuff, even though the hours of operation were clearly posted and there was a sign saying ‘we are not responsible for information you get after 9 p.m..’  Didn’t matter:  tons of people walked right up to us and asked question.   So we answered them.  Our rule was:  if they were asking for medical, rangers, or the bathroom, we sent them to the right place.  Otherwise, we told them whatever we wanted.”

My jaw dropped.  It was so simple … so brilliant.  Why hadn’t anyone thought of this before?

“So all night people would walk in and say ‘Hi, I’m Crystal and I’m looking for my friend John.  Where’s his camp?’  And we’d say:  ‘John’s camp!  Sure!  It’s right at 2 and E.’  Or somebody would ask where they could get their community bike fixed without having to leave it for someone else to take;  we’d say let us take a look at it, and ride off with it.  We made people sing karaoke for us before giving them bad directions … we had a whole line of Japanese tourists, and after the first one sang ‘My Way’ the rest all insisted that they get to sing it too.  it was amazing.  We stayed there all night, and when the real Playa Info came in the next morning and saw what we were doing … they asked if we wanted to be put on the schedule for any other nights during the week.”

Now, I can’t actually confirm that this really happened – but I sure hope so.

I mention this for two reasons.  First, because it’s awesome. Second, so that when I tell you that many of the people I like most at Burning Man are bastards, you’ll have a clear sense of what I mean.

A lot of people talk about Burning Man like it’s an ocean of “positive energy” – a spiritual experience that will take us to a higher level of consciousness if we open ourselves up.  In some ways this is true.

But often these people take the next step and say that “negative energy” and “negative” emotions have no place there.  These things belong in the default world, and it’s a commitment to positive energy and experiences that sets Burning Man apart.

Most years, my response has been “But I prefer hanging out with the bastards.  They’re more fun.” Read more »

November 4th, 2011  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music), Events/Happenings

Join Us at the ARTumnal Gathering

Immerse yourself in a realm rich in imagination, expression and inspiration! Be the art!

Saturday, November 19 at 6:00pm – November 20 at 2:30am

Location:

The Bently Reserve
400 Sansome Street
San Francisco, CA

The [BRAF] presents our fifth annual: Artumnal Gathering

Feast of Imagination Dinner 6:30 pm

Artumnal Celebration 9:30 pm

Join us at the magnificent Bently Reserve and enjoy fine fare, tempting libations, special treats, surprises, the best of company in their finest attire, original artwork by our favorite artists, auctions featuring one of a kind experiences and items, and abundant creativity!

Celebrate the creative spirit of our community! Enjoy captivating live performances and dance the night away in three elegant rooms of music and DJ’s. We’d love to see you!
Read more »

October 31st, 2011  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Zombies on the MOOP line

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.

Hello out there — if anyone is out there.

The Hun here, reporting from Reno where the ghosts and ghouls and glamorously undead have taken over the town. So far I’m safe here, barricaded in my house with eleven guns and a month’s supply of candy. But OMG! How I regret not warning you all weeks ago, when maybe we could’ve stopped this from happening. I should said something. But I kept it a secret, and now we’re all paying the price.

It may be too late for the truth to help things, but here we go. It started way back in August, when Stinger rolled into Gerlach with an angry-looking lump on her jaw.

She said it was a bee sting, and we all believed her. Maybe it really was a bee sting — but from what kind of bee? Even with medication, the lump didn’t heal. It just grew bigger, and blacker.

After a while, Stinger disappeared. We all figured she’d gone to the hospital to get that gigantic infected wound taken care of.

But then, a few days before the end of Playa Restoration, it happened. When the MOOP line showed up for work, Stinger was there. I don’t know how she got out to the desert; maybe she walked there. The lump was gangrenous and putrid, and it had eaten half her face. She didn’t seem to notice. She seemed… well, she seemed an awful lot like a zombie.

And then the worst happened: She attacked.

taking Deadpan unawares.

Read more »

October 24th, 2011  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

War at Burning Man, Part V: flame throwers, footrubs, and photographs!

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.

No one at Monticello or BMIR slept much that night – and neither did I.  I woke up with the same question I’d asked falling asleep:  how could a small band of mercenaries kidnap the Lady Vice from the middle of Monticello?

As the WarBringer, I could travel to each side with impunity – but showing up leading hostile forces wouldn’t be cricket.  I could be a distraction, I had in the past, but what would be the plan of attack?  Should I just hand the mercenaries to BMIR and let them figure it out?

I spent the morning working at Media Mecca, trying to fit the puzzle together:  how to find her out of Monticello, unprotected.  How?

“Hey Caveat!” said Polaris.

“It’s WarBringer,” I corrected.

“Of course it is.  WarBringer.”  I could actually hear his eyes roll.  “There’s someone here to see you.”

“Who?”

“She says her name’s Lady Vice.”

Well, that was easy.

Author’s Note: The following is an account of the events of The War of the Rites, an epic conflict at Burning Man 2011 between the camps of BMIR and Monticello. Read Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, and Part IV here.  Unlike previous playa stories I’ve told here, no part of the story has been fictionalized. All details are accurate to the best of my recollection. Read more »

October 21st, 2011  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

War at Burning Man, part IV: idiots are weapons, too!

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.

The voice on the radio was excited — almost orgasmic.

“Okay, people, the rumor has been confirmed – Bassnector will be playing at Monticello a couple hours after Daft Punk!  That’s tonight’s party, starts right after the core burn!  This is a private affair, but the secret word to get in is ‘footbucket’!  It’s going to be an incredible party!  Tell the people in wigs that BMIR sent you!’  We’ll see you there!”

The Governor of Monticello, gave me a pained look.  “They’ve been saying that all day, haven’t they.”

“Yep.”

“We’ve got to stop them!”

“Good!  Yes!  Stop them!  The WarBringer is pleased!”

“You’re pretty much only going by ‘Wargringer’ now, aren’t you.”

“Don’t ruin this for me.”

He shrugged.  “Okay.”

“So how are you going to stop them?”

“We … we …” he paused.  “Shit.  I have no idea.”

Author’s Note: The following is an account of the events of The War of the Rites, an epic conflict at Burning Man 2011 between the camps of BMIR and Monticello. Read Part I here, Part II here, and Part III here.  Unlike previous playa stories I’ve told here, no part of the story has been fictionalized. All details are accurate to the best of my recollection. Read more »

October 20th, 2011  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

War at Burning Man, part III: It’s not really torture if it’s funny!

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.

Payback hurts ...

I dropped by BMIR in the morning.  The sight of Monticello’s flag on their transmitter had made them serious about the war now.  If nothing else, fighting would probably be easier than getting the flag down.

That was going to be tricky.

“Those fuckers!” said Christa.

I was not in a mood to be gracious.  “I warned you.”

“We’re SO going to get them back!”

“I WARNED you.  Monticello has a taste for empire, and the means to acquire it.”

“You mean an art bus?” asked Mao.

“Well, yeah.”

“We’re going to stop ‘em.”

“Still going to kidnap the Governor?”

“Oh yeah we are!”  said Christa.

“Uh huh.”  Same old song and dance.  I went on my way, disappointed.

Author’s Note: The following is an account of the events of The War of the Rites, an epic conflict at Burning Man 2011 between the camps of BMIR and Monticello. Read Part I here, and Part II here. Unlike previous playa stories I’ve told here, no part of the story has been fictionalized. All details are accurate to the best of my recollection.

When I stopped back two hours later, the Governor of Monticello was tied to a shade structure support beam … in the same rope he’d bound Ken with two nights ago. Read more »

October 19th, 2011  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

War at Burning Man! Part II: The Empire Strikes Twice

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.

The fine ship "Dodo"

Author’s Note:   The following is an account of the events of The War of the Rites, an epic conflict at Burning Man 2011 between the camps of BMIR and Monticello.  Read Part I here.  Unlike previous playa stories I’ve told here, no part of the story has been fictionalized.  All details are accurate to the best of my recollection.

BMIR was exhausted – not from the battle, but from the party that followed.  The Dodo’s art tour had kept them up into the wee hours of the morning.

But even before I arrived in at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, they were planning revenge.

“Oh, we’re doing this,” said Mao, one of the BMIR’s camp managers.  “It’s on.”

I grinned.  “I heard you put up quite a struggle, Mao.”

“Yeah, it took three of them to take me down, but they finally did.  While I was on the ground, I heard somebody on the Dodo’s loudspeaker saying I was too dangerous to live.”

“Oh, that was me.”

“You were right.”

Ken walked over.  “I want to tie the Governor up in the same rope he tied me in,” he said.  “I want that so bad.  That’s it hanging on the wall, so it’s ready at a moment’s notice.”

“We’ve got plans,” said Christa, the other site manager.  “Big plans.”

I took a deep breath.  “I’m so … so … proud of you.”

“We’re a war camp now,” said Christa. Read more »

October 18th, 2011  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

War at Burning Man! Part I: Cannons, and Artillery, and Blood

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.

It was pretty much like this ...

At approximately 10:30 p.m. on the night of Monday, Aug. 29, the double-decker art boat “Dodo” drove up before BMIR, Burning Man’s official radio station, and was fired upon by a mounted cannon on the roof.

It wasn’t the bloodiest battle they would fight that week:  just the first.

Author’s Note:   The following is an account of the events of The War of the Rites, an epic conflict at Burning Man 2011 between the camps of BMIR and Monticello.  Unlike previous playa stories I’ve told here, no part of the story has been fictionalized.  All details are accurate to the best of my recollection.

BMIR and Monticello had never fought before, and weren’t even arguing until just two hours earlier.  But when the call to war came, they were ready.  Eager.

The two camps had been united in five years of friendship by Zeus.  A key founder and long-standing director of BMIR, Zeus is close friends with “Guv’nor,” the Governor of Monticello (a theme camp based upon Thomas Jefferson’s ancestral home.)   Guv’nor had even been the de facto best man at Zeus’ wedding two months earlier.

Had Zeus been present, many combatants agree, the War of the Rites probably never would have been fought.  He would have made peace.  But he wasn’t there this year.  I was.

I’d never started a war before.  But, everybody needs an art project, right?

Early that afternoon, J. Kannizle, one of BMIR’s two station managers on-site, asked Guv’nor to send the Dodo to BMIR that night and give the station’s hard-working crew a tour of the playa and its art.  The Governor said yes:  they’d done this several times before over the previous few years.  Everyone was happy with the arrangement.

Everyone, that is, except Kenneth Griswak, the brilliant, mad, artist-in-residence at BMIR.  Read more »