Does Burning Man have a favorite economist?

Not one of the major contributors to Macro economics was a Burner.

A recent discussion I was having about the future of Burning Man raised the question:  “is it really part of Burning Man’s values to do end runs around scalpers?  Is that a key part of the mission?  What’s wrong with letting the Market decide who goes to Burning Man?”


Most of you are turning a little red now – I was – but it’s a relevant question.  What is the appropriate relationship between Burning Man and market capitalism?  “Decommodification” is a key Burning Man principle … yet when Burning Man is critiqued from the political left, it’s generally for not being decomidified enough.  There are people who see the fact that we still sell tickets as proof that we are in league with Halliburton.

When it comes to capitalism, where’s the sweet spot for Burning Man between “Too Much” and “Oh, for God sake get a job you smelly hippie”?

Is “creative destruction” creative enough for us? (more…)


Many wonderful stories were left in the comments on our “Hey, First Timers! How Was Your Burn?” post, but one in particular stopped us in our tracks. I wrote its author, Paul French, to see if he’d let us reprint it as a post of its own, and to invite him to contribute more posts to the Burning Blog — it was that good.

He agreed, and at the same time reminded me that we’d met on playa that year, randomly, at Distrikt, where we enjoyed a very pleasant chat. They say the playa gives you what you need, whether you know what that is or not, and well, there ya go — another case of playa serendipity. And with that, here’s Paul’s story:

There is no English translation for the first gift I received at Burning Man. It was not a necklace or a bracelet or other trinkety item of raiment. Instead, it left me exposed, across a stretch of seven extraordinary days on the playa, to both brutal sadness and the gates of personal freedom. It was gifted to me by Mitch, from Chicago, when I told him of my plans to travel to the Northern shores of Brazil.

Photo by Michael Holden

It was a feeling.

A single word.


As Mitch explained it to me, saudade is a Portuguese word that came to describe a sadness for those who set off on long journeys to sea, or to battle, but never returned. More mysteriously, it’s the anticipation of longing. It’s the duality of envisioning, before you should, a future swamped with nostalgia.

It was with me as I explored the customs and structures of Burning Man, where the most inhospitable place on the planet is transformed, for a fleeting week, into the most creative space in the universe. Saudade was coiled and fused with the ten principles of Burning Man, which inspire participants to carry the playa’s spirit back beyond the mountains and into rebooted lives. (more…)

Australia – Burning Seed. Notes from Red Earth City

Jeff Steinmetz reports from Australia’s Regional Burn …

Yes, there are Kangaroos on the edges of the forest, home of the Australia Regional Burn, “Burning Seed”.

Local Artist – Burning Seed Gate Entrance

Jeff here, fresh out of the Australian bush (The Matong Forest). I’m writing about the experience while it’s still fresh in my mind, ripe with connection and excitement to be part of something in its early formative years. Now in its third year, SEED drew 600 participants to its week-long burn in the Matong State forest near Wagga Wagga, NSW. This location provides a journey of about six hours from either Sydney or Melbourne.

The trip took shape while we were on the Black Rock Desert, where we were able to network with Regional contacts from around the world. My travel partner Wally Bomgaars (aka Odwally), Playa Safety Council Manager, also made the trek, and worked to craft a custom Ranger training with Melbourne-based Will Marshall, team lead for the Burning Seed Rangers (Wally and his culinary arts were also appreciated in the kitchen and the event – Seed didn’t know they were going to get a chef too!). Traveling together with Wally, it was my hope that the Burning Man Project would continue to personally connect with the Regional events. It was a time for me to listen to their team, embrace their differences, and generally be available to understand areas where the Project can be helpful. The long and short of it – they have something special brewing in Australia. (more…)

BLM Site Inspection: PASSED.

Two of our BLM site inspectors, holding what remained of the Man as of 11am this morning. Click to enlarge.

Hip-hip-HURRAH! Three cheers for YOU, Black Rock City. You did it again. You threw a humdinger of a whizbang, and left without a trace. That’s straight from the mouth of the Bureau of Land Management, who just completed their site inspection. They’re still tabulating the precise results, but at a glance they can tell us that YES, we passed, and Burning Man can happen again next year.


“People in Motion” Screening and Filmmaker Q&A, October 18th

Join us!

WHAT: “People in Motion” Screening plus Q&A with the Filmmakers and Artists, Cedric Dahl, Lonnie Tisdale, Brian Orosco
WHEN: Thursday, October 18th, 6:45PM-9PM
WHERE: Burning Man HQ, 995 Market Street, 15th Floor San Francisco, CA 94103

Those familiar with the training discipline parkour–or “free running”–know that its push to move creatively and freely throughout the world is more than an exercise routine, it’s a philosophy for life.  “People in Motion”, in its focus on parkour, showcases the potential people have to move through time and space.  Shot along the West Coast and in Black Rock City and using an original score and composite editing, the film inspires viewers with its fresh perspective on how the individual can move creatively through a number of environments.  Just as Burning Man’s Ten Principles inspire Burners to come together as a collaborative community in the face of the harsh Black Rock Desert, parkour’s philosophy of overcoming obstacles is about defeating and adapting to both the mental and physical barriers which surround us every day.

The ninety minute film will be followed by a Q&A session with the filmmakers and parkour practitioners Cedric Dahl, Lonnie Tisdale, Brian Orosco.  The film begins at 7:30p.  Light appetizers and a wine and beer bar will be open during the first thirty minutes of the event.  Q&A to follow the film.

To learn more, check out the film’s website at

Urban Prototyping Festival, October 20th

The Burning Man Project is proud to support Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA) in their collaboration with Intersection for the Arts (IFTA), IDEO and Rebar, as they produce the Urban Prototyping (UP) Festival. The festival takes place on October 20th on the blocks around 5th and Mission Streets in San Francisco.

Here’s an excerpt from their press release, describing the purpose for the festival:

The past several years have seen a surge in new forms of civic engagement, with teams of citizens joining together to build apps and projects that use technology to address contemporary urban issues. Now, a new initiative is bringing this same open-source “hacking” mentality to the physical realm. Building on the parallel rise of “tactical urbanism”–the use of small-scale, informal designs to seed long-term changes to the city landscape– the Urban Prototyping (UP) Festival aims to support new design and technology projects that improve the urban environment by creating more inspiring, livable and engaging public spaces.

The San Francisco UP Festival will take place on October 20, 2012, and will feature over 20 model projects set up in streets and parking lots in a 3-block area around the 5M Project at 5th and Mission. Each project embodies the concept of open source and will be documented so that they can be replicated in any city worldwide. Model projects range from the whimsical to practical and include outdoor gardens, urban playscapes, glowing crosswalks, public urinals, urban parasol structures, and much more. The projects will give everyone the chance to see firsthand how these rapidly prototyped urban interventions can change and challenge the way we use, share, and contribute to our public spaces.

Urbanist-minded Burners are encouraged to go and participate in this innovative festival about creative use of public spaces — your experience with Black Rock City surely has given you an idea or two to offer in that regard!

Predicting Burning Man’s future … in headlines

Okay, not these headlines.

The title of Adam Rothstein’s essay about the Burning Man experience is “Burning Man is Grey.”

You and I might disagree, but it’s a clear reference to his contention in the text that the one thing everyone who goes to Burning Man has in common is the fact that, after a week in the dust, we’re all the same color.

At least, that was the case when the essay appeared in “The New Inquiry.”

When the essay – the exact same essay – appeared in Salon, it was called “Burning Man on its last legs.”

Salon also gave it a subhead:  “With rising mainstream knowledge of the event, it’s lost almost all of its creative and subversive spark.”

Thank God they told us!

To get that conclusion out of Rothstein’s piece, you have to read between the lines, in French, wearing Groucho glasses.  The idea is barely touched on, and certainly not argued.

What likely happened here:  the relevant section editor in Salon, seeing an essay about Burning Man that s/he wanted to re-title, quickly decided that – based on the fact that some guy on Facebook said he was so over Burning Man – the essay must support the idea that Burning Man is “on its last legs.”  Which is also controversial, and therefore will generate clicks.

Is it just me, or does journalism resemble performance art more every year? (more…)

24 Hours At The Temple Of Juno

My friend Sarah and I just published a story called 24 Hours At The Temple Of Juno.

Guess what it’s about.

To get you hot and bothered, here’s a little excerpt:


Sarah and I are coming to you live at high noon from the Temple courtyard, our first position in this 24-hour mission. We’re not concerned with the precise time. Burning Man time is obvious. It’s day. Then it will be evening, then night, then sunrise, then morning, then day, and then we can leave. No problem.


We enter the Temple, setting down our stuff. Our mission hasn’t sunk in yet. When was the last time you spent 24 hours in a single location?

I’ve spent part of every day here so far, including a volunteer shift as a Temple Guardian. I thought four hours was a long time to spend here, surrounded by the intense emotions of the place. When I got back, people asked me, “How was your shift?” I told them, “Imagine spending four hours at the Temple. It was intense.”

This time, I expected to feel my usual reactions to the Temple: pain, loss, joy, hope, and every emotion in between. But I feel almost nothing. “This is the only time I’ve felt like it’s just a building,” I tell Jon.

Yeah. That’s what we thought then. Wanna see what happens next?

It’s available from as an illustrated text and a SoundCloud podcast. You can listen along, or you can download the audio and listen at your leisure. You’ll want to listen; it includes some sounds of Home.

Our deepest thanks to those of you who responded to our call for submissions. We included three of your contributions in our story. And this is just the beginning. Now that our first Temple story is live, we will collect more of them and share them on the Temple Stories blog. We encourage you to submit your stories to us at

Remember, it’s not just about the Temple at Burning Man. It’s about temples everywhere. Wherever you find a sacred spot in your community, keep your eyes and ears open for good stories. If you find them, share them with us. If you need help crafting your story, we’ll help you.

We welcome feedback, comments, and suggestions. Email us at us {{at}}

You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Google+.

Eternal thanks to Scott London and Rod Hoekstra for sharing some amazing photographs with us.