It Makes You Want To BELIEVE

believe SidneyThe fabulous John Curley has been keeping you up to date on all the crews and artists getting the Black Rock Desert ready to Welcome you. You have probably read his post about the recent  storms, and perhaps another on the way. My husband has been on the desert for a few weeks so I had been wondering about the damage, whether his trailer was anchored down, and how everyone who is building the city would be impacted by the weather.  And then my friend Sidney Erthal sent me this amazing photo of BELIEVE.

The “V” in BELIEVE was tilted by the storm, but had the “E” next to it to lean on. But, as you can see,  the “I” had fallen over, but there, in the morning after the storm, stood Truth is Beauty, standing taller than the “I”, just like she knew she needed to be there. Now that is a moment after a storm to make you smile.

BELIEVE: Laura Kimpton and Jeff Schomberg as part of The Large Word Series

Truth Is Beauty: Marco Cochrane and Crew as part of of The Bliss Project

Photo: Sidney Erthal Photography

Sometimes a few stakes and rope are not enough

On Wednesday, August 21st, a very powerful wind front blew through the beginnings of Black Rock City. There was some warning from weather services, and the staff communicated what was coming to artists and staffers. Most art crews were prepared, and afterwards the ARTery conducted a survey of the art projects for damage.

Many staff camps dove into action in the initial whiteout, strapping down tents and shade structures, despite the fact that most were secured the previous night. But this very powerful storm had higher winds and bent structures that only shook before.

So here’s the lesson: plan carefully for the prevailing winds, and use very long stakes and more strapping and ropes to secure your structures than seem necessary. You’ll be glad you did.

Last night's storm was only a warm up.
Last night’s storm was only a warm up.
The wall of dust signals an incoming dust storm. Hurry for shelter and be ready to help your neighbor's camp.
The wall of dust signals an incoming dust storm. Hurry for shelter and be ready to help your neighbor’s camp.


Riding High


The Man base and neon crews were scrambling all over the Man again on Wednesday, and they were working on installing power to the motors that will rotate the Man on top of his flying saucer. It’s the second time the Man will rotate; in 2005, he swung around on his base via human power.

The Man his own self was put on top of the structure Tuesday in an early morning lift. In a departure from previous years, there wasn’t the pomp and ceremony accompanying the operation. That may be because there just isn’t much time for it. This is an ambitious project, and the site is still very much a construction zone.

Tuesday evening, Stinky Pirate was kind enough to take us and another looky-loo up in the 135-foot boom lift, the highest on the playa, to get a look at the Man eye-to-eye. Actually, we were waaayyyyy over the Man when the boom finished its ascent. We couldn’t quite stop our legs from shaking, though, which was a bit unsettling. It wasn’t that we were in fear for our lives, because we trusted the machine. It may just have been that our body was telling us, hey, we don’t belong this high in the air. Get us down!

Pirate is one of those interesting, multitalented characters that one meets on a regular basis on the playa. He has a tall ships background, so being on a boom lift on a flat desert floor is nothing for him. “I used to climb on ships, and the difference was, you were a hundred feet up in the air, but you had got there by pulling yourself up on ropes, and then you were rolling back and forth, so no, this doesn’t feel like much.”

Maybe not, but to us it felt like an awfully fine place to be, and we are grateful to Pirate for making it happen.

Here are some photos of the Man being put atop his base, and from our ride with Pirate to the top of the playa:

Crews worked to attach the Man to the base while a crane held him in place


Law Enforcement’s Comin’ To Town

[Editor’s Note: John Curley is one of our best and most respected bloggers, however his original story didn’t include important details that give a more complete perspective of law enforcement onsite. The Burning Blog editorial staff will always reserve the right to expand a story to provide a deeper understanding. We have made these edits with John’s permission.]

Law enforcement arrived in a very visible way
Law enforcement arrived in a very visible way

The Man is not the only Man who arrived on the playa yesterday.

The other arrival we’re talking about is that other Man, the police, aka law enforcement officials, who have joined us in town and made their presence clear.

At least two people onsite for setup were cited for peeing on the playa (which carries a $275 fine, plus the threat that the offense could, at the officer’s discretion, be elevated into an indecent exposure rap, which would make you a sex offender and really make a mess of your record). Burning Man supports the event being all ages, and it’s important we keep that in mind even pre-event when it might look like there’s no one there to see you pee. (more…)

Black Rock City Census 2013 – Moving Online!

census_logoThis comes from our intrepid Black Rock City Census team.

The only thing constant is change …

Over time, the data gathering methods of the Census have progressed from an exclusively paper survey that was distributed on playa and required manual input of responses to the combination of a paper survey, a random sampling of Burners and online surveys. In 2013, the Census team will be gathering data via a random sampling at the Gate during ingress and exodus and a post-event online survey.

The Census is online …

The Census will be available online on Tuesday after the Burn (September 3, 2013) at We would love to receive your responses and welcome your input. The online Census fosters the immediacy principle of Burning Man and enables BRC citizens to access the Census independently of their preferences in terms of Burning Man experiences. It also allows the Census to be more eco-conscious by reducing the need for printed forms. Further, eliminating the paper form means removing the need for data entry and drastically reducing the data errors due to manual entry. (more…)

Does your gift make the playa less lonely?

[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man’s 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]

Is it a pony?
Is it a pony?

I recently told an incredible artist and doer how much I envy her skill set.  People who can build art cars or set up great camps … or even use tools … are heroes to me when they do it for the common good.

“Well,” she said, “we really value what you do.”

“What I do?”  I asked, genuinely confused.  I am so useless on the playa that … this is true … some Media Mecca volunteers once got drafted to set up my tent.

“Well, yes,” she said. “You write these blogs.  You gift us with your writing.”

I nearly choked on my whiskey.

What followed was 10 minutes of one of the stupidest “YOUR contribution’s more important!  No YOUR contribution’s more important!” arguments I’ve had in years.  Because while I yield to no one’s estimation of just how talented a writer I am, writing blog posts from the comfort of my own home, (often) drunk and (usually) naked, is not a gift or sacrifice on the order of dragging a massive construction project to the playa and laboring to set it up in 100 degree heat while alkaline dust whips at your eyes, and then getting drunk and naked.

How is this even close?

It’s nice that we all appreciate each other, I suppose, but I think many of us are a little too easy on ourselves.

The notion that everybody’s contribution counts, that it doesn’t matter what you can do so long as you share your gifts, is a good one when it encourages people to step up to the plate and discover a capacity to give that they didn’t know they had. To find ways to engage with their community that they otherwise wouldn’t, or think they couldn’t.

Too often, however, it’s used as an excuse to half-ass a commitment we don’t really want to make.  To say “I’ve done enough” when we’ve hardly done anything we’re capable of.

Here are some activities that don’t actually qualify as “gifts,” no matter how much you think of yourself: (more…)

Lots of Lightning, and Some Rain

Lightning was striking all around Black Rock City last night. The green glow in the lower left of the photo was the green neon of the Man, which was lit up for the first time Tuesday night
Lightning was striking all around Black Rock City. The green glow in the lower left of the photo was the green neon of the Man, which was lit up for the first time Tuesday night

A powerful storm cell hit Black Rock City about 10:45 on Tuesday night, causing staff to put into effect a Level 0 rain contingency plan, which meant that all driving was halted, and people were told to seek shelter.

Lightning had been striking all around the city for most of the night, but when the storm hit, a whiteout wiped out any view of the skies.

Consistent weather forecasts in the previous days calling for rain and thunderstorms had put Burning Man staff on notice, and supplies of water were monitored, and light towers were set up around the city as the storm cell approached.

Even though there had been lighting for hours, the rain came with a sudden fury. Playa dust turns almost instantly to impassable mud, and even walking becomes difficult as mud builds up inches deep on shoe bottoms.

There were no immediate reports of any significant damage as a result of the high winds and driving rain. Radio communications were maintained, and power was continuing to flow throughout the city.

The initial rain only lasted for 20 or 30 minutes, and it was hoped that the high winds might help conditions dry quickly.

The Final Piece

Heather practiced moving around inside the last Temple piece when it was still on the ground
Heather practiced moving around inside the last Temple piece when it was still on the ground

To hear Gregg Fleishman tell it, there was never any doubt.

Gregg is the creator of the Temple of Whollyness, the modern yet very ancient manifestation of the power and elegance of geometry. And this morning, the topmost piece of the 60-foot pyramid would be dropped into place. All the planning, all the measuring, all the careful calculations carried out on paper, on computer, and simply in Gregg’s head, would either work, or they wouldn’t. The thing would fit, or it wouldn’t. There could be no “almost.”

“I was a little cranky this morning,” Gregg admitted. “I was barking at people, ‘Do this, do that,'” he said. “I just wanted to get going.”

Lighting and Syn and Carmel, husband, wife and daughter, nervously donned safety harnesses as the crew prepared for the lift. Safety procedures were reviewed, crew assignments were made, questions were asked and answered. Then it was time to go.

“Ok, ok, huddle up,” J.J. said suddenly. He drew the crew around him, and he spoke his heart. “I just want to say thank you,” he began. J.J. works on the Temple build crew, and he also works in the camp’s kitchen. On this morning he had either forgotten to take off his aprons, or he had decided to keep them on. “Oh, look at him,” Heather teased, “making cupcakes and building Temples.”

J.J. spoke at some length with the bodies pressed close around him, hands clasped tightly above their heads. “I’ve had the best time of my fucking life out here,” he said, and a cheer went up, and then it was truly time for the lift to begin.

There always seems to be a special closeness among the people who come together to build the Temple, the most sacred (if that’s not too strong a word) of all the installations at Burning Man. They eat together, camp together, and work together, and they do it away from the rest of Black Rock City. The work – and the heartaches and drama – ultimately binds them together. They will never forget what they did here, and neither will we. The DPW crews that do so much of the other work here are rough and gnarly on the outside, but no less gooey inside. But the Temple folks are much more likely to acknowledge the spiritual nature of their work, and the intention behind their task.

And why not?

The Temple is the place at Burning Man where the people who are no longer with us are remembered and honored. It is a place of joy and sadness, but maybe most of all it is a place of stillness. We remember the people who gave us solace, the people who took us under their wing, the people who gave us the opportunity to redeem ourselves, and we thank them.

There is a great trust placed in the hands of the people who build the Temple, and they are mindful of that trust.

J.J. huddled the crew before the lift began
J.J. huddled the crew before the lift began