Posts during September, 2012


September 26th, 2012  |  Filed under Environment, Participate!

MOOP Map Live 2012: Where are the MOOP-conscious mutant vehicles?

Photo by James Addison. Click to enlarge.

Hello out there, MOOP maniacs! Today, we’re giving the intrepid Playa Restoration team a little respite from their work restoring the Black Rock Desert. Instead, let’s turn our attention to another group that goes above and beyond the call of duty to make Burning Man an amazing experience: mutant vehicle owners.

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September 25th, 2012  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

Check out playa pinhole camera art!

I met Nichon three years ago when she volunteered for Media Mecca.  I almost didn’t let her in:  she wanted to take pictures for Burning Man, and we don’t do that.  She’s from the Netherlands, and I’d recently been burned by a lot of Northern European would-be volunteers.  She’d just gotten a degree in fashion design, and if that doesn’t display poor judgment I don’t know what does.

She made it on the team somehow, though – demonstrating great people skills and a gift for problem solving.

She stayed just long enough to accidentally quit.

Nichon noticed that Media Mecca lets a group of pinhole camera enthusiasts use some of our space as a darkroom.  It’s been happening for over a decade now.  I’d honestly forgotten about it.  Nichon couldn’t get it out of her mind.

After her first Mecca shift she walked up to me and said “Hey Caveat, I think I’ll work with the pinhole camera people from now on, okay?”

She honestly had no idea that she was quitting my team to go work for somebody else:  she thought ‘well, they work in the same space, it must be the same group.’

I considered saying “No.”  I considered giving her one of my three lectures on volunteer responsibility – probably number 2, the one where I’m disappointed but still your friend and we can come back from this by working together.

Or maybe throwing a fit.  I love a good fit.

But I could tell, looking at her, that she’d found a passion.  This wasn’t flaking on a volunteer commitment so much as it was discovering a new cause.  And what’s the point of coming to Burning Man if you’re not allowed to discover a new passion?  Saying “No” to that defeats the whole point.

So I said “Oh, okay.”  And quietly wrote her off the schedule.

By the end of the week Nichon was running the pinhole camera group, and has been a co-leader ever since. Read more »

September 25th, 2012  |  Filed under Environment

MOOP Map Live 2012: Day 3 Results

10-9 and Sleep Dep battle for a particularly good piece of MOOP: a buried stake.
Photo by Vertumnus. Click for full size.

Hello all you MOOP maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! It’s an exciting time out here in the ruins of Black Rock City, where the Playa Restoration team is sweeping through the city grid at an unprecedented pace. They knocked out another 54 blocks in their third day on the field, making quick work of the inner blocks where you, I and most of our friends made our homes.

How did YOUR camp score on the MOOP Map? Read on to find out.

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September 24th, 2012  |  Filed under Environment

MOOP Map 2012: Day 2 Results

Welcome back, all you MOOP maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire, to the second day of our thrilling live coverage of MOOP Map 2012!

If you’re just tuning in: Day One was a perfect day and the Playa Restoration team is off to a record-breaking start. But where yesterday we were covering the back blocks of Black Rock City, today the team tackled a bigger challenge: Esplanade, the epicenter of Burning Man’s multifarious madness. In years past, Esplanade has seen some of the worst scores — and some of the best, too.

How much MOOP was left on the Esplanade this year? How did those big EDM camps score? Was Day Two another win for our Playa Restoration home team? We’re about to find out.

Before we unveil the results from Day Two, let’s talk a little about:

How To Moop.

MOOP, noun – Matter Out Of Place; especially as it applies to Black Rock City and its Citizens. Can be anything: cigarette butts, bottle caps, glowsticks, fireworks, but is often disguised as debris, i.e., broken bits of wood, plastic, metal, glass and plants. Can also be a condition: burn scars, grey water, dunes, etc.

moop, verb – to pick up Matter Out Of Place.

Photo by Vertumnus. Click for full size!

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September 22nd, 2012  |  Filed under News

Sexual Assault in Black Rock City

Black Rock City is a community of thousands of well-meaning people. But like any metropolitan area, there will always be a handful of individuals with criminal intent.

Each year there are a few reports of sexual assault on the playa, and this year is no different. In light of the community’s concern regarding public safety, we would like to share our procedure for addressing these situations and outline plans to increase education and prevention efforts for the future.

Specifically, we’ve recently received a few inquiries as to why Burning Man does not conduct sexual assault forensic exams (commonly referred to as “rape kits”) on site. Organizers have examined this several times, each time facing the reality that this type of exam requires specialized training and equipment not designed to operate in desert conditions, and which could produce legally questionable results if not performed in an appropriate facility. There are only three designated facilities in the entire state of Nevada that regularly perform these exams. The closest to Burning Man is the Northern Nevada Medical Center in Reno. Read more »

September 21st, 2012  |  Filed under Environment

MOOP Map Live 2012: Day 1 Results!

This is it, everybody: the moment you’ve been waiting for. Did your camp Leave No Trace? We’re about to find out, in the thrilling first installment of MOOP Map Live 2012!

The MOOP line stretches from Iris to Lilac, covering three city blocks. Photo by Vertumnus. Click for full size!

Day One of Playa Restoration was a day of legend, the perfect day. Maybe, just maybe the Best Day Ever.

A lot of that is thanks to YOU, all you MOOP maniacs who cleaned up after yourselves and your neighbors too.

Some of it is thanks to the weather: A clear, 90° day with a light breeze. Warm, but not deathly hot — and nary a dust storm to be seen.

Spirits were high on the MOOP line. Photo by Vertumnus. Click to enlarge!

For the rest, we can thank the all-star Playa Restoration team, who covered a record 96 blocks in a single day, beating the previous record by 30! That’s unheard of, folks. Let’s give ‘em a big round of applause!

Yes, on their very first day this team has proved their mettle — but they couldn’t have done it without the help of the Burning Man community. Remember, the MOOP Map isn’t about us: It’s about YOU. This is YOUR scorecard, Black Rock City, and without further ado, here are your first day’s results:

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September 21st, 2012  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

At Burning Man Nothing is Sacred. Oh, really?

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


by the Sandman

A couple of words I like to use when I describe Burners to other people are “crazies” and “stinkies”.

Before heading out to BRC last August I noted in my journal that this year I wasn’t going to volunteer, I wasn’t going to create an art installation, I was just going to watch the crazies and be one of them. And one of the greatest things I have always admired about burners is their tolerance – “if you want to be stupid and fall flat on your drunken face, go knock yourself out”. The last thing I expect at Burning Man is for someone to cater to or even yield to my own feelings or personal beliefs.

But this year something happened at the Temple burn that made me think, do I really want to come back again.

This year my return to Black Rock City was the year I would pay tribute to my father at the temple. At my first burn in 2007 I was awed by the simplicity and function of David Best’s Temple of Forgiveness and witnessed for the first time how the Temple burn provides us passage to leave the Black Rock desert after 7 days of pagan rituals, creative pyrotechnics and new age ceremonialism. This year, David’s work returned to the playa and so would I.

The hour leading up to the burn was a familiar drill – get there early, don’t bring your bike, and don’t drink heavily before getting there unless you can hold your piss for the 3 hours it takes the whole thing to finish. I had a good spot, just left of the 12:00 promenade entrance, and sat down about 5 people back from the perimeter. Just to the right of where I was sitting was a bus that I thought was just a typical hippie bus with a party lounge on top. It was parked facing the temple and standing on the second deck were a group of robed people. Hare Krishna on wheels, I figured.

The sun set and the crowd slowly got quieter. Then, a piano somewhere began to play Ave Maria.

Thinking of your father, who passed away when you were young, in the middle of the Black Rock Desert is something you may only do once in your life. It is not something that is rehearsed or thoroughly thought out. You just put yourself there and wonder how it will all finish.

The music was welcomed in my head as I wondered where my dad was and whether he ever knew how much I loved him. The chorus began singing and I realized it was the robed chorus atop the bus next to me. The music was sweet – it wasn’t dramatic and it wasn’t always on key, but it was good. It was close to how I felt and it didn’t need to be anything more. It was one of those things that is created by another burner that, if you come upon it, whether coming out of the blinding dust in your paralyzed movement across the playa or in the intimate moments on the perimeter of a temple burn, makes me forever thankful to not just be a burner but to have somewhat of an understanding of what it really means to be one.

I cried quietly but blissfully inside my head, realizing that I hadn’t come to the Temple to put closure on my father’s death but rather to find him in something. Instead of saying goodbye, I found myself saying over and over, “where are you? I miss you. I love you.” I could feel the tears on my face but knew that nobody would mind. Heck, nobody was even paying any attention to me. It was all about the Temple of Juno and whatever it was that brought each one of us to it.

But tolerance is a wonderful thing and it means that no matter what your experience is at Burning Man, it’s bound to be something different for somebody else. And so we really don’t give a shit when someone writes trash on the walls of our art or plays Free Bird during the silence of the Temple burn (someone said it was DPW, you just gotta love those guys). But when some woman came up to the chorus bus after the song was over and yelled at the top of her lungs, “Fuck your Ave Maria! Your fucking Ave Maria sucks!”, I thought to myself, what has happened to the people of Burning Man?

Some people around me gave a tolerant laugh as if not to let it spoil the moment that SOME of us were in, no MOST of us. And the Ranger who kneeled in front of our section said in a calming but sincere way, “I love you, people”, fulfilling her role to keep the burners from getting out of control but also really meaning it.

I was able to ignore the screamer’s outburst for the next hour just enough so that I could think that the wonderful music that carried over the wide expanse of the playa was in part meant for my dad (as well as for all the others that the temple consoled that night in its burning) and provided a sort of gift to him. My father was buried at sea, without music and without his family present. I am only detailing all this because I want burners to understand what the temple burn means for many us and what the moment is that many of us find ourselves in. I understand tolerance and I will always respect the freedom of choice and that some other burners just don’t like the way that something goes down at Burning Man. But I really have to wonder, what was that woman’s problem? Does she not give a shit about what other’s feel or even the fact that hundreds of days went into building the Temple of Juno and creating the chance for thousands of burners to have their own moment to honor someone or to confront the guilt they feel in someone else’s passing? Did she really not have the ability, or the courage to keep her mouth shut for just that one time so that everybody else could feel really good about where they had arrived on this final day of BM 2012? Or was she just drunk and stupid – one of the crazies.

I had to make a decision – either that woman that tried to ruin my Temple burn is going to change my opinion about Burning Man and Burners or she’s not. I feel strongly that Burning Man is never what it was the year before – it is what we make of it today, in spite of all the confusion, disagreements, and demands of change. If this woman was complaining because she doesn’t think the Temple Burn is what it used to be, well it isn’t. Nothing at Burning Man remains the same. That is what growing up and tolerance is all about.

I would assume that most of us have asked ourselves at one time or another if this year is the last year we will return to Black Rock City. Even if we say yes, we know we can still come back. I asked myself that for the first time after the Temple burn was over, and I didn’t hesitate to answer back – if someone’s behavior is enough to make you give up something which you love so much, then all those trips to the Black Rock Desert over the years have been for nothing.

There is that crazy young rebel somewhere hidden in my past that admires the woman that screamed “Fuck your Ave Maria”. I just wish she hadn’t.

September 20th, 2012  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

Lost Traditions of Burning Man

I’ll never forget my first sunset at Burning Man. The sun hit the mountains and all around me rose this eerie noise, as almost everyone in sight stopped whatever they were doing and howled, yelled and cheered the sun down. The hair on the back of my neck prickled in response to this tribe of people celebrating the end of a day.

Photo by Coley King

That stopped happening in the last few years, and now the sunsets pass relatively unannounced by our communal voices. What other traditions are vanishing or lost entirely? Burning Man culture is strongly based on oral tradition, and I love a good story, so I (in one case, literally) sat at the feet of those who have been attending Burning Man longer than I, and asked them to tell me stories.

There were dozens of replies, I’ve highlighted a few below. I did not include any of the memories of epic theme camps from years gone by, (Bianca’s Smut Shack! Xara! Jiffy Lube!), as that could be an entire blog post of its own. Read more »