Laughing at Ourselves: introducing “Harvey’s Law”

It's important to write these things down.
It’s important to write these things down.

Arizona Burner “Admiral Fiesta” came up with the following formal observations, which I thought were too funny not to share.

“I hereby coin the term Harvey’s Law:

Any discussion among Burners, if carried on long enough, will degrade into a clusterfuck about radical inclusion. 

And the Chicken John Corollary:

The length of time before Harvey’s Law takes effect is inversely proportional to the number of pranksters involved in the discussion.”

It’s funny because it’s true.  Or at least true enough.

Got other comedic observations about our common culture?  Feel free to share them in the comments below!

Caveat is the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca at Burning Man hangs around Burning Man making pithy observations in the mistaken belief that he’s Oscar Wilde or something.  His opinions are in no way statements of the Burning Man organization.  Contact him at Caveat (at)

Writers of Burning Man, Unite!

This could be you!
This could be you!

Does Burning Man have a literary culture, at all?  The answer is no.  But by this time next year – thanks to a new community effort – the answer might be “Yes.”

A pair of Burners named “What” (Courtney Sherwood) and “Wonton”  (Wendi Anderson) have,  in the best tradition of a do-ocracy, taken this aspect of our culture into  their own hands:  and want you to join them.

Literature is a big gaping hole in Burner culture.  In a January post entitled “Why does Burning Man have no literary culture?”  I wrote:

Burning Man has no signature writing style, derivative or otherwise.  For all the hundreds of books and articles that have been written about Burning Man over 26 years, for all the scholarly papers, the blog posts … no particular verbal style has emerged.  Saying “that’s like something you’d read at Burning Man” is nonsensical.  Could be anything.

Burning Man has no particular style of poetry, no particular authorial “voice.”  The Great Burning Man Novel has yet to be written – let alone to inspire others to write under its influence.

Why is that?  Why does Burning Man have such an advanced visual aesthetic … one that truly is influencing the whole world … and absolutely no literary culture at all?

I’m honestly asking here.  I don’t know.  I’m hoping someone can tell me.

What and Wonton don’t have answers, but have decided to find solutions.  The result is a new organization – and possibly a movement:  “Get Lit(erary) At Burning Man.”

Okay granted I’m not too fond of titles with puns in them, but the idea is tremendous:  it’s dedicated to  connecting Burner writers with one another, promoting already-planned writing workshops and events, and instigating new events along the way.   They’ll be leading Flash Fiction writing workshops on playa, providing reading opportunities, and offering other events – just for starters. (more…)

Two years and a compliment

by w

I was no stranger to the Black Rock Desert. But now I was to experience my first Burning Man and live in Black Rock City for a week.

It was one of those dust storm days when you really couldn’t go anywhere to get out of it unless you went into your vehicle or out on the playa. So, I chose the playa. I got on my bicycle, fully intending to do some nude sun bathing. A luxury I seldom do and only in private. I had on a tank top, shorts and shoes with no underwear. Rode out on the playa, stripped, laid down and was enjoying just being out there listening to the silence, being happy about where I was and what I was doing.

I heard some noise above my head and sat up to see what it was. The wind surfer going by paid no attention to me as he was busy getting himself across the playa. As I sat there I looked between my feet and saw a man walking directly toward me. I thought, now what do I do? If I stand up he will see that I am naked. If I just sit here maybe he will just go by. But, he kept coming directly at me. So I crossed my legs to cover my private places and folded my arms to cover my breasts. He came right up to me and stood a safe distance away. We started to talk. His name was Zackary, 27 years old from Colorado. He was at BM with his girlfriend and a group of friends. I invited him to sit down. After a very short time I realized he was a little too far away from me to hear him clearly so I got up walked over to him and sat down. Yes, I was still naked as a Jay bird.

We got into a very deep conservation about our feelings. He felt no one listened to him. They didn’t take him seriously. He was always being challenged. I think I understood him because I was the same way. At my age this still happens. Even having the “courage” to go to BM was a big step for me. We cried together and I put my arms around him as he sobbed on my shoulder.

I asked him why he walked up to me. “I don’t know. Something just drew me to you.” He told me he works with problem youngsters. He looks forward to the day he can have his own outdoor training center for young people with issues.

I shared some of my lesbian life, loves, and my professional journey in the corporate world. When I told him I was going to be 68 next month he said “Well, for someone who is almost 70, you’re looking pretty good”. I aged two years and got a compliment in the same sentence.

We stood up, embraced tightly, wished each other well and he walked away. I sat down to reflect on what has just happened. Perhaps we were able to talk to each other on such a revealing level because we knew would never see each other again. I just hope he got as much out of it as I did.

Where else but at Burning Man? This is just one of the many times this week when you knew Black Rock City held something special for any one of us 41,000 people living in a giving community.

Austin’s Burning Flipside: Taking Leave No Trace to the Next Level


Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the Burning Man regional event. By working with authorities to override a long-term population cap, Burning Flipside organizers have successfully rewritten the rules!

Photo by Mark Kaplan.
Photo by Mark Kaplan.

In order to increase the event’s capacity, State regulations required Flipside organizers to provide potable water, daily trash service, trash receptacles, cups, napkins, lighting and other services. But Flipside is a Leave No Trace event based on personal accountability; participants are expected to bring in everything they need and pack it out when they leave (sound familiar?).

The vast majority of large-scale events and festivals do provide trash cans, based on the assumption that attendees are not interested in picking up after themselves. Leave No Trace events like Burning Man and Burning Flipside have a different ethos. The latter trust that community members are not only perfectly capable of cleaning up after their own wild rumpuses, but that they feel satisfied and self-reliant as a result of doing so.

We come together, build something amazing, burn it to the ground and then pick up every last cinder. It’s an achievement we’re proud of, and it’s part of what defines us as a community rather than merely an event. We do it because we respect the land and the right of others to enjoy the land once we depart.

Incorporating trash services would change the very nature of what Flipside is about and Austin Artistic Reconstruction (AAR), the organization running Flipside, wasn’t willing to subvert the community’s values just to sell more tickets.

Faced with a choice of either going against our community’s values by providing trash cans, or limiting the population, AAR did what they had to do:

They changed the rules.


The slightly-inside track: Everything you need to know about volunteering at Burning Man

Media Mecca, back in the day (photo by Playarazzi)
Media Mecca, back in the day (photo by Playarazzi)

For the last six years, it has been my privilege to meet and work with the most extraordinary people as part of Burning Man’s media team. No more.  As of this month, I have resigned my commission as Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca in order to spend more time with my family. (Okay, fine:  that’s a lie.  To even claim I’ll be spending more time with my family is technically in violation of a court order.) This will not affect your life at all. But it has reminded me that I’ve always meant to write a post explaining Burning Man’s often opaque volunteer system to people who are thinking about trying it on for themselves.  It was obvious to me, as I waded through my first few hundred volunteer applications, that a hell of a lot of people have no idea how the system works. This is that post. (more…)

Participate! Vote on Burners Without Borders’ next grant recipient!

From Hurricane Sandy relief to empowering marginalized street-living youth through the MotoMoto Circus project in Kenya, Burners Without Borders has supported innovative disaster relief programs and community initiatives that have a positive lasting impact since 2005.

Burners Without Borders

Tomorrow, Burners Without Borders invites you to join their tele-salon and select their next grant recipient! Their new Walk the Walk Grant program seeks to fund innovative community projects within the Burning Man Global Network.

Four finalists will each have 10 minutes to pitch their project during the call. How does the project embody the 10 Principles, creatively address local challenges and produce direct actions and collaboration? Join the tele-salon and find out tomorrow. (more…)

How [freespace] Challenges Burning Man’s Emergent Principles

In San Francisco Burner circles, close to the source, I often hear the Burner’s Dream expressed thusly: Our dream is to bring the principles we embody out on the playa back to the default world.

We want to be as awesome as we are at Burning Man all the time, and we want our cities and towns and neighborhoods to be that awesome as well.


This June, a bunch of San Francisco Burners fell into the opportunity to take over a 14,000-square-foot SOMA warehouse for $1 and turn it into [freespace], a three-story blank canvas for artists, hackers, farmers, builders, and whoever else wanders in, meant to be a staging ground for inspired experiments in hacking on the meaning of urban space.

Sounds like that Burner’s Dream come to life, right? Naturally, Burning Man got involved. But what does that even mean? Who is this “Burning Man?” Is it the Burning Man organization? is it the fledgling non-profit Burning Man Project? Is it Burning Man participants acting of their own accord?



Larry Harvey Speaks at LeWeb Conference

Larry Harvey in conversation with Loic Le Meur at LeWeb 2013
Larry Harvey in conversation with Loic Le Meur at LeWeb 2013

Burning Man Co-Founder Larry Harvey was invited to speak at the LeWeb conference in London on the topic of the Sharing Economy. While he was there, he had the opportunity to interview with a few different news outlets, and each conversation bubbled up interesting ideas and thoughts about Burning Man as a gift economy, the tech culture’s relationship to Burning Man, and what that all means in terms of societal potential. We’ve collected them for you here.

Here’s video of Larry’s full talk at LeWeb, in conversation with LeWeb organizer Loic Le Meur.

TechCrunch‘s Mike Butcher interviewed Larry together with Grateful Dead lyricist, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) founder (and Burner) John Perry Barlow.

Larry also sat down with Bloomberg TV to talk about the spark that created the Burning Man Festival, followed by an interview on Bloomberg Radio.

Finally, Julian Blake of Tech City Insider interviewed Larry on the subject of how Burners and technology come together.